Recommended for long-term investors who are looking for great ETF and mutual fund offers
TO BEST ALTERNATIVES
Note (February 08 2021): Due to an unexpected interest in the markets, some brokers experienced outages or temporary suspensions of confirming orders. We experienced that Vanguard had major platform outages in the recent time. Please be aware when trading, as you can get stuck in your positions. We'll keep monitoring the issue, and will update our scores if this issue still persists. If you're looking for similar brokers, feel free to check this article about alternatives brokers.
Vanguard is a US stockbroker founded in 1975. The company is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Vanguard is considered safe because it has a long track record and it is overseen by top-tier regulators.
Vanguard pros and cons
Vanguard offers free ETF and mutual fund trading for a selected list of products. Account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. The mobile trading platform is easy to use and well-designed.
The product portfolio covers only the US market and the research tools are limited. The financing rates are also high.
|• Some ETFs and mutual funds are free to trade||• Only the US market covered|
|• Easy account opening||• Basic research tools|
|• Great mobile trading platform||• High financing rates (margin rates)|
|🗺️ Country of regulation||USA|
|💰 Trading fees class||Average|
|💰 Inactivity fee charged||No|
|💰 Withdrawal fee amount||$0|
|💰 Minimum deposit||$0|
|🕖 Time to open an account||1-3 days|
|🎮 Demo account provided||No|
|🛍️ Products offered||Stock, ETF, Fund, Bond, Options|
TO BEST ALTERNATIVES
Vanguard offers free ETF trading and some mutual funds and bonds are free, too. The non-trading fees are low, no inactivity fee is charged and withdrawal is also free, if you use ACH transfer. On the negative side, the fees for non-free mutual funds are high. Financing rates are also high, especially in the lower volume tiers.
|• No inactivity fee||• High margin rates|
|• Free ETF trading||• High fees for non-free mutual funds|
|• Some mutual funds and bonds are free to trade|
|Assets||Fee level||Fee terms|
|US stock||Low||Asset invested under $50k: $7 for first 25 trades per year, $20 thereafter|
|Mutual fund||High||$20 per trade if investment is less than $500k, but Vanguard funds and 3000 other funds are free|
|Inactivity fee||Low||No inactivity fee|
We ranked Vanguard's fee levels as low, average or high based on how they compare to those of all reviewed brokers.
To get things rolling, let's go over some lingo related to broker fees. What you need to keep an eye on are trading fees, and non-trading fees.
- Trading fees occur when you trade. These can be commissions, spreads, financing rates and conversion fees.
- Non-trading fees include charges not directly related to trading, like withdrawal fees or inactivity fees.
Below you will find the most relevant fees of Vanguard for each asset class. For example, in the case of stock investing, commissions are the most important fees.
We also compared Vanguard's fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, Fidelity and Firstrade. This selection is based on objective factors such as products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc. See a more detailed rundown of Vanguard alternatives.
To have a clear overview of Vanguard, let's start with the trading fees.
Vanguard trading fees are average. The fee structure is transparent, but a bit complex, as the fees are tiered based on your account balance.
Vanguard offers different services based on your investment account balance. If you have a higher investment account balance, you will get discounts:
|Services (investment account balance)||Stock commission per trade||ETF commission per trade||Non-free mutual fund commission per trade||Treasury bond commission||Options commission per trade|
$7 for first 25 trades per year, $20 thereafter
|$0||$20||$0||$7 + $1 per options contract|
|Voyager Services ($50k-$500k)||$7.0||$0||$20||$0||$7 + $1 per options contract|
|Voyager Select Services
|$2.0||$0||$8||$0||$2 + $1 per options contract|
($1 million - $5 million)
|$0 for first 25 trades per year, $2 thereafter||$0||$0 for first 25 trades per year, $8 thereafter||$0||$0 for fist 25 trades per year, $2 + $1 per options contract thereafter|
|Flagship Select Services
(Over $5 million)
|$0 for first 100 trades per year, $2 thereafter||$0||$0 for first 100 trades per year, $8 thereafter||$0||$0 for first 25 trades per year, $2 + $1 per options contract thereafter|
In this review, we calculated the fees for Vanguard's basic service, called Standard.
Stock fees and ETF fees
Vanguard has generally low stock fees and the ETFs are free.
The commission for stocks is $7 per trade for the first 25 trades per year and $20 per trade thereafter.
If you prefer stock trading on margin, check Vanguard's margin rates.
Margin rate is charged, when you trade on margin. This means that you borrow money or stocks from your broker to trade. For this borrowed money/stock, you have to pay interest. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.
Vanguard margin rates are generally high.
|USD margin rate||8.5%||8.3%||8.8%|
Vanguard's margin rate is volume-tiered as well. It applies a base rate plus a premium, depending on the financed amount. The base rate is set at Vanguard's discretion. At the time of the review the base rate was 6.0%.
|Debit balance||Rate%||Base rate + / -|
|$1,000,000 or more||4.75%||Base rate - 1.25%|
|$500,000 - $999,999||5.25%||Base rate - 0.75%|
|$250,000 - $499,999||6.50%||Base rate + 0.50%|
|$100,000 - $249,999||7.00%||Base rate + 1.00%|
|$50,000 - $99,999||7.50%||Base rate + 1.50%|
|$20,000 - $49,999||8.00%||Base rate + 2.00%|
|Under $19,999||8.50%||Base rate + 2.50%|
Vanguard's mutual fund fees are high.
We calculated with a non-free mutual fund commission, which is $20 per trade.
Vanguard does not charge a commission for its own Vanguard mutual funds and more than 3,000 non-Vanguard funds. However, if you sell the no-transaction-fee funds within 60 days after the purchase, a $50 fee is charged for the sale.
There is also a required initial investment and there is a required minimum for each additional investment.
|Mutual fund type||Initial minimum investment||Additional minimum investment|
|Non-Vanguard, but free funds||
$3,000 for nonretirement
$1,000 for IRAs
|Vanguard STAR Fund and Vanguard Retirement Fund||$1,000||$1|
|Vanguard Admiral share||from $3,000 to $100,000||variable|
|Vanguard Investor share||$3,000||variable|
Vanguard has generally low bond fees. The bond fees vary among the different bond types. We calculated the fees for Treasury bonds.
|US Treasury bond||$0.0||$0.0||$0.0|
Treasury bonds are free of charge. New issues, except for municipal bonds, are also free.
If you trade non-treasury bonds on the secondary market, there is a trading fee of $2 per $1,000 face value with a $250 maximum, if you invest less than $500k. If you invest more than $500k, the commission is $1 per $1,000 with a $250 maximum.
Vanguard's options fees are average.
|US stock index options||$17.0||$6.5||$0.0|
The options fees include a flat and a volume-based fee: $7 per trade plus $1 per contract.
Vanguard has low non-trading fees. It charges no inactivity and account fees.
There is no withdrawal fee, if you use ACH transfer. The withdrawals to other banks using wire transfer cost $10. This fee isn't charged to Flagship and Flagship Select clients. We tested ACH, so we had no withdrawal fee.
Account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. There is no minimum account balance. However, the account opening and verification process is slow, around 2-3 business days.
|• Fully digital||• Slow account opening time|
|• No minimum deposit|
|• Low minimum deposit|
Can you open an account?
Vanguard is a US stockbroker and targets primarily US clients. In this review, we tested Vanguard's services provided in the USA.
Vanguard has a global presence through the group's other subsidiaries and partners. The available product range and the form of business vary widely country-by-country. For example, in Germany, only institutional clients are served, while in the UK retail clients can open an account, as well.
What is the minimum deposit at Vanguard?
The required Vanguard minimum deposit is $0. The minimum deposit can be more, if you trade on margin or prefer using Vanguard's robo-advisor.
|Trading preferences||Minimum deposit|
|Trading at Standard (basic) accounts||$0|
|Vanguard Personal Advisor Services||$50,000|
*You trade with money borrowed from the broker, also called trading on margin.
Vanguard offers several account types.
|Account type||Short description|
|Individual Brokerage Account||Account is owned and used by a single individual|
|Joint Brokerage Account||Account is owned and used by two or more individuals|
|Business Accounts||Account is owned and used by a legal entity|
Roth / Traditional / Rollover IRA Accounts
|Individual retirement accounts|
|Education Savings Account||Account is for educational purpose savings|
|Trust Account||Account is in the name of an already established trust|
|Vanguard Personal Advisor Services||Account is managed by Vanguard's technological (robo) and personal advisors|
In this review, we tested the Individual Brokerage Account.
How to open your account
Account opening is user-friendly and fully digital. The online application takes roughly 15 minutes, but the verification is a bit slower. It took 3 business days until our account was verified.
Steps at Vanguard to open an account:
- Choose your funding method (bank transfer, rollover, other)
- Choose the account type
- Add your investment goals and preferences
- Add personal information, like Social Security Number, residency, phone number, etc.
- State your employment status and financial profile
- Fund your account
- Review your information
- Acknowledge the terms and conditions
- Sign up for web access
Deposit and withdrawal
It's great that Vanguard charges no deposit fee and transferring money is easy and user-friendly. The deposit and withdrawal could be improved, though. You can use only bank transfer, and a fee is charged for wire transfer withdrawals.
|• No deposit fee||• Credit/Debit card not available|
|• User-friendly||• $10 for wire transfer withdrawals|
|• Free withdrawal (via ACH)|
Deposit fees and options
Vanguard charges no deposit fees. US clients can use checks, ACH, and wire transfers for the deposit. Credit/debit cards and electronic wallets are not provided.
We tested ACH transfer for deposits and it took 2 business days. You can only deposit money from accounts that are previously linked to your brokerage account and are in your name.
Vanguard withdrawal fees and options
Vanguard charges no withdrawal fees, if you use ACH withdrawal, but US domestic wire transfers cost $10. If you have a more than $1 million account balance, there is no fee for wire transfers.
How long does it take to withdraw money from Vanguard? We tested the ACH withdrawal and it took 2 business days.
You can only withdraw money to accounts in your name.
How do you withdraw money from Vanguard?
- Log into the account
- Go to "My accounts"
- In the "Buy&sell" menu select "Transfer money to/from your Vanguard settlement fund"
- Choose the transfer type (one time or regular), your Vanguard account, and your previously connected external account
- Add the amount you wish to withdraw
- Preview and initiate the withdrawal
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Web trading platform
Vanguard has an average web trading platform. It offers a two-step login and there is a clear fee report. The trading platform's structure is a bit confusing and some features are hard to find. Search functions could be better, too, and we missed customizability.
|• Clear fee report||• Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)|
|• Two-step (safer) login||• Some features are hard to find|
|• Price alerts|
Vanguard has an in-house developed web trading platform that is available in English.
Look and feel
Vanguard's web trading platform is well-designed, but the structure could be improved. Sometimes it is hard to find features. It took quite a long time, for instance, until we found how we can place an order for stocks or set price alerts.
Unfortunately, the platform does not offer any customizability.
Login and security
Vanguard provides a two-step login. You can turn on and off the two-step authentication in your account under "My Account \ Account maintenance". If you do not want to receive text or voice codes, you can declare your computer as a trusted device and log in with your regular ID and password combo.
The search functions are not fully seamless. Under the "Buy & Sell" menu, select "Trade an ETF or stock" option to access the search field. You can search both by company name or asset ticker. The search results are not always relevant or have lower relevancy.
You can use basic order types, there are no sophisticated ones:
- Stop limit
If you are not familiar with the basic order types, read this overview.
There are also order time limits you can use:
- Good 'till cancel (60 days)
Alerts and notifications
You can set price alerts for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. However, only email alerts are available and setting alerts is not easy.
Click on "Stocks and other ETFs" under the "Investing" menu. On the right side, you can sign up for alerts. To set the alerts, click on the "Enroll now" button. It would be much easier, if you could set the alerts, when you search for an asset.
Portfolio and fee reports
Vanguard has clear portfolio and fee reports. You can find them under "My accounts" in "Transaction History". It is a handy table, but you can't download it.
Mobile trading platform
Vanguard offers a user-friendly and well-designed mobile trading platform. However, it lacks price alerts and you can't trade options and bonds on it.
|• User-friendly||• No price alerts|
|• Two-step (safer) login||• Options and bond trading are not available|
|• Good search function|
Similarly to the web trading platform, Vanguard has an in-house developed mobile trading platform, which is called Vanguard Investors. The app is available both on iOS and Android. We tested it on iOS.
The mobile trading platform is available only in English.
Look and feel
The Vanguard mobile trading platform is user-friendly and easy to use. The app has a modern design and its structure is not confusing, contrary to the web trading platform.
Login and security
Vanguard provides a safe login. Similarly to the web platform, you can declare that you have a safe device and use a user ID & password combo.
You can use TouchID and FaceID, as well. It's a convenient feature.
The search functions are good. You can search both by asset name or ticker and the search results are relevant.
You can use the same order types and order time limits as on the web trading platform.
Alerts and notifications
You cannot set price alerts and notifications on Vanguard's mobile platform.
Desktop trading platform
Vanguard does not offer a desktop trading platform.
Markets and products
Vanguard gives access to different asset classes, from stocks to options. However, the offered products cover only the US market and you can't trade with forex and futures.
Vanguard has an average ETF and mutual fund selection. Stock, bond, and options offers are worse than average.
Stock and ETF
Vanguard gives access only to the US market. It is similar to Firstrade's offer but less than Fidelity's, which gives access to international stock exchanges as well.
|Stock markets (#)||4||29||5|
The mutual fund coverage is average. It's smaller than that of Firstrade or Fidelity.
|Fund providers (#)||290||560||420|
Besides Vanguard's own mutual fund offer, you will find funds from other big fund providers, like Blackrock.
Vanguard's bond selection is low.
Vanguard's bonds offer covers both government and corporate bonds.
CBOE and other US options exchanges are covered, but Vanguard doesn't disclose which ones exactly.
You can also use a managed account service, which is great if you need help to manage your investments. You'll get a recommendation combining the help of an expert and Vanguard's robo-advisor technology.
After you add your financial goals, the advisor recommends a portfolio that is rebalanced regularly.
The minimum investment is $50,000 and has an annual 0.30% fee.
Vanguard research tools are easy to use but limited. Fundamental data and a few trading ideas are available. However, a sophisticated charting tool and other analytical tools are missing.
|• Trading ideas||• Limited interactive charting|
|• Data on asset fundamentals||• Limited set of research tools|
Vanguard research tools can be found when you search for a product on the website. Similarly to the web trading platform, the tools are available only in English.
Vanguard provides trading ideas, focusing mainly on stocks. The ideas come from third-party providers Argus and MarketGrader.
Vanguard offers fundamental data. You will find basic historical financial data for 4 years if you start a search in the "Investing"/"Stocks & other ETFs" menu. We missed peer comparison and financial metrics.
Vanguard has a very limited charting tool. You can't use trend lines and other editor tools. There are only 15 technical indicators.
The news supply on Vanguard is average. You can read it easily, but it lacks visual elements, charts or pictures. It is provided by third-parties, like Associated Press or MT Newswires.
Vanguard has great customer service. It provides fast and relevant answers on all available channels. On the flip side, it's not 24/7 and the live chat is missing.
|• Phone support||• No live chat|
|• Fast response time||• No 24/7 support|
|• Relevant answers|
You can contact Vanguard via:
Vanguard's telephone support gave relevant and helpful answers, the speed was acceptable.
On email, we got relevant answers too and it took 1-1,5 days to get a reply
We missed the 24/7 availability and lthe ive chat.
Vanguard offers good educational articles and videos. There are also high-quality and interactive webinars. On the flip side, the demo account and trading platform tutorial videos are missing.
|• Educational videos||• No demo account|
|• Good educational tools||• No trading platform tutorial videos|
At Vanguard you can learn in the following ways:
- General educational videos
- Quality educational articles
The general educational videos and the archived webinars have good content quality, mostly targeting beginners or general topics such as yield curve, what is a bond, how to approach your investments, etc. There is a good amount of content targeting retirement and tax issues.
We liked the interactive webinars, however, you can not download the materials. The webinars are held once a month on average.
Besides videos, you can listen to podcasts and read downloadable PDFs. Most of these features are accessible from your account under the News&Perspectives menu. Vanguard has a well-structured info base called Vanguard blog as well.
Vanguard is regulated by top-tier financial authorities, such as SEC and FINRA. You are also protected by a high investor protection amount, $500,000 which includes $250,000 for cash. On the other hand, negative balance protection is not provided.
|• Majority of clients belong to a top-tier financial authority||• No negative balance protection|
|• High level of investor protection||• Does not hold a banking license|
|• Not listed on stock exchange|
Is Vanguard regulated?
Yes, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Is Vanguard safe?
To be certain, we highly advise to check two facts:
- how you are protected if something goes wrong
- and what the background of the broker is.
How you are protected
With Vanguard all customers are covered by the US investor protection scheme called SIPC.
The SIPC investor protection scheme protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. This amount is substantially higher than the amount most investor protection schemes provide.
Not all investments are protected by SIPC. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual fund and other investment company shares, and other registered securities. It does not cover instruments such as unregistered investment contracts, unregistered limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, and interests in gold, silver, or other commodity futures contracts or commodity options.
|Country of clients||Protection amount||Regulator||Legal entity|
|USA||$500,000 ($250,000 cash limit)||Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
|Vanguard Marketing Corporation|
Vanguard does not provide negative balance protection.
Vanguard was established in 1975. The longer track record a broker has, the more proof we have that it has successfully survived previous financial crises.
Being in operation for a long time and regulated by top-tier regulators are all great signs for Vanguard's safety.
Vanguard is one of the biggest US stockbrokers regulated by top-tier regulators.
Vanguard offers free ETF and mutual fund trading for some products, such as its own ETFs. It doesn't charge inactivity and account fees and the account opening is easy and fully digital. The mobile trading platform is user-friendly and has a great design.
It has some drawbacks, though. The product portfolio covers only the US market and the research tools are basic. Financing rates are also high when you trade on margin.
As there are low non-trading fees and no inactivity fee is charged, feel free to try Vanguard.