Stash review 2023
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Stash: Best for
- Low account minimum
- Allows you to invest as you spend
- Custodial accounts for children
Stash’s investing app may hold particular appeal for those starting with small amounts of money who are looking for a simple robo-advisor that allows them to boost their savings and investments as they spend. You can get started with just $5 and will be able to increase your portfolio from there by using Stash features such as rounding up your purchases or receiving stock through the Stock-Back debit card, which allows you to earn stock in the companies you shop at or through an ETF of your choosing. While the monthly fees are small on an absolute basis, they can translate to high annual expense ratios if you’re starting with a small portfolio, though they decline on a percentage basis as your portfolio grows.
Stash’s Smart Portfolios are fairly minimalist compared to the rest of the industry. You’ll only have three portfolios to choose from, but those portfolios have low fund fees overall. The decision to offer expensive crypto funds as an option may not have worked out as hoped, with leading coins dropping more than 70 percent from their highs.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive robo-advisor offering, you might consider industry leaders such as Wealthfront or Betterment. You’ll get better portfolio options while still having a strong cash management account. Investors looking for an offering similar to Stash might consider its rival Acorns.
Stash: In the details
Pros: Where Stash stands out
Two service plans (including custodial accounts)
Stash offers two service tiers that provide a basic and premium level of service, so users can access the features that they really want. The tiers are priced at $3 and $9 per month.
- Stash Growth – This tier targets beginners and gives customers the option to open a taxable account, a managed account (Smart Portfolio) and either a traditional or Roth IRA. You’ll also get the Stock-Back Card, which allows you to invest as you spend, as well as $1,000 in life insurance.
- Stash+ – The premium tier comes with all the benefits of Stash Growth and adds custodial accounts for children, Stock-Back Card bonuses, improved research and $10,000 in life insurance.
At the Growth tier, you have 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.
Prior to August 2022, Stash offered a beginner plan that was just $1 per month. The plan was eliminated to give all customers access to retirement accounts and Stash’s Smart Portfolios.
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. Both funds have performed terribly in 2022, as the prices of Bitcoin and Ethereum tumbled more than 70 percent from their all-time highs.
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.
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.
Stash also recently boosted what consumers will earn through the Stock-Back card, increasing the reward to 1 percent of your purchase, up from just 0.125 percent last year. This means you’ll earn $1 in stock on a $100 purchase.
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.
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
- 55,000+ 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.
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.
Cons: Where Stash could improve
Like a few rivals (including Acorns and Ellevest), Stash offers managed portfolios for a monthly fee. While Stash’s monthly fee ($3, $9) is not high in an absolute sense, it may be quite pricey when judged by the standards of the rest of the industry. The industry generally prices on how much you have invested with the company, that is, your assets under management.
For example, with just $1,000 in your account and using Stash’s entry-level tier at $3 per month, you’re paying $36 per year or 3.6 percent. That compares to an industry standard of 0.25 percent, or about $2.50 for every $1,000 invested. That’s not a lot of money in the aggregate, certainly, but if you’re working with a smaller portfolio, every dollar counts.
That said, the fixed-cost model can prove remarkably attractive if you’re bringing significant money to the robo-advisor, since your assets go up but your fees don’t.
However, if cost is your key objective, you might have a look at SoFi Automated Investing, which charges no management fees or Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which also lets you duck the management fees, though you’ll have to cough up $5,000 to meet their account minimum.
Basic managed portfolio and lack of clarity on investments
The Stash managed portfolio is the most basic portfolio in this space, with just three preset investment options – a conservative, a medium and an aggressive portfolio. As mentioned above, these portfolios are constructed using just a handful of ETFs, the details of which are a bit difficult to determine unless you actually sign up for an account.
While this portfolio approach is vanilla in its sophistication, it should work acceptably. So much in investing is unnecessarily complex, though sometimes complexity does provide extra juice.
Stash does not offer any kind of tax strategy, though it does automatically rebalance your portfolio at the end of each quarter if you move more than 5 percent from your target allocations.
A more well-developed portfolio process would likely generate high returns here.
No automated ESG portfolio choices
With just three portfolio options ranging from conservative to aggressive, Stash lacks the choices offered by other robo-advisors. Its rival Acorns now offers 23 ETFs within their automated portfolio choices, including some focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, which can be popular with younger investors.
Stash chose to include cryptocurrency funds in its portfolios before offering investors fund options beyond the basics. Crypto is an innovation that may benefit investors, but Stash could improve its portfolios by adding funds in more traditional asset classes first.
Limited account types
Stash has a relatively limited selection, with a bit of a strange twist. It allows individual taxable accounts, but not joint. It also offers the typical traditional IRA and Roth IRA. The twist: It also offers custodial accounts in its upper tier.
Custodial accounts are a little bit unusual in robo-advisor accounts, with close rival Acorns also offering them. But Acorns allows you to access them at a lower price point than Stash does. That said, Stash’s upper tier also brings some other perks to the table, as discussed above.
Betterment5.0 Bankrate Score
Betterment offers a high level of service and features across every aspect of its robo-advisor, from its core investment management to low-cost funds to premium features such as tax-loss harvesting. You can also upgrade your service if you need unlimited access to human advisors, and get access to a feature-rich cash management account, too.
Axos Invest3.0 Bankrate Score
Axos Managed Portfolios offers a strong robo-advisor service with some premium features, all at a reasonable price. Clients also receive a wide choice of funds, including socially responsible funds, though the associated cash management account forces clients to jump through some hoops to receive what is only a mediocre interest rate.
Interactive Advisors4.5 Bankrate Score
Interactive Advisors has upped its game this year, with new features such as tax-loss harvesting that put it among the top robo-advisors. That’s on top of one of the widest range of investing choices, low-cost funds and low overall fees. As strong as all these features are, though, the robo-advisor doesn’t offer access to human advisors, not unusual among robo-advisors.
SigFig3.0 Bankrate Score
SigFig keeps costs low whether it’s account fees, fund fees or the annual management fee. You’ll also get access to human advisors and benefit from automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. But the lack of a cash management account and relatively high account minimums may cause some investors to look elsewhere.
E-Trade Core Portfolios3.5 Bankrate Score
E-Trade Core Portfolios offers a capable robo-advisor, one that may work best for customers looking to keep their accounts with the broker while having someone do the investing for them. Clients will get low-cost funds as well as less-common choices such as socially responsible funds, though the service doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting or many tools.
Titan Invest3.0 Bankrate Score
Titan offers something unusual in the robo-advisor space: Titan combines its own actively managed investments with passively managed ETFs, something no other major robo-advisor does. It also hedges those portfolios, does not charge a management fee for the passive funds – a rarity among rivals – and has a low minimum, making it easy to get started.
Morgan Stanley Access Investing3.5 Bankrate Score
For younger investors looking to invest based on their values or certain themes, Morgan Stanley’s Access Investing provides a suitable option among robo-advisors. Investors can choose between impact portfolios that focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, market-tracking portfolios that minimize fees and performance-based portfolios that attempt to outperform through active management.
J.P. Morgan Automated Investing3.0 Bankrate Score
J.P. Morgan Automated Investing provides portfolio management services with automatic rebalancing and may be a good fit for existing J.P. Morgan customers. But you’ll also pay above-average management fees and have limited account types to choose from. There’s also no tax strategy included in the offering.
Vanguard Digital Advisor3.0 Bankrate Score
Vanguard Digital Advisors keeps it simple: an investment portfolio comprised of four funds at a low all-in price, and then adds on helpful tools and educational components. The combination should do well for clients who don’t need a robo-advisor to provide everything under the sun but want competent investment management from a proven and knowledgeable leader.
Fidelity Go4.5 Bankrate Score
Fidelity Go offers a solid robo-advisor offering that beginning and cost-conscious investors will especially appreciate. However, investors looking for features such as tax-loss harvesting or comprehensive goal planning may be disappointed.
Personal Capital4.0 Bankrate Score
Personal Capital customers will get an experience that more closely resembles that of a traditional financial advisor than a robo-advisor, but you’ll need at least $100,000 to get started. You’ll also get a comprehensive tax strategy to help minimize what you owe to Uncle Sam. But this higher level of service does come at an above average cost compared to the rest of the robo-advisor industry.
M1 Finance4.5 Bankrate Score
M1 Finance takes some of the best of what brokers and robo-advisors do and mixes it into a new service that provides automated investing in a fully customizable portfolio – all for no cost. If you want to take it up a notch, you can pay an additional fee and receive a host of upgraded features, including one of the best cash management accounts out there.
Wealthfront5.0 Bankrate Score
Wealthfront offers a strong lineup of features – sophisticated portfolio management using low-cost funds – that showcase why it’s one of the leading independent robo-advisors. It provides a strong cash management account, a robust planning tool and premium features such as tax-loss harvesting that may more than pay back your annual fee.
Ellevest3.5 Bankrate Score
Ellevest brings a competent and well-considered robo-advisor, pitching itself to women, whose financial needs are traditionally underserved. But don’t think it won’t work for anyone who needs nuanced investment management, since it offers low-cost funds, socially responsible funds and – unlike most rivals – a flat monthly fee, making it advantageous for those with more to invest.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios5.0 Bankrate Score
Schwab Intelligent Portfolios provides a top robo-advisor experience that should be a good fit for many investors. The basic plan comes with no management fee and a low-cost portfolio, plus you’ll get Schwab’s top-notch customer support and easy-to-use platform. The premium plan comes with unlimited access to human financial advisors, but both plans come with above-average account minimums and tax-loss harvesting isn’t an option until you reach at least $50,000 in assets.
Acorns3.5 Bankrate Score
Acorns is a good choice for new investors who are starting with small sums of money, allowing customers to build a diversified portfolio with just a few dollars. However, the fees are above average for small account values, though they’ll decline as your portfolio grows, and you won’t find any tax strategy as part of the robo-advisor offering.
Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor4.0 Bankrate Score
Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor is a solid robo offering that gives customers easy access to human financial advisors at no additional cost along with tax-loss harvesting that can help you save on taxes. However, the management fee is above average unless you’re an existing Wells Fargo banking customer.
Ally Invest Managed Portfolios4.0 Bankrate Score
Ally Invest Robo Portfolios are a good option for new investors who pay particular attention to costs. Existing Ally clients may also appreciate having all their finances in one place. Unfortunately, Ally doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting or provide human advisors to help with those especially difficult questions.
Merrill Guided Investing3.5 Bankrate Score
Merrill Guided Investing offers a credible investing service for Bank of America customers, but its high management fee makes it less attractive among a competitive field of robo-advisors. Merrill offers several positives, including access to human advisors and low-cost investment funds, but premium features such as tax-loss harvesting are missing.
SoFi Automated Investing4.5 Bankrate Score
SoFi Automated Investing gives cost-conscious investors a solid robo-advisor offering that comes with access to human financial advisors at no additional cost. But the lack of tax-loss harvesting and no socially responsible investing options may cause more sophisticated investors to look elsewhere.
Marcus Invest4.0 Bankrate Score
Marcus Invest offers the core feature of a robo-advisor – portfolio management – and then adds some twists, such as several portfolio types, all for a cost-competitive fee. It’s a great add-on for current Marcus customers, though some features of higher-end robo-advisors such as tax-loss harvesting and an expansive toolset are missing.