BEST OF

7 Best Custodial Accounts of September 2021

The best custodial accounts offer features that matter most to kid and adult account owners: low fees, investment education and strong customer support.

Chris DavisAug 10, 2021

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Looking for a way to set your kid up with an investment account, but aren't sure where to start? Custodial accounts are a common way for adults to start an investment account for a child or grandchild, then hand the account off to them when they're legally an adult themselves. (Learn more about custodial accounts.) You may also see custodial accounts described as UGMA/UTMA accounts. This is based on the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act or the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act — the legislature that allowed for the formation of these accounts.

To arrive at our list of the best custodial accounts, we looked at factors that matter most to both the adult who started the account, as well as the child who will eventually take control of it. These factors include how robust a brokerage's educational materials are, how strong its customer support is and how low its fees are, among other criteria.

Summary of Best Custodial Accounts of September 2021

Fidelity

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fidelity

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time


Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Why we like it

Fidelity may be known for its retirement accounts, but active traders shouldn’t overlook the brokerage’s $0 trade commissions, wide investment selection, large scope of research and strong trading platform. It’s a well-rounded broker suitable for nearly all investors.

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

  • Large selection of research providers.

  • Strong customer service.

  • Expense-ratio-free index funds.

  • Highly rated mobile app.

Cons

  • Relatively high broker-assisted trade fee.

Read Full Review

Charles Schwab

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Charles Schwab

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time


Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Why we like it

Charles Schwab has earned its strong reputation: The broker offers high-quality customer service, three free trading platforms, a wide selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and $0 commissions for stocks, ETFs and options.

Pros

  • Three platforms with no minimum or fees.

  • Above-average mobile app.

  • Extensive research.

  • Large fund selection.

  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Low default cash sweep rate.

Read Full Review
TD Ameritrade
Learn more

on TD Ameritrade's website

TD Ameritrade

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
TD Ameritrade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Learn more

on TD Ameritrade's website


Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Why we like it

TD Ameritrade meets the needs of both active traders and beginner investors with quality trading platforms; $0 commissions on online stock, options and ETF trades; and a large selection of mutual funds.

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

  • Free research.

  • High-quality trading platforms.

  • No account minimum.

  • Good customer support.

  • Large investment selection.

Cons

  • No fractional shares.

Read Full Review
Merrill Edge
Learn more

on Merrill Edge's website

Merrill Edge

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Merrill Edge

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

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

Learn more

on Merrill Edge's website


Promotion

Up to $600

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

Why we like it

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low fees. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.

  • Integrated with Bank of America.

Cons

  • Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.

Read Full Review
E*TRADE
Learn more

on E*TRADE's website

E*TRADE

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
E*TRADE

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Get $600 or more

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

Learn more

on E*TRADE's website


Promotion

Get $600 or more

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

Why we like it

E*TRADE has long been one of the most popular online brokers. The company's $0 commissions and strong trading platforms appeal to active traders, while beginner investors benefit from a large library of educational resources.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.

  • Large investment selection.

  • Excellent customer support.

  • Access to extensive research.

  • Advanced mobile app.

  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate.

Read Full Review

Ally Invest

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Ally Invest

Fees

$0

per trade (on eligible US securities)

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$100 - $3,000

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.


Promotion

$100 - $3,000

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.

Why we like it

Ally Invest’s robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools make it a good choice for active traders. But it’s also appropriate for beginning investors who will appreciate that there is no account minimum and no annual fees.

Pros

  • Commission-free trades on eligible U.S. stocks, options and ETFs.

  • No account minimum.

  • Strong web-based platform.

  • Robust research and tools.

Cons

  • No no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

  • No branches.

Read Full Review

Vanguard

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Vanguard

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time


Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Why we like it

Vanguard is the king of low-cost investing, making it ideal for buy-and-hold and retirement investors. But active traders will find the broker falls short despite its $0 trade commission, due to the lack of a strong trading platform.

Pros

  • Large mutual fund selection.

  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

  • Leader in low-cost funds.

  • Helpful customer support.

Cons

  • Basic trading platform only.

  • Limited research and data.

Read Full Review

Last updated on August 10, 2021

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People often identify opening a savings account as their next money move.

American Express® High Yield Savings Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
American Express® High Yield Savings Account

APY

0.40%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at American Express National Bank, Member FDIC

Marcus by Goldman Sachs Online Savings Account

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Marcus by Goldman Sachs Online Savings Account

APY

0.50%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Member FDIC

Axos Bank® High Yield Savings

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Axos Bank® High Yield Savings

APY

0.61%

With $0 minimum balance

Bonus

N/A

at Axos Bank®, Member FDIC

Methodology

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers and robo-advisors by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgments on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct firsthand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

Provider categories include: Best Brokers for Stock Trading, Best Brokers for Beginners, Best Brokers for Day Trading, Best Brokers for Options Trading, Best Discount Brokers, Best Brokers for Free Trading, Best Investment Apps, Best Brokers for Penny Stocks, Best IRA Brokers, Best Robo-Advisors, Best Financial Advisors, Best Real Estate Platforms, Best Brokers for ETFs and Best Brokers for Mutual Funds.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker and robo-advisor reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Custodial Accounts of September 2021