Ally Invest Robo Portfolios Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Ally Robo Portfolios is best for retirement investing and loyal Ally clients who want a one-stop shop for their investing and banking services.

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: With a no-management-fee cash-enhanced portfolio option along with its standard investment options, Ally Invest Robo Portfolios is best for retirement accounts and current Ally customers.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios

Fees

0.0%

with Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio; 0.3% otherwise

Account Minimum

$100

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Solid investment selection.
  • Integration for Ally bank and brokerage clients.

Cons

  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Compare to Other Advisors

SoFi Automated Investing
Vanguard Digital Advisor
Betterment
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

0%

management fee

Fees

0.15%

per year (approximately)

Fees

0.25%

management fee

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Free

career counseling plus loan discounts with qualifying deposit

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)

Promotion

Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit

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Full Review

Where Ally Invest Robo Portfolios shines

Free management: Ally Invest Robo Portfolios offers clients the potential to have their assets managed for free. But, the 30% cash requirement for free management in Ally Invest's Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio may be better suited for customers closer to retirement.

Variety of investment options: Its platform offers a broad choice of investments, allowing clients to create and maintain a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds. It also boasts features such as Goal Tracker, a wealth-forecasting tool that simulates a range of possible investment outcomes based on various market returns.

Consolidated banking and investing: Loyal Ally customers can have a one-stop shop for a managed account, a trading account and their bank accounts.

Customer support access: If you need help, Ally Invest Robo Portfolios’ customer service has extended hours to help you when it’s convenient for you.

Where Ally Invest Robo Portfolios falls short

Tax strategies: The lack of tax-loss harvesting could pose an issue for investors with taxable brokerage accounts.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios is best for:

  • Existing Ally banking or brokerage customers.

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Automatic rebalancing.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios at a glance

Account minimum

$100

Account management fee

  • 0% for clients who opt for the Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio, which requires a 30% cash allocation.

  • 0.30% for clients who opt for the Market-Focused Managed Portfolio, which does not have a cash requirement.

Investment expense ratios

Average expense ratio of 0.07%.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

  • $25 IRA closing fee.

  • No fee to close brokerage account.

  • $50 for transfer out (full or partial).

Portfolio mix

  • Portfolios pull from ETFs covering 17 different asset classes.

  • Portfolio mix is well-diversified but lacks exposure to non-market correlated assets like real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and commodities.

  • Tax-optimized, income and socially responsible investing portfolio options available.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Clients can choose to invest in SRI portfolio options for no additional fee.

Accounts supported

  • Individual, joint and custodial nonretirement accounts.

  • Roth, traditional, and rollover IRAs.

Tax strategy

Tax-optimized investments in taxable accounts.

No tax-loss harvesting.

Automatic rebalancing

Free on all accounts.

Human advisor option

Not offered.

Bank account/cash management account

Clients can instantly transfer cash through One Ally Transfer to Ally Bank to access a savings account with a competitive APY.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Customer support is available 24/7 by phone and email. Chat support is available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

» Want to check out other providers? See our top picks for robo-advisors.

More details about Ally Invest Robo Portfolios’ ratings

Account minimum: 4 out of 5 stars

Many robo-advisors require an account minimum requirement. For those with high minimums, investors who are just starting out may not be able to use that particular investment platform.

To open an Ally Invest Robo Portfolios account, there is an initial $100 minimum deposit. This account minimum is low relative to peers, though some platforms have no account minimums.

Account management fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Investors can avoid advisory fees with Ally's Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio, which requires that they keep 30% of their portfolio in cash. While out of the investing action, that cash earns interest at a competitive rate but is not invested or FDIC insured. This cash allocation acts as a buffer against the ups and downs of the market and cannot be accessed like money in a savings account.

One big drawback: A 30% cash allocation is more typical for an investor closer to retirement who wants to protect their savings rather than those at the start of their investment journey. Investors who don't want to hold that much in cash can opt for a more traditional portfolio allocated based on their age and risk tolerance for a 0.3% management fee.

Investment expense ratios: 5 out of 5 stars

In addition to fees paid for account management, most mutual funds and exchange-traded funds have embedded investment costs called expense ratios. Expense ratios are expressed as a percentage of your investment and indicate the portion of your investment that goes to the manager of that particular fund. It’s important to compare the expense ratios from one robo-advisor platform with another because combining these fees with the account management fee and other account fees, provides your overall investment cost.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios investment expense ratios average 0.07%, which is low compared with peers.

Account fees: 3 out of 5 stars

There can be other ancillary costs an investor might need to pay, especially when closing your account. With Ally Invest Robo Portfolios, closing an IRA will incur a $25 closing fee. And transferring your securities out will cost you a maximum of $50.

If you want paper statements, you will need to pay $4 and wire transfers cost $30. Both of these fees are fairly common compared with other brokerage accounts.

Portfolio mix: 3.5 out of 5 stars

As at many other robo-advisors, Ally Invest Robo Portfolios’ investment portfolios are made up of exchange-traded funds. These ETFs cover 17 asset classes and 32 portfolios, with an average expense ratio of 0.07%, depending on the portfolio. Customers can choose among Core, Tax Optimized, Income and Socially Responsible allocations. Unlike many other brokers, Ally does not have proprietary funds, so it does not use its own funds in its managed portfolios.

New customers take an assessment to determine their risk tolerance and goals. The questions gauge how comfortable investors are with large portfolio fluctuations and what their investment time horizon is. The assessment then suggests a portfolio and provides details about the asset allocation.

Socially responsible portfolio options: 5 out of 5 stars

People interested in socially responsible investing try to generate positive returns for their portfolio while using their dollars to support companies that align with their values.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios allows you to select from four portfolio options to target your future goals. One option is its Socially Responsible portfolio, which invests in companies with ethical track records and actively focuses on sustainability, energy efficiency or other environmentally friendly practices. However, specific securities are not able to be excluded from your portfolio.

Accounts supported: 2 out of 5 stars

Many investors have several account types, such as a taxable brokerage account, retirement accounts, trust accounts or 529 accounts to save for educational expenses.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios can support taxable brokerage accounts (individual, joint and custodial) along with various IRAs (traditional, rollover and Roth).

Tax strategy: 2 out of 5 stars

When selling investments in taxable brokerage accounts, if the sale generates capital gains, you’ll get hit with a tax liability. There are various ways that investment platforms can help minimize your tax burden. One way is through tax-loss harvesting, which involves selling losing investments to offset the gains from winners.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios doesn’t offer this feature, which is standard at many robo-advisors. However, customers with nonretirement accounts can opt into a tax-optimized portfolio, which uses municipal bond ETFs to help reduce Uncle Sam's cut.

Automatic rebalancing: 5 out of 5 stars

As the markets move, the allocation within your portfolio will shift as well. When your allocation shifts too much, you may be taking on too much risk or not enough risk to produce the returns you’re looking to achieve. Many investment platforms can help monitor changes to your portfolio allocation and proactively buy and sell to bring your portfolio back in-line with your target allocation.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios monitors clients accounts daily and automatically rebalances as needed with no additional fees.

Human advisor option: 1 out of 5 stars

Sometimes, it can be helpful to work with a human financial advisor to ensure your investment portfolio is tailored to your needs. Some robo-advisor platforms offer access to human financial advisors, either included as part of their service offering or for an additional fee. Others do not, as robo-advisors are generally meant to be a no frills, automated investing service.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios falls in the latter camp, it does not offer access to human financial advisors.

Savings account/cash management options: 5 out of 5 stars

Current Ally account holders — both of the bank and brokerage arms — can open an Ally Invest Robo Portfolios account and easily view all of their accounts (checking and savings accounts, Ally Invest brokerage account and robo account) within one dashboard. The platform is mobile-responsive and consistent across devices. You cannot, however, combine self-directed and robo investment accounts, and Ally Invest Robo Portfolios’ minimum balance requirements are separate from any other assets held at Ally.

For those who want a savings account option, Ally Invest customers can instantly transfer money to Ally Bank and earn a 0.5% annual percentage yield with a deposit account, compounded daily. There are no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. You can also opt into Ally’s Overdraft Transfer Service to protect your checking account from overdraft fees using automatic transfers from your Ally savings or money market accounts.

And, there are many tools to help make saving easier — using buckets to save for specific goals and boosting your savings with recurring transfers, roundups (rounding purchases up to the nearest dollar and transferring into your savings) and surprise savings (analyzing your checking account for safe-to-save money and transferring it to savings on your behalf).

Customer support options: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Although robo-advisors are by definition hands-off investing, it's comforting to know human help is a phone call away if you've got a question about your account. Ally Invest Robo Portfolios has moved to a 24/7 customer support model, with phone and email support available at any time. Service associates are available for online chat during extended business hours 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

Is Ally Invest Robo Portfolios right for you?

That depends on what kind of account you’re interested in and which features matter most to you. This service is best suited to retirement accounts or loyal Ally customers who prefer a one-stop shop for a managed account, a trading account and their bank accounts.

Although some investors don’t mind having a buffer, the 30% cash allocation of Ally Invest's Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio may be better suited for customers closer to retirement. The lack of tax-loss harvesting could pose an issue for investors with taxable brokerage accounts.

How do we review robo-advisors?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. robo-advisors by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. 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.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product 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). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the original time of publication.

Arielle O'Shea contributed to this review.