What do you do with your spare cash -- park it in a passbook savings account?
It's good to have liquid assets available for an emergency, but it's also true the money won't grow. Banks these days pay a tiny fraction of a percent in interest.
The stock market can offer more significant returns but can be more intimidating to novice investors, and many may require more cash to get started. Enter Stockpile, the self-described purveyor of gift cards for shares of stock. The company says these gift cards make it easy for anyone to invest in the stock market.
"Most people have never had an opportunity to own stock in their favorite companies because it's too expensive and complicated to get started," Avi Lele, founder and CEO of Stockpile, said in a statement.
$25 minimum investment
Lele says you can't do anything with $25 at a traditional brokerage, but he says Stockpile removes those barriers by selling fractional shares. If Apple is selling for $107 a share, you can still start accumulating shares, $25 at a time.
Just choose the card you want and pay the cashier, who activates it. To redeem the card and get the stock, just enter the code on the back of the card at stockpile.com, and create or log in to your Stockpile account.
Stockpile gift cards are available at many of the same places you buy gift cards for retailers and restaurants – from Office Depot to Kroger. It makes buying stock as easy as buying a product.
Just keep in mind that you aren't buying a product, but investing money. And investing a little at a time – dollar cost averaging – might not be a bad way to get started.
Assuming you make purchases on a regular basis, the share price might be up or down. The theory behind dollar cost averaging is that, over time, the total value of the position will exceed what you paid.
How it works
When you buy a Stockpile giftcard, you can choose from a thousand different stocks or funds. Users can also redeem rewards points for stock, or turn existing gift cards into stock.
If you purchase a stock gift card, you receive a fractional share of the stock in a brokerage account. The value can fluctuate, depending how volatile the stock is. You can track the value, add more to the position, and cash out whenever you want.
Dan Schatt, Chief Commercial Officer at Stockpile, says the company is partnering with institutions that are promoting financial literacy.
"Local credit unions to Fortune 500 companies are leveraging Stockpile's platform -- whether it's to offer a brand new set of gifting services, a differentiated loyalty program, or an innovative employee incentives and recognition plan,” he said. “They also get a new way to communicate more personally with their retail shareholders."
Actor Ashton Kutcher is among the Stockpile advisors and says the company may change the way retail investors buy stock.
"Stockpile has nailed it,” he said. "It's a drop-dead easy user experience and affordable to all."
There are always fees involved in the purchase of stock and a Stockpile gift card is no exception. If you buy a $25 gift card, the fee is $4.95. If you get a $50 gift card, it's $6.95. On a $100 gift card, the fee is $7.95.
As a comparison, an online brokerage account like TD Ameritrade has a fee for each transaction of $9.99 no matter how many shares are bought. If you were investing $1,000 at a time, that would be a much cheaper way to go.
However, Stockpile points out that you can invest in your Stockpile brokerage account without buying a gift card and avoid the gift card fee. Funding the transaction from a bank account costs just 99 cents, no matter how many shares you purchase.
For someone just getting started with investing and unable to put in more than $25 or $50 at a time, Stockpile would actually be a cheaper way to invest overall.