Betterment and Ellevest are familiar companies within the robo-advisor industry. Both digital investment advisors are built around modern portfolio theory and offer planning tools to help you realize your financial goals. The most obvious difference is that Ellevest’s platform is designed specifically with women in mind and makes adjustments to its model based on factors like a longer life expectancy, career breaks, and pay gaps. While Betterment and Ellevest may seem similar at first glance, a deeper look finds some key differences that will help in deciding which one is a better fit for your investing needs.
- Account Minimum: $0 for Essential, Plus, or Executive, $1,000,000 for Private Wealth
- Fees: $1, $5 or $9 monthly subscription fee, depending on level of membership chosen
- Financial planning directed toward the goals and specific needs of women.
- Goal planning and account options are dependent upon the selected membership level.
- Customer service is limited to online chat or social media contact.
- The flat-fee structure benefits mid- to high-level investors (those with at least $50,000), giving them access to the highest level of benefits at the Executive membership level for a set fee, regardless of the account balance.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: 0.25% (annual) for digital plan, 0.40% (annual) for the premium plan
- Betterment is our top choice in both the Best for Beginners and Best for Cash Management categories.
- Multi-goal planning options are available to all investors, regardless of account type.
- External accounts can be linked and synchronized to your Betterment dashboard for a full financial picture.
- Live, human customer service available five days a week to answer questions.
- Low fees, no account minimum, and more account features make Betterment an ideal choice for beginner investors.
Both Betterment and Ellevest have similar experiences regarding account setup. With both companies, the investor can easily open an account online by entering in personal information and answering a series of questions about risk tolerance, time horizon, financial goals, and more. Based on the investor’s answers, a portfolio is put together to meet those goals.
There is one major difference between the two companies in terms of account setup–live customer service. If an investor needs to ask questions about setting up their account, Betterment does offer live customer service via phone, five days a week. Ellevest does not offer any sort of live customer service option. Existing and potential clients must either reach out to the company via social media or submit the question through the website and wait for an email response.
Account setup is quick at either digital investment advisor, but we give Betterment the edge in this category for providing live customer service agents by phone.
Investor goal planning capabilities are vastly different between these two digital investment advisors. Betterment allows you to select goal planning in five general areas: retirement, general investing, major purchase, safety net, and education. External accounts can also be connected to your Betterment Digital or Premium account, making it easy to get an overall picture of your financial situation.
In contrast, Ellevest's three membership levels offer differing levels of goal planning for investors. An Essential membership account will give you access to a basic investing account, for a single goal. Plus membership level adds the additional financial goal of retirement planning. Multi-goal investing, such as retirement, college, vacation, or saving up to buy a home, can only be accessed at an Executive membership account.
A quick analysis of the goal planning capabilities for investors shows that Betterment offers a higher level of benefit for the associated account fees. Betterment offers multi-goal investing options to all investors, starting at the Digital account level. Ellevest does not offer this option until the Executive membership level, which is $9 per month. On an account of $5,000, at Ellevest, you would pay $108 for the year, whereas, at Betterment, you would only pay $12.50 for the same level of benefit during the same time period.
Both Betterment and Ellevest offer similar basic account services, such as easily setting up direct deposit, transferring money from a linked external account, and effortlessly accessing cash through ATM or debit cards. That said, there are a couple of differences, and depending on your personal needs or preferences that could make a difference.
Betterment offers clients the ability to open a joint account, while Ellevest does not offer that option at this time. However, Ellevest does a very unique “roundup” program. The program is something that investors must choose to enroll in, as it is not automatic. Once you are enrolled though, you are able to round up every transaction to the next dollar. By doing this, the additional charge above and beyond the transaction amount will go directly into your Ellevest Save account. The money can stay in the savings account or be transferred to an investment account.
While both companies offer interest on cash (both currently at 0.10%) and debit cards to easily access and spend, Betterment offers clients a few extras that Ellevest does not. Betterment does not limit withdrawals while Ellevest limits clients to withdrawals to $510/day from ATMs. Betterment doesn’t charge ATM fees, either domestically or internationally. Ellevest offers reimbursement of domestic ATM fees, but only if the client’s account has received a payroll direct deposit to the account within 30 days of transaction settlement. Last, Betterment also offers a traditional checking account with the ability to write physical checks, whereas Ellevest does not.
When it comes to cash management, Betterment has the edge over Ellevest.
Similar types of investment products and asset classes are offered at both companies, with one notable difference: real estate investment trusts (REITs). To be clear, REITs are not offered as outright investments with either company. However, Ellevest explicitly offers exposure to U.S. real estate through REIT ETFs in both the Digital and Premium investment portfolios. While Betterment does not invest in REIT ETFs, they do give their investors some exposure to real estate within their larger equities ETF options.
An additional difference to consider within the portfolio offerings is the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) offerings. While both companies offer ESG options, Ellevest directs its ESG investments towards creating constructive social impact by advancing women.
Betterment has also acquired Makara, which will allow for cryptocurrency portfolios to be added to the asset types. As this acquisition was just announced on February 8, 2022, the integration of the two platforms hasn’t yet begun.
Overall, we found Betterment and Ellevest are evenly matched in a head-to-head comparison of the types of investments that are available within each account right now. However, the upcoming introduction of cryptocurrency will likely give Betterment the edge in the near future.
Ellevest and Betterment both offer basic taxable and retirement accounts.
Betterment account types:
- Individual taxable accounts
- Joint taxable accounts
- Traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
- Roth IRA accounts
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA accounts
- Rollover IRA
- Trust accounts
- Savings accounts
- Checking accounts with debit card
Ellevest account types:
- Individual taxable accounts
- Traditional IRA accounts
- Roth IRA accounts
- SEP IRA
- Savings accounts with debit card
One key difference is that Betterment offers joint accounts, while Ellevest does not. Another notable distinction is that Ellevest does not offer a traditional checking account with its banking services. You have access to a savings account with a debit card, but no paper checks. Betterment offers both debit cards and checks with the banking accounts. Overall, Betterment offers a larger choice of account types.
|Fixed Income||Yes, but only in ETFs||Yes, but only in ETFs|
|REITs||No||Yes, but only in ETFs|
|Socially Responsible or ESG Options||Yes||Yes|
While Ellevest is limited to changing risk levels on goals or switching portfolios in terms of customization, Betterment does offer more in this area. While Betterment strongly encourages you to stick with the set portfolios, it has a Flexible Portfolios option where you can tweak any Betterment portfolio by playing with the weightings and thus push it beyond the usual risk tolerances. If you are looking for customization, Betterment has the edge.
Portfolio management is another area where the companies differ greatly. Two of the biggest differences deal with automatic portfolio rebalancing and external account synchronization. At Betterment, client portfolios are automatically rebalanced when the portfolio drifts 3 percent from the goal target allocation. At Ellevest, investor portfolios are automatically rebalanced, however, there is no set time when that occurs.
More importantly, investors with Betterment are able to link their external accounts to their Betterment account and get a clear picture of their overall financial situation. Betterment’s platform even has the ability to make recommendations and offer guidance based on the client’s overall financial picture. Ellevest does not offer external account synchronization.
Betterment offers automated tax-loss harvesting for all client accounts at no additional cost. This allows investors to realize a loss by replacing an ETF trading at a loss with a comparable ETF that maintains the same exposure while offsetting gains in other areas of the portfolio to reduce taxable income.
Ellevest does not offer tax-loss harvesting, specifically, but does implement tax minimization strategies. These strategies include investing in securities that might cost you less in taxes, such as tax-efficient municipal bonds, in the accounts that are taxable right now as well as including securities that might cause you to incur more taxes, such as corporate and government bonds, in tax-deferred retirement accounts if available.
Key Portfolio Management Features
|Automatic Rebalancing||When portfolio drifts 3% from target||Periodically, no set parameters|
|Reporting Features||Dashboard allows investors to see the overall financial picture. Nudge emails are sent to keep clients engaged.||Account information is accessible by logging into your Ellevest account; however, members can sign up for a newsletter which is delivered via email three times a week.|
|Tax-Loss Harvesting||Yes||No, tax minimization strategies are used|
|External Account Syncing/Consolidation||Yes - once external accounts are linked, Betterment’s platform allows for recommendations and goal planning based on your entire financial picture||No - not available at this time|
Both Betterment and Ellevest offer the standard security features. Both use encryption to keep personal account information safe, have 2-factor authentication, and have network security in place to keep your online account as safe as possible. Both firms hold Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage of $500,00. One difference is that Betterment offers biometric entry, including fingerprint and facial recognition, while Ellevest does not offer this feature. Overall, however, both Ellevest and Betterment are up to standard, so it is a toss-up in terms of security.
Both Betterment and Ellevest offer desktop dashboards that make it easy to view your account activity, goals, and portfolio performance. Betterment, however, offers investors the ability to connect outside accounts, which enables users to monitor all of their finances in one consolidated platform. Ellevest does not offer external account synchronization. So the desktop experience is easy to manage, but it is simply a snapshot of the Ellevest account.
Both Ellevest and Betterment offer all the desktop features through their respective mobile apps. Betterment users have experienced some issues with linking accounts and fund transfers via mobile, and Ellevest does not have all account features optimized for mobile, in particular, when logging on from an iPad.
Both Betterment and Ellevest have comparable solid FAQs. The two digital investment advisors also offer phone consultations with a financial advisor for an additional fee and have automated online chat sections for existing and prospective clients to ask questions and find answers.
The differentiating factor here is access to answers. Betterment offers live customer service, via phone call, five days each week to answer questions or help resolve issues. This is available to prospective investors, as well as current clients. Ellevest clients do not have access to a live representative at all, but must wait for an email response.
|Phone contact available||Yes, 9am-6pm Monday-Friday||No|
|Pre-funding phone consultation with certified advisor||Yes, available for an additional fee for Digital members. Included for Premium members.||Yes, available for an additional fee.|
|Online chat available||Yes - Both existing or prospective clients can ask questions in the online chat 24/7. Pre-scripted answers are given that closely relate to your question.||Yes - Both existing or prospective clients can ask questions in the online chat 24/7. Pre-scripted answers are given that closely relate to your question. If you still need help, a contact box populates to fill out to receive an email response.|
|Website FAQ section||Yes. Most basic questions are answered in a clear, concise manner.||Yes. Most basic questions are answered in a clear, concise manner.|
A head-to-head comparison of fees is a bit tricky between Betterment and Ellevest for the simple fact that the companies offer different fee structures: Betterment offers a 0.25% fee based on the account balance for Digital investors and a 0.40% fee for Premium clients. Ellevest offers a flat rate based on the selected membership level rather than a percentage of assets under management (AUM).
|Management fees for $5,000 account||$12.50 (Digital)||$12 (Essential)
|Management fees for $25,000 account||$62.50 (Digital)||$12 (Essential)
|Management fees for $50,000 account||$125 (Digital)||$12 (Essential)
|Management fees for $100,000 account||$400 (Premium)||$12 (Essential)
|Expense ratios||0.09% average||Range from 0.05% to 0.26%|
|Mutual funds||N/A||Range from 0.05% to 0.26%|
With a $5,000 account balance, you would have similar fees for a Digital account at Betterment ($12.50) and an Essential membership at Ellevest ($12). If an investor had several financial goals that they wanted to plan for, however, their fee would remain the same at Betterment ($12.50) while they would need to increase to an Executive membership level with Ellevest ($108). The higher the account balance is, the higher the fees become with Betterment, while Ellevest becomes a more attractive option. If you had $50,000 in your account, Ellevest would still be $108 at the Executive level, but Betterment would cost $125 even at the Digital account level.
Given the differing approaches to fees, there is no clear winner. Betterment offers more for the money, particularly to lower balance accounts, while Ellevest gains in value as your account balance goes up.
Choosing between Betterment and Ellevest really comes down to a couple of main factors. Specifically, how much you are looking to invest and what type of options you want with your account. If you have more than $50,000 to put in an automated portfolio, then Ellevest can offer the most account options with the Executive membership flat fee. This fee will not increase, no matter how much your account grows. Ellevest also has a unique approach in that it is a company founded by women and created specifically for the investing needs of women. This approach adds some unique elements to the portfolios that will not necessarily be accessible through Betterment, such as adjusting portfolios to reflect longer life expectancy and career gaps.
However, if you are just starting out and don’t have that much to invest, Betterment can offer account options and benefits comparable to Ellevest’s highest membership level at a much lower cost to the investor because the fee structure is based on a small percentage (0.25%) of the account balance. If you are looking to be able to synchronize external accounts to see your overall financial picture and value access to live customer service, then Betterment is the best choice. Accounts at Betterment also allow for joint ownership, which can be an important factor depending on your situation.
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