What Is a Minimum Deposit?

A minimum deposit or initial deposit is the minimum amount of money required to open an account with a financial institution, such as a bank or brokerage firm.

Higher minimum deposits are generally associated with accounts offering premium services, whereas products oriented toward a mainstream audience generally offer lower minimum deposits to attract new customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Minimum deposits are the amount of money which must be contributed upon the set-up of a particular account.
  • Higher minimum deposit requirements are generally associated with premium services.
  • In recent years, increased competition has led to a decline in minimum deposit requirements among some financial service providers.

How Minimum Deposits Work

In the United States, minimum deposits can vary widely. While some services offer no minimum deposit requirement, others set their minimum at $10,000 or more.

From the perspective of the service provider, minimum deposits help ensure that the revenues generated from the customer will be sufficient to cover the administrative costs and other overheads associated with servicing that account.

Generally, higher minimum deposit requirements are associated with premium products, whereas mass-market offerings will generally reduce or even waive their minimum deposit requirements. For example, a full-service brokerage might require a minimum deposit of at least $10,000 in exchange for added features, such as reduced trade commissions, access to analyst reports, or more complete and timely data from the exchanges. A discount brokerage, by contrast, might waive their minimum deposit requirements but offer a more pared-down service with less advanced features.

Today, growing competition among financial services firms has led to reduced fees and minimum deposit requirements in some sectors. This is particularly visible in the discount brokerage and investment management industries, where firms such as Wealthsimple and Betterment offer low-cost platforms that, in some cases, have no minimum deposit requirements. This low-cost approach has even extended into other fee areas, such as by eliminating per-trade commissions.

In addition to minimum deposit requirements, other areas where financial firms can compete to attract customers include annual account fees, asset management fees, and fees associated with withdrawing or transferring funds.

Real-World Example of a Minimum Deposit

To illustrate, consider the pricing options offered by the two financial firms mentioned above. For customers wanting the cheapest option, Wealthsimple and Betterment both offer account options with no minimum deposit requirements. However, customers wishing to access more advanced features can do so by providing higher minimum deposits.

For instance, Wealthsimple offers an account for minimum deposits of $100,000 and above, which provides reduced annual fees, as well as additional services, such as oversight from a financial adviser. Another plan, for deposits of $500,000 or more, offers additional benefits such as a discounted health plan.

Betterment offers a slightly different model, in that its premium plan (for deposits of $100,000 and above) carries a higher management fee. In exchange, however, the premium plan offers access to a team of financial planning professionals who can advise the customer on a range of topics, such as retirement and estate planning.