Have you been pondering investing and have not put aside a dime yet?
Let me guess – you have no money, and you know very little, if anything, about the workings of the stock market.
You are not alone. According to recent studies, close to half of all Americans don’t invest in the stock market and a quarter of all American adults have nothing saved for retirement, according to a recent Forbe’s articles. Not having enough money to invest and lack of understanding of the stock market are the most frequently cited reasons for that.
I understand; there is no way you could just drop over $2,000 on a share in Amazon, right?
What if I told you that you do not need so much money to start investing?
What if I told you that you could invest from as little as few dollars and get educated about stocks and shares in the process?
Enter micro-investing. Using micro-investing, you no longer need to buy one share in Amazon; you can buy as large or as small fraction of stock as you can afford.
Micro investing platforms and apps have largely democratized investing by allowing you to invest small amounts regularly and buying fractions of shares.
Not surprisingly, there has been a proliferation of micro-investing apps. Here we offer an overview of the main features and investing benefits of three such micro-investing apps. (Click on the links if you’re ready to visit the micro-investing apps’ websites):
We also compare Stash vs Robinhood vs Acorns to help you decide which of these is the best micro-investing app for you.
Robinhood vs Acorns vs Stash Comparison
|Overview||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).||Complete money management, banking and investing app. Individually created and professionally managed investment portfolios. |
|Minimum Investment Amount||There 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.||No minimum. Costs $0.01 for most stocks. Those priced over $1k require $0.05 minimum.|
|Fee Structure||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 Core.
$2 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later.
$3 per month for Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend.
|Between $1 and $9 per month, depends upon features.|
|Top Features||Extended-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.||Combines manual and automated stock and ETF selection. Strong educational resources and help with developing strong money habits.|
|Free Services||All 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.||Earn Stock-Back® rewards on everyday spending. Great educational articles.|
|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 contact for customers only - M-F 8:30 to 6:30. Week-ends 11:00 to 5:00. Email-24/7|
|Investment Funds||Stocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrencies.||Low-cost, commission-free ETFs from Vanguard, Blackrock + iShares.||Stocks and ETFs.|
|Accounts Available||Individual account.||Taxable brokerage accounts, IRAs, and a checking account with attached debit card.||Investment brokerage account, retirement accounts and custodial accounts.|
|Promotions||Ongoing free investment management.||N/A||Check website for promotions.|
Robinhood is a commission-free micro-investing platform offering access to US stocks and ETFs traded on the NYSE and Nasdaq. While Robinhood does not appear to take from the rich to feed the poor, this commission-free micro-investing app has set out to empower the investing underdog, e.g., people who have little money to invest.
Like other micro-investing apps, Robinhood offers fractional share trading. What sets Robinhood apart are two important innovations:
- First, Robinhood pioneered fee-free trading, which has been emulated by brokerages like Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and TD Ameritrade.
- Second, Robinhood introduced instant deposits of up to $1,000. It means that your deposits show in your Robinhood account, and are accessible, immediately, not three days after the transfer.
In some circles, Robinhood is viewed as the catalyst for the ongoing transformation of the investing landscape.
Robinhood is also the only one of the three micro-investing platforms reviewed here to have gone international – it has a UK broker license and is expected to start operating shortly.
Have you ever tried saving by emptying your change in a jar at the end of the day?
I have. And let me tell you that it adds up quickly and you don’t miss it.
It is the psychological trick Acorns, a versatile micro-investing app, uses to enable you to spend smarter, save regularly, and invest for the future.
Using Acorns is straight forward and simple – you connect the micro-investing app to your debit and credit cards and start automatically saving the difference to the nearest dollar every time you shop. (You can also make a one-off transfer or regular contributions.)
In Acorns speak, this is known as Round-Ups. Your Round-Ups are invested in a portfolio tailored to your situation and appetite for risk.
More recently, Acorns added its checking account and debit card to its array of offerings. This account saves, earns, and invest for you.
Acorns really may be a vehicle to build your big future using your small change. It is also great for beginner investors happy to forego investing choice for portfolios leaning towards the conservative.
Learn more: Acorns Review
Stash is a ‘do it all home for your money’ helping you to achieve your financial goals by sound money habits, using technology, and investing education. It was designed to make money management and investing simple, straight forward, and a matter of habit.
The app offers online banking as well as micro-investing options. If you have not been investing because you have no money to spare, using Stash, you can start with $5; it does not sound that much at all, does it?
Stash is an appropriate banking and investing choice for people who have little money, limited knowledge about investing, and are willing to learn. It offers fractional share investing, manual, or automated by using Auto-Stash, investment selection, and quality money education.
It’s no surprize that 86% of Stash users are first-time investors. Stash appears to be positioning itself as a ‘nursery school for investors’ and taking pride in it.
Acorns: Core Characteristics
Acorns: Account Minimum
There is no account minimum requirement to open an Acorns account. However, to start investing, you need to have a minimum of $5 in your account. (Your Round-Ups are saved in a holding account till your savings reach $5.)
Acorns: Investment Options
Acorns offer five ETFs pre-set portfolios that, reputedly, were designed with help from Harry Markowitz, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. These are:
- Conservative portfolio comprised entirely of bonds.
- Moderately conservative portfolio consisting of 40% stocks and 60% bonds.
- Moderate portfolio that includes 60% stocks and 40% bonds.
- Moderately aggressive portfolio with 80% stocks and 20% bonds.
- Aggressive portfolio built entirely of stocks.
The platform is designed to suggest a portfolio for you based on your answers to a few simple questions.
There is no option to invest in individual stocks, bonds, mutual and index funds, or other investment vehicles.
Acorns offer commission-free trades, and there are no minimum account fees either, just like Robinhood. Acorns are different in that they charge a monthly subscription fee of between $1, $2 or $3 depending on the type of account you open (until your investments reach $1 million).
Acorns: Types of Accounts
Acorns offer three different plans with several types of accounts.
Here is, at a glance, what Acorns offers:
Acorns Accounts and Plans
(Round-Ups, Bonus investments from partners, access to information)
(Acorns Invest and a retirement account)
(Acorns Invest, Acorns Later and a checking account and debit card with no fees)
Acorns: Customer Care
Acorns offer good customer service for an online platform. There is ‘Acorns support’ where you can find information, and instruction, for every stage of the process – from signing up through the different accounts, to frequently asked questions.
In case this is insufficient, Acorns offer an email customer service.
There is also a customer service telephone number, but it is hidden under ‘Gift cards’ and at the end of this section at that. It is much easier to get the telephone number by a Google search. Lines are open Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 5:00.
Acorns: Educational Resources
Acorns offer access to articles on personal finance written by experts in the field under their ‘Grow’ section. While personal finance education is considered an important part of planting the acorns of your future money oak, it is not as central to the philosophy of Acorns as it is for Stash.
Acorns: Noteworthy features
It is worth noting the following features of Acorns:
- Round-Ups. It is undoubtedly a great trick to encourage people who are not ‘natural’ savers to spend wisely and put away there change.
- Customized portfolios. There is no messing about, and no attempt to please everybody – Acorns offer only customized portfolios to their customers, clearly targeting micro investors who know little about the stock market and are not that keen to learn.
Click to start building wealth now:
Acorns Pros and Cons
Here is what we love about Acorns:
- Acorns round ups go directly into an inestment account-making investing automatic
- Offers retirement accounts
- Offers a checking account and debit card.
- “Found money” partners add mney to your account
Here are the features on which we are not too keen:
- Subscription fee that is small but can have a large effect on micro-investing
- Limited investing options
Acorns in a nutshell:
‘We help you plant the acorns of your wealth oak.’
Robinhood: Core Characteristics
Robinhood: Account Minimum
There is no minimum amount required to open an account with Robinhood, and there is no minimum balance fee.
In practice, you need a dollar to get into the stock market. Even better, using the fractional share investing options, you can invest in the ‘big ones’ like Apple, Amazon, and Google, even if you have only a few bucks to spare.
Robinhood also offers margin trading, and for that, you need a minimum of $2,000. It is quite a different ball game, however.
Robinhood: Investment Options
Robinhood offers stock trading, ETFs, cryptocurrency, and options trading.
One unique feature of Robinhood, a characteristic attracting much positive feedback, is that they also offer cryptocurrency trading. The cryptocurrency trading service allows you to buy and sell all major cryptos, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin.
Robinhood does not provide access to mutual funds.
Robinhood offers commission-free US stock trades. (Regulatory fees still apply, but this is life.)
There are a couple of hidden fees worth mentioning. There is a $50 fee to trade foreign stock and a $75 fee to transfer your account to a competing broker. There is also a $5 charge for issuing paper statements.
Overall, however, Robinhood’s fee structure benefits the user – no account fee, no commissions, and no minimum amount fee.
Robinhood: Types of Accounts
Robinhood offers two types of taxable investment accounts:
- Their basic account is free and provides access to all investment options, free trading, and access to business news, performance summaries, and watch lists. This account offers the possibility to set limit orders, which is rather good for a free account.
- There is also the Gold account to which you could upgrade for $5 per month. It will allow you an instant transfer of up to $50,000, access to margin trading, and market analytics.
Robinhood: Customer Care
Customer care is not among Robinhood’s strong points. It is entirely online, and there is no telephone service or a chatbot.
Robinhood has been experiencing some problems lately. For instance, in July 2019, they admitted to a security breach where customer passwords were compromised. In November 2019, a bug in the system allowed customers to use unlimited leverage, and on 2 March 2020, the day of the most significant daily point gain in the Dow Jones’s history, Robinhood had an all-day outage thus affecting investor returns.
Robinhood: Educational Resources
There is the basic information that covers the fundamentals of investing in the Robinhood app, but education is not an explicit focus of the platform.
Robinhood: Noteworthy Features
Three Robinhood features impress:
- No-fee trading of US stock and free basic account. There is a flip side to this, e.g., Robinhood makes a substantial proportion of its money from payments for order flow.
- Crypto trading. Robinhood, uniquely, allows micro investors to trade the leading cryptocurrencies.
- International presence. Robinhood is expected to start operating in the UK anytime now.
Robinhood Pros and Cons
Here is what we love about Robinhood:
- Commission-free investing
- Variety of stocks and ETFs
- Crypto trading
Here are the features on which we are not too keen:
- Customer service
- Outages because of coding bugs
- Payment for order flow as a significant source of revenue
Robinhood in a nutshell:
‘We empower the ‘investing’ underdog.’
Stash: Core Characteristics
Here is what Stash has to offer the micro investor.
Stash: Account Minimum
There is no minimum amount, but, in effect, you need $0.01 for most stocks while those priced over $1k require $0.05 minimum. Stash buys shares in the stocks and ETFs made available on the platform and splits these for the investors.
It is how instead of buying an Amazon share for $2,000, you can purchase one-thousandth of it for $2 – you still end up owning some of the stock. You can also build from there.
Stash: Investment Options
Stash offers opportunities to invest in stocks, bonds and ETFs.
Stash offers three pricing plans:
- Beginner: this plan costs $1 per month and offers a personal investment account, bank account, and access to financial education resources.
- Growth: this plan costs $3 per month and offers you a personal investment account, retirement investing, bank account, and access to educational resources.
- Stash+: this plan costs $9 per month and offers you the full range of benefits. On top of the benefits included in Growth, this plan offers investing accounts for two kids, a metal card with 2xStock-Back and monthly market insights report.
Stash: Types of Accounts
Stash offers investors three types of accounts:
- Investment account
- Retirement account
- Custodial account
Investment accounts come with fractional shares, offer access to more than 400 stocks and funds, and can be automated. The final selection of your investments is left to you, but a lot of guidance, knowledge, and information are available to help you make up your mind.
Retirement accounts, available with Growth and Stash+ plans, are like the investment accounts but, besides, offer tax benefits through Roth IRA and Traditional IRA. Help and guidance are available to help you select the best account for you and to maximize your tax savings.
Custodial accounts, available with Stash+, allows you to open investment accounts for your kids.
Stash: Customer Care
Stash customer support includes phone and email access Monday to Friday between 8:30 and 6:30 EST. Phone ; the customer support channels work on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 and 5:00 EST.
Stash: Educational Resources
Stash has quality educational resources on general personal finance, ongoing money management, and investing. The material is clear, easy to understand, and to the point.
Stash: Noteworthy Features
Here are the Stash features worth noting. These are also the features that give Stash an edge when compared to Robinhood and Acorn:
- Education: Stash, in my mind, is a bit like a nursery for ‘grown-up’ investors. While it allows you to select your investment, it also provides an extensive and well-targeted resources repository teaching customers about money management and investing.
- Emphasis on habit building: Through automation and learning, Stash enables healthy money management at investing habits building. Hence, Stash can be used by young adults to develop money habits and set on the way to financial health.
- Portfolio Construction: Stash offers a lot of basic guidance on picking investments including how to choose investiments in line with your values.
Stash Pros and Cons
Here is what we love about Stash:
- Educational resources
- Emphasis on habit formation
- Variety of accounts and investing options
- Customer support
- Combining manual and automated selection of stocks and ETFs
Here are the features on which we are not too keen:
- Small fees still add up
- Stash lacks a clear, targeted mission
- Stash tries to offer everything to everybody
- Stash doesn’t offer rebalancing like other robo-advisors
Stash in a nutshell:
‘We help you to help yourself.’
The Winner Is….
This is how Stash, Robinhood, and Acorns compare according to their core characteristics.
Our overall verdict is that the best micro-investing app among the three reviewed here is Acorns. It is our favorite because of its psychologically appealing approach to saving and investing, the ease of investing afforded by the customized portfolios, the retirement account offering, and the good customer service and security.
Acorns offers an ideal way to begin investing automaticaly with small amounts of money.
The second best is Robinhood because it offers fee-free accounts and trading, and access to crypto and options trading. Robinhood also has a strong message which permeates all their operations. Where Robinhood lose points to Acorns, and Stash, is their customer service, the questions around security and the platform outages that have recently been plaguing it.
Stash is in third place mainly because of its fee structure and lack of clear identity. Our impression is that Stash is trying to be everything to everybody, which makes it harder to position and impress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have questions about Stash vs Robinhood vs Acorns?
Here are some frequently asked questions about these three micro-investing platforms on which we did not touch in the review.
Yes, investing with Stash is as safe as any investing: your capital is always at risk, and the important thing, as Charlie Munger pointed out, is to try and be ‘consistently not stupid,’ something with which Stash can help.
Stash is FDIC insured, and your deposits are covered up to $250,000. Furthermore, Stash uses state of the art encryption for your data, and its cybersecurity is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliant.
Robinhood and Acorns have remarkably similar levels of security.
In principle, after comparing Stash vs Robinhood and finding the former wanting, you should be able to do that using the ACATS system.
In practice, the process is not straight forward, and there is a fee (sometimes covered by the receiving broker), you can transfer only stocks that match, and you cannot transfer fractional shares to Robinhood.
Yes, it could be. Still, how successful investing in Robinhood is depends on your investment selection. Ultimately , your investment returns are a result of the performance of the companies that you own.
Comparing Stash vs Acorns, we like Acorns better because it makes it easier to be consistently not stupid. Acorns portfolios tend towards the conservative, and provided you invest regularly, it should do well in the long run.
Ultimately, your own preferences and investment behavior will determine which micro investing app is best for you.
Yes, it is better if you’re seeking rebalancing and investment management. Acorns is also better if you want the round up spare change investing feature.
If you’re an investor who doesn’t need management or bells and whistles and appreciates the “free” trading, then Robinhood might be better than Acorns for you. is also best for investors who want to buy and sell cryptocurrency and trade options.
Ultimately whether Acorns is bettern than Robinhood, or vice versa depends upon your own needs and preferences. The best micro investing app is the one that fits your needs.
There are three difference worth noting when looking at Acorns vs Robinhood:
-First, Acorns saves for you using Round-Ups, e.g., rounding up your spending to the nearest dollar. Robinhood does not.
-Second, Acorns uses portfolios, and Robinhood does not.
-Third, Acorns offers retirement accounts, and Robinhood does not.
If you’re seeking a more comprehensive robo-advisor: Check out our free Robo-Advisor Selection Wizard, answer 4 questions and find out thich robo-advisor meets your needs.
We conducted a comprehensive comparison of Stash vs Robinhood vs Acorns – and offer you our key conclusions about which one of these micro-investing apps is best.
These, however, are our conclusions, and we are very aware that what is ‘best’ for us may not be the best for you.
We hope you will use the information offered here, and your self-awareness to make the right choice for you.
If you have little money and are keen on learning about investing and selecting stocks and ETFs, the contest between Stash, Robinhood and Acorns may go to Stash.
If you have little money to invest, have some knowledge of the stock market, and like to play with crypto investing then Robinhood may be where you should look.
If you have little money and prefer your saving and investing relatively painless (and conservative) Acorns is probably the best one for you.
Finally, what matters most is to overcome your investing hurdles and start investing for your future.
Go directly to the micro investing app website:
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.