Stash Invest App Review: Pros, Cons, and How It Works

FT Contributor  | 

Stash Invest is an investment app geared towards beginning investors. It specializes in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and it makes the process of selecting and purchasing these investments straightforward.

Stash Invest makes it possible for investors to purchase stocks or ETFs based on a specific theme or area of interest. They also guide investors with robo-advisors, which are AI programs that use the data you provide to help you select investments that fit your criteria.

Stash offers different tiers, with fees ranging from $1 to $9 per month. Some investors could see this as a drawback because other brokerages for beginning investors do not charge such fees. However, they also do not provide the level of guidance that Stash does.

If you want guidance and information as you select your investments and build a strategy, Stash could be a good option for you.

For a limited time only, Stash is currently offering $5 FREE to new customers who sign up here.

What Is Stash?

Stash isn’t a robo-advisor per se because it allows you to make your own decisions. The information that it provides merely points you in the right direction.

Stash has some useful features that other basic brokerages do not have. For example, you can open a custodial account, take part in the stock-back rewards program, and take advantage of automated savings features.

The main goal of Stash is to help investors start with as little money as possible. Building a diversified investment portfolio may seem daunting to novice investors, so a lot of the information that Stash provides focuses on making the process clearer and easier to understand.

Once you sign up for Stash, you can build your portfolio based on your risk profile and personal financial goals. Stash also has an online banking service with a debit card that it offers in partnership with the Green Dot Bank.

How Does Stash Work?

You can access Stash via its website or by downloading the Stash Invest app for Android or iOS. You then set up an account with an email and password.

Like other investing sites, you need to enter your personal information, such as a name and Social Security number. You need to be at least 18 years old to open an account, though custodial accounts are also available.

Once you sign up, you can fund your account with a transfer from your bank.

Part of the account setup process involves filling out a questionnaire. Stash uses this information to determine a risk profile, which it will use to personalize your investment advice and direct you to the site’s expansive educational section.

Stash has over 1,800 ETFs and stocks, and you can also trade options and invest in bonds. Some stocks and funds even have fractional shares, which means you may purchase part of one share. This option can be ideal if you only have a few dollars to invest, but still want a diversified portfolio.

Who Is Best Suited for Stash?

Stash is best suited for those who are new to investing. The app will walk you through everything you need to know to make informed investments, and it will point you in the right direction based on your interests and risk tolerance.

Another reason that this option is suitable for novice investors is that it has low fees and fractional shares, which allow you to build a diverse portfolio with a small amount of money. 

Experienced investors who do not need guidance will likely feel that Stash does not provide the information or features they need.

What Are the Stash App’s Features?

Stash has several account types, and the higher tiers have features that may appeal to more experienced investors.

Multiple Types of Accounts

Stash Invest offers four types of accounts:

  • Banking Account – This is an online bank account that comes with a debit card, rewards programs, and flexible money management.
  • Investment Account – This is the main Stash Invest account. It allows you to invest in over 1,800 stocks and ETFs.
  • Retirement Account – This account offers both Roth and Traditional IRAs and the same investment choices as the Investment Account.
  • Custodial Account – Custodial accounts are for parents who would like to open accounts for their children and teach them investing from an early age.

Fractional Shares

Fractional shares are an attractive feature for new investors without much capital. Stash Invest allows you to buy a fraction of a share for as little as $1.

Such partial shares allow you to own pieces of stock regardless of how much money you have. You can start diversifying your portfolio from the very beginning of your investment career.

Fractional shares can be especially attractive for stocks like Apple, Google, and other stocks that cost hundreds of dollars per share.

Educational Content and Guidance

Stash offers free educational resources through the Stash Learn section of the app and website.

Stash Learn has an extensive collection of articles organized by topics such as career, parenting, retirement, vacation, and income. There are also podcasts and tutorials on how to use the Stash platform. The FAQ has links that lead to these tutorials.

The content in Stash Learn is accessible and easy-to-understand, so it is ideal for beginners who are intimidated by online brokerages geared towards experienced investors.

If you subscribe to the premium investment account ($9 per month), you also get access to market analysis and informational content that you won’t find in lower tiers.

The Portfolio Builder tool offers recommendations based on Stash’s philosophy of regular investing, diversification, long-term profits, and risk management. Another Stash AI tool is the Coach, which helps you select stocks based on your profile and the data you provide.

ETFs

Stash offers a wide range of ETFs, and they have renamed them so that the title accurately reflects what the fund holds.

For example, the Vanguard Small-Cap ETF is “Small but Mighty,” while the SPDR S&P BioTech ETF is “Modern Meds.” These names help investors figure out what kind of holdings are in each ETF without looking at the details.

Stash’s ETFs get organized into three categories: Belief, Balance, and Life.

  • The Belief category contains investments dedicated to missions such as clean energy, socially responsible companies, and gender diversity in company leadership.
  • The Balance category contains investments that align with the general risk profile and investment goals of the investor.
  • The Life category divides companies into areas that correspond with everyday life, such as Internet Titans and Retail Therapy.

Automation

Like Acorns, Stash has an automated savings plan. You can round up your debit card purchases and, once the round-ups reach $5, the money gets automatically deposited into your investment account.

The SmartStash feature also analyzes regular cash flow in your bank account and sends extra money into your savings account when available.

Finally, the Stash Dividend Reinvestment Program, or DRIP, automatically reinvests dividends earned on investments, allowing you to compound your investments.

These automated features make account management much more manageable and help you save and invest consistently.

Stock-Back Rewards

Stash offers fractional shares as a reward when you make purchases from a listed company.

For example, for the $1 and $3-per-month accounts, Stash offers 0.125% in rewards, while the $9 per month accounts get 0.25% in rewards. Also, every dollar spent on Netflix in a month attracts a 2% reward in fractional Netflix shares.

For non-publicly traded companies that are a part of the program, Stash invests the rewards in a diversified ETF.

What Are Stash’s Fees?

Stash does not have a minimum account balance. However, it does charge subscription fees for each account tier. There are three tiers: Beginner, Growth, and Stash+.

  • Beginner – This tier costs $1 per month and gives access to a personal investment account, stock-back rewards, and a debit account.
  • Growth – This tier costs $3 a month and offers everything in the Beginner account plus tax benefits for retirement investing.
  • Stash+ – This tier costs $9 a month. It offers all the features of the other accounts plus an option to open two custodial accounts. You also get double stock-back rewards, monthly market insight reports, and a metal debit card (instead of a plastic one).

There are some other costs you could encounter as well. Stash has an outgoing transfer fee of $75, which gets charged if you transfer your holdings to another broker from Stash.

ETFs at Stash have expense ratios. This cost is very common for ETFs, and it covers the fees associated with managing the fund. Expense ratios are less than 1% of the cost of a share, and the average expense ratio is 0.23%

Pros and Cons of Stash

Like all brokerages and investment services, Stash has advantages and drawbacks. You need to weigh these when deciding whether to invest.

Pros

  • New Customer Incentives – Stash is currently offering $5 FREE to new customers. Simply sign up here and add $5 to your investment account (offers and promos may vary).
  • Values-based investing – Stash allows investors to invest based on their values and risk profile, which is much more goal-oriented and personalized than random investing.
  • Automation features – Programs like DRIP and SmartStash give investors peace of mind by handling reinvestments and automating savings so that you can save consistently.  
  • User-friendly design – Stash is for beginners. Both the mobile app and website are easy to navigate. All the relevant information about individual stocks and ETFs comes in an easy-to-understand format on a single page.
  • Plentiful investment options – Stash offers over 1,800 stocks and ETFs, including big names like Costco and Apple.
  • Helpful educational content and recommendations – Stash’s content and investment recommendations make it easier for beginners to start their investing career without having to learn sophisticated strategies and financial terms.

Cons

You also need to consider the cons of Stash to decide if the positive features outweigh the negative ones.

  • Higher fees than some competitors – Stash’s fees can be high for accounts with lower balances. In comparison, Wealthfront, another investment app, charges only 0.25% for management on accounts with more than $5,000. Acorns charges a maximum of $2 per month subscription.
  • High ETF expense ratios – The average expense ratio for the ETFs on Stash is 0.23%, which is high compared to ETFs offered by robo-advisors.
  • Low transparency before sign-up – The sign-up process includes committing to a regular deposit amount, even before you know your investment options. While you can opt-out of this immediately after signing up, some investors won’t appreciate the lack of transparency. Also, Stash doesn’t have much information on their website on expense ratios for different investments or the available securities. You need to sign up to get this information.

Is Stash the Best Investment App for You?

If you’re a beginner and need guidance as you explore your options and build a diversified portfolio, Stash is a great option.

However, it is not the only option.

When it comes to cost, there are other similar investment apps, such as Wealthfront, Acorns, and M1 Finance. Compared to these competitors, Stash has slightly higher fees, but more features and guidance.

You will need to decide if the features and guidance available at Stash make it better than the competition.


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