Stash App Review
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Stash Ratings and Quality Scores
Investor Warning: All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The historical performance data for individual securities quoted on the Stash platform represents past performance, does not guarantee future results, is provided “as is” and solely for information purposes, is not advice or for trading purposes, may be subject to pricing delays, should not be used for tax reporting, may not reflect actual future performance, and is gross of Stash fees.
A recent study found that a large majority of US households, in fact 71% of them, are not being served fully by the investment community. There are almost 100 million Americans who do not even use financial services.
This is something that Stash CEO Brandon Krieg wants to change about investing. Even before he created Stash, Krieg states that he spent time talking to everyone about their money. He spoke to teachers, nurses, and other individuals who had issues climbing aboard the investment train, and he spoke to savvy investors about what they would change, too.
He found that there were considerable barriers for most people who had never invested before. One common issue was that they were not familiar with investing as a way to save and grow, particularly because no one in their families had ever tried. For these reasons, Krieg wanted to build a simple investment app.
The mystery around brokerages and investing is changing now due to mobile trading apps and robo-advisors that allow you to just “set it and forget it.” However, Krieg wants people to understand how to use ETFs to save and invest, because he believes it’s easy to do.
For those currently without a savings or investing strategy, Stash may offer some new ideas towards investing, but to be clear, the app is not a robo-advisor and cannot manage your accounts for you. However, Stash tries to give you more options and align with your goals in a simple way to help people who don’t know how to invest.
How Does Stash App Work and Why It’s Not a Robo-Advisor
The Stash investing app was created to help novices learn about investing. There are 60 different exchange traded funds to choose from, and Stash makes recommendations based on a risk assessment questionnaire that you fill out when signing up for your account.
Based on this assessment, investors learn their investment personality type according to Stash:
Once your investment profile type is known, Stash offers you value-based investment options. You can select a custom portfolio that is based on your interests and companies with causes you support, which is perfect if you want to be a socially conscious investor. For some investors, this aspect alone makes Stash better than Robinhood.
However, Stash is a bit different in how it groups investments, labeling ETFs under themes like Park My Cash or All That Glitters. Here are a few examples:
- Aggressive Mix: This theme includes all-in-one aggressive stocks to satisfy investors who want to make money quickly. These are quite risky.
- BLOK: This theme allows you to invest in companies who are deeply invested in development and creation of blockchain technologies for cryptocurrencies.
- Long Haul Bonds: This is a conservative theme that maximizes long-term, investment-grade US government and corporate bonds.
- Match the Market: These are low-cost foundation funds that are found on the S&P 500. This is a group of America’s largest and most successful companies.
You can search through all of the ETF themes or filter them by categories, such as retail, strategies and experts, missions and causes, and so forth. These themes are designed on a buy and hold status.
Stash can make suggestions and provide guidance based on your risk level, but it can’t pick your investments or manage them for you.
Once you pick your portfolio and choose what you’ll invest,
Stash App Pros and Cons
- Incredible automated guidance and educational system that offers a robo-advisor feel
- Low account minimum and commission-free trades
- Access to fractional shares, round-up investing, and automated “Auto-Stash” feature for effortless saving
- Themed and value-based investment offerings for socially conscious and selective investors
- Incredibly simple and fun-to-invest-with mobile app that offers tools, stock snapshot pages, and all-in-one account views with financial project tools
- Acts like a robo-advisor, but it does not provide any account management
- No tax-loss harvesting or any tax services
- No human brokers or advisors available
- Manual rebalancing based on alerts
- Must invest more to save on high fees, but beginner investors may not realize how much they pay for their accounts through Stash versus a traditional brokerage
Quick Summary of Stash App Features
- $5 to open account and invest
- $1 a month for taxable investment accounts, $3 a month for retirement accounts, and $9/month to add custodial accounts and more services
- No commissions or investment fees for stocks and ETFs
- New investors get first month free of any fees, then charged $1 per month if your account balance is under $5,000
- If your account balance is over $5,000 you are charged 0.25% per year
- No annual or inactivity fee, but there is a $75 outgoing transfer fee
- Roth accounts require a minimum of $15 to open
Score: 8.5/10 These fees are pretty low and on-par with robo-advisor tools like Acorns, but should you pay fees for an app that does not have a robo-advisor tool? You do not receive any account management and yet still pay the same fees as Betterment if you have an account over $5,000.
- Stash has a slightly higher expense ratio at 0.24% for ETFs, but there is no investment fee for stocks
Score: 7/10 This hurts Stash a bit because it presents itself as very low-cost, but with fees and higher expense ratios than Betterment, Wealthfront, and Acorns, it’s already more costly than what most investors have come to expect.
- Individual brokerage accounts
- Traditional and Roth IRA accounts
- Online debit accounts
- Custodial accounts
Score: 7/10 You would think that an investment app would have access to more account types, but Stash plays it pretty simple and offers just the basics. This works better for their target audience who may not realize the benefits of other tax advantage accounts.
- 60 different ETFs
- 200 individual stocks to select from
- Fractional shares
Score: 9/10 In comparison to robo-advisors, Stash app offers you way more opportunities to invest and diversify than the limited selections available at Acorns, Betterment, and Wealthfront.
- Not available
Score: 0/10 You are on your own when it comes to optimizing for capital gains tax, although Stash provides some tax education materials. It’s for beginner investors who don’t know much about taxes.
- Not available
Score: 0/10 You won’t get any help aligning with your goals. If investments stray away from your targets, Stash will make recommendations, and you can update our investments. While this offers more flexibility and control, it’s different than what people expect with a robo-advisor, which is easy hands-off management.
- Not available
Score: 0/10 All advising is automated through the app.
Socially Responsible Investing
- Select from causes and socially responsible investments that appeal to you by searching themes
Score: 8/10 During your initial assessment, you can list what causes and factors are important to you for investing. Stash will make suggestions based on your interests.
How Much Does Stash Cost?
Stash was created to point investors in the right direction and show them the best allocations for their interests and goals. The terminology used in the ETF themes and guidance is all for beginner investors.
Since it’s not a hands-off investment tool, you will still be required to login and monitor your investments on your own, although you can receive alerts from Stash when something needs rebalancing.
Robo-advisors charge flat fees like Acorn or a percentage of your total account like Betterment and Wealthfront. With Stash, there are three flat fee options, and each offers different solutions to your financial needs.
This account costs $1 per month. In exchange, you get a taxable, personal brokerage account with banking services. It includes a Stash debit card, and you get “Stock Back Rewards.” You must invest at least $5 to open.
This plan costs $3 per month and adds a retirement account such as a traditional or Roth IRA to your plan. Your retirement account requires $15 to open.
For a total of $9 per month, Stash offers you the aforementioned accounts as well as custodial accounts for minors. These can be helpful if you want to save for them, but they are not college 529 savings accounts.
In addition, if you have over $5,000 invested, your fees will switch to a 0.25% cost per year instead of the flat fees.
Ultimately, Stash is more similar to Acorns, and while it requires to have a minimum investment, the costs are pretty low for most investors. You don’t have to spend more than $10 to get started, but you do need to invest more and compound those investments to pay back the fees. There are no charges for trading stocks and ETFs though.
Interested in seeing how Stash matches up to its competition? See our Stash vs Betterment comparison.
What We Like About Stash
Even though it’s not a robo-advisor, Stash does a great job of offering guidance and investment help to novice investors. Here are the reasons we think it may work out better if you like more flexibility and control over your investments.
Automated Investment Guidance
As Stash CEO Brandon Krieg has said, he wanted to help investors learn more about why they should invest and how they can do that even if they have barely any funds to work with. While it’s not a robo-advisor, the app offers some incredible tips and knowledge to help investors make the right choices and invest their funds in the best ETFs.
When you sign up for Stash, you answer a series of questions that helps you determine the options that are best for your financial situation, goals, and risk tolerance.
Next, through the intuitive mobile interface, the user chooses the investments from recommendations. If you need help, Stash Coach will push you in the right direction and offer educational tips if there are lapses in diversification.
For those who need more help, Stash has another tool that works well for beginners. It’s called the Portfolio Builder, and it provides a list of suggested ETFs that create a custom and diversified investment portfolio.
Investors may choose that portfolio, or they can customize their own based on what they want to invest in. All portfolios are built out of ETFs, but there are some individual stocks available too.
These individual stocks include Apple, Facebook, General Electric, Amazon, and more. With fractional shares, you can invest everything so that you have zero uninvested cash.
Education and Research Tools
Robo-advisors are all about doing it for you, and while there are some educational tips and tools available, Stash provides beginners with way more guidance since it’s self-directed investing.
Since everything is done in the mobile app, it’s even more intuitive than some of the older web-based and desktop brokerages. For example, you get a quick synopsis of any investment that you click on. This includes a bar visualization that shows the level of risk for any stock, and you can check out the last price and expense ratios.
The ETF snapshot also includes a list of the investment’s holdings and a description of the underlying security within the theme.
Ultimately, investors can totally personalize their portfolio while making smart moves towards industries they want to support. You can dig into performance of each stock, and you can get insights into other risk profiles like yours to see what investors are buying. You can also enable social sharing to see what your friends on Facebook are investing in, if they have the app and turn on social sharing as well.
Themes and Self-Driven Investing
Stash wants to make things as simple as possible for those who have never invested before. That is why ETFs are filed under themes with easy-to-understand names.
For example, an investment option like the SPDR S&P BioTech ETF is filed under the theme Modern Meds. If you like the medical industry, then this would be a theme to support.
Do you want to invest with your heart? Do you have specific causes that are important to you?
Stash took that into consideration with mission-driven themes. These are designed to help investors who want to get into different industries like clean energy or companies known for their socially responsible policies under the “Do the Right Thing” theme.
While Stash did not invent themed investing, the approach is simple and easy to understand with the app. You don’t have to understand anything about stocks to know that you are investing in the right causes or industries that pertain to your interests.
Low Cash Entry Point
Investors do not need to have much to get started with Stash. You can invest with as little as $5. If you are afraid of investing and don’t think you have a lot of money, it’s still easy to find this minimal amount and start investing in fractional shares.
AutoStash provides ways to maximize your investment with a slider tool. You can use the slider to indicate what monthly deposits could do for your portfolio using growth potential signals.
You can see your estimated investment return. If you want to know what you might have in one year, five years, or ten years through investing, Stash offers this forecasting tool to help you realize your dreams.
Automated Round-Up Investing
Stash can’t manage your account, but if you don’t want to set up large deposits and transfers, you can opt into round-up transfers through Stash. This means that your purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar. Your change is added up and once it hits $5, Stash will send your round-up funds to your investment account.
Track Your Potential with Stash Milestones
One of the educational and research tools we like about Stash is the Stash Milestones feature within the mobile app. The investment tool sets certain milestones for your accounts and then sets reminders to show you when they are met.
You can see these milestones when you first sign up, and they automatically congratulate you like an achievement if you unlock a milestone. It’s very motivational to investors who may not know when they are doing well.
Withdraw Funds Anytime
Stash makes it pretty easy to withdraw funds at any time, and you don’t have to pay any penalties to do so.
Where Could Stash Improve
Subscription For What Exactly?
We aren’t sure why Stash has a subscription fee in addition to account minimums. They claim “commission-free trades” for stocks and ETFs, but is it free if you pay a subscription every month?
In addition, if you calculate the percentage of assets compared to your monthly fees, you might find that you are paying way above average when it comes to fees. For example, if you have a $500 balance, the $1 fee is equivalent to 2.4% of the entire balance.
If your balance shoots up to $3,000, then you are paying under 0.50% of the balance, which is more aligned to what you pay with robo-advisors like Betterment that charge 0.25% to manage your account.
This means that the long-term value of Stash is truly dependent on how much you invest. If you invest a lot over time, then the fees won’t matter as much. In addition, you don’t receive any of the robo-advising tools that come with Betterment or Wealthfront. For example, you have to monitor and rebalance on your own, and there are no tax-loss harvesting options.
High ETF Expense Ratios
In comparison to other robo-advisors, we found Stash to have significantly higher fees. You pay about 0.24% in expense ratios with Stash for their ETFs, while Betterment and Wealthfront hover around 0.07% to 0.14%, but there is a caveat here.
The ETFs are more flexible with Stash. You can choose from a wider variety of ETFs. One of the reasons that the expense ratios are so low with other robo-advisors is that they don’t offer higher risk ETFs in niche categories.
To truly diversify and satisfy all investment personalities, Stash offers a variety of different funds. Investors who like themes appreciate this type of flexibility, though it may lead new investors to spend more if they select themes with a higher risk tolerance.
No Technical Analysis or Other Research Tools
While there are some educational tools and calculators, Stash does not have much for research, which is strange for a self-directed investing app. There are also no customizable charting tools, but with Stash’s philosophy, their target audience would not really understand how to use technical analysis tools. Investors basically have to trust that the automated advice and guidance from Stash is well-founded.
What Investors Should Use Stash
There is no question that Stash is for investors who have very little experience. Savvy, experienced investors will not like Stash unless they want to diversify with socially conscious funds. Even then, it’s probably best to pick your own investments if you have a traditional brokerage account since most of the layman’s terms and thematic language are geared towards novice investors.
Stash is also strictly for mobile users. Beginner investors who want to start saving for retirement or who have never invested before can easily get started with the mobile app.
Stash App Platform, Mobile Access, and Ease-of-Use
The Stash app is available for iOS and Android users, and it has an online web-based platform. However, most of the actions and tools are available in the app. Investors can get a snapshot of their performance at any time just by logging in with Face ID or one-touch.
You can learn everything about your investments in one screen using the app. This is useful for those investors who are just starting out and need the most important information about a stock to make a decision. Stash Coach will also be there to help you with guidance and show you when a stock may help or hurt your portfolio.
Frequently Asked Questions About Stash
Does Stash provide good returns?
Yes and no. Stash is not really made for big investments and large returns. The value of Stash is that it helps you save by automatically transferring round-up dollars or automatic deposits into your investment accounts.
While the app does not publish its returns, Stash clearly helps you save better than you can with a simple savings account from your bank account. You can earn more on your round-up change, and you don’t have to really think about transferring funds into your Stash account to make it happen. This is the true beauty of Stash.
How do fractional shares work with Stash?
One of the best things about Stash is that you can invest in larger, more expensive stocks like Amazon and Apple with just a few dollars. Stash offers fractional shares because the company buys the ETFs and stocks, then splits them among investors. You can build a diversified portfolio with as little money as possible.
How does the SmartStash feature work?
Stash offers a number of tools to help you find money to invest. SmartStash is one of those features.
It automatically analyzes your bank accounts, learning the ins and outs, and if it finds extra money, it will sweep that into your savings if you accept. This is a smart way to continuously add to and grow your investments.
Does Stash have customer support?
Yes! You can access phone and email support from Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Customer support is also available on Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Customer service representatives are not brokers, but they can offer you some guidance with the app’s features and what to invest based on themes. We found our representative Kathy to be extremely responsive and helpful, and the wait time was less than a minute on a Monday at 11:00 AM (eastern).
What is the Stock-Back Rewards program?
The Stock-Back Rewards program helps you earn fractional shares in companies that you support through purchases already. This means that if you shop with a partner such as Netflix, then you will earn a 0.125% reward to reinvest.
There are also bonus rewards including a 2% reward in stock back for every dollar that you spend at a partner’s store within a single month. If the company you want to support is not publicly traded, Stash still offers rewards and invests them for you in a diversified ETF.
Conclusion: Is Stash App Better Than a Robo-Advisor?
Stash app offers some automated investing guidance, but it does not offer hands-off investing that is so valuable to the busy investors of today. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer value to beginner investors and people who are trying to save without having a lot of money.
The goal with Stash is to help you set up savings accounts that reinvest your change and small amounts of “found money” to grow large sums. However, there are some drawbacks to self-directed investing. There are no tax services, and you have to manually rebalance your investments based on Stash’s alerts to ensure that you don’t lose money.
Everything can be done in the mobile app, however, which is a huge plus for today’s investors who are constantly looking at their phones. You will always be able to see your investments, savings, and guidance tips to earn more money with just a few taps.
For our Stash App review, here is the criteria we used to rate the company:
- Low-to-no management fees: We look at the fees assessed by the robo-advisor, which is typically a percentage of your assets charged annually. This number should be low, equating to less than .23% annually.
- Expense ratios: Many mutual funds, index funds, and ETFs have low-to-no expense ratios. Your robo-advisor should invest in funds that do not have high expense ratios. It’s also important to know the average expense ratios by fund type.
- Available account types: Robo-advisors should have retirement accounts for tax advantages and taxable accounts to cater to both passive and active investors.
- Available investments: What does the robo-advisor like to invest in? Most use a combination of low-cost index funds and ETFs.
- Tax-loss harvesting: Robo-advisors should be able to identify losing investments and cut losses by eliminate taxes you would owe on capital gains.
- Rebalancing: Automated investing also means remembering goals and bringing back allocations when necessary. Robo-advisors should check this daily and ensure they are investing with your goals in mind.
- Human advisors: Some free robo-advisors do not offer any financial advice from a human, so this isn’t always important, but if you are new to investing and want to ensure your money is spent right, you may want this option.
- Socially responsible investing: Most robo-advisors have a quiz or survey at the beginning to understand your SRI or socially responsible investing type. These are values that may exclude some industries, such as fossil fuels or guns.