Is M1 Finance worth it? Sure. Its Standard account is free to use, and there are no trade commissions. It comes with a free checking account, offers fractional shares, has a decent selection of accounts and automatically rebalances your portfolio.
What we like about M1 is that it strikes an interesting balance between automated investing and self-directed trades. Traditional robo-advisors are like two-wheeler bikes with training wheels: If your investments go sideways, there’s something there to help you course correct.
M1 Finance takes the training wheels off by letting you pick your own investments, but it doesn’t totally abandon you to the pavement — it’s designed to rebalance your portfolio automatically once you choose your investments. Kind of like having an older sibling running alongside the bike.
Ultimately, M1 Finance is a sensible option for investors who want a little more autonomy over their portfolio but aren’t quite ready or don’t have the time for full-blown active trading. The major drawbacks? It only offers access to stocks and ETFs and doesn’t help offset taxes with tax-loss harvesting options.
M1 Finance lets you invest, borrow and manage your cash in one intuitive automated platform. It offers:
- Investment accounts. Create an individual, joint, IRA or trust account and then build an investing strategy that’s right for you.
- Checking accounts. Integrate your investments with a checking account. M1 Plus customers who pay the $125 annual fee earn 1% APY and 1% cash back on qualifying debit card purchases.
- Portfolio lines of credit. Borrow against your portfolio with interest rates up to 3.5% once your portfolio value reaches $10,000.
What is a qualifying debit card purchase?
To earn 1% cash back on a debit card purchase, you must swipe your debit card in person or enter your debit card number online for goods or services, excluding returns, fees or credits.
ATM transactions, peer-to-peer transactions, fund transfers and loan payments are not eligible for cash back. And purchases made through third-party services like Venmo and PayPal may not be eligible.
As far as robo-advisors are concerned, M1 Finance is a bit of an odd duck. It offers automated investing, yes — but with a unique twist: investors select their portfolio investment slices when they sign up. It doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking, but it’s different from how most robo-advisors operate.
A standard robo-advisor asks you a bunch of questions when you sign up to determine your risk tolerance. It uses your responses to customize its investment algorithm and pick your portfolio holdings. M1 Finance lets its investors decide.
M1 Finance pies are made up of three or more individual “slices,” which act as the building blocks of your portfolio. These can be individual stocks, ETFs or other prebuilt portfolios known as custom, expert or community pies. You select at least three slices and give each a target weight for a total of 100%. If one allocation is more important than the others, you can assign it a higher weight.
Once you’ve built your portfolio, you fund your account to start investing. From there, M1 Finance automatically reinvests funds as they’re deposited into your account.
Custom pies: For investors ready to hand-pick their portfolio
This is M1 Finance’s core offering: custom portfolio pies hand-picked and crafted by you. If this is your first time putting something like this together, don’t panic. The ingredients have already been set out for you. Granted, you’re spoiled for choice — M1 Finance has over 6,000 stocks and ETFs to choose from — but all you need to do is pick a few slices. Then you’ll be asked to set the target weight of each slice: essentially, how much of your pie would you like to dedicate to that specific ingredient.
Once you’ve picked your stock and ETF slices and assigned each a target weight, M1 Finance executes your strategy as outlined by your investment pie.
Expert pies: For new investors seeking guidance
Now, let’s say you’re not much of a baker — something about all those carefully measured ingredients just feels like a hassle. Enter M1 Finance’s expert pies: over 80 professionally designed portfolios crafted around various investing goals and risk tolerances. Think of this as your preassembled, prebaked pie. All you need to do is pick one off the rack and get it cooking by funding your account.
Community pies: For the socially responsible investor
M1 Finance’s community pies are value-driven portfolios well-suited to the socially-conscious investor. These are preassembled pies that support black, female, LGBTQ+, Latine and Asian American companies. There’s also a pie that focuses on sustainable businesses. M1 Finance plans to add more community pies over time so socially responsible, value-driven investors have plenty of choice in the companies and causes they want to support.
Fees and costs
While M1 Finance is free, you’ll need a minimum balance of $100 to get started. Retirement accounts have an initial investment amount of $500. M1 Plus is a paid membership plan for investors who want access to extra perks.
- Unlimited free trades
- Dynamic rebalancing
- Fractional shares
- Custom and expert portfolios
- One daily trading window
- Free checking account
|M1 Plus||$125||Everything in M1 Standard, plus:|
- Two daily trading windows
- 0.25% discount on borrowed funds
- Free checking account that earns 1% APY and 1% cash back on debit card purchases
Follow these six steps from the M1 Finance website to open an account:
- Select Get started.
- Enter your email, create your password and select Sign up now.
- Confirm your email address and select Continue.
- Choose which pies you want to use in your portfolio and select Continue.
- Assign a percentage weight to each of your pies and select Continue.
- Follow the steps to verify your identity and fund your account.
To sign up for an M1 Finance account, you’ll need to meet a few eligibility requirements:
- At least 18 years old
- US citizen or resident
- US residential address
- Social Security number
- Government-issued ID
- External bank account
You’ll need the following information when you open your account:
- Legal name
- Mailing address
- Social Security number
- Government-issued ID number
- Login information for external bank
Pros and cons
Like most robo-advisors, M1 Finance offers standard features like automated investing, expert-built portfolios and advanced features like:
- Customizable portfolios. Unlike other robo-advisors that make you choose from a list of prebuilt portfolios, M1 Finance lets you customize everything.
- Fractional shares. This is one of the few robo-advisors that enables you to purchase fractional shares.
- Dynamic rebalancing. As you deposit cash into your investment account, M1 Finance will automatically buy more of the underweighted items in your portfolio.
- Zero commissions. M1 Finance doesn’t charge any fees or commissions for using its platform.
- Several account types. M1 Finance offers individual, joint, retirement and trust accounts.
M1 Finance has these potential drawbacks to watch out for:
- No tax-loss harvesting. Unlike other robo-advisors, this one doesn’t help you offset taxes by selling securities that have experienced a loss.
- Limited security options. M1 Finance only offers stocks and ETFs, so you won’t find any mutual funds or options.
- Small trading windows. M1 Finance only executes trades once or twice a day, depending on your membership level.
- Limited customer service. The only way to chat with customer service is through email or phone, which is limited to weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
- Lack of financial goals. Most robo-advisors help you determine your risk tolerance and timeline based on a series of goals-based questions, but M1 Finance doesn’t.
Yes, M1 Finance is a legit robo-advisor founded in 2015. It’s registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). And your investments are insured up to $500,000 by the SIPC and your check accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC. So you can feel confident banking and investing with M1 Finance.
M1 Finance reviews and complaints
As of March 2021, M1 Finance isn’t rated or accredited by the Better Business Bureau but has a 1.56 out of 5-star rating based on 25 reviews. Its Trustpilot rating is a bit more optimistic, with a 3.4 out of 5-star rating based on three reviews.
Android users are pretty happy with the M1 Finance app — 13,195 users rated it an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars. And M1 Finance has a 4.6 out of 5-star rating based on 27,400 reviews on the Apple App Store.
Many customers enjoy the “pie” concept, which helps investors visualize their finances. The primary complaint is M1 Finance‘s lack of customer service options, including waiting a few days to hear back from someone. Reviewers agree that M1 Finance isn’t for active trading, stating that the platform is “really centered around putting your investing on autopilot.”
There are two ways to contact M1 customer service:
- Email. Fill out the request form on its website for a reply within one business day — though some investors report waiting several days for a response.
- Phone. Call 312-600-2883 weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
The platform is certainly worth a look for those eager to choose their investments — but it won’t be a practical fit for everyone. Since M1 Finance occupies such an interesting middle ground between traditional robo-advisors and self-directed trading platforms, not all investors will benefit from its approach.
Those seeking more autonomy over their investments may want to shift into self-directed trading. If that’s the case, consider a platform like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade or Webull. But be warned: If you open a self-directed brokerage account with any of these platforms, you’ll be on your own — solely responsible for diversifying and maintaining your portfolio with no automated rebalancing feature to keep you on track.
If you’re not quite ready for self-directed trades or don’t feel comfortable building your own portfolio, consider a robo-advisor that does this for you, like Betterment. You’ll answer a series of questions when you sign up, and your robo-advisor will use your responses to draft your asset allocation strategy. Then, all you’ll need to do is fund your account and you’re off to the races.
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.
M1 Finance is ideal for long-term investors who want the guidance of a robo-advisor but the freedom to change things up. This platform has zero fees or commissions, plus it comes with unusual features like fractional shares and dynamic rebalancing.
But M1 Finance doesn’t help you set and track goals like other robo-advising platforms. Even if you decide on the automated investing option, you’ll need to know what you want to invest in before you start. If you’re brand new to investing and need extra guidance, keep shopping around for options.