Stash at a glance
Pros: Where Stash stands out
Three service plans (including custodial accounts)
Stash offers three service tiers that provide an increasing level of benefits, so users can access the features that they really want. The tiers are priced at $1, $3 and $9 per month.
- Stash Beginner – The entry-level tier gets you an investing account (where you can buy only ETFs and stocks), a cash management account, the Stock-Back debit card, $1,000 in life insurance, as well as some savings and retirement tools
- Stash Growth – The middle tier includes everything in the entry tier and ups the game with Smart Portfolio (the managed portfolio) and the option to have a retirement account, either a traditional IRA or Roth IRA.
- Stash+ – The highest tier offers the benefits of the lower tiers and includes the option for custodial accounts for children, Stock-Back card bonuses, improved research and $10,000 in life insurance.
It’s important to note that while Stash now provides a managed portfolio, its Beginner tier does not offer that service. Instead, you’ll be able to buy from a selection of more than 90 ETFs and 3,600 stocks, so you’ll need to know which securities you want to buy if you go this route. In contrast, Acorns makes its managed portfolio available to users at its entry-level tier.
At the Growth tier, you gain access to the managed portfolio, what Stash calls Smart Portfolios. This service selects one of three preset portfolios ranging from conservative, moderate to aggressive (more below).
The upper-service tier includes custodial accounts for children, a feature that is unusual in the robo space. Stash also doubles down on the Stock-Back card with higher bonuses.
Smart Portfolios vs. choose-your-own investments
Unlike other services offering managed portfolios, Stash started out by offering clients the ability to purchase individual stocks and ETFs without guidance. That model has shifted in recent years. You can still buy stocks and ETFs, but Stash can also set up a managed portfolio for you through a program it calls Smart Portfolios.
Smart Portfolios places your funds in one of three preset managed portfolios, depending on when you need the money and your risk tolerance. They’ll be distributed among stocks and bonds, with the conservative portfolio more heavily weighted to bonds and the aggressive portfolio heavily loaded with stocks. That’s industry-standard asset allocation.
In late 2021, Stash announced that cryptocurrencies would also be included in Smart Portfolios, replacing a small part of the overall bond holdings in its portfolios. Stash said it believes “more mature digital currencies” have long-term growth potential and diversification benefits for portfolios. The portfolios don’t invest directly in cryptocurrencies, but rather hold Unit Investment Trusts offered by Grayscale, a cryptocurrency asset manager.
Currently, Grayscale trusts holding Bitcoin and Ethereum are the only two funds available through Smart Portfolios and come with expense ratios of 2.0 and 2.5 percent, respectively, some of the most expensive fees for funds offered by robo-advisors. Though Stash insists it isn’t chasing an investment fad by offering cryptocurrencies, the growth potential and diversification benefits it speaks of have not been proven in any sort of definitive way.
Even if you don’t use the managed portfolio, you’ll have the option of buying your own stocks or options. If you want a specific themed ETF, you can search the ETF list and see if Stash offers it. You’ll be able to choose from the most popular stocks, too.
You can buy fractional shares and start investing with just $5, so it’s accessible to all investors. You’ll be able to reinvest all dividends automatically, keeping your money working at all times.
Well-developed educational content
A useful feature of Stash is the variety of investing news and content it offers. Stash provides helpful articles on basics such as diversification, need-to-knows such as taxes and investing content on IPOs and other sectors, for example. You can also sign up for Stash’s weekly email, called The Wallet, which features more news and resources. All in all, it’s a nice benefit for those using the Stash app, though of course you can access all this content without actually using the app.
The app’s Stash Coach feature will help you with guidance and recommendations, too.
Stock-Back card and round-ups
The Stock-Back card is a novel twist on a rewards card, and helps customers get spending rewards in stock rather than points, miles or cash. You’ll receive the Stock-Back debit card when you open a cash management account, which is available in all service tiers.
The feature rewards you in stock of the company you’re purchasing from. For example, your morning coffee at Starbucks earns you Starbucks stock. If you’re buying from a company that doesn’t have publicly traded stock, then the rewards go into a stock or ETF you’ve preselected.
The bad news: This reward is a small fraction of what you could earn with many debit rewards cards. The card nets you just 0.125 percent of spending. That means a $100 purchase would earn you a mere 12.5 cents in stock against a typical $1 reward with many cards. However, those using the Stash+ plan will enjoy twice as much in rewards for their spending. It would make more sense to use another rewards card and then transfer the rewards to buy stock.
Stash has also enabled round-ups on the account. Whenever you purchase something, Stash will round up the amount to the next dollar and deposit the money into your cash account. This feature has proved popular with consumers and helps you automatically save while you spend.
When you’re looking at the names of traditional ETFs, it can be easy to get caught up in the naming. So Stash has thematically retitled the 90+ ETFs on its platform so that you have some idea what they actually contain in terms that a layperson can understand.
For example, the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Index Fund ETF becomes “Uncle Sam: Medium Term” for its exposure to medium-term U.S. government bonds. Meanwhile the Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund ETF becomes “Middle Market” for medium-sized U.S. firms.
Is it gimmicky? A little. But the titles help reflect what’s in the fund in an easy-to-digest way.
Cash management account
Stash offers a solid cash management account with some of the usual features as well as one of the more unusual: the ability to get your direct deposit payroll check a couple days early.
Stash’s cash management account features include:
- No overdraft or maintenance fees
- No minimum balance
- 19,000 fee-free ATMs
- Instant transfer to investing accounts
- Mobile check deposit
- “Stock-Back” debit card
- Billpay and check writing
The downside to Stash’s cash management account: It doesn’t offer any interest. Compare that to Wealthfront’s offering, which provides the key features here plus interest – all at no cost.
Stash offers key features and education that could prove useful to investors just starting out or those who would like to build up a portfolio by turning their spending into savings. The monthly fees are not especially large on a dollar basis, but those with small accounts will likely find a too-high percentage of their account going out the door each month. So on that basis Stash doesn’t offer the same level of features as rivals and may charge a higher percentage anyway.
Those focused on a service with no advisory fee could turn to SoFi Automated Investing, or Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, if they can meet the $5,000 minimum. Betterment and Wealthfront are strong picks with fair prices, sophisticated portfolio management and useful cash accounts.
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