Acorns Review 2023: Pros, Cons, Fees & How It Works

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The Acorns app helps you save and invest your spare change. When you link a credit or debit card, Acorns rounds your purchase up to the nearest dollar and invests the difference. However, the monthly account fees will have an impact on your returns.

Our number one goal at DollarSprout is to help readers improve their financial lives, and we regularly partner with companies that share that same vision. If a purchase or signup is made through one of our Partners’ links, we may receive compensation for the referral. Learn more here.

Acorns Overview

How It Works: Acorns makes it easy for beginner investors to get started with investing in stocks. Set up one-time, recurring, or Round-Up deposits and watch your brokerage account balance grow.

Cost: $3, $5 or $9 per month plans.

  • Pro: Round-Ups feature automates investing (incremental gains can reinforce desire to save).
  • Con: Higher fees than competitors.

Promotion: Exclusive $20 investment bonus for readers that set up recurring investments.

Best for: People who need to be forced into saving money.

>> Visit Acornsacorns logo

I’ve always been skeptical of micro-investing apps. Can they really make a difference in my financial journey? With 15 years of investing experience under my belt, I’ve come to realize that I get the best results when I do the least amount of work. The less that I touch my investments, move money around, or even look at how I’m doing, the better things go. The minute I start micromanaging is usually the exact moment that I end up making a mistake.

So when it comes to investing apps, I prefer apps with fewer bells and whistles. I don’t need – or even want – all the fancy charts and second-by-second data. I just need something that will help me stay consistent and let me accumulate assets in low-cost index funds.

Acorns is an investing app that caters to people like me who want an easy-to-use interface and a hands-off investing experience. I recently decided to give Acorns a test drive and see for myself how it could fit into my financial life.

What Is Acorns?

acorns app store preview

Acorns is a financial technology and investment app — launched in August 2014 — geared towards making investing more accessible to the general public.

It automatically rounds up users’ everyday purchase amounts to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change into diversified, computer-managed portfolios. Acorns has amassed over 10 million users and claims $15 billion in assets under management.

Users generally appreciate the app for its user-friendly design and the ease with which it allows them to start investing, but some have raised concerns over the fees charged and the overall value for more experienced investors.

$0 Account Minimum
$3 - $9 Monthly Fees
DollarSprout Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Acorns app is best for new investors still learning the ropes. Notably, Acorns rounds up card-linked purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the extra change. Users can also set automatic recurring investments on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Current Promotion: Exclusive $20 bonus for new users.

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Pros:

  • Completely automated
  • No account minimum

Cons:

  • Limited portfolio options
  • Monthly fee can be a high percentage for those with smaller account balances

The mobile application itself holds a 4.6-star (out of 5) rating on Google Play (284,000 reviews) and a 4.7-star rating on the App Store (875,000 reviews). It is #73 on the list of most downloaded Finance apps on the App Store with over 20 million downloads.

🔍 Reviewer’s Note:

Acorns’ focus on automating investing will help users build up their savings, however, the high fees might do more harm than they’re worth.

Acorns Subscription Plans & Features

As with many products in today’s subscription-focused environment, Acorns offers several different pricing tiers, each with its own set of additive features.

1. Acorns Personal

  • Cost: $3 per month
A photo of the Acorns on my phone with a list of ETFs.
Setting up my Acorns Plus account took less than 5 minutes from start to finish.

I signed up for the cheapest plan with Acorns, which they call “Acorns Personal”. For $3 a month, here is what users get with an Acorns Personal account:

What’s Included (in Acorns’ own words) My Impression
Investing  
Investment account with an expert-built, diversified portfolio My recommended portfolio was 6 ETFs with very low expense ratios (none above 0.06%). Very good.
Save and invest spare change every day with Round-Ups® Napkin math: If I use my card 3 times a day with an average of $0.50 rounded up, that would be equal to $45 a month invested. Thinking of it this way makes it easier for me to conceptualize as part of my budget, rather than the spare-change mindset.
IRA retirement account A normal account type to offer, but I’m glad they have it.
Banking  
Checking account that saves and invests for you. A neat feature, but not sure how impactful it really is.
Instantly invest spare change with Real-Time Round-Ups® Before, you would need to accumulate $5 in Round-Ups before they were invested. Now it can be done instantly if you have an Acorns debit card.
No overdraft fees. Ever. Nice. Hopefully the trend of this continues to spread across the industry.
55,000+ fee-free ATMs nationwide and around the world Important to note that Acorns is not an actual bank. All Acorns checking accounts are issued by either Lincoln Savings Bank or nbkc Bank, members FDIC.
Earning  
450+ in-app partner brands to earn bonus investments with.
These partner brands pay Acorns to promote them to Acorns users and offer a commission to Acorns for each new customer. Acorns then passes some of that commission along to you, the user, in the form of a “bonus investment”.
Find a side hustle with Job Finder Another cool feature, but nothing you can’t find through other websites or apps.
Browser extension to get bonus investments every time you shop at 15,000+ partners. Basically a cash back app that is integrated into Acorns. Cash back apps are free, but the functionality to direct the money into investments is nice.
Learning  
Grow your financial confidence with videos and tips for investors both experienced and new. Definitely geared more towards newer investors who are still learning the basics. Acorns does have a nice UX for providing easy-to-understand definitions for unfamiliar words that appear throughout the app.

On the surface, it seems like you get a lot for $3 a month with Acorns, but I’ve found that almost everything on this list can be found for free elsewhere. But I don’t think the real value that Acorns delivers comes from its features, per se, but more from the overall behavior changes and habits that it can help you form.

For instance, a similar Round-Up feature is available via the Robinhood app for free, but many users find that Robinhood is a much more addictive app because of certain gamification tricks they use to get you to keep coming back. So while you might save $3 a month by using Robinhood instead of Acorns, you might end up wandering down a rabbit hole that you didn’t intend to go down — which can become much more costly.

🔍 Reviewer’s Note:

I ended up using my debit card 132 last month for purchases of all kinds: gas, groceries, assorted bills, Amazon, you name it — ultimately, just over 4 times per day. Between $5 weekly recurring deposits and the added Round-Ups, I’m looking at just under $100 per month in cumulative deposits.

2. Acorns Personal Plus

  • Cost: $5 per month

The next membership tier is Acorns Personal Plus, for $2 more per month. This plan comes with all the same features as the $3 Acorns Personal plan, with the addition of:

Acorns Personal Plus Features (in Acorns’ own words) My Impression
Emergency fund for life’s unexpected hiccups. This is basically an extra account that is separate from your normal spending and investing accounts. This is usually free at most banks.
Get your bonus investments matched by Acorns (up to 25%) The bonus investments are made by completing offers from brand partners of Acorns, so this is just additional incentive for users to complete those offers (which you might not necessarily need).
Live Q+A with investment experts This type of education is offered for free in many places.

I personally don’t think these features are worth an additional $24 per year in subscription fees, but some users may appreciate these options more than I do.

3. Acorns Premium

  • Cost: $9 per month (the Family Plan)

Acorn’s top-tier plan is dubbed Acorns Premium, and is geared towards families with children. Acorns Premium comes with everything that is included in Acorns Personal and Personal Plus, with the addition of:

Acorns Premium Features (in Acorns’ own words) My Impression
Investment account for kids This is not a 529 account, but rather a UTMA/UGMA custodial account (Uniform Transfer to Minors/Uniform Gift to Minors). This means the money can be used for more than just education expenses, which is nice. However, these account types are free to open elsewhere.
Customize your portfolio with the ability to add individual stocks
The fact that this is considered a premium feature is somewhat off-putting to me. This ability comes standard with almost any investing account anywhere.
Get your bonus investments matched by Acorns (up to 50%)
Just a higher incentive for users to complete offers from Acorns’ partners. Might not be worth the extra $4 per month if this is all you are looking for.
Educational courses
This is great, but it could lead to customers realizing that there are better options out there for them than Acorns.
Banking for kids with GoHenry by Acorns, including a debit card, parental control, and chore tracker.
I don’t have kids yet, but this actually seems like a cool feature and a great way to teach your kids about money. This could potentially make the $9 a month worth it for me.
$10,000 life insurance policy for eligible customers plus a no-cost will.
These are good things to have in place and are often overlooked, so I like that Acorns is trying to holistically service their clients beyond just investing.

The Acorns Portfolios

Photo showing me holding my phone with a screenshot from the Acorns app with a recommended portfolio.
Acorns suggested a moderately aggressive portfolio of 80% stocks and 20% bonds based on my personal risk tolerance.

Acorns isn’t really built for people who want to trade individual stocks or do anything sophisticated with their investments, which is something to be aware of if you are considering opening an account. Instead, Acorns has five “model portfolios” that are each built with a particular risk profile in mind.

For instance, after I answered some basic questions about myself — things like my age, income, risk tolerance, etc., — and Acorns recommended a portfolio that consisted of 80% stocks and 20% bonds, which is moderately aggressive. This made sense based on my answers, so no complaints there. It is important to note, however, that if you have any special circumstances that fall outside the scope of their basic questions, there are no human advisors that you can speak to directly.

Acorns offers five different portfolios based on five levels of risk, and each one is composed of exchange traded funds, or ETFs. Think of an ETF as a basket of many different stocks and bonds. In addition to the five core portfolios, Acorns also offers four ESG portfolios, which stands for “environment, social, and governance” issues. If these are causes you care about, you can elect to invest in an ESG portfolio instead, however, the expense ratios of the funds within these portfolios may be slightly higher.

Benefits

For people who are just starting out with investing and getting their financial lives in order, Acorns can be a decent choice. For those types of people, Acorns offers the following clear benefits:

  • An all-in-one solution: Some people might get overwhelmed by having their money in so many different places. Acorns gives customers the opportunity to have pretty much everything within one central location, which can give some peace of mind.
  • Tools for building strong financial habits: If the thought of regularly scheduled contributions to your investments feels constricting, the Round-Up feature is a neat way to achieve a similar outcome in a more psychologically appealing way. For some reason, it’s easier to digest the thought of investing $1 a day than it is to invest $30 at the end of each month.
  • Cookie-cutter options, by design: Acorns wants you to be as hands-off as possible, unlike competitors like Robinhood, M1 Finance, etc. By recommending simple yet professionally constructed ETF portfolios, customers are less likely to risk financial ruin by diving into options trading and other speculative (and risky) trading strategies.
  • Teaching your kids about money: For $9 a month, the Premium Plus plan is a good option for parents who want to invest in their children’s future, both financially and educationally. The debit card for kids and the chore tracker are great ways to prepare children for financial responsibility one day.

Drawbacks

No investment app or website can be everything to everyone, and Acorns is no exception. From my own investigation, these are a few of the biggest drawbacks of Acorns:

  • The monthly fees are way too high, unless you are investing a large amount. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for your yearly investing expenses to be less than 1% of your total portfolio value (at the most), but ideally, you should strive to get your investing expenses under 0.50%. With Acorns’ flat monthly pricing model, here’s what the math looks like:
    • Personal ($36 per year): You would need a $7,200 portfolio for the yearly fees to be at 0.50% (not including the ~0.06% fees for the ETFs themselves).
    • Personal Plus ($60 per year): You would need a $12,000 portfolio for the yearly fees to equal 0.50% (not including the ~0.06% fees for the ETFs themselves).
    • Premium ($81 per year): You would need $18,000 invested in order for the yearly fees to equal 0.50% (not including the ~0.06% fees for the ETFs themselves).
  • The bonus investments from Acorns brand partners could be a conflict of interest. Acorns is financially incentivized to promote those offers to customers, which is something to be aware of when using the app.
  • Lack of investment options. While some will see this as a good thing, I still can’t get over the fact that you have to be on the $9 a month Premium plan if you want to buy an individual stock for your portfolio.
  • Transfers are expensive. Most brokerages charge a flat fee per account if a customer wants to transfer to another brokerage, but Acorns charges $50 per ETF. So what is somewhere between free and $75 at most brokerages, Acorns charges $300 for the 6 ETF portfolio that it recommended for me. This essentially traps a lot of customers with Acorns. Not cool.

Who Is Acorns Best Suited For?

While the fees are prohibitively expensive, for some people, they may be worth it. Here is who I think would most benefit from Acorns:

  • People who need to be forced into saving money. If the alternative is not saving money at all, I would rather someone pay the fees to Acorns to have everything taken care of for them.
  • Parents who want to take an active role in teaching their kids about money. If you simply want to save for your children’s future, you can probably find better options. But if you want to give your child a debit card, teach them about budgeting, etc., I think the features offered with Acorns Premium are worth it.
  • Investors with at least $10,000 to invest that desire a hands-off approach. If you are a passive investor and have at least five figures to put to work, the monthly fees charged by Acorns are in line with what other robo-advisors charge.

Acorns Alternatives

Acorn’s relatively high fees are reason enough for some investors to look elsewhere. If you have $10,000 or less to invest, these options may be more suitable for you.

Robinhood

Robinhood may be more appealing to investors interested in active trading and a wide variety of investment options, including stocks, cryptocurrencies, and options. Unlike Acorns, which focuses on passive, automated investing through round-ups and recurring investments, Robinhood provides a platform that encourages direct, commission-free trades, allowing investors more agility and flexibility in their transactions.

Key Differences:

  • Investment Options: Robinhood offers extensive trading options, including stocks, options, and cryptocurrencies.
  • User Interface: Robinhood has a user-friendly interface catered to investors who prefer a more active trading experience.
  • Fees: Robinhood offers commission-free trades, while Acorns charges a monthly fee for its services.
  • Taxes: No automated tax savings options (same as Acorns).

M1 Finance

M1 Finance might be more suitable for investors who seek customization and control over their investment portfolios, allowing them to select and allocate specific stocks and ETFs in a “pie” format. Additionally, it offers features like automatic rebalancing and fractional shares, making it appealing to both beginner and experienced investors who want a personalized yet automated investment experience.

Key Differences:

  • Investment Options: M1 offers a wider range of investment choices, including individual stocks and ETFs.
  • Rebalancing: Automatic rebalancing is a feature in M1 Finance to maintain the desired asset allocation.
  • Fees: M1 Finance lacks the $3 to $9 monthly fee that Acorns charges, making it more cost-effective for some investors.
  • Minimum Investment: M1 Finance has a higher minimum investment requirement ($100) compared to Acorns.
  • Taxes: Tax Minimization Feature (similar to but not the same as traditional tax-loss harvesting).
 

robinhood logo

$0 per trade

 

acorns logo for comparison chart

$3 to $9 per month

 

m1-logo

$0 per trade

Designed for DIY investors Beginner-friendly  Commission-free trading
Easy-to-use mobile app Completely automated Automated rebalancing
No account minimum No account minimum $100 account minimum

Get 1 free stock

$20 sign-up bonus

No sign-up bonus

Verdict: Is Acorns Worth It?

When it comes to round-up investing apps, Acorns is among the best in the business, but it might not be right for everyone. It’s easy to use, has an excellent education platform for new investors, and simple, straightforward fees.

However, whether the $3 to $9 monthly fee is a benefit or a detriment really depends on your account balance. If you’re only adding a few dollars a month to your Acorns account, the $3 a month fee will hinder your investment growth.

visit acorns

Related:

 
Author
Jeff Proctor

Hi! I'm Jeff. A personal finance nerd and entrepreneur at heart, I'm here to bring you all the latest cool ways to make and save extra money. I am a quoted contributor in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Business.com, Credit Karma, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, and more.

28 comments
Andrea van Enter
Andrea van Enter

Hello!

Is this open for Canadians as well? Also, would this be good for a stay at home mom?

Thanks,
Andrea

Hey Andrea,

I don’t they’ve gone International yet. It’s apparently been in the works for years but I don’t see where they’ve gone live anywhere outside of the U.S. (I could be wrong here). Finance regulations are probably making the move even harder. It does appear there is a Canadian equivalent, though, named Mylo. I don’t know much about it but it does appear to work in a very similar way!

Todd w Sieverts
Todd w Sieverts

How do I get started. Can you send me an application?

There should be plenty of links in the article you can click to sign up!

Venita
Venita

If there is a recession what happens to my Acorn account?

Nothing will happen per se — the account will remain in good standing. That said, the value of the assets in your portfolio may decrease. (i.e. you invest $1,000, but the overall stock market drops 15%, you can expect a similar decrease in your portfolio value, depending on your allocation/appetite for risk).

Andrea
Andrea

I have two college students 1st and 2nd year and an 8th grader. I want to set up an account that I can invest for them that they will forget even exist until later in life. I don’t have a lot of money but they give me $300.00 each every 5 months or so. I want to receive any options even small monthly investment.

Hey Andrea!

You should look into either a 529 or Coverdell ESA — they’re both tax-sheltered savings accounts that allow you to put aside money for a child’s secondary education later in life — even at $300.00 every 5 months, you can save up quite the nest egg for both children.

Alex
Alex

Hello, do you know if it still free for college students? I tried to get the student discount and they told me that they “recently stopped offering it”?

Hmm — that’s super disappointing — I looked on their website and in their FAQ section, they’ve deleted two articles that pertained to students (and college students) getting Acorns free for 4 years with a valid .edu address.

I’ll reach out to them and see if we can get an answer either way.

(Equally disappointing is the fact that they seem to be sweeping it under the rug, and did not tell any of their advertising partners (like us) about the move.)

Dionne H.
Dionne H.

What happens to your account info if you choose to discontinue investing?

Acorns will likely be required to keep all of your information on hand for a number of reasons:

1) To issue you tax statements (such as a 1099).
2) To have a record of gains/losses for future tax years depending on when you sell an asset.

As such, it’s reasonable to expect they will encrypt and protect your information as long as they’re in business as required by law.

You can read more about closing your account on this support page.

Hope that helps!

– Ben

Dale
Dale

I’ve recently signed up and have my Acorns account ready. I’m currently having $20/month added plus my roundups. My question is this: if there’s a certain stock (or stocks) that I’m certain about, and want to get into, can I do that with Acorns or no? Thank you. I also didn’t get my $10 bonus when I registered, any idea how to get that?

Hey Dale — Acorns is a limited trading platform (so you can’t buy individual stocks or bonds). You can read more about it here.

If you signed up through a link in this review, you’ll get a $10 bonus added to your account after you make your first ETF investment.

Marco
Marco

Hi there. In your opinion what’s the minimum reasonable amount we should start with Acorns in order to actually see money growing (from month one). I am considering the $1 monthly fee plan?

Thank you!

It depends on what you mean as “reasonable”. Assuming Acorns is not your primary method for investing for a moment — and you’re only using the Round-Up feature — let’s assume that the totality of your roundups = $100/mo…you’d have $1,200 in principal + $36.25 in earned interest (~6% annual) for a total of $1,236.25 saved in Year 1.

Now, obviously, interest begins to snowball further on down the road as your balance compounds. It’ll start slow and grow quickly after several years. If you’d like a “set it and forget it” means for investing, this is a pretty simple way to do it. If you don’t have any other sort of investment account, you can consider making deposits at regular intervals to speed up the process.

Bill
Bill

Does Acorns work with Capital One yet?

It doesn’t look like Capital One has worked out its longstanding issue with Plaid — the fintech service that is most frequently used to connect apps with bank accounts. (Acorns uses Plaid).

Capital One claims Plaid doesn’t meet its security requirements for third-party service providers. Plaid is the largest provider of such services in the world so this is a bit interesting (it sounds like more of an inter-company feud).

Jillian
Jillian

Hi! As a 25-year-old finishing up my last two college courses and job searching, what should I be doing for myself? What apps or services I should use? Accounts? The more I read about Acorns, the more I don’t see it helping me much.

Hey Jillian,

Kudos for thinking ahead re: investing for your future. If graduation is soon on the horizon, it’s important to consider what benefits your future employer will offer. If you think it’s likely you’ll end up in an industry where it’s commonplace for employers to offer benefits packages (that contain some sort of investment vehicle), it will likely be in your best interest to utilize that service. Often, but not always, these are tax-advantaged accounts that may come with a cash match (think Traditional/Roth 401ks, 403bs, state/government-sponsored savings plans).

These, generally speaking, are all better options than a brokerage account that you’d find through a service like Acorns Invest. If you’ve reached your plan contribution limits (there’s a yearly cap on how much you can add to your retirement accounts), then you can get additional market exposure through the app (or apps like it).

That said if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement account/benefits package, then Acorns Later might be of interest to you (it achieves the same end-goal of saving for retirement but through an IRA for a modest $3/mo).

(If you just want to invest in the stock market but not for retirement purposes, Acorns Invest will allow you to buys managed ETF portfolios that closely mirror major indexes).

Steve Perez
Steve Perez

I have an Acorns account. I have no knowledge of stocks so I love that I can just round up whatever I spend and deposit $5 weekly to automatically invest and save. I recently received an email stating they’re closing their $1 tier and everyone is automatically bumped to their $3 tier. Is it worth staying with Acorns for that amount or do you recommend I move my money elsewhere?

Hey Steve,

Great question — the answer is, as always, it depends (mostly on your account balance). $3/month is somewhat high if your balance is less than $5,000 (at $5,000, a $3/month fee equates to $36/year — roughly 0.7% of assets under management. Comparable roboadvisers often come in around the .25% range. The fee percentage drops to about .35% as you get closer to $10,000, so the fee structure gets more competitive the higher your blance.

That said, the automated savings component appears to be somewhat attractive, especially if you don’t feel like you would save/invest without it. If that’s the case, it may be worth it to continue on the $3 plan as your balance grows, even if you’re slightly overpaying on fees.

Jean
Jean

I want to invest for my little one and not have it only restricted to college like the 529 accounts. He’s 5 years old. What’s your recommendation? Would you recommend the Basic Acorn account for the $1 a month fee. I don’t have a lot of money.

Hey Jean —

That’s super thoughtful of you, and that’s a valid concern about the money being tied up in a 529.

(529 plans tax-advantaged status does make them a great vehicle to save for the little one as the money can grow tax-free until they go to school). If you’re certain you’d like to stay away from those, you do have several options.

Namely:

  • Savings bonds — low risk, low reward (annual fixed rate of 0.10% if issued between May and October of this year).
  • High-yield savings — low risk, low reward (variable-rate, currently around 0.50% at the most generous establishments).
  • CDs — low risk, medium reward (inaccessible during 6 mo-2 year CD period, but much shorter restriction than 529); 0.50%-0.75% for deposits starting at $500+ at most places.
  • Brokerage account (like Acorns) — ~ 5-7% based on historical market averages — this depends on your risk appetite and the understanding that the fund you invest in could theoretically lose money in any given year. You’ll also have to pay income taxes on any amount withdrawn since the account would be in your name (before gifting the rest to your little one).
  • If you’d like to lock in near-guaranteed appreciation, bonds, an online savings account, or CDs offer the safest route.

    If you have a moderate appetite for risk, and anticipate holding for several years in the hopes of growing a sizeable nest egg, then a brokerage account through Acorns is an acceptable vehicle for saving. (It automates the investing process in a hands-off way and you can passively watch as your deposits and investment grows over the year). The monthly fee, soon to be $3/mo, is a bit steep when compared to similar brokers, but the ease-of-use of the platform makes it extremely easy to get started/track your investments.

    Then you can withdraw when ready, pay taxes, and gift the rest to your family (there is a yearly IRS imposed limit of $15,000 in the 2021 tax year, for perspective).

Daniel
Daniel

Hello,

I started a free Acorn account during college and used the rounds up for some time. I stopped doing rounds up but instead opted for a monthly deposit of $25. Just this past month I began to be charged $3 a month. I’m wondering with my reoccurring $25 a month deposits and my account valued at $525 is it worth me keeping it open? I do have more expendable income now so I could increase my contributions or is there something that could be a better option?

Not sure this matters but I do have my portfolio set to “Aggressive”

Thanks.

Danna
Danna

I currently subscribe to Acorns and have so since 2018. It’s long saving and investing on auto-pilot. Now I’m looking to do investing on my own. I believe the $1 tier was phased out and doesn’t exist anymore. I was checking the date of the article to see if it was perhaps written a while ago. Also, Capital One does now link with Acorns. It’s the account I’ve used to auto-invest monthly and do round-ups.

Daniel
Daniel

I seemingly deposit a good bit of money (Round-Ups + weekly deposits) but every time I check my balance is less and less. It doesn’t make sense even with a down market. It makes me angry and annoyed.

We definitely get your concern — but buying dips in the market through dollar cost averaging (what you’re automatically doing) has paid off handsomely for investors for nearly 100 years now. Down markets and the short-term losses that accompany them can be frustrating, but when the market turns around, you’ll have accumulated a diversified portfolio of shares poised to make considerable gains.

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