Is Vanguard really free?

Vanguard does charge a commission for real stock trading on US markets, so in this sense it is not a free-to-trade broker. However, it might still be a reasonable choice for some of you, as there are many other aspects other than commissions that are important when you choose a broker. If you wish to stick with Vanguard though, then you will find the fees they charge below. Alternatively, you could check our article detailing the best zero commission brokers and how their apps scored in our test.

We should note that the payment-for-order-flow model, which is used by some zero-commission brokers to generate income (rather than relying on commissions), could potentially create a conflict of interest between you and your broker. This could result in trade execution (like routing your orders to specific market makers) that might be unfavorable for you under certain market conditions, especially when using market orders (as opposed to limit orders, which seem to be less affected).

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Vanguard fees
Overview of Vanguard fees and charges

It's safe to say that Vanguard's fees are low in general. They either don't charge a brokerage fee for things that other brokers do, or they only charge a small amount.

Here's a high-level overview of Vanguard's fees

Vanguard Fees snapshot
Assets Fee level Fee terms
US stock fee Low Asset invested under $50k: $7 for first 25 trades per year, $20 thereafter
EURUSD fee - Not available
US mutual fund fees 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

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard fees explained

Online brokerages in general charge much lower brokerage fees than traditional brokerages do - this is largely because online brokerages' businesses can be much better scaled: from a purely technical standpoint, it doesn't make that much of a difference for them if they have 100 or 5,000 clients.

This is not to say, however, that they don't charge any fees at all. They make money by charging you various rates for various actions or events. Usually you need to keep an eye on the following three types of fees:

  • Trading fees - these are brokerage fees that you pay when you actually carry out a trade, like buying an Apple share or an ETF. What you pay is either a commission, a spread or a financing rate. Some brokers apply all of these.
    • A commission is either fixed or based on the traded volume.
    • A spread is the difference between the buy price and the sell price.
    • A financing rate or overnight rate is charged when you hold your leveraged positions for more than one day.
  • Non-trading fees. These are usually related to some operations you carry out in your account, such as depositing money, withdrawing money, or not trading for an extended period.

We compare Vanguard fees with its closest competitors, Chase You Invest and Ally Invest.

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard trading fees

Vanguard's trading fees are mixed, which means that some asset classes come with high trading fees - be sure to check these carefully.

Let's break down trading fees according to the different asset classes available at Vanguard.

Trading fees

Vanguard's trading fees are low.

Stock fees and ETF fees

Vanguard has low stock trading fees.

Stock fees of a $2,000 trade
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
US stock $7.0 $0.0 $0.0
UK stock - - -
German stock - - -

Fund fees

Vanguard fund fees are high.

Fees of a $2,000 fund purchase
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
Mutual fund $20.0 $0.0 $10.0
EU mutual fund - - -

Bond fees

Vanguard has low bond fees.

Fees of a $10,000 bond trade
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
US Treasury bond $0.0 $0.0 $10.0
EU government bond - - -

Options fees

Vanguard's options fees are low.

Options fees for 10 contracts
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
US stock options $10.0 $0.7 $5.0
US stock index options $10.0 $6.5 $5.0
UK stock index options - - -
German stock index options - - -

Margin rates

Vanguard margin rates are high.

Vanguard margin rates
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
USD margin rate 8.5% - 7.8%
EUR margin rate - - -

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard non-trading fees

When it comes to non-trading fees, Vanguard is a rather cheap broker.

Non-trading fees include various brokerage fees and charges at Vanguard that are not related to buying or selling assets. This can be a withdrawal fee, deposit fee, inactivity fee or account fee.

A high-level overview of how Vanguard stacks up in terms of non-trading fees
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0
Deposit fee $0 $0 $0
Inactivity fee No No No
Account fee No No No

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard deposit fee

Usually, brokers don't charge anything for deposits, and Vanguard is no different.

Vanguard deposit methods
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
Bank transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No
Deposit fee $0 $0 $0

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard withdrawal fee

Vanguard generally doesn't charge a withdrawal fee.

Vanguard withdrawal fees and options compared
Vanguard Chase You Invest Ally Invest
Bank transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No
Withdrawal fee for bank transfer $0 $0 $0

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Vanguard fees
Vanguard inactivity fee

Vanguard does not apply an inactivity fee, which is great because your account won't be charged even if you do not trade for an extended period (like several months or years).

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Author of this article

Gergely Korpos

Author of this article

Gergely is the co-founder and CPO of Brokerchooser. His aim is to make personal investing crystal clear for everybody. Gergely has 10 years of experience in the financial markets. He concluded thousands of trades as a commodity trader and equity portfolio manager.

Gergely Korpos

Co-founder, CPO

Gergely is the co-founder and CPO of Brokerchooser. His aim is to make personal investing crystal clear for everybody. Gergely has 10 years of experience in the financial markets. He concluded thousands of trades as a commodity trader and equity portfolio manager.

Everything you find on BrokerChooser is based on reliable data and unbiased information. We combine our 10+ years finance experience with readers feedback. Read more about our methodology

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