Charles Schwab vs Vanguard vs Fidelity

2019 comparison of Vanguard, Schwab, and Fidelity Investments. Compare fees, IRA/ROTH, mutual funds/trading costs, account services. Which broker is better?


Vanguard, Schwab, and Fidelity Investments are three U.S. brokerage firms widely used for a variety of investment products and services. Let's run them through their paces and determine which broker is the best value.

Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard Pricing

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Fidelity $4.95 $49.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $4.95 $76 ($0 to sell) $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Vanguard $7-$20 $8-$35 $20 + $1.00 per contract $20* see
Firstrade $0 $0 $0 $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Charles Schwab

Fees and Account Minimums

Schwab clients pay $4.95 for stock and ETF trades, Fidelity also charges $4.95, and Vanguard's charge varies between $0 and $20 (depends on account balance; $0 commission is for $10 million balances). Traders with less than $50,000 in Vanguard funds are charged $7 for the first 25 trades and $20 for all subsequent trades.

At Fidelity and Schwab, derivative traders pay an additional $0.65 per contract for options. Vanguard customers pay $1 per contract on top of a base charge of $20, $7.00, or $1.00. The base charge is determined by account size. Investors with less than $50,000 in Vanguard mutual funds and ETF's pay the $20 base charge.

Using a live rep at Fidelity or Schwab to make a trade is $29.95, and at Vanguard the commission varies based on account size. The charge ranges between $25 and $0, and will always be lower than Schwab and Fidelity.

Accounts at all three firms come with no inactivity or maintenance fees (at Vanguard, clients with under $50,000 on deposit in Vanguard assets must sign up for electronic delivery of account documents).

Schwab has an opening deposit requirement of $1,000. This minimum can be waived by opening a Schwab bank account along with the investing account. Vanguard has no initial deposit requirement, while Fidelity requires an opening deposit of at least $2,500.

Fidelity and Schwab win the category due to their flat fee of $4.95.

Mutual Funds and ETF's

Over 5,000 mutual funds are available for trade at Schwab. More than 3,500 of these are OneSource products, which are no-load and no-transaction-fee. Transaction fee mutual funds are a somewhat steep $76 on the buy side, although they are free to sell.

Vanguard clients can trade over 16,000 mutual funds, some of which have no transaction fee and no load. Transaction fee mutual funds are $35 in a standard account (under $50,000 invested in Vanguard funds). The charge decreases to either $20 or $8 for accounts with larger balances. The fee is applicable to buys, sells, and exchanges.

Fidelity offers traders more than 10,000 mutual funds. Less than a thousand of these come with no transaction fee and no load. Transaction fee funds cost $49.95 to buy and they are free to sell.

Schwab has more than 200 ETF's without trading fees, Fidelity offers 84, while Vanguard has 55.

Due to its large number of commission-free funds, Schwab wins here.

Research and Education

Schwab clients have access to independent stock reports from several providers at no charge. The broker offers videos and other educational material on its website.

Fidelity offers third-party reports at no cost from several researchers. The broker has videos, articles, and webinars on a variety of financial topics.

Vanguard provides equity reports from just two analysts. They are free of charge. The website has fewer instructional videos compared to Schwab and Fidelity.

Fidelity and Schwab tie here.

Compare Vanguard Schwab Fidelity

Customer Service

Schwab has phone representatives available 24/7. The firm has over 325 brick-and-mortar locations in the United States. The company also offers customer service for Chinese speakers.

Vanguard offers phone service Monday through Friday only. Regrettably, the firm does not have a nationwide network of branches.

Phone service at Fidelity is available around the clock. Currently, the broker has over 180 branch locations.

Schwab wins this category.

Trading Tools

Schwab's web site is easy to navigate. Investors can place trades within the web browser, or on StreetSmart Edge, a desktop platform.

Making trades at Fidelity is easy with the web browser, which has a trade ticket. The broker also has Active Trader Pro, an advanced platform. The firm recently introduced an app for Apple TV.

Vanguard's website is harder to navigate than Fidelity's and Schwab's. Trading occurs within the web browser. Regrettably, there is no advanced platform here.

Another tie between Fidelity and Schwab.

Mobile Platforms

Schwab offers apps for Kindle Fire, Android, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and mobile web. The app is simple to use. Traders can make a mobile check deposit, transfer funds, contact customer service, or watch CNBC.

Apps for Android, Apple, and Windows Phone 8 are available at Fidelity. The interface is intuitive. Users can transfer funds, contact customer service, make a mobile check deposit, place trades, and watch Bloomberg business news.

Vanguard clients can trade on Android, Kindle Fire, iPhone, and iPad. The interface is easy to learn. Traders can reach out to customer service or deposit a check. Disappointingly, there's no live streaming of financial news.

Schwab and Fidelity tie yet again.

Compare Fidelity Vanguard Schwab

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Banking Features

Schwab offers bank accounts with checks and a debit card free of charge. FDIC insurance is included at the regular $250,000 limit. The broker reimburses ATM fees throughout the world.

Fidelity clients can open the Cash Management Account, which comes with checks and a Visa Gold debit card at no cost. Additionally, the account comes with FDIC protection up to $1,250,000, much higher than the normal amount. The firm reimburses all ATM fees.

Vanguard offers an account with cash management features, but clients must have at least $500,000 in Vanguard funds. Checks and a debit card are available, but they both have fees for accounts under $1,000,000.

Fidelity is victorious in this category.

vanguard vs schwab vs fidelity


Charles Schwab: Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.

Fidelity Investments: Get 500 free trades with $100,000+ deposit.

Vanguard: no promotion right now.

Fidelity vs Vanguard vs Schwab: Results

Vanguard didn't come out ahead in a single category, Schwab won two categories, Fidelity won one category, and there were four ties between Schwab and Fidelity. It's a draw between the latter two firms. Active stock traders will do well at Fidelity, while fund investors looking for commission-free products will want to try out Schwab. Despite Vanguard's poor performance in this contest, the broker is still a good choice for traders with $50,000 or more to invest in Vanguard funds.

Another top brokerage firm to consider for an account is Ally Invest. It offers lower commissions than all three brokers in this article. Detailed information is available in Ally Invest Review.

Much more information about the brokers in this article could be found in detailed brokerage reviews. It includes firms' pros and cons, all commissions and important fees as well as trading tools overview:

Charles Schwab (learn more),

Fidelity (learn more),

Vanguard (learn more).