M1 Finance Review: Invest, Borrow, Spend, It Does It All — But How Well?

See if M1 Finance can help you with your investing goals.

M1 Finance is a money management platform that combines the convenience of a robo-advisor with the hands-on experience of an online brokerage. With customizable portfolios, free investing and best-in-class security, it could be your next step into the world of investing. 

In addition to savvy investing, M1 offers an FDIC-insured checking account with both interest and cash back on qualifying debit purchases. It also provides low-interest loans — to help you succeed in your next business venture, or eliminate your debt.

M1 packages investing, spending and borrowing into one, easy-to-use platform — no gimmicks. Find out if it’s the right choice for you. 

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Who Is M1 Finance Best For? 

M1 Finance is best for people who are either new to investing, or don’t want to manage their portfolio manually. The great thing about automated investing is that you can set it and forget it — you don’t have to feel responsible for managing your investments, and at the same time you can feel confident that you’re maintaining a diverse portfolio.

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Pros:

  • Pie-based investing system makes building your portfolio easy — and easy to understand
  • No management fees or trading commissions 
  • Investing, banking and borrowing all rolled into one 
  • Easy-to-use app lets you invest and bank all from your phone or tablet 

Cons: 

  • Limited investment options; you can’t buy mutual funds, only stocks and ETFs 
  • The best checking and loan features are limited to M1 Plus, which costs $125 a year 
  • No tax loss harvesting 

Related: Best Money-Saving Apps of 2020

Who Might Want To Choose M1 Finance?

If you’re just getting started on your investing journey, M1 Finance might be right for you. Its pie-based investing system makes it easy to customize your portfolio and hit all your investing goals. You can set your portfolio to automatically rebalance and stop wasting time on daily trading.

M1 is also great for investors who like easy cash flow, as it offers an interest-bearing checking account that’s fully functional and FDIC-insured. You would also have access to a portfolio line of credit and other loan options with as low as 2% interest. 

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Who Might Want To Skip M1 Finance?

Hands-on investors might not be happy with M1 Finance. This investing platform uses fractional shares, so mutual funds are not an option. In addition, the free version only offers one daily trading window, which is not ideal for active investors. And unless you’re willing to pay for M1 Plus, you won’t have access to the best checking and loan features, including cash back and competitive interest rates. 

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Types of Accounts Available 

M1 Finance offers four main account types for investing: individual brokerages, joint brokerages, retirement and trusts. It also offers a free checking account that can be linked to any investments. 

M1 Finance Account Types 
Account Type Individual  Joint  Retirement Trust Checking 
Rates N/A N/A N/A N/A 1% APY for M1 Plus users 
Fees $0 to maintain, $20 for inactivity  $0 to maintain, $20 for inactivity  $100 for IRA termination, $25 for IRA conversion, $20 for inactivity  $0 to maintain, $20 for inactivity  $0 to maintain, ATM fees only covered once a month 
Features Taxable account for general investing needs General investing account to be shared Tax-advantaged account options include traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs, as well as rollover 401(k)s  Easy-to-manage trust investments Direct deposits, cash transfers and a cash-back debit card

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    M1 Invest 

    M1 Finance allows consumers to open an individual, joint, retirement or trust account for free. Investors have access to more than 6,000 stocks and funds to choose from, as well as a visually appealing interface and built-in automated trading. 

    Pros: 

    • Pie-based investing system is easy to use and great for beginners 
    • No management fees or trading commissions 
    • Fractional shares and automated trading to keep your portfolio diversified 

    Cons:

    • No access to mutual funds 
    • Only one trading window per day with the free version 
    • No tax loss harvesting  

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    Check Out: 5 Tech-Savvy Ways To Improve Your Personal Money Management

    M1 Borrow 

    Consumers can use M1 Borrow to pay down other loans — such as tuition or a HELOC — or for short-term emergencies or new investments. With interest rates as low as 2%, M1 Borrow makes it easier to consolidate high-interest debt and eliminate it faster. It also makes it possible to have the wedding of your dreams or start a business. 

    But, as with many loans, M1’s interest rates are subject to change; so you may not be able to count on that 2% rate forever.

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    Pros: 

    • Low interest rates 
    • Access to a portfolio line of credit (borrow up to 35% of your portfolio’s value)
    • Fast and easy, with no payment schedule

    Cons:

    • Interest rates change based on the Federal Funds Rate
    • If there’s a sharp decline in your portfolio value, M1 may sell stocks to cover your loan

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    Discover: 12 Essential Money Tips for Every Phase of Your Financial Life

    M1 Spend 

    M1 Finance’s checking account, M1 Spend, allows you to direct deposit cash from an outside source, transfer cash to and from your investments and even make purchases with a cash-back debit card. It functions like any other checking account, with the added perk of being connected to your portfolio. 

    Pros: 

    • No minimums or fees 
    • Full functionality of a normal checking account 
    • Cash transfers to and from your investments 
    • 1% APY and 1% cash back with M1 Plus

    Cons:

    • Need to pay for M1 Plus to earn interest or cash back on purchases

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    M1 Plus Account 

    Although M1 Finance is free to use, you can gain access to M1 Plus by paying $125 a year. M1 Plus gives you access to special banking and investing features that may make M1 more worthwhile. 

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    Pros: 

    • 1% checking APY and 1% cash back on debit purchases
    • 2% interest rate on loans
    • Access to two trading windows per day versus one window with the free version

    Cons:

    • If you don’t use the checking account or loans, it’s not worth the cost 
    • M1 is already best for passive investors, so the extra trade window may not be worth it

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    Read: The 10 Best Personal Finance Software Options for 2020

    How To Bank With M1 Finance

    Banking and investing with M1 Finance is simple and easy. This financial services company is completely online, so follow these steps from your computer to open an account: 

    1. Go to the M1 Finance homepage 
    2. Click “Get Started” in the top right corner
    3. Enter your email and password 
    4. Click “Sign Up Now” 
    5. Choose the account option(s) right for you
    6. Follow the instructions to begin building your portfolio

    Does M1 Finance Have Any Signup Promotions?

    M1 Finance currently has two active signup promotions. 

    1. $2,500 bonus to transfer your existing brokerage or IRA to M1 
    2. $100 off your first year of M1 Plus. Sign up and pay $25 instead of $125. 

    The $2,500 signup bonus is only available through May 31, so you need to act on it quickly to secure the cash.

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    To ask about how you can take advantage of these offers, contact an M1 Finance representative here

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    Fees 

    M1 Finance is generally free to use, unless you pay the yearly cost for an M1 Plus account. But like any financial services organization, there are actions to avoid if you don’t want to pay. Here is a list of fees to watch out for: 

    • Overnight mail (domestic): $125
    • Overnight mail (international): $100
    • Paper statement fee: $5
    • Return mail (per piece): $2
    • Inactivity fee (accounts up to $20 with 90 days of inactivity): $20
    • Escheatment processing: $75
    • TOD account transfer fee: $200
    • Outgoing direct account transfer: $100
    • IRA termination fee: $100
    • IRA conversion fee: $25
    • Mutual fund sales: $20
    • Liquidating securities traded on foreign exchanges: $50
    • Domestic wire transfer: $25
    • Check request: $25
    • Returned ACH/checks/wires and recalls: $30
    • Amendment repairs: $30
    • ACH notice of change/correction: $5

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    Availability of Funds 

    In general, you can expect M1 to take two to three business days to process most deposits and withdrawals. Consult this list to see how long it will take for your funds to be made available:

    • External deposit to M1 Spend account: 2-3 business days
    • External deposit to taxable or IRA account: 1 business day
    • Withdrawal from M1 Spend account to external account: 2-3 business days
    • Withdrawal from IRA or taxable account to external account: 3-5 business days
    • Withdrawal from IRA or taxable account to M1 Spend account: 2-3 business days

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    M1 Finance Is a Great Value for Beginners and Passive Investors

    As a free investing tool with banking perks, M1 Finance is a great find for both beginners and passive investors. The pie system makes portfolio management a cinch, and the fact that it can be automated lets investors “set it and forget it” while still being financially responsible. What’s more, M1 makes cash flow easy with the option to link a checking account (and even gain interest on the balance). 

    However, the lack of mutual funds and open trading means that M1 Finance probably won’t work for active investors. And the great interest rates on the checking account and loans are only available to consumers willing to buy an M1 Plus account. 

    So, if you’d like to start investing for free — no management fees or trade commissions — then take a closer look at M1 Finance. But if you’ve already been around the block and prefer a more hands-on approach, you should probably search elsewhere. 

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    This content is not provided by M1 Finance. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by M1 Finance.

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    About the Author

    Levi Leidy

    Levi is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. With a background in both print and digital publications, he’s written primarily about military lifestyle and politics and is now transitioning to personal finance. 

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