TIAA vs Vanguard

Vanguard or TIAA CREF—which is better in 2022? Compare IRA/Roth accounts, online investing fees, stock broker mutual fund rates, and differences.

TIAA and Vanguard Comparison

Vanguard caters to long-term buy-and-hold investors, while TIAA (formerly TIAA-CREF) serves a large base of educators, medical professionals, and government employees. Despite their differences, the two brokerage firms have a lot of overlap. Let’s examine the two brokers in detail and see which firm is better — TIAA or Vanguard?


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
TIAA $0 $50 $0 $0 $0
Vanguard $0 $20 $1.00 per contract $20* $20*
Ally Invest $0 $9.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Ally Invest


Vanguard: none right now.

TIAA: none right now.

Ally Invest: Up to $3,000 cash bonus + $0 commission trades.

Mutual Funds and ETF’s

Vanguard traders have access to more than 16,000 mutual funds. Over 2,000 of these products carry no load and no transaction fee. The broker operates its own line of mutual funds as well. There are 127 Vanguard funds that are currently open to new investors. None of them have loads, and they are always transaction-free when purchased at Vanguard. Funds that aren’t on the broker’s NTF list are $20 per transaction. The brokerage firm charges $50 for selling a fund less than 2 months after purchase.

For ETF traders, Vanguard offers all US-listed exchange-traded funds. It also manages its own selection of 50+ Vanguard ETF’s. These are commission-free when traded on the Vanguard website.

TIAA also offers a selection of mutual funds to its clients. The broker’s mutual fund screener returns 7,203 products. The screener does not have the ability to search for funds without loads or transaction fees.

TIAA vs Vanguard

The brokerage firm manages its own line of 290 mutual funds. Some of these have no load and no transaction fee, although some do carry a transaction fee. A few retail class funds charge a $15 annual fee for a low balance, defined as anything below $2,000. The company does not manage its own line of ETF’s.

Funds that carry a transaction fee are $50 on both the buy and sell sides. Customers who have a wealth management advisor with TIAA receive a $15 discount. The broker also has a short-term redemption fee of $50 for mutual funds held less than 6 months.

Vanguard wins this category.

Customer Support

TIAA has customer service reps on the phone from 8 am until 10 pm, EST, Monday through Friday. On Saturday, company associates are available from 9 am until 6 pm. There are no Sunday hours, although there is automated phone service 24/7. The broker also has an internal messaging system, but no chat service.

Like TIAA, Vanguard does not offer an on-line chat function or 24/7 phone support. A Vanguard representative can be reached the same hours that TIAA has customer service, except Vanguard isn’t open on Saturday. The broker also has an internal messaging function.

TIAA has a nationwide network of branch locations, which are located in America’s major population areas. These offices can help investors with questions about brokerage services or retirement planning; although TIAA does not provide investment advice outside a managed account. Vanguard does not have any brick-and-mortar locations.

Looks like TIAA is the better choice here.

Investment Advice and Managed Accounts

In addition to self-directed accounts, Vanguard also offers managed accounts in which trading decisions are made by a licensed investment advisor. The broker charges a very low 0.30% for this service, with a $50,000 minimum. The broker doesn’t offer a robo account.

TIAA also offers managed accounts. The broker charges 1.15% for a human advisor and requires $50,000. This package includes a personal face-to-face consultation at one of the company’s brick-and-mortar locations. A robo service is also available with a $5,000 minimum. It costs just 30 basis points.

Because TIAA has a robo-advisory service and several branch locations where investment advisors are located, the broker wins this category.

Vanguard vs TIAA

Trading Technology

The TIAA website is difficult to navigate. Charting is basic with a few technical indicators and graph styles. Trades are placed on basic web pages. There is a simple trade bar, although orders cannot be placed directly on it. The broker-dealer doesn’t offer a desktop platform.

Although the Vanguard website isn’t user-friendly, it does seem to have more detailed information on it than TIAA’s. Orders are placed on web pages, and there is no trade bar. Like TIAA, Vanguard does not have a desktop platform. Charting is similar to TIAA’s software.

Both firms also have mobile apps. The TIAA platform has little information on it. While Vanguard’s is somewhat basic as well, it does have better tools, such as charting, check deposit, and account documents in pdf format.

Overall, it’s pretty even here.

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Fees, Commissions, and Account Minimums

TIAA customers pay $0 for stock, options and ETF transactions.

The broker has an automated phone system that costs $35 for stock and ETF trades, and $0 for derivative contracts. Placing a trade with a live agent is a pricey $55 for options.

TIAA has no annual account fee or a minimum balance requirement. The broker does charge $50 to transfer a full account. There is also a very steep $130 to close an IRA.

Vanguard has a simple commission schedule: $0 equity trades. Derivative contracts are $1 each. Customers pay $25 to place a trade with a live agent.

Vanguard does impose an annual account fee, although it can easily be avoided by signing up for e-delivery of account documents. Like TIAA, the broker does not require any minimum deposit to open or maintain an account. Unlike TIAA, Vanguard charges nothing to transfer an account to another brokerage firm.

Vanguard wins here.


Vanguard: none right now.

TIAA: none right now.

Ally Invest: Up to $3,000 cash bonus + $0 commission trades.

TIAA vs Vanguard: Which is Better?

TIAA was victorious twice, Vanguard was successful twice, and there was one draw. It's a tie. Vanguard is the better company for fund investors, while TIAA is the better choice for investors who are interested in managed accounts.

Anyone looking for the top-rated brokerage firm on the market should go with TD Ameritrade or read TD Ameritrade review.

About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.

Review discount online brokerage firms comparison: Vanguard or TIAA? Differences between investment companies. Recommendation for stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds investors. TIAA versus Vanguard for beginner investors, long term, individual retirement accounts, active/day traders. See what stock broker service is better, cheaper, offers lower fees, cost, rated higher and easier to use. Which broker should you choose?