M1 Finance

Wealthfront vs Acorns (2021)


Compare Acorns versus Wealthfront - which broker is better in 2021? IRA/Roth accounts, online investing fees, broker mutual fund rates, and differences.



Overview


Are you looking for an inexpensive robo investing service? If so, Acorns and Wealthfront should be at the top of your list. In addition to automated investing, these two have other perks that you may really like. Here’s the lowdown:


Pricing


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Wealthfront $0 na na 0.25% 0.25%
Acorns na na na $1-$3 per month $1-$3 per month


Promotion Links


Acorns: Try Acorns for free and get a $5 friend referral bonus.

Wealthfront: None



First Category: Investing Styles


Acorns’s claim to fame is its round-up service. The way it works is you link a credit or debit card (it doesn’t have to be an Acorns card), and any purchase you make gets rounded up to the next dollar. The change is transferred to an Acorns account (there are several account types available), and this builds up the balance over time.

Another service Acorns offers is a cash-back system. This time you have to use an Acorns debit card (more on that in a bit) at specific retailers; not all retailers are eligible. Some examples we found are Liberty Mutual and Hotels.com.

And then of course there is Acorns’s digital investment management. There is no percent-based fee; instead, Acorns charges a flat monthly fee, ranging from $1 to $5. The more you pay, the more you get.

Wealthfront’s robo service is the opposite. Instead of a flat monthly fee, customers pay 0.25% per annum, and this fee is divided by 12 to arrive at a monthly fee. Neither broker charges any commissions on ETF trades, which is the only thing you’ll get at either firm.

Wealthfront doesn’t have round-up or cash-back programs.

Winner: Acorns


Acorns Investing Review


Second Category: Education and Research


Because neither broker-dealer in this review provides self-directed accounts, you won’t find security analysis tools of any kind at either firm. You will find videos and articles on a wide range of financial topics, though.

Because both companies tend to target young investors with little experience, these materials tend to cover the basics of just about everything. At Wealthfront, we found articles on home ownership and travelling. The company also has an extensive blog with all sorts of articles.

Acorns has a partnership with CNBC, which means it has a lot of videos on top of its article library. Topics are almost limitless, from rolling over a 401(k) to shopping smartly on Cyber Monday.

Winner: Acorns


Third Category: Banking Tools


On top of being able to link debit and credit cards to an Acorns account, the broker offers Acorns Spend, which is a discrete checking account. It comes with an Acorns-branded Visa debit card, which can withdraw cash at 55,000 ATMs without any fees. The cost is $3 per month.

For $0 per month, Wealthfront customers get a Visa debit card that can withdraw cash fee-free at 19,000 ATMs. The checking account earns 0.35% interest and charges no overdraft fees or stop payment fees.

Winner: Wealthfront


Wealthfront vs Acorns


Fourth Category: Margin Borrowing


Strictly speaking, neither company offers trading on margin. Remember, these are robo-only accounts. However, Wealthfront does offer something called Portfolio Line of Credit. The broker doesn’t require a credit check for the line of credit, but it does require a $25,000 minimum balance. This balance serves as collateral on any loan you take out. Currently, Wealthfront charges between 2.40% and 3.65%, a pretty good deal.

Winner: Wealthfront


Fifth Category: Websites


Do you want to trade on an advanced desktop platform? Forget about these two brokers. Their robo services only come with basic websites, which can be used for portfolio analysis and account management.

At Wealthfront, there’s a tool to establish goals, such as saving for college or starting a retirement nest egg. You can also set up automatic transfers from a linked bank account so that you don’t have to log in and manually make transfers all the time.


Wealthfront IRA


Acorns has similar widgets for portfolio analysis. For example, one tool predicts what an account’s balance will be in the future based on a variety of factors, such as how frequently and how much you’re contributing to the account.


Acorns


Winner: Draw


Sixth Category: Mobile Apps


Since these two are modern firms, you can be sure that you’ll get mobile apps. Both are available on Apple and Android phones (they’re not designed for tablets). Many (but not all) of the same website tools will be found on these apps, and this includes both brokerage and banking widgets. Acorns, but not Wealthfront, offers iMessage.

Winner: Acorns


Seventh Category: Miscellaneous Services


IRAs: Individual Retirement Accounts (SEP, Traditional, and Roth to be specific) are available at both brokers.

Fractional-share Trading: Acorns, but not Wealthfront, trades fractional shares of ETFs.

Dividend Reinvestment Program: Both firms eventually reinvest dividends into an account’s ETF holdings. Because Wealthfront doesn’t trade fractions of a share, it will probably take longer in some accounts to reinvest cash dividends.

IPO availability: Wealthfront has an article on its educational section that discusses IPOs, although these of course aren’t available at the robo firm.

Extended hours: Neither broker offers this service.

Winner: Slight lead by Acorns


Finally, Our Recommendations


Retirement Savers and Long-Term Investors: Wealthfront, but not Acorns, offers a 529 plan. For this reason, we would lean towards Wealthfront.

Beginners: Acorns does a slightly better job for total newbies.

Small Accounts: Wealthfront has a $500 minimum, so anyone with less than that amount would have to go with Acorns. Above $500 but below $5,000, it will be cheaper to use Wealthfront (percent-based fee vs. flat fee).


Promotion Links


Acorns: Try Acorns for free and get a $5 friend referral bonus.

Wealthfront: None



Wealthfront vs Acorns - Outcome


It is clear from this investigation that Wealthfront and Acorns are very close overall. If you need to save some money for college, be sure to open a 529 plan at Wealthfront.