Betterment vs Acorns: Better Returns?

When choosing between robo-advisors, it’s all about the details. Betterment and Acorns are two platforms with different purposes. Betterment charges transparent, low commissions in exchange for personalized advice. Acorns helps you invest the spare change from everyday purchases into a diversified portfolio. We’ve compared the two head to head to help you decide which is right for you.

  • Review of: Betterment vs Acorns
  • Reviewed by: Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA ( Contributor)
  • Published on: June 20, 2016
  • Last modified: January 26, 2017
  • Betterment Promotional Offer Link?: Sign up here and Betterment will provide Non-pay 2 Months (this is by far the best promotional link available as most affiliates only offer 1 month no pay)


Fees have been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. Hidden fees or fees that seem small but add up quickly can cost you big in the long run.

For accounts with balances of $0 to $10K, Betterment charges 0.35% with a minimum of $100 monthly auto-deposit or $3 per month without auto-deposit. Balances of $10K to $100K are charged 0.25%. Balances greater than $100K are charged 0.15%. There are no transaction fees for buying or selling securities.

Acorns charges $1 per month on accounts under $5K. Accounts with balances greater than $5K are charged 0.25% per year, charged monthly and computed daily. Commissions are never charged for trades or portfolio balancing. College students can invest commission-free by signing up using a school email address (.edu) and listing their employment status as “Student.”

Investment Options

Betterment portfolios are composed solely of low-cost ETFs. Asset classes include US stocks, foreign stocks, emerging markets, inflation-protected Treasury securities, short-term treasuries, and corporate, municipal, emerging market and foreign bonds.

Acorns also offers all low-cost ETFs. Each portfolio is made up of six ETFs depending on the investors specific risk profile: large company stocks, small company stocks, emerging market stocks, government bonds, corporate bonds, and real estate stocks.

Account Minimums

Betterment has no account minimums. You can open an account with zero initial investment and are never charged a minimum account fee other than the $3 per month fee for not having a $100 per month auto-deposit.

Acorns also offers no account minimums. Your account can be opened with just pennies and you can continue investing with just the roundups from every day purchases.

Account Options and Features

Betterment offers individual and joint taxable accounts as well as trusts and Traditional, Roth, SEP, and rollover IRAs. Betterment features include automatic rebalancing and tax loss harvesting. They also offer the option of syncing outside investment accounts so you can see

your total net worth on one dashboard and receive advice from Betterment on how much you’re losing to fees and idle cash.

Acorns also offers automatic rebalancing, but their main feature is the ability to connect the debit cards and credit cards you use on a regular basis and invest the change from everyday purchases. Their Found Money feature, currently in beta, also helps you invest when you shop with participating brands using a linked card. Instead of cash back, the brands make additional investments into your Acorns account.

The bottom line? Any investor looking to save and invest a little extra can benefit from using Acorns to round-up purchases and invest the change. But the serious investor will be better served by Betterment’s personalized advice to seriously grow their portfolio with a number of account options.

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