Fidelity Investments versus Betterment brokerage firm comparison: IRA, fees, commissions, benefits, pros and cons. Which broker to choose?

Overview of Betterment and Fidelity

Fidelity and Betterment offer investors different styles of financial management, and these approaches come with different prices. Nonetheless, there are some similarities in a few areas. Let’s compare these two brokers and try to determine which one delivers the best trading experience.

Investment Research

Because Betterment doesn’t offer trading in individual securities, the broker-dealer doesn’t offer any research or learning materials on individual assets. Furthermore, we didn’t find any educational materials on investing in general. A managed portfolio does have succinct information on the individual ETF’s that comprise the account. A portfolio analysis tool shows target percentages for a portfolio.

Fidelity customers get much more. Profile pages for stocks and funds offer enormous amounts of data compared to what Betterment clients get. Free pdf reports from third-party analysts are available on stocks and funds. A large educational section is available on Fidelity’s website. It contains videos, articles, self-guided courses, and infographics on virtually every investing topic imaginable.

Fidelity easily wins the first category.

Range of Products

Betterment specializes in robo investing. As such, the company only offers low-cost bond and stock ETF’s. There are no other investments available.

Fidelity offers robo investing plus traditional managed and self-directed accounts. Because of this style of investing, the company offers many types of tradable assets, including individual ETF’s that aren’t available at Betterment. Fidelity customers also have access to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, derivatives, and annuities.

Betterment fails here, too.

Portfolio Management

Although Betterment specializes in robo investing, the company does have CFP® advisors who can provide tailored financial advice in areas such as retirement, marriage, or saving for education. This hybrid robo-human package costs 0.40% per year with a $100,000 minimum deposit requirement. Going with the digital service only reduces the price to 25 basis points and eliminates the minimum deposit altogether. In either case, it’s the company’s proprietary software program that makes trading decisions.

While Fidelity does provide a self-directed option, the broker also offers managed account services, in both traditional and computerized formats. The company’s robot, dubbed Fidelity Go, costs 0.35% annually with no account minimum. One really unique aspect of Fidelity’s robo service is that it invests in mutual funds instead of ETF’s. The mutual funds are called Flex Funds and have 0.00% expense ratios.

Fidelity’s traditional human managed accounts cost between 20 and 150 basis points per annum and require anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 to begin. Although minimums are obviously higher, and possibly expenses too, one advantage of the company’s traditional packages is the ability to invest in stocks and bonds.

Fidelity seems to have the overall better service here.

Trading Software

With Betterment’s robo-only style of money management, there aren’t a lot of trading tools on the broker’s website. The company’s website does have some portfolio management tools. For example, one is able to analyze a portfolio based on underlying investments and adjust target percentages for asset classes. Overall, the website is clutter free and easy to navigate.

Betterment vs Fidelity

Fidelity’s website has a lot more on it. A pop-up trading ticket appears in the left-hand side of the monitor after clicking on a trade button. During our testing, we found it easy to use. It can place trades not just for stocks and ETF’s, but also for mutual funds. The broker’s option trading tools are excellent.

M1 vs Fidelity

Charting on the Fidelity website is quite advanced. We found several technical studies and drawing tools. Comparisons can be made, and there are five graph styles. We especially liked the ability to detach a graph and blow it up full screen.

Fidelity defeats its rival again.

Mobile Platforms

Betterment clients can use a mobile app on either Android or Apple devices. While it is user-friendly, it doesn’t incorporate many features. The same portfolio tools on the website are also on the mobile app. Strangely, Betterment did not include some mobile features like check deposit.

Fidelity’s app does have mobile check deposit. It also provides a live stream of Bloomberg Business News in high definition. Stocks, options, and funds can be traded on the app; and there are many news articles on a range of market topics. Both apps offer Touch ID for quick login.

Betterment loses again.

Other Tools

During our examination, we could not find any other trading tools for Betterment clients. Fidelity customers do get more. For example, the brokerage house offers a skill for Amazon Echo devices. It is able to provide market updates and quotes plus account related info, such as tax forms. Besides an Echo skill, the brokerage firm has an app for Apple Watch.

Active Trader Pro is Fidelity’s flagship desktop software. With zero fees, the platform offers advanced charting, options research and trading, and much more.

Fidelity wins this category, too.

DRIP Service

Betterment has decided to forego the typical Dividend Reinvestment Program. In its place, the broker has a system where it takes dividends from funds that disburse them and uses the proceeds to buy more shares of funds that have slipped below target levels. For instance, say a bond fund is outperforming and pays a dividend. Betterment’s algorithm will take the dividend and buy more shares of a stock fund that is below target level.

Fidelity offers a traditional DRIP system for both its robo service and its self-directed accounts. Whether it’s better to reinvest robo dividends in underperforming funds or in the funds that pay them is a subjective question. In any case, Fidelity doesn’t offer this type of reinvestment.

Because Fidelity offers a traditional DRIP for individual stocks, we’ll give the victory here to Fidelity.

Our Recommendations

Because Betterment is a robo advisor, traders will want to know our recommendation for automated accounts. We think budget-conscious investors should pick Betterment for its low price. For traditional human management, we suggest Fidelity instead.

For all other types of investing, we propose Fidelity over its rival.

Fidelity vs Betterment - Final Thoughts

Although Betterment has the lower expense ratio for automated investing, Fidelity outperforms in all other areas, and seems to deliver the better value and experience.


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