EarlyBird really only does one thing: UGMA accounts for kids. But what it does, it does well. Could you open a custodial account with an established broker like Charles Schwab or TD Ameritrade? Sure. But you’d miss out on a streamlined, user-friendly gifting experience that — to be frank — EarlyBird’s competitors are missing.
For those interested in building a nest egg for their child’s future, EarlyBird offers a straightforward app to streamline the investment process. And the gifting process? Well, that’s where EarlyBird shines. You can put money into your child’s account, of course. But you can also invite family and friends to contribute. They’ll need to download the app to send funds, but gifts can be sent with personalized messages — even recorded videos — to deliver an impactful, meaningful gift.
The biggest drawbacks? The app can be buggy for Android users, and a $1 monthly management fee applies. Donors also pay a $2 processing fee per gift.
When you activate the EarlyBird app, you create a custodial account for a minor. As the custodian, you manage and monitor the account. You can choose from five model portfolios based on factors like your risk tolerance and your child’s age. From there, you or anyone else can make contributions of any amount toward the account.
According to EarlyBird’s official website, you can encourage friends and family to donate toward the account by sending them invites. Others can send contributions by downloading the app to create a basic account, selecting a number off their contacts list and sending a dollar amount. Recipients are notified via SMS.
You can also direct a gift to any child using the app with just a phone number. Then, to accept a gift, a parent needs to create an account for the child.
This account is a Uniform Gift Act for Minors Account (UGMA). And you’re free to open a UGMA on behalf of any minor; the beneficiary doesn’t need to be your child. Once the child turns the age of maturity, which is 18 or 21 depending on your state, the assets in the account become the beneficiary’s property. The child can withdraw funds or continue to invest in EarlyBird as an ordinary brokerage account.
At this point, the child can also roll over assets into an IRA or 401(k) plan.
It only takes a few minutes to apply for an account with EarlyBird.
- Visit the EarlyBird website to
request a download link for the app, or find it in the Apple store.
- Enter your mobile phone number, name and email address, and create a passcode.
- Enter your address, date of birth and Social Security number as well as the child’s legal name and Social Security number.
- Answer a few questions to get an investment portfolio recommendation or select one of the model portfolio options.
- Connect a bank account and invest your funds.
- Invite family and friends.
There’s no setup fee to open an EarlyBird account. EarlyBird doesn’t charge a management fee on the first $200 of assets in the account. Afterward, there’s a $1 monthly management fee for each child.
Friends or family making donations are charged a $2 processing fee per gift.
EarlyBird recommends one of five model portfolios based on factors like your risk tolerance, financial circumstances, child’s age and investment goals. These diversified portfolios are built using exchange-traded funds (ETFs
) that invest in stocks, bonds and other securities. The asset allocation of these portfolios can range from conservative (100% bond ETFs) to aggressive (100% equity ETFs). To view each portfolio’s asset allocation, you need to download the EarlyBird app.EarlyBird takes a similar investing approach as the SoFi and the Chase You Invest
According to the EarlyBird website, it partners with wealth management and financial planning experts to craft these portfolios. These are reviewed and rebalanced quarterly. But you don’t get regular access to human financial advisors.
The EarlyBird app is part of EarlyBird Central Inc., an investment advisor registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It’s not listed by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but the company was just founded in 2019.
However, it has many features to protect its customers.
EarlyBird uses 256-bit encryption to protect your personal information. It’s also a registered investment advisor (RIA), which means it’s legally bound to perform in your best interest.
Money in your account is held at Apex Clearing Corp, which is an SEC-registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA. It’s also part of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). This means your account is insured up to $500,000 if the organization holds your funds if it goes under. SIPC helps you restore assets in your account if a liquidation process begins but doesn’t protect the value of any security.
There aren’t many EarlyBird customer reviews. The platform doesn’t have a Better Business Bureau or Trustpilot page. But we sourced some feedback on the EarlyBird app — and what we uncovered was fairly positive.
As of September 2023, the EarlyBird app has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Google Play after 154 reviews. And it receives 4.3 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store after 123 reviews.
Customers praise EarlyBird for its easy setup and ease of use, but Android users seem to encounter occasional login errors and bugs that prevent them from gifting funds.
EarlyBird is best for parents, grandparents or anyone who wants to invest in a child’s future. It’s a simple way to set up a UGMA account while encouraging family and friends to donate to a child’s investment account. EarlyBird encourages donors to record short videos to accompany their donations, so it can be a very unique app for those that want to personalize their gifts.
But you should be aware of the rules and restrictions governing UGMA accounts.
Still, there are certain pockets of individuals who will find EarlyBird useful, including:
- New parents who want to invest in their child’s future as early as possible.
- Parents who want something to complement their children’s 529 college savings plans.
- Adults who want to set up custodial accounts for minors without relinquishing control until these minors reach the age of maturity.
Because EarlyBird lets you open a UGMA account, it’s governed by certain tax rules set by the IRS. Here are some general taxation guidelines.
- Up to $1,050 in earnings is tax-free.
- The next $1,050 is taxable at the child’s tax rate.
- Any earnings that are more than $2,100 are taxed at the parent’s rate.
In general, UGMA accounts don’t offer as many tax advantages as 529 college savings plans. But your child can use UGMA money penalty-free on virtually anything once they reach the age of maturity.
EarlyBird announced it plans to enter the 529 plan game soon and eventually offer a wide range of accounts. Still, other apps like Stash and Acorns allow you to open UGMA accounts. So compare your options.
The EarlyBird app offers a sleek interface that lets you monitor your child’s account. And it lets you send invites to potential contributors.
However, a few EarlyBird customers have claimed difficult in sending a monetary gift, so your mileage may vary.
EarlyBird has a built-in feature that shows you projected investment growth when the child reaches age 18, based on predetermined investment returns. You can also view your portfolio’s asset allocation.
Donors can view profiles of whom they’ve invested in as well as upcoming special occasions such as birthdays.
Until your child reaches age 5, you control the app entirely. But once your child reaches age 6, you can show your child the app in a view-only mode so they can see how the account grows. At age 13, the child can download the app and use it alongside their parent or custodian.
In March 2022, EarlyBird announced its intention to become the first kids’ investing platform to support cryptocurrency. The feature is currently waitlisted, but we’re eager to see how it works when it launches later this year.