In a high-tech society, you likely have direct access to your checking and savings accounts on your phone. It’s important to have financial information available to keep up with the daily pace of life, and your investment portfolio shouldn’t be an exception to this rule. Learn which (or several) of these investment apps – Acorns, Betterment or Robinhood are best for you.
Fortunately, many robo-advisors and apps offer comprehensive, accessible user experiences via smartphone. Some even allow you to text directly with financial professionals!
Each of these investment apps offer something different:
- Robinhood – Investment trading App
- Betterment – Robo-advisor for investment management
- Acorns – Micro investing or spare change app
With nearly every robo-advisor and micro investing platform offering convenient app access, it can be hard to choose between the many options.
Fortunately, this head-to-head between Robinhood, Betterment, and Acorns will help you determine which investment app helps you get the most out of your money.
- What is Acorns?
- What is Betterment?
- What is Robinhood?
- Betterment vs Robinhood vs Acorns – Top Features
- Robinhood vs Betterment vs Acorns – Who Benefits?
- Fees and Minimums
- Acorns vs Betterment vs Robinhood – Deep Dive
- Robinhood vs Betterment vs Acorns – Which is Best?
- More Comparison Articles
*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.
What is Acorns?
Acorns is an app designed to make investing easy, automatic, and accessible to the everyday investor. As its namesake suggests, Acorns strives to turn small investments into oak-sized financial portfolios over the long term.
Acorns is particularly good at helping investors develop a habit of automatic investing. The secret to Acorns’ success is its Round-Up feature. Round-Ups automatically increases your everyday purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically invests the change in your portfolio.
How much you invest depends entirely on what you spend. For instance, a $5.99 purchase would be increased to $6.00 even and $0.01 would be added to your portfolio; however, a $6.01 purchase would also be rounded upped to the next dollar, with $0.99 added to your portfolio to make an even $7.00.
Acorns is great for new investors without much extra cash.
Your Acorns investment account is ideal for beginner investors.
While it may seem like you can’t get rich by investing a dime here and there, Acorns states that the average client invests $30 each month through these Round-Ups alone. For someone who isn’t actively investing, this can make a big difference over time.
Another benefit to Acorns is that it is a micro-investing app, which means that your $2 spare change investments can actually buy fractional shares in larger companies listed on the stock market.
Just realize to build a substantial amount for retirement, you’ll need to increase the amount you invest to more than $30 per month, preferrably in a retirement account like a 401k, Roth or Traditional IRA.
What is Betterment?
This full-service robo-advisor that has been around for a decade. They are one of the earliest free-standing robo-advisors, with over $22 billion assets under management. Betterment is certainly a favorite here at Robo-Advisors Pro, and not just because they have been dominating AUM and performance charts for years.
For one thing, Betterment is a hybrid robo-advisor. The platform blends digital, algorithmic-based advice with advice from human financial planners at all account levels. While Premium clients get extra features, even Digital customers can text with financial professionals when they need to.
This feature alone beats Acorns and Robinhood.
Betterment also offers Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolios. These portfolios claim to perform better than the S&P 500, and it attributes this performance to the four factors that drive the portfolio strategy:
- Good Value: Companies that have both a low price and positive net income.
- High Quality: Companies with potential for stable earnings, growth, and consistent returns.
- Low Volatility: Stocks that don’t demonstrate extreme swings in any direction.
- Strong Momentum: Investments that demonstrate momentum in regard to growth.
Even their non-Smart Beta portfolios are goals-driven, which means your investments are tailored to give you the best chance at meeting your long- and short-term financial goals.
If that wasn’t enough, Betterment is even offering up to one year of free portfolio management for investors who have at least $15,000 to invest.
What is Robinhood?
Like Acorns, Robinhood is a micro-investing app. That’s not the only thing going for it, however: Robinhood is also a free trading service! Between no fees at the basic level and no minimum balance requirements, Robinhood is one of the most affordable financial apps for beginning investors.
Robinhood is another app that is good for beginner and advanced investors alike.
While they are certainly appealing to a beginning audience because of their no-fee, no-minimum, learn-as-you-go approach, they are also fully customizable. This level of customization appeals to advanced users because it allows them to adjust their portfolios to fit their investment preferences.
Robinhood investments include individual stocks, options, funds, and cryptocurrency.
In addition to complete customization and commission-free trades, Robinhood clients can benefit from extended-hours trading.
With no trading commissions, 100% of your investment money goes into the market.
Robinhood also offers with cash management services in addition to their trading platform.
As with their investment services, Robinhood aims to be accessible to all: clients won’t need to meet any minimum requirements or pay any account management fees for their cash bank account.
Betterment vs Robinhood vs Acorns – Top Features
|Overview||A goals based digital investment manager with cess to financial advisors and cash management.||Free 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).|
|Minimum Investment Amount||There is no minimum investment amount for Digital. $100,000 for Premium.||There is no minimum investment amount required.||There is no minimum investment amount required. Round ups begin once the total reaches $5.|
|Fee Structure||Digital-0.25% AUM|
|No 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 Lite.
$3 per month for Acorns Personal
$5 per month for Acorns Family
|Top Features||Digital and hybrid investment management with financial advisors. All investors can text with financial advisors. Socially-responsible, income and smart beta portfolios. Tax loss harvesting. Cash management.||Trade stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrency.|
Extended-hours trading. Margin account available.
|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.|
|Free Services||Free portfolio review and promotions.||All services are free with Robinhood Cash and Instant.||Students with an .edu email address can use Acorns Core for free, for up to four years.|
|Contact & Investing Advice||Phone support M-F. Email support 7 days per week. Financial advisor access available at various levels.|| Email support and chat. No phone support available.||Available via on-site form.|
|Investment Funds||Low fee exchange traded funds from diverse asset classes.||Stocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrency.||Low-cost, commission-free ETFs from Vanguard, Blackrock + iShares.|
|Accounts Available||Single and joint taxable brokerage. Roth, traditional, rollover, and SEP IRA retirement accounts. Trusts.||Individual brokerage account.||Taxable brokerage accounts, IRAs, and a checking account with attached debit card.|
|Promotions and Website||Free investment management||Free stock promotion.||Visit Acorns Now|
Acorns Top Features:
- Fractional shares, or micro-investing
- Students with .edu email addresses receive free Core accounts (maximum of 4 years)
- Spare change investing through Round-Ups
- Additional benefits for purchases made with participating companies
Betterment Top Features:
- Goal oriented professionally created investment portfolio in line with your risk tolerance.
- All Betterment customers can text with financial planners
- Socially Responsible and Smart Beta portfolios
- Individualized financial planning sessions via a la carte packages
- Cash management
Robinhood Top Features:
- Cryptocurrency trading available
- Options trading
- Extended trading hours
- Smartphone app for Android and iOS
- Margin investing with Robinhood Gold
Robinhood vs Betterment vs Acorns – Who Benefits?
Though each entity has its own selling points, there are also some crucial overlaps in terms of benefits.
If you’re looking for fractional shares, all the money apps on this list are good for you. This means that if you invest $10 in a $100 stock, you’ll own 1/10th of a share. With each of these investment platforms, you can buy fractions of shares in larger companies, giving you access to great growth potential without much upfront cost.
Investors who are just getting started or don’t have a large initial investment will benefit from any of these three ways to invest. Neither Acorns, Robinhood, nor Betterment Digital have minimum requirements for investors. Although, Betterment Premium requires $100,000 for unlimited access to financial advisors and portfolio management.
Investors who want commission-free trading will love Robinhood. This is not limited to standard trading either; cryptocurrency traders will also benefit from the lack of commission fees! This mico investing app with commission-free trades and broad investment options makes it easy to become an investor.
Be aware that occassionally, beginning investors may borrow or invest too much without proper knowledge, so be sure to take advantage of the educational tools available on the website.
We prefer the Betterment investment platform for new investors serious about building wealth. With broadly diversified investment options, many types of investment accounts, rebalancing and tax loss harvesting, this is a great place to build a solid investment portfolio.
The low cost financial planning packages are a sound way to answer money questions.
If you have at least $100,000 to invest, you will benefit from the Premium features like unlimited contact with a team of Certified Financial Planners.
Acorns prides itself on teaching spenders to be savers. If you’ve had a hard time putting away money in the past, you’ll benefit from Acorns’ Round-Ups feature.
You may also benefit most from Acorns if you are a student. Currently, students (with valid .edu email addresses) can receive up to 4 years of free service!
The newbie investor with little money can dive into spare change investing immediately. The earlier you begin investing, the more time your money has to grow and compound!
Fees and Minimums
Minimums Winner: It’s a three-way tie! All three robos have no minimum investment requirements.
Betterment does have a minimum at the Premium account level.
Fees Winner: Acorns and Robinhood are fairly evenly matched, with their accounts costing anywhere from nothing to $5 per month.
Acorns Fees and Minimums
There is no minimum investment requirement for Acorns, though your Round-Ups won’t be invested until they reach $5.
Acorns has a very reasonable fee structure. For accounts up to $1 million, the tiered plans are:
- Acorns Lite ($1/month): Investment accounts only.
- Acorns Personal ($3/month): Investment, retirement (Acorns Later), and checking accounts (Acorns Spend).
- Acorns Family ($5/month): All the above, plus child accounts.
The larger your Acorns account grows, the lower the fees, as a percent of assets managed.
Betterment Fees and Minimums
The Digital product doesn’t require a minimum investment amount.
Premium requires a $100,000 minimum.
- Digital (0.25% AUM): No minimum balance.
- Premium (0.40% AUM): $100,00 minimum
Robinhood Fees and Minimums
No minimum means you can open an investment account and buy individual stocks with small amounts of money.
The micro-investing app also offers commission-free trading.
Robinhood Gold charges $5 per month and offers:
- Larger instant deposits.
- Professional research from Morningstar
- Level II market data
- Access to margin investing
Acorns vs Betterment vs Robinhood – Deep Dive
Human Financial Planners
Betterment takes an easy victory here, with their immense customer service at all levels and unlimited CFP support for Premium clients. Neither Robinhood nor Acorns have access to human financial professionals.
Betterment takes another landslide victory here, as the only robo out of the three to offer tax-loss harvesting.
Winner: Robinhood – with Betterment and Acorns a close second.
While Betterment and Acorns offers range of stock and bond funds, Robinhood offer more unique investments. Acorn clients can invest in real estate, while the Robinhood platform offers individual stocks, options, and cryptocurrency investing.
Acorns Investment Funds
- Large, medium and small-cap US stock
- Developed and international stock
- REITs (real estate investment trusts)
- Corporate, government, and short-term bond
Betterment Investment Funds
- U.S. Total Stock Market, including Large-Cap, Mid-Cap, and Small-Cap Value
- International: Developed and Emerging Markets Stock
- U.S. High Quality Bond
- U.S. Municipal Bond
- U.S. Inflation-Protected Bond
- U.S. High-Yield Corporate Bonds
- U.S. Short-Term Treasury Bond
- U.S. Short-Term Investment-Grade Bond
- International Developed and Emerging Market Bond
- US Stocks and ETFs
- International Stocks (ADRs) and ETFs
- Preferred stocks
- Bonds and Fixed Income
Winner: Betterment and Acorns.
Both Betterment and Acorns will rebalance your portfolio automatically if your investment allocations get out of whack.
Robinhood’s website implies that clients will need to take portfolio rebalancing into their own hands. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as doing so will give you more control over your portfolio.
Betterment is the only platform that offers phone contact. It is available Monday-Friday, either from 9:00 am-9:00 pm ET for checking and cash reserve questions, or from 9:00am-6:00pm ET for investing and general questions.
They also provide email addresses.
All customers can text with financial advisors.
Acorns clients are prompted to fill out a web form to ask a question, which can be more cumbersome than a simple phone call.
It is unclear why phone support is no longer offered.
Robinhood is the most difficult to get in touch with; their web-based support form can only be accessed after delving into the FAQs. This makes it extremely difficult for clients to get quick help.
Winner: Betterment, with Robinhood a close second.
Betterment offers no-fee checking accounts, with ATM fee reimbursements and a debit card. These accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000.
Betterment also offers high-yield savings account, with interest rates approximately 8 times the national average. At the time of this writing, interest rates were 0.40% APY. These accounts are insured for up to $1 million, as Betterment uses partner banks to maximize insurance. There are no fees or maximum transfers for the cash accounts.
Robinhood requires customers to join a waitlist for their Cash Management account, which pays 0.30% APY in interest (at the time of this writing). There are no minimums or fees for this account, and they even offer a whopping $1.25 million in FDIC insurance through the use of five partner banks.
Acorns Spend is an all-digital checking account that comes complete with a debit card. Clients earn bonus investments (up to 10%!) when they shop with this card. Accounts are FDIC insured for up to $250,000.
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a cheap and easy way to make investing automatic, Acorns is the way to go. With fees from $1.00 to $5.00 per month and zero fees for students, it’s an easy way to dip your toes into the investing world.
Betterment may be the better option if you’re looking for a full-service robo-advisor. Although the fees are higher, 0.25% for Digital, you’ll get goal-based investing in line with your risk tolerance, reblancing, financial advisor access, and cash management.
These two investing apps are similar, but serve distinct investors. They are both designed to make investing intuitive and simple;
they are also geared toward beginning investors and those who don’t have much money.
The real difference boils down to the features you value most. Robinhood is commission-free and offers stock or ETF, cryptocurrency, and options trading.
Acorns, on the other hand is a mobile app that automatically helps you save money and immediately begin fulfilling your investment goals. In fact, Acorns Later is great for beginners who want to invest for retirement.
Betterment has proven to be a stable robo-advisor over the last 10 years. While all investments come with a risk – Betterment’s automated portfolios, low account fees, and the investment advisors are geared to help you make solid financial decisions.
If you’re seeking a low fee investing platform with live investment advisors and cash management, then Betterment is best.
If you want to start investing and try stock trading without trading fees then Robinhood is a good choice. You even get a share of free stock when you sign up for the platform.
You can save and invest with either mobile app. Robinhood is geared towards the investor who wants to make money with stock trading, as well as commodities, fund, options, and cryptocurrency investing.
While Acorns is an investment app with the option to grow your spare change. The Acorns Spend and Acorns Later are ideal for investors who prefer to automate their spending and retirement investing.
Robinhood vs Betterment vs Acorns – Which is Best?
The bottom line is that each of these apps are designed for a specific type of money management.
If you’re seeking a full-service robo-advisor with many account types, tax-loss harvesting, bank account like cash management, and life advisors, then Betterment is for you. That being said, Robinhood and Acorns are in a different category. Both have a clearly defined mission: to make investing accessible to everyone. For that reason, they’ve pared down the bells and whistles so clients have just the tools they need to dive in to the investment waters.
This means that neither Acorns or Robinhood will match Betterment’s access to financial advisors. However, they’re still able to offer quality checking accounts and, in the case of Robinhood, higher-yield interest rates on said checking account.
A Robinhood account is best for you if you want a mobile app to trade stocks and other assets. The free stock offer for opeining an account and no management fee are also enticing.
While new investors can get started with Acorns to save money and begin micro investing.
Choosing between Acorns, Betterment, and Robinhood is more challenging than checking a few boxes. It will require closely examining your financial needs and your comfort level with fully-digital investing. Whichever investment platform you choose, the important behavior is to start saving money today to grow your wealth for tomorrow.
Read the Betterment Review
Read the full Acorns Review
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*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 in.