Charles Schwab Brokerage and Fidelity Investments are large brokerages available to professional traders and retail investors, alike. At first glance, they seem similar, with zero-commission trading for many products, no account minimums and no account fees for retail brokerage accounts.
If you’re considering opening a retail brokerage account to get started trading while stocks are heavily discounted in this bear market, you may be wondering whether Schwab or Fidelity is the better choice for you.
This look at both companies — their fees for certain trades, their ease-of-use and how other consumers feel about the brokerages and their trading platforms — will outline the differences between Schwab and Fidelity and help you determine which one may be best for you.
What’s the Difference Between Schwab and Fidelity?
At first glance, Schwab and Fidelity appear very similar, but they do have their differences.
The Charles Schwab Corporation was founded in 1971 as a traditional brokerage and then pioneered the idea of a discount brokerage firm. Charles R. Schwab remains at the helm as Chairman of the Board.
Schwab is considered the “largest publicly trading investment services firm,” according to its website, and holds $6.83 trillion in client assets, servicing 33.9 million accounts.
Fidelity celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2021. It is even bigger than Schwab, holding $11.3 trillion in investor assets and serving roughly 40 million people. It is also known as the largest 401(k) provider in the U.S.
While their fees, customer service and company reputations are fairly comparable, some of the products the two brokerages offer differ slightly.
|Cryptocurrency||– Investors cannot buy or sell
cryptocurrency through their brokerage account
– Investing in Bitcoin futures contracts is possible
– Crypto-related trusts and stocks, like Coinbase or PayPal, are available
|– Investors can add bitcoin to their retirement accounts
– No greater than 20% of holdings can be this highly speculative investment
|Fractional Trading of U.S. Stocks and ETFs||Yes — minimum purchase of $5||Yes — minimum purchase of $1|
Online review sites give both Schwab and Fidelity high marks for their trading platforms, especially for beginning investors. It is easy to set up an account on either platform.
You can open a Schwab account online, using the mobile app, by phone or at one of the organization’s over 300 branches.
Fidelity has more than 200 Investor Centers across the globe where you can open and account and receive guidance, but the website encourages users to take care of business online through their virtual assistant or by phone “before stopping by.”
Both companies have 24/7 customer service available.
Both companies also offer automated investing as a premium service.
Schwab’s robo-advisor will build, monitor and automatically re-balance your diversified portfolio of $25,000 or more. You’ll also gain access to a certified financial planner. The start-up costs for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium is $300, plus a monthly maintenance fee of $30.
Alternatively, you can set up a robo-advisor account with no start-up fees and no monthly fees through Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. You won’t gain access to a personal advisor, however.
Both accounts divide your funds between ETFs and cash.
Fidelity also offers two tiers of robo-investing. Fidelity Go has no account minimum, but you won’t get personalized 1:1 advice. You’ll pay no fees for an account holding less than $10,000 and just $3 per month for an account with $10,000 to $49,999. For accounts larger than that, you’ll pay 0.35%.
The Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice Account combines robo investing with personalized service from a financial planner, similar to Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. You’ll need $25,000 to open an account and will pay 0.50% annually.
Educational Materials for Beginners
Schwab offers podcasts, videos, and tons of articles on the website tailored to learning the basics of investing and more. The key differentiator is that Schwab updates its materials with fresh live content daily.
Fidelity edges out Schwab with free educational materials that include live webinars, interactive coaching sessions and online virtual classes.
A comparison chart on the Schwab website shows that fees on the most common products, including stocks, options, ETFs and standard options are all the same. All of these products are fee-free, with $0 commissions through both brokerages. Both Fidelity and Schwab have standard options per contract fees of $0.65.
Broker-assisted trades with Schwab cost $25 per transaction. If you use the automated phone system, you’ll pay $5 per trade. Schwab also charges an outgoing wire transfer fee of $25, which is reduced to $15 if you submit the transfer online. Schwab also charges fees for other things, such as insufficient funds or late settlements.
Fidelity, on the other hand, has no wire transfer fees, no insufficient funds fee and none of the other fees most common to a retail brokerage.
Both companies carry SIPC insurance to protect your investments.
Schwab’s security protocols are called SchwabSafe, which covers losses in any of your Schwab accounts due to unauthorized activity. Schwab also uses encryption and risk-based security technology to keep your data and funds safe.
The company shares extensive educational information and resources about fraud protection on its site, empowering consumers to take an active role in fraud protection.
Fidelity uses a number of measures to protect your money and your sensitive personal data. The website uses industry-standard two-factor authentication, encryption, firewalls and 24/7 system surveillance. You can lock your accounts instantly if you suspect any problems, and you can set up your account to receive instant security alerts.
Voice biometric technology further protects your account from unauthorized use. Fidelity’s Customer Protection Guarantee covers your accounts from losses due to unauthorized activity.
Is Schwab or Fidelity Better?
Both Schwab and Fidelity are highly reputable, long-standing brokerages ranked best in the field. Either service is a great place to get started investing, grow your portfolio and manage your investments as they grow.
The fees for both Schwab and Fidelity are comparable, as are the services offered.
The brokerage you choose may depend upon a number of factors, including:
- Your proximity to a local branch if you prefer face-to-face service
- Which online interface you prefer, as they are different but both user-friendly
- The investments you want to make, since Fidelity doesn’t offer futures, but Schwab doesn’t have the ability to add bitcoin to your 401(k)
Also, if you want robo-advising services but don’t have $25,000 to invest, opening an account with Fidelity can be a good way to get started.
When you’re ready to open an investment account to trade stocks, ETFs or simply to park your money so it has an opportunity to grow over time, you want to rely on a trusted brokerage.
Fidelity and Schwab both have long histories as reputable brokerages, state-of-the-art security and SIPC insurance to protect your investments.
- Are Fidelity's fees high?
- Fidelity offers commission free trading and no fees of any kind, making it a lower cost brokerage than many others, including Schwab. Schwab has fees for wire transfers, insufficient funds and a few other actions.
- Who is Schwab's biggest competitor?
- By assets held and customers served, Fidelity Investments is the largest brokerage. It is also one of Schwab's top competitors.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Fidelity or Schwab. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Fidelity or Schwab.
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