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Acorns makes investing easy by rounding up your spare change.
Robinhood offers a DIY approach with zero trading commissions.
At A Glance
|Type of Investment Account||Taxable Brokerage and IRA||Taxable Brokerage|
|Fractional Share Trading||No||Yes|
|Reoccurring Fees||Yes, $3 and $5 a month platform fee||No|
Who Should Use Robinhood and Acorns?
Robinhood is best for…
- DIY investors
- Taxable brokerages
- Margin trading
Acorns is best for…
- A hands-off investing approach
- Retirement accounts
PROS & CONS
|No commissions||Only taxable brokerage accounts are available|
|Access to margin trading||No access to in-depth market analysis|
|Can trade before funds settle in your account||No access to fixed income products|
|Low monthly fees||No ability to individually pick stocks|
|Taxable Accounts or Retirement Accounts||No cryptocurrencies|
|Additional investment contributions through Acorns Earn||No margin trading|
What Is Acorns?
Acorns is a micro-investing and Robo-advising fintech platform. Acorns is built on making investing available to individuals who don’t necessarily have the capital to go and purchase large quantities of securities. Their leading service allows investors to opt in. Acorns automatically rounds up your purchase to the nearest dollar and invests in a portfolio of ETFs across 7,000 stocks and bonds whenever you make a purchase.
Founded in 2012, the company hosts a range of big-name investors such as Jennifer Lopez, Ashton Kutcher, and Kevin Durant. BlackRock, NBCUniversal, and Paypal are also a few institutional investors.
Currently, the company has 8.2 million customers and $3 billion in assets under management (AUM).
What Is Robinhood?
Robinhood’s claim to fame was one of the first brokerages offering commission-free stock trading. By offering zero fees on trades, Robinhood tapped into a whole new market of investors who may have previously shied away from individual investing due to the substantial transaction costs.
The company is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker: $HOOD, not (HODL) and has 31 million users.
However, the company caught public scrutiny recently because while it was marketing its trading platform as having “zero commissions,” Robinhood generates significant revenue from payment for order flow. Payment for order flow means Robinhood gets paid a small commission for routing trades to different executing parties.
A start-up, All of Us Financial offers customers a rebate on the income earned on payment from order flow.
Acorns Round-Up Explained
If you to were opt-in for Acorns round-up, transactions made with your Acorns Visa, debit, or another linked card will be automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar and invested once the rounded-up total reaches $5.
But, until you hit the $5 threshold, the round-ups are set aside and will be automatically invested later. In addition, there are round-up multipliers – you can adjust your rounds up to be 2x, 3x, or even 10x, the rounded amount to magnify your investing.
According to Acorns, the average Acorns user invests more than $30 a month through Round-Ups!
Acorns and Robinhood: Investment Options
Robinhood offers many investment options, while Acorns only allows you to invest in a “type” of a portfolio.
Robinhood allows trading in the following asset classes:
- U.S. Exchange-Listed Stocks and ETFs
- Options Contracts for U.S. Exchange-Listed Stocks and ETFs
- ADRs for over 650 Globally-Listed Companies
- Crypto such as bitcoin and six other cryptocurrencies
Robinhood does not allow trading in the following asset classes:
- Mutual Funds
- Closed-end funds
- Foreign-domiciled stocks
Acorns offers 5 different investment portfolios in its Core account – Conservative, Moderately Conservative, Moderate, Moderately Aggressive, and Aggressive. The portfolios are comprised of various ETFs, but you don’t have the option to pick individual stocks or bonds, only the level of aggressiveness in your portfolio.
The type of portfolio you select will determine the composition of your portfolio. For example, a sample conservative portfolio will likely contain bond ETFs such as:
You can find the complete list of investment options on Acorn’s website.
Acorns recently released a set of ESG portfolios (environmental, social, and governance.) The sustainable portfolios are made of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Acorns offers 4 ESG portfolios – Moderately Conservative, Moderate, Moderately Aggressive, and Aggressive.
Please note, if you are aIf you are an exiting Acorns user and want to invest in an ESG portfolio, you will need to sell your core portfolio holdings, which may trigger a taxable event. This won’t apply to new users.
Types of Accounts
Robinhood keeps it simple by offering just two types of accounts. Let’s take a look at each.
Robinhood instant is your standard taxable brokerage account with $0 monthly fees and is the type of account most Robinhood users have. With a Robinhood Instant account, you have access to the following features:
Instant Access To Unsettled Funds. A standard Robinhood account offers you access to up to $1,000 in unsettled funds. This means you can use your unsettled funds to trade right away instead of waiting 3-5 days for the funds to settle.
Unlike a Gold account, the Robinhood instant account does not grant users access to margin trading, advanced research, and advanced market data.
Robinhood Gold is a more advanced account than Robinhood Instant. With a Robinhood GOLD account, you have access to margin trading, larger access to unsettled funds, third-party market research, and Level II market data from Nasdaq.
A Robinhood Gold account is $5 per month.
Margin Trading. Your first $1,000 of margin is included. For amounts over $1,000, you’ll pay 2.5% yearly interest. Your interest is calculated daily and charged to your account at the end of each billing cycle. It’s important to note that your margin rate is subject to change in Robinhood’s terms and conditions.
Instant Access To Unsettled Funds. With a Robinhood Gold account, you have instant access to funds transferred more than $1,000. In other words, instead of waiting a few days for your money to settle, you can use your cash right away to start trading.
With a standard Robinhood account, you have access up to $1,000 in unsettled funds.
Third-party Market Research. Gold members have unlimited access to Morningstar’s premium research reports. There are approximately 1,700 stocks that have research updated regularly.
Level II Market Data. With Level II access, Gold members can view Level II Market Data. Members can view market data that shows multiple bid/ask prices from Nasdaq. With this type of information, investors can better understand the demand for a security and availability.
Acorns offers 3 types of accounts – Invest, Early, and Later.
Invest. Is a taxable brokerage account like Robinhood’s account. If you were to opt-in, an Invest account automatically invests your rounded-up funds into a portfolio of ETFs based on your designated risk tolerance. Acorns will automatically rebalance your portfolio. Furthermore, with an Acorns Invest account, you have the option to round up purchases to the nearest dollar or 2x, 3x, or 10x the amount, and Acorns will automatically invest that amount for you.
Later. Is a retirement account, specifically an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Acorns automatically selects the right type of account based on your long-term goals with a later account. You can make contributions to a Later account on a one-time or reoccurring basis. Round-ups are not available in an Acorns Later account.
Early. Is a custodial account opened on behalf of your children, either a UGMA or UTMA account (Uniform Gift to Minors Act or Uniform Transfers to Minors). Acorns Early works like your Acorns Invest and Later accounts, you can invest with as little as $5 into a wide range of ETFs. Round-ups are also not available with an Early account.
Acorns and Robinhood Fees
Robinhood charges zero commission for trading and no reoccurring or maintenance fees for its Instant Account. However, the Gold Account is $5 a month, which grants users access to advanced features. At the same time, Acorns has an unavoidable $3 or $5 monthly fee.
Robinhood does not charge any trading commission fees with its Instant account. Furthermore, they do not charge you any fees to open, maintain, or transfer funds to your account with a standard brokerage account.
However, with a Gold account, there is a $5 monthly fee in addition to margin fees if you use that service.
Cost for 30 days
$1,000 of margin, $5
Margin over $1,000, 2.5% (subject to change per Robinhood)
Other Fees (Instant and Gold Account):
ACATs (Outgoing): $75
Domestic overnight check delivery: $20
Paper Statements: $5
Paper Confirms: $2
Acorns does not charge any transaction fees, and there are no minimums to open an account. However, the company has a 2 tier flat fee structure. Let’s look below:
Acorns Personal – $3/month
A complete financial wellness system with all-in-one investment, retirement, and checking. Plus, a metal debit card, bonus investments, and money advice.
Acorns Family – $5/month
Unlimited investment accounts for children. Plus personal investment, retirement, and checking accounts, bonus investments, and money advice. If you open an Acorns Early account, you can only select the Acorns Family pricing tier.
There is $50 per ETF to transfer your positions to another broker.
Additional Services & Features
Robinhood offers users access to IPOs at the IPO price and fractional share trading and cash management. While Acorn’s Earn program and unique $1,500 referral bonus program make it too tough to call a winner.
Robinhood offers individual investors public access to upcoming IPOs. This means everyday investors like you and me can purchase securities at the IPO price. IPO access was once only available to the ultra-wealthy and institutional investors.
Fractional Share Trading
You can invest in 5,000 stocks and ETFs by purchasing fractional shares starting at $1, or as little as 0.000001 shares. Most popular fractional shares include Apple, Tesla, Amazon, and certain over-the-counter and American depositary receipt stocks.
Robinhood cash management enables you to earn interest on your swept cash. You will also get a debit card issued by Sutton Bank. You can use your debit card to buy groceries, pay bills, send checks, etc. Your cash earns a 0.30% annual percentage yield through Robinhood’s network of bank programs.
Acorns Earn. With Acorns Earn, when a user purchases at one of Acorn’s 350 brand partners, the brand partner will automatically invest a set amount or percentage directly into your investment account. The Acorn’s Earn account also offers a Chrome plug-in that makes earning simple when shopping online.
Popular partner brands include Apple, Macy’s, Nike, Walmart, and Warby Parker, to name a few.
Referral Bonus. Existing Acorns customers and the referred person each get $5 invested. Also, as of October 21st, Acorns is offering a special $1,500 referral bonus if you refer 7 friends.
Acorns Spend. With Acorns Spend, you have access to all the standard features of a standard checking account, including a debit card and ATM access. There is no minimum balance or overdraft fees, plus access to 55,000 ATMs globally.
The Robinhood app is extremely easy to use and user-friendly. The company was in hot water for making it too easy for users to trade by having enticing features such as confetti after a trade is executed and free stock. You can’t win, can you? However, the Robinhood app does have a lower rating than Acorns in both the Apple and Google Play stores, so Acorns takes the ribbon here.
Which Service Is Better?
Acorns and Robinhood appeal to the same demographic of younger investors. If you are looking for a DIY investing approach with zero fees, Robinhood is your best choice. However, if you don’t mind paying a few bucks per month to let others make the investment decisions, then Acorns is the right choice.