Updated November 24, 2020 2:21 PM PT

Best Robo Advisor

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Investing apps can help grow your money. But you need to compare returns and fees. See which robo-advisors are worth it.

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Here are the 10 best robo advisors for 2020:

Robo-advisors offer affordable hands-off investing. Now, anyone who wants to invest can.

But there are now over 200 robo-advisors on the market. Each one is different and has their unique features. How do you pick the right one?

We have come up with our top 9 robo-advisors. Whether you're a rookie, have little money, or a lot to invest, there's something that will fit your bill. Read on.

Do you have $100 to invest? Ally allows you to preview your personalized portfolio recommendation before signing up.

What are Robo Advisors?

Robo-advisors provide online automated investing services. They use algorithms to select investments for you and automatically monitor your account with software. Robo-advisors can automate complicated tasks like rebalancing and tax strategizing to give you better returns.

Because robo-advisors use automated management, they can provide the service at a low cost (compared to human advisors). Many have no (or very low) starting minimums, so they're accessible to anyone with internet access.

Robo-advisors are great for:

  • Beginners who don't feel confident investing on their own
  • Beginners without a lot of money to invest
  • Investors who want to be completely hands-off

Robo Advisors vs Financial Advisors: Robo advisors use software to invest for you based on factors like your age, goals, and risk tolerance. This means their approach is more cookie-cutter. On the other hand, human financial advisors can tailor your investment plan to your specific needs and ever-changing financial situation. However, they are more costly than robo advisors.

How Much Do Robo Advisors Cost?

Typically, robo-advisors charge a percentage of your assets under management. This fee would be all-inclusive of management, software, and trading fees. For example, if the annual fee is 0.25% and you have $1,000 in your account, your fee would be $2.50 yearly.

Some robo-advisors charge a flat rate monthly fee. And some even offer the service free of advisory fees. It's important to compare advisory fees and minimum requirements against features you want.

Here are the fees and minimums for our top rated robo-advisors:

Robo AdvisorFeeMinimum
Betterment0.25% for basic service$0
Ally Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio0%$100
Vanguard Personal Advisor0.30%$50,000
Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolio0%$5,000
M1 Finance0%$100
Acorns$1/month$0
Blooomabout $10/month$0
Personal Capital0.89%$100,000
Wealthfront0.25%$500

Are robo advisors worth it? Robo advisors are great for young, inexperienced, or lower net worth investors. However, if you're a very confident investor, then you may be able to see better returns managing your own investments. Or if you have more complicated wealth management needs, a real human advisor may be able to serve you better.

Best Robo-Advisors

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Here are our favorite robo-advisors for every kind of investor.

Are robo advisors FDIC insured?
Robo advisors are not FDIC insured since that only protects your bank deposits. However, they are SIPC insured, which insures investments held at brokerage firms should it go out of business. You are protected up to $500,000 per account type.

Betterment: Best for New Investors

    Betterment
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Betterment

    • Minimum Deposit: $0
    • Annual Fee: 0.25% for accounts under $100,000; 0.40% for accounts $100,000+
    Pros:
    • No minimum investment
    • Many customized portfolios
    • Automatically invest extra funds
    Cons:
    • Limited investment options
    • High fees for large investors

    Our Review: (4.1) Betterment offers low fees and good returns. But there are risks you should NOT ignore. Read this review to see if Betterment is better... Read full review

    Get up to 1 Year Managed Free

Why we like Betterment for beginners:

  • No minimum required investment, so beginners can get started with very little money.

  • Only 0.25% annual advisory fee. This means for every $100 in your account, the fee is only 25 cents per year.

  • Supports fractional shares, so you can buy just a small fraction of a stock if you don't have enough for a full share.

  • Set up different portfolios for goals such as emergencies, retirement, major purchase, and general investing. Offers both taxable and retirement accounts.

  • Tax loss harvesting available for everyone. This helps to minimize your tax liability by offsetting capital gains with losses.

  • Automatic account rebalancing.

Betterment vs Wealthfront: Wealthfront and Betterment have similar features and fees. Betterment has more portfolio options, while Wealthfront provides more diversified asset classes. Betterment supports fractional shares whereas Wealthfront only purchases whole shares.

For investors with over $100k, Betterment has a Premium service with access to financial experts, while Wealthfront offers more advanced tax-efficient strategies.

Read our detailed breakdown of differences.

Ally Invest: Best for No Advisory Fee

    Ally Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio

    • Minimum Deposit: $100
    • Annual Fee: 0% advisory fee for Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio
    Pros:
    • No advisory fees for Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio
    • Good customer service
    • Preview your strategy before signing up
    Cons:
    • No tax loss harvesting
    • Large cash buffer

    Our Review: (4.4) Ally Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio offers automated investing with no advisory fees. But what's the catch? Read on to find out how it compares to other top robo-advisors... Read full review

    Automated Investing to Help Save Your Time

Why we like Ally Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio:

  • No advisory fees no matter your account size. Small balances won't lose any money to fees.

  • Only $100 minimum to get started.

  • Choose from 4 different portfolios: core, income, tax-optimized, and socially responsible.

  • Automatic account rebalancing.

  • 24/7 customer service by phone and online chat.

No advisory fees sounds too good to be true. However, the catch is that 30% of your portfolio will be in cash. You do earn interest on it, but that's still cash sitting around uninvested.

Another downside is that tax loss harvesting is not offered, but that won't really affect small balances.

SigFig: Best for Small Balances

Why we like Sigfig for small balances:

  • The first $10,000 is managed for free. After that, there's a low annual fee of 0.25%.

  • Uses tax-efficient strategies to reduce your costs and improve your returns.

  • Free portfolio analysis tools available to everyone.

  • Access to real human investment advisors.

SigFig works a little differently. It's an advisor instead of a brokerage. You have to open an account with one of its partner brokerages - TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Charles Schwab. SigFig will then manage your account and make investments for you.

However, there is a $2,000 minimum investment.

Which robo advisor has best returns?
BackEnd Benchmarking provides a free robo-report that publishes the performance of the most popular robo advisors. You can see which ones are the top performers. This may help you make a more informed choice.

According to the report, SigFig, along with Axos Invest, have one of the top performance track records. But remember that past performance doesn't guarantee the same future returns.

Vanguard Personal Advisor: Best for High Net Worth

    Vanguard Personal Advisor

    • Minimum Deposit: $50,000
    • Annual Fee: 0.3%
    Pros:
    • Professionally managed by human advisors
    • Low annual fee
    • Backed by prestigious brand
    Cons:
    • High minimum investment
    • Extra transaction fees
    • No continuous tax loss harvesting

    Our Review: (3.6) Typically, robo-advisors mean strictly online portfolio management with no human interaction. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services set out to be the face of change by combining the two services. Is it all it's cracked up to be?... Read full review

Why we like Vanguard Personal Advisor Services for large balances:

  • Only 0.30% annual advisory fee, which is very low compared to other personal advisory services. Accounts over $5 Million get further discounts.

  • Offers a combination of a robo-advisor and real human advisory and account oversight.

  • Get a plan unique to you. Financial advisors help come up with a customized financial plan, help manage it, and adjust as your personal and financial situations changes.

  • For more complicated needs, advisors can advice on estate planning, creating a succession plan, and charitable giving - at no extra cost.

  • Connect to your advisor by phone, email or video chat.

The minimum investment requirement is $50,000, which is why this is only for high net worth individuals.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services does not offer daily tax loss harvesting. This can be costly when you are talking about large investments. They are conscious of your tax liabilities and help to allocate your assets appropriately between taxable and non-taxable accounts, but daily tax loss harvesting could be something sorely missed.

Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolio: Best for IRAs

    Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolio

    • Minimum Deposit: $5,000
    • Annual Fee: None
    Pros:
    • No account fees
    • More diversified asset allocation
    • Cannot adjust assigned portfolio
    Cons:
    • Higher minimum deposit
    • Large cash allocation
    • Tax loss harvesting only to high balance accounts

    Our Review: (4.3) Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios offers similar robo-advisor services to its competitors but without the annual fee. How is this possible? Read this review to see if it's too good to be true... Read full review

Why we like Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios for IRAs:

  • No advisory fees. When investing for the long term, this could add up to significant savings. That means more for you in retirement.

  • Offers traditional, Roth, and Rollover IRA accounts, as well as SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs for the self-employed.

  • Invests your assets in as many as 20 asset classes - more than other robo advisors.

  • More diversified investments that may include real estate, precious metals, and bank loans.

  • Goal Tracker feature helps you see your progress toward your retirement goals, and gives advice on how to get back on target, if necessary.

The minimum investment is $5,000, which is a reasonable exchange for no advisory fees if you have that much to start.

No advisory fees doesn't mean that you pay no fees at all. You'll still be responsible for the expense ratios on your investments, which can range from 0.06% to 0.20% of the assets.

M1 Finance: Best for Customized Portfolio

    M1 Finance
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    M1 Finance

    • Minimum Deposit: $100
    • Annual Fee: None
    Pros:
    • Choose your own investments
    • Can invest in individual stocks
    • No account fees
    Cons:
    • Not beginner friendly
    • No human advisors
    • Can only trade once a day

    Our Review: (4.5) M1 Finance lets you invest in stocks and ETFs without fees. But is it safe? Find out the pros and cons, and if it's legit... Read full review

    Transfer Your Account and Earn Up to $2,500

Why we like M1 Finance if you want complete control:

  • No annual fee or trade commission fees.

  • Allows you to pick your own stocks and ETFs for fully customized portfolios (called "Pies"). Create and modify your Pies as often as you want.

  • Automatically buys stocks for you according to your Pies and manages your portfolios.

  • Supports fractional shares, so you can buy just a small fraction of a stock if you don't have enough for a full share.

  • Best of both worlds for semi-experienced investors who want to choose their own investments, but don't want to manage.

Acorns: Best for College Students

    Acorns
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Acorns

    • Minimum Deposit: $0
    • Annual Fee: $1/mo for Acorns Lite (taxable account only)
      $3/mo for Acorns Personal (includes IRA and checking account)
      $5/mo for Acorns Family (includes investment accounts for kids)
    Pros:
    • No minimum investment
    • Invest with spare change
    • Cash-back program
    Cons:
    • Fees are high for small balances
    • No tax benefits
    • Limited investment options

    Our Review: (3.7) Acorns automatically invests your spare change. But can it help make you money? Find out if this app is safe and legit... Read full review

    $10 Sign-Up Bonus

Why we like Acorns app for college students:

  • With just your spare change, you can start investing with as little as $5.

  • Invest without thinking. Automatically rounds up the change from your purchases and invests them.

  • Supports fractional shares, so you can buy just a small fraction of a stock if you don't have enough for a full share.

  • User friendly app for young adults.

Blooom: Best for 401k Management

    Blooom
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Blooom

    • Minimum Deposit: $0
    • Annual Fee: Analysis is free
      $45/year for Essentials Plan
      $120/year for Standard Plan
      $250/year for Unlimited Plan
    Pros:
    • Manage retirement accounts
    • No account minimum
    • Flat yearly fee
    Cons:
    • No IRA or taxable accounts

    Our Review: (4.5) Blooom is an affordable robo-advisor for your 401k. But is it safe and legit? Read this in-depth review for the pros and cons... Read full review

    $10 off the annual price

Why we like Blooom for 401k management:

  • Focuses on managing 401k accounts, which other robo-advisors don't do.

  • As low as $10/month. For accounts $50,000+, this fee is less than robo-advisors such as Betterment and Wealthfront.

  • Optimizes your 401k. Gets rid of funds that don't make sense for your goals and/or expensive funds. And then automatically selects more ideal investments for you.

  • Analyzes your 401k for free first. If you don't like the recommendations, you don't have to sign up for the service.

  • Can sign up to use Blooom without your employer knowing about it.

Personal Capital: Best for Retirees

    Personal Capital
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Personal Capital

    • Minimum Deposit: $100,000
    • Annual Fee: 0.89% for first $1 million, 0.79% for first $3 million, next $2 million 0.69%, next $5 million, 0.59%, and 0.49% over $10 million
    Pros:
    • Retirement planner
    • Free portfolio advice
    • Robo plus human advisors
    Cons:
    • $100,000 min for advisory service
    • Higher fees than competitors

    Our Review: (4.6) Personal Capital is a free financial tool. But is it legit? Find out how they make money and if it's safe to use... Read full review

    Get Started with Personal Capital

Why we like Personal Capital for retirees:

  • Hybrid robo-advisor plus human advisor service.

  • Retirees can benefit by speaking with their advisor to effectively manage their withdrawals while staying on track with their personal goals.

  • Financial advisors help design a customized strategy.

  • Portfolio features such as dynamic portfolio allocation, tactical weighing, and automatic rebalancing.

  • Free advanced financial tools, including portfolio tracker, fee analyzer, and retirement planner.

Personal Capital's services do come at a cost, though. They charge 0.89% annual fee, which is much steeper than your standard robo-advisor. But the benefit of having real human financial planners may be worth it for retirees. And the minimum is $100,000.

Wealthfront: Best for Financial Tools

    Wealthfront

    • Minimum Deposit: $500
    • Annual Fee: 0.25%
    Pros:
    • Minimal opening deposit & fees
    • Advanced goal tracker
    • Tax loss harvesting
    Cons:
    • No human advisors
    • No fractional shares

    Our Review: (4.3) Wealthfront simplifies long-term, low-cost investing with a diversified portfolio. But is it safe? Read on to learn if Wealthfront is worth it... Read full review

Why we like Wealthfront for financial tools:

  • Use advanced financial tools for free without signing up for the investing service. Tools include:

    • Analyze how your spending or saving patterns would affect your retirement income
    • See how big financial decisions would impact retirement
    • Calculate much house you can afford and explore homes within your budget
    • Estimate cost of college and likely financial aid
    • Calculate the impact of taking time off work to travel

  • Low 0.25% annual fee for all balances.

  • More diversified portfolio including real estate and natural resources.

  • More advanced tax strategies for accounts $100k+ to help you keep more returns.

Ellevest: Best Niche Advisor for Women

    Ellevest
    Read Review

    Ellevest

    • Minimum Deposit: $0 for all membership tiers
    • Annual Fee: $1/mo for Essential Plan
      $5/mo for Plus Plan
      $9/mo for Executive Plan
    Pros:
    • Focused on women's needs
    • $0 minimum
    • Starts at $1/mo
    Cons:
    • Limited account options
    • No tax loss harvesting
    • Uncertain future

    Our Review: (4.1) Ellevest tailors investment strategies specifically for women's needs. Find out how this robo-advisor make a difference... Read full review

Why we like Ellevest for women:

  • Focuses on women's unique needs. It considers the challenges women face, such as:

    • Women earn less than men throughout their lifetime.
    • Women are more likely to take a career break when they become a mother.
    • Women have longer lifespans than men.

  • Low $1/mo annual fee for the Ellevest Essential account

  • Unlimited support from financial professionals

  • Impact Portfolio option that invests in companies with female leaders and ethical practices

How Robo Advisors Work

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  • Your portfolio is based on your age, income, goals, and risk tolerance. These are the basic questions the robo-advisor will ask you. It uses that information to build you a portfolio that aligns with your goals. For example, if you're young, your portfolio may have a heavier stock allocation, as you can afford to take more risks.

  • Your portfolio is made of ETFs. Robo-advisors mainly use ETFs (Exchanged Traded Funds) to build a diversified portfolio. An ETF is a collection of stocks and bonds, so it's less risky than single stocks. They also cost less to trade, which makes the portfolio cheaper to maintain.

  • How fees work. Generally, you pay a percentage of your assets under management. But some robo-advisors also charge a flat monthly rate. While some charge nothing.

  • Automated vs. human oversight. Some robo-advisors are completely automated. The decisions are made by software. Some also have professional human oversight, where real financial advisors will periodically monitor your account and make changes.

What to Look for in a Robo-Advisor

  • Low management fees: Many robo-advisors charge annual fees. Some charge a monthly fee, while others charge nothing.

    You'll want to choose the robo-advisor with the lowest management fee while still providing the features you'll use.

  • Low minimum investment requirement: Each robo-advisor sets their own minimum investment requirements. Know how much you have to invest and choose your robo-advisor accordingly.

  • Automatic investment rebalancing: The key to robo-advisors is their ability to monitor your account daily, automatically rebalancing your account when it gets off track from your intended goals. Not all robo-advisors offer this service, but we feel it's the key to success with this service.

Watch out for hidden fees: Just because a robo-advisor has low management fees doesn't mean that's all you will pay.

Make sure you find out what type of investments they trade. Are they mostly commission-free ETFs? If so, you are in good shape. If they trade mutual funds or stocks, though, you'll pay front-end loads, transaction fees, and commissions. These could all take away from your profits.

Common Questions

  • What are expense ratios?
    ETFs have a fee called expense ratios, which is the operating fee of the fund. This includes management, marketing, and administrative costs.

    These fees are in addition to robo-advisor service fees. Robo advisors get no part of these fees. They're deducted directly from the fund's assets.

  • What is the difference between taxable and retirement accounts?
    Retirement accounts (like IRAs) offer tax advantages. But they have an annual contribution limit and you can't withdraw funds until a certain retirement age (or you'll incur a penalty).

    Taxable accounts, on the other hand, do not have tax benefits. But you're not restricted to any contribution limits. You can withdraw funds at any time.

  • What are ETFs?
    A ETF is a fund that contains a collection of securities - sometimes up to hundreds of different stocks in one. This gives you instant diversification across many companies. They're traded like stocks on the open stock market.

    Most robo-advisors invest in low-cost exchange traded funds because of the easy diversification.

  • What is tax loss harvesting?
    Some robo-advisors use tax loss harvesting to help minimize your tax liability. In other words, they sell investments that have lost value. The loss helps to offset the capital gains you make on profitable investments. In the end, you have a lower tax liability.

  • How often do robo advisors rebalance?
    Typically, robo advisors automatically rebalance your portfolio whenever it drifts from the suggested allocation. Because everything is managed by software, they can sense right away when your portfolio drifts and automatically correct it.

  • Why would robo-advisors offer human advice too?
    From the name, robo-advisor, you'd think the computer would do all of the work. Some robo-advisors, though, offer a hybrid service, which can mean interaction with a human advisor. Some brokerages reserve this service for high net worth investors, but not all do.

What Experts Say

Figuring out the right investing platform can be challenging. But the sooner you start, the faster you'll reach your financial goals.

As a part of our series on investing and saving, CreditDonkey assembled a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions.

Here's what they said:

Bottom Line

The right robo-advisor for you depends on many factors, including how much you have to invest, how much you want to spend, and the type of account(s) you want to open.

Robo-advisors might not be the best option for the hands-on investor, but a hybrid investor that offers both automated and human advisor services could bring you the best of both worlds. Make sure you know everything a specific company offers and requires before making your decision.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

More from CreditDonkey:


How to Make Money Work for You


Where to Invest 10k


What is Passive Income

Are Robo Advisors a Good Idea

Robo advisors make it possible for new investors to start investing. But they come with a fee. Are they worth it? Read on to learn about the pros and cons.
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