M1 Finance and Robinhood are both good options for new investors, albeit for different reasons. But despite their difference, both have seen a rise in popularity due to the “app-ification” of investing.
While this is a trend mostly popular with younger investors for now, it isn’t likely to change as we live in an increasingly digital world. These investing apps are beautiful and easy to use. And although they lack some of the advanced features that advanced traders and investors expect, they still get the job done for those who want something simple.
The same shifting tide gave rise to both of these apps, but they are still quite different. Thus, this post will take a look at how they compare and help you decide which one works best for you.
M1 Finance Overview
M1 Finance is an investing app that enables you to partly or entirely automate your investing strategy. You can invest in individual stocks, ETFs, or select from one of M1’s expert pies, which are already-diversified portfolios.
The nice thing about M1 is that it makes it so easy to manage your portfolio. For example, if you have a portfolio of 10 different ETFs or 30 different stocks, rebalancing can be a pain. When you want to rebalance on M1, all you have to do is click “rebalance” and it does the rest for you. No more manually selling and buying shares!
For those investing for the long haul, M1 is great if you don’t want to spend much time in the app. Once you set it up, you can just pop in for a minute or two to check things and maybe rebalance. Otherwise, there’s not much to do once you decide your investing strategy.
M1 Finance Details
0.25% (Digital); 0.40% (Premium)
IRA, SEP IRA, Brokerage, Trusts, Checking
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
M1 gives you more control over your investments than a robo-advisor like Betterment, but it’s best for those who don’t trade actively. The reason is that it only has one trading window (two for M1 Plus members), meaning you are limited in how frequently you can trade. Any changes you make to your M1 Finance portfolio will go through during the next available trade window.
And, of course, there are no fees to use the service unless you sign up for M1 Plus ($125/year). Other than the additional trading window, M1 Plus gives you 1% APY on its checking account and some other perks. However, most investors can get by with a free account.
Most of your investing with M1 will be done using a brokerage account or IRA. However, it does support trust accounts and offers a checking account. There are some account types you won’t find on M1 though, such as custodial accounts or 401(k) plans. For those, you may want to consider blooom.
While M1 Finance doesn’t offer every account type imaginable, it’s great for most passive investors. If you simply want to invest in a brokerage account or IRA for the long run, M1 is a great option.
M1 Finance Fees
When it comes to fees for M1 Finance, there isn’t much to report. As mentioned, there are no fees to use the service unless you sign up for M1 Plus. Other than that, you will payexpense ratios on ETFs if you invest in those.
However, the expense ratios on the ETFs M1 offers are quite reasonable, too. For example, the Ultra Aggressive expert pie has fees of 0.07%. All told, fees are essentially a non-issue with M1.
M1 Finance Pros
M1 Finance Cons
For more details about M1 Finance, see our full M1 Finance review.
Robinhood is a simple trading app with a beautiful interface, and day trading is possible on this app, unlike M1 Finance. It launched in 2013, but had a surge in popularity when people were stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many trading and investing apps these days, it has no account minimum or monthly fees, further helping its rise to popularity. Although Robinhood has been shrouded in controversy during the pandemic, it remains a simple trading app that does what it does well.
Stocks, options, ETFs, cryptocurrency
Part of what helped Robinhood gain notoriety is how simple the app is. It doesn’t have the advanced charting or analysis tools you see with brokers such as Fidelity or TD Ameritrade. This can be seen as both a blessing and a curse; it makes new traders less likely to be overwhelmed by the whole experience, but can leave something to be desired for experienced traders.
Also, Robinhood recently introduced fractional shares, which makes the barrier to entry much lower. With Google stock over $2,000, it’s hard for many investors to imagine spending that much on a single share.
With no monthly fees, no commissions, and an easy-to-use interface, it’s easy to see why Robinhood has gained so much popularity. Plus, it now supports automatic investments, allowing you to passively invest in your favorite securities.
That being said, it only supports brokerage accounts, so those want to manage their retirement accounts should look into M1 Finance or blooom.
Like M1, Robinhood doesn’t much to speak of in the way of fees. It charges $75 for outgoing wires, which is common for most brokers.
The only other fee Robinhood charges is $5 per month for Robinhood Gold, which adds features such as Level II market data and instant transfers to your portfolio.
M1 Finance vs. Robinhood: Comparison
$0 or $125/year (M1 Plus)
$0 or $5/mo (Robinhood Gold)
IRA, SEP IRA, Brokerage, Trusts, Checking
M1 Finance vs. Robinhood: Which One is Right For You?
M1 Finance and Robinhood can both be good choices depending on your needs. Both are beautifully designed and are extremely easy to use. It’s unlikely you will feel lost or completely overwhelmed using either.
However, which one is better depends on what you hope to accomplish. For example, M1 can’t be used for day trading since it only has one (or two) trading windows per day; you can’t trade more often than that. So if day trading is what you’re after, Robinhood is what you want.
But Robinhood can’t do it all, either. It doesn’t support mutual funds, bonds, or any kind of retirement account, for that matter. Anyone who needs support for tax-advantaged accounts should consider M1 rather than Robinhood.
As you can see, which app is better for you depends upon your needs. For active traders, Robinhood is your choice, but for those who want to trade passively or invest in retirement accounts, M1 Finance is the better option.