Vanguard Digital Advisor Review 2024: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Vanguard Digital Advisor® provides an affordable, convenient and personalized way to invest for retirement. Investors benefit from Vanguard’s years of investment experience and a portfolio built from its low-cost and well-diversified ETFs.
June Sham
By June Sham 
Edited by Chris Hutchison

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Our Take

4.8

NerdWallet rating 

Reviewed in: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

The bottom line:

Vanguard Digital Advisor is an affordable robo-advisory service using several of Vanguard's key exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, to create a personalized retirement plan and portfolio for investors.

Vanguard Digital Advisor
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)
Learn more

on Vanguard's website

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Paid non-client promotion

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Access to Vanguard’s investing expertise and ETFs.

  • Low management fee relative to competitors.

  • Low investment expense ratios and no additional account fees.

Cons

  • Limited portfolio options and customization.

Compare to Other Advisors

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Fees 

0.15%

per year (approximately)

Fees 

Varies by Advisor (free initial consultation)

Fees 

0%

management fee

Fees 

0.25%

management fee

Fees 

0.25%

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

Account minimum 

$3,000

Account minimum 

$150,000

Account minimum 

$0

Account minimum 

$500

Account minimum 

$0

$10 to start

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 

3-Month Satisfaction Guarantee

Promotion 

1% match on IRA contributions

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

Promotion 

Get a $50 customer bonus

when you fund your first taxable investment account

Promotion 

None

no promotion available at this time

Learn more

on Vanguard's website

Learn more

on Zoe Financial's website

Learn more

on SoFi Invest's website

Learn more

on Wealthfront's website

Learn more

on Betterment's website

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Paid non-client promotion

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Paid non-client promotion

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Paid non-client promotion

AD

Paid non-client promotion

NerdWallet doesn’t invest its money with this provider, but they are our referral partner – so we get paid only if you click through and take a qualifying action (such as open an account with or provide your contact information to the provider). Most importantly, our reviews and ratings are objective and are never impacted by our partnerships. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here’s how we make money.

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Full Review

Where Vanguard Digital Advisor shines

Lower fees: As one of the oldest and largest investment firms in the world, Vanguard capitalizes on its investment expertise and global scale, using its size to reduce fees for investors.

Low-cost ETFs: Vanguard Digital Advisor, an all-digital robo-advisor service, gives investors the ability to create a personalized retirement plan with an all-index portfolio and the ESG portfolio for a mere 0.15% advisory fee

Hands-off investing: For investors who prefer to learn and aren’t fazed by a do-it-yourself approach, Vanguard Digital Advisor provides an affordable, personalized portfolio with ongoing, automated investment management. For those who prefer guidance from human financial advisors, consider Vanguard’s flagship offering, Vanguard Personal Advisor.

Free trial: Try it without paying any advisory fees for your first 90 days.

Where Vanguard Digital Advisor falls short

Limited ETFs: Vanguard Digital Advisor uses its own proprietary ETFs within its portfolios. While these ETFs are well-diversified, some clients may desire additional investment choices and the ability to customize their portfolios.

Vanguard Digital Advisor is best for:

  • Those who value low-cost offerings.

  • Investors desiring a personalized plan to reach retirement goals.

  • Investors who are comfortable leveraging technology instead of receiving guidance from a human advisor.

Vanguard Digital Advisor at a glance

Reviewed: Oct. 2023

Period considered: Aug. - Oct. 2023

Account minimum

$3,000 for retail brokerage accounts, $5 for eligible 401(k) plan participant accounts.

Account management fee

Costs will vary depending on the funds and portfolio selected. For an all-index portfolio and the ESG portfolio, Digital Advisor clients will pay a net advisory fee of approximately 0.15%. For clients with an active/index portfolio, the Digital Advisor net advisory fee ranges from 0.11%-0.20%)

The net advisory fee is waived for new clients' first 90 days enrolled in the service.

Investment expense ratios

Average is 0.05% for retail clients with Vanguard brokerage accounts; fees vary for 401(k) plan participant accounts.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

None.

Portfolio mix

Digital Advisor clients now have the opportunity to select from three investment portfolio options: All-Index, Active/Index and ESG. Each portfolio investment option is made up of Vanguard funds and ETFs. The portfolio mix will be adjusted based on a client's personalized inputs to reach their financial goals.

Socially responsible portfolio options

ESG portfolio lineup offered at no additional cost.

Accounts supported

  • Individual and joint brokerage accounts.

  • IRAs (traditional, Roth and rollover).

  • 401(k)s (Digital Advisor is available to eligible 401(k) plans on its full-service record-keeping platform).

Tax strategy

Vanguard Digital Advisor clients have access to automated tax-loss harvesting as of March 2023.

Automatic rebalancing

Portfolios evaluated daily to compare against target asset allocation, and rebalanced as necessary when portfolio found to deviate by more than 5% in any asset class. Monitoring in place to rebalance if cash balance is more than $300.

Human advisor option

None. Vanguard does offer access to advisors through its Personal Advisor platform, which has additional fees.

Bank account/cash management account

Within Digital Advisor, all clients can now establish short-term goals. As a client’s shorter-term goals near maturity, Vanguard will gradually allocate a portion of the portfolio to a money market fund to help protect against short term market volatility.

Through Vanguard's self-directed experience, clients can also access additional cash offerings with Vanguard Cash Deposit, an FDIC-insured program bank product, and Vanguard Cash Plus, an alternative to a high-yield savings account to eligible clients. The Cash Plus Account offers clients a competitive APY, enhanced FDIC coverage ($1.25M for individuals, $2.5M for joint) and additional options to access savings including a dedicated routing and account number to pay bills or taxes.

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

Customer support is available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time by phone. Email support is also available.

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

More details about Vanguard Digital Advisor's ratings

Account minimum: 3 out of 5 stars

A robo-advisor’s account minimum refers to how much money or securities you must deposit to open an account on its investment platform. Higher account minimums could be a barrier for people just getting started with investing.

Although Vanguard Digital Advisor’s low costs are compelling, its account minimum of $3,000 for retail brokerage accounts is higher than some of its peers. There are other robo-advisor platforms with no minimums or minimums less than Vanguard Digital Advisor.

For eligible 401(k) accounts, the account minimum is $5.

Account management fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Considering the range of robo-advisors we review, Vanguard Digital Advisor’s 0.15% management fee is on the lower end. However, some of these robos provide access to human advisors, so it makes more sense to compare Vanguard’s fees with other similar offerings without human guidance.

Both Wealthfront's and Betterment's entry-level tiers charge a 0.25% management fee. Fidelity Go has a tiered fee structure in which all balances above $50,000 carry a 0.35% advisory fee. Ally Invest Managed Portfolios also has a tiering component, but its clients who want full market exposure pay a 0.30% management fee.

In comparison, Vanguard's low, flat fee is attractive.

Note that Vanguard Digital Advisor charges a 0.20% annual gross advisory fee but clients are credited for the portion of expense ratios going to The Vanguard Group or its affiliates, which makes the annual net advisory fee approximately 0.15% across accounts. Your actual net fee may vary depending on the specific holdings within your account.

Investment expense ratios: 5 out of 5 stars

Investment expense ratios are internal annual fees baked into the cost of almost every mutual fund, index fund or exchange-traded fund to cover the fund manager’s costs.

Vanguard’s All-Index portfolio has an average expense ratio of .05%. That's lower than the competition, with the exception of Fidelity Go, which has zero expense ratios in its Fidelity Flex funds.

Digital Advisor has two additional portfolio options: Active/Index and ESG, and the average expense ratio for those may vary.

Account fees: 5 out of 5 stars

Vanguard Digital Advisor charges no annual fees, no transfer or closing fees, and no setup or onboarding fees. Low fees benefit investors as the less you pay in fees, the more money you can keep working for you.

Portfolio mix: 3 out of 5 stars

Clients complete Vanguard Digital Advisor's online financial profile to create their personalized retirement plan. The service asks for details about household income and tax-filing status, with the option to link outside accounts.

Next, Vanguard’s risk-tolerance tool figures out a client's attitude toward risk by posing various scenarios. Then, the client moves on to establish their retirement goal, taking into consideration contributions to retirement accounts, time horizon, Social Security benefits and more to produce their retirement outlook.

Based upon the client’s plan, Vanguard Digital Advisor customizes a portfolio aligned with their retirement goals and provides ongoing management.

Each portfolio investment option is made up of Vanguard funds and ETFs. While Vanguard ETFs do provide investors with a well-diversified and tax-efficient portfolio, some investors may feel constrained without access to smart-beta portfolios provided by other robo-advisors.

Socially responsible portfolio options: 4 out of 5 stars

Increasingly, investors have wanted to put their dollars toward investments that produce both social change as well as good financial returns. Socially responsible investments might include companies making positive and sustainable impact or exclude those making negative impact.

Investors with their heart set on socially responsible investments can now opt in to the ESG portfolio option at Vanguard Digital Advisor. Customers can choose from a range of investments including ESG U.S. Stock ETF, ESG International Stock ETF, ESG U.S. Corporate Bond ETF, Short-Term Treasury ETF, Intermediate-Term Treasury ETF and Total International Bond ETF.

Accounts supported: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Investors often have more than one type of investment account. If you’d like to keep everything under one umbrella, it’s important to know what account types can be supported on your robo-advisor’s platform.

Vanguard Digital Advisor is able to manage individual and joint taxable brokerage accounts, IRAs (traditional, Roth and rollover) and 401(k)s for those eligible defined-contribution plans on Vanguard’s full-service record-keeping platform.

Tax strategy: 4 out of 5 stars

Vanguard Digital Advisor now offers automatic tax-loss harvesting service for its accounts. Tax-loss harvesting is a tax minimization strategy where loss-making investments are sold to offset gains made within your portfolio.

Vanguard also optimizes for tax efficiency using asset location, placing more tax-efficient investments in taxable accounts, and those investments with the greater tax burden into tax-sheltered retirement accounts, when the client has both types of accounts.

Automatic rebalancing: 5 out of 5 stars

When the market moves, the allocation of your investment portfolio will shift. This means that over time, your portfolio allocation may adjust away from its target allocation. Rebalancing your account will bring your allocation back to where it was meant to be by buying and selling investments.

Once a portfolio is active, Vanguard Digital Advisor monitors accounts daily and rebalances if any asset class deviates more than 5% from the target asset allocation.

Human advisor option: 1 out of 5 stars

Vanguard’s Digital Advisor platform doesn't provide investors with access to a human advisor for questions or planning purposes. While this is not uncommon among robo-advisors, competitors such as Betterment and Ellevest offer the ability from within their digitally minded offerings to purchase one-off or a la carte access to a human advisor.

Those who want a human’s help can check out Vanguard’s Personal Advisor platform, which provides unlimited access to advisors. However, do-it-yourselfers may gravitate toward Digital Advisor to work things out on their own using Vanguard’s various tools (including a tool on debt-payment strategies) and other investor education.

Savings account/cash management options: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Investors can choose to put cash in Vanguard’s money market fund, which is where Vanguard will gradually allocate a portion of the portfolio.

In the self-guided account, clients can access the Vanguard Cash Deposit, which is an FDIC-insured program bank product. The brokerage sweep product is available to eligible clients if they choose to opt out of the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund. In 2023, the company also piloted Vanguard Cash Plus, which served as an alternative to high-yield savings account to eligible clients. The Cash Plus Account offered clients a competitive APY, enhanced FDIC coverage ($1.25 million for individuals, $2.5 million for joint) and additional options to access savings including a dedicated routing and account number to pay bills or taxes.

Customer support options: 3 out of 5 stars

If you have a question about your investment account, Vanguard Digital Advisor offers customer support via phone from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday, so customers can call outside of typical business hours. Email support is also another option it offers.

Is Vanguard Digital Advisor right for you?

If you’re comfortable leveraging technology and online tools to create your retirement plan, Vanguard Digital Advisor provides you with the means to do so. Digital Advisor has incorporated additional features, including the ability to plan for multiple, non-retirement goals — such as saving for a child’s college education or new home — to help with a more holistic approach to financial planning. Combined with its low-cost ETFs, Vanguard’s platform guides investors with a personalized, diversified portfolio aligned with their goals, along with ongoing management.

How do we review robo-advisors?

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. 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 16 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars).

For more details about the categories considered when rating robo-advisors and our process, read our full methodology.

Visit vanguard.com to obtain a Vanguard fund or Vanguard ETF prospectus, or, if available, a summary prospectus, which contains investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider carefully before investing.

Vanguard Digital Advisor is an all-digital service. Digital Advisor's annual net advisory fee is approximately 0.15% across your enrolled accounts for a typical investment portfolio, although your actual net fee will vary depending on the specific holdings in each enrolled account. Vanguard Digital Advisor charges a 0.20% annual gross advisory fee to manage Vanguard Brokerage Accounts. However, we'll credit you for the revenues that The Vanguard Group, Inc. ("VGI"), or its affiliates receive from the securities in your Digital Advisor managed portfolio (i.e., at least that portion of the expense ratios of the Vanguard funds held in your portfolio that VGI or its affiliates receive). Your net advisory fee can also vary by enrolled account type. The combined annual cost of Vanguard Digital Advisor's annual net advisory fee plus the expense ratios charged by the Vanguard funds in your managed portfolio will be 0.20% for Vanguard Brokerage Accounts. For more information, please review Form CRS and the Vanguard Digital Advisor brochure.

Enrollments in Vanguard Digital Advisor require at least $3,000 in each Vanguard Brokerage Account. For each taxable account you wish to enroll, the entire balance must be in the brokerage account's settlement fund (which is Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund). For each traditional, Roth, or rollover IRA you wish to enroll, the entire balance must be in certain allowable investment types (based on eligibility screening by Digital Advisor at the time of enrollment) and/or the brokerage account's settlement fund. We'll invest your assets in a portfolio of Vanguard ETFs, all of which are commission-free through a Vanguard Brokerage Account. Vanguard Brokerage Accounts are offered through and maintained by Vanguard Marketing Corporation ("VMC"), a registered broker-dealer and member FINRA and SIPC. If you decide to manage your investments on your own, you can buy and sell Vanguard ETF Shares through Vanguard Brokerage Services® or another broker (which may charge commissions).

When you are enrolled in the Vanguard Cash Deposit program, Eligible Balances that are swept to Program Banks are not securities: they are not covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), but are eligible for FDIC insurance. Eligible Balances swept to Program Banks are the obligations of each Program Bank, and are not cash balances held by Vanguard Brokerage Services (VBS). See the Vanguard Bank Sweep Products Terms of Use for more information. Assets swept to the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund are held by VBS, a division of Vanguard Marketing Corporation, member FINRA and SIPC. These assets are not covered by FDIC insurance. See the Vanguard Brokerage Account Agreement for more information. You are responsible for monitoring the total assets you hold at each Program Bank for FDIC coverage and limitations. These total assets will include not only Eligible Balances under the Bank Sweep, but also any other deposits you may hold at those banks. For more information about FDIC insurance coverage, please visit the FDIC website at FDIC.gov.

The Vanguard Cash Plus Account is a brokerage account offered by Vanguard Brokerage Services, a division of Vanguard Marketing Corporation, member FINRA and SIPC. Under the Sweep Program, Eligible Balances swept to Program Banks are not securities: they are not covered by SIPC, but are eligible for FDIC insurance, subject to applicable limits. Money market funds held in the account are not guaranteed or insured by the FDIC, but are securities eligible for SIPC coverage. See the Vanguard Bank Sweep Products Terms of Use and Program Bank list for more information.

Bank Sweep program balances are held at one or more participating banks, earn a variable rate of interest, and are not covered by SIPC. See the list of participating Program Banks. Balances are eligible for FDIC insurance subject to applicable limits.

Vanguard Digital Advisor's services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc. ("VAI"), a federally registered investment advisor. VAI is a subsidiary of VGI and an affiliate of VMC. Neither VAI, Digital Advisor, VGI, nor VMC guarantees profits or protection from losses.

Vanguard Marketing Corporation, Distributor.

Learn more

on Vanguard's website