Fees and Deposit Limits8.2/10
Ease of Use9.0/10
Account Types and Services8.1/10
- No minimum deposit
- Great flexibility for hands-on investors (Betterment Premium)
- Full range of account varieties available
- No trade or transaction fees (Digital plan)
- $100,000 minimum deposit required for Premium plan
- Cannot work within current brokerage accounts
First off, we’ll start our Betterment review by analyzing the management fees and deposit limits.
Back in 2016, Betterment offered the distinct benefit of not imposing any transaction, trade or rebalancing fees.
Betterment’s fees are either 0.25% or 0.40% annually, depending on which plan you choose. The Betterment Digital plan is good for most investors at 0.25%, but if you have over $100,000 to invest, you can get premium features and investment tools for Betterment Premium, at 0.40% annually.
This is the traditional hands-off Robo Advisor that gives advice on how to save for your retirement, saving for other financial needs (buying a new house or a new car), and choosing the best IRA. You get all this with no minimum balance, and it will only cost you 0.25% per year.
This is not bad. Considering the fact that the Betterment Digital Plan includes tax loss harvesting, tax-coordinated portfolios, automatic rebalancing, and unlimited access to licensed financial experts, this service will also allow you to sync all your external accounts so you can get a clearer view of all your investments.
Think of Betterment Premium as an upgraded version of the Betterment Digital plan. You get unlimited access to CFPs who track the changes in your investment accounts, even when you’re sipping coconut water and soaking up the sun in Barbados.
Betterment Premium also gives you access to expert advice on all your investments outside of Betterment so you can manage and grow your real estate or individual stocks and grow your external investment portfolio.
This plan is perfect for those who own multiple assets or want to be more involved, while getting access to unlimited financial advice. The Betterment Premium Plan requires an initial deposit of $100,000 and has a fee of 0.40%, so it’s definitely more suited for high-net-worth investors.
We have some good news in terms of historical returns and performance. While it’s very difficult to judge average returns for an investor due to various risk tolerances, stock allocations, chosen portfolios, etc., Betterment seems to have done a great job historically so far. They claim “Betterment would have outperformed the average investor with an investment advisor in 88% of all periods over the last decade.”
The average annual return of Betterment over the last five years is approximately 0.9 percent higher than Wealthfront.
Betterment outperforms a private client investor by almost 78.7 percent. In the meantime, the average Betterment portfolio returned 214.7 percent based on cumulative returns from February 2009 until July 2018. This nets an average annual return of $12,948 for an initial investment of $100,000 over the course of ten years.
Flexibility is a crucial aspect in our Robo Advisor reviews. Betterment is a fully-automated investment service, with the option of being more hands-on with Betterment Premium.
This is Betterment’s way of attracting more investors; especially big players who want more control and flexibility in managing their accounts. The Premium plan comes at a price, but it’s hard to fault Betterment when it comes to flexibility. We do wish they had a lower account minimum for the Premium plan.
However, kudos to Betterment for retaining the Digital plan. This means that after signing-up, transferring your funds, and making some early allocation decisions, the portfolio management process is taken completely out of your hands.
Betterment takes control of reinvesting dividends and rebalancing your portfolio, so there is no need for you to do anything.
Sounds perfect for newbie and hands-off investors, right? Indeed, as long as you prefer the hands-off approach to investing. This is the core of what a true robo advisor is.
Ease of Use
The whole point of using a robo advisor is to make your life easier and to make you money from your investments. With that in mind, we’re proud to say that Betterment is easy to use, and it starts with the quick and simple sign-up process.
The first step is to link your checking account for quick deposits and withdrawals. Next, you’ll answer a few questions about your investment preferences, then you will receive your first portfolio advice.
The Betterment site itself also has some handy tools to help you understand the different types of investments. One tool will help to allocate your funds between stocks and bonds by giving allocation advice based on your age and retirement plans.
Betterment Digital remains one of the easiest robo advisors to use. It is a fully-automated service which automatically rebalances your portfolio and reinvests dividends with little supervision.
With Betterment Premium, you can talk to expert financial advisors to make sure your investments are optimized to their full potential.
Account Types and Services
An easy-to-use Robo Advisor with fair management fees is important, but if it doesn’t offer the accounts and investment types you need, then you better look elsewhere.
In terms of account types, Betterment covers a full range of options by providing taxable accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and even the Simplified Employment Pension version of those accounts (SEP IRAs) for individuals retiring from self-employment.
When it comes to types of investments, Betterment tends to focus on a selection of low-cost stocks, bonds and ETFs depending on your initial allocation. Once the investments are made, Betterment will handle all the portfolio rebalancing and dividend re-investments.
It also boasts features such as tax loss harvesting for taxable accounts worth at least $50,000, and a service that buys fractional shares to ensure that the cash in your portfolio is invested.
Betterment Smart Saver
The Betterment Smart Saver feature is purported to be a better alternative to a traditional savings account. For a low annual fee of 0.25%, you can start a low-risk investment portfolio for your cash savings.
Betterment invests 80% of your money with U.S. Treasury bonds while the remaining 20% is invested in low-volatility corporate bonds. With Betterment Smart Saver, you stand a chance of earning an average annual yield of 2.15% compared to the national average savings yield of 0.10%.
Keep in mind, Wealthfront also offers their own version of a savings account called “Wealthfront Cash”, which is currently returning an industry-leading 2.51% APY.
Betterment launched its mobile app for Android and iOS devices back in 2013. This enables you to manage your investment accounts using a compatible smartphone or tablet. The app has the same user-friendly interface as the desktop version and comes loaded with a full suite of features including:
- Managing the stock and bond allocation in your portfolio.
- Deposit and withdraw money from anywhere in the world.
- Checking and analyzing the balance and returns of your investments.
- Review your investment goals and account activity.
The Betterment app is free to download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Suitability for Different Investment Budgets
Betterment Digital is a solid choice for newbie investors. The lack of a minimum deposit makes Betterment accessible for any budget, big or small. You don’t have to pay trade, rebalancing or any transaction fees, either.
If you have a larger sum to invest (over $100,000) we would suggest going with Betterment Premium. The choice is yours.
Betterment vs. Wealthfront
Both Wealthfront and Betterment are fully automated robo advisors. Both of them are easy to use and are ideal for newbie investors. However, Betterment has the edge in terms of flexibility and account types. Betterment’s Premium account allows you to get involved while still having access to unlimited financial advice.
When it comes to fees and deposit limits, Wealthfront and Betterment Digital share the same 0.25% annual fee. But Betterment has a very slight edge since the service requires no minimum deposits. On the other hand, Wealthfront has a $500 minimum deposit – which is still not bad and remains one of the most affordable in the market.
The true test of a robo advisor is the historical returns. In this regard, Betterment is the winner with a higher 0.9% average annual return, but Wealthfront is not far behind with a 5-year return of 6.08% (taxable portfolios) and 6.92% (tax-advantaged portfolios) respectively.
Wealthfront does have a savings, or “cash” account that offers a higher return and is still one of the best hands-off robo advisors on the market. When it comes down to it, which service you should choose depends on your personal preferences. Both are great services and will serve you well, although we think Betterment currently has a slight advantage.
Betterment is one of the longest-established Robo Advisors online. It should come as no surprise that they are an excellent choice for newbie investors, especially if you choose the hands-off Betterment Digital plan.
The full range of account types and features (including automatic rebalancing and automatic dividend reinvestment) are impressive.
Added extras like tax loss harvesting (for accounts over $50,000) make Betterment one of the best robo advisors around.
Betterment is a brilliant choice for many, but the Premium plan is only suitable for investors with a higher amount to invest.