Vanguard vs. Fidelity

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 4, 2023

If you’ve had exposure to the world of investing, then you’ve probably heard the names Vanguard and Fidelity. Both companies are major names in the industry, offering investors a variety of products, from retirement savings plans to adviser-managed brokerage accounts. Though they offer similar services, these two industry giants differ and are better suited for different investors. Check out Benzinga’s Vanguard vs. Fidelity comparison to see which better suits your investing needs.

Who is Vanguard?

Vanguard was founded in 1975 and revolutionized the industry with its unique ownership structure. Instead of being owned by shareholders, it is owned by investors who invest in its funds. Its mission is to provide an easy and accessible platform for investors to manage their investments and meet their savings goals.

Vanguard offers a variety of accounts, such as individual and joint brokerage accounts, IRAs and 529 Savings plans. It offers managed brokerage accounts, and investors can choose from robo advisors to have a personal advisor manage their investments. There is a $0 minimum for individual brokerage accounts, though a robo-advised account requires a $3,000 minimum and a personal advisor requires $50,000 in assets. 

Vanguard customers have access to a variety of investment vehicles, such as stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, money market accounts and CDs. And with low fees for Vanguard digital advisors, investors can invest without needing to actively manage their accounts.

Pros 

  • Low fees for digital advisers
  • $0 minimum for individual accounts
  • Low-cost index funds

Cons 

  • High minimum for digital and personal advisers
  • No cryptocurrency or options trading
  • Fewer account options

Who is Fidelity?

Fidelity was founded in 1946 and provides robust investing solutions and products for every investor, from beginners to expert traders. Its variety of accounts and investment vehicles make its platform a great option for all investors. Some accounts it offers include IRAs, self-employed 401(k)s, brokerage accounts, SEP IRAs, 529 savings plans and health savings plans. 

Like Vanguard, Fidelity brokerage customers can choose an individual or joint brokerage account that they manage on their own, a robo-advised account, or a personal adviser account. Both individual accounts and robo-advised accounts have a $0 minimum. The first tier of the professionally advised accounts requires a $50,000 minimum. 

Fidelity offers customers access to all traditional investments, such as stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. But it also offers some alternatives like cryptocurrency and options. Investors with Fidelity will also enjoy a variety of advanced trading technology, with access charts and updated data, allowing advanced, hands-on investors to make informed decisions. 

Pros 

  • Advanced investing technology
  • $0 minimum for robo-advised accounts
  • Cryptocurrency and options trading are available

Cons 

  • Platform may be challenging for new investors
  • Fewer index options
  • No futures trading

Comparing Vanguard and Fidelity

So which is better, Vanguard or Fidelity? Comparing Vanguard vs. Fidelity on their products, services and features can help investors choose the best brokerage for their needs.

Pricing and Fees

Both of these industry giants offer a $0 minimum for opening up brokerage accounts. However, Vanguard does require account minimums for its digital and personally advised accounts. Fidelity has the same minimum of $50,000 for personally advised accounts but stands apart from the crowd by offering a $0 minimum for its robo-advisor accounts.

However, Vanguard does have low fees for digitally advised accounts. Investors can expect to pay no more than $2 for every $1,000 managed over one year. Fidelity doesn’t charge advisory fees for robo-advised accounts with less than $25,000. After that, it charges a fee of 0.35%. 

Fidelity charges $0 fees for all stock, ETF and Fidelity mutual fund trades. Bonds are only $1 each and options are $0.65 per contract. Vanguard charges a few more fees, such as a $25 service fee, bank wire fees and mutual fund low-balance fees.

Winner: Fidelity.

Usability

Vanguard’s platform is a little more intuitive, making it easier for investors of all skill levels to use and trade. Fidelity’s platform is a bit more complex and is geared toward advanced traders. While neither is necessarily better than the other, they are better suited for different traders.

Winner: Vanguard for passive, beginner investors. Fidelity for skilled traders.

Education

Both brokers provide education and resources to their customers. Vanguard focuses on long-term investing and saving, such as preparing for retirement. Fidelity offers more robust resources on how to read charts, technical analysis and alternatives. 

Winner: Fidelity.

Customer Support

Vanguard and Fidelity offer online and phone support to their customers. Fidelity also has a few physical locations where customers can meet with advisers, which is a great option for those who want face-to-face support. For customers who only want online dealings, either broker would provide excellent support.

Winner: Fidelity.

Offering

Both Vanguard offers basic stocks and ETFs. However, Vanguard is known for its low-cost index funds, though investors would find great options with Fidelity as well. Fidelity also offers more asset classes, including cryptocurrency and options trading, which may appeal to a wider range of investors.

Winner: Fidelity. 

Mobile App

Vanguard and Fidelity both have mobile apps so customers can view and manage their accounts from anywhere. Both allow users to view their accounts and holdings, make transactions and research other investments. They’re well-designed and easy to use for all investors. 

Winner: Tied.

Account Types

Vanguard and Fidelity both offer basic brokerage accounts, digital advisers and personally advised accounts. However, Fidelity has more tiers and offers an increased ability to customize your account. This feature provides access to various advisory levels to a wider range of investors.

They also both offer 529 savings plans, retirement plans and money market accounts. Fidelity takes its account offerings a step further with a variety of IRAs, self-employed 401(k) offerings and health savings accounts. 

Winner: Fidelity.

Partner with a Broker that Fits Your Needs

If you’re choosing between Vanguard and Fidelity, then you need to consider your investment needs. If you’re a beginner investor who wants to invest and hold, then Vanguard may be a good, easy-to-use option. Fidelity caters more toward advanced investors and individuals with unique needs. However, its low-cost robo-advised accounts may make it an attractive option for beginner and passive investors as well. Either broker will have access to a variety of investments. You’ll just need to choose which service is best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Are Vanguard and Fidelity the same?

A

Vanguard and Fidelity are both brokers, but they are different companies and offer different products and services.

Q

Can I have both Fidelity and Vanguard?

A

While you can open an account with both Fidelity and Vanguard, it may be better for your financial goals to have one consolidated investing account.

Q

Does Vanguard or Fidelity have lower fees?

A

Fidelity has lower fees, with no service account, bank wiring or low balance fees.

About Savannah Munholland

Savannah Munholland is an investment writer passionate about helping people learn more about accessible alternative investments. She has more than three years of writing experience, focusing on alternative and traditional investing, technology, and education. Her expertise in writing about art and wine investments is grounded in an MFA with knowledge of and immersion in a wide range of art-related topics. She uses her skills in creative writing to bring an appealing level of interest to her journalistic work, shifting even the most basic financial and investment topics from humdrum to compelling. Her work has been published on Benzinga, FreightWaves, and Study.com.