Acorns Review: Is It the Right Investment App for You?

GOBankingRates Score

4.5
Our take: Investing in the stock market traditionally took a lot of knowledge and money. Luckily, it's now more accessible to everyone thanks to robo-advisor apps that do all the work for you and allow you to invest as little as pocket change. Acorns was created for new investors who believe that time in the market is better than trying to time the market. Most of the process is automated, ideal as a hands-off way to grow a small investment portfolio. However, there are a few similar platforms available to choose from. Check out this Acorns review to decide if it's the best investment option for you.
  • Opening Requirements
    5.0
  • Fees
    4.0
  • Ease of Use
    4.0
  • Accessibility
    5.0
How did we calculate this?

Start with a quick overview of Acorns’ pros and cons before you go deeper into this Acorns review.

Pros

  • Low minimums: Start with $5.
  • Automatic investments: Set up automatic deposits or spare change investments, known as Round-Ups.
  • Learn as you go: Acorns and CNBC partnered to bring you investment tutorials.
  • Hands-off: Your portfolio is built by experts and automatically diversified and rebalanced.
  • Sustainable portfolio option: Acorns offers sustainable portfolios featuring companies with a commitment to socially responsible and eco-friendly practices.

Cons

  • No stock investing: You won't be able to purchase individual shares — only ETFs are available.
  • Individual accounts only: Acorns does not support joint accounts.
  • High fee for small balances: The monthly management fee of $1 to $5 can be high if you have a small portfolio balance.

About Acorns

Acorns is a robo-advisor app with an automated savings feature. It’s designed for new and passive investors who want to grow an investment or retirement portfolio without all the guesswork.

Simply choose the risk level and goal (investment, college fund or retirement) and one of five of Acorns’ portfolios, made up of exchange-traded funds holding thousands of stocks and bonds. Acorns is backed by CNBC and currently has 9 million sign-ups. There are no minimums to get started, but you’ll need to invest at least $5 at a time.

Acorns at a Glance

Here’s a quick overview of Acorns’ top features, including fees and minimums.

Feature Key Details
Opening minimums None
Investment minimums $5
Automatic investment available Yes
Account types
  • Individual investment
  • Retirement (IRAs)
  • Kids (UTMA/UTGA)
Management fees
  • Lite: $1 a month for a basic, taxable investment account
  • Personal: $3 a month for a checking, investment and retirement account
  • Family: $5 a month expands on the Personal plan by adding child accounts
Account fees No charge to buy, sell or cash out
Customer support Phone or email support available

Acorns Features

The best way to use Acorns is to set it and forget it, leaving the app’s algorithms to rebalance your portfolios and reinvest dividends back into your fund. Here’s a review of Acorns’ features.

Portfolio Types

You can choose from three main kinds of portfolios:

  • Investment
  • Retirement
  • Child

The $1 Lite plan includes a basic investment portfolio. The $3 Personal plan adds an IRA. The Family plan for $5 also allows you to set up kid-related investing through a UTMA/UTGA.

Level of Risk

All you need to do is choose a risk-return ratio, such as conservative, moderate or aggressive, and choose from Acorn’s five portfolios, made of exchange-traded funds that hold thousands of stocks and bonds.

Funding Options

To grow your portfolio faster, link a bank account and set up automatic investments.

You can also sign up for Round-Ups by linking an account or card. Each time you make a purchase, it will automatically round it up to the nearest dollar. Once your Round-Ups hit $5, the pocket change will be automatically invested for you.

Acorns Earn lets you make money you can use for investments when you shop. There are over 350 participating retailers, including:

  • Apple
  • Chevron
  • Chewy
  • Expedia
  • The Home Depot
  • Nike
  • Old Navy
  • Sephora
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Warby Parker

Security

Your money and information are secure — Acorns uses bank-level security and 256-bit encryption. It is also a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corp., which protects each investor for up to $500,000 in securities.

Acorns Fees

Acorns keeps its fee structure simple. There are no fees other than the monthly maintenance fee. Choose from one of three options:

  • Lite: $1 a month for a basic, taxable investment account
  • Personal: $3 a month for a checking, investment and retirement account
  • Family: $5 a month expands on the Personal plan by adding child accounts

What Acorns Is Best For

Parking your money in a standard savings account these days doesn’t lead to much — interest rates are currently as low as 0.01%. Investing gives you the opportunity to earn a better rate on your savings.

However, the world of investing can be overwhelming. There are thousands of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs to choose from. And the trouble is that it’s hard to start small. Acorns is best for someone who is new to investing and wants a low-cost way to passively invest in the stock market.

Lower Investment Requirements

Say you want to invest in a few of the best-known stocks, such as Apple, Amazon or Tesla. Using traditional investing methods, you would need a substantial amount of cash to start — a single share of Amazon is around $3,232 at this time.

With Acorns, your $5 minimums allow for fractional shares so you can buy a small percentage. And best of all, you’re buying into ETFs that give you exposure to many of the tech and blue-chip stocks, even for your small contribution amount.

Automatic Contributions

The key to investing is to contribute regularly and, more importantly, over time. Setting up a long-term plan to contribute $5 per week doesn’t sound like much, but it could grow into something more substantial in a matter of years.

Keep in mind that the market can be volatile, so if you think you need your funds in the next few months, you may be better off with a traditional savings account. Otherwise, cashing out when the market is low could be a missed opportunity.

Risk Tolerance Guidance

Fortunately, Acorns will ask you questions about how much risk you’re willing to take when you get started. You can choose a safer investment portfolio for slower but steadier growth, a more aggressive one to capitalize on when the market is hot — or something in between.

Other Ways To Earn and Grow Your Portfolio

To bump up your savings rate further, Acorns gives you a couple of options. You can link your credit/debit cards or bank account and let Acorns automatically round up your purchases and use the spare change to invest more. For example, all your Starbucks lattes for $5.37 would be debited as $6 and the 63 cents would go to your investment account.

You can also take advantage of Acorns Earn, which gives you cash back for purchases at over 350 retailers. You’re basically growing your portfolio when you shop.

Automated Portfolio Management

In the background, Acorns automatically rebalances your portfolio by buying and selling ETFs for the best possible performance and to make sure your portfolio allocation is on track for your goals. And each time you earn dividends, Acorns will reinvest them back into your fund to continue its growth. This is one of the primary reasons Acorns has low maintenance fees — an algorithm handles all the work, instead of an expensive fund manager.

Where Acorns Falls Short

Although Acorns is a great tool for newbie investors, it’s not for everyone.

Limited Investment Function

After some time, you may get the hang of investing and want to do more. The trouble is that there’s not much more you can do. You won’t be able to invest in specific company stocks or buy crypto through Acorns. You’d have to find a more robust platform.

Not for Hands-On Investors

Acorns isn’t really designed for user-generated buying and selling. It’s best for the passive investor who contributes funds and lets the algorithm handle the rest. Changing your portfolio too often or cashing out regularly could affect your earnings and expose you to tax liabilities.

Fees

Although this Acorns review touts the platform as low-cost, the monthly management fee could end up being expensive if you are making tiny contributions. Think about it — investing $10 per month but paying a $1 to $5 maintenance fee eats into your investment substantially.

Acorns vs. Competitors

Here’s how Acorns measures up to other similar investment platforms.

Acorns vs. Stash

Both Acorns and Stash provide a similar product. However, at $9, Stash’s monthly fee for its highest-priced plan is higher than Acorns’ at $5. Acorns may be better for a newbie who prefers to let the platform handle everything. Stash is better for someone who is more hands-on about investing. The app makes recommendations of what investments to make. It’s up to you to buy them.

Acorns vs. Robinhood

Acorns and Robinhood are very different. Acorns is designed as an automatic savings and investment tool, and your funds are invested in ETFs. Once you choose your portfolio type and contribute, the app handles the rest. Robinhood lets you trade a variety of securities commission-free. You’ll need to manually buy and sell, but you’ll have access to ETFs, stocks, options, crypto and American Depositary Receipts.

Acorns vs. Wealthfront

Both robo-advisors are designed for automatic investing. Wealthfront is more full featured. You can link your bank accounts with Wealthfront to manage them in one place and get investment recommendations based on your finances.

Wealthfront’s fee structure is different than Acorns’. Wealthfront charges 0.25% of your balance, while Acorns charges $1 to $5 per month. Wealthfront’s fee may be worth it just for the savings you get from tax-loss harvesting. You’ll need to decide on how much you plan on investing to figure out which is cheaper.

Who Should Use Acorns?

People interested in getting started with investments should try Acorns out. The app takes over all of the hard work of investing by automatically managing and balancing your portfolio as you go. It will know how and when to reinvest your dividends or buy/sell ETFs. All you need to do is choose a portfolio based on your risk tolerance and contribute money. You can even automate the contributions for a passive approach.

Skip Acorns if you’d like to have a more hands-on approach. There are other low-cost investment platforms available that let you buy fractional shares of stocks and crypto with more features for more control.

Acorns FAQ

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Acorns.
  • Is Acorns a good investment option?
    • Acorns is a good way to grow your savings over time. For it to work best, set up an automatic savings plan that deposits funds regularly to grow your portfolio. Acorns investments are all reputable ETFs that represent over 7,000 stocks and bonds.
  • Can you make money on Acorns?
    • If you sign up for Acorns Earn and link a card, you can earn a small amount of cash back from over 350 retailers each time you use the card to shop or buy gas. Your earnings will be invested into your portfolio.

Laurel Funk contributed to the reporting for this article.

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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