Acorns Investing App Review 2017
I recently had a conversation with a long time friend who has had a hard time saving or investing. "I can't even save up $50, how can I invest?" This summarized his problem and many new investors' problem.
The Acorns investing app makes it easy to save for investing by rounding up "spare change" and investing it for you automatically. Simply link it to your checking account(s) and it will take leftover change from everyday transactions and invest it for you.
On top of that, you'll be able to choose from 5 pre-made portfolios of low-expense ETFs to suit your investing style. If you don't make a lot of transactions with debit or credit cards, then you can choose to manually invest any amount you'd like, anytime. Plus, Acorns works with companies like Jet and Dollar Shave club to get you money back that you can invest with every transaction.
Fees & Commissions
Acorns is totally commission free which means you won't pay a fee every time you buy or sell a position. This is important because with Acorns you could be making little investments multiple times per month, depending on how many round-ups you get. If you had to pay a commission on each of these, it would get extremely expensive.
Instead of a commission, Acorns charges a flat $1 per month on accounts with less than $5,000. While $1 per month seems like a small fee, it can actually be quite a heavy fee on low account balances. Depending on how much money you have in your account you'll want to read our comparison of investing app fees.
For a quick comparison, $1 per month is equal to 2.4% expense on a portfolio of $500. If you're not aware, that's very expensive compared to most alternatives. This becomes much more reasonable, however, when your portfolio approaches $5,000.
For instance, the Acorns fee equates to a 0.27% fee on a portfolio of $4,500. Portfolios of over $5,000 will be charged a flat 0.25% fee.
Free for College Students
Acorns is totally free for anyone with a *.edu email address for up to 4 years from the date of registration. If you've got a current (or old) college email address kicking around, you can take advantage of 4 years of free service with the Acorns app! This totally changes the value of the app and if you can take advantage of the Acorns college discount, it makes the service a no-brainer!
Available Promotions & Free Cash
As of the writing of this article, Acorns is offering you a free $5 for signing up by using our referral link. Not only do you get a sweet $5 to get started, but Acorns kicks us $5 as well which we use to help keep this site going! If you're going to sign up for Acorns (and if you've got a college email address, you'd be silly not to) then we'd really appreciate your support.
This is essentially a cash-back program inside of Acorns which will kick back a percentage of any purchase made with a linked account from tons of major brands. These are mostly large, popular brands you're likely to shop from anyways. The "found money" can easily pay for the $1 per month fee and then some!
Be sure to check the "Best For" section near the bottom for ideas on how you could easily earn 6%+ free money on every purchase with an Acorns Found Money brand partner.
Here's their current list of brands supported by the Found Money program as of the writing of this article:
Account Minimums & Maximums
You can create an account with no money up front but the minimum required to start investing is $5. If you use our referral link you'll get a free $5 immediately! Otherwise, you'll need to kick in the $5 yourself.
Round-ups will be investing in your account once they've reached a cumulative $5. In my experience, this was about 3 times per month. I have found that on an average month my round-ups come out to about $18 total.
Just remember that unless you have an education email address which makes the service free, the fees on low account balances are extremely high when compared to other similar apps. For most investors, you'll need about $5,000 to make the annual fee comparable to other apps such as M1 Finance.
Annual Fees Per Account Balance
In essence, Acorns does allow fractional share ownership. Because each Acorns portfolio is made of a pre-weighted allocation of several ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), your investments automatically get broken up fractionally across the ETFs and then, again, across the underlying assets inside each ETF.
If that was confusing for you then just remember this - yes, Acorns does take advantage of fractional shares. With Acorns, however, you don't really get a say in how those shares are divided.
By far the unique feature of Acorns is the spare change round-ups. They carved out space for themselves in this niche by making automated investing painless. We've all left our spare change in the tip jar or penny jar so, why not take that spare change and invest it without even having to notice?
I like that Acorns uses 5 pre-weighted portfolios with very simple options to get you started. They're labeled conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, and aggressive. Anyone can easily figure out what these mean and it's simple to switch portfolios at any time.
Acorns introduced what they call "Found Money" not too long ago and this is another way to easily make extra money and offset the $1 per month account expense. This is basically a cash-back program and includes major brands like Jet.com, Hulu, Airbnb, The Wall Street Journal, and more! They have been actively adding brands to this list so expect it to continue growing.
College students, frequent card users, and shoppers who use "Found Money" partners.
Remember, if you've got a *.edu email you can waive the $12 annual fee (accounts <$5,000). If you're not one to use a card regularly then you'll have to manually invest which takes away some of the benefits of Acorns but you can still do it manually. Additionally, shopping through the Found Money partners can net you a sweet cash back that goes straight into your investments.
Double Cash Back Option
Crafty investors and savers might even make the purchase with a 3% rewards checking account or 2% cash back credit card. Then you'll also get the cashback percentage from Acorns. This could easily add up to 6%+ cash back total on any purchase through an Acorns partner. Services like Hulu you probably already use anyways, so why not get some cash for it?
Pros & Cons
- Found Money
- Double cash back option
- Pre-made portfolios
- Intuitive web & mobile app
- Automated investing
- High fees on low account balances
- No ability to customize your portfolio
- Pre-made portfolios may limit some investors
- Underpowered for large account balances
Let us know you loved our review of the Acorns app by checking out our tutorial videos and reviews of the best investing apps on our YouTube channel.
If you found our review helpful please consider using our link to sign up for Acorns. You'll get $5 to get started totally for free and the $5 we get will help us make more great content.