Acorns Vs. Robinhood (A Complete Guide)

acorns vs robinhood

Acorns and Robinhood have received a lot of hype during the last couple of years. They also acquired millions of customers that have started to invest in their future by either taking a passive approach or a hands-on experience. Which one is which? Find out in our Acorns vs Robinhood review. 

Summary

So, what’s the conclusion here? Is Acorn better than Robinhood or vice versa? It’s not that one is better than the other; they’re just different. They don’t offer the same features and have big differences between the two.

Acorns is suitable for passive micro-investing, where your spare change is siphoned on autopilot from every transaction you make. You can only invest in managed portfolios which is good for beginners and undemanding users. Its monthly fee is too high for small balances, so you’ll only see profit from Acorns after several thousands of dollars in your account. 

On the other hand, Robinhood offers a free DIY investing account with no learning resources and is best for beginners that want to start investing while educating themselves elsewhere. Although the company single-handedly revolutionized retail investing by offering no fees for trading, the competition soon caught up and even surpassed them. 

The conclusion is that you could use both these apps – one for passive investing and the other for a more hands-on approach.  

Pros and Cons

Acorns

acorns
ProsCons
  • Automated investing

  • Low bar to start

  • Free trial

  • Sustainable Portfolios
  • High fee for low balances

  • No tax-loss harvesting

  • Small portfolio

  • High account transfer fees
  • Robinhood

    robinhood
    ProsCons
  • Free trades

  • Crypto investing

  • News alerts

  • Easy to start

  • Recurring investing

  • Streamlined interface
  • Trustworthiness

  • Reliability

  • No control of crypto

  • Only individual taxable accounts
  • Acorns 

    acorns
    • An automated way to invest
    • No minimums
    • Money tips and tricks
    • Portfolios designed by experts 
    • Checking account
    • Accounts for $3 or $5 per month

    Acorns is an American fintech and financial services company based in Irvine, California. The company was founded in 2012 and the app was launched in 2014. 

    The amazing thing about the company is that it was launched by a father and son duo Walter Wemple Cruttenden III and Jeffrey James Cruttenden and is backed by many heavy-hitting investors, advisors, and board members.

    The company has more than 9 million past and present users that use its platform to save, invest, bank, and even learn.    

    Robinhood 

    robinhood
    • No minimum account balances
    • Invest any amount
    • Customize your portfolio
    • Trade in real-time
    • Customized news and notifications
    • Stocks, funds, options, gold, crypto

    Robinhood is also an American fintech and financial services company based in Menlo Park, California. Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt founded the company in 2013 after noting that trades cost brokers fractions of a penny, but charge them $5 to $10 per trade!

    The people who took the most advantage of Robinhood not charging transfer fees were millennials. By some estimates, up to 80% of Robinhood users are, in fact, millennials, and the average age of customers is 26.  

    There are presently 31 million Robinhood users (18 million with funded accounts) and the company went public on July 29, 2021, under the stock ticker HOOD.

    Acorns vs Robinhood Infographic

    Who should use Acorns? 

    acorns

    Acorns is for you if you struggle to save and want to do it on autopilot without putting any thought into it. Your spare change can accumulate very quickly and if you add the magic of time, your acorns could grow into a grown-ass tree. 

    The thing is, many digital banks offer a similar, round-up spare change, savings model. If you have one of digital banks already, see that you turn on this feature. 

    But, Acorns, of course, offers much more than your typical digital bank. You can invest in your retirement with IRAs, open an easy investment account for kids, and even invest in sustainable companies through a Sustainable ESG (environmental, social, and) Portfolio. 

    Who should use Robinhood? 

    robinhood

    Robinhood may have been unique up until a couple of years ago, but now, there’s an abundance of online brokers offering commission-free trades. Nevertheless, Robinhood is still a solid choice (and most well-known) for beginners and crypto traders.

    If you’re looking for a free and simple investing platform where you can buy fractional shares and crypto, among many other things, Robinhood is still a good choice. 

    You should also be aware that the SEC has charged Robinhood for misleading customers and issued them huge fines. However, some would argue, not significant enough.   

    How are Acorns and Robinhood the same? 

    Although Acorns and Robinhood are inherently different, they do share some traits. For starters, they both offer a taxable account, and both offer to invest in ETFs. They also don’t have trading commissions and no minimum investments to start. 

    Both Acorns and Robinhood also offer recurring investing, although that’s been a focus with Acorns from the onset and Robinhood only introduced the feature. 

    Furthermore, both platforms charge considerable amounts of money to transfer investments to another platform. 

    You probably don’t think of a checking account when you hear their names, but both fintech companies offer an FDIC-insured checking account and debit card with no hidden fees, account minimums, foreign transaction fees, free ATM withdrawals, and more.

    How are Acorns and Robinhood different? 

    The most blatant difference between the two must be that Acorns offers only managed portfolios and is a hands-off investing platform while Robinhood is a do-it-yourself, rolled-up sleeves investing kind of app. 

    Acorns also charges a monthly fee to access their service, while Robinhood, you can use for free, although they do have a $5/m premium account. 

    Furthermore, Robinhood still doesn’t have phone support or human and robo-advisors, while Acorns has phone support but doesn’t have live chat, or human advisors. 

    Acorns is different in that it’s geared towards passive investors while Robinhood is for active ones.  

    What’s unique to Acorns? 

    acorns

    Acorns offers an all-in-one platform for checking, investing and saving for retirement. It even has a metal debit card that’s usually a paid perk from digital banks and here it’s free. 

    It also offers investing in Sustainable Portfolios that “provide exposure to more sustainable companies, while aiming to perform on par with a traditional portfolio.”

    RELATED: 11 Best Metal Cards From Digital Banks

    What’s unique to Robinhood?

    robinhood

    With Robinhood, you have the full choice to invest as you please, for better or for worse. There’s a huge range of stocks available and you can invest in fractional shares as well. 

    All without trading fees but also without guidance. No wonder Reddit boards are full of investing advice for noobs. 

    If you prefer crypto over stocks, Robinhood has got you covered. The drawback here is that you can’t transfer tokens to other platforms or wallets. Once you get into crypto, you have to either sell off your tokens or leave them on the platform. 

    Fees 

    Acorns 

    acorns
    • Monthly fee of $3 or $5
    • No transaction or commission fees
    • $50 per ETF to transfer investments out
    • No account minimum

    Acorns has basically no fees except the monthly $3 fee for their Personal account that offers an investment and retirement account and a checking account. The $5 per month Family account offers, on top of the aforementioned accounts, also an investment account for multiple kids.

    Although $4 and $5 per month does sound like peanuts, it’s unusual for robo-advisors to charge a flat fee. When you compare the Acorn $5 fee as an annual percentage of assets under management, a model other robo-advisors have, it translates to a much much higher fee for investors with small balances. 

    $5 a month ($60 a year) is a whopping 60% fee if you only have $100 dollars in your Acorns account if expressed as an annual percentage!  

    To get your Acorns monthly fee to be less than 1% of your saved-up amount, you should probably invest $200+ straightaway and quickly grow it to $1,500 with round-ups. If you intend to start with less than that, you’re better off saving up money off the Acorns platform and then putting the lump sum in. 

    Still, for that price, you also get a checking account with no overdraft fees, free ATM withdrawals, and free transactions. And eventually, your pennies will accumulate and the monthly fee will translate into a smaller percentage of your account. 

    Robinhood

    robinhood
    • No monthly or annual fees
    • $5 for a Gold account
    • No stock, options, crypto, and ETF trade fees
    • $75 ACAT outgoing transfer fee
    • No account minimum

    Robinhood doesn’t charge any fees for using its services and doesn’t have any account minimum requirements. 

    All the trades that you make will be 100% free, including ETF, stocks, options, and even cryptocurrencies. 

    This fact made their app super popular so it’s no wonder they already have tens of millions of customers and rising. It also led other major brokers to offer free trades to their customers. Something, that would probably never happen if it weren’t for the competition from Robinhood. 

    Robinhood does have a premium account option called Gold that offers bigger instant deposits, pro research from Morningstar, level II market data from Nasdaq, and access to margin investing for some Gold members. 

    Gold costs only $5 per month after the 30-day free trial. 

    How to open an Acorns account? 

    acorns

    Any US resident over 18 with an SSN number can open an Acorns account. You can register online or download the Acorns app. 

    You’ll need to input some basic information about you and link your bank account to fund the account and use the round-up spare change feature. 

    Acorn will recommend a portfolio to you based on the information that you provide. Things like your occupation and earnings, as well as financial goals. 

    How to open a Robinhood account? 

    robinhood

    To open a Robinhood account, you also need to be older than 18, have a valid SSN, and be a US citizen, permanent resident, or have a US visa as well as have a US residential address.

    You can register by downloading their app or signing up online. You’ll need to enter the usual info such as name, address, email, etc. Then there are additional questions like:

    • “Are you employed?”
    • “How much investment experience do you have?”
    • “Are you a senior executive or 10% shareholder at a publicly traded company?”
    • “Do you or a family member work for another brokerage?”

    You’ll also need to link a bank account to fund your RH account. 

    Accounts

    Acorns 

    acorns

    Acorns has two account types, none of them is free. The Personal account costs $3 per month and offers a checking account and a metal card coupled with investment and retirement accounts. 

    The $5 per month Family account offers the same things plus an investment account for multiple kids and exclusive offers and content. 

    Robinhood

    robinhood

    Robinhood on the other hand offers free investing for everyone and a free checking account. It also has a premium account called Gold that costs $5 and gets you access to research reports and advanced market data as well as bigger instant deposits and the ability to borrow money at a 2.5% interest rate if you’re eligible. 

    Number of users 

    Acorns has more than 8 million customers and $3 billion in assets under management, while Robinhood has 31 million users, but “only” 18 million have funded their accounts. It has $80 billion in assets under management.

    Security 

    Both apps use established industry-standard security features and encryption to keep your accounts and data safe from hackers and scammers.  

    However, Robinhood did have almost 2,000 accounts compromised in a hacking attack and managing to steal customer funds. In 2019, the company also admitted to keeping customer passwords readable across their internal systems, making them vulnerable to attacks.  

    Controversies 

    There aren’t any controversies surrounding Acorns, but oh boy, is Robinhood a different story. In fact, we could fill out a novella full of RH class-action lawsuits, FINRA fines, SEC investigations, and other complaints and missuses. Here are just a few.

    The Kearns suicide

    20-year-old Robinhood user Alex Kearns committed suicide when he saw a negative balance of almost $750,000 in his Robinhood margin trading account. This was only a temporary negative balance due to unsettled trading and not a final balance. 

    In his suicide note, Alex accused Robinhood of allowing him to pile on too much risk. The company settled with the Kearns family for an undisclosed amount.

    2021 short squeeze

    Robinhood restricted the trading of stocks like GME and AMC following a coordinated effort by users of the r/wallstreetbets subreddit to drive up their price. This resulted in incredible media attention, protests, loss of money for retail investors, class-action lawsuits, House Committee hearings of the CEO but also in bringing more users to RH after the dust settled. 

    Order flow revenue

    Robinhood is free for the vast majority of customers but the company has to make money somehow. And the way they make almost half of their revenue is from payment for order flow. 

    In short, RH orders were executed at prices that were worse than other brokers’ prices and stripped RH customers of $34.1 million. This resulted in another class-action lawsuit and a $65 million settlement with the SEC for misleading customers. 

    Customer reviews

    Acorns

    acorns

    Acorns has a 2.6-star rating out of 5 on Trustpilot from only 56 reviews, with 29% of reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 57% a bad one. 

    With a 2.6 score, Acorns is placed worse than eToro (3.6) and Trading 212 (4.3) but better than Stash (2.4) and Robinhood (1.1).

    Some disgruntled customers mention not getting the promotional $1,000 for referring 5 friends, others had their accounts closed or locked, and being charged service fees even after account closure.

    Robinhood

    robinhood

    Robinhood has a disastrous 1.1-star rating out of 5 on Trustpilot from 3,270 reviews, with only 1% of reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 98% a bad one. 

    With a 1.1 score, Robinhood is placed worse than Acorns (2.6), eToro (3.6), Trading 212 (4.3), and Stash (2.4).

    Disgruntled customers mention not being able to withdraw money, poor customer service, no phone support, and of course, no one forgot the GME, AMC fiasco from January 2021. 

    Who owns Acorns? 

    acorns

    Acorns has been a publicly traded company since May 2021, when it merged with Pioneer Merger Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company. Hence, the ticker PACX. 

    After the deal is completed, the company will operate as Acorns Holdings, Inc., and will be a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq with the ticker OAKS.

    Who owns Robinhood?

    robinhood

    Robinhood has been a publicly traded company since July 2021 and is registered under the ticker HOOD. 

    Robinhood alternatives 

    eToro 

    etoro

    eToro offers commission-free stock, ETF, forex, CFD, and crypto trading for users in the US, UK, EU, Australia, and elsewhere. It’s a popular investing company that was founded in 2007. 

    Revolut

    revolut

    Did you know that the digital bank Revolut also offers stock, commodities, and even crypto investing? It also provides a round-up spare change feature, similar to Acorns. There are some fees involved with investing, but all in all, it’s good for dipping your toes in investing.

    Trading 212 

    trading 212

    Trading 212 is a global trading app that lets you invest in forex, EFTs, CFDs, and cryptos. They offer a demo account, so you can try the platform out before you invest real money. The company was established in 2004 and is headquartered in London, England.

    Acorns alternatives

    SoFi Automated Investing 

    sofi

    SoFi’s robo-advisor offers a wide range of low-cost investments and free management. It also gives unlimited access to financial planners and even career advisors. Like Acorns, it’s best for passive investing and beginners who can take advantage the most from the planners and career coaches. 

    Wealthfront

    wealthfront

    Wealthfront is a great choice for beginners and seasoned investors alike. It offers a broad range of diversified portfolios and even 529 college savings plan management. It’s one of the lowest-cost robo-advisers on the market with a 0.25% management fee. 

    Betterment

    betterment

    Another heavy-hitter among robo-advisors is Betterment that, just like Wealthfront, has a meager 0.25% management fee. It’s one of the biggest independent robo-advisors and its goal-oriented tools appeal to a broad audience.  

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