Review of Acorns

Fact or fiction? Scam software or legit app? We investigate.
4/5 Star rating
11 min read
Written by: Theodor Tonca
Low deposit amount - start investing with as little as $5
Offers investment, checking, and regular IRA retirement accounts
Visit site & Sign up

Acorns is a micro-investing app and SEC Registered Investment Advisor that enables users to start investing with as little as $5. It was founded in 2012 in Irvine, California, and is currency only available to users based in the US.  The platform offers bundled individual or family investment, retirement, and checking accounts and is FDIC insured. 

This review will take you through everything you need to know about Acorns, from the different types of accounts on offer, to the fees charged and investment limits applied by the platform. Let’s get started.

 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Low deposit amount - start investing with as little as $5
Offers investment, checking, and regular IRA retirement accounts
Automated savings feature
Lots of educational content available on the website

Cons:

Limited investment options - automated Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) portfolios mean no option to pick and trade stocks
High fees for small balances
No tax benefits when using the platform to invest your money

What can I do with Acorns?

Acorns’ investing app enables young adults and families to save and invest their money for the future. By linking your debit and credit cards to your account, you can begin automating your savings with a feature Acorns calls “round-ups”; for example if you spend $4.50 on a coffee, Acorns will “round-up” the charge to $5 and invest the $0.50 difference on your behalf. If you are a hands-off investor or have little time to manage your finances, then this easy-to-use interface and investment automation make the platform a great option for you. 

Once you’ve set up your account and you set your preferences such as investment goals, risk tolerance, etc. Acorns will automatically build your portfolio and invest your spare change using the round-up feature. Additionally, you also have access to an individual IRA retirement account, as well as a wide variety of educational content via their finance blog.

You can also open a checking account with Acorns, which comes with a heavy-metal debit card. This card will automatically link to the “round-up” feature, and also entitles users to a variety of benefits when you spend money with any of Acorns’ 300+ partners.

You might want to use Acorns if:

  • You do not already have an existing investment, retirement or 401K account
  • You have trouble saving and investing and want to benefit from features that easily integrate into your day-to-day life
  • Your a young investor or family who take a passive approach to investing money

Your different account options

Acorns offers three different subscription tiers to users that sign up to the platform. Here’s the options available to you, along with a small summary of each.

Lite

For $1 per month you can start investing your spare change easily by using Acorns’ round-ups feature, earn bonuses from over 350 retail partners that contribute a set percentage of the money you spend with them to your account, and get access to hundreds of educational finance articles.

Personal

For $3 per month you get an all-in-one investment, retirement, and checking account, plus a metal debit card that is usable at over 55,000+ fee-free ATMs in the US and around the world. You are also eligible to receive up to 10% bonus investments from retail partners.

Family

The $5 monthly family plan will get you investment, retirement, and checking accounts for the entire family, including multiple kids at no added cost. You will also have access to exclusive bonus investments and family financial advice.

How does Acorns work? 

Acorns works by investing your money for you according to parameters you set on the platform. It is part of a growing class of robo-advisors that provide online financial advice or investment management with moderate to minimal human intervention.

Based on your personal info such as your age and risk tolerance, and preferences including your investment goals, Acorns will construct a custom portfolio for you using Modern Portfolio Theory. This means you will end up with a diversified investment portfolio composed of at least seven different asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. Acorns invests your money in each of these in the form of seven separate ETFs, which are:

Asset ClassETFTicker
Large Company StocksVanguard S&P 500VOO
Small Company StocksVanguard Small-CapVB
Developed MarketsVanguard FTSE Developed Markets VEA
Emerging MarketsVanguard Emerging Markets StockVWO
Real EstateVanguard REITVNQ
Government BondsiShares 1-3 Year Treasury BondSHY
Corporate BondsiShares Investment Grade Corporate BondLQD
View ETF details >

The weighting of these will depend on your personal profile. For example if you want a more aggressive and higher risk portfolio, it will include more stocks, and if you want to be a little more conservative then your portfolio will include more bonds.

How easy is it to use Acorns? 

Acorns is easy to use and set up both via desktop or mobile. Simply enter your email, create a password, tick a box consenting that you are:

  • 18 years or older
  • A US resident

You’ll then have to agree to their program agreement, privacy policy, and auto debit authorisation. After this just confirm your email and you are ready to start investing. The entire process only takes about 3-4 minutes.

Once signed up, you can view and perform any action from your account dashboard, which gives you an updated daily snapshot of all your account balances, recent transactions, and round-ups that you can elect to invest. Your money is invested automatically by rounding up your spending, so you don’t have to make any manual deposits (although you can do this if you choose to).

What fees are charged by Acorns?

Acorns charges three different subscription rates for Lite, Personal, and Family accounts; these cost $1, $3, and $5 per month respectively. On top of this, Acorns charges a 0.25% annual management fee for accounts larger than $5,000.

Are there minimum and maximum investment limits?

Acorns allows anyone to start investing with as little as $5, and there is no stated maximum investment limit. Having said this, deposits in excess of $1,000 may require additional confirmation.

Can I withdraw or deposit money at any time?

Yes, but it depends on the type of account you have. Acorns allows users to make deposits at any time in four simple steps:

  1. From the main menu of your Acorns app, select ‘Invest’
  2. Select the account you wish to make a deposit into
  3. Scroll down and select the amount option under ‘One-Time Investment’
  4. Confirm your investment

Deposits will appear in your account in 2-3 business days, or about 5-7 business days for money going into your retirement account.

It is just as simple to withdraw funds, though it can take 3-6 business days for withdrawals to transfer to your funding source. Regulatory requirements also dictate a mandatory two day settlement period after shares are sold from your invest account before funds can be transferred to your bank account. 

With Acorns’ retirement account, as with any regulated IRA retirement account, you pay a penalty if you need/want to withdraw funds early. This fee amounts to 10% of the amount you are withdrawing. Additionally, If you take any cash out of your IRA account before the minimum distribution age of 59½, you may also owe regular income taxes on the amount. The only exception to this rule being if you’re using the money (up to a max of $10,000) to buy, build or rebuild a first home or need it due to a disability.

Is Acorns Regulated?

Yes, Acorn’s web and mobile apps are operated by Acorns Advisors, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Similarly, brokerage services are provided to clients by Acorns Securities, LLC, an SEC registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC, meaning securities in your accounts are protected up to $500,000.

Acorns also offers deposit accounts. Its deposit accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000.

Is Acorns Secure?

Yes. Acorns’ website and app are secured with 256-bit encryption, which is among the strongest encryption algorithms currently on the market. 

Additionally, Acorns also takes the extra steps of protecting data with bank-level security in the form of secure servers and account safeguards, like automatic logouts and ID verification to prevent unauthorised access.

How can I access Acorns?

You can login to your account via Acorns website as well as the platform’s mobile app, which is available for both Android and iPhone mobile devices.

While providing both desktop and mobile access, the app is only available for download from the US versions of iTunes, Amazon or Google Play stores.

Supported Countries

Acorns is currently only available to residents of the United States. The only exception being active Armed Services personnel that maintain US addresses and are temporarily overseas.

Customer Service

Acorns offers a thorough support section on their website which covers general FAQs and also provides short explainer videos of their basic features.

Beyond this if you are still having trouble, the only way to contact Acorns is by filling out a form on their website and waiting for them to get back to you. Understandably, this has left many current and past clients frustrated with the level of support – or lack thereof – that they received.

The overwhelming majority online has rated the customer service as below average, saying that in some instances it even took their support team up to five business days to follow up on open tickets.

Acorns’ customer support is also only available in English.

Acorn’s Extra Features

Potential

This is a new tool that was recently introduced to allow users to see the impact that a theoretical additional investment of $5, $10 or more on a daily, weekly or monthly basis would have on their account. 

Acorns Early

Also recently launched, Early allows parents or guardians to set up a custodial account for their child so they can begin saving and investing from the time they are born. 

Learn

Acorns provides an entire educational section which offers investing basics, a financial glossary, and an FAQ sub-section.

Conclusion

For those brand new to investing or anyone that has a difficult time routinely saving money, Acorns is a solid choice. 

If you can and want to save more, Acorn’s round-up feature which invests a small percentage of every retail purchase you make, is a great way for someone to automate their savings and investments.

Given the service’s focus on microsavings and nature as a robo-advisor, it doesn’t make much sense for those who already have large investment or retirement accounts due to the 0.25% annual management fee as there are lower cost alternatives available. Similarly, if you like to play a more active part in your portfolio, you might want to consider a more hands-on option than Acorns.

In regards to security, Acorns and its subsidiaries comply with all federal regulators in the US and its deposit accounts are all FDIC insured, much like a commercial bank’s. This makes the reliability of the service reasonably high.

The main concern raised by users is that the company takes its time in resolving any issues that may arise. As their customer support is known for unusually long wait times.

How to open an account with Acorns

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to setting up an account.

  1. First go to Acorns website and click on ‘Get Started’ in the header bar.
  2. Next, you will be prompted to enter your email address, create a password, and check if you’re a US citizen or not.
  3. You will then be asked three questions (If none apply to you, simply leave them unchecked and proceed):
    1. Are you or have you been affiliated with a broker-dealer?
    2. Has the IRS notified you of being subject to backup withholding?
    3. Are you a 10% shareholder of a publicly-traded company?
  4. The next screen will prompt you to enter personal info so that Acorns and its in-house experts can begin constructing your automated investment portfolio. This personal info includes:
    1. Employment information
    2. Personal net worth
    3. Annual income
    4. Social Security Number
    5. Reasons for investing
  5. Finally, Acorns will need to verify your ID for tax reporting and fraud prevention. Once you do so, simply click the ‘Get Started’ button and you will be all set to make your first deposit.

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