What we think of Acorns
Let’s say you’re new to investing and you don’t know where to start. And suppose you want an investment portfolio but aren’t totally sure what a portfolio is — or how to go about building one.
Enter Acorns: a straightforward investment app that offers simple, automated investments. And while it may not be for everyone — namely: active traders — it’s a practical fit for anyone breaking into the investments game and looking for some beginner-friendly guardrails.
Acorns asks you about your financial goals when you sign up and uses your answers to put together investments on your behalf. Plus, its flat-rate pricing is predictable and easy to understand — just a straight-up monthly fee of $1 to $5, depending on your service tier.
Oh, and you don’t pay anything at all if you’re in school: It’s free for four years for college students. You can also get started with a deposit of as little as $5 and are free to make withdrawals and deposits as you see fit.
Its Round-Up feature is the epitome of set-it-and-forget-it investing. If you link your debit card to your Acorns account, it rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference.
But while Acorns has a solid resume, it isn’t for everyone. It’s a practical service for newbies who want their investments managed for them. Traders looking to build a portfolio from scratch or take charge of the buying and selling process will want to look elsewhere. And Acorns portfolios only invest in exchange-traded funds — individual stocks, bonds and mutual funds aren’t open for trade.
What investments does Acorns offer?
While Acorns offers a Spend checking account and ways to earn and save on purchases, it’s best known for its investment accounts, including:
Acorns Invest is an investment account equipped with a robo-advisor. Its Round-Up feature rounds transactions up to the nearest dollar and invests the difference. Acorn selects the appropriate investment portfolio for you based on your answers to questions about your risk tolerance and investment goals.
Acorns Later is a tax-advantaged retirement account. Just like the Invest account, contributions are allocated based on long-term investment goals and risk tolerance. When you sign up, Acorns recommends the IRA and portfolio it believes best suits your investment needs. Traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs are available.
Acorns Early is a UTMA/UGMA custodial account for kids. Invested funds can be used for anything that benefits your child, and they gain access to the account when they reach adulthood. Recurring investments start at $5 daily, weekly or monthly, and there are no contribution limits.
Who is Acorns best for?
Acorns is best for new investors or those who prefer a hands-off approach to their portfolio. The Acorns app will handle your investments and create a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) — collections of stocks — on your behalf. The ETFs it recommends are unique to your financial circumstances and investment goals.
While most robo-advisors charge a percentage of assets under management, Acorns charges a flat monthly fee, which can quickly cut into your profits if you’re only investing spare change. Investors with a higher account balance of at least $5,000 would pay an advisory fee closer to the industry average.
Something else to consider is Acorns’ lack of tax-loss harvesting, which is a feature that sells down investments at a loss to help reduce the impact of capital gains tax. For some investors, this won’t matter — anyone with an annual income under $40,000 doesn’t have to pay long-term capital gains tax. But for others, the lack of tax-loss harvesting could result in a higher bill come tax season.
Fees and costs
For a monthly fee, investors can sign up for the Acorns app through one of three subscription tiers based on their account needs and investment preferences. Each tier builds on the offerings of the tier below it.
|Personal||$3||Everything from the Lite subscription tier, plus:|
|Family||$5||Everything from the Personal subscription tier, plus:|
How do I sign up?
No matter which subscription tier you’re interested in, you can begin the signup process by selecting the Go to site button at the top of this page:
- Select Get Started.
- Choose the subscription tier you’d like to apply for and select Sign Up Today.
- Enter your email, create a password, review the terms and conditions and hit Create Account.
- Link your debit or credit card for the Round-Ups feature.
- Connect or create a funding account that will invest your allocated money.
- Add more about yourself and adjust your investment preferences for a better user experience.
To sign up for an Acorns account, you’ll need to meet a few eligibility requirements:
- US citizen and resident
- Valid Social Security number or Tax ID number
- Valid bank account or credit card
- Over the age of 18
- State-issued ID
When you sign up for an account, you’ll be asked for the following information:
- Email address
- First and last name
- Online banking information
- Social Security number or Tax ID number
- Financial goals
- Occupation and earnings
What portfolios are available?
When you sign up for Acorns, you select from one of five portfolios. The options are based on your risk tolerance: essentially, how conservative or aggressive you’d like your investments to be.
Investors who prefer less risk are going to be more comfortable with conservative to moderate portfolios. These portfolios tend to be safer — meaning, your investments are less likely to lose money — but the gains are typically lower.
Alternatively, investors prepared to take chances on their investments may select a more aggressive portfolio. These portfolios invest in riskier stocks that can quickly shoot up but may lose money just as fast.
Here’s a rundown of the five choices available to you:
- Conservative. This type of portfolio invests in a mix of assets balanced between short-term government and corporate bonds. Bonds are steady, fixed-income investments similar to loans: Investors pay into the bond and receive their investment back with interest once the bond term is up.
- Moderately Conservative. This portfolio contains government bonds, corporate bonds and large corporate stocks: stocks from major companies with a solid track record that have grown steadily for years.
- Moderate. This portfolio holds a mix of large corporate stocks, government bonds, corporate bonds, international stocks and small company stocks.
- Moderately Aggressive. This portfolio buys into the same assets as the Moderate portfolio with a heavier weight of large corporate stocks and small company stocks.
- Aggressive. This portfolio heavily invests in large corporate stocks, small company stocks and international stocks.
Acorns Sustainable Portfolios
In addition to its portfolios arranged by risk tolerance, Acorns also offers ESG-oriented portfolios, which are portfolios with a special focus on environmental, social and governance issues. These portfolios are made up of ETFs that follow companies committed to managing social, environmental and governance risks.
Acorns Sustainable Portfolios are equipped to handle a spectrum of risk tolerances and allow you to select from moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive and aggressive portfolio options. Unfortunately, no conservative option exists for these sustainable portfolios.
How does Acorns choose which ETFs to include in its sustainable portfolios? It bases its picks on the Morgan Stanley Corporate International (MSCI) ESG ratings, which are ratings from CCC to AAA assigned to companies based on their exposure to ESG risks.
While Acorns doesn’t explicitly state the rating criteria required for an ETF to be included, it takes these MSCI ratings into account when crafting its sustainable portfolio options.
Is Acorns legit?
Yes. Acorns Advisers is a registered investment advisor with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Acorns Securities, an SEC-registered broker-dealer, offers its brokerage services and is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). And as members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), the securities in your account are insured up to $500,000.
Acorns reviews and complaints
Acorns reviews are mixed. As of July 2021, it lacks Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation and receives an A+ rating. But customers rate it much more weakly.
Reports on Trustpilot aren’t much better. Customers largely complain of having their account locked, withdrawal delays and difficulty reaching Acorns’ support by phone.
|BBB customer rating||1.38/5 based on 48 customer reviews|
|Trustpilot score||2.6/5 out of 40 customer reviews|
|Customer reviews verified as of||28 July 2021|
Redditors have mixed opinions of the platform. Some say they enjoy Acorns’ hands-off service for investments they don’t need to actively manage. Others criticize Acorns’ high fees and suggest the platform is only beneficial for investors with portfolios over $1,000 to offset the ongoing cost of the service.
The good news? The Acorns app receives high marks from both Android and Apple users. The app scores 4.3 out of 5 after 151,449 reviews on Google Play and even better in the Apple App Store: 4.8 out of 5 after 745,807 reviews.
Feedback indicates the app is simple and intuitive — a solid place for new investors to get their feet wet. But some complaints have surfaced citing verification errors during the signup process.
How do I contact Acorns support?
The financial service offers dedicated support by:
- Email. Send an email through its Submit a request form.
- Phone. Call 855-739-2859 any day of the week between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. PT.
- Live chat. There’s a chatbot on the site that offers to connect you with a human — but we tried twice and gave up after waiting 10 minutes without being connected.
- Social media. Reach out on Twitter using its handle @Acorns.
Alternatives to Acorns
Not sure Acorns is the right fit? It’s certainly not for everyone, and there are numerous Acorns alternatives to consider.
If you’re not into Acorns’ flat-rate subscription tiers, consider a platform that charges a percentage-based fee, like Betterment. Or opt for a platform that doesn’t have any management fees at all, like SoFi.
Maybe you’ve got a sizable enough portfolio that tax-loss harvesting is an important factor in your investment strategy — and the fact that Acorns doesn’t offer it is a deal-breaker. If that’s the case, opt for a platform that offers tax-loss harvesting, like Wealthfront.
Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about self-directed trades. A platform like M1 Finance gives you more control over your investments by letting you select your portfolio holdings. And if one day you see yourself executing self-directed trades, platforms like Fidelity offer both automated and self-directed accounts that can be managed from a single platform.
If you’re interested in investing but don’t know where to start, the Acorns app might be right for you. This low-cost micro-investment service rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change in a personalized portfolio.
It might not be the right service if you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to investing, so compare your options before moving forward to find a product that suits your needs.