Stash App Review 2021: Investing Made EasyStocks
- Basics: Stash is a personal finance app that wants everyone to get into investing, so it makes it easy to buy your first shares of stocks or exchange-traded funds.
- Pros: Stash reduces barriers to investing, has an affordable plan and no minimum investment requirement.
- Cons: While Stash has an affordable plan, some of the same features are offered free elsewhere, some ETFs have high expense ratios, and the Stock-Back rewards card is not as robust as other cards.
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What is Stash?
Stash is a personal finance app with the goal to make investing simple and affordable for regular people. They offer subscribers of their investment services three plans, a bank account (through a partner), and a rewards debit card
How does Stash work?
First things first, visit the Stash site using my link to set up an account and receive a $20 bonus (as of the time of this writing). Once you install the app on your phone and set up your account, Stash offers you three investment plans for a monthly subscription fee ranging from $1 to $9.
How to Install the Stash App and Start Investing
After you install the Stash app, Stash will ask you for a bit of information about yourself, starting with “The Basics.” Here’s how to set up your account:
- Enter your email and secure password (it must contain at least one uppercase letter and at least one number).
- Next comes your personal information: First name, last name, when you were born, and your phone number. Next, Stash will send you a four-digit security code via either text or phone call for you to enter in order to continue setting up your account.
- Stash will ask you to create a PIN for when you log in.
- Select from a list what you are interested in (I don’t know how much this selection really matters, I just selected, “Invest & build wealth”).
- Once you are done with the basics, you will answer a series of questions to “Personalize” the experience.
- You will be asked your employment status, your employer name, your job title, your pre-tax household income, your estimated net worth, filing status, how you’re saving for retirement, your investing experience, your investing goals, and your investing time horizon.
- Finally, you will reach the “Secure” part of the account setup, where you tell Stash your citizenship status, your social security number (you are opening up a brokerage account with Stash so you need to provide it), your address, other questions that are typically asked when you open up a brokerage account.
- Confirm the information is correct.
- Pick one of the three plans: Beginner, Growth or Stash Plus (aka Stash+) and agree to the terms and conditions.
You are now set and ready to invest.
|Account Minimum||No minimum to open an account, but some products require a $1 deposit (bank account, Stash Retire, Stash custodial accounts). Smart Portfolio requires $5.|
|Plans||Beginner, $1/month; Growth, $3/month; Plus, $9/month|
|Accounts||Individual brokerage accounts; traditional IRA; Roth IRA; UMGA & UMTA custodial accounts|
|Tax Loss Harvesting||No|
|Automatic Round-up||Yes, if your bank|
|Advice||On website, no human advisor|
|Smart Portfolio||Yes, beginning with Growth plan|
|Banking||Yes, through partner Green Dot Bank, with all plans|
|Stock-Back Card||Linked debit card offers|
|Customer Service||Via web, phone, email and chat|
Stash’s 3 Investment Plans
When you decide to invest through the Stash app, you will need to choose one of three monthly subscription plans: Beginner is $1 per month; Growth is $3 per month; and Stash+ is $9 a month. With all three plans, you get a banking account (through Green Dot Bank), a rewards debit card, and a small life insurance policy (if you are between the ages of 18 and 54).
Let’s dive into these plans to help you determine which one is right for you.
Here are the features of the Beginner plan for $1 month:
- A “personal investment account,” which is basically a taxable brokerage account
- Ability to buy fractional shares of companies (stocks) and themed bundles (ETFs)
- A banking account with a Stock-Back debit card
- $1,000 life insurance policy
- “Free” financial information on learn.stash.com
Here is what you get with the $3 a month Growth plan:
- Everything in the Beginner plan
- Option to open a traditional or Roth IRA
- Access to a robo-advisor through the Smart Portfolio feature
Stash+ with Custodial Accounts
The features of the Stash Plus plan at $9 a month:
- Everything in the Beginner and Growth plans
- Ability to open custodial accounts (either a Uniform Gift to Minors Act or Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) for up to two children
- Double stock rewards on your Stock-Back Card
- $10,000 in life insurance (instead of $1,000)
- Premium investment content through its monthly market insights report
Stash Investing Options
Depending upon your monthly Stash subscription, you can have up to three types of accounts: A taxable brokerage account (available in all three plans); a retirement account (IRA, in the Growth and Stash+ plans); and custodial accounts for children (only in the Stash+ plan).
The app will let you see your “Total Stash Value” that includes all your Stash account investments and cash balances. When the market is open, you might see the value fluctuate in close to real-time.
You also have the option to see what you have invested in each type of account: Personal, Retirement, and Custodial.
Invest in Companies
In an effort to help newbies understand investing, Stash refers to buying stocks as buying “companies.” The number of companies in which you can invest fluctuates, and it was recently as high as 3,700 companies.
This is a nice feature because it allows you to invest in specific stocks. This can be a little riskier than investing in exchange-traded funds, but it’s nice to have this option if you prefer a little more control over your investments.
However, Stash does not offer every stock for sale through its app. So, keep that in mind.
Invest in Stash-Curated Collections
These Stash-Curated Collections are exchange-traded funds. They are like mutual funds in that they are pools of stocks, however, you can buy and sell ETFs like stocks.
Stash has some pretty interesting names for its themed collections, like “Large Global Companies” (the 10 largest companies outside the United States), “Match the Market,” which is an ETF that just tracks the S&P 500 (iShares Core S&P 500 ETF), and “Stocks Worldwide,” a global diversification fund (Vanguard Total World Stock ETF).
Buy Fractional Shares with Stash
So, that’s how you invest in Stash. The app makes it very easy, and a nice feature is you can invest in fractional shares. This means even if I just have a dollar, I can invest in a stock or ETF even though the price of one share might be hundreds of dollars.
Stash’s Diversification Analysis
“The Stash Way” of investing involves three things:
- Invest regularly
- Invest for the long-term
Diversification, or owning a broad collection of stocks or funds from different economic sectors, is an important piece. Stash will analyze your portfolio to see if you are too heavily invested in any area and recommend investments to help you reduce your risk.
Stash’s Smart Portfolio
The Smart Portfolio is Stash’s entry in the robo-advisor game. This is offered with the Growth and Stash Plus plans, which I do not subscribe to. So, I researched this and discovered when you invest money into a Stash smart portfolio, your portfolio is then expert-managed by the Smart Investment Team.
It’s not like some investment manager is going to managing your specific portfolio, what’s likely going on behind the scenes here is Stash assigns you into some group based on your age and risk tolerance and other factors and Stash has a portfolio that these “experts” create for you and everybody else in your group.
Your investments are rebalanced periodically to reflect the portfolio allocation that these experts think is appropriate for your profile.
To get started with a Smart Portfolio, you will need to make a minimum investment of $5.
Management Fees for Stash Investments
Exchange-traded funds need to make money and be managed, so whenever you invest in an ETF, you will have to pay a management fee. This isn’t a fee you’ll see in your Stash account or your other brokerage account, it’s reflected in the price of the ETF.
The management fee is on top of your monthly subscription fee. No matter where you buy shares of ETFs, you will pay this fee, which varies from fund to fund. To see what the fee and expense ratio is by clicking “View more” underneath the Details of a fund.
If you have $1,000 invested in an ETF with a 0.5% expense ratio, then it will cost you $5. I like ETFs with low expense ratios, and 0.5% is about middle-of-the-road.
Stash/Green Dot Banking
Stash is not a bank, right, but it offers FDIC-insured bank accounts through Green Dot Bank. When you open a checking account, you will have to transfer money from another bank. You can open the account for as little as $1. It will take a few days for your ACH transfer to finalize.
Stash markets this as getting the bank account that powers your investment account. You will also receive a debit rewards card. Here are the banking features:
Stock-Back Rewards Debit Card
Interestingly enough, even though I transferred money to open my account, I also had to transfer money to fund the Stock-Back card. I chose just a dollar to get started.
When you use your Stash debit card you get “stock back” instead of “cash back.” This means you get fractional shares in a stock or ETF of your choice. The exception is if you use your debit card at a place that has a stock listed on Stash’s platform, such as Amazon, Walmart, Netflix, or Starbucks. In that case, you will earn stock back at that establishment. Stash calls this the matching stock.
But if you use your debit card at your local mom and pop diner, you’ll earn stock in the stock or ETF that you choose, Stash calls this your backup investment, and you can easily choose your backup investment by selecting “Change your custom stock reward” in the Stock-Back Card section of the app.
No Hidden Fees
Stash will not charge you a monthly maintenance fee, minimum balance fee, or set-up fee.
If you make a transaction that is declined due to insufficient funds, Stash will not charge you an overdraft fee. However, if you attempt to transfer money to other banks without enough funds, those institutions will likely charge you overdraft fees.
No-Fee ATM Network
Stash has a network of around 19,000 no-fee ATMs, and you can find them by using the ATM locator function. While there is no fee for in-network ATMs, you will pay a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM. If withdrawing cash is important to you, then search to see where ATMs are located in your area. Where I live, all of the ATMs are inside stores, like pharmacies and grocery stores. Unless a store is open 24 hours, you might not always have access to an ATM.
Stash says it’s important to automate your savings and investments. It will help you do so with Auto-Stash, which has two features:
- Recurring Investments: Stash refers to this feature as “Set Schedule.” This allows you to schedule recurring investments from your linked bank account into your Stash Invest account. I love the idea of recurring investments.
- Automatic Round-Ups: If you’re familiar with Acorns you know what this is: You give Stash permission to look at your linked bank account and whenever you make a purchase in your bank account, Stash will round up that purchase to the next whole dollar amount and invest it (once you reach at least $5 in round-ups). So, if you purchased a coffee for $3.50, Stash will round it up to $4 and invest the 50 cents. I had an issue with my bank, so this feature was a bust for me. I hope you have better luck.
Stash Banking Goals
With Stash, you can also set savings Goals within your bank account. I created a goal called “New TV” where I told stash I wanted to save $1,000 for a new TV by Independence Day, maybe catch a July Fourth sale. You can assign dollars to each of your goals.
Stash Educational Investment Content
I want to mention briefly the educational content that is found in the app. Under Grow Knowledge Quickly, you can find the latest articles and news from Stash. The content here is not anything special, but if you are new to investing and you decided to install the Stash app, then you should find the material interesting and informative.
Those who subscribe to the Stash Plus plan, will receive a premium monthly insights report.
Stash Pros and Cons
- Stash makes it easy to invest: If you are new to investing, Stash takes a little bit of the fear out of investing.
- Stash offers an affordable plan: For $1 a month, you can invest in stocks and ETFs.
- Stash has no minimum investment requirements: You can get started investing with just a buck.
- Access to a robo-advisor: If you have the Growth plan or Stash+, you get access to the robo-advisor Stash Smart Portfolio.
- Stash is not free: While Stash offers an affordable plan for just $1 a month, most of the features in that Stash Beginner plan you can find somewhere else for free.
- The high-end plan is overpriced: I don’t see the justification for paying $9 a month for the Stash Plus plan.
- The Stock-Back rewards program is lackluster: Stash has an interesting offer with its debit card: Instead of cash back, it’s “Stock-Back.” However, the rewards amount does not compare with some of the best cash-back credit cards.
- Some ETFs have high expense ratios: Do your homework before investing in ETFs offered through Stash because you might end up paying more than you should.
- The user interface is confusing: The doesn’t seem to be a linear progression through the app, which can make navigation confusing.
Acorns: A Stash Alternative
There are other investment services that do similar things, but Acorns (see my review) is probably the closest match to what Stash offers. More experienced investors might want to look at M1, a favorite of mine (and I have a review you will want to see).
Stash and Acorns do similar things. They both encourage new investors to start investing in small ways in order to build wealth. In the chart below, you will see who I think will do better with Acorns, and who will probably be better off with Stash. The chart is just a brief overview, I really want to encourage you to watch my Stash vs. Acorns review on YouTube.
|Better for complete newbie investors||Better for slightly more experienced investors|
|You just want to set your investments and forget them||You want control over what you invest in|
|You want robo-advising for only $1/month||You want access to premium investment research|
|You need a large ATM network||You want banking for only $1/month|
|You want a more robust round-up feature||You are interested in getting more life insurance|
|You want to open a SEP IRA||You like the idea of getting stock back on purchases|
|You like cash-back shopping portals|
Bottom Line: Should You Use Stash Invest?
My thoughts about Stash are similar to my thoughts on Acorns (if you saw the review): Everything you can do in Stash in terms of investing and banking you can do at other places for free. And, just like with Acorns, the value of Stash is in the convenience and/or fun aspect that the Stash app provides.
The whole point of Stash, in my opinion, is to get newbies to start investing, and if Stash can do that for you, just like if Acorns can do that for you, sure, I think the Beginner plan at $1 a month is worth it. If Stash accomplishes its purpose in your life, which is to get you to start investing, that fee should become relatively smaller and smaller over time.
So if you’re thinking about using Stash, just start with the dollar-a-month plan and see if it’s “working” for you:
- Is it helping you to build that habit of investing?
- Is it getting you excited about long-term investing in the stock market?
- Is it making investing interesting to you?
If so, great, stick with it either for the long-term or just for a little while. Maybe eventually you’ll want to move on to other investment platforms like M1 Finance or Fidelity, but those have much more of a learning curve that maybe you don’t want to learn.
Stash makes investing super easy for you, so I’d rather you stick with Stash and pay a dollar a month than not invest at all.
The Stash personal finance app created to make investing easier so more people will participate and build wealth. It offers three different plans, a bank account, and a “Stock-Back” rewards debit card.
We earn a commission on this offer.
- Is Stash free?
While the app is free to download, in order to purchase stocks or ETFs, you will need to subscribe to one of three monthly programs. Also, if you purchase shares of an ETF, it will have an annual management fee, which varies.
- What kind of investor is the Stash app good for?
Stash's mission is to "empower regular Americans to build wealth." They want to help remove hurdles so people will become investors.
- How does Stash invest your money?
You will choose which "companies" (individual stocks) to or thematic funds (exchange-traded funds) to purchase through the Stash app. If you do not have enough to buy whole shares, Stash will purchase fractional shares for you.
- How often do merchants in the Stash Stock-Back bonus program change?
Stash updates the merchants included in the program on a monthly basis.
- Can I purchase individual stocks on Stash?
Yes. With Stash, they are called "companies."
- Can you buy international stocks on the Stash app?
You can buy some individual international stocks on Stash, and you can also purchase shares of ETFs that focus on global companies or companies from foreign countries.
- Do I have to buy full shares of stock on Stash?
You can purchase full shares, but Stash is known for allowing new investors to buy fractional shares of stocks. The minimum purchase is $0.05.
- Can I buy mutual funds on Stash?
Stash does not offer mutual funds, but it does have something similar: Exchange-traded funds. They are like mutual funds, but shares of ETFs are sold like shares of stock.
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.