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The best-performing ETFs for 2021

Invest for the short or long term with a high-performing ETF.

Regardless of your financial goals, you may occasionally want to make some changes to which ETFs you invest in. Diversifying your securities and stocks can give you exposure to areas in the market you might otherwise miss.

We update this page monthly to keep it accurate as the market shifts. Because the stock market is naturally volatile, some of these may have shifted since we last updated this page at the beginning of the month. The ETFs on this page are all US ETFs, and we ranked them based solely on their returns.

Best performing ETFs so far this year

As of October 2021, the top performing ETFs so far this year are:

SymbolETF nameYTD returnsAnnual dividend yield
GUSHDirexion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exp. & Prod. Bull 2X Shares141.21%0.07%
NRGUMicroSectors U.S. Big Oil Index 3X Leveraged ETN135.47%0.00%
BNKUMicroSectors U.S. Big Banks Index 3X Leveraged ETNs116.80%0.00%
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares106.68%0.01%
FCGFirst Trust Natural Gas ETF92.79%1.74%
FASDirexion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares90.93%0.41%
DIGProShares Ultra Oil & Gas89.74%2.43%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares88.70%0.07%
PXEInvesco Dynamic Energy Exploration & Production ETF88.39%2.51%
DPSTDirexion Daily Regional Banks Bull 3X Shares87.99%0.60%

Invest in ETFs

Source: ETF Database

Robinhood

Our pick: Robinhood

Make unlimited commission-free trades in stocks, funds, and options with Robinhood Financial.

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • No commissions or minimums
  • Trade fractional shares. Get started with just $1
Go to site
on Robinhood's secure site

Read review
Available asset types Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
Stock trade fee $0
Option trade fee $0
Annual fee 0%

Best performing ETFs over 1 year

As of October 2021, the top performing ETFs over the last year are:

SymbolETF name1-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
DPSTDirexion Daily Regional Banks Bull 3X Shares409.52%0.60%
BNKUMicroSectors U.S. Big Banks Index 3X Leveraged ETNs390.00%0.00%
NRGUMicroSectors U.S. Big Oil Index 3X Leveraged ETN358.73%0.00%
HIBLDirexion Daily S&P 500 High Beta Bull 3X Shares337.50%0.07%
RETLDirexion Daily Retail Bull 3X Shares333.73%0.01%
GUSHDirexion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exp. & Prod. Bull 2X Shares329.73%0.07%
FASDirexion Daily Financial Bull 3X Shares243.21%0.41%
DIGProShares Ultra Oil & Gas193.68%2.43%
ERXDirexion Daily Energy Bull 2X Shares186.15%1.96%
FCGFirst Trust Natural Gas ETF184.21%1.74%

Invest in ETFs

Source: ETF Database

Best performing ETFs over 5 years

As of October 2021, the top performing ETFs over the last five years are:

SymbolETF name5-year returnsAnnual dividend yield
TECLDirexion Daily Technology Bull 3X Shares1094.31%0.33%
TQQQProShares UltraPro QQQ1088.55%0.00%
ROMProShares Ultra Technology749.41%0.00%
USDProShares Ultra Semiconductors600.35%0.11%
QLDProShares Ultra QQQ584.44%0.00%
ARKWARK Next Generation Internet ETF517.31%1.38%
FBGXUBS AG FI Enhanced Large Cap Growth ETN424.94%0.00%
FLGECredit Suisse FI Large Cap Growth Enhanced ETN417.47%0.00%
ARKKARK Innovation ETF416.32%1.86%
UPROProShares UltraPro S&P500380.52%0.05%

Invest in ETFs

Source: ETF Database

Robinhood

Our pick: Robinhood

Make unlimited commission-free trades in stocks, funds, and options with Robinhood Financial.

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • No commissions or minimums
  • Trade fractional shares. Get started with just $1
Go to site
on Robinhood's secure site

Read review
Available asset types Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
Stock trade fee $0
Option trade fee $0
Annual fee 0%

Picking the best ETFs for your situation

With thousands of ETFs in the US exchange to choose from, finding the best ones that fit your portfolio and investing strategy can help protect you from loss. Some points to consider when deciding which ETFs are best for you.

  • Timeframe. Decide your investment timeframe and under what circumstances you’d consider selling.
  • Have a strategy. Think about if you can afford to take on a riskier short-term investment or if you prefer to be more conservative. If you prefer lower risk, you could also consider index funds.
  • Understand the product. Do your research of the listed fund. Download its prospectus and read through the details.
  • Check the returns. Look at the returns, including all fees over different periods of time. How has it performed over a one-year period? How has it performed over several years?
  • Understand the fees. Fees strongly influence your return on investment. Make sure the returns outshine the ETF’s management fees and pick a broker with fees that match your trading habits.
  • Talk to a financial adviser. If you’re not clear about an investment, how it works or its returns, contact a licensed professional to help you learn more.

(Want to know more about ETFs in general? Read this guide.)

Understanding an ETF’s fees

There’s a direct correlation between high fees and an ETF’s overall performance. When fees are higher, returns tend to be lower and vice versa. There are two main costs involved when investing in listed funds: brokerage and management fees.

  • Brokerage fees. Like with stocks, your broker may charge a transaction fee every time you invest money into an ETF. This fee comes down to which trading platform or brokerage you use.
  • Management fee. This is often displayed as the management expense ratio (MER), which is the percentage of your return charged as fees by the ETF’s fund managers. Normally, the more work a fund manager has to do to keep the ETF profitable, the higher the fee – though this won’t always be the case. This is why many active ETFs charge higher fees than index ETFs, which passively track an index.

To find a platform that offers the lowest fees, you’ll first need to decide how much you want to invest in the fund and how many lump sums you’ll be investing over a year. If it’s just one lump sum, a platform that doesn’t charge an inactivity fee will be key. If you plan on frequently adding small amounts, the brokerage fee itself will be more important.

Brokerage fees range from around $0 to $5 per transaction and ETF fees range from about 0.05% to 2.5%.

How to invest in an ETF

Once you’ve considered the risks of investing in ETFs and worked out your financial goals, you can buy and sell units in an ETF like any stock on the stock market through a fund manager or an online trading platform.

To invest in ETFs through an online trading platform, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Search for a trading platform that suits your investment needs.
  2. Sign up by providing personal details, proof of citizenship and proof of ID.
  3. Log in to your trading account.
  4. Move money into your trading account through a bank transfer.
  5. Search for the ETF on your platform and place an order.

Compare trading platforms to invest in ETFs

Name Product Asset types Option trade fee Annual fee Signup bonus
Robinhood
Robinhood
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
$0
0%
Free stock (chosen randomly with a value anywhere between $2.50 and $200)
Sign up using the "go to site" link
Make unlimited commission-free trades in stocks, funds, and options with Robinhood Financial.
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual funds, ETFs
$0 + $0.65/contract
0%
N/A
INVESTMENT AND INSURANCE PRODUCTS ARE: NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • NO BANK GUARANTEE • MAY LOSE VALUE
Vanguard Personal Advisor
Stocks, Options, Mutual funds, ETFs
N/A
$20 per year
N/A
Financial advice powered by relationships, not commissions.
TradeStation
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual funds, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
$0 + $0.50/contract
$0 per month
$50
Deposit qualifying assets of $5,000+
A platform built for all kinds of traders and all styles of trading
Sofi Invest
Stocks, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
N/A
0%
Get one free stock worth up to $1,000
Open an account
A free way to invest in stocks, ETFs and crypto.
Moomoo
Stocks
$0
$0 per year
Get a free stock valued up to $350
Open your Futu brokerage account via Moomoo
Trade stocks on the US, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen markets.
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Compare up to 4 providers

*Signup bonus information updated weekly.

Disclaimer: The value of any investment can go up or down depending on news, trends and market conditions. We are not investment advisers, so do your own due diligence to understand the risks before you invest.

Bottom line

Business cycles, demographic trends and bull or bear markets can often last for years, so ETFs with strong momentum sometimes continue to perform strongly — and vice versa.

Comparing recent performance of ETFs can help inform your investment planning and provide you with ideas for where to invest your money. From there, continue to research your investment choices and be as thorough with the trading platforms and services you consider.

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