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Updated on Friday, January 10, 2020
For new and advanced investors alike, brokers Charles Schwab and Fidelity offer very competitive features, from robust fund offerings to to helpful investment research. Fidelity and Charles Schwab charge no trading commissions for U.S. stocks and ETFs, and give users access to thousands of no-fee funds. Both offer 24/7 phone support. It’s no accident that both brokers top our list of the best online stock brokers.
With a minimum balance of $5,000, Charles Schwab customers can take advantage of the broker’s zero-fee robo-advisor services. With Fidelity, index fund enthusiasts can sock money into the firm’s zero-expense index fund offerings. Both brokers are excellent choices, so the best one for you depends on the specific offerings from each firm. Read on for a detailed comparison.
Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: Feature comparison
|Current promotions||500 free trades with a qualifying net deposit of $100,000||
|Stock trading fees||
|Minimum deposit to open account||
|Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)||
|Commission-free ETFs offered|
|Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered|
|Ease of use|
|Mobile app||iOS, Android||iOS, Android, Fire OS|
|Customer support||Phone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 346 branch locations||Phone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 190 branch locations|
Amount Minimum to Open Account
$0.00 per trade
$0 annual fee
on Charles Schwab’s secure website
Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: Fees & account minimums
Neither Charles Schwab nor Fidelity charge annual or monthly fees to maintain a brokerage account. Neither charges commissions for online U.S. stock or ETF trades. Both charge trading commissions of $0.65 per options contract and $1 per bond for secondary market trades. Charles Schwab charges a $1.50 commission per futures contract — Fidelity doesn’t allow futures trading. Charles Schwab charges up to $49.95 to buy mutual funds that aren’t available via Schwab Mutual Fund OneSource, and Fidelity charges $49.95 for non-Fidelity transaction-fee funds. Fidelity’s margin rates are also lower than Schwab’s for traders with larger debit balances.
If you’d rather take a hands-off approach to your investments, Fidelity offers several different portfolio management options. Fidelity Go is the firm’s robo-advisor, which utilizes automatic trading algorithms to make investments at a very low cost for users, an annual fee of 0.35% of your account balance. Fidelity Personalized Planning and Advice uses automated trading algorithms together with expert coaching, for an annual fee of 0.50% of your account balance. With Fidelity’s Portfolio Advisory Services, professional money managers handle your investments for an annual fee of 0.50% to 1.50% of your account balance, depending on assets invested.
Charles Schwab’s robo-advisor, Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, requires a minimum investment of $5,000 and charges no annual fee. Note that Intelligent Portfolios requires users to hold 6-30% of your balance deposited with the robo-advisor in its cash account, which offers an APY of 0.70%. This can hamper your overall returns in years where the market returns above 0.70%. For more personalized guidance, there is Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium, which charges a one-time $300 fee and $30 a month. Your investments are managed by the robo-advisor, plus you have access to “unlimited” guidance from a certified financial planner.
Charles Schwab charges $50 for a full account transfer and $25 for a partial account transfer, while Fidelity charges no transfer fees. Neither broker has an account minimum, but both require a large deposit to qualify for bonuses. Charles Schwab requires a net deposit of $100,000 to qualify for 500 commission-free equity and options trades for up to two years. Fidelity also requires $100,000 in new account funding to land 200 commission-free domestic stock and options trades.
Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: Tradable securities
In addition to stocks and bonds, both brokers have a robust selection of tradable securities for either the beginner or advanced investor:
- Mutual funds: If you’re interested in investing in professionally managed mutual funds, Fidelity offers more than 10,000 funds. Investors at Charles Schwab have the option of investing in more than 7,900 mutual funds, 3,900 of which have no transaction fee.
- Options trading: Fidelity and Charles Schwab both support options trading, which involves traders making contracts to sell securities at a predetermined price over a set period of time in the options market. Both brokers charge $0.65 per contract for options trading, in addition to the $0.00 normal trading commission.
- Futures: Futures trading involves selling an asset or security at a set price at a predetermined time in the future. Charles Schwab charges $1.50 per contract for futures trading, and there are no additional fees for expert-assisted trades. Fidelity does not support futures trading.
- Exchange traded funds (ETFs): Adding ETFs to your investment portfolio is a great way to diversify your holdings. Fidelity offers over 500 commision-free ETFs. Charles Schwab offers free trading in the 22 ETFs they manage under their own name, plus more than 500 other commission-free ETFs.
- Foreign exchange trading: Also known as forex trading, foreign exchange is for trading currencies. Fidelity offers forex trading, although you’ll have to sign up with Fidelity Forex LLC, a subsidiary. This service gives you access to currencies for more than 35 countries and direct transfers from your Fidelity account. Charles Schwab does not offer forex trading options.
- Certificates of deposit (CDs): Both firms let customers buy brokered CDs on their platform. Brokered CDs have similar terms and APYs as CDs bought from a bank. However, they are bought and sold more like securities, giving you more flexibility in exchange for fees.
- Cryptocurrency: Neither firm offers cryptocurrency trading.
Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: Special features
Investing with Fidelity and Charles Schwab gives you access to valuable research and education tools, plus cash management account options.
- Research and educational tools: Schwab offers a range of educational materials, including market commentary, advanced charting and Stocks, Mutual funds and ETFs screeners. Users have access to the latest news and company filings, plus free materials from Morningstar, Credit Suisse, CFRA and Argus Research. Plus, new investors can benefit from the site’s tutorials on investing principles. Fidelity has its own stock research center with stock screeners, research firm scorecards, recent company earnings reports, and news on market movers. Users have access to reports from Argus Analyst, CFRA, Ned Davis Research and Zacks Investment Research, among others.
- Cash management accounts: Want to keep your cash close to your brokerage account? Fidelity offers a Cash Management account with no monthly fees, no minimum balance and reimbursement of all ATM fees nationwide. Charles Schwab offers a High Yield Investor Checking Account, also with no monthly fees or minimums, unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide and 0.15% APY on your account balance.
Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: Which is best for you?
Both Charles Schwab and Fidelity have long-standing track records, low fees or no fees, no account minimums and a diverse array of fund offerings. Preference for either broker may depend on a personal inclination, such as the desire to try Fidelity’s no-expense index funds (available only to Fidelity clients) or the desire to trade futures, available on Charles Schwab’s platform but not Fidelity’s. Charles Schwab’s robo-advisor has no annual fee (note the cash account requirement, however), compared with Fidelity Go’s 0% management fee.