Robo-advisors are a popular way to invest, and it’s easy to understand why. They offer low-cost portfolio management that meets the needs of many investors, along with some extra features that are tough, if not impossible, for human advisors to match. In a short time, robo-advisors have acquired hundreds of billions of dollars in assets under management, and industry experts only expect their popularity with consumers to grow in the years ahead.

Here are the best robo-advisors to manage your money and how much they cost.

What is a robo-advisor?

The term robo-advisor sounds really high-tech, but it’s actually much simpler than you might think. A robo-advisor is a financial advisor that uses an  algorithm to automatically select investments for you.

The investment choices are based on things such as:

  • How much risk you’re willing to bear
  • What level of returns you want
  • When you need the money

Based on these factors and others, the robo-advisor typically selects a portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) using sound investment theory. For example, the robo-advisor creates a diversified portfolio of ETFs, rather than just investing it all in one fund. Extensive research has shown that diversification reduces your risk and can actually increase your returns.

It’s simple to get started with a robo-advisor, and you can quickly set up an account online. And because it’s online and automated, robo-advisors are much cheaper than traditional in-person financial advice. Plus, you usually get some other cool benefits thrown in, too. Features such as portfolio rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting are typically offered, both of which should improve your returns over time.

Here are the best robo-advisors in February 2024:

Overview: Best robo-advisors in February 2024

Betterment

Betterment sets a high standard for service. It offers automatic rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, a personalized retirement plan, a variety of portfolio options (such as impact investing) and fractional shares in funds, so that all your money is invested rather than having to wait until you have enough to buy a full share. You can sync outside accounts, too, and receive advice on them, while customer support is available seven days a week. Betterment’s premium plan ups the game with access to a human advisor.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 5 out of 5
  • Management fee: 0.25 percent – 0.4 percent, depending on service level
  • Account minimum: $0

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

With Intelligent Portfolios, Charles Schwab is going after the robo-advisor market hard. Well-known for its investor-friendly practices, Schwab brings this same spirit to robos, with features such as rebalancing, automatic tax-loss harvesting and 24/7 access to U.S.-based customer service. And Schwab charges no management fee, so it’s worth saving up to meet the higher account minimum. If you want unlimited access to human advisors, you can get it if you bring $25,000 to the account and pay a $30 monthly fee – a real bargain for what you get.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 5 out of 5
  • Management fee: None
  • Account minimum: $5,000

Wealthfront

One of the largest robo-advisors, Wealthfront offers goal-based investing that helps you understand how your financial choices today affect your future. Wealthfront also provides tax-loss harvesting, and literally hundreds of ETFs that you could add to your portfolio, so you can make a truly custom portfolio. Plus, the firm provides a competitive interest rate on its FDIC-insured cash management account and doesn’t charge any fees for it. Also useful, you can borrow against the value of your account at especially attractive interest rates.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 5 out of 5
  • Management fee: 0.25 percent
  • Account minimum: $500

Fidelity Go

Long known for its brokerage, Fidelity Investments also offers a highly capable robo-advisor, with the core functions (portfolio management, rebalancing) at a price that helps beginners get started. It charges no fees if your assets are under $25,000. From there, you’ll pay one low all-in price of 0.35 percent of your assets. Fidelity Go makes an especially good fit for existing customers, since they’ll be able to access all their accounts on one dashboard and easily open a cash management account if they need one. And you get Fidelity’s helpful and friendly customer support staff on top of it all.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Management fee: $0 for accounts with less than $25,000; 0.35 percent above $25,000 in assets (includes funds’ costs)
  • Account minimum: $0, but need $10 to start investing

Interactive Advisors

With Interactive Advisors, you get to pick the portfolio you want, from totally automated portfolios to ones created and managed by outside investors. While the fees vary widely, you’ll have solid low-cost choices. There’s no management fee, but also no tax-loss harvesting unless you’re invested in the taxable custom asset allocation portfolios. You’ll also receive a weekly client email and be able to access educational resources through Interactive Brokers. Customer support is available Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Management fee: None
  • Account minimum: $100

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is part-robo-advisor, part-broker, and it lets you have total freedom to invest in what you want. You’ll be able to build out your own custom portfolio and then set it on autopilot and let M1 do the rest. It comes with a solid cash management account, too. You’ll be able to get started with just $100 for a taxable account and M1 offers fractional shares, so the full amount will be invested. Unfortunately, M1 does not offer tax-loss harvesting.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Management fee: None
  • Account minimum: $100 for taxable accounts/$500 for retirement accounts

SoFi Automated Investing

SoFi has expanded into the realm of robo-advisors with an incredibly investor-friendly service. Unlike many of its robo-advisor rivals, SoFi doesn’t charge a management fee. With an average fund fee of less than 0.10 percent and a $1 account minimum, this robo is a no-brainer for investors looking to curb costs. The company provides automatic rebalancing and goal-based planning to help you reach your life objectives. Plus, you’ll get career services, access to financial advisors and discounts on other SoFi products for no extra cost.

  • Bankrate overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Management fee: None
  • Minimum to invest: $1

Honorable mentions

The following robo-advisors scored well in our reviews and were deserving of an honorable mention.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios keeps costs low by offering an option for no management fee in return for keeping 30 percent of your portfolio in cash. You’ll pay 0.30 percent annually for a more fully invested portfolio, which is built using low-cost funds. Automatic portfolio rebalancing is included, but tax-loss harvesting isn’t available and fractional shares are only offered on reinvested dividends.

Bankrate overall rating: 4 out of 5

Empower

Formerly Personal Capital, Empower provides unlimited access to human advisors who customize a portfolio to your needs while offering other perks such as tax-loss harvesting. But you’ll pay one of the highest management fees, though likely less than at a traditional advisor.

Bankrate overall rating: 4 out of 5

Marcus Invest

Marcus Invest offers a solid robo-advisor service that may appeal particularly to customers who already have a high-yield savings account with the online bank. The annual management fee is right on the industry standard at 0.25 percent, but every investment fund is available for less than 0.20 percent with some as low as 0.05 percent. You also won’t get nicked for other account fees that some robo-advisors charge. Portfolios are built from 20 ETFs across seven different asset classes, and municipal bond funds are used as part of its tax strategy, which does not include tax-loss harvesting.

Bankrate overall rating: 4 out of 5

Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor

Wells Fargo Intuitive Investor offers the core robo-advisor features (portfolio management and rebalancing) and then kicks it up with tax-loss harvesting. If you’re already a Wells customer, it could make extra sense to check out this robo-advisor. Not only will you consolidate your accounts at one company, but Wells will knock down its usual management fee of 0.35 percent to 0.30 percent, if you have a Wells Fargo checking account. This robo offers fractional shares, allowing you to get your full investment to work immediately, and you’ll have access to human advisors.

Bankrate overall rating: 4 out of 5

How much does a robo-advisor cost?

While the costs vary from service-to-service, typically the cost of a robo-advisor has two major components:


Management fee
This fee typically costs 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of your assets on an annual basis, though fees may be lower or higher. So every $10,000 invested would incur management fees of $25 to $50 each year based on those percentages.

Funds’ expense ratios
The robo-advisor will invest your money in various funds that also charge fees based on your assets. The fees can vary widely, but across a portfolio they typically range from 0.05 percent to 0.25 percent, costing $5 to $25 annually for every $10,000 invested, though some funds may cost more. These fees are deducted proportionally on a daily basis by the fund company, and they will be almost invisible to you.

While sometimes the robo-advisor charges a few incidental fees when you require something special, in general you won’t run up any extra charges. So it doesn’t cost you anything extra to buy and sell funds, move money out of your account or change your allocation if your risk tolerance or a financial goal changes.

Since you’re investing, your returns aren’t guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), so you can lose money. However, money that your robo-advisor puts in a cash account is typically protected by the FDIC.

Considerations when choosing a robo-advisor

  • Account types and minimums. You’ll want to make sure any robo-advisor you’re considering has the account type that you’re looking to open. Most robo-advisors offer individual accounts, but not all of them offer popular retirement accounts such as traditional and Roth IRAs. Account minimums can also vary between advisors and range from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Costs are also important to consider. Make sure to understand the annual management fee you’ll be charged as well as the fees associated with the ETFs that will comprise your portfolio. Some of the more expensive ETFs offered could push your overall fees to near 1 percent, which is on par with a traditional financial advisor.
  • Additional features. Keep an eye out for additional features offered beyond the basic portfolio building. Some robo-advisors offer automatic daily rebalancing of your portfolio, which will ensure your allocations remain in the recommended range. Tax-loss harvesting is another option that some platforms offer to help you save on taxes in an individual or joint taxable account.
  • Customer support. When something goes wrong, it’s nice to be able to find a solution quickly. Consider what hours you’ll be able to reach someone with questions about your account. Some robo-advisors give you the option of speaking with a human financial advisor for help with more complex questions.

When is a robo-advisor a good choice?

A robo-advisor can be a good choice for many kinds of investors, depending on their needs and willingness to manage their investment account.

A robo-advisor is a solid pick if you:

  • Want a professional to manage your money and develop a financial plan
  • Are looking to start investing and want to go slowly and safely
  • Want an alternative to a human advisor at low cost
  • Would prefer not to spend much of your time on investments
  • Don’t understand the markets or want to learn
  • Want an account where you deposit money and everything is done for you
  • Want a diversified portfolio that can help you retire

These reasons all center around the robo-advisor using its expertise to save you time, money and annoyance. So, a robo-advisor can make sense for new investors who want to learn how investing works or seasoned ones who don’t want to manage their portfolio any more.

It’s actually easy to get started with a robo-advisor and often you may need no money to do so.

What are the disadvantages of using a robo-advisor?

A robo-advisor is a good investing choice for many kinds of investors, but it may not fit everyone.

Here are some disadvantages of using a robo-advisor:

  • Lack of investment choice: If you want to choose your investments, a robo-advisor likely won’t be a good option. Robo-advisors usually select the investments and make the decisions, and only a few allow you even a little discretion in what they invest in.
  • No guarantee of performance: Robo-advisors invest in stocks and bonds, and the prices of these assets can fluctuate a lot, especially in the short term. These are riskier investments than bank products, and a robo-advisor does not promise performance.
  • No human to keep you on track: Many robo-advisors operate a strictly automated model and may charge an extra fee to speak with a human advisor. Human advisors can be great at keeping you focused and motivated to stick with your financial goals.
  • Better for routine needs: Some robo-advisors are designed to help you with one or two goals, such as retirement, or routine needs. Those with more complex situations may want another solution, such as the option to consult with a human financial professional.

You’ll want to carefully examine your needs as you consider whether a robo-advisor is right for you. In many situations they can be an excellent choice, but in some cases they won’t be.

Bottom line

The biggest advantage of opening a robo-advisor account is having an experienced company manage your investments at a reasonable fee. But once you’ve opened the account, make sure to set up recurring transfers to boost your savings over time and reap the benefits of dollar-cost averaging.With their hands-off approach to investing, robos have made it easier than ever to open an account and get started on the path to financial security.

Note: Bankrate’s Brian Baker also contributed to this story.

Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.