Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

Betterment vs. Robinhood


Betterment and Robinhood are both widely accepted as popular trading platforms, but they are very different. Betterment is a robo-advisor, about as hands-off as you can get while still making decisions about your money, while Robinhood is a trading platform whose users can pick and choose the individual securities they invest in. Here’s a description and comparison of their strengths, weaknesses and costs to help you determine which one might be best for you. If you’re looking to outsource your investment management, consider working with a financial advisor

Betterment vs. Robinhood: Services and Features

Betterment and Robinhood offer two diametrically opposed versions of investing. As a robo-advisor Betterment automatically invests your money according to a series of algorithms set by the brokerage.


You input certain parameters, such as your risk tolerance, investment goals and income, and the company’s artificial intelligence selects one of 12 investment portfolios, compromising exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that reflect your risk profile, timeline and goals. The firm offers traditional and Roth IRAs. Customers can also trade cryptocurrencies.

Betterment’s portfolios include higher- and lower-risk portfolios, as well as ones built to meet a specific purpose. For example, one portfolio is built around socially responsible investing, income investing and innovative technology.

While it’s for people who lean toward a set-it-and-forget-it approach to handling money, users who would like individualized guidance can sign up for Betterment Premium (for an extra 0.15% fee) and receive financial advising from a certified financial planner (CFP).


Robinhood, on the other hand, is a highly streamlined platform designed for new investors. The platform presents users with a clean trading interface, without the intimidating wall of information and options that can scare off novices. Unlike Betterment, Robinhood users trade specific assets, meaning they create their own portfolios. There is no financial automation or advising.

The firm offers an IRA match in which customers get an extra 1% on every dollar they contribute. The match, which does not involve an employer, is automatically added after eligible contributions from an external account, including rollovers and transfers. Check the firm’s website to learn of fees and possible limitations.

Through Robinhood you can trade stocks, ETFs, options and American Depositary Receipts (ADR). This leaves out several popular asset categories, most notably bonds, mutual funds, futures and currencies, although a newly introduced feature called Robinhood Crypto allows you to trade some cryptocurrencies.

Finally, Robinhood supports basic trading instructions such as stop-loss and limit orders. It does not, however, support more sophisticated instructions. The firm also provides Morningstar research for Gold customers.

Betterment vs. Robinhood: Fees

There are usually four types of fees to look out for when choosing a trading platform. You should look out for these when evaluating any investment or trading service:

  • Trading fees: Any fixed charge attached to each trade that you make. This can come in the form of a flat fee or what’s known as the “spread.” This is when your broker charges you based on the difference, if any, between the buying and the selling price of an asset.
  • Trading commissions: This is when a broker will charge you a percentage based on the volume or value of each trade.
  • Inactivity fees: Any fees that the broker charges you for not trading, such as for keeping money in a brokerage account.
  • Non-trading/Other fees: Any form of fee for trading on this platform not covered above. For example, a brokerage might charge you for making deposits into your brokerage account, taking money out of it or signing up for additional services.

Given the different services offered by Betterment and Robinhood, the two firms’ price structures vary widely.

Users who sign up for Betterment’s basic package, known as Betterment Digital, pay an annual fee of 0.25% of all assets. It should be noted, however, that you could pay $4 per month if you don’t set up recurring monthly deposits. Crypto accounts carry a 1% fee.

For example, if you have $10,000 in your Betterment account you would pay $25 per year for the service. There is no minimum balance for Betterment Digital.

Users of the higher tier package, Betterment Premium, pay an annual fee of 0.40% of all investments held by Betterment. There is a $100,000 minimum balance for Betterment Premium, which would come to a $400 per year fee. Betterment Premium users receive free person-to-person financial advising.

Robinhood, on the other hand, charges nothing for most of its services. There are no fees or commissions on each trade. Robinhood also doesn’t charge inactivity fees or other transaction fees for the most common activities such as depositing or withdrawing money. For Robinhood Gold, which allows margin trading at 8% interest rate, the company charges $6.99 per month or $75 per year.

Betterment vs. Robinhood: Online and Mobile

SmartAsset: Betterment vs. Robinhood

Betterment and Robinhood offer similar customer service options. You can reach Betterment through their virtual chat option or by telephone during business hours five days a week. Meanwhile, Robinhood also gives you the ability to speak with a customer service representative via phone or chat.

Outside of support, the Betterment experience reflects the automated nature of its product. Betterment’s layout is straightforward and well-designed. Users can access their portfolio quickly, and Betterment lays out your limited options in clear terms.

The user interface guides you to selections such as building a retirement account, setting specific investment goals and even moderating risk. While Betterment does not do a great job of making clear the actual mechanics of robo-advising, for many users this may be a feature rather than a bug. This allows you to invest without getting overwhelmed by the details of Betterment’s investment strategy.

No service is as simply as Robinhood. The user experience of Robinhood is, above all else, streamlined. It reflects the firm’s clear intent to make investing feel like a familiar in-app experience, closer to Instagram than E*TRADE. Users can quickly find their investment portfolio information, and assets are arranged in lists that are easy to search and sort.

Robinhood categorizes assets according to tags, letting you quickly find other investments that are similar. The individual asset pages are similarly well laid out, with the basic information presented alongside a clear interface for buying or selling each product. Robinhood only offers support via email. There is neither a telephone nor a chat option, meaning users cannot contact someone directly if they have a question.

Betterment vs. Robinhood: Who Should Use Each?

A man looks at his brokerage account balance and smiles.

Betterment and Robinhood are both designed for investors who want a simplified experience without getting too far into the weeds. That’s where the similarities end. Betterment is a strong choice for investors who are very hands-off and goal-oriented. You will not have the chance to manage your money actively or make trades with this product, so people who want to research, buy and sell stocks won’t find much to love here. It is also organized around fund-based trading, meaning that Betterment’s assets are designed for long-term traders.

If you are someone who wants to invest over a period of years, particularly if you have specific goals in mind, and if you don’t want to actively research and select individual investments, then Betterment may be right for you.

Robinhood’s feature-light design means that it may frustrate an experienced investor, even one who wants a simplified investment experience. This app offers very little information and trading data and relatively few types of securities for trading. Investors who know what they’re doing will quickly find this limiting. It is easy to use for basic trades and for tracking investments over time.

Inexperienced investors will have to go outside Robinhood to understand what they’re doing since Robinhood does not help them learn how to invest wisely or well. The platform’s gamified interface may channel users into high-volume, high-risk trading positions, such as options. Active investors who want an easier experience would do well to seek out products such as Fidelity’s trading platform or E*TRADE.

Bottom Line

Betterment is a robo-advisor with a strong reputation, and a good choice for investors who would rather set goals and let someone else – or something else – handle the financial portion. Robinhood is a somewhat gamified platform that is all about high user engagement and minimal friction in the trading process. It offers too little information for experienced investors and may entail too much risk for novices.

Tips for Investing

  • How you choose to invest could play a huge role in what your potential return is going to be. You can work with a financial advisor if you’re looking for a professional to manage your investments. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Before you start using either Betterment or Robinhood, use an investment calculator to “run the numbers” on your investment plan so you can have confidence that you’re on a sensible road to achieving your financial goals.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Kipioro