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Betterment vs. Wealthfront

Only one of these platforms offers access to financial planners.

Betterment and Wealthfront both offer low-fee automated investing and tax-loss harvesting options. But one of these robo-advisors offers a wider range of investment services and support than the other.

Which one is better?

  • I like Betterment for its access to financial advisers.
  • I’d choose Wealthfront if I wanted a 529 college savings account.

Betterment wins this toss-up — sorry, Wealthfront. Why? Because while both of these robo-advisors offer a respectable service lineup, Betterment has more to offer: fractional investing, a premium service tier and more robust customer support.

That’s a win in my books.

Now, to be fair, both platforms have common offerings, including a sturdy lineup of account options, a 0.25% annual management fee and over 10 asset classes apiece.

But Wealthfront’s customer support is limited to email inquiries, and its investors are required to deposit $500 to open an account. Betterment requires no deposit. Wealthfront also lacks Betterment’s premium service tier, which offers unlimited access to certified financial planners.

Betterment and Wealthfront at a glance

BettermentWealthfront
Betterment logo
Open an account
Wealthfront logo
OverviewBetterment is an online financial advisor that makes investing easier by creating a portfolio just for you, based on your preferences and financial goals. It’s a solid choice for those new to investing.Wealthfront is an investment firm that removes the guesswork from investing. It helps you build a financial plan and reach your goals with the help of automated investments.
Annual fee0.25%0.25%
Minimum deposit to open$0$500
Best features
  • Certified financial planners and fractional shares.
  • 529 accounts and retirement investment plans.
Biggest drawbacks
  • Account withdrawal delays and limited account selection.
  • Limited support and a $500 minimum.
Additional features
  • Advice packages, investing calculators and informative articles.
  • Educational blog and customized savings plans.
Reputation and customer reviews
  • Reviews are: Mixed
  • Reviews are: Mixed
Apple App Store reviews

★★★★★ 4.8/5

★★★★★ 4.9/5

Google Play Store reviews

★★★★★ 4.4/5

★★★★★ 4.6/5

Support
  • Phone. Call 646-600-8263.
  • Email. Send a request to Betterment’s customer service weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Live chat: Available weekends 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
  • Phone. Log in to your account to set up a phone call.
  • Email. Send an email through the Wealthfront website.
Learn more

Read our review

Read our review

Benefits

Both Betterment and Wealthfront are chockful of attractive perks and features.

Betterment

  • Fractional shares. Invest in fractions of shares to get the most from your unallocated cash.
  • Socially responsible investing. Join Betterment’s socially responsible investing (SRI) portfolio no matter the balance of your portfolio.
  • Charitable giving. Donate shares to Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, UNICEF and World Wildlife Fund to save on capital gains.
  • Certified financial planners. Access certified financial planners through Betterment’s premium service tier.
  • Automatic rebalancing. Benefit from daily rebalancing as well as portfolio adjustments each time you receive a dividend, make a contribution or make a withdrawal.
  • Robust support. Support is available seven days a week.

Wealthfront

  • Custom investment plans. Analyze your financial habits with Wealthfront Path to devise a long-term retirement investment plan.
  • Portfolio line of credit. Access a line of credit that allows you to borrow up to 30% of your account value so long as you have at least $100,000 in your portfolio.
  • Diversified investments. Opt into Wealthfront’s Risk Parity feature with a portfolio of $100,000 or more to minimize risk by diversifying your asset classes.
  • 529 accounts. Open a 529 college savings plan to save for higher education expenses.
  • Automatic deposits. Schedule weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly deposits into your account.

Drawbacks

No robo-advisor is perfect, and both of these platforms have a handful of drawbacks to consider.

Betterment

  • No direct indexing. While Betterment uses tax-loss harvesting to increase tax efficiency, it doesn’t offer direct indexing.
  • No 529 plans. Unlike its competitor, Betterment lacks access to 529 accounts.
  • Premium account minimums. To access Betterment’s certified financial planners, you’ll need at least $100,000 to open a premium account.
  • Withdrawal delays. Some reviews complain of delays when withdrawing money from their accounts.

Wealthfront

  • Minimum deposit. Wealthfront investors need at least $500 to open an account.
  • No fractional shares. With no fractional investing, you may be left with unallocated funds sitting in your portfolio, limiting your earning potential.
  • Limited support. Wealthfront’s customer support is only available by email.

Additional features

Outside their core offerings, both Betterment and Wealthfront are equipped with unique features that may sway your decision.

Betterment

  • Advice packages. Connect with certified financial planners for a flat fee of $199 to $299.
  • Investing calculators. Identify portfolio opportunities and streamline your savings goals with interactive quizzes and calculators.
  • Article library. Explore educational articles written by experts on banking and investment topics.

Wealthfront

  • Educational blog. Familiarize yourself with key terms and strategies through a suite of educational resources.
  • Financial planning. Analyze your bank accounts, credit cards, loans — even your Social Security — to craft a customized savings plan through the Path tool.

Customer reviews

Customer feedback can help you unearth red flags in a potential broker. Both Betterment and Wealthfront have mixed reviews, but common praise and complaints differ.

Betterment

  • Reviews are mixed.
  • Customers praise a user-friendly platform and automatic rebalancing.
  • Customers complain about account withdrawal delays and unresponsive customer service.

Wealthfront

  • Reviews are mixed.
  • Customers praise tax-loss harvesting and a polished platform.
  • Customers complain of account transfer delays.

What does it mean to rebalance your portfolio?

“Rebalancing” is adjusting your holdings to match the amount you want in certain investments. Say you want your portfolio to hold 50% stocks and 50% bonds.

  • In this case, you’d buy an even value of each — say, $5,000 in stocks and $5,000 in bonds. Your portfolio is worth $10,000.

After a few months, the prices of your stocks go up. At this point, your portfolio’s value might be 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds.

  • If you have $7,500 in stocks and $5,000 in bonds, your portfolio is now worth $12,500. If you decide to rebalance your portfolio, match your 50/50 mix of stocks and bonds.
  • You might sell some stocks and buy bonds — enough so each type once again makes up 50% of your holdings. In the end, you have $6,250 in stocks and $6,250 in bonds.

Tax savings

Tax-loss harvesting is a key feature both Betterment and Wealthfront offer. Both platforms strategically rebalance your portfolio with earned dividends and sell investments at a loss so you can offset income on your taxes. Not all robo-advisors offer tax-loss harvesting, so this is a perk worth considering.

In the sphere of tax-loss harvesting, Betterment and Wealthfront are pretty evenly matched. But check out Wealthfront’s tax-saving features if you have $100,000 or more in your account.

Wealthfront portfolios of $100,00 to $500,000 gain access to stock-level tax-loss harvesting. And portfolios larger than $500,000 gain access to Smart Beta: a strategy that adds securities to your portfolio beyond market-capitalization criteria.

Betterment’s tax-coordinated portfolio service may also be worth a look. The company distributes highly taxed assets to your IRAs, which offer significant tax advantages. It also distributes low-taxed assets to your taxable accounts.

Bottom line

Betterment and Wealthfront are two of the top robo-advisors on the market, but Betterment’s $0 minimum deposit requirement, fractional shares and premium service tier makes it the more robust of the two. Unless you’re seeking a 529 account, Betterment stands as the better-equipped robo-advisor for passive investors.

Not sure about these platforms? Compare other robo-advisors to find the service that best fits your investment goals.

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