Fees and Deposit Limits10.0/10
Ease of Use9.6/10
Account Types and Features9.0/10
- Zero fees - 100% Free
- $0 minimum deposit
- Diversified investment options
- Customizable pie portfolios
- Socially-responsible investment portfolios
- No tax loss harvesting
- Automated service is not ideal for active traders
M1 Finance Review
The M1 Finance Robo Advisor seems to have it all; at least on paper. It offers $0 minimum deposit, charges $0 transaction or trading fees, and you can start investing using a computer or the user-friendly mobile app.
M1 Finance might be close to upsetting the best Robo Advisors on the market today including the big-players Wealthfront and Betterment. In our opinion, this is one of the best automated investment services for all types of investors, big or small.
M1 Finance was established in Chicago in 2015. Many consider it as the perfect blend of a traditional brokerage firm and hybrid robo advisor. The unique thing about this service is the investment portfolio template. As an investor, you will be presented with ‘pies’ similar to a typical pie graph.
We have used many robo advisors in the past, but this ‘pie’ concept stands out. It also makes it easier to determine the allocations in your portfolio.
But M1 Finance is not perfect. In this review, we take a closer look at what is possibly the easiest and cheapest way to invest your money online.
M1 Finance Fees
M1 Finance is one of the best free robo advisors in the business. There is a $0 minimum deposit and zero fees. In short, using the M1 Finance Robo Advisor’s M1 Invest platform is 100% free.
You can start an account without making an initial deposit, but trading only starts once your account hits $100, which is obviously very reasonable. It clearly beats most other Robo Advisors in terms of fees and deposit limits.
Betterment also offers $0 minimum deposit, but the digital plan comes with an annual fee of 0.25%. Wealthfront needs a minimum investment of $500 with a 0.25% fee. Now, a 0.25% annual fee is far from bad, but if you’re a newbie investor, which among the three will you choose if everything else is equal? M1 Finance is a sterling choice for a free robo advisor.
M1 Invest offers taxable, joint, and Roth IRA accounts. You can also invest your money in Traditional IRA, Rollover IRA, and SEP IRA accounts. The downsides? We found two: there is no tax-loss harvesting, and no option to invest in mutual funds.
M1 Finance also offers M1 Borrow, M1 Spend, and M1 Plus – a membership program with a yearly fee, which we will talk about below.
Account Types and Services
M1 Finance’s M1 Invest platform offers pie templates for many types of investment categories. This includes general investing, retirement investing, income portfolios, and hedge funds. As an added plus, the robo advisor also offers pies for socially-responsible investing – something we’re big fans of.
Like we mentioned earlier, the service comes with the usual taxable and joint accounts including Roth, Traditional, and Rollover IRAs. All in all, not bad. We particularly like how the service integrates pie portfolios for impact investors. Socially-responsible investing is not a trend. Thankfully, it’s here to stay. This is the reason why other Robo Advisors are integrating options for impact investing in their portfolios.
The service also includes the M1 Borrow portfolio line of credit. M1 Borrow lets you borrow against your M1 Invest balance as collateral. As long as your balance is at least $10,000 you can borrow up to 35% of your portfolio value at a comparatively low 3.50% interest rate (as of February 2020). You can use this line of credit for an emergency fund, a large purchase, or to consolidate high-interest debt. Members of M1 Plus (explained below) get a 0.25% discount on this rate, making borrowing even cheaper.
In mid-2019, M1 Finance launched their M1 Spend account – a free checking account that offers direct integration with your other M1 services, $0 minimum balance, no monthly or annual fees, and is FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound so appealing or different until you consider the benefits you get with M1 Plus:
M1 Plus is M1 Finance’s premium membership program. For $100 for the first year and $125 annually after that, you get a number of interesting benefits:
- 1.5% APY on your M1 Spend checking account balance
- 1% cash back on all purchases with your M1 Spend card
- A tungsten metal M1 Spend debit card
- More investing options in your M1 Invest account
- 0.25% discount on M1 Borrow line of credit’s interest rate
Is M1 Plus Worth It?
As with most things money-related, it depends. Mostly, it depends on your spending and saving habits and what other accounts you have, as well as how much you value convenience vs. financial gains.
If you have a decent-sized balance in your M1 Spend account (let’s say $10,000) and spend an average of say, $1,000/month on your debit card, you’re going to have a net-positive return from investing in the Plus account. But let’s consider the alternatives.
If you normally keep $10,000+ in your checking account with a low- or no-interest checking account and don’t have a card with cash back, M1 Plus will definitely be an upgrade. On the other hand, if you keep a larger balance in a high-yield savings account, have a credit card that gives you 1-2% cash back and pay off your credit card balance every month, you would most likely be further ahead financially.
It’s all about your habits and convenience; obviously having all of your investment, checking, and credit all in one place and linked is going to be more convenient, but you might not get as much of a return on your money than a more complicated but financially-advantageous setup.
Overall, I do think that M1 Plus is a good idea for some, and if they added more features and benefits down the line it would be more appealing to a larger group of people. The M1 Spend account by itself doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you “enhance” it with the M1 Plus benefits; you just need to decide if it’s worth it to you.
Regardless of those thoughts, we do think the M1 Invest platform is great.
The M1 Finance Robo Advisor scores high in terms of flexibility. In fact, it’s not only flexible, but offers incredible diversity as well.
As we mentioned earlier, you can play around with the unique ‘pie’ investment template. The pies are based on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT,) which is the same system used by bankers and human advisors.
You can start investing all your money in one of the many pre-built ‘pies’, or you can customize the pies according to your preferences. That’s all there is to it! M1 Finance will then take care of managing your account by maintaining all your allocations and rebalancing your portfolio as needed.
The service will also allow you to choose your own investments for each pie. In this way, you can dabble with ETFs and individual stocks in your account. Mind you, there are more than 2,000 ETFs to choose from. If it all gets confusing, you can schedule a free consultation with a human advisor.
Ease of Use
While reviewing the M1 Finance platform, we easily got accustomed to the pie graphs. It allowed us to view our investment allocations with a single glance. You can click on various portfolio movers to know more about the company or stock. It will also display the weekly, monthly, and yearly performance of the stocks, along with an estimate of future performance.
You might expect the experience to water down if you shift from your computer to your smartphone, but this isn’t the case. The app is easy to use. Even novices can gain a quick understanding on how the platform works. It is that smooth.
Unlike other Robo Advisors, signing up with M1 Finance will not require investors to answer surveys and questionnaires. You are presented with either pre-made or personalized pie graphs. Each pie can be divided into as many as 100 ‘slices’ where each slice represents a particular investment.
There are more than 60 pies to choose from. If you don’t like what you see, you can replace the ETFs or stocks with whatever you like. Save the changes and the system will handle the rest. Simply put, M1 Finance will put you in complete control over your investments.
Suitability for Different Budgets
With $0 minimum deposit and zero fees, M1 Finance is perfect for investors of all shapes and sizes. You can open an account with no money at all, but of course your account will need to reach at least $100 to begin investing.
We find M1 Finance to be excellent for new investors. The $100 minimum balance for active trading is the lowest you can find.
From the beginning of this review, it’s clear that we believe M1 Finance to be one of the best free robo advisors available. Since the service is easy to use, comes with zero fees, and offers impact investing, it has become an overall favorite as well.
Some of the other M1 services are going to be valuable to some and not for others. If you have a decent-sized balance in your M1 Invest account and need to borrow some money for whatever reason, the M1 Borrow program is a good way to feel more comfortable investing a larger part of your overall finances, which we always think is a good thing.
Since M1 Invest is completely free, SIPC-insured up to $500,000, and has a very low barrier-of-entry, we think it would be a good idea for almost everyone looking for a robo advisor to at least give them a try.
Disclaimer: BestRoboAdvisors.org has entered into a referral and advertising arrangement with M1 Finance and receives compensation when you open an account or for certain qualifying activity. You will not be charged a fee for this referral and M1 Finance and BestRoboAdvisors.org are not related entities. It is a requirement to disclose that we earn these fees and also provide you with the latest M1 Finance ADV brochure (PDF) so you can learn more about them before opening an account.