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- Fidelity offers several inexpensive investment options for active traders and passive investors.
- Schwab offers lower automated fees and more international trading opportunities.
- The two are neck and neck in many areas, but Fidelity is the better choice for educational resources.
- See Insider’s guide to the best investment apps to use right now.
The two brokerages offer commission-free trading on stocks, ETFs, and options, and both have $0 minimum requirements for brokerage accounts. In addition, Fidelity and Schwab offer automated and advisor-assisted accounts, IRAs, trusts, and education plans.
Charles Schwab and Fidelity share many similarities, but their fee structures, account offerings, and investment products differ. Keep reading to which brokerage is best for you.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Fidelity is an
offering an expansive collection of wealth-building products for active traders and passive investors alike. It’s products include self-directed brokerage accounts, automated investing accounts, IRAs, trusts, custodial accounts, annuities, 529 plans, and more.
If you’re an active investor, you’ll have the option of investing in commission-free stocks, ETFs, and options (options contracts are $0.65) without having to meet any minimum requirements. And Fidelity offers roughly 10,000 mutual funds, more than 3,400 of which are no-transaction-fee funds (mutual funds that don’t include commissions or sales charges).
However, Fidelity also has two options for passive investors: Fidelity Go and Fidelity Personalized Planning and Advice. Fidelity Go is an automated advisor that creates and manages an investment portfolio based on your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals. The account invests your money into a portfolio of Fidelity Flex mutual funds.
Though you won’t need a minimum deposit with Fidelity Go, be prepared for the following fee schedule:
- $0 to $9,999 account balance: $0
- $10,000 to $49,999 account balance: $3/month
- $50,000+: 0.35%/year
Fidelity Personalized Planning and Advice offers something Fidelity Go doesn’t: Automated investment management plus unlimited one-on-one advice with a CFP. The catch is that you’ll need at least $25,000 to get started, and you’ll be paired with an annual 0.25% advisory fee.
Fidelity also has a unique selection of retirement resources. Among these are its Retirement Readiness questionnaire feature. This tool shows you which steps you need to take to live comfortably in retirement. Fidelity also provides retirement income calculators and Social Security calculators.
Like Fidelity, Charles Schwab is known for its variety of low-cost investment options. Its offerings include self-directed brokerage accounts, automated and advisor-assisted accounts, IRAs, trusts, custodial accounts, education accounts, international trading, and more.
If you’re a self-directed trader, you’ll have access to commission-free trading, mobile apps, investment research and tools, and 24/7 customer support. Schwab’s commission-free selection includes stocks, ETFs, and options (though each options contract costs $0.65).
The brokerage also offers thousands of no-load (funds without transaction fees) mutual funds and more than 50 Schwab-managed funds. But unlike Fidelity, Schwab offers futures (legal contracts that give investors the right to trade a security at a certain price on a forthcoming date), and all of Schwab’s no-load funds have a $100 minimum requirement.
Another option Schwab gives new users access to is the Schwab Trading Services feature. When you open a new account, you’ll have the option to add this feature at no additional cost. The feature includes access to Schwab’s advanced StreetSmart trading platform, trading educational resources, and Schwab trading specialists.
When it comes to research and educational content, there’s no shortage of materials on Schwab’s platform. The brokerage offers a digital knowledge center that teaches you about retirement, saving, and other important personal finance topics. Schwab also offers market insights and live programs and webcasts with wealth-building content.
But don’t worry if you’re more of a hands-off investor or someone who prefers professional guidance. With Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, you can sit back and watch your money grow over time. This account invests your money in ETFs, and Schwab says it builds, monitors, and automatically rebalances your investments for you. There’s no advisory fee, but you’ll need at least $5,000 to get started.
The other automated option is Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium. This account — which requires a $25,000 minimum, one-time $300 planning fee, and $30 monthly advisory fee – combines automated advice with unlimited professional guidance from a CFP.
If you’re interested in investing with retirement accounts, Schwab offers the following options: traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, rollover IRAs, inherited IRAs, and custodial IRAs. And the company also provides its own Retirement Income Solutions services to offer assistance for those planning for retirement.
Fidelity and Charles Schwab are both great for all kinds of traders — active, hands-off, and retirement-focused investors. Both brokerages offer automated and advisor-assisted accounts, low-cost self-directed trading, margin trading, retirement accounts, and more. However, the two brokerages differ when it comes to fees, investment products, and educational resources.
There are a few distinctions worth pointing out: You won’t need a minimum amount for the most basic automated accounts at Fidelity, but you’ll need at least $5,000 for Schwab’s. But Schwab makes up for this higher minimum with no advisory fees. You won’t have an annual fee with Fidelity Go if you have a balance less than $9,999, but you’ll have to pay a $3 monthly fee or 0.35% annual fee for higher balances.
Another distinction between the two brokerages is that their investment choices vary. Fidelity offers multiple products — such as IPOs, precious metals, and CDs — that Schwab doesn’t. But Schwab offers international trading in over 30 foreign markets. Schwab also lets you trade in seven local currencies in 12 foreign markets with its Schwab Global account.
Fidelity could be a better if you want access to educational resources to inform your investing. Schwab also provides multiple insights for curious investors, it mostly stands out for its low-cost investing options.
Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter at Personal Finance Insider who covers investing, brokerage, and wealth-building products.