Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance – How to Choose the Best Investment App

arm wrestling-represents acorns vs robinhood vs m1 finance

Robinhood vs Acorns vs M1 Finance – Best Comparison of 3 Top Investment Apps

Choosing an investment app can be a challenge. With micro investing apps popping up regularly and robo-advisor apps offering broad services, how can you choose the best investing app or robo-advisory app for you?

Readers have asked:

  • Is Acorns better than Robinhood?
  • What’s the difference between Acorns and Robinhood?
  • Is M1 Finance better than Acorns?

This article will answer those questions and many more.

To help you invest smarter, we’re comparing three of the most popular investing apps: Robinhood vs Acorns vs M1 Finance.

But first, before we drill into the comparison, you need to decide what type of investor you are.

  • Do you want help picking your investments and managing your account?
  • Are you a do-it-yourself investor and want the best investment app?
  • Are you a small investor seeking a way to get into the stock market with your spare change?

By answering these questions first, your decision about whether to choose Acorns vs Robinhood vs M1 Finance will be much easier.

We’ll compare each robo-advisor app by features so you can decide which ones are most important to you. Then the decision between Robinhood or Acorns or M1 Finance will be much easier.

 Robinhood
AcornsM1 Finance
OverviewFree app or web platform that allows users to trade stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrency.Automated investment management robo-advisor that invests your “spare change” in a portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs).Free robo-advisor with opportunity to customize investments.
Minimum Investment AmountThere is no minimum investment amount.There is no minimum investment amount required. The app will automatically invest your Round Ups once the total reaches $5 or more.$100
Fee StructureNo account management or commission fees. Robinhood Gold margin account charges $5 per month plus interest (for amounts greater than $1,000)Until accounts reach $1 mil, charges are as follows:
$1 per month for Acorns Core.
$2 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later.
$3 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend.
As of August 2019, Acorns has “up and coming” pricing for accounts valued over $1 mil.
Zero fees for investment management. Per service charge for mailed statements, account closure etc.
Top FeaturesExtended-hours trading, ability to trade stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrency.App allows you to save and invest money while you spend on everyday expenses; “Found money” partners, such as Lyft and Walmart, automatically add to your account.Unlimited variety of investment vehicles & strategies. Choose your own investments or pick from pre-made investment portfolios. Access to socially responsible funds. Rebalancing.
Free ServicesAll services are free with Robinhood cash and Instant.Students with a .edu email address can use Acorns Core for free, for up to four years.No management fees. Includes free rebalancing + buying and selling securities.
Contact & Investing Advice Email support (M-F) preferred and phone during trading hours.Available by on-site email or by phone, 6:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST, Monday through Friday.Phone M-F and Email-24/7
Investment FundsStocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrencies.Low-cost, commission-free ETFs from Vanguard, Blackrock + iShares.Stocks, bonds, funds, and more.
Accounts AvailableIndividual account.Taxable brokerage accounts, IRAs, and a checking account with attached debit card.Single + joint taxable brokerage. Roth, traditional, rollover + SEP IRA. Trust. Business accounts.
PromotionsOngoing free investment management.N/AOngoing free investment management.

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance Overview

Each of these investment apps allows you to invest your money in exchange traded funds. M1 Finance and Robinhood also offer access to individual stock investing. While only Robinhood provides options and cryptocurrency trading.

Both Robinhood and M1 finance are free, for their basic services.

Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance also offer (or will be offering soon) cash management, checking, and debit cards.

That’s where the similarities among the three investment apps ends. Next, is an overview of each of the platforms.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is a customizable robo-advisor that makes it easy for investors to curate their investment portfolios. This free robo-advisor offers pre-made portfolios for those who want to go with a simpler option; however, investors who want full control of their investments will find that M1 Finance offers over 5,000 stocks and diversified ETFs (exchange traded funds). M1 Finance will rebalance your investment mix back to your preferred allocation.

Acorns

Acorns is both a micro-savings app, and a robo-advisor investment platform all in one.

The Acorns app enables you to save money by collecting what it refers to as virtual spare change. It does this by rounding up your purchases to even numbers, and then moving the change into your investment account. Once there, your account is invested in a professionally managed portfolio of funds that represent thousands of individual securities.

Robinhood

Robinhood offers free trading services designed to help you get started investing immediately, whether you’re new to the game or an experienced investor. Robinhood is fully customizable; investors can choose from thousands of investment options including stocks, funds, options and cryptocurrency.

If you have enough information about each of the investing apps, visit their websites now:

robinhood app

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance Top Features

By understanding what Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance are best at, and integrating your needs, it’s easier to find out which investing app is best for you.

Robinhood

Robinhood is best for stock market investors or traders. With access to stocks, funds, cryptocurrency and options, beginner to advanced investors can benefit from Robinhood.

  • Simple and intuitive app for Android or iOS
  • Cryptocurrency and options trading available (only available at Robinhood)
  • Extended-hours trading
  • Ability to upgrade to Gold for more features

Acorns

Acorns is best for the new investor without much investment experience. Acorns helps you get started investing your money for the future with the round up feature. After graduating from Acorns, you might try M1 Finance and/or Robinhood.

  • Checking account and debit card
  • Acorns round-ups automatically invests the difference between your purchase amount a a dollar. So if your puchase is $2.25, $.75 automatically goes into your acorns account, to be invested when the total reaches $5.00.
  • Acorns Found Money enables certain shopping partners to add money to your investment account.
  • Acorns Later helps you save for retirement.
  • Your acorns investments are directed to a managed investment account in line with your risk tolerance; conservative through aggressive.
  • Account rebalancing

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is like the best of both worlds. You can invest in individual stocks and funds or managed portfolios from basic stock and bond fund mixes to a hedge fund replica portfolio and more.

  • Pre-built portfolios available
  • Extremely customizable – pick your own stocks and funds
  • Account rebalancing
  • Multiple account types
  • M1 Spend – cash management
  • M1 Borrow – low interest rate loans

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance – Who Benefits?

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is an ideal robo-advisor for individuals who want access to both pre-made investment portfolios and the ability to customize their investing. Users can make their portfolios as personalized or simple as they’d like! This robo-advisor allows you to buy individual stocks and funds. Like Wealthfront, M1 Finance also offers a loan feature.

M1 Finance Investment Pies – Pre-made Portfolios

M1 Finance
M1 Finance is great if you’re seeking:

  • Investment rebalancing
  • Free investing and management
  • Managed portfolios like socially responsible, income, or retirement portfolios
  • A variety of account types including investment, retirement, business and trust accounts.
  • The opportunity to pick and choose from over 5,000 stocks and funds.

Visit M1 Finance now and check out their website. 

Acorns

Acorns is ideal for the new investor, short on cash who want’s to begin dipping her toes into the investment markets. She understands that investing is a sound way to build wealth for the future but doesn’t know where to begin.

Acorns is a good investment platform if:

  • You want a spare change app that automatically invests in the financial markets.
  • You want help saving for retirement with a small amount of money.
  • You’re a college student who want’s to invest for free (no management fee for students with an .edu email address)
  • You want investment selection, rebalancing, and management.

Click to start building wealth now with Acorns:

Robinhood

Robinhood is ideal for the DIY investor who wants free trading throughout the day and after hours. Robinhood is the only app in this comparison that isn’t a robo-advisor and doesn’t offer investment management. Although investors ask, ‘Is Acorns better than Robinhood?’ the better question might be which investment app is best for you, Acorns or Robinhood.

Robinhood is best for an investor with some experience and wants to manage his or her own investment portfolio.

Robinhood is a good investment platform if:-

  • You want to invest in stocks, funds, options and cryptocurrency.
  • You’re seeking after hours trading.
  • You’re comfortable managing your own investments.
  • You are okay with only an individual investment account and don’t need a retirement or other type of accont.

Visit the Robinhood site and have a look around. 

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance Deep Dive

Fees and Minimums

Good news for investors: M1 Finance and Robinhood are almost equally matched in the fees department. In fact, you can use either service for virtually nothing!

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is a free service which means it does not charge trading or commission fees. The minimum to start investing with M1 Finance is only $100. This puts M1 Finance on the low end of minimums for robo-advisors, bested only by those who boast no minimum investment requirement.

M1 Plus is a higher level service for investors that want lower borrowing costs, two daily trading windows, instead of one, and a super charged checking account. The m1 Plus account offers a high yield checking account and a debit card with 1% cash back. Finally, M1 Plus customers get 4 ATM withdrawal fees reimbursed per month.

The fee for M1 Plus is a reasonable $125 per year.

Robinhood

Robinhood Instant, the basic account type, is also free. Robinhood Gold, a premium service that costs a flat fee of $5 per month, is also available to investors who are looking for more features. Robinhood Gold members gain access to research from Morningstar and larger instant deposits than those available in with the Instant account.

With Robinhood Gold, if you use more than $1,000 of margin, you’ll pay 5% yearly interest on the amount you use above $1,000.

Acorns

Acorns Core, the basic robo-advisor, is $1 per month regardless of account value. This account allows you to fund your investments through Round-Ups or direct investments. If you’re a college student, the investment service is completely free. In order to get his benefit, you must have a .edu email address.

The next level account is Acorns Core + Acorns Later, which is $2 per month. Acorns Later is an IRA account, so investors at this level will be those looking for longer-term investments.

Those who are looking for an Acorns checking account and Acorns debit card will need to upgrade to Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend, a collection of accounts that are available for only $3 per month.

Acorns notes that all account fees are valid for accounts worth up to $1 mil; after that, they have a “let us know” policy. Acorns prides itself on helping “up and coming” investors, and consider their pricing guidelines “up and coming” as well.

Robinhood vs. M1 Finance

Investment Options

This is where there’s broad distinction between Acorns, Robinhood and M1 Finance.

Acorns Investments

Of the three, Acorns offers only ETFs spanning six asset classes:

  • Large company stocks
  • Small company stocks
  • International large company stocks
  • Government bonds
  • Corporate bonds
  • Real estate stocks

These asset classes are fine and broadly diversified. The Acorns investments are appropriate for an investor looking for a pre-made investment portfolio. If you want to invest in individual stocks, then consider Robinhood or M1 Finance.

To invest now, visit the Acorns Website.

M1 Finance Investments

If you want to create your own combination of investments (or investment pies) you can choose from 4,325 stocks and/or 1999 funds. M1 Finance also offers a stock screener to help you construct your own investment portfolio.

M1 Finance also offers several pre-made investment portfolios, also called M1 Finance Pies:

  • General Investing – perfect for well-balanced investments that match up with your risk level (like a typical robo-advisor).
  • Plan For Retirement
  • Responsible Investing (Socially Conscious)
  • Income Portfolios
  • Hedge Fund Followers
  • Industries + Sectors
  • Just Stocks and Bonds
  • Other Strategies

The M1 Finance investmsnts are ideal for the investor that wants to choose their own investments and have them rebalanced automatically. Another pro of the M1 Finance app is the opportunity to choose pre-made portfolios.

To sign up, visit the M1 Finance Website.

Robinhood Investments

Robinhood offers the greatest number of investments among the three investment apps. Robinhood is designed for the individual investor who wants to buy and sell securities.

Robinhood offers thousands of investments including:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Cryptocurrency

DIY investors, check out the Robinhood Website.

The difference between Acorns and Robinhood is that Acorns is a beginner investment platform that invests for you. While Robinhood is a DIY investment app for active and experienced investors.

M1 Finance is like a combination of the two and suitable for both beginner and advanced investors. (I have an account with M1 Finance myself!)

Customer Service

Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance all offer email access and phone contact during typical business hours.

Robinhood is available phone when the stock market is open, although prefers email contact.

M1 Finance offers onboarding assistance by phone, especially helpful when learning a new online investment tool.

Security

M1 Finance

M1 employs top level security. Your data isn’t stored on any device and all information is encrypted in transit between your computer and M1 as well as on the M1 servers. Your money is insured by SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) against loss of cash and securities from a brokers failure. It does not protect against normal investment price declines.

M1 Spend and M1 Plus accounts are further insured through Lincoln Savings Bank.

Acorns

The website and app are secured with 256-bit encryption. Only you and Acorns can asccess your personal and financial data. Like M1 Finance and Robinhood, ecurities in your Acorns Invest and Later accounts are protected up to $500,000 against broker failure. Similar to a bank account, deposits in your Acorns Spend account insured up to at least $250,000.

Robinhood

Robinhood is a SEC-registered broker-dealer and member of the Securities Investor Protection Corpoation (SIPC). Stocks and options (not cryptocurrency) are protected up to $500,000.

Your account is protected by the high level BCrypt hashing algorithm and never stored in plaintext. Sensitive details are encrypted before stored. The apps use TLS protocol ad banking credientials are only acessed once, during initial set up.

Acorns vs. Robinhood vs. M1 Finance Wrap up

If you’ve made it this far, then you probably realize that each of these investment apps is best for a specific type of investors. So, your decicion should be easy when deciding which investment app to use.

M1 is best for investors who want pre-made investment portfolios and also have the option to pick and choose individual stocks and funds. Investors seeking a variety of investment accounts should consider M1. M1 Investors appreciate the platforms rebalancing, too. Thr newly updated M1 Finance app is an added bonus!

Acorns is a good investment tool for the newbie with a small amount of cash to invest. New investors will appreciate Acorns automated round up investing and found money features as well as the retirement investing option. The Acorns robo-advisor investment management is best for the new investor, college student, or anyone seeking to get into the financial markets with a small amount of discretionary money.

Robinhood is designed for the investor who wants to buy and sell stocks, funds, options and cryptocurrency. It’s not specifically a day trading app but as a handy way to buy and sell securities for zero commissions. We recommend Robinhood only for intermediate and experienced investors, as investing in the financial markets is risky and requires a level of knowledge and education.

Next we revisit the questions from the beginning of the article:

  • Is Acorns better than Robinhood? Acorns isn’t better than Robinhood, it’s different. Each investing app is appropriate for a specific type of investor.
  • What’s the difference between Acorns and Robinhood? Acorns is a robo-advisor investment manager while Robinhood is a portal to buy and sell financial securites.
  • Is M1 Finance better than Acorns? M1 vs Acorns depends on the type of investor. M1 is better for investors that want a more comprehensive platform than Acorns with access to individual stocks and funds. Acorns is best for new investors with a small amount of cash.

Each of these investment apps, has its pros and cons. The best investment app for you is the one that best meets your budget, investment knowledge and individual needs.

Related Robo-advisor Reviews and Comparisons:

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up or buy through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t  believe is valuable.

 

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