It’s no secret that Vanguard, Fidelity and Charles Schwab could be considered three of the most popular and well-known brokerage firms. Each offers a wide range of products and services, from banking and investment products to financial advisors and financial planning services.
However, there are some important differences, from fees to financial services to research resources, each of which could impact your customer experience.
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While your advisor matches may not necessarily be associated with the above institutions, research suggests people who work with a financial advisor feel more at ease about their finances and could end up with about 15% more money to spend in retirement.1
A 2022 Northwestern Mutual study found that 62% of U.S. adults admit their financial planning needs improvement. However, only 35% of Americans work with a financial advisor.2
Overview of Vanguard vs. Fidelity vs. Schwab Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab are three of the biggest players in the brokerage space, offering a wide range of investment and banking products. In fact, you can open a variety of account types at these institutions. But they stack up slightly differently when it comes to fees and their specific suite of services.
Vanguard made a name for itself by creating and offering low-fee investment products such as mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It still does this, and even non-Vanguard clients can buy Vanguard funds via a brokerage account. The firm has grown to now offer non-proprietary investment products and funds.
Fidelity is perhaps best known for its personal investment products, namely brokerage accounts that allow users to trade stocks. Clients can invest in a wide range of stocks, bonds and other investment products using a Fidelity brokerage account. Fidelity also makes an effort to provide investment resources to its clients and doesn’t usually charge fees on all trades, though more and more brokerages and broker-dealers are moving toward fee-free investment models.
While not as well known for its funds as Vanguard, Schwab still has a number of passively and actively managed funds that you can invest your money into. You also have the option to trade individual equities. It also offers free robo-advisor services, and those who want to work with a real advisor will have that option as well.
Vanguard vs. Fidelity vs. Schwab: Fees
Most brokerage platforms have gotten rid of transaction fees over the past couple years, and Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab are no exception. Brokerage account holders at each of the three institutions won’t have to pay any commissions or trading fees for trading stocks. Trading mutual funds is mostly free at all three institutions, particularly for in-house mutual funds.
The one place you’ll incur consistent transaction costs is when it comes to options trading. However, transaction costs for options at each institution are comparably quite low. Keep in mind that these are contract fees, not commissions.
$0.65 per option3,4charged by Fidelity and Schwab $1.00 per option 5 charged by Vanguard. While some, more specific transactions may incur additional fees, the experience using each of these three institutions can be quite low cost and could be entirely free if you only invest in individual equities and in-house funds, among other investments. Other investments may cost you. For example, you’ll need to pay $35 per transaction if investing in mortgage-backed securities with Vanguard.
It’s worth noting that these fee schedules don’t include the charges you’ll incur for owning shares of certain funds. Fidelity has a wide variety of funds that have no expense ratio, and both Vanguard and Schwab have average expense ratios that are a lot lower than the industry standard.