Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: what’s the difference?

1 min readLast updated May 30, 2024by Unbiased team

Unpack the pros and cons of Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab’s investment strategies, fees, and more to determine which offers the best fit for your investment needs.

Summary 

  • Charles Schwab emphasizes simplicity and accessibility, providing low-cost investment options. 

  • Fidelity Investments focuses on comprehensive wealth management solutions, including retirement planning services and robust research tools. 

  • Fidelity fees include advisory fees for Wealth Management services and managed portfolio fees. 

  • Charles Schwab offers no advisory fees or commissions for its Intelligent Portfolios. The minimum account balance is $5,000. 

Charles Schwab vs. Fidelity: what’s the difference? 

Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments are two titans of the financial services industry. While they share the overarching goal of helping clients navigate the financial markets, their approaches and offerings diverge significantly.  

Charles Schwab’s financial advisors pioneer discount brokerage and aim to democratize access to investing. The firm is known for its low-cost investing options and user-friendly platforms.  

Fidelity Investments boasts a long-standing legacy of providing comprehensive wealth management solutions tailored to individual needs. Fidelity offers a wide range of investment products and services, including robust research and analysis tools, retirement planning services, and innovative investment strategies.  

What are Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments’ specific investment strategies? 

Charles Schwab emphasizes simplicity and accessibility, offering a wide array of low-cost investment options such as stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and retirement accounts. Their platform provides tools for informed decision-making, making investing straightforward for all levels of investors. 

Fidelity financial planning takes a more comprehensive approach, providing a broad range of investment products and services, including both active and passive management strategies. Fidelity financial advisors offer a robust platform featuring stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and retirement accounts, along with innovative tools to navigate the markets effectively. 

Ultimately, the choice between a Fidelity or Charles Schwab advisor depends on your preferences, objectives, and desired level of engagement in the investment process.

What fees can I expect from Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab? 

Both Charles Schwab and Fidelity’s fees vary based on the investment services provided. These may include trading fees, trading commissions, inactivity fees, and other non-trading charges. 

Fidelity's Wealth Management services incur gross advisory fees ranging from 0.50% to 1.50%, depending on the complexity of the client's financial situation and customization level. Managed portfolios at Fidelity have fees ranging from 0.20% to 1.04%, determined by the total assets under management.  

Charles Schwab's fees differ across its offerings. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® have no advisory fees or commissions, with a minimum account balance of $5,000. Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium® entails a one-time planning fee of $300 and a monthly advisory fee of $30, with a minimum balance requirement of $25,000. Managed account fees at Charles Schwab range from 0.80% to 1.00%, contingent on the specific strategy and total assets managed. 

Is Fidelity Investments or Charles Schwab better? 

When weighing the options between Charles Schwab and Fidelity, it's crucial to recognize that both firms have distinct advantages and disadvantages.  

Pros of Fidelity Investments  

  • Robust research and analysis tools 

  • Retirement planning services 

  • Strong customer service 

Cons of Fidelity Investments  

  • Higher fees for certain investment products 

  • Limited availability of in-person branches 

Pros of Charles Schwab 

  • Extensive network of branch locations 

  • User-friendly trading platform 

  • Strong educational resources 

Cons of Charles Schwab 

  • Fees for certain services and transactions 

  • Limited cryptocurrency trading options 

Fidelity or Charles Schwab: which should I choose? 

When it comes to Fidelity vs. Schwab, both firms offer unique advantages and strengths, catering to different investor needs. It's essential to evaluate your specific financial goals, investment preferences, and desired level of service to determine which firm aligns best with your needs.  

Having considered  factors such as fees, investment strategy, and various pros and cons, here are some other questions you should ask yourself when choosing between Fidelity and Charles Schwab: 

How do Charles Schwab and Fidelity remain competitive and adapt to changing market conditions? 

Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments employ distinct yet effective strategies to stay competitive and agile in dynamic market environments.  

Schwab prioritizes technological advancements, continuously refining its platforms like Thinkorswim to offer advanced features tailored to active traders.  

Fidelity emphasizes a comprehensive approach, integrating robust research tools with personalized advice to empower investors at all levels.  

Both firms leverage market insights and client feedback to refine their offerings and stay ahead of industry trends. 

Which platform provides better customer service and support? 

Fidelity and Charles Schwab are both renowned for their commitment to excellent customer service.  

Charles Schwab customer service boasts a widespread network of branch locations for in-person assistance, supplemented by 24/7 phone support, online chat, and email assistance.  

Fidelity customer service includes comprehensive customer support through phone, online chat, and email, ensuring clients receive timely assistance whenever needed.  

While Schwab's extensive branch network may provide an edge if you prefer face-to-face interactions, both firms prioritize prompt and efficient customer service to address client inquiries and effectively provide guidance. 

Can I access my Fidelity or Charles Schwab accounts through their websites and mobile apps? 

Both Fidelity and Charles Schwab offer user-friendly websites and mobile apps, providing easy access to account information and investment tools.  

Fidelity's website and mobile app allow clients to view account balances, track investments, execute trades, and access research resources conveniently.  

Similarly, Charles Schwab's website and mobile app offer comprehensive functionality, enabling clients to seamlessly manage their accounts, execute trades, and access investment tools.  

With intuitive interfaces and robust features, both platforms ensure that clients can easily monitor and manage their investments from anywhere at any time. 

Get expert financial advice 

Whether you select a Fidelity financial advisor or a Charles Schwab financial advisor, both will offer an array of services tailored to meet the needs of investors at every level. While Fidelity excels in research tools and retirement planning, Charles Schwab distinguishes itself with its low-cost investing options and extensive branch network. Ultimately, the choice between Fidelity or Charles Schwab depends on individual preferences, financial goals, and desired level of engagement. 

Unbiased will connect you with an SEC-regulated financial advisor for expert advice on making informed decisions that align with your unique circumstances. 

Writers

Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.