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Vanguard Brokerage account review

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An investor-owned company with a strong track record that’s better for long-term investors.

finder.com’s rating: 3.7 / 5.0

★★★★★

Vanguard is best known for its low-cost investment options. The company has no private owners, which allows it to keep operation costs low and give more back to its investors. But their brokerage accounts are ill-equipped for day traders or those looking to use complex options strategies.

$0

Stock trade fee

$0

Minimum deposit to open

$20 per year

Fee

Details

Stock trade fee$0
Option trade fee$1
Asset typesStocks
Account typesBrokerage, Individual
Minimum deposit to open$0

Expert review

Heather Petty

Review by


Heather Petty is a writer at Finder specializing in banking, investments and insurance. She's a self-proclaimed word nerd who worked as a technical writer and editor for the casino systems industry and is an internationally published young adult mystery author. Heather earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Expert review

If you’re a long-term investor with a high account balance, the savings you’ll accumulate from Vanguard’s client-owned company model may be worth checking out. It offers a low expense ratio and excels at in-house ETF offerings.

But it lacks the tools necessary for high-volume stock trading.

Who is a Vanguard Brokerage Account best for?

With over 1,800 in-house exchange-traded fund (ETF) and mutual fund options — and no fees for online trading — Vanguard appeals to anyone looking to buy and hold investments. A Vanguard Brokerage account is recommended for:

  • Investors with high account balances. Because of Vanguard’s tiered approach to customer benefits, customers with high account balances receive more personalized help and lower account fees.
  • Long-term investors. Vanguard’s customer-owned model gives them a significantly lower expense ratio than the industry average. That means more of the money you earn stays in your account, earning you more for your long-term investments.

What are the benefits of a Vanguard Brokerage Account?

Vanguard’s company model created a lot of unique advantages for its investors:

  • Investor-owned company. After investing in a mutual fund or ETF, you own part of the company.
  • Low expense ratio. A low expense ratio at 0.14% means a lower overhead, and you get to keep more of your earnings.
  • Wide variety of investment options. Whether you’re investing for retirement, saving for education, or investing to grow your wealth, Vanguard has options for you and advisers to help you build your plan.

Vanguard’s tiered benefits

The more you invest, the more it has to offer.

For account balances up to $50,000:

  • No commissions. Buy and sell Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds and your trades are commission-free.
  • Low stock trade fees. Pay only $0 per trade for the first 25 trades a year.
  • Investor education and tools. Vanguard provides an investment knowledge base, as well as calculators and tools to help you create an investment plan.

For account balances from $50,000 to $500,000:

  • Personal adviser services. A personal adviser creates a custom investment plan for you, reviews your portfolio quarterly, and is available by phone, email or video chat to answer any questions. Advisers charge an annual service fee rather than a commission — $3 for every $1,000 invested.
  • Reduced commissions. Pay lower commissions and transaction fees on all stock and non-Vanguard EFT trades.
  • Canceled service fees. No account service fees on most account types.

For account balances from $500,000 to $1 million:

  • Certified Financial Planner. Your personal adviser becomes a CFP to advise and manage your portfolio.
  • Investment team. At this level, you have access to a full team of investment professionals to advise, answer questions and make transactions for you.
  • Greater discounts. Make non-Vanguard ETF and stock purchases for $2 per trade.

For account balances from $1 million to $5 million:

  • Personalized resources. Access to specialists in everything from estate planning to philanthropy, depending on your investment goals.
  • Deeper discounts. More reduced commissions and 25 more commission-free trades in your brokerage account.

What to watch out for

Because the benefits are tiered, expect to pay more in fees and costs if you have a lower account balance.

  • Trading technology limits. Vanguard doesn’t offer streaming quotes, which limits day trading and makes complex option strategies impossible.
  • Basic mobile app. While most people find the app more intuitive than the website, the lack of features like live-chat customer support make it too simplistic to use as a trading tool.
  • High minimum investment. There’s technically no minimum account balance, but mutual funds require a minimum investment of $1,000, and most require a $3,000 investment.

If you want a brokerage account that gives you the financial freedom to invest in high volumes, you’ll want to keep looking. As always, compare your options when choosing an online trading platform.

What research does Vanguard provide?

Vanguard’s research options — specifically its charting tools — may not be comprehensive enough to cater to active traders:

  • Stock screener. Filter stocks, ETFs and mutual funds by a variety of metrics to narrow down your investment options.
  • Asset allocation. Fill out Vanguard’s asset allocation questionnaire to help you diversify your portfolio and optimize your risk tolerance.
  • Charting tools. Perform your own technical analysis with limited drawing tools and 15 technical indicators.
  • Analyst ratings. Compare analyst opinions from Argus and Market Garder.
  • Market news. Stay on top of market trends with news from the Associated Press and MT Newswires.

Pricing and fees

Vanguard’s trading and account fees are fairly competitive. It doesn’t charge commissions on stocks and offers a sweeping selection of fee-free ETFs and mutual funds.

Most trades made through Vanguard’s online trading platform are free, but a $25 to $50 fee applies to any trades made over the phone with the help of a Vanguard broker — a common practice for platforms with brokers available by phone. For investors with account balances of $50,000 and up, discounted phone trades are available.

Trading fees
Stocks$0
Options0% commission + $1 per contract
ETF
  • Vanguard ETFs $0
  • ETFs from other companies $0
    Mutual funds
    • Vanguard mutual funds $0
    • No-transaction fee (NTF) mutual funds from other companies $0
    • Transaction-fee (TF) mutual funds $20 per trade
    CDs and bonds
    • CDs, U.S. government agency securities, U.S. Treasury securities, corporate bonds $0
    • Mortgage-backed securities $35 per trade

    Vanguard also charges a $20 annual account fee, but offers a number of conditions for waiving the fee:

    • Investors with at least $10,000 in Vanguard ETFs mutual funds
    • Investors with at least $50,000 in qualifying Vanguard assets
    • Investors who opt into e-delivery of account statements
    • Investors with an organization or a trust account registered under an employee identification number (EIN)

    If you plan to invest in mutual funds, CDs or bonds, Vanguard’s investment minimums may also come into play.

    Mutual fundsInvestment minimums
    NTF mutual funds$3,000 initial purchase, $1,000 additional purchase
    TF mutual funds$1,000
    Load mutual funds$1,000
    CDs and bondsInvestment minimums
    U.S. government agency securities and corporate bonds$10,000 new issue, $1,000 secondary market
    CDs and U.S. Treasury securities$1,000
    Municipal bonds$5,000 secondary market

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    Vanguard Brokerage reviews and complaints

    As of October 2020, the Vanguard Group has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but is not accredited. The company has a 3-star rating at Consumer Affairs, with 120 reviews in the last year.

    A majority of the negative reviews complain that the company is slow to respond to account changes and transfer requests. The positive reviews point to the excellent, pressure-free advice they get from company experts and advisers and how well the customer’s portfolios have grown.

    How do I get started?

    1. From the Trading Online page of Vanguard’s website, choose Open or transfer accounts.
    2. Select Let’s open my account or Begin my transfer or rollover.
    3. If you chose to open a new account, select how you will fund the account and choose Continue.
    4. If you have an existing account, use your credentials to log in. If not, select No and then Continue.
    5. Note the required information and process information and choose Continue.
    6. Select why you’re investing and the account type you want to open, then choose Continue.
    7. Select your Primary— and optionally, SecondaryInvestment objective, then select your Source of funds. Choose Continue.
    8. Enter your personal information, including your employment status and income, and choose Continue.
    9. When you have funded the account, review your information and e-sign to open your account.

    Eligibility

    • At least 18 years old
    • Valid Social Security number
    • Valid US residential address

    Required information

    • First and last name
    • Social Security number
    • Address, phone number and email
    • Employer information
    • Investment goals
    • Investment and financial information

    I’ve created a Vanguard Brokerage account. Now what?

    Now that you’ve created your account, it’s time to take advantage of what Vanguard has to offer.

    • Fund your account. Link your bank or credit union account to your Vanguard Brokerage money market settlement account, or use the mobile app to deposit a check.
    • Research. Use the Vanguard knowledge base and tools to figure out how best to invest your money.
    • Invest. Take advantage of the zero- and low-fee online transactions or call and let one of Vanguard’s brokers help you get started.
    • Manage your account. Log in to the website or your mobile application to track your investments.

    Vanguard Brokerage Account customer service

    If you need assistance with your personal brokerage account, use one of the following options:

    • Phone: Call 800-349-5814, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST
    • Secure Email Form: From the Contact Us Brokerage Services page, choose Send a secure message to fill in Vanguard’s email form. There’s a non-secure option if your browser doesn’t support SSL and encryption.
    • By US Mail: Vanguard, PO Box 2600, Valley Forge, PA 19482-2600

    Frequently asked questions

    How we rate trading platforms

    ★★★★★ 5/5 — Excellent

    ★★★★★ 4/5 — Good

    ★★★★★ 3/5 — Average

    ★★★★★ 2/5 — Subpar

    ★★★★★ 1/5 — Poor

    We analyze top online trading platforms and rate them one to five stars based on factors that are most important to you. These factors include fees, securities available for trade, customer support, customer feedback, platform resources and overall reliability.

    For a complete breakdown of how we score each category, read the full methodology of how we rate trading platforms.

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