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Best IRA Accounts of July 2024

July 09, 2024

Is there really a best broker for IRAs? With all the big-name brokers offering commission-free trading, access to thousands of low-cost investments, low fees and $0 minimums, there aren’t any outright bad choices. How do I know? My colleagues and I opened individual retirement accounts at all of them to see firsthand.

To narrow the field of candidates, we put ourselves in the shoes of different types of IRA customers — DIY investors vs. hands-off types; those just starting out vs. people in or near retirement. The top IRA brokers below stand out for best-in-class offerings that different types of retirement savers prioritize.

Best IRAs

Here are the top six IRA brokers, based on our hands-on testing.

  • Fidelity IRA - Best overall IRA offerings
  • Charles Schwab IRA - Best IRA for active traders
  • E*TRADE IRA - Best IRA for current retirees
  • Interactive Brokers IRA - Best IRA for portfolio management
  • Vanguard IRA - Best IRA for cost-conscious investors
  • Merrill Edge IRA - Best IRA for retirement education
Fidelity IRA
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best overall IRA offerings

The gold standard for IRAs, Fidelity offers easy access and expert guidance for every retirement account type under the sun. Plus, its prices can’t be beat, notably the $0-management-fee Fidelity ZERO index mutual funds. Read full review

Charles Schwab IRA
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best IRA for active traders

A Schwab IRA gives you access to the highly rated thinkorswim trading platform, reams of research, and tools to help you screen stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. Another plus for traders: Schwab’s fractional shares. Read full review

E*TRADE IRA
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best IRA for current retirees

E*TRADE’s unique Complete IRA streamlines IRA distributions for those age 59½ or older, giving you access to your savings via a debit card, checks and electronic bill pay. It also auto-generates a key tax form. Read full review

Interactive Brokers IRA
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best IRA for portfolio management

Interactive Brokers’ managed Asset Allocation portfolios offer multiple ways for IRA investors to tweak their portfolio mix to their tastes. Cost-conscious savers will appreciate the low $100 minimum and super-competitive 0.20% management fee. Read full review

Vanguard IRA
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best IRA for cost-conscious investors

Vanguard is the OG of low-cost, no-frills investing, with fractional shares of Vanguard ETFs available for as little as $1. Its robo advisor is a good deal, too. Active traders, however, will find the tools lacking. Read full review

Merrill Edge IRA
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best IRA for retirement education

The Bank of America parent is a winner for its copious educational resources and tools. On the downside, the broker’s robo advisor management fee is on the higher end for the industry. Read full review

Winners Summary

Best overall IRA offerings - Fidelity

Is anyone shocked to see Fidelity at the top of our list of best IRAs? Didn’t think so. Fidelity is the gold standard for IRAs (though followed closely by Charles Schwab), providing easy access to and expert guidance on every retirement account type under the sun — traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE, spousal, custodial, inherited and rollovers.

Fidelity’s prices can’t be beat. The head-turner offering for fee-conscious savers is the broker’s $0-management-fee Fidelity ZERO index mutual funds. Not even Vanguard, the low-cost index fund pioneer, can compete with that. The catch? Fidelity ZERO funds can only be purchased and held at Fidelity. Translation: You’ll need to liquidate your position if you decide to move your money to another broker. But why would you?

Investors with $25,000 or less in an IRA qualify for free automated portfolio management via Fidelity Go, which uses ZERO funds for further savings. (A 0.35% fee kicks in once your balance exceeds that, in which case you might consider Interactive Brokers’ rock-bottom 0.2% managed investment service.) If you’ve got money in an old 401(k) plan, Fidelity’s rollover IRA game is top-notch. Rollover specialists will even hop on a call with your old plan administrator to ensure everything is in place for a smooth transfer. Read review.

Best IRA for active traders - Charles Schwab

Schwab’s purchase and integration of TD Ameritrade upped the broker’s already strong investing game for hands-on IRA investors and data hounds. Now DIY investors have access to TDA’s highly-rated thinkorswim platform (web and desktop), reams of research, and tools to help you screen stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and dive deep enough to do a master’s thesis on fixed-income investments.

Another plus for the stock jocks: Schwab’s fractional shares (“Stock Slices”) make it easy for retirement savers to invest small-dollar amounts to build an IRA portfolio for as little as $5 at a time with no trading commission. (Choose from any company within the S&P 500.) Heads up, fund investors: Be aware that some non-Schwab mutual funds (ones from Fidelity and Vanguard, for example) come with a hefty $74.95 transaction fee. Read review.

» If you’re an active trader, read our Charles Schwab review on StockBrokers.com for a full rundown of the broker’s trading tools.

Best IRA for current retirees - E*TRADE

At some point your investing goals will turn from amassing a retirement fortune to spending it. Here’s where E*TRADE’s Complete IRA makes it easy to live large on your savings. This unique no-fee retirement account is designed to streamline IRA withdrawals (aka “IRA distributions”). It comes with a debit card and checks and supports electronic bill payments, providing instant access to your savings without having to wait days for settlement. Another plus: There are no minimum withdrawal requirements.

The E*TRADE Complete IRA is only available to those age 59½ or older, which is when the IRS allows penalty-free IRA withdrawals. Keep in mind that you may owe federal and state income taxes on withdrawals, depending on the type of IRA you’re using (e.g., Roth or traditional). E*TRADE doesn’t withhold taxes from the payments you receive, but it does lessen the headache of accounting for withdrawals by automatically generating IRS Form 1099-R for customers to use when filing tax returns. Read review.

Best IRA for portfolio management - Interactive Brokers

If you want help crafting and managing your IRA portfolio on the cheap, hire a bot. A robo advisor does the heavy lifting by investing your savings in an appropriate mix of assets based on your goals and risk tolerance and automatically adjusting your holdings over time.

How does Interactive Brokers — a company better known for its pro-level trading tools for stock jocks — get the nod for best set-it-and-forget-it IRA option for buy-and-hold investors? Answer: customization. IBKR’s managed Asset Allocation portfolios (offered through its Interactive Advisors affiliate) offer multiple ways for investors to tweak the mix to their tastes. You can adjust asset allocation weights, add extra ETFs for exposure to specific sectors, and even tell IBKR to devote a portion of your portfolio to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investments. Plus, it’s hard to beat the low $100 minimum and super-competitive 0.20% management fee. Read review.

IRA account fees comparison

Feature Fidelity IRA logoFidelity IRA Charles Schwab IRA logoCharles Schwab IRA E*TRADE IRA logoE*TRADE IRA Interactive Brokers IRA logoInteractive Brokers IRA Vanguard IRA logoVanguard IRA Merrill Edge IRA logoMerrill Edge IRA
IRA Annual Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $25.00 info $0.00
IRA Closure Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $49.95
Account Transfer Out (Full) $0.00 $50.00 $75.00 $0.00 $100.00 info $0.00
Account Transfer Out (Partial) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
ETF Trade Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee Varies info Varies info $0.00 Varies info Varies info Varies info
Broker Assisted Trade Fee 32.95 $25 $25 $30 $25 info $29.95

FAQs

What is an IRA account?

An IRA, or individual retirement account, is a tax-advantaged savings account that offers two key perks to help people save for the future: 1. Access to a range of investments that help your money grow, and 2. A tax break now or in retirement, depending on the type of IRA you choose. Unlike a workplace retirement plan set up by an employer (e.g. a 401(k) or 403(b)), an IRA is set up and funded by an individual at the financial institution of your choice.

IRA investment options: Unlike a traditional savings account, an IRA opened at a broker provides access to investments (like stocks, mutual funds and ETFs) that have historically delivered higher long-term returns than what you can earn keeping your money in cash. Remember: After you fund your IRA you must choose investments to hold in it. Otherwise your money will sit idle in cash. You can pick investments and build your own retirement portfolio within your IRA, or work with a robo-advisor to manage money on your behalf. (We particularly like Interactive Brokers’ super low-cost automated investing portfolio — and the account minimum is only $100!) (Investing for retirement? We have thoughts.)

IRA tax savings: An IRA shelters your money from the IRS, which is why it’s called a “tax-advantaged” account. A traditional IRA provides an upfront tax break: Contributions to your IRA are not counted as taxable income in the year you funnel it into an IRA, which reduces your tax bill that year. Taxes aren’t due until you start taking withdrawals in retirement, at which point you report those withdrawals on your taxes and pay income tax. The tax savings you get with a Roth IRA is flipped: There is no tax break in the year you contribute to a Roth. But down the road when you start pulling money out of the account, all of the money comes out totally tax-free. For more details check out our Roth IRA vs. traditional IRA explainer.

How do I open an IRA account?

Opening an IRA account is super easy: Pick a broker (scroll up for guidance), provide some personal information (Social Security number, employment information, etc.), choose the type of IRA you want to open (traditional, Roth, rollover, SEP, custodial) and transfer money into your account. Once your account is funded you can start investing your money.

To conduct our research we opened IRAs at more than 10 top brokers without any glitches. In most cases it took us less than 10 minutes to open an IRA at the brokers we tested.

Funding an IRA takes longer depending on which funding option you choose. Options for funding an IRA include:

  • Bank transfer: Typically the fastest and cheapest option, an ACH transfer is an electronic transfer from your bank directly into your brokerage account. You don’t need to deposit your entire IRA contribution for the year at one time. Many brokers allow customers to schedule automatic IRA contributions to fund the account over time.
  • Wire transfer: Wiring money from your bank account into your brokerage account is fast, but will cost you money. Banks charge anywhere from $20 to $50 or more for the service. Brokers do not typically charge for incoming wire transfers.
  • Check: Mail a check with your IRA account number to the broker or deliver it in person if the broker has a branch office nearby. To avoid the hassle and time of snail mail, check to see if the broker’s app supports mobile check deposit (scanning a check).
  • Rollover: Funding an IRA via a rollover — moving money from an existing retirement account like an old 401(k) into an IRA — involves coordinating with your old retirement plan administrator to have them send a check or electronically transfer money into an IRA once you’ve set it up. Expect the rollover process to take a minimum of five business days and as much as a few weeks. It’s faster if your retirement plan and your IRA are at the same financial institution.

What is the best type of IRA account to have?

Thanks to their tax-favored status, all IRA types are a good choice for retirement savers. The best IRA for you depends on what type you’re eligible to contribute to and whether you want a tax break now or in the future.

Here are some questions to help you decide:

  • Are you eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA? People with an income of $161,000 (single) or $240,000 (married filing jointly) are prohibited from contributing to a Roth IRA. Bummer for high earners, but at least IRS eligibility rules make it clear that a traditional IRA is your leading option right off the bat.
  • Is your current tax rate super low? A Roth IRA may make sense for those with lower incomes who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in the future. The upfront tax deduction offered via a traditional IRA isn’t a huge selling point for low earners. But later in life when you’re earning more — and being taxed more — you’ll really appreciate the Roth IRA’s tax-free distributions.
  • Do you expect your tax rate to be lower in retirement? Maybe your income is hefty now but you plan to be a super frugal early retiree. In that case, getting a tax break today with a traditional IRA may make sense. (Although, to be fair, the tax-free retirement money provided by a Roth can be a great way for a frugal retiree to keep retirement expenses low.)
  • Do you think you may need to tap into your account before retirement? If so, a Roth IRA is the way to go. The IRS allows savers to withdraw Roth IRA contributions at any time and for any reason without paying taxes or an early withdrawal penalty. (Keep in mind, taxes and penalties do apply if you dip into the account’s investment earnings before age 59½.)

Still can’t decide which type of IRA is best for you? Choose both! If you’re eligible to invest in both a Roth and a traditional IRA, the IRS allows you to save in each type of account during the same year. (See more on contribution limits in the next FAQ.) Investing in a mix of accounts with different tax treatments gives you more maneuverability in retirement when you’re taking distributions.

Check out more details on the Roth IRA vs. traditional IRA conundrum.

» MORE: 5 Questions to Help You Choose the Best Retirement Account

What is the 2024 IRA contribution limit?

The 2024 IRA contribution limit is $7,000 if you’re under age 50, and $8,000 for those 50 and older. The limit is set by the IRS and applies to the total annual amount of new money an investor is allowed to contribute to an IRA at any broker. If you invest in both a traditional and a Roth IRA in the same year, the total of your combined contributions still may not exceed that $7,000/$8,000 limit. (IRA rollovers aren't subject to these contribution limits.) See “What is an IRA?” for more on IRA contribution and withdrawal rules for 2024.

How many IRA accounts can I have?

There is no limit on the number of IRA accounts you can have. Qualify for both a traditional and Roth IRA, or want split your annual IRA contributions between accounts at a few different brokers? Go right ahead — as long the total combined amount you contribute to your IRAs each year does not exceed the $7,000 ($8,000 if you’re 50 or older) maximum allowed by the IRS.

To be clear, you cannot contribute $7,000 to one account and then an additional $7,000 to another IRA in the same year. But you are free to split your annually allowable contributions among IRAs however you like.

A final note: The annual IRA maximum for contributions doesn’t apply to rollover IRAs, IRA conversions (like the so-called “backdoor Roth”) or inherited IRAs.

Can I withdraw from my IRA without paying taxes?

It depends on the type of IRA you choose (traditional or Roth IRA), your age, whether you’re withdrawing contributions or investment earnings, and the reason you’re withdrawing the funds.

With a traditional IRA, you will owe income taxes on withdrawals. Income taxes is all that you’ll owe as long as you wait until age 59½ to access the money you’ve saved and earned. Tapping into the money early gets you a 10% early withdrawal penalty on top of taxes. Ouch. However, the IRS will waive the additional 10% early withdrawal tax under certain circumstances. (See the IRS’s list of exceptions that qualify.)

Withdrawal rules are different for Roth IRAs. The IRS allows you to tap your Roth IRA contributions — not earnings — at any time you want without paying any penalties or taxes. (This is why a Roth IRA is better than a traditional IRA for retirement savers who foresee having to access the cash early.) And once you celebrate your 59½th birthday, withdrawals of contributions and/or earnings from a Roth IRA are completely tax-free. But accessing Roth account earnings before age 59 ½ is a different story: That money will be subject to income taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. (Again, see the IRS link above for a list of exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal tax.)

Can you borrow from an IRA?

No, you can’t borrow money from an IRA. The IRS has strict rules that prohibit IRA loans.

Our Research

Why you should trust us

Dayana Yochim is a senior writer and editor with investor.com. She has more than 25 years of experience researching and writing about personal finance, with a primary focus on saving, investing and planning for retirement. Her own retirement portfolio includes a Roth IRA, traditional IRA, rollover IRA, a current 401(k) and an old 401(k) she keeps at her former employer for access to mutual funds only available in that plan.

Andrea Coombes, a senior writer for investor.com, has more than 20 years of experience researching, writing and teaching about personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning. She manages her own retirement portfolio (a couple of 401(k)s, a rollover IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, HSA and brokerage account), with the bulk of her retirement assets focused on the Lazy Portfolio strategy for retirement investing. A former financial coach, she is studying for the Certified Financial Planner™ credential, one of the most stringent certifications for financial professionals.

Blain Reinkensmeyer, co-founder of investor.com and head of research at fellow site StockBrokers.com, has been investing and trading for over 25 years. After having placed over 2,000 trades in his late teens and early 20s, he became one of the first in digital media to review online brokerages. Blain created the original scoring rubrics for investor.com and oversees all testing and rating methodologies.

For this guide:

  • We used our own brokerage accounts for testing.
  • We collected multiple data points for each broker.
  • We tested each online broker's website and mobile app, where applicable.
  • We maintained strict editorial independence; brokers cannot pay for inclusion or a higher rating.

How we tested

Our research team meticulously collected data on features with particular importance to those saving for retirement, such as trading costs, management fees, availability of fee-free funds, ease of website and app use, and retirement planning tools and resources. All research, writing and data collection at investor.com is done by humans, for humans. Read our generative AI policy here.

Investor.com uses a variety of computing devices to evaluate platforms and tools. Our reviews and data collection were conducted using the following devices: iPhone SE running iOS 17.5.1, MacBook Pro M1 with 8 GB RAM running the current MacOS, and a Dell Vostro 5402 laptop i5 with 8 GB RAM running Windows 11 Pro.

Each broker was evaluated and scored in seven key categories: retirement account types, IRA fees, self-directed investment options, managed investment options, retirement planning tools, rollover experience, and ease of use.

Trading platforms tested

For this guide, we tested the following online brokers:

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About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool, HerMoney.com, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on investor.com. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Blain Reinkensmeyer
Blain Reinkensmeyer

Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 2,500 trades placed during that time. He heads research for all U.S.-based brokerages on StockBrokers.com and is respected by executives as the leading expert covering the online broker industry. Blain’s insights have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.

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