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Updated: March 28, 2022

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

vanguard vs. fidelity

Vanguard vs. Fidelity

Moneywise / Moneywise

🗓️

Updated: March 28, 2022

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

Fidelity Investments and Vanguard are two of the most popular brokerages. They provide their clients with excellent resources, they're secure, and they have customized solutions. 

But how do you know which brokerage to choose? Both are excellent choices but they are different enough that one may be a better fit for you.

Learn more about Vanguard and Fidelity to see which one has everything you're looking for in a brokerage firm.

Highlights Fidelity Vanguard
Rating 4.5/5 4.5/5
Minimum investment $0 $0
Stock trades $0/trade $0/trade
Options trades $0.65/contract $1/ contract
Crypto trades
Mutual funds
Virtual trading
Reviews Fidelity review Vanguard review

About Vanguard

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Vanguard is that it's not necessarily a for-profit company. It's owned by the funds managed by the company. In other words, Vanguard is owned by its customers.

Vanguard has over 200 mutual funds and 80 ETFs with low-cost fees and expense ratios. You can also invest in thousands of non-Vanguard funds and ETFs through the platform.

Vanguard features

Vanguard specializes in offering low-cost mutual funds but they offer a number of other assets including:

  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Stocks
  • CDs

Vanguard shines in their mutual and index funds, and they stick to those for the most part. They offer a lot of passive investing options, including Vanguard Digital Advisor and Personal Advisor Services.

And while Vanguard offers a lot of investment opportunities but it does not offer forex and commodities trading. 

About Fidelity

Fidelity offers some of the best rates on the market, with 0% commissions for U.S. stock, ETF, and options trades and no expense ratio on Fidelity mutual funds. Fidelity has active trading options as well as managed accounts, including a robo advisor service called Fidelity Go. They make investing accessible by providing many educational materials, from podcasts to in-depth seminars.

Besides investing, Fidelity also offers cash management services. It’s a great option for beginning investors who want access to a variety of investing options and educational services.

Fidelity features

Fidelity offers a number of features including:

  • Forex Trading
  • Fractional Shares
  • Cash Management
  • ETFs 
  • Options
  • Bonds

You can open a variety of different accounts, including health insurance savings accounts and retirement plans.

How are Fidelity and Vanguard the same?

There's a lot of overlap between Vanguard and Fidelity. But what exactly do they have in common? Let's take a closer look.

  • Investment Types. They both offer stocks, options trades, ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds.
  • Account Types. They both offer taxable, joint, Roth IRA, traditional IRA, rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, custodial, trust, and 529 investment accounts.
  • Broker-Assisted Trades. You don't need to go at it alone. Both brokerages can give you direct help managing your portfolio, including automated and active investing advice. 
  • Commission-Free Trades. Trade U.S. stocks, options, and ETFs for free. 

How are they different?

These two brokers all offer solid platforms for trading, mutual funds, and index funds. But there are some key differences between the three as well: 

  • Options Contracts Pricing. Fidelity charge $0.65/contract, while Vanguard charges $1/contract.
  • Minimum Deposits. There are no minimums for opening accounts. But if you want to invest in most mutual funds from Vanguard, you'll need to invest at least $1,000 or in some cases, $3,000.
  • Mutual Fund Trading Costs. Fidelity charges $49.95 for buying non-Fidelity mutual funds. Neither charge for trading their own mutual funds. Vanguard charges a percentage, which varies from 0.25% to 1%. 
  • Assets Available. Both offer stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds. Fidelity also offers fractional shares and are prepping crypto ETFs.

Minimum investments

For both brokerages, there are no minimum investments required. However, Vanguard does have a minimum buy-in for their mutual and index funds. It’s $1,000 for their retirement funds and $3,000 for their actively managed funds.  

Fees

Vanguard and Fidelity charge very few transaction fees and don't include commission fees for trading U.S. stocks, ETFs and options.

However you may run into other fees. This may happen on specific trades like trading options, but no index funds or vice versa. However, both of these companies work to keep costs low, and ultimately, most of them level out to be equally affordable.

You may find yourself paying for additional features such as customized advising (more on that below).

Customer service

Both offer phone support, making communication fast and effective. The hours that a live person is available depends on the service you need help with. For example, banking contact mostly sticks to traditional banking hours. However, Vanguard offers 24/7 automated support, while Fidelity provides 24/7 phone support.

Fidelity also gets bonus points for easy-to-use live chat features and a virtual assistant.

Security

Both brokerages are reputable, secure, and safe. All three are regulated and use standard encryption to keep your personal information secure. You can feel confident in sharing the personal information the companies request and conducting financial business online as they're all protected and encrypted.

Advisor Services

Both Fidelity and Vanguard offer various financial advisory services to customers. 

Vanguard offers both a Digital Advisor and Personal Advisor service. The Vanguard Personal Advisor requires a minimum $50,000 investment. You’ll get access to a professional advisor, with a 0.30% annual management fee. The Vanguard Digital Advisor requires a minimum deposit of $3,000 and charges an advisory fee of 0.20%. It automates your investments into a diversified mix of ETFs, using Vanguard’s investing methodology. 

Fidelity Go is Fidelity’s robo advisor service. There’s no minimum balance to open an account and no advisory fees if your account is under $10,000. And if you want more personalized with a Fidelity advisor, you can get extra services with Fidelity Go+ financial advice. Its fees are slightly higher, at 0.50%, with a $25,000 minimum investment. 

Who are they best for?

For index funds: Vanguard

If you want to invest in low-cost index funds, Vanguard could be right choice for you. Vanguard focuses on passive investing strategies with long-term investors in mind.

Vanguard mutual funds are the most affordable option. And while there's a minimum deposit, this isn't a problem if you intend to focus most of your investments in index funds. 

But if you're looking to diversify with forex, bonds, and futures/commodities or you'd like to take a more active role, you may want to look at another broker. 

For beginners: Fidelity

If you’re new to investing and want a low-cost option with lots of learning opportunities, Fidelity could be a good choice. With Fidelity there is no minimum investment and it boasts low costs overall and a 0% expense ratio.

If you're new to the world of investing, you don't want to put a lot of money on the line right away. Fidelity is also ideal for beginners because of their extensive educational content. The trading platform can teach you all the ropes of the investing world. 

Which brokerage service is the best?

When comparing Vanguard vs. Fidelity, past performance isn't a good indicator. Sometimes funds go up, sometimes they go down. A better indicator is whether their services serve your financial goals.

An active trader who needs in-depth research will have different goals from someone just looking for the lowest expense ratios. Thankfully, these two brokerages have something to offer most investors.

About our author

Eric Rosenberg
Eric Rosenberg, Freelance Contributor

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full time. He has in-depth experience writing about banking, credit cards, investing and other financial topics and is an avid travel hacker. When away from the keyboard, Eric enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers and spending time with his wife and little girls.

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