Wealthfront vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services: Which Is Right for You?

Wealthfront and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services have multiple differences. Perhaps the biggest: Wealthfront is a digital advisor, while Vanguard offers access to human advisors.

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In the heated battle of robo-advisors vying to help you build a portfolio, Wealthfront and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services are among the top choices. Yet there are key differences — especially the minimum you need to open an account, the types of accounts supported and management fees.

Let's see how they stack up.

NerdWallet rating 

on Wealthfront's website

Wealthfront is best for:

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Taxable accounts.

  • Free financial tools, even if you don't have a Wealthfront account.

  • 529 college savings plan management.

Wealthfront at a glance

Reviewed: Oct. 2022

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2022

Account minimum

$500 for investment accounts, $1 for cash accounts, $0 for financial planning.

Account management fee


Investment expense ratios

ETF expense ratios average 0.08%.

Portfolios that include the Wealthfront Risk Parity Fund have an average expense ratio of 0.11%.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)


Portfolio mix

  • ETFs from 12 asset classes (portfolios generally consist of 6 to 8). Recent additions of sector-based ETFs (including tech, health care, metaverse, energy) and two cryptocurrency trusts (Bitcoin, Ethereum).

  • Clients can customize their Wealthfront portfolio by adding or deleting certain ETF holdings or building their entire portfolio from scratch.

  • Taxable accounts can opt-in for WFRPX, the Wealthfront Risk Parity Fund. Accounts will hold a mix of three ETFs (VTI, EMB, BND) until balances reach $100,000, at which point the Risk Parity Fund replaces these ETFs.

  • Portfolios over $500,000 are eligible for smart beta.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Clients can choose to invest in Wealthfront’s SRI portfolio or customize any other Wealthfront portfolio to include socially responsible options for no additional fee.

Accounts supported

  • Individual and joint non-retirement accounts.

  • Roth, traditional, rollover and SEP IRAs.

  • Trusts.

  • 529 college savings plans.

  • High yield cash account (not charged management fee).

Tax strategy

  • Daily tax-loss harvesting free for all taxable accounts.

  • Stock level tax-loss harvesting (direct indexing) available at no cost for taxable accounts with $100,000 or more. Balances under $100,000 will hold a particular ETF, VTI.

  • TurboTax customers can easily import tax-loss harvesting data from Wealthfront.

Automatic rebalancing

Free on all accounts.

Human advisor option


Savings account/cash management account

The Wealthfront Cash Account offers high interest checking. The cash account offers a competitive yield and is covered by up to $2 million in FDIC insurance. The account requires just $1 to get started.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Licensed product specialists (have Series 7 & 66 and some are CFAs/CFPs/CPAs) available to provide support or product information via phone or email (they do not make recommendations or give advice). Phone support Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific; and all emails are responded to within one business day.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
NerdWallet rating 

on Vanguard's website

Vanguard PAS is best for

  • Access to financial advisors.

  • Comprehensive financial planning.

  • Larger account balances.

Vanguard PAS at a glance

Reviewed: Oct. 2022

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2022

Account minimum


Account management, planning or subscription fee

Starts at 0.30% but tiered (drops at higher balances):

  • 0.30% on account balances less than $5 million.

  • 0.20% on account balances from $5 million to $10 million.

  • 0.10% on account balances from $10 million to $25 million.

  • 0.05% on account balances over $25 million.

Other account fees


Setup or onboarding fee


Advisor access and credentials

  • Unlimited appointments over phone, email or videoconference.

  • Most advisors are certified financial planners; all are fiduciaries and compensated with salary instead of commissions.

  • Investors with account balances of $50,000 to $500,000 get a team of advisors; investors with balances of $500,000 or more get a dedicated advisor.

Financial planning services

Can advise and create a custom portfolio for a variety of situations, such as saving for retirement, college or a family vacation home.

Services include: Social Security optimization, dynamic spending, tax efficiency, long-term care and medical costs, high-level guidance on estate planning, charitable giving, Roth conversions and trust services.

Investment expense ratios on portfolios

Average expense ratio is 0.06%.

Portfolio construction

Vanguard PAS creates customizable portfolios on a client-by-client basis. It uses low-cost Vanguard index funds and ETFs, which are diversified with tight tracking. Vanguard PAS also offers three ESG funds (scored on environmental, social and governance factors for sustainable investing).

Brokerage options

Clients must move money to Vanguard but can keep outside investments if there are embedded gains or other reasons to do so.

Accounts supported

  • Individual and joint brokerage accounts.

  • Roth, traditional, rollover, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs.

  • Trusts.

Tax strategy

  • Assets are allocated strategically among taxable and tax-advantaged accounts to optimize for taxes.

  • Customers have access to tax-loss harvesting

  • Tax-exempt municipal bonds used to reduce taxes for taxable accounts.

  • Minimum tax cost basis method minimizes tax impact by identifying select units or quantities (lots) of securities to sell based on ordering rules.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Customer support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. Ability to schedule appointments with an advisor at any time.

Curious about other options?

The number of online advisors continues to swell, as does the range of services. NerdWallet conducted an in-depth analysis of over 20 offerings this year. We’ve covered the best choices here.

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