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Ratings methodology for robo-advisors

We rate robo-advisors across eight key categories, including ongoing costs, minimum deposit requirements, portfolio mix and more.

Finder’s investment experts assess robo-advisors across eight key categories to help you objectively evaluate a robo-advisor’s overall performance and suitability for your unique needs.

The eight categories we measure are:

  • Costs and fees
  • Account minimums
  • Account types
  • Portfolio mix
  • Customer support
  • Mobile app rating and security
  • Features and amenities
  • Cash management account

Data collection

We collect data manually through online research and from providers directly. For many of the robo-advisors we review, our investment experts perform hands-on testing. Some robo-advisors also provide live demonstrations of their platforms and services.

Category weightings

We weigh each metric based on factors we believe are most important to traders and investors. Robo-advisors earn a score in each category and then an overall score based on these weightings.

Scoring and rating

Robo-advisors are evaluated on eight key categories, which are broken down into 26 core elements and 66 weighted criteria. Providers that offer extra perks are rewarded with additional points, while those that don’t offer them aren’t penalized. We consider perks like access to individual securities trading and access to a human financial advisor.

We rate robo-advisors using a system of one to five stars, incremented in tenths of a star, with 5 stars being the best possible score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Excellent

★★★★★ 4/5 — Good

★★★★★ 3/5 — Average

★★★★★ 2/5 — Subpar

★★★★★ 1/5 — Poor

Costs and fees

We evaluate the major costs and fees of having an account with a robo-advisor, including annual advisory fees, annual subscription fees and full outgoing account transfer fees, should you choose to switch providers. Robo-advisors are scored in either the annual advisory fee or annual subscription fee, whichever applies. Most robo-advisors that charge an annual advisory fee don’t also charge a subscription fee and vice versa.

Annual advisory fee

If a robo-advisor charges no annual advisory fee, it earns the highest rating. A robo-advisor that charges an annual advisory fee of 0.51% or more earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — No advisory fee

★★★★★ 4/5 — Charges an advisory fee of between 0.01%–0.25%

★★★★★ 3/5 — Charges an advisory fee of between 0.26%–0.50%

★★★★★ 2/5 — Charges an advisory fee of 0.51% or more

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Annual subscription fee

If a robo-advisor charges no annual subscription fee, it earns the highest rating. If it charges an annual subscription fee of $51 or more, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — No annual subscription fee

★★★★★ 4/5 — Charges an annual subscription fee of between $1–$25

★★★★★ 3/5 — Charges an annual subscription fee of between $26–$50

★★★★★ 2/5 — Charges an annual subscription fee of $51 or more

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Full outgoing ACATS fee

If a robo-advisor charges no fee to transfer an account to another provider, it earns the highest score. If it charges an outgoing transfer fee of $101 or more, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — No fee to transfer accounts

★★★★★ 4/5 — Charges an outgoing account transfer fee of between $1–$75

★★★★★ 3/5 — Charges an outgoing account transfer fee of between $76–$100

★★★★★ 2/5 — Charges an outgoing account transfer fee of $101 or more

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Account minimums

This category examines the platform’s minimum deposit requirements to use its robo-advisory service. If a robo-advisor requires a deposit of less than $100 to start investing, it earns the highest rating. If a robo-advisor charges more than $500, it earns the lowest rating.

★★★★★ 5/5 — $1–$99

★★★★★ 4/5 — $100–$250

★★★★★ 3/5 — $251–$500

★★★★★ 2/5 — $501 or more

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Account types

This category evaluates the robo-advisor’s available account types. Robo-advisors that offer individual and joint brokerage accounts and traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs earn the highest rating. A robo-advisor that offers only an individual and/or joint brokerage account earns the lowest rating.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers individual, joint and custodial brokerage accounts, and traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs

★★★★★ 4/5 — Offers individual and joint brokerage accounts and traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs

★★★★★ 3/5 — Offers individual and joint brokerage accounts and traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs

★★★★★ 2/5 — Offers only individual and/or joint brokerage accounts

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Portfolio mix

This category assesses the breadth and diversity of available portfolios. We consider the number of prebuilt portfolios, breadth of asset class exposure and whether the robo-advisor allows portfolio customization. Prebuilt portfolios are determined by your responses to a standard questionnaire that gauges your risk tolerance, time horizon and financial goals and can contain a mix of stocks, bonds, commodities, cash or any other available asset class. Levels of customization might include the ability to add individual stocks or adjust your portfolio’s specific asset class weights.

Number of prebuilt portfolios

If a robo-advisor offers 15 or more prebuilt portfolio options, it earns the highest rating. If it offers less than five prebuilt portfolios, it earns the lowest rating.

★★★★★ 5/5 — 15+ portfolio options

★★★★★ 4/5 — 6–14 portfolio options

★★★★★ 3/5 — 1–5 portfolio options

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Large-cap exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to large-cap US stocks, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to large-cap US stocks, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Mid-cap exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to mid-cap US stocks, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to mid-cap US stocks, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Small-cap exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to small-cap US stocks, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to small-cap US stocks, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

International equity exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to international stocks, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to international stocks, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Short-term US government bond exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to short-term US government bonds, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to short-term US government bonds, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

US municipal bond exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to US municipal bonds, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to US municipal bonds, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

US corporate bond exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to US corporate bonds, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to US corporate bonds, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Commodities exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to commodities, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to commodities, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Real estate exposure

If a robo-advisor offers exposure to real estate, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer exposure to real estate, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Cryptocurrency exposure

If a robo-advisor offers crypto exposure, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer crypto exposure, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Allows for portfolio customization

If a robo-advisor offers portfolio customization, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer portfolio customization, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — No

Customer support

This category rates the robo-advisor’s customer support responsiveness and accessibility and evaluates available support channels, such as live chat, phone and email.

Contact methods

If a robo-advisor offers 24/7 phone support, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor offers only email support with response times longer than a day, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — 24/7 phone support

★★★★★ 4/5 — Phone support and live chat, but no 24/7 support

★★★★★ 3/5 — Phone support or live chat during regular business hours

★★★★★ 2/5 — Email support only, and it took more than a day to hear back

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Mobile app rating and security

This category analyzes a mobile app’s security measures, user reviews and ratings.

Security measures

If a robo-advisor offers two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometrics to protect customers’ accounts and information, it earns the highest score. If a platform doesn’t offer 2FA or biometrics, it earns the lowest rating.

★★★★★ 5/5 — 2FA and biometrics to protect customers’ accounts and information

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — 2FA but not biometrics

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — Doesn’t offer 2FA or biometrics capabilities

App store ratings

We take the average of the robo-advisor’s ratings across the Apple App Store and Google Play App Store to calculate a final score.

Features and amenities

This category evaluates the availability of individual securities trading, automatic tax-loss harvesting, automatic dividend reinvestment and educational resources, as well as access to a human financial advisor.

Access to individual securities trading

If a robo-advisor offers the ability to trade individual securities, it earns the highest score. Robo-advisors that don’t offer individual securities trading aren’t penalized.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Yes

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Access to a financial advisor

If a robo-advisor offers access to a human financial advisor with no advisory fees and no minimum balance requirements, it earns the highest score. Robo-advisors that don’t offer access to a financial advisor aren’t penalized.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Free access to a financial advisor with no advisory fees and no minimum balance requirements

★★★★★ 4/5 — Access to a financial advisor, but has a minimum balance requirement or charges an annual advisory fee

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — N/A

Automatic tax-loss harvesting

If a robo-advisor offers automatic tax-loss harvesting capabilities, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers tax-loss harvesting

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — Doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting

Automatic dividend reinvestment

If a platform offers automatic dividend reinvestment, it earns the highest score. If a provider doesn’t offer automatic dividend reinvestment, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers automatic dividend reinvestment

★★★★★ 4/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 3/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — Doesn’t offer automatic dividend reinvestment

Educational resources

A robo-advisor earns the highest score if it offers live webinars, videos and articles. Robo-advisors that offer no educational content earn the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers live webinars, videos and articles

★★★★★ 4/5 — Offers videos and articles, but no live webinars

★★★★★ 3/5 — Offers informational tools only, like newsletters and market news

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — Doesn’t offer any educational content

Cash management account

This category assesses the annual percentage yield (APY) offered through the robo-advisor’s cash management account or equivalent cash savings account that offers immediate access to cash balances. If a robo-advisor offers an APY of over 5%, it earns the highest score. If a robo-advisor doesn’t offer a cash management account, it earns the lowest score.

★★★★★ 5/5 — APY of 5% or more

★★★★★ 4/5 — APY of between 1% and 4.99%

★★★★★ 3/5 — APY of less than 1%

★★★★★ 2/5 — N/A

★★★★★ 1/5 — Doesn’t offer a cash management account

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