It’s so easy to put off saving until tomorrow. Articles about the retirement crisis in America seem to be published once a week, but Americans as a whole still don’t do enough to fund investment accounts. Like most of life’s big undertakings, the first step is the most difficult. If you only have a couple hundred dollars (or less) to invest, you might think you’ll struggle to build a diverse portfolio, even with ETFs.
Micro investing apps solve that problem. These companies want to get a younger generation into the investment world, even if they can only afford to put away leftover change from a coffee run. There’s no gimmick, no sales pitch and no promise of beating the market. The primary goal is helping you take that first step.
Best Micro Investing Apps:
- Best Overall: Acorns
- Best for Pre-built Portfolios: Qapital
- Best for ETFs: Stash
- Best for IRAs: WiseBanyan
What are Micro Investing Apps?
One of the biggest barriers to building a portfolio is the cost of getting started. Look at the share price on some of the hottest tech stocks right now. Facebook, Netflix, and Tesla are all over $100 per share and if you want to add Google and Amazon That’s the price of a Caribbean vacation. Because shares are expensive and commissions often high, many young people shun traditional brokerage firms. If it’s so expensive to start, why bother?
That changed when companies like Acorns and Stash entered the picture. Using a simple “set it and forget it” approach, they encourage customers to save an extra buck every now and then for investing in fractional shares.
Say you spend $1.50 per day on a coffee from your local corner store. You can round up the purchase and deposit the extra change into an investment account. Fifty cents isn’t enough to build a portfolio, but if you save 50 cents every single day for a year, that’s $182.50 annually. Still small potatoes, sure, but what if you also round up a $71 grocery bill to $75? And turn a $95 cable/internet bill into $100? These small increments can add up to hundreds of extra dollars saved each year.
Who Should Use Micro Investing Apps?
Micro investing apps have two main selling points: low costs and low (or non-existent) account minimums. You don’t need a lot of money or investing knowledge to get started, so the most common users of micro investing apps are:
- Young investors without access to much capital.
- Inexperienced investors who don’t want to pay commissions or deposit a lot of money right away.
- Hands-off investors who want to automate saving into a brokerage account.
- Investors who want to develop good habits like dollar-cost averaging and resist the urge to overtrade.
You don’t necessarily need to be a millennial to fit the micro investing profile, but millennials are the ones flocking to these platforms. These companies have rolled out terrific mobile apps, each built to simplify and automate the investment process.
Things to Look for in a Micro Investing App
If micro investing sounds like something that fits your style and budget, you’ll need to select a company that matches your long-term goals. Not all micro investing platforms are the same. Some build their own portfolios and others invest in established ETFs and mutual funds. The best ones all have a few common attributes:
- Affordability: Even though these companies invest small increments of money, there’s still a cost of doing business. Find a company that offers the level of service you’re looking for at a competitive price. What’s the point of paying high fees if you’re only investing a few dollars at a time?
- Low minimum account balances: Avoiding high account minimums is a must. If you need a lot of money to get started, you’re probably better off with a traditional brokerage.
- Portfolio variety: Diversification is more than a buzzword. The best micro investing apps want to help you reach your investing goals by providing a wide array of options.
Benzinga used specific criteria to determine the top micro investing apps. Each company may have different attributes, but you’ll definitely notice a pattern among our highest ranked apps.
The Best Micro Investing Apps
You’ll find the best micro investing apps below, based on affordability, low minimum account balances, and portfolio variety.
Acorns is one of the most prominent names in the micro investing world. The company has been gaining steam since it was founded in 2012.
The company has two ways for users to invest: you can link your bank account and deposit money the old-fashioned way or you can link your debit or credit card and contribute by rounding up purchases. If you turn on the “round up” feature and buy a cheesesteak for $6.75, you’ll pay $7 and the extra quarter will go into your Acorns portfolio.
There are three different pricing tiers, but they don’t charge a percentage of assets unless you have over $1 million. You only need $5 to open an account.
- $1 per month for standard Acorns Core
- $2 per month for Acorns Later with IRA accounts and extra features
- $3 per month for Acorns Later + Spend with all extra features plus a checking account
iOS and Android
Qapital helps you save, invest, spend and plan all in one app. They even offer pre-built portfolios that are ideal for newer investors.
Qapital has 3 tiers: basic, complete and master. Here is what you’ll get with each tier along with a price comparison.
- Basic is $3 a month. It comes with unlimited savings tools from goal creation to money transfers. Basic members save an average of $1,500 each year.
- Complete is $6 a month. This tier comes with everything offered in Basic with the addition of Payday Divvy, spending tracker, investing and more. This tier saves members an average of $4,300 per year.
- Master is $12 a month. It comes with all of the capabilities of a Basic and Complete plan plus admission to Money Missions and the first look at new features. Master members save an average of $5,000 every year.
3. Stash Invest
Stash Invest has a huge selection of investment options, including individual stocks like 3M, Bank of America and Netflix. Like Acorns, you only need $5 to get started and you can make deposits straight from your bank account.
With Stash, you have more control over the investment process and can choose from a broader selection of securities. Stash has no commissions or fees on trading, either, so it’s free to adjust your asset allocation. A future expansion includes banking services, which would make Stash a one-stop shop for money management.
- $1 per month or 0.25% on assets over $5,000
iOS and Android
WiseBanyan prides itself on being the world’s first free financial advisor. The company backs up the talk with the lowest minimums in the industry – $1. And you don’t even need to keep that $1 in the account after opening it!
The company only charges for its extra features, so you can open a basic account and build a portfolio without being charged a penny. WiseBanyan has seven different “milestones” for clients to save toward, such as retirement or a new home, and the portfolio is constructed with that specific milestone in mind. The longer the timeframe, the more risk in the portfolio.
- Extras like Tax Protection, Portfolio Plus, and Fast Money have fees
iOS and Android
StockPile lets you open up an account with no fees for as little as $5. From there, you can trade over 1,000 stocks and ETFs for only 99 cents per transaction. But here’s the catch: you don’t have to purchase full shares. StockPile lets clients buy fractional shares, so diverse stock portfolios can be built with minimal capital.
Paying commissions isn’t a quality we’re looking for in micro investing, but StockPile is one of the few apps to borrow elements from traditional brokerages. Want to build a portfolio of 20 different volatile tech stocks? StockPile will let you do it for a fraction of the cost, and you can even link your account to PayPal.
- 99 cents per trade
iOS and Android
5. Motif Investing
Investing can be personal and not everyone is comfortable owning shares of cigarette makers, fast food restaurants, or gun manufacturers. If you’d like to build a portfolio based on a theme of social responsibility, Motif might be the micro investing platform for you.
Motif builds baskets of stocks and ETFs based on certain themes and you can choose themes (or “motifs”) based on your personal preferences. With a basic trading account, you can trade motifs or individual securities commission-free, provided you wait until the next market day to execute the trade. Be aware that Motif does have a minimum $300 for basic trading accounts and the real-time trading fees are high compared with other micro investing apps.
- 0.25% on assets
iOS and Android
Unlike the rest of the platforms on this list, Clink doesn’t promote itself strictly as an investment app. Instead, it just wants you to save a little bit of money every day. You can open an account easily enough by linking your bank account and depositing an initial $5 to get started. Using the Clink scheduler, you can set up daily deposits for as little as $1. Clink isn’t just a virtual cookie jar, though.
The company combines six different Vanguard ETFs (VOO, VGK, VWO, VCIT, VTIP, and BND) to develop portfolios based on risk preferences. Advanced features are available for experienced investors, but you don’t need any market knowledge to get started with the free account.
- $1 per month or 0.25% on accounts over $5,000
- iOS and Android
Micro investing apps are great platforms for inexperienced investors to get a taste of trading without putting down huge sums of money.
However, you should have realistic expectations about how these apps build wealth. Saving a couple extra dollars each week isn’t going to make you rich. When using these apps, keep in mind they were made to be stepping stones toward more serious investing./plac
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