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. 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.

Here are NerdWallet’s picks.

Best IRA providers overall

These providers offer a large fund selection, high-quality customer service and reasonable account minimums and fees.

Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are ideal for retirement investors: They offer a wealth of retirement planning tools and resources, along with large fund selections that can be traded with no fees or commissions. Both brokers also have 24/7 customer service, local offices and online and in-branch educational offerings.

TD Ameritrade requires no account minimum, while Schwab requires a $1,000 initial deposit. However, that minimum is waived with auto-deposits of at least $100 a month. Schwab also offers an impressive selection of index funds with investment minimums of just $100.

Best IRA providers with no account minimum

These providers have $0 minimum investment requirements for IRAs.

In addition to our top-choice TD Ameritrade — which also has no account minimum — investors starting small should consider E-Trade and Merrill Edge. Both brokers require no account minimum to access their quality 24/7 customer service, including physical branches (Merrill Edge customers can visit advisors at 2,000 Bank of America locations).

E-Trade, which waives its account minimums on IRAs but otherwise requires a $500 initial deposit, will stand out to investors seeking commission-free ETFs: The broker offers more than 100 options. Merrill Edge also will appeal to customers of its parent company Bank of America, as accounts are integrated into a single login.

Best IRA providers for hands-off investors

Robo-advisors Betterment and Wealthfront manage your portfolio for you.

Betterment and Wealthfront are robo-advisors that manage your IRA account for you, building a portfolio out of low-cost ETFs.

Betterment is the leading independent robo-advisor, and has maintained its momentum despite strong competition, largely due to its low costs and robust lineup of retirement planning tools. The company charges 0.25% for its Betterment Digital offering, and offers access to financial advisors for a higher fee and required account minimum.

Wealthfront charges a flat 0.25%, but waives its fee entirely on the first $10,000 invested ($15,000 with a special promotion for NerdWallet readers). For a full comparison of the two services, check out our post on Wealthfront vs. Betterment.

Best IRA providers for active traders

These brokers offer low commissions plus extensive research and strong trading platforms.

Retirement investors would be wise to avoid playing the market within an IRA. But if you want to dedicate a portion of your IRA to stock trading — we’re talking 10% or less — you should be looking at commissions, research and tools when comparing providers.

OptionsHouse and Ally Invest offer $4.95 stock trades along with advanced tools and trading platforms. Ally Invest is best for frequent traders, as the broker offers discounts to investors who trade 30 or more times per quarter or who maintain an account balance of $100,000 or above. They pay just $3.95 per trade and 50 cents per options contract.

Investors should be aware that they likely will pay a transaction fee to purchase funds at both brokers: Ally Invest doesn’t offer any no-transaction-fee mutual funds or commission-free ETFs. OptionsHouse has just five commission-free ETFs and zero no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Best IRA providers for low costs

These providers offer a large selection of mutual funds and ETFs with low expense ratios.

If fees and expenses are your primary concern — and they should at least top the list — you should look to Fidelity and Vanguard (though Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, our top picks, are also strong contenders here).

Fidelity gives its clients access to an impressive selection of highly rated funds with expense ratios under 0.50%; many charge no transaction fees or commissions. The downside: The majority of the company’s mutual funds have a $2,500 investment minimum, but Fidelity waives that on many with auto-deposits of at least $200 a month. Investors should also consider the company’s robo-advisor, Fidelity Go, which has a $5,000 account minimum. The online advisor charges 0.35% — including investment expenses — of assets managed for retirement accounts.

Vanguard — which brought investors the index fund — offers a smaller selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and commission-free ETFs, but wins hands down on costs. The company’s funds have an average expense ratio of just 0.18%. Vanguard’s retirement funds have a $1,000 investment minimum.

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

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

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab
Overall
Commission-free:
200 ETFs, 3,000 funds
$4.95
per trade
$100 to $500 cash bonus for deposits of $10,000 or more
$1,000

E*Trade

E*Trade
No account minimum
Waives $500 account minimum for IRAs
$6.95
per trade; volume discounts
60 days of commission-free trades ($10,000+ deposit)
$0 for IRAs

Merrill Edge

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

Betterment

Betterment
Hands-off investors
Offers access to human advisors for a higher fee.
0.25%-0.50% of account balance
per year
One month of free management with $10,000 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

OptionsHouse

OptionsHouse
Active traders
Competitive commissions, no account minimum
$4.95
per trade
$1,000 in commission-free trades ($5,000+ deposit)
$0

Ally

Ally
Active traders
Competitive commissions, no account minimum
$4.95
per trade
None
$0

Fidelity

Fidelity Investments
Low cost
Commission-free:
3,600 funds, 91 ETFs
$4.95
per trade
Up to 10% match on future contributions with 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

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

Updated May 11, 2017.