Best Gold ETFs for Fall 2021

Gold ETFs are having a record year — here are the top performers.
Kevin VoigtNov 22, 2021
Best Gold ETFs for July 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.

Gold is proving popular among investors looking to hedge against the market tumult caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And as gold prices rise, more and more investors are rushing to buy gold exchange-traded funds rather than purchasing bullion itself.

What are gold ETFs?

Gold ETFs are exchange-traded funds that give investors exposure to gold without having to directly purchase, store and resell the precious metal. Some gold ETFs directly track the price of gold, while others invest in companies in the gold-mining industry.

As with other types of ETFs, the issuing company buys stock in gold-related companies or purchases and stores gold bullion itself. Investors buy shares in the fund, whose value rises and falls with the underlying gold price or company stock value.

Gold is considered a safe haven investment, as its price often rises as stock markets tumble. Gold hit its all-time high of nearly $1,900 per ounce in September 2011, in the aftermath of the Great Recession. In recent months, the price of gold has been flirting with that record.

Meanwhile, investors are buying into gold ETFs in record numbers. In the first five months of this year, investors bought $33.7 billion worth of gold ETF shares, already eclipsing the previous annual record of $24 billion set in 2016, according to research from

» Ready to invest? See our list of the best brokers for ETF investing.

Merrill Edge
TD Ameritrade
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 


per trade



per trade



per trade

Account Minimum


Account Minimum


Account Minimum



Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.



no promotion available at this time


Get $600 or more

when you open and fund an E*TRADE account with code: BONUS21

Best performing gold ETFs

Here are the top five best performing gold ETFs.

  • GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR)

  • Goldman Sachs Physical Gold ETF (AAAU)

  • VanEck Merk Gold Trust (OUNZ)

  • Aberdeen Standard Physical Gold Shares ETF (SGOL)

  • iShares Gold Trust (IAU)

Below is our complete list of best-performing gold ETFs. We exclude gold exchange-traded notes and leveraged gold ETFs:




YTD return

GraniteShares Gold Trust




Goldman Sachs Physical Gold ETF




VanEck Merk Gold Trust




Aberdeen Standard Physical Gold Shares ETF




iShares Gold Trust




SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust




SPDR Gold Trust




Invesco DB Gold Fund




iShares Gold Strategy ETF




Information is up to date as of Sept. 28, 2021. Data is pulled from Google Finance and information is solely for informational purposes and not for trading purposes or advice.

How to invest in gold ETFs

Here’s how to buy shares in a gold ETF:

Step 1: Find a gold ETF

You can typically find gold ETFs by searching for them on your broker's website. (No broker? Here's how to open a brokerage account.)

Step 2: Analyze the ETF

Two things to check before purchasing shares in a gold ETF:

  • Five-year returns. Most (but not all) gold ETFs are pegged to spot gold price, so returns should align with gold price moves.

  • Expense ratio. This is the ETF's annual fee, paid out of your investment in the fund. The average expense ratio for gold ETFs is 0.65%, according to Look for a low one.

And two important cautions: The average investor should avoid buying leveraged gold ETFs — these use financial derivatives and borrowed money to make bets on future price movements. Also, avoid gold exchange-traded notes. ETNs are secured debt obligations that don’t actually own the underlying gold (unlike ETFs) and have a greater risk of credit default.

These investments are strictly for pros and unsuitable for a buy-and-hold strategy favored by many investors saving for retirement.

Step 3: Buy the gold ETF

You can buy ETFs just like you’d buy a stock, through an online broker. A good approach is to buy them regularly to take advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

For more, check out our full list of the best brokers for ETF investing.

Learn more about sector ETFs:

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the original time of publication.

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.