Important

On April 26, 2022, Fidelity Investments became the first retirement plan provider to offer 401(k) investors access to Bitcoin (BTC). The new feature will be available to employers who administer their retirement accounts through Fidelity by the middle of 2022.

Fidelity and E*TRADE (E*TRADE is now owned by Morgan Stanley), are both powerhouse brokerage companies with strong online brokerage operations and are known to most people through their national advertising and widespread use. Their digital investment advisors have many similarities. Both platforms will appeal to existing customers wanting to add a passively managed account in sync with their goals and risk tolerances. Moreover, both companies designed their robo-advisor platforms using a minimalist approach that makes it easy for new and existing customers to get up and running. 

They share some limitations too, as neither robo-advisor offers tax-loss harvesting or portfolio customization. There are also some distinctions in fee structures that may appeal to people one way or the other and, while neither platform incorporates external accounts into portfolio construction, Fidelity allows external accounts to be linked to see a fuller picture of all holdings. That said, E*TRADE offers options to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria in their portfolios, which Fidelity does not offer.

  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Fee: 0.30%
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  • Easy-to-use desktop and mobile platform, with an account setup process.
  • Flat fee of 0.30% annually for all accounts is competitive, although there are also fees for ETF expense ratios.
  • Portfolios are constructed using both proprietary and non-proprietary ETFs.
  • There is a socially responsible investment option and an opportunity to choose a high beta portfolio that is more actively managed in an effort to obtain higher returns.
  • E*TRADE Core Portfolios does not support tax-loss planning or account aggregation.
  • Account Minimum: $0 to open an account, $10 to be invested
  • Fee: A tiered structure with fees of 0% to 0.35%, depending on balance
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  • It is easy to open an account, and moving through the questionnaire and choosing a portfolio is both intuitive and straightforward.
  • Fidelity’s proprietary mutual funds are the only investment vehicles used to construct Fidelity Go portfolios.
  • Low fees and no additional fund expenses, allowing more of your money to be invested and compounded over time. 
  • External account information can be seen for a full financial picture, but the external data is not used in the portfolio creation process.
  • Socially responsible investment options and tax-loss harvesting are unavailable on Fidelity Go.

Account Setup

Account setup is easy on both Fidelity Go and E*TRADE Core Portfolios. If you are an existing customer of either brokerage, it is especially easy, but even new customers will find the process fast and straightforward. Neither platform requires you to set up an account in order to take the questionnaire and see the suggested portfolio for your risk profile. Saving the suggested portfolio does require an account, which can be setup at either digital investment advisor without any initial deposit. 

Fidelity Go will begin investing in the recommended portfolio once there is $10 in the account, whereas E*TRADE Core Portfolios has a $500 minimum to begin investing in a portfolio. The digital investment advisors are designed for customers to be self-sufficient in getting up and running, so no call is required with an advisor even though both companies make humans available to help investors with the platform. Customization is not available on either robo platform. E*TRADE Core Portfolios’ questionnaire asks about risk tolerance in more than one way, while Fidelity Go simply requests a number from 1 to 10.

Both platforms make it easy to setup an account and choose a portfolio. If you want to start with less than $500, Fidelity Go will get you invested faster. Otherwise, we give a slight edge to E*TRADE for account setup because of their more thorough risk profile assessment.

Goal Planning

Goal planning is not particularly strong on Fidelity Go or E*TRADE. Both platforms support one goal per account and capture similar information that includes initial investment, additional contributions, an investment goal dollar amount, and an investment time horizon. Regarding time horizons, E*TRADE’s longest horizon is just 11 years compared to a maximum of 30 years on Fidelity. The risk tolerance questions are used to identify the best portfolio to match the time horizon. The goal planning for each platform then shows a timeline graph showing initial and subsequent contributions to the account, as well as potential returns that show, statistically, an expected, a better-than-expected, and a worse-than-expected estimate for the portfolio value over time. 

Beyond the stronger risk profiling on E*TRADE Core Portfolios outlined earlier, goal-planning amenities on the two platforms are very similar. While both platforms are designed for investors to be self-sufficient, they also both provide phone support (Fidelity also has live chat) to help you set up the account and complete the portfolio selection process, but this support is limited to getting up and running and is not for investment advice.

An investor’s fully aggregated financial picture is not incorporated into the portfolio construction on either platform. Although both goal planning tools and related calculations were very similar, E*TRADE Core Portfolios investors have no ability to see any aggregated account information, while Fidelity has incorporated Fidelity Go into their Fidelity Spire offering, which has more expansive financial planning tools and the ability to aggregate external accounts to plan using a more complete picture of your finances. We give the edge to Fidelity Go in this category because they have better aggregation tools and provide access to the Fidelity Spire financial planning tools.

Account Types

Most investors will be covered with the account types offered by both Fidelity Go and E*TRADE Core Portfolios. The differences are that Fidelity Go offers a health savings account (HSA) not available at E*TRADE, while custodial and SEP IRA accounts are only available at E*TRADE. This category is basically a tie, unless you want to open one of the account types exclusive to one of the brokers.  

E*TRADE account types:

Fidelity account types:

  • Individual taxable accounts
  • Joint taxable accounts
  • Traditional IRA accounts
  • Roth IRA accounts
  • Rollover IRA
  • Health savings account (HSA)

Account Services

Transfers and deposits for E*TRADE’s Core Portfolios and Fidelity Go are similar. Funds can be transferred from existing accounts, a bank account, or through recurring deposits. Funds can also be transferred out to other accounts at each company, so bill payment or other cash services can be managed easily. However, while Fidelity does not charge transfer out fees, E*TRADE charges a $25 fee for partial transfers out and $75 for a full transfer out. Neither company allows borrowing on margin in their robo-advisor offerings. E*TRADE does allow you to borrow against the account, while Fidelity does not. Trading in individual equities or ETFs are not allowed in E*TRADE Core Portfolios or Fidelity Go accounts. E*TRADE has the edge for those who want to borrow against their robo-advisor account, but Fidelity gets points for not charging transfer out fees.

Cash Management

Fidelity Go’s cash management option is to automatically sweep cash that is not invested to the Fidelity Cash Reserves fund. While Fidelity Go does not offer a spend option, all Fidelity customers have access to the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card that has a 2% cash-back award. Similarly, E*TRADE Core Portfolios also sweeps excess cash into a money market account, where it can be transferred to another account, such as checking or bill payment features available at E*TRADE outside of the Core Portfolios account. These features are comparable between these large brokerage platforms.

  Fidelity Go E*TRADE Core Portfolios 
Individual Stocks No No
Fixed Income  No  Yes, but limited to municipal bond ETFs for tax efficiency
REITs  No  No 
Socially Responsible or ESG Options  No  Yes
ETFs  No  Yes 
Non-Proprietary ETFs  No  Yes 
Mutual Funds  Yes No
Forex  No  No 
Crypto  No  No 

Portfolio Construction

Both platforms have limited asset types available on their digital investment advisor platforms. Fidelity Go only offers their own proprietary mutual funds through the robo-advisor. E*TRADE utilizes modern portfolio theory, using both proprietary and non-proprietary ETFs on their platform and also offers an option to have part of their portfolio invested in socially responsible investments (SRI/ESG) or in smart beta ETFs that are more actively managed in an effort to have higher portfolio gains compare to more passive ETFs. We give E*TRADE the advantage in this category because they use both proprietary and non-proprietary funds, as well as offering options for socially responsible investing and smart beta ETFs.

Portfolio Customization

Portfolio customization is not available on either E*TRADE Core Portfolios or Fidelity Go.

Portfolio Management

E*TRADE Core Portfolios rebalances semi-annually or when the account drifts too far out of line with the investment portfolio. Fidelity uses just the threshold level compared to the portfolio. Neither platform provides an option to request a portfolio rebalance, but you can change your risk and portfolio inputs so the allocations are adjusted. As mentioned, E*TRADE Core Portfolios does not offer account aggregation, while Fidelity Go allows outside account aggregation but the aggregated information is not used for the portfolio determination process. The portfolio management is very similar on the two platforms, but we give E*TRADE a small advantage because Core Portfolios accounts will definitely be rebalanced twice each year.

Tax-Advantaged Investing 

Unfortunately, E*TRADE Core Portfolios and Fidelity Go both lack tax-loss harvesting and robust tax minimization. That said, both platforms will utilize municipal bonds in taxable accounts.

Key Portfolio Management Features
  Fidelity Go E*TRADE Core Portfolios
Automatic Rebalancing Whenever investment allocation drifts outside parameters Semi-annually, or if account allocations drift too far from the portfolio
Reporting Features  Provide tax, transaction, and goal updates  Online monitoring and statements
Tax-Loss Harvesting  No No
External Account Syncing/Consolidation  Yes, but not used for portfolio creation  No

Security

Both Fidelity Go and E*TRADE Core Portfolios support two-factor authentication and utilize biometric security by fingerprint and face recognition. However, while both products provide Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance, only E*TRADE provides additional protection through insurance in excess of SIPC protection. Because of the additional account insurance, E*TRADE gets the edge in security features.

User Experience

Desktop

As leaders in the online brokerage space, E*TRADE Core Portfolios and Fidelity Go both have strong desktop and web applications. Both platforms are easy to use and intuitive, especially if you are an existing customer. The pages are easy to go through and not at all intimidating because they have less content than other areas of the website. For both, there is an extensive section of frequently asked questions, and the phone number for support is easy to find.

Mobile App

Again, both Fidelity Go and E*TRADE Core Portfolios both have very strong mobile apps that largely replicate the functionality of their desktop offerings. The ability to make transfers and change criteria for a portfolio is incorporated into both mobile apps.  

Customer Service

Support for both platforms is available by phone 24/7 for general support. Core Portfolios makes investment advisors available to assist customers during the day. Online chat with a human is available on Fidelity, but not on E*TRADE. Both platforms have strong FAQ sections. We give E*TRADE a small advantage because they make advisors available during the day to help investors set up their accounts and choose their portfolios. Further, both brokerage companies provide excellent educational resources for both new and seasoned investors.

  Fidelity Go E*TRADE Core Portfolios 
Phone contact available Yes; 24/7 phone support Yes; 24/7 phone support, with investment advisors supporting Core Portfolios available M-F, 8:30am – 8:30 pm
Pre-funding phone consultation with certified advisor  No  No 
Online chat available Yes, human, M-F, 8am – 6pm EST; virtual assistant 24/7 No
Website FAQ section  Yes; good FAQ section  Yes; good FAQ section 

Fees

E*TRADE has a very straightforward flat management fee of 0.30%, which is a competitive rate. Fidelity uses a tiered fee structure, where there is no fee on accounts with less than $10,000; a $3/month fee for accounts with $10,000 to $49,999; and 0.35% on accounts with $50,000 or more. From a management fee perspective, Fidelity is cheaper for nearly all accounts up to $50,000, but after that, E*TRADE’s management fee is 5 basis points lower. E*TRADE also charges transfer out fees, which Fidelity does not charge. 

Other important fees that are sometimes overlooked are fees from the various ETFs and mutual fund investments in these portfolios, and there is a clear distinction here. Fidelity’s proprietary funds used for Fidelity Go accounts do not have any fees, while E*TRADE’s have expense ratios mostly between 0.05% and 0.12%. While Fidelity doesn’t charge fees in these accounts for its mutual funds, they don’t provide a choice of different fund companies.

While E*TRADE has competitive rates, we give the advantage in fees to Fidelity Go because they have lower fees for accounts up to $50,000. Moreover, even when their management fee is 5 basis points higher, the no fee funds reduce portfolio costs over time compared to expense ratio fees related to the ETFs in E*TRADE accounts.

Category Fidelity Go E*TRADE Core Portfolios
Management fees for $5,000 account $0/year $15/year 
Management fees for $25,000 account  $36/year  $75/year 
Management fees for $100,000 account $350/year $300/year
Termination fees  None  $75 for full transfer out and $25 for partial transfer out. The $25 is not charged on Core Portfolio accounts with at least $5,000, and they are also not charged if the transfers are made to another E*TRADE account. 
Expense ratios None The majority fall between 0.05% and 0.12%
Mutual funds  No Fees  N/A 

Final Take

Fidelity Go and E*TRADE Core Portfolios have a lot in common. Both platforms are excellent for first time investors or existing customers looking to add an automated portfolio to their asset mix. Since both robo-advisor programs are integrated into their overall online brokerage company, customers of each company would be very unlikely to choose the other program. With the two digital investment advisors scoring so closely, there is nothing wrong with going with the company you are familiar with already.  

However, there are some differences between the two platforms, and these differences result in us recommending Fidelity Go by a small margin over E*TRADE Core Portfolios overall. The one big caveat to this is if socially responsible/ESG investing is important to you, as it is only available on E*TRADE Core Portfolios. Beyond that, the key difference is Fidelity Go having no or lower management fees for accounts less than $50,000. Fidelity Go also remains competitive on accounts with larger balances because, in addition to competitive rates, they don’t charge any fees for the mutual funds in the account. E*TRADE’s management fees for larger accounts is lower than Fidelity Go, but the overall costs would be comparable or higher because of the ETF expense ratios charged by E*TRADE. Lastly, E*TRADE does not support account aggregation while Fidelity has some aggregation and provides access to its Fidelity Spire financial planning tool. 

Methodology

Our mission at Investopedia is to provide investors with reviews and ratings of robo-advisors that are comprehensive and unbiased. Our team of researchers and expert writers, led by Michael Sacchitello, spent months evaluating all aspects of a robo-advisor’s platform, including the account setup process, goal planning tools, account service options, portfolio construction offerings, portfolio management, mobile and desktop user experience, educational content, fees, and security. As part of this evaluation, we extract critical data points that are weighted by our quantitative model that produces a powerful star-scoring system.

With the individual investor in mind, we’ve designed a comprehensive ranking methodology to find the best overall robo-advisors and the best robo-advisors across nine key categories. Each advisor is then scored across multiple variables to rate performance in every applicable category. The score for the overall award is a weighted average of the categories.

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