0 offers selected
BEST OF

12 Best Robo-Advisors: Top Low-Cost & Free Options

The robo-advisors that made our lists charge low fees but still offer high-quality features, such as tax optimization, socially-responsible investment portfolios or access to financial advisors.

Profile photo of Alana Benson
Written by Alana Benson
Lead Writer
Profile photo of Arielle O'Shea
Reviewed by Arielle O'Shea
Lead Assigning Editor
Profile photo of Pamela de la Fuente
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. 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, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.

Our deep, independent analysis of robo-advisors cuts through the details to find and evaluate the information investors want when choosing an investing account. To see our full methodology and learn more about our process, read our criteria for evaluating robo-advisors.

Over 60 investment account providers reviewed and rated by our expert Nerds.

More than 50 years of combined experience writing about finance and investing.

Hands-on testing of provider websites and investment platforms.

Dozens of objective ratings rubrics and strict guidelines to maintain editorial integrity.

The best robo-advisors offer low-cost investment management, diverse portfolio options, a wide variety of account types — including traditional brokerage accounts and retirement accounts like IRAs — and strong customer support. When evaluating robo-advisors, we also test the user experience of the robo-advisor's website and onboarding processes.

What does a robo-advisor do?

Robo-advisors automate investment management by using computer algorithms to build and manage an investment portfolio for you, based on your goals and your tolerance for risk. Since 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. A few of the advisors on our list even offer completely free portfolio management.

The number of robo-advisors has swelled in the last decade, as has the range of services. Many robo-advisors now offer additional features, like socially responsible investment portfolios, access to human financial advisors for basic investment and financial planning questions, high-interest cash management or savings accounts and digital financial planning tools.

Bottom line: These services are an inexpensive way to get comprehensive investment management and financial planning guidance. If you're the type of investor who wants to outsource your portfolio, a robo-advisor like the ones below may be a good fit for you.

Our deep, independent analysis of robo-advisors cuts through the details to find and evaluate the information investors want when choosing an investing account. To see our full methodology and learn more about our process, read our criteria for evaluating robo-advisors.

Over 60 investment account providers reviewed and rated by our expert Nerds.

More than 50 years of combined experience writing about finance and investing.

Hands-on testing of provider websites and investment platforms.

Dozens of objective ratings rubrics and strict guidelines to maintain editorial integrity.

The best robo-advisors offer low-cost investment management, diverse portfolio options, a wide variety of account types — including traditional brokerage accounts and retirement accounts like IRAs — and strong customer support. When evaluating robo-advisors, we also test the user experience of the robo-advisor's website and onboarding processes.

What does a robo-advisor do?

Robo-advisors automate investment management by using computer algorithms to build and manage an investment portfolio for you, based on your goals and your tolerance for risk. Since 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. A few of the advisors on our list even offer completely free portfolio management.

The number of robo-advisors has swelled in the last decade, as has the range of services. Many robo-advisors now offer additional features, like socially responsible investment portfolios, access to human financial advisors for basic investment and financial planning questions, high-interest cash management or savings accounts and digital financial planning tools.

Bottom line: These services are an inexpensive way to get comprehensive investment management and financial planning guidance. If you're the type of investor who wants to outsource your portfolio, a robo-advisor like the ones below may be a good fit for you.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Robo-advisors can manage your investment account — including IRAs — for a fraction of the cost of a financial advisor. They can be a good choice for investors who want to be hands-off.

Best Robo-Advisors: Top Low-Cost & Free Options

NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Betterment
Learn more

on Betterment's website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

0.25%

with a balance over $20K or qualifying recurring deposit. Otherwise, $4/month.

Account minimum

$0

$10 to start

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Multiple portfolio options, including customization.

  • Low portfolio management fee.

  • Fractional shares allow all cash in portfolios to be invested.

  • Goal-based financial planning tools.

  • Cryptocurrency portfolio available.

  • No account minimum ($10 required to start investing).

Cons

  • No direct indexing.

Why We Like It

Betterment offers a powerful combination of goal-based tools, affordable management fees and no account minimum. Betterment has a wide range of investments, including socially responsible and crypto portfolios, and offers paid access to financial advisors and excellent tax strategy.

NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Wealthfront
Learn more

on Wealthfront's website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account minimum

$500

Promotion

Get a $50 customer bonus

when you fund your first taxable investment account

Pros

  • Get $50 customer bonus when you fund your first taxable investment account (NerdWallet promotion).

  • Low ETF expense ratios.

  • Daily tax-loss harvesting.

  • DIY and automated investing options.

  • Low portfolio management fee.

Cons

  • $500 account minimum.

Why We Like It

Wealthfront is our highest-scoring robo-advisor thanks to its blend of automated investment portfolios and DIY stock investing portfolios, its wide variety of account options, excellent tax strategy and low management fee. Wealthfront's only weak spots are its account minimum ($500) and its lack of access to human advisors.

Best Robo-Advisor for Low-Cost Investing 2024

NerdWallet rating 

4.8

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Vanguard Digital Advisor
Learn more

on Vanguard's website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

0.15%

per year (approximately)

Account minimum

$3,000

Promotion

No advisory fees

your first 90 days of Vanguard Digital Advisor investment management (Enrollment requires a Vanguard account with a minimum of $3,000)

Pros

  • Access to Vanguard’s investing expertise and ETFs.

  • Low portfolio management fee.

  • Low investment expense ratios.

Cons

  • Limited portfolio options and customization.

  • $3,000 account minimum.

Why We Like It

Vanguard Digital Advisor is an affordable robo-advisory service that uses several of Vanguard’s key ETFs to create a personalized retirement plan and portfolio. But Vanguard Digital Advisor doesn't offer much portfolio customization or access to a human advisor.

NerdWallet rating 

4.9

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

SoFi Automated Investing
Learn more

on SoFi Invest's website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

0%

management fee

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

1% match on IRA contributions

Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Pros

  • Broad range of low-cost investments.

  • Free portfolio management.

  • Access to certified financial planners.

  • 1% match on IRA contributions.

  • No account minimum.

Cons

  • Limited account types.

  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Why We Like It

Free management and access to financial advisors and career counselors make SoFi Automated Investing a solid choice for beginning and younger investors. Unfortunately there is limited tax strategy and no socially responsible portfolio.

NerdWallet rating 

4.7

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Acorns
Learn more

on Acorns' website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

$3 - $12

per month

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

$10 Sign Up Bonus

Pros

  • Automatically invests spare change.

  • Cash back at select retailers.

  • Educational content available.

  • No account minimum ($5 required to start investing).

Cons

  • Monthly fees can be significant for small balances.

  • $35 per ETF to transfer funds to another broker.

  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Why We Like It

Acorns is known for its automatic roundups that make saving and investing easy. The downside? At small account balances, Acorns' fees can cut into or completely wipe away investment returns. Acorns has great tools for kids at the most expensive tier, such as a bank account and debit card designed to help them learn about all things money. But Acorns has zero financial advisor access or tax tools and higher than average transfer fees.

NerdWallet rating 

4.7

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Ellevest
Learn more

on Ellevest's website

AD

Paid non-client promotion

Fees

$12

per month

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

2 months free

with promo code "nerdwallet"

Pros

  • Goal-focused investing approach.

  • Portfolio mix that factors women’s needs.

  • Members get discounted sessions with coaches and certified financial planners.

  • No account minimum.

Cons

  • No tax-loss harvesting.

  • Some portfolios have minimum investment requirements.

Why We Like It

Ellevest offers a single flat-fee plan which costs $12 a month — that's on the pricier end of robo-advisors. Clients get discounted access to professional financial planning, alongside free educational resources and the only investing platform that factors in women’s pay gaps, career breaks and longer lifespans. Ellevest does not include any banking options.

NerdWallet rating 

4.6

/5

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Fidelity Go®

Unpaid non-advisory client promotion

Fees

0% - 0.35%

management fee

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Free portfolio management on balances under $25,000.

  • No investment expense ratios.

  • Human oversight of portfolio allocations.

  • Integration with other Fidelity accounts.

  • No account minimum ($10 required to start investing).

Cons

  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Why We Like It

Fidelity's robo-advisor, Fidelity Go, frequently makes our list of the best robo-advisors for its low fees — including free management on balances below $25,000 — integration with other Fidelity accounts and its use of Fidelity Flex funds (Fidelity mutual funds), which have no expense ratios. Fidelity Go does not offer tax-loss harvesting.

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

Compare more features

Compare the five top scoring robo-advisors by fee, customer service, financial advisor access and tax strategy. The "best" tax strategy score requires a provider offer direct indexing or other specialized tax strategies. A "great" score means they offer free tax-loss harvesting, "good" designates tax-loss harvesting with an additional fee or that it's only available at a certain balance, and "limited" means they have minimal tax strategy.

Fee

Customer service by phone

Financial advisor access

Tax strategy

Wealthfront

0.25%*

Monday thru Friday, 8:00 to 5:00 Pacific.

None

Great

Betterment

0.25%**

Monday thru Friday, 9:00 to 6:00. Eastern.

Access starting at $299

Best

SoFi

Free

Monday thru Thursday, 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Pacific. Friday thru Sunday, 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Free access to CFPs

Limited

Schwab

Free

24/7

None

Good

Vanguard

0.15%***

Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

None

Great

*First $5,000 managed free for NerdWallet readers.

**On balances over $20,000 or if you set up recurring monthly deposits totaling $250 or more, otherwise, $4 per month.

***Actual fee will vary depending on the specific holdings in each enrolled account.

How do you open a robo-advisor account?

Opening a robo-advisor account is very similar to opening a brokerage account or bank account: You'll provide some personal information and then link an existing account from which you can transfer money to fund the new account. The primary difference is in most cases, robo-advisors will take you through an onboarding quiz to help determine how to invest your portfolio. These quizzes generally ask about your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon, and the robo-advisor will use your answers to build the most optimal portfolio for you.

How does a robo-advisor work?

Robo-advisors use advanced software to handle 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. A robo-advisor might be a good fit if you prefer to be largely hands-off with your investments and you don’t have the kind of complex financial situation that requires a direct relationship with a human financial advisor.

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.

How do robo-advisors get paid?

Robo-advisors are paid through their account management fee. This is usually shown as a percentage, such as 0.25%. This means the fee is a percentage of the money that you invest. For example, if you put $1,000 into a robo-advisor investment account, and it charges a 0.25% fee, you'd pay $2.50 for that year's worth of investment management. If you put in $100,000 you'd pay $250. Both of those figures are significantly lower than what they would be if you worked with a traditional financial advisor.

Expense ratios are different from management fees: They are not paid to the robo-advisor, but to the people and institutions that manage the funds you're invested in.

Which robo-advisor is best?

The robo-advisors on this list all scored highly in our analysis and impressed our testers, so the best one for you will probably depend on your individual needs. However, the two robo-advisors with the top scores were Wealthfront and Betterment. Wealthfront stands out as a low-cost option with flexible, diversified investment portfolio choices. Betterment also has low fees, and we like that you can add on human advice if you need it. That being said, if cost is your bottom line, there are a few free options too.

What factors should I consider when picking the best robo-advisor for me?

Here’s what you'll want to look at:

Management fees. This is what you’ll pay annually to have an account at a robo-advisor. See our calculator below to help you analyze these.

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.

Account types. Investment accounts fall into two general categories: Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, that offer tax advantages while adhering to certain rules; and taxable accounts, where there are no specific tax advantages but also no limits on contributions or distributions.

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

Rebalancing. Portfolios are fluid, and market fluctuations can cause the mix of investments you hold to get out of sync with your goals. Rebalancing brings that allocation back to its original mix.

Access to human advisors. Many robo-advisors have merged computer-driven portfolio management with access to human financial advisors. Some services offer a dedicated advisor to individual clients; others offer only email or online chat with a team of advisors.

Last updated on July 1, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers and robo-advisors. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers through detailed questionnaires, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. The questionnaire answers, combined with 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).

For more details about the categories considered when rating providers and our processes, read our full broker ratings methodology and our full robo-advisor ratings methodology.