Are you looking for ways to up your investing? Do you want to get into the stock market game to make your money work for you? Are you sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines of your own financial life and want to take charge? If so, then this post is for you.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Webull, Robinhood, Acorns, and M1 in conversations with your friends. You probably know that each one is an investment platform that helps you with your investment portfolio, but how do they differ?
It’s likely that your friends or mentors have pointed you towards Acorns or Webull or Robinhood or M1 in the past (after all, they are all very popular finance platforms).
But they all sound like they do the same thing: help you manage and invest your money… So which one is better for what you’re trying to accomplish? How can you be sure that you’ve selected the right one to invest your money in?
This post will provide a deep dive into each investing platform. We’ll give an overview of each one, the pros and cons of each, and what makes them all special. For an in-depth guide highlighting the pros and cons of Acorns vs Robinhood vs Webull vs M1 Finance, read on!
Quick note: I am not a financial professional and you should always do your own research (including meeting with financial advisors) before putting any money into any financial products. This includes mutual funds, retirement accounts, and yes the new fancy mobile app that aims to manage your finances for you.
Overview of Each Investing App
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of which app offers a free stock and which one has the best customer service, it’s important to know a bit about each one.
This section will give a little bit of backstory behind each of these investing platforms and also provide a rundown of how each one works and what makes each one unique. Here’s a quick overview of each of these investing apps.
Acorns started out as an automated investing app that lets you save and accumulate wealth for the cheap fee of $1/month. Over time it’s grown and expanded to support retirement accounts, checking accounts, and even family saving accounts.
The basic premise of Acorns is simple: they want to make investing easy and painless for those who don’t have the time to invest. It works by “rounding up” your spending to the nearest dollar and investing the difference.
This way, you won’t even notice the money being invested because it’s only pennies every time. Over a long period though, these pennies do build up! All you need to do is link up a credit card or debit card plus your checking account, and Acorns will do the rest.
The Acorns app is extremely useful and especially targets young investors who belong to the tech-savvy generation (like millennials). As of now, Acorns can only truly be managed from the smartphone (although a slightly less functional desktop app is out as well), meaning that the entire investing experience will be extremely tech-based.
This app is a good option for anyone who hasn’t really invested before and who doesn’t have an investment strategy or who just needs a little bit of guidance in the investing world.
You might now say “that’s great, but I don’t really care to just invest my spare change.” And to that, I’d say “don’t let Acorns’ simple starts fool you.” Even though Acorns started as a small change investing app, you can now invest for your retirement, set up a checking account, and even set up a custodial investment account for your children with Acorns!
The story of Robinhood goes something like this: a daring (and quite handsome) young fellow leads a group of men and they ride around stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
While you probably won’t get a chunk of Jeff Bezo’s money from using the Robinhood app, you WILL gain access to a lot of the tools you’ll need to succeed in the investing world.
Robinhood aims to empower people from every background to get involved with investing, and in this sense, the Robinhood app gives you the keys to it all. You have access to trade individual stocks, cryptocurrency, ETFs and even options right at your fingertips!
Now, this isn’t special in and of itself. You can get these features with almost any brokerage account (like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, etc.) The cool part is that a “low-fee” brokerage firm will usually charge around $5 per trade… Robinhood on the other hand charges absolutely $0 in trading fees!
This is awesome for new investors as it allows you to invest smaller amounts of money without losing a big chunk to commissions and fees. On top of that, Robinhood also has a great reputation. Though zero-commission trading sounds a bit too good to be true, that’s really what you good when you invest with Robinhood.
Experts do caution novice investors from using it without much direction as that could lead to lots of money lost in the stock market. That said, Robinhood can be a very functional and enjoyable app to use if you play it right.
Perhaps you have some prior investing experience and are looking for an investing app that offers all of the tools you need. If so, the Webull is the app for you.
Webull is an awesome platform if you want everything you’ll ever need to actively trade stocks. You’ll be able to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, options, cryptocurrencies and even open a margin account with Webull!
Launched in 2017, it has an elegant interface for desktop and mobile and also offers an impressive array of tools that you’ll be able to take advantage of for technical analysis and more.
Another really cool thing about Webull is that it’s extremely community-driven. What this means is that when you start investing with Webull, you’ll feel as though your voice is heard and that you’re part of a larger social network.
The one thing to note about Webull, however, is that because of how many tools it offers, it doesn’t have the resources to help teach you how to use everything.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you use Webull if you’re an intermediate or advanced investor, but not if you don’t have much-investing experience under your belt.
Last, but certainly not least, we have M1 Finance. Founded in 2015, M1 Finance offers a unique blend of automated investing with a certain degree of customization.
Today, it manages over $2 billion and has over 500,000 clients. Suffice it to say, M1 Finance is definitely for the more sophisticated investor who is looking to create an investment portfolio tailored to their exact needs.
Also, unlike Robinhood and Webull, M1 doesn’t lean to one side or the other on the passive investing and active investing tree and instead encourages a bit of both. In fact, the app offers awesome features such as robo advisors to help point you in the right direction and keep you on track.
M1’s target customer is someone who ideally has a long-term focus and has lots of experience using brokerages to invest in stocks and ETFs. For these clients, M1 is perfect as it offers the option to buy fractional shares of stocks and also retain huge amounts of control over what happens in your portfolio.
Active traders, however, should probably steer clear. If you’re a day trader or someone who likes to follow the market, you won’t like the way that M1 “locks you in” and will be frustrated by the fees. For active traders, look more at Webull and Robinhood.
Pros and Cons of Each Investing App
Before making your final decision as to which investing app to choose, you’ll want to know the advantages and disadvantages of each one. In this section, we’ll share the pros and cons of each of these investing platforms.
Pros of Acorns: Awesome Way to Start Saving
Acorns is awesome because it’s a totally painless way to save money. Because of how little goes to your savings each time, you don’t even notice the difference from your checking account. Then, after years of accumulation, you’ll find that you saved up a pretty sizable chunk of change without really doing anything!
On top of that, you really don’t need to understand anything about investing to use Acorns. It truly shields users from all the nitty-gritty complexities of the investing world. You won’t need to do any sort of technical analysis or portfolio theory when using Acorns.
There is also no account minimum to use Acorns. You can literally start investing with as little as $0. How cool is that?!
Finally, it’s extremely easy to set up a custodial account for your children and start investing for their future. What’s more, you can start educating your kids via Acorns by letting them manage their own money and watch it grow over time.
Cons: Not Enough Juice to Change Your Financial Life
When it comes to cons, the only real negatives of Acorns is that because of its conservative nature, you probably aren’t going to be beating the general stock market when it comes to returns. As reported by one user, in 2020 while the stock market grew upwards of 10%, their Acorns account only grew by 2%.
Furthermore, Acorns is only really good for “boosting” your savings and won’t get you the 10%-20% of income saved that you need to transform your financial future. You’re probably not going to save for retirement or for a house with an Acorns account (although something does beat nothing at the end of the day).
Finally, it IS possible to lose money with Acorns. It’s rare because of the portfolio’s conservative nature, but there is the possibility that you lose some principal when investing with Acorns.
Pros of Robinhood: Commission-Free Trading and Access to Crypto Trading
As the name of the app might imply, the Robinhood app is all about bringing access to the stock trading world to the fingertips of regular investors everywhere.
Generally, when that happens, you can expect to pay some hefty fees. Robinhood takes its namesake one step further by putting a feather in your cap and requiring no commissions on your transactions.
One of the other ways that Robinhood separates itself is by offering crypto trading, something that no other traditional brokerage offers. The layout is simple and easy to use, not requiring you to have investor experience to start investing.
It also offers a stock for free whenever you’re directed to use the app by a current Robinhood user. This could be anything from stock in Prospect Capital to stock in Apple.
Cons of Robinhood: Lack of Direction
Robinhood’s most common use is beginner investors. These investors (which might include yourself) have very little to no prior investing experience, which can actually make the app somewhat risky to use.
Due to Robinhood’s easy-to-use interface and lack of direction, beginners could get themselves in some harmful situations if they go in with a “shop-and-drop” attitude.
Without understanding how to indicate positive investing trends and how to properly research before making investments, Robinhood does lack something to be desired in that area. Fortunately, with proper financial direction, you could benefit highly from this app!
Pros of Webull: Free Trading and Simulated Trading
Where Robinhood tends to cater to beginner investors and offer them access to as many forms of investing as possible, Webull focuses on the experienced investor.
Like Robinhood, it offers commission-free trading to its users. It’s the only investing platform that offers simulated trading to its users, allowing you to refine your craft before you start using real dollars.
Many experienced traders enjoy using Webull over the other two. However, if you’re a beginner then you can still capitalize on the paper trading (simulated trading) tool before you invest in any other app of your choosing.
Cons of Webull: Somewhat Overwhelming Platform
Webull’s platform and overall layout will take some time to get used to. Unlike Robinhood, they aren’t considering the beginner and average investor in the way that they’ve designed their apps.
This can be good and bad. It encourages users of any experience level to simulate their trading and refine their craft. However, it also limits the usability of intermediate users at times.
If you’re willing to commit yourself to the app and all of its features, then you should learn to use Webull with no issues. There are also tutorials you can use if you’re dead-set on using Webull instead of another app.
Pros of M1 Finance: Blend of Investing and Education
M1’s focus is to give you a free trading platform while educating you on which route to take with your investments.
For example, it offers a pie investing tool aimed to help you diversify your investments rather than invest too much stock in one particular company. It likes to point its users to ETFs and Index Funds to help keep things manageable.
However, it certainly doesn’t deter you from active investing. You’ll be able to dive into individual stocks as you so choose, just like you can with Robinhood and Webull.
Cons of M1 Finance: Lack of Robo Advisor Features
The free robo advisor feature of M1 comes at a “price”: the robo advisor doesn’t offer you a quick tax-loss harvesting refresher on the app. Most robo advisors typically offer this feature.
It also limits you to one or two daily trading windows (depending on whether you have M1 plus or not), which is something that most app users will find taxing and annoying. If you’re an active trader, it is probably best to stay away from M1 Finance.
Pick Your Tool: Acorns vs Robinhood vs Webull vs M1
In today’s day and age, investing is easier than ever. All you need is a bank account, some debit or credit cards, a will to learn, and determination to keep going and you’re good to go!
You don’t even need a large chunk of change to start investing because most of these modern investing apps don’t require an account minimum or minimum balance.
From automated investing to free stock trading to a guided approach, Acorns, Robinhood, Webull, and M1 offers it all.
So whether you want to constantly buy and sell stocks (like day traders) or hold a long-term investment portfolio or explore the different account types each mobile platform has to offer, you’ll probably find something to fit your needs amongst these 4 best investing apps.
As a quick recap, here are some of the distinguishing features of each app:
- Acorns – If you’re someone who’s completely new to investing or aren’t too interested in it but still want to make your money work for you, Acorns is the right platform to choose.
With Acorns, you can have your spare change invested and won’t even notice while your wealth accumulates and builds. On top of that, you can also access a whole bunch of their other offerings including their savings accounts, retirement accounts, and even custodial investment accounts.
- Robinhood – If you’re a new investor who’s just getting started in the trading game and want a user friendly platform that lets you buy and sell stocks with ease, look no further than Robinhood!
Robinhood lets you trade individual stocks, ETFs, options, and even cryptocurrencies at completely no charge. Check them out if you’re looking for a brokerage account that will suit your needs.
- Webull – For those who are more well-versed in the investing world, check out Webull. Webull offers you anything and everything you could ever need to perform technical analysis on stocks and make the right decision.
If you’re looking for a community-based investing app that will bring your investing game to another level, look no further than Webull.
- M1 Finance – Finally, if you’re a more sophisticated investor who’s looking for a way to take advantage of automated robo-advisor investing (but also still wants to maintain control over their portfolio), check out M1 Finance. With over $2 billion under management, M1 Finance is really for those aiming to let their money work for them.
So there you have it: a clear breakdown of each investing app, its pros and cons, and exactly what makes each one so special.
Now that you have seen an in-depth guide on Acorns vs Robinhood vs Webull vs M1, it’s time to pick the one that best fits your needs. They are all essentially free investing apps (or extremely low cost), but each has its own differences.
It’s up to you to use this information to choose the better option for your finances. (Remember to consult with a financial advisor and do tons of your own research before allocating any money to any investment).
If you’re reading this as an attempt to catch up to your retirement savings contributions, be sure to read this article for 8 ways you can do so (hint: not all 8 of them revolve around signing up for new, fancy investing apps).
Otherwise, enjoy whichever one of these free investment apps you choose and start making your money work for you! Happy wealth-building!