Best IRA Accounts: 2017 Top Picks

Brokers, Investing, IRA

NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions. The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent.

We spent over 300 hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. And to help you find the one that’s best for you, we’ve highlighted their pros, cons and current offers.

An individual retirement account is a crucial part of building your retirement savings. In many cases, it’s the best place to save for retirement if you don’t have a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k), or if you’ve already maxed out that plan. You want to choose an IRA provider that offers a wide selection of low-cost investment options and won’t eat into your savings with extra fees.

(Want to know more about these accounts? Check out our guide to IRAs.)

Whether you’re opening your first IRA, using old 401(k) money to fund a rollover IRA or looking to transfer your existing IRA to a new broker, we’ve evaluated the options and selected the best traditional IRA account providers by category. The brokers and robo-advisors listed below have reasonable account minimums, low fees, strong customer service and an impressive investment selection. In most cases, that means a number of no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds and commission-free exchange-traded funds (ETFs), both of which can be purchased at no cost.

NerdWallet’s top IRA account providers

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

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

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • $0 account minimum
  • Large lineup of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Higher trade commissions
  • High short-term ETF trading fee
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$200in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Ally Invest’s low commissions, no annual fee and no account minimum make it a good choice for IRA investors. For investors who want to be more active, the broker also offers a solid suite of research and tools, but IRA customers may be put off by closure and transfer-out fees.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions
  • No account minimum
  • No IRA annual fee
  • Strong web-based platform
  • Robust research and tools

Cons

  • IRA closure fee of $25
  • IRA transfer out fee of $50
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research, low commissions and fees -- all with no account minimum for IRA investors. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No account minimum to access first-rate customer service.
  • Robust third-party research.
  • Ongoing promotions for opening and funding a qualified IRA account.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs for IRA investors.
  • Minimum balance requirement for day trading platform.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.25%
management fee
Account minimum
$500
Promotion
$15,000amount of assets managed with no fee

The bottom line

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 to investors seeking a hands-off approach. What’s more, the company has built client trust by offering free management on the first $10,000 invested — $15,000 with NerdWallet’s promotion.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low-cost, hassle-free approach to IRA investing.
  • First $10,000 managed free ($15,000 for NerdWallet readers).
  • Automatic rebalancing.
  • Free automated tax-loss harvesting.

Cons

  • No large-balance discounts.
  • No access to human advisors.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
0.25%
management fee
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Up to 1 yearof free management with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

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.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No account minimum
  • Extensive tax strategies
  • Robust goal-based tools
  • Free automated tax-loss harvesting

Cons

  • Limited investment options
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$500
Promotion
60days of commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

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.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No minimum account balance for IRAs
  • 4,400+ no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds
  • 156 commission-free ETFs
  • Extensive research and tools

Cons

  • Higher cost for trading non-NTF mutual funds
  • Higher trading fees for low-volume ETF and stock traders
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$1K
Promotion
$100cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Charles Schwab is one of the best overall IRA providers large fund selection, high-quality customer service and reasonable account minimums and fees. The company offers a large selection of no-transaction-fee funds and commission-free ETFs. Minimum $1,000 deposit waived for IRA with $100 monthly automatic deposit.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Minimum waived with $100 monthly deposit.
  • No inactivity fees.
  • Above-average mobile app.

Cons

  • Higher account minimum.
  • Higher trade commissions.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
500free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Fidelity’s lineup of services for investors goes well beyond retirement accounts. The company’s brokerage arm features low commissions, a wide investment selection, plenty of research and advanced trading capabilities (including a strong mobile app). The biggest knock are the volume and trade minimum requirements to access its active trader platform.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low trade commissions
  • Free research and data
  • Strong customer support
  • Low fees
  • Quality trading platform

Cons

  • Trade minimum for active trader platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

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, with no trading platform and increased commissions for frequent trades.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Large mutual fund selection
  • Over 50 commission-free ETFs
  • Leader in low-cost funds
  • Helpful customer support

Cons

  • High trade commissions
  • No trading platform or tools
  • Limited research and data
Read full review



Note: Some of these promotions won’t apply for first-time depositors, due to IRA contribution limits of $5,500 per year. We’ve tried to include promotions with low deposit requirements where available. 


Summary: Best IRA account providers

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge
No account minimum
First-rate customer service
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 bonus (based on account size)
$0

Ally Invest

Ally
Active traders
Competitive commissions, no account minimum
$4.95
per trade
$200 cash bonus or 90 days of free trades with a qualifying deposit
$0

Wealthfront

Wealthfront
Hands-off investors
Manages first $10,000 for free
0.25% of account balance
per year
$15,000 managed free (for NerdWallet readers)
$500

TD Ameritrade

Overall
Commission-free:
100 ETFs, nearly 4,000 funds
$6.95
per trade
$100 bonus ($25,000+ deposit)
up to $600 ($250,000+ deposit)
$0

E*Trade

E*Trade
No account minimum
Waives $500 account minimum for IRAs
$6.95
per trade; volume discounts
Up to $600 in commission-free trades
$0 for IRAs

Betterment

Betterment
Hands-off investors
Offers access to human advisors for a higher fee.
0.25%-0.40% of account balance
per year
Up to one year of free management with qualifying deposit
$0

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab
Overall and active trading
Commission-free:
200 ETFs, 3,000 funds
$4.95
per trade
$100 referral award for first-time clients
$1,000

Fidelity

Fidelity Investments IRA

5.0 stars
Low cost
Commission-free:
3,600 funds, 91 ETFs
$4.95
per trade
Up to 500 free trades with a qualifying deposit
$0 for IRAs

Vanguard

Vanguard
Low cost
Known for low-cost index funds
$2 to $20 per trade depending on account balance
None
$0

Learn more about IRAs

What is an IRA and why would you want one?

An IRA is an investment account earmarked for retirement. IRA accounts, meant encourage saving for retirement, have significant tax benefits:

  • 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 $5,500 to an IRA each year, or $6,500 if you’re 50 or older. That’s a combined limit shared by the two types of IRA — you can have both a Roth and a traditional IRA, but you can’t contribute more than the maximum between the two. The 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 that age 59 ½ finish line. 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.

Can anyone contribute to an IRA?

Yes and no. Roth IRAs have income limits for eligibility; if you earn too much, your contribution limit is phased down or eliminated completely. (To figure out whether your contribution limit is reduced, use our Roth IRA calculator.)

Traditional IRAs don’t have 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 may be phased down or eliminated.

That means 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 are still able to defer taxes on investment income until retirement. Read more about the traditional IRA deduction limits.

How do you 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, birthday, 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.

Arielle O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: aoshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @arioshea.

Updated Sept. 21, 2017.