Acorns Review: Neobank That Invests Your Spare Change

GOBankingRates Score

Acorns
4.1
SCORE
GOBankingRates Best Banks 2023 scores and rankings are objectively determined by our research/editorial team. Our scoring formula weighs several factors that differ from category to category depending on what consumers want from varying products and banks.
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Quick Take: Acorns is a neobank offering basic, low-cost deposit accounts that encourage saving and investing. It's likely to appeal to anyone who is banking for the first time and prefers to manage their accounts online. The account prioritizes micro-investing, which makes Acorns a good choice for first-time investors as well.
  • Checking Accounts
    4.0
  • Emergency Fund
    4.0
  • Benefits and Perks
    4.5
  • Banking Experience
    4.0
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Automated saving and investing
  • Good selection of account perks

Cons

  • Non-interest-bearing accounts
  • Could lose money with $3 and $5 subscription fees

Acorns Overview

Chances are, you know Acorns as a popular robo-advisor app with automated micro-investing. You might not know that Acorns is also one of a new breed of financial institutions called neobanks — digital-only banking platforms for people who need a way to manage their money but who have little use for check-writing, cash deposits and other services found at traditional banks.

Because Acorns is not itself a bank, it provides banking services through Lincoln Savings Bank and nbkc bank, both of which are FDIC members. Those banking services work with Acorns’ subscription-based investing products to provide a solid solution for managing and investing your money. It’s a winning combination that made Acorns a finalist in GOBankingRates’ Best Neobanks of 2023 rankings.

Acorns has two subscription plans to choose from: Personal for $3 per month and Family for $5 per month. The Family plan includes an Early account for kids.

Key Features

Acorns’ products and services are pretty straighforward, which is exactly what its users want. Here are the banking and investment products that make Acorns a winner.

Checking Accounts

Acorns Checking is checkless account that that helps you invest every time you spend. It comes with a metal Visa debit card you can use to make purchases or conduct ATM transactions at any of the 55,000 fee-free ATMs in Acorns’ network. You can receive direct deposits to the account and get your paychecks up to two days early.

One of the most useful features of Acorns Checking is that it automates investing. With Real-Time Round-Ups, you can invest your spare change every time time you swipe your card to make a purchase. And with Smart Deposits, you can automatically invest part of your paychecks into your choice of Acorns investment accounts — Invest, Later, Early and Emergency Fund.

There are no fees for using Acorns Checking — it’s included in both the personal and family plans. That means no overdraft fees, no fees to transfer funds and no monthly maintenance fee. Just fund your new account with a $25 deposit, and you’re ready to go as soon as your debit card arrives.

Savings Accounts

Acorns doesn’t have “passbook”-style savings accounts but it does have a non-interest-bearing Emergency Fund that’s separate from your Acorns Checking and Invest accounts. Once you’ve established your Acorns Checking account and set up direct deposits, you can start your Emergency Fund by selecting “Save” in the app and following the prompts. Alternatively, you can do one-time deposits into your Emergency Fund from your Acorns Checking account.

To withdraw funds, go to the “Save” section of the app, select “Withdraw” and indicate how much to to withdraw. The funds will be instantly available in your Acorns Checking account.

Benefits and Perks

Acorns users receive some impressive perks considering that the app takes a bare-bones approach to banking. The Earn program, for example, gives you several ways to boost your investments. When you shop with any of more than 15,000 partner brands, you receive bonus investments automatically as long as you have the Acorns browser extension installed. You can also use the app to look for full-time, part-time and remote jobs to earn (and invest) extra cash. Referring friends to Acorns earns you a $5 investment bonus when the friend joins.

Investing

Acorns’ investing feature is a major benefit and the foundation of the app — banking services are designed specifically to encourage and facilitate investing. The focus is on automated micro-investing, which lets you invest spare change from all of your credit and debit cards once your round-ups reach $5.

The basic Invest account includes a portfolio of exchange-traded funds customized to suit your goals and risk tolerance.

Acorns Later accounts are individual retirement accounts, targeted according to your age and the year you plan to retire. A decision tool will help you decide whether a traditional, Roth or SEP IRA is best for you.

Acorns Early, for family plan subscribers, is a custodial account for children that can be used in a variety of ways for the child’s benefit. You can set up a separate account for each child and schedule recurring contributions.

Other options include environmental, social and governance and bitcoin ETFs. Acorns sets a maximum allocation of 5% for bitcoin ETFs.

Banking Experience

Because Acorns is 100% digital, the quality of your experience depends as much on the mobile app as it does on the products and services you use. Users give the app high ratings — 4.7 stars on the App Store and 4.6 stars on Google Play. In addition to managing your bank and investments accounts, you can use the app to increase your financial literacy by accessing customized educational content.

You do have to pay for Acorns, but the fee is reasonable if you’re building a significant investment portfolio. The personal membership is $3 and includes investment and retirement accounts as well as banking and bonus investments. The $5 family plan has everything the personal plan has plus the early investment account for children.

Customer Service

Most customers will be happy with Acorns’ live customer service options. A phone line is available from 5 a.m. PST to 7 p.m. PST seven days a week for urgent requests. You can also get live chat assistance 24/7 from the app or the website, or submit a ticket via email.

Although the website has a Help Center where you can search any topic, clicking links to the categories of topics, such as Getting Started and Account Management and Login, results in Page Not Found errors.

How To Apply

You can apply for an account from the Acorns website or the app. First, select the plan you want — Acorns Personal or Family. Then enter your email address and create a password. From there, enter your personal and contact information and follow the prompts to register on the site and open your accounts.

Acorns vs. Competing Neobanks

Here’s how Acorns stacks up against other neobanks.

Acorns vs. Sofi

Sofi, also among GOBankingRates’ Best Neobanks of 2023, offers an impressive 3% annual percentage yield on its savings account, whereas Acorns’ Emergency Fund savings account is non-interest-bearing. Sofi also shines in terms of product selection — in addition to banking and investments, it offers a credit card.

Acorns vs. Chime

Chime is another finalist in GOBankingRates’ Best Neobanks of 2023 roundup. It has more robust banking features, including a high-yield savings account and no monthly fees. But while it does have a credit card, it has no investing options, so Acorns is a much better choice if investing is a priority.

Final Take

Acorns combines banking and investing to provide a suite of products geared to those with little or no experience in either. It covers the basics, with a featured-filled checkless checking account and an Emergency Fund savings account that encourages good financial habits. Users who want to venture beyond banking into investing can do so via robo accounts that take the guesswork out of building a portfolio. Micro-contributions make getting started easy and painless. However, the subscription fee can drain your account balances faster than your investments grow unless you maintain a sizeable portfolio.

Acorns FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Acorns:
  • Is Acorn safe and legit?
    • Acorn is legit -- it has backing from investors like PayPal and BlackRock. Acorn banking is also safe, as banking services are provided by FDIC-insured banks. And while it's a reputable robo-advisor, there's never a guarantee that investments will increase in value, so you should never invest money you can't afford to lose.
  • Is Acorns a good way to grow your money?
    • Acorns can be a good way to grow your money over time in investment and retirement accounts. However, the checking and savings accounts are non-interest-bearing, so they won't grow your money.
  • Can you make money on Acorns?
    • If you sign up for Acorns Earn and link a debit or credit card or a checking account, you can earn a small amount of rewards for making purchases from any of over 15,000 brands. Your earnings will be invested into your portfolio.
  • What's the downside to Acorns?
    • One of the biggest downsides to Acorns is that the account fees of $3 to $5 per month are relatively steep and can deplete your checking balance unless you invest money and earn at least that much on your investments.
  • Is Robinhood or Acorns better?
    • It depends on what type of investor you are. If you are interested in automatic saving and investing, Acorns is better. However, if you're interested in a hands-on approach to investing and don't need a savings account, Robinhood is better.
  • Is Acorns actually worth using?
    • Acorns might be worth using if you have significant investment-account balances that earn higher returns than the fee you'll pay for a subscription.

Cynthia Measom, Daria Uhlig and Laurel Funk contributed to the reporting for this article.

To determine rankings for the Best Neobanks, GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) monthly checking fee ratio (percentage based on the minimum to avoid the fee compared to the monthly fee itself); (2) savings APY; (3) products/services offered (credit cards and investment services); (4) the average mobile app rating between the Android and Apple app stores; and (5) number of extra benefits and perks unique to neobanks. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best. Factor (1) was weighted 0.5 times, and factors (2) and (5) were weighted 2 times.

Rates are subject to change; unless otherwise noted, rates are updated periodically. All other information on accounts is accurate as of Dec. 13, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

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About the Author

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.
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