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Cash Back

Investment apps offer a new way to earn cash back

Apps such as Acorns Found Money, Stash and EvoShare make it easy to earn cash back you can invest – if you do it right

Summary

Interested in investing for your future and earning cash back at the same time? These apps allow it, as long as you pay attention to fees and make sure not to overspend. These tips can help.

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Investing apps are designed to make building a portfolio easier, whether you’re investing for retirement or any other financial goal.

Aside from convenience, there’s another reason to consider investing through an app: earning cash back.

Acorns Earn, EvoShare and Stash Invest have all introduced cash back rewards programs for investors. They each work differently but share the same goal: rewarding app users with cash they can use to invest and grow wealth.

That’s a big incentive to sign up, especially for younger adults who may not have made much progress with investing yet, says Logan Allec, a certified public accountant who owns the personal finance site Money Done Right.

“Millennials trust apps for everything from tracking their health to finding a date,” says Allec, and these apps make it easy to find the money to invest.

If you’re ready to wade into the market, these tips can help rev up your portfolio using an investing app.

Investment apps: How they work, how they earn, invest cash back

The first thing to know about investing apps that offer cash back is that they aren’t all the same. This table highlights how the cash back programs offered by Acorns, EvoShare and Stash invest compare:

How it works

What Can You Earn?

How Cash Back Is Invested

Acorns Earn
  • Earn cash back through the Acorns app when you shop at over 350 partners using a linked credit or debit card.
  • Earn additional cash back when you shop online using the Acorns Earn Chrome browser extension.
  • Acorns Earn can offer a percentage of the purchase as cash back or a flat dollar amount.
  • Recent cash back offers include $30 for new Blue Apron customers and 5% back at Macy’s.
  • Cash back earned through Earn is deposited into your Acorns Core account, where you can invest it in one of Acorns’ exchange-traded fund portfolios.
  • Rewards are typically deposited between 90 and 120 days after making a qualifying purchase.
EvoShare
  • Earn cash back when you spend at more than 10,000 online and local businesses using a linked credit or debit card.

 

 

  • EvoShare users can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 1,300 businesses online.
  • Earn up to 30% cash back when you shop at 8,700+ local businesses or book stays at more than 700,000 hotels.

 

  • Cash back is automatically deposited into your linked retirement or college savings account; EvoShare also allows you to apply cash back to student loan balances.
  • Employers must participate in the EvoShare program to allow cash back contributions to retirement accounts.
Stash
  • Earn back a percentage of your purchases in stock shares of partner Stash Invest brands when you shop using the Stash Invest debit card.
  • Members earn at least 0.125% Stock-Back on all purchases every day and up to 5% Stock-Back at certain merchants with Stock-Back bonuses.
  • Stock-Back earnings are credited to your Stash Invest account.

How much cash back can you earn?

EvoShare offers the most cash back, whether you’re shopping online or in-store, with up to 40% back at selected merchants.

The potential to get up to 5% back with Acorns or Stash, however, is comparable to what you may get with certain cash back credit cards that offer rotating categories, such as Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Discover it® Cash Back (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases quarterly, then 1%, activation required).

In terms of what you can invest in, Acorns offers exchange-traded funds while Stash offers ETFs and individual stocks. In both cases, your investments are held in taxable investment accounts.

With EvoShare, your investment options are dictated by the retirement or college savings fund you link to your account.

Think about where investment apps fit into your financial strategy

What’s appealing about these programs is that they make it easy to accumulate cash to invest based on how you already shop, online or in-store.

Looking at cash back offers as a bonus to the shopping you already do can help you keep spending in perspective, says Dustyn Ferguson, owner of personal finance site Dime Will Tell.

“In the chase of earning cash back, we can sometimes spend more than we normally would, which is actually hurting your financial goals,” he says.

Ferguson says understanding how the apps work can make it easier to determine where they belong in your larger financial plan.

Investment apps can offer benefits beyond cash back as well. Riley Adams, a certified public accountant and founder of personal finance site Young and The Invested, says they encourage people to adopt investing as a regular money habit.

“These apps have done a wonderful job of changing the mindset from travel points or cash back points meant to fuel more consumption to one which encourages long-term thinking,” says Adams. “By rewarding spending with stock investments, it allows younger people to get invested in the market earlier when they can benefit from the power of compounding.”

For example, assume you earn $100 a month in cash back with an investing app. You invest the money and earn a 6% annual return. After 30 years, you’d have nearly $95,000 in spare cash just from spending and earning rewards through the app.

Tailor purchases to maximize your investing app’s cash back potential

You can link any type of credit card to Acorns or EvoShare. If you have a cash back credit card, that’s an opportunity to stack rewards.

  • Say you have the Citi® Double Cash Card, for example. This card offers 1% on purchases when you make them and another 1% when the purchase is paid.
  • You link your card to Acorns Earn and shop online at partner brand Nike to earn 5% back. Altogether, you’d earn 7% back on what you spend.
  • Five percent would go into your Acorns Core account to invest. The other 2% you’d be able to redeem through Citi for statement credit, gift cards or a cash deposit into your bank account. Other than the initial sign-up that’s required for Acorns, it’s really that easy.

Allec says you can leverage your credit card for more rewards by being strategic in which cards you link to an investing app.

“Don’t be afraid to change payment methods within the app to maximize rewards earnings,” he says.

If you have a card like Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 4% back on dining, you have an opportunity to supersize cash back earnings by connecting it to a dining deal through the app.

Just pay attention to merchant codes when you’re spending to earn cash back with an investment app to make sure you get the most cash back possible.

EvoShare and Acorns, for example, partner with Expedia and Airbnb, respectively. If you were using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to book travel and take advantage of a cash back deal, you’d be OK since Chase codes those purchases as travel.

Other travel cards, however, may not. In that scenario, you may only get cash back from the investing app, not your card.

Factor in the ROI of using an investing app to get cash back

Getting cash back through an investment app is great, but it’s not necessarily free. There’s no rule saying you can’t use all three of the ones mentioned here, but it may be more cost-efficient to stick with just one.

“Many of these kinds of apps charge a flat fee per month for certain account balances and it doesn’t make sense to pay a monthly fee twice,” says Allec. Here’s how pricing for Stash and Acorns compare.

  • Both Stash and Acorns charge $1 per month for their lowest tier plans.
  • At higher tiers fees max out at $9 per month and $5 per month respectively.

“While this may not sound like a lot, it can eat into returns at low investment levels,” says Allec.

You also have to weigh the fees against the cash rewards you’ve earned with the app, as well as any fees or interest paid to your cash rewards card if you used it to shop through the app.

“If you get $100 per year in rewards but pay $50 in fees, you haven’t come out too far ahead,” says Adams.

Perhaps most importantly, consider the potential long-term cost to your financial health if you’re tempted to overspend through an investing app just to get cash rewards.

“If you earn 5% cash back when you shop at a given store with an investing app, you may be inclined to shop there more and maybe even spend more than normal,” says Ferguson. “But, the extra cash back rarely compensates for the extra money you spent.”

Comparing the best rewards cards can help you find the right card to pair up with cash back investment apps. This can make it easier to earn the most cash back possible when using these apps to grow wealth.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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