Stash Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Stash simplifies the process of selecting investments with an app suited for beginners. But fees are higher than those of some competitors.

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Our Take

4.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line:

Stash aims to make investing approachable for beginners. The service has a $5 account minimum and charges $1 to $9 a month, depending on what services and account types you are looking for. If you’re looking for a little hand-holding while you build a portfolio of stocks and ETFs, Stash may be a good fit. If you just want automated management, it may be best to look elsewhere.

Stash

Stash

Fees

$1 - $9

per month

Account Minimum

$5

Promotion

Up to $510 in credit to invest

with qualifying deposit into taxable account (see terms)

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Both DIY and automated investing.
  • Fractional shares.
  • Values-based investment offerings.

Cons

  • Smart Portfolios don't offer tax-loss harvesting.
  • No automated IRA management.

Compare to Other Advisors

SoFi Automated Investing
Vanguard Digital Advisor
Betterment
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

0%

management fee

Fees

0.15%

per year (approximately)

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

Promotion

No advisory fees

your first 90 days of Vanguard Digital Advisor investment management (Enrollment requires a Vanguard account with a minimum of $3,000)

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

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Full Review

Where Stash shines

DIY and automated investing: Stash marries the idea of DIY investing and an automated portfolio, giving clients the option to choose how involved they want to be. Often, robo-advisors are fully hands off, meaning you can’t pick any of your own investments.

Roundups: If you like the idea of investing without too much effort on your part, Stash can round up your purchases to the nearest dollar, and once those roundups hit $5, will send that money to your investment account.

Stock-Back Card®: Stash's Stock-Back Card lets you earn stocks as rewards when you shop.

Where Stash falls short

No managed IRAs: Stash does not offer automated management for IRAs.

No tax-loss harvesting: Smart Portfolios don't offer tax-loss harvesting.

No human advice: Advertised advice is general education, not personalized investing advice.


Stash is best for:

  • Beginners who want to learn how to invest.

  • Investors who want to buy fractional shares.

  • Investors who want to choose their own investments and get automated portfolios.

Stash at a glance

Account minimum

$5.

Account management fee

$3 per month for automated investing.

$1- and $9-a-month tiers available as well.

Investment expense ratios

Average is less than 0.06% for Smart Portfolios.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

$0 standard transfer fee, or 1% fee for instant transfers.

Outgoing ACAT full transfer fee: $75.

Portfolio mix

Smart Portfolio mix is well-diversified but lacks exposure to non-market correlated assets like REITs and commodities.

Over 4,000 individual stocks and ETFs are available in the DIY individual brokerage account (available for $1 per month).

Socially responsible portfolio option

No automated socially responsible portfolio.

Themed ETFs, including socially responsible ETFs, are available in the DIY individual brokerage account.

Accounts supported

  • Individual brokerage accounts

  • ROTH and Traditional IRAs

  • UGMA/UTMA accounts

Note: Only individual brokerage accounts are available to be managed with Smart Portfolios. IRA and UTMA/UMGA accounts are available for DIY management only.

Tax strategy

Not available.

Automatic rebalancing

Smart Portfolios option features automatic rebalancing upon withdrawals or contributions, plus quarterly rebalancing.

Human advisor option

Not available.

Bank account/cash management account

Stash offers access to an online banking account with a stock-back rewards debit card, but the account doesn't pay interest.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Phone and email support Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Additional email support is available on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern.

More details about Stash's ratings

Stash is quite different from other robo-advisors we review. Instead of do-it-yourself or robo-advisor management, Stash offers clients the ability to do both depending on their tier of service. Robo-advisor management (called Smart Portfolios) is available under the Stash Growth and Stash+ plans. The majority of this review will focus on Stash Growth with Smart Portfolios, but we’ll go over the hands-on investing access (Stash Beginner) and Stash+ at the end of this review.

Account minimum: 4 out of 5 stars

It takes only $5 to start investing with Stash, which makes it great for all investors to access. Some robo-advisors have $0 minimums, but others have minimums as high as $500 or even $5,000.

Account management fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Stash offers three levels of its subscription service. The first tier, Stash Beginner, includes a DIY investment account and access to an online bank account. Automated investing starts at the $3-a-month tier.

Stash Beginner ($1/month)

Stash Growth ($3/month)

Stash+ ($9/month)

Investing

DIY investing only.

DIY investing, access to a robo-advisor portfolio and retirement accounts like IRAs.

DIY investing, access to a robo-advisor portfolio, retirement accounts like IRAs and custodial.

Banking

Bank account and Stock-Back Card.

Bank account and Stock-Back Card.

Bank account and Stock-Back Card with 2x stock (subject to terms and conditions).

The $3 monthly fee provides access to the robo-advisor feature, Smart Portfolios and Retirement Portfolios (which includes access to IRAs, though IRAs cannot be managed through Smart Portfolios). This isn’t unheard of with robo-advisors (Ellevest and Acorns charge a similar fee to access a retirement account), but all the robo-advisors we review include an automated portfolio with their base fee. Stash is the only one that doesn’t offer automated investment management at the lowest tier.

Other robo-advisors charge a fee based on the amount of money they are managing for you. For example, Betterment and Wealthfront have a 0.25% management fee — if you have $1,000 under management, the annual cost will be $2.50. These services will also build your portfolio, rebalance it and apply tax-loss harvesting on taxable accounts. Unlike Stash, retirement accounts are offered at the base fee for both of these providers.

Keep in mind, if you opt for Stash Growth ($3 a month) or Stash+ ($9 a month), you’ll still get access to Stash Beginner and have the opportunity to pick your own investments through an individual brokerage account. This DIY-and-automated approach isn’t available at other robo-advisors.

One other bonus feature Stash offers is life insurance access through Avibra, but the benefit amounts are hardly meaningful: At the $1- and $3-a-month tiers, the benefit amount is $1,000, and it rises to $10,000 at the Stash+ $9-a-month level.

» Want to compare more providers? Check out our top picks for best robo-advisors.

Investment expense ratios: 5 out of 5 stars

The ETFs available through Stash have an average expense ratio — the annual fee charged to investors — of 0.06% for all Smart Portfolios. That’s fairly low compared to Stash’s competitors.

Account fees: 3 out of 5 stars

Stash charges no standard transfer fee, but there is a 1% fee for instant transfers. A $75 ACAT fee is charged if an investor chooses to move assets to another brokerage firm. Stash customers can withdraw from their Smart Portfolio at no cost, and there are no fees for selling investments.

Portfolio mix: 3 out of 5 stars

Stash’s automated portfolios are made up of ETFs that include exposure to U.S. stocks, international stocks (in both developed and emerging markets) and U.S. and international bonds. Stash utilizes fractional shares so that all of your money is invested.

Stash also has a tool to educate users about the power of investing. Users can quickly adjust a slider to indicate their monthly deposit and growth potential, or anticipated investment return, and the app will show how much the user could have after one year, five years and 10 years.

Socially responsible portfolio options: 2 out of 5 stars

Stash does not offer an automated socially responsible portfolio, but within the DIY portfolio (available at any price tier) Stash offers access to thematic ETFs, including clean energy and women’s empowerment.

Looking for sustainable portfolios? Check out the best socially responsible robo-advisors.

Accounts supported: 1 out of 5 stars

For a managed Smart Portfolio, clients only have access to an individual brokerage account. Pretty much every other robo-advisor we review gives users the ability to have a managed portfolio with an IRA.

This is one of the clear instances where Stash Smart Portfolios fall behind its competitors. If you’d like to invest in an IRA or custodial account, you can, but you’ll need to pick the investments for it yourself.

Tax strategy: 1 out of 5 stars

Stash does not offer any form of tax strategy. Many other robo-advisors offer tax-loss harvesting, which is an investment strategy that can reduce the amount of tax you may have to pay when you sell your investments, or another form of tax mitigation, for free.

» Want to check out other providers? Here are our top picks for best robo-advisors.

Automatic rebalancing: 5 out of 5 stars

Stash Smart Portfolios offer quarterly automatic rebalancing if your portfolio drifts 5% away from your target allocation. For example, if your portfolio has an 80% stock allocation, and it jumps to 85% stocks, Stash will rebalance it for you.

Human advisor option: 1 out of 5 stars

Stash’s website states that all clients, at any level, receive “advice” that pertains to their level of membership ($1 gets beginner investing information, $3 gets growing personal finance information and $9 gets market insights and information about family finances). This advice is not personalized: The fine print clarifies that it refers to “Financial Counseling Advice which is investment advice in the form of guides and educational materials.” The “personalization” comes from the information users input when their accounts are being set up, similar to quizzes other robo-advisors employ to gauge an appropriate asset allocation. It does not mean that you receive personalized advice from a financial professional.

One example Stash gives of “personalized investment advice” is access to its Diversification Analysis tool, which helps customers maintain balanced portfolios (based on their risk profile for their personal portfolio). So if you have specific questions you’d like to ask a financial professional, you may want to look elsewhere.

Savings account/cash management options: 2 out of 5 stars

Stash offers access to a banking account with no overdraft fees or minimum balance through Green Dot Bank. It lets you save automatically using roundups and auto-invest, and it also lets you set goals by separating your cash into spaces for specific purposes. This tool can help with budgeting, and your goals can be customized for what you’re saving for. One caveat to this is that instant money transfers are subject to limitations, and that money moved into a goal must be moved back to the bank account available balance to be used. Also, Stash’s banking account does not pay interest.

Stash's Stock-Back Card rewards users with a percentage of their purchases back in stock. So when you shop at Walmart or Amazon, you’ll earn stock in those companies. When you spend at a local business, you’ll earn a stock or ETF from a preselected list. Stash Beginner ($1 per month) and Growth ($3 per month) customers earn 0.125% stock on all everyday purchases, and up to 5% at certain merchants with bonuses. Stash+ ($9 per month) customers earn 2x stock (subject to terms and conditions).

Customer support options: 4 out of 5 stars

Stash offers phone and email support Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET. Email support is also available on weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Stash Beginner and Stash+

Stash Beginner is Stash’s lowest tier at $1 a month, or $12 a year. For this fee, clients get access to a taxable brokerage account and banking with Stash’s Stock-Back card. And while that $1 per month sounds inexpensive, as a percentage of assets it can be quite high, especially for lower balances: An investor with a $500 balance will pay 2.4%; someone with a $2,500 balance will pay 0.48%.

Other robo-advisors that charge a set fee per month, such as Ellevest, offer a managed portfolio for that $1 per month. With Stash, you have to up your monthly payment to $3 a month for a managed portfolio.

Within its DIY portfolios, Stash offers access to more than 4,000 individual stocks and ETFs. If you’re looking for particular investments, such as socially responsible ETFs, Stash organizes ETFs into different categories to help make them easy to find. There are mission-driven themes designed to guide users toward investing with their hearts. For example, Clean & Green invests in clean energy and Do the Right Thing is socially responsible companies.

Stash+ is the provider’s $9-per-month service. For that hefty fee you’ll get access to two custodial accounts and a higher reward with Stash’s Stock-Back Card (2x stock) in addition to all the features of the lower tiers. Your life insurance access also increases from $1,000 to $10,000.

» Eager to pick your own investments? See our best online stock brokers.

Is Stash right for you?

If you’re looking for access to both a managed portfolio and an individual brokerage account where you can dabble in picking your own investments, Stash may be a good fit. Stash also provides access to fractional shares, allowing you to diversify with very little money.

But if you’re just looking for automated investment management, you can get similar services for less elsewhere. Other robo-advisors will also allow you to have an IRA managed.

How do we review robo-advisors?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. robo-advisors by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgments on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct firsthand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.