Robo-Advisor Fee Comparison

Robo-Advisor Fee Comparison

This article was published March 8, 2016. Any events or information released subsequent to that date would not be reflected within it.

Robo-advisors have been gaining popularity as a hassle-free and simple way to invest compared to a do-it-yourself approach or the use of a traditional financial advisor. Unlike other types of investment options, a majority of robo-advisors only charge an advisory fee. This advisory fee is typically lower than advisory fees associated with traditional financial advisors.

Since fees can eat into or even negate an investor’s returns, we decided to evaluate the advisory fees of 14 different robo-advisors. The robo-advisors we surveyed for our study are Wealthfront, Betterment, FutureAdvisor, WiseBanyan, SigFig, Personal Capital, Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (VPAS), AssetBuilder, Rebalance IRA, Liftoff, Hedgeable, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, TradeKing Advisor and Acorns. We also looked at minimum account balance requirements for each of these robo-advisors.

Average account minimums for robo-advisors

Account minimums are simply the amount of money required to open an account with a brokerage. Some robo-advisors have no account minimums, meaning an investor could open an account for $1 if they wanted. Of the 14 robo-advisors we surveyed, only three do not have any minimum account requirements. They are Betterment, Hedgeable and Acorns. The other 11 robo-advisors have minimum account requirements ranging from $500 to $100,000.

Account minimum


$0Betterment, Hedgeable, Acorns




$5,000Liftoff, Schwab, TradeKing Advisors Momentum


$100,000Rebalance IRA

Many robo-advisors require a minimum account balance to adequately diversify an investor’s portfolio and to minimize trading costs, particularly if the robo-advisor does not charge a fee per trade. Other firms base the account minimum on the type of investor they would like to serve.

Average advisory fees

Most robo-advisors charge an advisory fee as a percentage of the investor’s account value. If an investor’s account is valued at $100,000 and the advisory fee is 0.30%, the fee would come to $300. This advisory fee is in addition to the required expense fee for owning a fund, which an investor pays regardless of where they invest. Some robo-advisors may also charge for trades (such as buying or selling an ETF), add-on services or account maintenance. However, many robo-advisors only charge an advisory fee and use the money gained from that fee to pay for any trades and maintenance needed on an account. The average advisory fee, regardless of account size, is 0.40%.

Account balance













Two of the robo-advisors we evaluated do not charge any advisory fees at all: WiseBanyan and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. WiseBanyan instead charges for optional add-on services, and Schwab offers a variety of its own funds from which it collects an expense fee. Wealthfront and SigFig do not charge an advisory fee for investors with $10,000 or less in their account. The other robo-advisors charge advisory fees ranging from 0.15% to 0.89% based on the value of the investor’s account. Personal Capital has the highest advisory fees overall, charging 0.49% to 0.89%.

Robo-advisor fee comparison by account balance

Of the 14 robo-advisors we surveyed, all but five allow investors to open an account with as little as $5,000, with fees ranging from 0.00% to 0.75% for this amount. At the higher end, fees range from 0.00% to 0.89% for accounts with $1 million and from 0.00% to 0.59% for accounts with $10 million.

Account balance
BrokerageAccount min.$5K$10K$50K$100K$1M$10M











TradeKing Advisors Core




Schwab Intelligent Portfolios




TradeKing Advisors Momentum



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The advisory fee structure for robo-advisors varies greatly across the 14 that we surveyed. Some robo-advisors charge the same advisory fee regardless of the value of the investor’s account. Others may increase or decrease the fee with higher account values. Still, others may charge a flat fee for the account. For instance, Acorns and TradeKing Advisors Core charge $1 per month for accounts under $5,000. Betterment charges $3 per month, instead of a percentage, for accounts with less than $10,000 and auto-deposits of less than $100 per month. When evaluating a robo-advisor's advisory fees, you should consider the starting value of your account and your ongoing contributions.

Other service fees charged

On top of advisory fees, some robo-advisors charge other fees for trades and transactions, account maintenance or additional services. Five of the 14 robo-advisors in our survey charge service fees. They are FutureAdvisor, WiseBanyan, AssetBuilder, Rebalance IRA and TradeKing Advisors. Not all of these fees are mandatory.

Additional fees


Trade fees ($20-$49.95 per trade)


Trade fees ($7.95-$24 per trade)

Rebalance IRA

Trade fees ($50-$70 per portfolio rebalance), $250 account opening fee

TradeKing Advisors

Fees for add-on services, $50 IRA account closing fee


Fees for add-on services

FutureAdvisor, AssetBuilder and Rebalance IRA have fees related to making trades or transactions on accounts, ranging from $7.95 to $49.95 per trade. Check out our guide on the average cost of online trading for an idea of what average trade and transaction fees are. Rebalance IRA also has an account opening fee of $250. TradeKing Advisors and WiseBanyan both offer optional add-on services with additional fees for their investors. TradeKing Advisors also charges $50 for closing an IRA account with its brokerage.

Putting it all together

Fees can easily eat into an investor’s returns, particularly if the investor has an account with a lower monetary value. It’s important to choose a robo-advisor with fees and an account minimum that make sense for your investment contributions and goals. However, fees are only one part of the picture when choosing a robo-advisor. Investors should also consider other factors, such as stability of the brokerage firm, investment strategy and access to a live financial advisor, when evaluating a robo-advisor.