Stash review 2021

Bankrate senior reporter James F. Royal, Ph.D., covers investing and wealth management. His work has been cited by CNBC, the Washington Post, The New York Times and more.

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Stash Logo

Best For

  • Newer investors and savers
  • Custodial accounts for children
  • Those looking to invest while spending

Investing app Stash has recently moved from allowing users to buy only stocks and ETFs to also letting them access a preset managed portfolio, like a more typical robo-advisor. It adds this feature into its suite of offerings, including a debit card that earns you stock for spending and a solid cash management account. And with a well-developed educational section, Stash is an easy-to-use pick for those just getting started on their saving-and-investing journey. 

Those looking for a more sophisticated robo-advisor might have a look at Wealthfront, which offers a top-shelf managed portfolio and cash management account. If you’re looking for a similar app-based platform, check out Acorns to compare and contrast these two rivals. 

Stash at a glance

Star Rating

  • Cost: 4 of 5
  • Investments and Portfolios: 3.5 of 5
  • Account Types: 3.5 of 5
  • Features and Tools: 3 of 5
  • Customer Experience: 3.5 of 5
  • Account Minimum:
    $0 to open an account; $5 to start investing
  • Management Fee:
    $1 per month for Stash Beginner; $3 per month for Stash Growth; $9 per month for Stash+
  • Account fees:
    $75 transfer-out fee
  • Portfolio Mix:
    3 managed portfolios using 4 ETFs; choice to buy other ETFs and stocks
  • Fund Expense Ratio:
    Range on Smart Portfolios: 0.03%-0.10%
  • Account Types:
    Individual taxable accounts, Roth and traditional IRAs, custodial accounts
  • Cash Management Account:
    Yes, no overdraft fee, 19,000 fee-free ATMs, two-days early direct deposit, mobile deposit, debit card
  • Customer service:
    Phone, Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. ET, email
  • Tax Strategy:
  • Rebalancing:
  • Tools:
    Retirement calculator, diversification analysis, Stash Coach for challenges and guidance
  • Promotion:

Pros: Where Stash stands out

Three service plans (including custodial accounts)

Like its crosstown rival Acorns, 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 recently. 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 consists of placing 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.

Smart Portfolios builds your portfolio with just four ETFs, all of which come from market leaders such as Vanguard. They’re also low-cost funds, with expenses ranging from 0.03 to 0.1 percent of assets annually. In other words, each fund will cost you about $3 to $10 for every $10,000 invested in them. A weighted average brings the average cost to somewhere in between. 

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 (“Royal Returns,” anyone?), 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 a fiver, 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. 

Renamed ETFs

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. 

Quick comparison of Robo-Advisor options:
Robo-Advisor Overall Rating Cost Rating Investments and Portfolios
Stash logo
4 3.5 of 5
Acorns review 2021 logo Read Our Review
3.5 4 of 5
Wealthfront review 2021 logo Read Our Review
5 5 of 5
SoFi Automated Investing review 2021 logo Read Our Review
5 4 of 5

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 ($1, $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 $1 per month, you’re paying $12 per year or 1.2 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 four 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 could likely generate high returns here. 

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, for those in the middle and upper service tiers. 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.

Bottom line

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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