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12 Best IRA Accounts of November 2019

Andrea Coombes, Dayana YochimOctober 24, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our picks for

Hands-On Investors

Merrill Edge IRA

on Merrill Edge's website

on Merrill Edge's website

Fees

$2.95

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit to a new Merrill Edge Self-Directed account

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low fees — all with no account minimum. 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.
  • Free trades for Preferred Rewards clients.

Cons

  • $2.95 trade commission.
  • Minimum balance requirement for high-end platform.
Read full review
TD Ameritrade IRA

on TD Ameritrade's website

on TD Ameritrade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$100-$600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

TD Ameritrade’s $0 commissions, $0 account minimum, wealth of free research and retirement planning tools, and plentiful lineup of no-transaction-fee mutual funds make it an ideal place to set up an IRA. Its library of educational resources and free paper trading account are also great features to help investors hone their skills.

Pros

  • $0 account minimum.
  • Large lineup of no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • Good customer support.
  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

Cons

  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review
E-Trade IRA

on E-Trade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

Retirement investors will find a lot to love with E-Trade’s IRA offering, including a large line-up of no-trading-fee mutual funds and an extensive library of retirement advice and tools. Plus, there’s no minimum account balance and no fee for stock or ETF trades.

Pros

  • No minimum balance.
  • Extensive research and tools.
  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • 4,400+ no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds.

Cons

  • $19.99 cost for trading non-NTF mutual funds.
Read full review
Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

on Interactive Brokers's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

No promotion available at this time

Interactive Brokers is a strong option for advanced, frequent traders: The broker offers international trade capabilities, low commissions and a quality trading platform. New traders might be turned off by inactivity fees, high balance requirements and a lack of educational resources.

Pros

  • Free trades.
  • Wide investment selection.
  • Advanced tools on Pro tier.

Cons

  • Complex pricing on some investments.
  • Inactivity fees on Pro tier.
Read full review

Our picks for

Hands-Off Investors

For people who want to invest for retirement but don’t want to worry about managing their portfolio over time, a robo-advisor is an easy choice. Generally, robo-advisors hire investment pros to develop a handful of portfolios aimed at different types of investors. Here are our top three picks for investors who prefer help with management:

Wealthfront IRA

on Wealthfront's website

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$500

Promotion

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

Wealthfront takes the hassle out of IRA investing. The robo-advisor manages accounts by constructing portfolios out of low-cost ETFs, with a flat and low-cost fee structure that appeals to investors seeking a hands-off approach. What’s more, the company has built client trust by offering free management on the first $5,000 invested (for NerdWallet readers).

Pros

  • First $5,000 managed free (for NerdWallet readers).
  • Automatic rebalancing.
  • Digital financial planning tools.
  • Low management fee.

Cons

  • No large-balance discounts.
  • No access to human advisors.
  • No fractional shares.
Read full review
Betterment IRA

on Betterment's website

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

With its low-cost ETFs, automatic rebalancing, extensive tax strategies and retirement advice, Betterment is a strong bet for retirement investors. Betterment’s planning tools include advice on “asset location” — which types of investments are best for different types of accounts — and investors can sync outside accounts, as well.

Pros

  • No account minimum.
  • Robust goal-based tools.
  • Fractional shares limit uninvested cash.
  • Low management fee.

Cons

  • $100,000 minimum and higher fee for access to financial advisors.
Read full review
Sofi Automated Investing

on Sofi Wealth's website

Fees

0%

management fee

Account Minimum

$100

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

SoFi Automated Investing is great for beginning, cost-conscious investors who favor a hand-off approach. Plus, as a customer you could be eligible for bonuses on other SoFi products.

Pros

  • Broad range of low-cost investments.
  • Free management through 2019.
  • Automatic rebalancing.
  • Customer support.
  • Access to certified financial planners.

Cons

  • Limited account types.
  • No tax-loss harvesting.
Read full review

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Summary of Best IRA Accounts of November 2019

BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge IRA Logo

Merrill Edge IRA

on Merrill Edge's website

$2.95

per trade

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit to a new Merrill Edge Self-Directed account

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade IRA Logo

TD Ameritrade IRA

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

$100-$600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade IRA Logo

E-Trade IRA

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Interactive Brokers Logo

Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

$0

per trade

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

on Interactive Brokers's website

Vanguard Brokerage Logo

Vanguard Brokerage

$7.00

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Schwab Brokerage IRA Logo

Schwab Brokerage IRA

$0

per trade

None

No promotion at this time

$0

Read review
Fidelity IRA Logo

Fidelity IRA

$0

500

free trades with a qualifying deposit

$0

Read review
T. Rowe Price Logo

T. Rowe Price

$19.95

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$2,500

Read review
Wealthfront IRA Logo

Wealthfront IRA

on Wealthfront's website

0.25%

management fee

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

$500

on Wealthfront's website

Betterment IRA Logo

Betterment IRA

on Betterment's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

$0

on Betterment's website

Sofi Automated Investing Logo

Sofi Automated Investing

on Sofi Wealth's website

0%

management fee

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

$100

on Sofi Wealth's website

Ally Invest IRA Logo

Ally Invest IRA

$0

per trade

Up to $3,500

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

Read review
BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge IRA Logo

Merrill Edge IRA

on Merrill Edge's website

$2.95

per trade

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit to a new Merrill Edge Self-Directed account

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade IRA Logo

TD Ameritrade IRA

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

$100-$600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade IRA Logo

E-Trade IRA

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Interactive Brokers Logo

Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

$0

per trade

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

on Interactive Brokers's website

Vanguard Brokerage Logo

Vanguard Brokerage

$7.00

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Schwab Brokerage IRA Logo

Schwab Brokerage IRA

$0

per trade

None

No promotion at this time

$0

Read review
Fidelity IRA Logo

Fidelity IRA

$0

500

free trades with a qualifying deposit

$0

Read review
T. Rowe Price Logo

T. Rowe Price

$19.95

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$2,500

Read review
Wealthfront IRA Logo

Wealthfront IRA

on Wealthfront's website

0.25%

management fee

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

$500

on Wealthfront's website

Betterment IRA Logo

Betterment IRA

on Betterment's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

$0

on Betterment's website

Sofi Automated Investing Logo

Sofi Automated Investing

on Sofi Wealth's website

0%

management fee

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

$100

on Sofi Wealth's website

Ally Invest IRA Logo

Ally Invest IRA

$0

per trade

Up to $3,500

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

$0

Read review

Note: Some of these promotions won’t apply for first-time depositors, due to IRA contribution limits of $6,000 per year in 2019. We’ve included promotions with low deposit requirements where available.

IRA FAQs

How do I choose an IRA?

Picking the best IRA account will depend a bit on what matters most to you. Below we detail some criteria to keep in mind, but don’t forget that the most important thing is to get started saving for retirement. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be. Before decision paralysis slows you down, consider simply opening an account at one of our top picks — we’ve done hours of research already.

Here are some important criteria to keep in mind as you pick the best IRA account:

  • Low-cost investments: For long-term retirement-savings success, make sure high fees don’t eat into your investment returns. Open your IRA at a broker or robo-advisor that offers low-cost investments (if you’re thinking of opening your IRA at a bank, check out the FAQ below for more on bank IRAs). For many retirement investors, a smart investment is a low-cost mutual fund. Investing in a handful of mutual funds is an easy way to own a diversified portfolio, because each mutual fund invests in dozens, hundreds or even thousands of companies. With mutual funds, one of the main fees to focus on is the expense ratio. Ideally, you’re investing in mutual funds with an expense ratio of less than about 0.5%.
  • Low fees: While you’re keeping an eye on expense ratios, also keep others fees in mind. If you’re a do-it-yourself investor who plans to open an IRA at a broker, make sure you pick a broker with low trading commissions (or a high number of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds) and low transfer and other fees.
  • Investment help: If you want guidance picking investments, a robo-advisor likely is a better choice for you than a broker. All robo-advisors offer either ready-to-go investment portfolios or provide some help picking investments.
  • Customer support: Make sure the broker or robo-advisor offers customer support that meets your needs, whether that’s live chat, telephone support or access to human financial planners.

Which bank has the best IRA?

You might have noticed we don’t include any bank IRA accounts in our roundup of the best IRAs. Generally, an investment broker or robo-advisor is a better option than a bank for an IRA account, because for a long-term goal like retirement you want to tap into the power of the stock market to grow your money.

Bank IRAs generally offer access to savings products such as certificates of deposit. CDs are savings products that guarantee a rate of return as long as you leave your money in for a specific period of time. Historically, stock market returns average about 10% a year. CDs are currently offering about 3%. Yes, the stock market comes with the risk that, in any given year, your account may lose value — but investors who leave their money in the market, even through those down days, generally enjoy hefty gains over time.

If, despite that, you decide to go with a bank CD, be sure to pick among the IRA accounts with the best IRA CD rates so you know you’re getting the best possible rate of return for that type of account.

Can I lose all my money in an IRA?

While unlikely, it is possible for an IRA account to lose value and, potentially, drop to zero. That’s much likelier to happen if you invest in a single company stock. The key to sidestepping this risk is to make sure your investments are diversified. That means investing in a variety of companies — of different sizes and in different industries and locations — and in both stocks and bonds. That way, when any one slice of your investments faces trouble, the others are there to keep your overall portfolio on a steady course.

The easiest path to a diversified portfolio is with mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. One single fund can invest in thousands of companies, making it a simple one-stop shop for investment diversification.

Am I eligible to save on taxes with an IRA?

Anyone can open a traditional IRA — there are no income limits — but if you’re also covered by a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k), the amount of your contribution that you can deduct on your tax return may be phased down or eliminated based on your income.

If you exceed the income limits, you can still make the maximum annual contribution, but a portion or all of it will be considered a nondeductible contribution. There’s no immediate tax benefit on nondeductible contributions, but you’re still able to defer taxes on investment income until retirement. Read more about the traditional IRA deduction limits.

Roth IRAs have income limits for eligibility; if you earn too much, your contribution limit is phased down or eliminated completely. To see if you’re affected, use our Roth IRA calculator.

What are the benefits of an IRA?

IRA accounts offer significant tax benefits over traditional savings and brokerage accounts. As long as your money stays in an IRA, you’ll owe no tax on your investment earnings — that means you have a bigger nest egg to compound and grow each year. In contrast, with a traditional brokerage account, taxes may eat into your savings every year, depending on how you invest.

And if you qualify for a deductible IRA, the benefits are even greater, because you’ll reduce your taxable income for the year you contribute. For example, if your marginal tax rate is 25%, a $6,000 IRA contribution can reduce your tax bill by $1,500. See if you’re eligible for a deductible IRA here.

What is the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA?

There are a few differences between these accounts, but the main way they differ has to do with taxes:

  • A traditional IRA earns you a tax deduction on contributions for the year they are made. You’ll then pay income taxes on the distributions you take in retirement. Because you’re delaying taxes until retirement, the investment growth in a traditional IRA is tax-deferred.
  • A Roth IRA offers no tax deduction when you make contributions, but qualified distributions in retirement are not taxed. That makes the investment income in a Roth IRA tax-free — you won’t pay taxes on it at all, so long as you wait until retirement to access it.

Generally, a traditional IRA is best if you expect your tax rate to be lower in retirement than it is now — by putting off taxes until retirement, you’ll pay that lower rate. If you expect the opposite to be true — your taxes are lower now and will be higher in retirement — you may want to choose a Roth IRA.

For more on this decision, dig into our comprehensive comparison of Roth and traditional IRAs.

What is the IRA contribution limit?

You can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA each year, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older. (Those are the contribution limits in 2019.) That’s a combined limit shared by the two types of IRA — you can have both a Roth and a traditional IRA, but that maximum limit applies to all of your IRA contributions combined. But the contribution limit doesn’t include amounts rolled over, such as from a 401(k).

How easily can I access that money?

This is a retirement account, so the money is intended to stay put until age 59 ½ or later.

That said, traditional IRA withdrawal rules are stricter than Roth IRA withdrawal rules: With a traditional IRA, you may be taxed and hit with a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you pull money out before age 59 ½. There are a few exceptions.

With a Roth IRA, you can pull your contributions out at any time — remember, you’ve already paid taxes on them. You may be taxed or penalized on early distributions of investment earnings, however.

How do I open an IRA?

It’s a simple process: You can open an IRA online, at any broker or robo-advisor (though we’re partial to the ones above, for the reasons we outlined). It takes about 15 minutes and you’ll need to provide some personal information, including your name, birthdate, mailing address and Social Security number. Here’s our guide to opening an IRA, which also includes information about how to fund and invest the account.

What do you mean by invest the account?

Unlike savings accounts, IRAs don’t pay a set interest rate or return. Once you’ve put money into the account, you need to select investments; otherwise, your money will sit in cash, which isn’t ideal for a long-term goal like retirement. Most IRA providers offer a wide range of investment options, including individual stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

If that sounds out of your league, you can open your IRA at a robo-advisor — like the two mentioned above — which will manage your investments for you for a small fee.

Last updated on October 25, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best IRA Accounts of November 2019