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Retirement Accounts

How Much Does It Cost to Open an IRA?

Andrea Coombes

Written by Andrea Coombes
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Dayana Yochim

May 15, 2024

In general, you don’t have to pay a cent to open an individual retirement account, or IRA. Some brokers might require a minimum deposit, such as $100, but many brokers these days allow you to open an account with $0. You won’t have to hand over any money. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Quick take: Opening an IRA is free, but once you’ve got your account up and running, you might run into various fees and costs:

  • Some brokers might charge account maintenance and other fees. To compare these fees at different brokers, check out our guide to the best brokers for IRAs at our sister site,
  • The investments you pick for your IRA might charge fees, or you might pay a cost for buying or selling those investments. (If the idea of investing has you nervous, check out our guide on how to invest.)

Tell me more! You can open an IRA with zero dollars. But you've heard how nothing in life is free, right? Same goes for IRAs. Obviously, once you open your account, you want to put money into your account and you want to start investing so your money can grow. This is where fees come in. Investment costs can really eat into retirement savings. Here are just some of the fees you may run into as a retirement investor:

  • Individual stocks: When you invest in individual stocks, there’s essentially no fee for that investment other than the cost of the shares. One share of Apple, for example, as of the moment I’m writing this, costs about $180. That’s the cost you pay to buy one share. (Many brokers offer fractional shares, so you can buy a fraction of that single share for less money.)

    In days gone by, you would also pay a trading cost — every time you bought or sold a share, you’d pay a fee to the broker for that transaction. These days, trading costs on simple buy-and-sell transactions for individual stocks have mostly been eradicated in the U.S., which is great news. Of course, brokers still need to make money, so retail investors like you and me sometimes pay in the form of “payment for order flow,” which is when the market makers that execute trades send money back to the broker who requested the trade. This can potentially mean the broker goes to a market maker that pays it the most, rather than the one offering the best share price or transaction for you.

  • Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds: Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a lot alike — they both pool investors’ money to buy shares of companies. If you buy one share of one of these funds, it’s like buying a small piece of each of the companies that fund has purchased. It’s an easy, low-cost way to build a diversified investment portfolio. Here are two costs to consider with mutual funds and ETFs:

    1. Mutual funds and ETFs charge a fee called an expense ratio. These fees generally come right out of your invested money, which means they’re easy to overlook. Make sure to compare expense ratios. Luckily, one particular type of mutual fund — called index funds because they track an index as opposed to being actively managed — are one of the lowest-cost ways to invest, and can be a great way to invest for retirement.

    2. To find a fund’s expense ratio, do an online search for the name of the fund, e.g., “Vanguard total stock market index fund” or search for the fund’s ticker symbol. When you click on the fund company’s page for that fund, you’ll find the expense ratio somewhere on that page, possibly hidden under a tab called “details” or “fees.”

    3. Some mutual funds require a minimum initial investment, often $1,000 to $3,000. Obviously, this isn’t a fee, but it is money you must have on hand if you want to invest in that mutual fund. Generally, once you make this initial investment, you can set up much lower monthly contributions, such as $25.

    One more thing: You can open an IRA at a bank, but most bank IRAs don’t give you the same access to a broad-based investment portfolio that a broker will give you. Here at, we’re fans of opening IRAs at brokerages, rather than banks, so you can invest for your future.

    Bottom line: You can open an IRA for free, but at some point you’re likely to run into some fees. Be sure to shop around for low-cost investments, and compare brokers on fees and other features.

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About the Editorial Team

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 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.

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,, 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.

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