Betterment and Wealthfront are both top robo-advisors, but the best option for you depends on whether you want access to a financial planner

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  • Betterment is a robo-advisor that offers automated management for investing and retirement accounts. The investment app also offers checking and cash reserve accounts.
  • Wealthfront is an automated investment platform offering portfolio lines of credit and investing, retirement, college savings, and cash accounts.
  • Betterment could be a good fit if you're looking for low-cost goal-based investment and retirement strategies with the option of consulting a certified financial planner.
  • Wealthfront is great for investors who don't mind the $500 minimum and want access to wealth-building products such as portfolio lines of credit, college savings accounts, and high-yield cash accounts. 
  • Click here to open an account with Betterment.
  • Click here to open an account with Wealthfront.

Betterment vs. Wealthfront

Betterment
Wealthfront

Editor's rating

4.8 out of 5

Editor's rating

4.7 out of 5

Fees

0.25% to 0.40%

Fees

0.25% (0.06% to 0.13% for fund fees)

Account minimum

$0 or $100,000, depending on the account

Account minimum

$500

Promotion

None at this time.

Promotion

Get $5,000 managed free if someone you referred funds an investment or cash account.

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Open Account

Both founded in 2008, Betterment and Wealthfront are two of the first robo-advisors, or investment platforms to offer automated investment advice. Created to simplify the investing process, robo-advisors generally use software and computer algorithms to manage your finances and investment portfolio for you. These platforms offer an alternative for investors who may not want to consult financial firms or use active/day-trading brokerages.

Betterment and Wealthfront both offer an array of wealth-building solutions, including investing accounts, retirement accounts, savings accounts, and more. And you can passively invest in ETFs with both robo-advisors through web platforms and mobile apps.

But the two advisors offer slightly different pricing structures, investment portfolios, account features, and wealth-building resources. Keep reading to see how Betterment and Wealthfront compare.

Is Betterment right for you?

Betterment is an independent robo-advisor with more than $18 billion in assets under management. The company primarily offers automated investment management for individual and joint taxable accounts, trust accounts, and retirement accounts, and you also have the option to open its checking and cash reserve accounts. 

Betterment's primary investment accounts — the digital plan and premium plan — include several features such as goal-based planning, external account syncing, charitable giving, financial advisor consultations, and tax-loss harvesting. 

Tax-loss harvesting lets you write off, or claim, investment losses on your tax return, lowering the amount you owe in taxes. Betterment uses tax-loss harvesting to sell and reinvest any losses into securities that align with your current portfolio.

As for its investing accounts, the digital plan is free to set up, but you'll need at least $199 for a one-time advisor consultation. However, with the premium plan, you'll get unlimited access to financial professionals.

In addition to its standard investing accounts, Betterment offers 401(k)s for businesses and an investing platform for advisors.

Betterment could be a good fit if you're looking for specific goal-based investing and retirement strategies. The platform offers five types of taxable goals: retirement savings, retirement income, safety net, major purchase, and general investing. You can also adjust these goals at any time.

This robo-advisor could also be a good option if you're looking for an investment app with human advisor access. But Betterment may not be the right fit if you're looking for other specialty accounts like college savings plans.

Is Wealthfront right for you?

With more than $20 billion in client assets, Wealthfront offers investing accounts, retirement accounts, portfolio lines of credit, 529 college savings plans, and cash management accounts.

Wealthfront offers a single investing account that provides tax-loss harvesting, financial planning tools, and access to an array of index fund investments. And, with larger account balances, you can take advantage of its PassivePlus portfolio features such as stock-level tax-loss harvesting, risk parity, and smart beta strategies. 

One distinguishing feature of Wealthfront is that it offers portfolio lines of credit. This allows you access to quick cash by letting you borrow up to 30% of your investment account at your disposal. And you can pay back what you've borrowed, with interest, whenever you decide. Wealthfront's interest rates currently range from 2.40% to 3.65%.

In addition to its college savings plan, Wealthfront offers a free cash account that carries a 0.35% APY.

Wealthfront is slightly more expensive than Betterment, but this robo-advisor could be a good choice if you're interested in using products like education savings plans, portfolio lines of credit, and high-yield cash accounts.

Betterment pros and cons

Pros

  • No minimum for standard investing account
  • Goal-based planning, tax-loss harvesting, charitable giving, and socially responsible investing available
  • Access to certified financial planners
  • Mobile app with external account syncing options

Cons

  • You'll have to pay to consult a human advisor, unless you have the premium plan
  • Limited investment selection

Wealthfront pros and cons

Pros

  • Low annual fee for investment accounts
  • Tax-loss harvesting, portfolio lines of credit, 529 college savings plans available
  • High-yield cash account
  • Mobile app and investing and retirement tools

Cons

  • You need at least $100,000 to utilize additional investment strategies
  • No human advisor access

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Ways to invest with Betterment

Standard brokerage accounts

Betterment offers two investing accounts: a digital plan and a premium plan. The digital account is the least expensive and carries a 0.25% annual fee. This account invests your money in stock ETFs and bond ETFs, and it offers features such as tax-loss harvesting, automatic rebalancing, fractional shares, goal-based planning, and human advisor access.

Digital accounts also include socially responsible investing options, dividend reinvestment, automatic portfolio adjustment, free checking and cash reserve accounts, asset location strategies, and access to joint accounts and trust accounts.

Betterment's premium plan costs a bit more than the digital plan. You'll need at least $100,000 to set up this account — and you'll incur a 0.40% annual fee — but you'll get access to all of the features of the digital plan plus more. Specifically, you'll have unlimited access to certified financial planners and in-depth investment advice.

Retirement accounts

You can also invest in your retirement with Betterment's IRA offerings. The advisor currently offers traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and Roth IRA conversions. Each of these IRAs is free to set up, but you'll have to pay the 0.25% account fee on an annual basis. 

Betterment also offers 401(k)s, but only businesses can sign up for these accounts. 

Ways to invest with Wealthfront

Standard brokerage accounts

Wealthfront supports individual, joint, and trust accounts. The advisor has a $500 minimum deposit for its investing account, but this deposit unlocks features such tax-loss harvesting, automated risk management, and globally diversified index funds. Investing accounts also include a 0.25% advisory fee and a fund fee that ranges from 0.06% to 0.13%.

You can utilize additional features, too. PassivePlus is Wealthfront's suite of investment and portfolio-building strategies. But you'll need at least $100,000 to get started.

You can utilize stock-level tax-loss harvesting and risk parity with a minimum of $100,000 in your account (Wealthfront's risk parity strategies utilize proprietary mutual funds). According to its website, Wealthfront's stock-level tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that aims to harvest even more losses and lower your tax bill by searching for movements in individual stocks within the US stock index. Risk parity is an asset allocation strategy that strives to enhance your risk-adjusted returns.

With a $500,000 account balance, you can take advantage of smart beta strategies. Smart beta is a common investment strategy that works to increase your returns by using portfolio diversification and other specific tactics for selecting securities.

Retirement accounts

Wealthfront's retirement offerings include traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and 401(k) rollovers. Each retirement account features access to resources such as Wealthfront's IRA calculator and educational blog. 

It's also worth noting that you generally can't open 401(k)s with investing platforms since 401(k)s are employer-sponsored retirement accounts. But Wealthfront allows you to make tax-free 401(k) rollovers to IRAs.

Education savings accounts

Wealthfront's 529 College Savings plan lets you set aside money for your child's education. The account — which can be opened in any state — has fees ranging up to 0.46%. And you can make withdrawals without paying federal taxes.

Betterment vs. Wealthfront: Which is right for you?

Betterment and Wealthfront both require a 0.25% management fee for their standard investing accounts. Both investing platforms also provide tax-loss harvesting and wealth-building tools.

In addition, each robo-advisor offers individual and joint investment accounts, trust accounts, IRAs, and high-yield cash accounts; one of the biggest differences between the two is that Wealthfront offers a 529 college savings plan and portfolio lines of credit.

Unlike Betterment, Wealthfront requires a minimum account balance of $500 for its investment accounts. In addition to the 0.25% management fee, you'll have to pay an investment fund fee ranging from 0.06% to 0.13%. And Wealthfront doesn't offer financial planner access like Betterment does. 

Betterment and Wealthfront solely operate online. Both advisors provide competitive customer support and help centers, but Betterment may be a more suitable fit if you prefer lower fees, stronger goal-focused investment strategies, and human advisor access.

Wealthfront could be a stronger option for those who want additional features and products such as lines of credit, college savings plans, high-yield cash accounts, and stock-level tax strategies.

Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter at Personal Finance Insider who covers investing, brokerage, and wealth-building products. Before joining Business Insider, he worked as a personal finance writer for SmartAsset. He is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

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