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Acorns is a financial technology (fintech) company that specializes in providing automated passive-investing services (along with other features) to retail investors in the United States, giving them the opportunity to build an investment portfolio regardless of the amount of capital they have.
Acorns was founded by Walter Cruttenden and Jeffrey Cruttenden back in 2012 as a way for people to invest passively. Currently, Acorns oversees over $6.2 billion in assets for investors and has over 10 million users registered with the platform.
If you want to know more about Acorns, how it operates, and how much they charge for their services, along with other interesting details, keep reading.
Bottom Line: Acorns can be categorized as a one-stop shop for all things personal finance. They offer a wide variety of financial products related to banking, retirement planning, and investment management for as low as $3 per month.
|Features and tools|
|Ease of use|
What is Acorns?
Acorns could be categorized as a one-stop shop for all things personal finance. The firm offers a wide variety of financial products and services related to banking, retirement planning, and investment management, allowing individuals and households to optimize the way they spend, invest, and plan for their futures through a set of technological tools.
Acorns’ investment management services work through a robo-advisor, which is a system that follows predefined algorithms to build investment portfolios based on a person’s financial goals, income, employment situation, risk profile, and other characteristics.
These algorithms use a time-tested investment methodology known as passive investing, which seeks to produce fairly predictable returns over long-term holding periods. Statistics show that volatility is generally lower for long-term portfolios.
With Acorns, users can open an account without a deposit, although the firm requires a minimum deposit of $5 to start investing.
Acorns operates as a subscription-based service, with the basic (“Acorns Personal”) package starting at just $3 per month.
>> Read Also: 12 Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading
How Does Acorns Work?
The technology behind Acorns is simple yet powerful, and there are a few account types to choose from.
Acorns does not require a minimum deposit to open an account. However, an initial investment of $5 is required to access its automated passive investing solution. Meanwhile, to set up automatic deposits with this provider — known as Recurring Investments — a minimum of $5 is also required.
Investing Account Types
Acorns currently supports the following types of accounts for its investors:
- Individual taxable account
- Traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
- SEP IRA
- UTMA/UGMA accounts
Opening an Account
Opening an account with Acorns is easy. It only takes a few minutes and can be done completely online.
The process starts with clicking the “Get Started” button on the top right corner of Acorns’ official website. Then, the user will be prompted to provide an email and a password to begin the registration process.
After that, the user will have to provide some personal and banking information to synchronize the account. They will also need to fill out a questionnaire that aims to gather relevant information regarding the investor’s financial situation, employment status, goals, and risk profile, among other information.
A government-issued ID is also required to verify identity as part of the enrollment process.
Once this process is completed, the user can decide how much to deposit into the investment account.
Depending on the investor’s financial goals and risk tolerance, the robo-advisor will suggest a certain portfolio allocation and will set the path that the investor will follow to achieve the desired goals. The service will provide details like the required monthly contribution and the forecasted contribution of the proceeds to the portfolio.
Acorns is best known for being a micro-investing or micro-savings app, but it has many other features worth checking out.
|Minimum Investment||$0 to open account ($5 to start investing)|
|Fees||$3 per month (Acorns Personal), $5 per month (Acorns Personal Plus) and $9 per month (Acorns Premium)|
|Investment Types||The portfolio mix includes stocks, ETFs, bonds, REITs, and Bitcoin-like ETF|
|Account Types||Individual Taxable, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, and UTMA/UGMA accounts|
|Platform||Web app and mobile apps (iOS and Android)|
|Assets Under Management||Over $6.2 billion|
|Promotion||Get a $20 welcome bonus|
|Socially Responsible Investing|
|Support||Live chat, phone +1 (855) 739-2859, and email|
Acorns Invest is the firm’s investment management service, which works as a robo-advisor.
Based on the investor’s financial goals, the robo-advisor will recommend a certain portfolio allocation that aims to generate steady returns over the course of multiple years, following a time-tested investment methodology that was built by the firm with the assistance of Nobel prize winner economist Harry Markowitz, the mind behind Model Portfolio Theory (MPT).
The investment account can be set up in only a few minutes, and the portfolio will be built using low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that cover multiple asset classes, including stocks and bonds and their respective subclasses.
These portfolios are designed in a way that achieves the highest possible return for a certain level of risk, which is determined by assessing the client’s profile and financial goals.
The percentage allocated to each asset class will vary depending on the client’s risk tolerance. The following are the five types of portfolios currently supported by Acorns:
- Conservative – 100% bonds.
- Moderately Conservative – 60% bonds, 40% stocks.
- Moderate – 40% bonds, 60% stocks.
- Moderately Aggressive – 80% stocks, 20% bonds.
- Aggressive – 100% stocks.
The type of bonds and stocks incorporated in each portfolio vary for each of these five portfolios.
Acorns Invest can be accessed with all the subscription plans offered by the firm, although certain features are only available for premium tiers.
Additionally, Acorns incorporates an innovative feature known as Round-Ups, which uses the spare change that’s left after making a purchase with the firm’s Visa™ debit card or any other linked card.
Round-ups can help investors progressively add money to their portfolios. The firm states that, on average, its users add $30 per month to their accounts with this feature.
Moreover, users can employ what the firm calls a Round-Up multiplier, which increases the amount that will be ultimately added to a user’s investment account by multiplying the spare change by a certain number of times.
Round-Ups are transferred to an investment account and allocated once a minimum amount of $5 worth of Round-Ups has been reached.
Acorns Investing Portfolios
As stated above, Acorns offers a selection of five different portfolios designed to fit users’ different levels of risk tolerance.
Here’s a detailed overview of how much will be allocated to each asset class depending on the portfolio that the robo-advisor recommends for the user.
- 40% short-term government bonds.
- 40% ultra short-term corporate bonds.
- 20% ultra short-term government bonds.
- Moderately Conservative
- 60% government & corporate bonds.
- 24% large-cap stocks.
- 4% mid-cap stocks.
- 12% international stocks.
- 40% government & corporate bonds.
- 35% large-cap stocks.
- 5% mid-cap stocks.
- 2% small-cap stocks.
- 12% international stocks.
- Moderately Aggressive
- 20% government & corporate bonds.
- 47% large-cap stocks.
- 6% mid-cap stocks.
- 3% small-cap stocks.
- 24% international stocks.
- 55% large-cap stocks.
- 10% mid-cap stocks.
- 5% small-cap stocks.
- 30% international stocks.
Acorns Investing Methodology
Acorns’ investment methodology is founded on Harry Markowitz’s Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT). The MPT approach aims to find the optimal combination of different asset classes to achieve the highest possible return, given a certain level of risk.
MPT proposes that in the absence of trading costs (a situation that has come closer to reality as brokerage firms keep slashing their fees), most asset classes will generate fairly predictable returns and volatility levels over long periods.
Using these returns as a reference, a graph combining different asset classes that incorporates the different levels of returns and risk realized by the investor can be created.
With this graph, investors can determine which combination of asset classes (also known as optimal portfolio mix) offers the highest level of return for a given level of risk.
Using historical data, Acorns has built an investment methodology founded on these principles, and the robo-advisor’s algorithms have been designed to determine the optimal allocation for each investor based on their risk tolerance.
To incorporate all the asset classes required to build portfolios recommended by Acorn’s robo-advisor, low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are provided by well-reputed firms like Vanguard and Blackrock, which charge only a small annual percentage in operating fees, allowing investors to maximize their returns by also minimizing the fees they pay to third parties.
ETFs are designed to hold a basket of different securities (whether stocks or bonds), and they incorporate diversification into the user’s portfolio.
>> Read Also: 12 Best Robo-Advisors: Automate Your Investments
Acorns Later is the firm’s retirement-planning solution. It is offered to investors who sign up for the three subscription packages.
A retirement account can be opened with as little as $5, and investors can choose between opening an IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA account. The firm also accepts 401(k) rollovers.
The retirement account works similarly to the taxable investment account, allowing the investor to sign up for Round-Ups. An investor can also set up automated recurring contributions to keep their retirement account growing as planned.
Investors can track the progress they have made toward their retirement goals using Acorn’s mobile app or by logging into their accounts through the firm’s official website.
Acorns Banking is a checking account offered by Acorns, and it is included in all of their subscription packages.
Acorns Spend is provided by Lincoln Savings Bank, a member of the FDIC, which entitles the holder to a protection of up to $250,000 on any funds deposited within the account.
This checking account comes with a tungsten metal Visa™ debit card for the Personal Plus and Premium subscriptions. Customers can set up the Round-Ups feature with this card as a way to deposit money into their Acorns investment account.
The account does not charge any fees, and account holders can withdraw money for free within a network of more than 55,000 ATMs both in and outside the United States.
Acorns Early is designed to help parents save for their children’s futures. It offers flexibility because it works both as a savings and an investment account. The funds within an Early account are invested in Acorns’ Aggressive portfolio (comprising 100% stocks), making the most of children’s long-term investment horizon.
With Acorns, parents can set up Early accounts online for their kids, and they can set daily, weekly, or monthly deposits to be automatically debited from the designated account. The deposits are automatically invested into the connected portfolio. Minimum deposits are just $5.
There is no limit to the number of accounts that can be opened, and Early accounts are UTMA/UGMA accounts, which are tax-deferred accounts that can be used not just to pay for a child’s education but also to cover expenses that contribute to their wellbeing.
Money can be transferred to the child once they have reached a certain minimum age (also known as the “age of transfer”), with the exact age varying depending on the child’s state of residency.
Acorns Earn is a rewards program that allows account holders to earn money from purchases they make with 350+ different brands partnered with the firm.
Using the debit or credit card linked to their Acorns account, investors can earn varying cash-back rewards that will be deposited directly into their investment account within 60 to 120 days after the purchase is completed.
The different rewards offered by each provider can be found within Acorns’ mobile app, or users can also install an extension in their Chrome web browser that will allow them to see this information.
For example, Disney+ currently offers a $5 reward when a user pays for a subscription with an Acorns-linked card; Chevron offers a $0.25 reward per refill of $20 or higher.
Sustainable Portfolios (ESG)
Acorns offers access to an ESG-focused investment portfolio. This methodology is suitable for environment or socially-conscious investors who would like to contribute money to companies that positively contribute to enhancing the world around them.
In the same way as the traditional portfolios offered by this provider, the robo-advisor can recommend different allocations depending on the customer’s financial goals and risk tolerance.
The main difference between the traditional version of the portfolio would be that the exchange-traded funds (ETFs) used to build the ESG-focused one will have high ratings in this particular field from independent assessment companies such as MSCI.
ESG-focused ETFs screen out the companies that they invest in not just based on their financial performance but also on their ESG score. Acorns uses iShares ETFs exclusively to build its ESG-focused portfolio. These ETFs are managed by the asset management firm Blackrock.
Some of these ETFs include:
- iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF ($ESGU)
- iShares ESG Aware MSCI EM ETF ($ESGE)
- iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA Small-Cap ETF ($ESML)
Cryptocurrencies have progressively become a widely accepted financial asset that provides some upside to traditional portfolios by assuming a higher risk that can result in higher returns.
Acorns offers access to this asset class via a Bitcoin-linked ETF. Customers are allowed to allocate up to 5% of their portfolio’s holdings to this specific financial asset through this vehicle without incurring significant transaction or management costs.
The ETF used to this end is the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF ($BITO). The percentage invested into the asset varies from 1% for investors who opt for the Conservative portfolio allocation to 5% for Aggressive investment profiles.
Investing in Bitcoin via an ETF makes it easier, less expensive, and safer for customers to access this specific asset compared to buying the cryptocurrency through an exchange and holding it in a ‘hot wallet.’
>> Read Also: 12 Best Investment Apps: For Beginners & Pros
Acorns Pricing & Fees
Acorns currently offers three different subscription plans that allow investors to access different features and services provided by the firm. These are:
The Acorns Personal package ($3 per month) allows the user to enjoy the firm’s automated passive investing service primarily but also set up Round-Ups by linking a third-party debit or credit card. They may also set up a retirement account and bank account and participate in the Acorns rewards program.
Acorns Personal Plus
This intermediate tier, Acorns Personal Plus ($5 per month), gives customers some additional benefits for Acorns banking solution, including the issuance of a Visa™debit card made of tungsten metal and access to a checking and savings account that generates annual percentage yields (APYs) of 3% and 5%, respectively at the moment this is written.
In addition, the rewards program offered by this tier is much more attractive as Acorns promises to match up to 25% of the bonus investments that customers earn for eligible purchases and transactions. Finally, investors who enroll in the Personal Plus package are also allowed to access live Q&A events with seasoned financial experts to educate themselves.
The Premium package ($9 per month) comes with all the features provided by the previous two plans but adds the opportunity to enroll the investor’s children in Acorns’ Early program, a solution that offers both savings and investment products for kids.
In addition, investors who enroll for the Premium package have more freedom in terms of the types of securities they can incorporate into their portfolios as they can choose to add individual stocks and ETFs apart from the selection suggested by the robo-advisor.
Moreover, Acorns increases its rewards for Premium customers to up to 50% of matching contributions on eligible purchases and offers a $10,000 life insurance policy to eligible customers and a service that allows parents to draft a will for their family with zero cost.
Acorns does not charge trading fees for the purchase or sale of the securities that comprise their portfolios, but the individual ETFs may charge a certain annual expense. However, it should be noted that these fees tend to be very low.
Acorns Customer Support
Acorns offers both its prospective and existing customers access to a Help Center through its website. This is a separate site that provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) and common issues that customers and non-customers may experience when interacting with the company’s services and platforms.
The Help Center provides guidance on matters including account management, investing, banking, and GoHenry – a program that educates children about finance and money management.
Aside from this, the website has a live chat option that is first managed by a chatbot. By typing the word ‘agent,’ the robo-advisor will prompt the customer to disclose what kind of issue they are experiencing.
Once a simple answer has been provided, the user will be able to contact support if they feel the answer has not satisfied their request. Acorns offers three channels to provide support to customers: phone, live chat, and email.
We are happy to report that the live chat feature does work, and it is possible to reach out to a representative through this feature. This is not a channel that tends to work very well with other providers, or, in some cases, it is not available at all.
Meanwhile, for phone contacts, customers may call +1 (855) 739-2859 to reach out to a customer support agent. Phone assistance is available from 5 am to 7 pm PST from Monday to Sunday.
As for the email support offered by this provider, a support ticket may be submitted by using the following link. As with all email support systems, it may take from 24 to 72 hours to receive an answer from a customer service representative through this channel.
Acorns has received a 2.3-star rating on Trustpilot after 354 reviews. A total of 64% of all reviews have granted the company a 1-star rating. The Trustpilot profile is verified, meaning that it is the website’s official account.
The negative ratings from users have to be read carefully as some appear to contain some kind of advertising for other platforms, meaning that they may not be fully impartial. Other customers have complained about Acorns’ customer service and being locked out of their accounts for long periods.
On the Consumer Affairs website, the company displays a 1.8 out of 5 rating despite having received 4-star and 5-star ratings from 62% of those who provided their review. The credibility of these reviews is limited as only 27 customers have commented on Acorns’ services on this website.
Acorns User Experience
Customers may access the Acorns platform via its website or through its mobile apps, which are available for both Android and iOS-powered devices.
The mobile app is fairly intuitive as Acorns has built an interface that allows customers to set up their investment accounts easily, manage their banking products, keep track of their portfolio’s performance, and access educational resources easily.
Customers can perform the same tasks on the web-based version and the mobile app, such as making deposits, making changes to their portfolio’s allocation, managing their subscription options, executing banking transactions, and other similar tasks.
More than 280,000 users have rated the Android app with an average score of 4.6 stars, with the majority of these reviews granting the app a 5-star rating. The app seems to be updated frequently, as the latest patch was released just five days before this article was written.
Meanwhile, the Acorns app for iOS devices has received an average rating of 4.7 stars after nearly 900,000 reviews from customers. These reviews speak loudly about the app’s user-friendliness and may be considered better evidence of the quality of Acorns’ services than the scarce online reviews the company has received on websites like Trustpilot and Consumer Affairs.
Acorns operates through various subsidiaries to provide its services. For example, the provider’s investment accounts are offered by Acorns Advisers LLC. This company is a registered financial advisor with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Meanwhile, brokerage services are provided by Acorns Securities, a company that is also registered with the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Acorns Securities is a member of SIPC; this is an agency that provides insurance to customers who have opened investment accounts with financial services firms like this one.
The insurance policy offered by SIPC covers up to $500,000 in securities held with its member companies, including $250,000 in cash.
The banking products offered by Acorns are not provided by the firm directly as they are not authorized to operate as a bank or offer these kinds of products and services. Instead, they partner with the Lincoln Savings Bank, which is a financial institution whose deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), to provide the bank accounts they currently offer.
The FDIC insurance policy with the Lincoln Savings Bank and other program banks used by Acorns covers up to $250,000 for each depositor or joint account owner.
Finally, Acorns’ website and mobile apps are secured by 256-bit encryption delivered via SSL certificates. This allows customers to safely transfer their information to Acorns as the data travels in an encrypted manner and can only be decrypted by the firm’s servers by using a secret encryption key.
Users can contribute to make their accounts safer by adding multi-factor authentication (MFA). This option will prompt the system to send a 6-digit code to the user’s phone or an email every time a suspicious login is recorded or a new device is used to access the account.
Acorns Educational Resources
Acorns is committed to providing learning opportunities to all of its customers, regardless of their age. They offer access to various types of educational resources, including videos and articles, via their ‘Learn’ portal.
In this section of the website, customers can find valuable content about seven different topics:
- Acorns (the platform)
Most of the articles and videos are relatively short, insightful, and concise to provide specific information that customers need to enrich their investing and money management journey.
Meanwhile, for kids specifically, the company partnered with GoHenry, a global financial education platform that has created resources for kids from 6 to 18 years old that help them learn more about their personal finances and other relevant topics associated with managing money and investments.
The GoHenry program is only available for Premium subscribers. Kids who enroll in the program receive a debit card that can be customized with any of the available 40+ designs.
Acorns Pros Explained
- Acorns is a regulated investment management firm that oversees more than $6.2B in assets for over 10 million users.
- The firm’s pricing structure is fixed and fairly inexpensive for investors with over $15,000 in assets to invest.
- Acorns offers a user-friendly, web-based, and mobile platform through which investors can track the progress of their investment and retirement accounts based on the goals set when they first enrolled.
- The firm relies on a time-tested investment methodology that aims to produce steady returns with little volatility over a long-term holding period.
- Acorns offers innovative alternatives for other money management needs, such as their Early accounts, which are used to build wealth for kids at an early stage of their lives.
- Acorns’ vast network of partners and affiliated brands offers interesting rewards that are deposited directly to the investment account.
- The Round-Ups feature allows investors to progressively save seemingly unimportant spare changes that can turn into interesting amounts when invested over time.
Acorns Cons Explained
- Acorns does not offer the possibility to trade securities actively through their platform, which is a downside for investors who prefer to have control over at least a portion of their portfolios.
- Acorns’ monthly subscription fees can be quite expensive for investors with small amounts of capital. For example, $1,000 invested when subscribing to the Personal plan means that the investor will pay 3.6% in advisory fees, which is 2.6% higher than the industry average.
Before deciding whether or not Acorns is for you, you may want to consider other alternatives.
Acorns vs. Stash
Stash offers almost the same services as Acorns, but they only offer two plans. Their pricing starts at $3 per month for their Growth package and goes up to $9 per month for their Growth+ package.
Stash’s service also provides less hand-holding to investors as they recommend pre-designed portfolios rather than offering customized portfolios.
Check out our Stash review to learn more.
Acorns vs. M1 Finance
M1 Finance is also a robo-advisor, and it offers investment management services similar to Acorns’. However, they have an edge — they don’t charge any fees for building their investment portfolios.
Additionally, the firm lets users build customized portfolios, allowing a user to trade stocks and ETFs using their platform, although trades are executed in one or two specific time windows during the day.
Moreover, M1 Finance offers the possibility of taking out loans backed by the investment portfolio, a feature that is not offered by Acorns.
That said, M1 Finance lacks some of the services offered by Acorns, such as the firm’s “Early” program for kids.
Check out our M1 Finance review to learn more.
|Minimum Investment||$0 to open an account ($5 to start investing)||$0||$3 to open an account|
|Fees||$3 to $9 per month||$0||$3 to $9 per month|
|Promotion||$20 welcome bonus (*new accounts)||Get up to $500 (*when you sign up for M1 and make a deposit of $1,000 or more within 14 days).||$5 welcome bonus (*new accounts)|
|Highlight||Invest your spare change||Personalization and automation in one single platform||Fractional share investing|
|Best For||Passive investors||Passive investors||Passive investors|
Who Is Acorns Best For?
Acorns is a great alternative for investors who prefer to let professionals manage their investments.
The firm charges relatively low subscription fees for their services, although they have to be compared with other providers who charge a percentage-based fee — especially if the investor has a small account balance.
In this regard, Acorns’ services can be quite expensive for portfolios with less than $15,000.
It should be stated that Acorns is not a suitable provider for investors who want a say in how their money is invested (they do not allow self-directed trading).
Notable Acorns Updates and News
- On April 3, 2023, Acorns acquired GoHenry, a fintech company focused on teaching kids about finance and investing. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but GoHenry was reportedly valued somewhere between $250 million and $500 million by October 2022.
- On March 22, 2022, Acorns provides access to cryptocurrencies by offering its customers the possibility of adding up to 5% worth of Bitcoin to their portfolios through a Bitcoin-linked ETF managed by ProShares.
- On March 9, 2022, Acorns raised $300 million through its Series F funding round, which is valued at approximately $2 billion. The company said back then that it would not be pursuing its earlier plans to go public via an SPAC merger and may opt to go public later through a traditional initial public offering (IPO).
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions with regards to Acorns and its functionality.
How Much Does Acorns Cost?
Acorns charges a subscription-based fee per month. Fees start at $3 per month for the Personal plan and go as high as $9 per month for the Premium plan. These fees are only applicable to clients with an account balance lower than $1 million.
Is Acorns Secure, and How Do They Protect My Money?
Acorns’ group of companies and subsidiaries are all regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States. The firm is also a member of SIPC, which means investors’ accounts are protected for up to $500,000.
Additionally, the bank accounts offered by Acorns enjoy a protection of up to $250,000 from the FDIC.
Acorns is a great robo-advisor that offers a wide range of services that cover banking, investment management, and retirement planning.
Yet, even though the subscription-based fees seem inexpensive at first glance, investors with less than $15,000 may find other providers that charge percentage-based fees to be less expensive than Acorns.
That said, the firm’s Earn and Round-Ups features are very appealing, although they are not good enough to justify paying twice what other equally good providers like Betterment or Wealthfront offer.
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Alejandro is a financial writer with 7 years of experience in financial management and financial analysis. He writes technical content about economics, finance, investments, and real estate and has also assisted financial businesses in building their digital marketing strategy. His favorite topics are value investing and financial analysis.