Best of

Best Robo-Advisors of May 2019

NerdWalletMay 23, 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.

Sofi Automated Investing

on Sofi Wealth's website

on Sofi Wealth's website

Fees

0%

management fee

Account Minimum

$100

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Broad range of low-cost investments.
  • Very low management fees.
  • Automatic rebalancing.
  • Customer support.
  • Access to certified financial planners.

Cons

  • No tax-loss harvesting.
  • Limited account types.
  • Short track record.
Wealthfront

on Wealthfront's website

on Wealthfront's website

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$500

Promotion

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

Pros

  • First $5,000 managed free (NerdWallet promotion).
  • Low ETF expense ratios.
  • Daily tax-loss harvesting.
  • Direct indexing on accounts over $100,000.
  • Automatic rebalancing.

Cons

  • No fractional shares.
  • No large-balance discounts.
Ellevest

on Ellevest's website

on Ellevest's website

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $750

cash bonus with qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Low account minimum and fees.
  • Goal-focused investing approach.
  • Portfolio mix that factors women’s needs.

Cons

  • Few accounts supported.
  • No tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment

on Betterment's website

on Betterment's website

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

Pros

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

Cons

  • No direct indexing.
Blooom

on Blooom's website

on Blooom's website

Fees

$10 / month

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$99

per year with code "REEETIRE"

Pros

  • 401(K) management.
  • No account minimum.
  • Free analysis.
  • Access to financial advisors.

Cons

  • Limited risk tolerance assessment.
  • Aggressive asset allocation.
  • High costs for small account balances.
Personal Capital

on Personal Capital's website

on Personal Capital's website

Fees

0.49% - 0.89%

management fee

Account Minimum

$100,000

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Individual securities available.
  • Free, comprehensive investment management tools.
  • Dedicated financial advisors.
  • Advanced tax optimization strategy.

Cons

  • $100,000 account minimum.
  • High management fee.
Wealthsimple

on Wealthsimple's website

on Wealthsimple's website

Fees

0.40%-0.50%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$10,000

amount of assets managed for free for one year

Pros

  • Free access to human advisers.
  • Free portfolio analysis.
  • Free tax-loss harvesting.
  • Socially responsible investment options.
  • No account minimum.

Cons

  • Higher account management fees.
  • Limited free-management promotion.
  • Limited personal finance tools.
Fees

$30/month

management fee

Account Minimum

$25,000

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Access to financial advisors.
  • Wide ETF selection.
  • Automatic rebalancing.

Cons

  • $25,000 account minimum.
  • High cash allocation.
  • Tax-loss harvesting only available on $50,000 or more.
  • $300 planning fee.
Fees

0.30%

management fee

Account Minimum

$50,000

Promotion

None

no promotion currently offered

Pros

  • Low management fee for a hybrid advisor
  • Larger investment selection
  • Comprehensive management
  • Access to financial advisors

Cons

  • High account minimum
  • Some clients may incur transaction fees

Summary of Best Robo-Advisors of May 2019

BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
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

Wealthfront Logo

Wealthfront

on Wealthfront's website

0.25%

management fee

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

$500

on Wealthfront's website

Ellevest Logo

Ellevest

on Ellevest's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to $750

cash bonus with qualifying deposit

$0

on Ellevest's website

Betterment Logo

Betterment

on Betterment's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

$0

on Betterment's website

Blooom Logo

Blooom

on Blooom's website

$10 / month

$99

per year with code "REEETIRE"

$0

on Blooom's website

Personal Capital Logo

Personal Capital

on Personal Capital's website

0.49% - 0.89%

management fee

None

no promotion available at this time

$100,000

on Personal Capital's website

Wealthsimple Logo

Wealthsimple

on Wealthsimple's website

0.40%-0.50%

management fee

$10,000

amount of assets managed for free for one year

$0

on Wealthsimple's website

Schwab Intelligent Advisory Logo

Schwab Intelligent Advisory

$30/month

management fee

None

no promotion available at this time

$25,000

Read Review
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Logo

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

0.30%

management fee

None

no promotion currently offered

$50,000

Read Review
BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
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

Wealthfront Logo

Wealthfront

on Wealthfront's website

0.25%

management fee

$5,000

amount of assets managed for free

$500

on Wealthfront's website

Ellevest Logo

Ellevest

on Ellevest's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to $750

cash bonus with qualifying deposit

$0

on Ellevest's website

Betterment Logo

Betterment

on Betterment's website

0.25%

management fee

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

$0

on Betterment's website

Blooom Logo

Blooom

on Blooom's website

$10 / month

$99

per year with code "REEETIRE"

$0

on Blooom's website

Personal Capital Logo

Personal Capital

on Personal Capital's website

0.49% - 0.89%

management fee

None

no promotion available at this time

$100,000

on Personal Capital's website

Wealthsimple Logo

Wealthsimple

on Wealthsimple's website

0.40%-0.50%

management fee

$10,000

amount of assets managed for free for one year

$0

on Wealthsimple's website

Schwab Intelligent Advisory Logo

Schwab Intelligent Advisory

$30/month

management fee

None

no promotion available at this time

$25,000

Read Review
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Logo

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

0.30%

management fee

None

no promotion currently offered

$50,000

Read Review

What is a robo-advisor?

A robo-advisor is an online, automated investment management service. Robo-advisors use computer algorithms to build a portfolio and manage asset allocation based on your risk tolerance and investing goals. As daily portfolio management is handled by software rather than a human financial advisor, robo-advisors charge lower fees, which can translate to higher long-term returns for investors.

How does a robo-advisor work?

Robo-advisors use advanced software to automate many of the tasks that used to require expensive experts to manage. Services range from automatic rebalancing to tax optimization, and require little to no human interaction.

That said, many providers offer access to human advisors available for questions related to account management or long-term investment planning — though these services may cost more. (Want to know more? Dig into the details of how robo-advisors work.)

A robo-advisor is a good fit for you if you prefer to be largely hands-off with your investments — letting someone else do the work of building and optimizing your portfolio — and you don’t have the kind of complex financial situation that requires a direct relationship with a human financial advisor. (If you’d rather be hands-on, read about how to invest in stocks on your own.)

To help you pick the best robo-advisor for you, we’ve selected the top two online advisors in six categories.

Not sure which advisor to choose?

Here’s what you should consider:

MANAGEMENT FEES

This is what you’ll pay annually to have an account at a robo-advisor. The fee, which is often assessed as a percentage of your assets with the advisor, is typically deducted from your account balance.

Why it matters: Any fee, including a management fee, reduces your return. If you’re earning a 7% annual return on your portfolio, and you’re paying a 0.25% annual management fee, your return is effectively 6.75%. Even small fees add up over time.

EXPENSE RATIOS

These are like management fees, only they’re paid not to the robo-advisor, but to the investments the robo-advisor uses. Mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds all charge this annual fee to cover the costs of running the fund.

Why it matters: Same reason as above: All fees eat into your investment return. You can’t avoid expense ratios as a fund investor, whether you invest through a robo-advisor or on your own. But you can keep them down by choosing an advisor who uses low-cost funds. Knowing average mutual fund expense ratios can help you gauge whether you’re paying too much.

ACCOUNT TYPES

Investment accounts fall into two general categories:

  • Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s. These offer tax advantages for contributions and often have rules about how much you can contribute and when, and how you can take distributions. Read more about retirement accounts.
  • Nonretirement accounts. Often called taxable accounts, there are no specific tax advantages for contributions to these, but they’re also not subject to contribution limits or distribution rules.

Why it matters: Make sure the robo-advisor you choose manages the kind of account you want to open. Your account also helps determine which features apply to you — for example, tax-loss harvesting, discussed below, is only used on taxable, nonretirement accounts.

INVESTMENTS

Most robo-advisors use low-cost index funds and ETFs.

  • Index fund: A mutual fund that passively tracks an index or benchmark. A Standard & Poor’s 500 index fund, for instance, aims to mirror the performance of the S&P 500. Index funds attempt to follow the market, not beat it, and hold a group of individual investments, making them inherently diversified. Learn more about index funds.
  • ETF: Like an index fund, an ETF holds many individual investments and tracks an index or benchmark. The major difference is that ETFs trade on an exchange, like individual stocks, and can often be purchased for a lower investment than a full-fledged fund. Learn more about ETFs.

Why it matters: Be sure the advisor you choose offers the investments you want, and make sure those investments are low cost. A select few robo-advisors add in actively managed mutual funds and individual stocks, or they customize portfolios completely.

TAX-LOSS HARVESTING

Tax-loss harvesting involves selling losing investments and using the loss to reduce or eliminate the taxes you’ll owe on capital gains. The IRS has plenty of rules around this — and the practice itself is fairly complex — so it’s a boon if a robo-advisor is willing to do it for you. Here’s a full explanation of tax-loss harvesting.

Tax-loss harvesting can be harder with the fund portfolios that most robo-advisors use — because index funds and ETFs hold a number of different investments, you can’t dial down to specific losers as easily. An index might be up overall but still hold investments that are down. Some robo-advisors buy individual stocks to replicate an index, allowing them to sell specific losers. Wealthfront calls this service direct indexing.

Why it matters: It might not. Tax-loss harvesting doesn’t apply to retirement accounts, where taxes are deferred and capital gains taxes don’t come into play. It only applies to taxable accounts, where it might save you a significant amount of money.

REBALANCING

A portfolio is fluid, and market fluctuations can cause the mix of investments you hold — called your asset allocation — to get out of sync with your goals. Rebalancing brings that allocation back to its original mix. Many robo-advisors check for rebalancing opportunities daily and make portfolio changes when an allocation strays by a set amount — say, 5% or more.

Why it matters: When a particular asset class is doing well — let’s say the U.S. stock market is roaring — you could end up with more of your money in that class than you intended, due to outsize growth. If your original allocation was 50% stocks and 50% bonds, a portfolio that has shifted toward 70% stocks is probably too risky. Learn more about rebalancing.

ACCESS TO HUMAN ADVISORS

Many robo-advisors have merged computer-driven portfolio management with access to human financial advisors. The level of that access varies: Some services offer a dedicated advisor to individual clients; others offer only email or online chat with a team of advisors. As you can imagine, you’ll pay more for the former.

Why it matters: The financial advice industry has traditionally locked out small account balances. These services bring at least some level of human advice to accounts of any size. If you’re loath to turn things over completely to a computer, a hybrid service is a good middle ground. Here’s more about how to find the best financial advisor for you.

SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING

Often called SRI, impact investing or values-based investing, this strategy is employed by investors who aim to align their investments with their values. Companies that promote social good are often included in SRI funds and portfolios; companies in controversial industries, such as guns or fossil fuels, may be excluded.

Why it matters: If putting your money where your values are is important to you, you’ll want to choose a robo-advisor that offers investments that meet those standards.

Last updated on May 23, 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 Robo-Advisors of May 2019