There’s a growing arsenal of apps that integrate with your daily spending habits to deliver smart tips on how to make the most of your money. BillGuard, for example, helps you combat credit card fraud and hidden merchant fees. But a new entrant to the personal finance space is looking to go the extra mile not by saving you money, but by making you money.

How it works

Available in the US only from today, Acorns for iPhone wants to help you make the most of your cash by helping you invest your spare change. In a nutshell, the micro-investment service connects up with your credit or debit card and links in with any purchase you subsequently make. Acorns can ’round up’ to the nearest dollar and invest this for you automatically, or enable you to do it manually.

So, let’s say you buy some groceries for $14.27, Acorns can make this an even $15, with $0.73 going into a “diversified portfolio of index funds,” offered by the likes of Blackrock, Vanguard, and PIMCO. Portfolios are constructed using Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), guided by economist and Acorns advisor Harry Markowitz.

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You’ll be prompted to include your financial profile and “investment goals” during the set up process, as well as input your bank and card details.

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You’ll receive one of five portfolio recommendations, ranging from conservative to aggressive, which you can accept or manually opt for a different ‘risk’ level. Acorns then builds a portfolio specific to your requests.

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You don’t have to wait until you’re buying something though – you can invest money at any time by depositing funds. Any gains can be withdrawn any time direct to your bank account too.

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While there are no minimum amounts or no commission charged on the trades, the app permits unlimited investing and withdrawals for $1 per month. For any funds kept in your account, there is a maximum 0.5 percent annual management fee, which drops to 0.25 percent for assets of more than $5,000. In other words, Acorns wants you to keep your money ‘invested’.

“In today’s financial markets, there are many investing programs that require people to change their behavior and save large amounts they would otherwise spend,” explains Jeff Cruttenden, co-founder and COO of Acorns. “Our goal was to build an app that complements a customer’s spending habits and makes saving second nature. Rather than waiting to invest until they have a large lump sum, we want to encourage people to invest while they build wealth. To some, micro-investing may seem insignificant, but the compounding effect coupled with automatic dividend reinvestment can make a big difference if started early and held for the long term.”

Certainly, for those who believe investing is something reserved for brain-box number-crunchers or those with fat wallets, this type of micro-investing that weaves effortlessly into your daily spending is pretty smart.

Acorns is available to download from the US App Store today, with an Android beta phase kicking off in the next few weeks. We’re also told that Acorns is “actively pursuing international expansion,” though no timescale has been given for a wider rollout.

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Acorns | App Store