TIAA vs. Fidelity: Two Feature-Rich Options for Investors Who Qualify

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    If you’re a professional in education, research, medicine, or the arts, you’re no stranger to TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association). For over a century, this financial services organization has operated with your unique needs in mind.

    However, you might also be curious about Fidelity, a prominent broker with many options to consider. So, how do these two financial service providers stack up against each other? 

    This article will thoroughly compare TIAA-CREF (now TIAA) and Fidelity and uncover their features, benefits, and potential drawbacks. Once you read through these insights, you will hopefully have the knowledge and confidence to make the best-informed decision that aligns with your financial goals. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

    TIAA vs Fidelity – Features, Fees & Ratings Comparison Table

    FeatureTIAA-CREFFidelity
    💰 Account MinimumThere is no minimum deposit to open a cash account, but a $2000 minimum deposit is required for a margin account.$0
    💸 Commission Fees$0 for stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and for options; $35 for Automated Telephone System trades, $55 for broker-assisted trades, and $50 for mutual fund transaction-fee (TF) funds.$0 for stocks, ETFs, and options; $1 per bond; $0 to $49.95 for mutual
    💼 Investment OptionsStocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, annuities, bonds, CDs, and money market fundsStocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, bonds, CDs, annuities, and fractional shares
    🤖 Robo-AdvisorTIAA-CREF offers a robo-advisor service called TIAA Personal Portfolio with a 0.3% annual fee, The minimum investment for this service is $5000, and the portfolio is monitored daily and automatically rebalanced if needed. Personal portfolio consultants are available for advice at no extra cost.Fidelity Investments offers a robo-advisor service called Fidelity Go with a 0.35% annual fee
    📊 Research and AnalysisTIAA-CREF offers a range of research tools, including market data, news, charts, analyst ratings, screeners, calculators, and educational resourcesFidelity Investments offers a range of research tools, including market data, news, charts, analyst ratings, screeners, calculators, and educational resources
    📱 Mobile AppTIAA-CREF offers a highly rated mobile app with features such as view and manage accounts, trade stocks and ETFs, deposit checks, transfer funds, and more, The TIAA mobile app has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Play Store. However, the reviews are mixed, with some users reporting issues with the fingerprint login feature and others reporting problems with the available balance reporting and the app’s overall functionality​.Fidelity Investments offers a highly rated mobile app with features such as trade stocks and ETFs, view and manage accounts, deposit checks, transfer funds, and more
    🏦 Retirement AccountsTIAA-CREF offers retirement accounts, including 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, and SIMPLE IRA, but it’s important to note that certain IRAs at TIAA do carry a $130 closeout fee. Newer retirement accounts opened online may not have this fee, so it’s recommended to verify this before opening an IRA with the broker.Fidelity Investments offers retirement accounts, including 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, and SIMPLE IRA
    🎓 IRA AccountsTIAA-CREF offers IRA accounts, including Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, and SIMPLE IRAFidelity Investments offers IRA accounts, including Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, and SIMPLE IRA
    📈 Trading PlatformTIAA-CREF offers a web-based platform and a desktop platform with features such as real-time quotes, watchlists, alerts, trade tickets, and moreFidelity Investments offers a web-based platform and a desktop platform with features such as real-time quotes, watchlists, alerts, trade tickets, and more
    📞 Customer ServiceTIAA-CREF offers phone and email support, as well as a help center with articles and FAQsFidelity Investments offers phone and email support, as well as a help center with articles and FAQs
    📚 Educational ResourcesTIAA-CREF offers a range of educational resources, including webinars, podcasts, articles, videos, guides, and workshopsFidelity Investments offers a range of educational resources, including webinars, podcasts, articles, videos, guides, and workshops
    🌕 Fractional SharesTIAA-CREF does not offer fractional sharesFidelity Investments offers fractional shares for stocks and ETFs
    🌱 Socially ResponsibleTIAA-CREF offers a selection of socially responsible investmentsFidelity Investments offers a selection of socially responsible investments
    🌎 International InvestingTIAA-CREF allows international investing through mutual funds and ETFs that invest in foreign marketsFidelity Investments allows international investing through mutual funds and ETFs that invest in foreign markets
    💳 Cash ManagementTIAA-CREF offers a cash management account with a debit card and ATM fee rebatesFidelity Investments offers a cash management account with a debit card and ATM fee rebates
    🔍 Margin TradingTIAA-CREF offers margin trading with different margin rates depending on the amount borrowed, with interest rates ranging from 12.125% for debit balances of $0.01 – $9,999 to 11.125% for debit balances of $50,000 and above​.Fidelity Investments offers margin trading with different margin rates depending on the amount borrowed
    ⚙️ Options TradingTIAA-CREF offers options trading with a $25 contract fee Fidelity Investments offers options trading with no contract fees
    ₿ Cryptocurrency TradingTIAA-CREF does not offer cryptocurrency tradingFidelity Investments does not offer cryptocurrency trading
    🛡️ Account SecurityTIAA-CREF offers two-factor authentication, biometric login, and account protection up to $500,000 through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) Fidelity Investments offers two-factor authentication, biometric login, and account protection up to $500,000 through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)
    💹 LeverageTIAA-CREF offers leverage up to 2x for margin trading Fidelity Investments offers leverage up to 4x for day trades and 2x for overnight trades
    ⚖ RegulationTIAA-CREF is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)Fidelity Investments is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

    TIAA vs Fidelity

    Engaging with the financial markets presents an opportunity to build wealth over time. However, selecting the right online broker can be challenging, given the vast array of options available. In this comparative analysis, we’ll delve into the features of two well-regarded online brokers—TIAA and Fidelity—to better understand which might suit your financial goals.

    Remember, we don’t offer specific advice on which to choose, but we’ll present the facts to help you make a more informed decision.

    TIAA

    TIAA, celebrated for its extensive background in the financial services sector, provides various options, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and brokerage accounts, among others. In addition, they strive to assist you on your financial path by offering comprehensive financial planning tools.

    However, before we compare TIAA with Fidelity, let’s first explore the advantages and disadvantages associated with TIAA’s offerings.

    Pros
    • Robust Reputation: TIAA boasts a long history of delivering reliable financial services, establishing a solid standing in the industry.
    • Diverse Options: TIAA caters to various needs with various choices, including mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and more.
    • Comprehensive Planning Tools: With retirement calculators and educational resources, TIAA equips clients to plan their financial futures effectively.
    • Expert Guidance: TIAA’s skilled financial advisors offer valuable insights to help clients make informed decisions.
    • Competitive Fees: TIAA’s fee structure stands up well against other online brokers, making it an attractive option for many.
    • Exceptional Customer Support: TIAA excels in providing client assistance, featuring numerous resources and tools to manage accounts and make well-informed decisions.
    • Socially Responsible Choices: TIAA accommodates clients’ social and environmental values with ESG options.
    Cons
    • Limited International Options: TIAA primarily focuses on the U.S. markets, potentially restricting those seeking international exposure.
    • Restrained Mobile App: The TIAA mobile app offers less functionality than other online brokers, which may not suit on-the-go users.
    • Account Minimums: TIAA imposes minimum balance requirements for certain account types, which could be a deterrent for some clients.
    • Complex Fee Structure: Navigating TIAA’s fee structure might be challenging, particularly for those new to the financial services landscape.
    • Limited Research Resources: TIAA provides fewer research tools and insights than other online brokers, which may hinder clients seeking comprehensive market analysis.

    TIAA is a solid choice for individuals who are looking for a reputable online broker with a wide range of investment options and comprehensive financial planning tools. However, it may not be the best choice for individuals who are looking to invest in international markets or who prefer a more robust mobile app experience.


    Fidelity

    Fidelity Logo

    Fidelity, a renowned online broker with 70 years of experience, presents diverse options, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs), brokerage accounts, and more. It also offers competitive fees and an intuitive mobile app. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its share of pros and cons either. So let’s explore them a little deeper.

    Pros
    • Solid Reputation: Fidelity’s long-standing history in delivering dependable financial services has earned it a strong reputation in the industry.
    • Versatile Options: Fidelity’s wide array of choices, including mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and more, caters to individuals with varying financial goals.
    • Comprehensive Planning Tools: Offering resources such as retirement calculators and educational content, Fidelity helps clients effectively plan for their financial future.
    • Competitive Fees: Fidelity is recognized for its affordable fee structure, making it a cost-effective choice for many.
    • User-Friendly Mobile App: Fidelity’s mobile app is designed for convenience, offering a range of seamless on-the-go financial management features.
    • Exceptional Customer Support: Clients benefit from Fidelity’s robust customer support, which includes various resources and tools for managing accounts and making informed decisions.
    • International Options: For those interested in global markets, Fidelity provides an array of opportunities to explore international investments.
    Cons
    • Higher Minimum Balance: Fidelity’s higher minimum account balance requirements may pose accessibility challenges compared to other online brokers.
    • Limited Options for Non-US Residents: Fidelity’s offerings might be restrictive for non-US residents, potentially making it a less suitable choice for those living outside the United States.
    • Less Customizable Platform: Fidelity’s platform might lack the level of customization that some users prefer, particularly for experienced or tech-savvy clients.
    • Platform Learning Curve: New or less experienced users may find Fidelity’s platform somewhat challenging to navigate initially, potentially impacting user experience.

    Fidelity is suitable for individuals who are looking for an online broker with a reputation for being reputable and offers a wide range of investment options, low fees, and a comprehensive mobile app. However, it may not be the best choice for individuals with limited funds or who are living outside of the US.


    Features & Primary Uses

    TIAA, a Fortune 100 company, excels in providing retirement investment services for professionals in culture, medicine, research, and academia. As of Q4 2022, TIAA boasted an impressive clientele of over 15,000 institutional and 5 million consumer-based clients and managed $1.2 trillion in assets. In contrast, Fidelity manages approximately $10 trillion in assets under management and specializes in offering diverse investment products and services tailored to individual investors and institutions alike.

    Comparing and contrasting two different financial institutions’ features and primary uses is crucial to understand their offerings and value propositions better.

    Retirement Plans and Financial Guidance

    TIAA’s Retirement Saving Options

    TIAA’s core strength lies in offering employer-sponsored retirement plans for individuals in specific fields. Complementing these services, TIAA consultants provide valuable investment insights, assisting clients in navigating annuities and mutual funds amidst ever-changing market conditions.

    On the other side of the spectrum, Fidelity, a cost-effective brokerage firm, focuses on mutual and index funds. Fidelity’s services appeal to clients interested in active and passive index funds and those who prefer an active role in managing their portfolios.

    Fidelity's Retirement Saving Options
    Fidelity’s Retirement Saving Options

    Active Wealth Management and Advisory Services

    TIAA and Fidelity empower clients with research tools and robust online trading platforms.

    TIAA supplies resources, including Standard & Poor’s Equity Research, Morningstar Fund Screener, Dow Jones Business News, 100 real-time quotes, and unlimited delayed quotes.

    TIAA Wealth Management
    TIAA Wealth Management

    On the other hand, Fidelity thrives with its active wealth management approach, gaining praise for affordability and exceptional financial advisory services, online tools, and asset management offerings. Fidelity presents a vast selection of third-party experts and providers to cater to diverse investment strategies. Additionally, their stock and ETF screeners feature numerous filters. At the same time, the Stock Dashboard delivers extensive charting and Recognia-based technical events.  

    Fidelity Wealth Management
    Fidelity Wealth Management

    User Interfaces and Trading Platforms

    TIAA’s web-based online interface is designed with user-friendliness and intuitiveness, catering to individuals new to trading or those who prefer a simplified trading experience. In addition, this platform offers essential tools to facilitate smooth navigation and decision-making.

    On the other hand, Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro Platform comes equipped with more advanced features and comprehensive functionality, catering to individuals with trading experience who seek a dynamic platform for their investment activities.

    Both TIAA and Fidelity provide valuable options for different types of customers. TIAA’s platform emphasizes ease of use and accessibility. At the same time, Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro Platform provides advanced tools and resources for seasoned market enthusiasts. Each platform serves its intended audience effectively, addressing its unique trading preferences and requirements.

    A Comparison of TIAA-CREF and Fidelity in Retirement and IRA Accounts

    roth ira
    Roth IRA Explained – TIAA

    When considering retirement and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) options, TIAA and Fidelity are two prominent financial institutions that cater to different clientele. TIAA primarily serves nonprofit organization employees (tiaa.org) (tiaa.org) (tiaa.org), while Fidelity caters to a broader audience across various sectors.

    Both TIAA and Fidelity offer traditional and Roth IRAs and employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s (tiaa.org) (tiaa.org). By exploring their distinct offerings and services, you can make an informed decision that suits your financial needs.

    TIAA’s fixed annuity products (tiaa.org) (tiaa.org) (tiaa.org) are recognized for guaranteeing a predetermined rate of return, making them an attractive choice for retirement planning. One popular option, its TIAA IRA Annuity (tiaa.org), allows account holders to transform their IRA savings into a reliable, lifelong income stream.

    On the other hand, Fidelity boasts a more extensive selection of investment vehicles, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual stocks and bonds. This array of choices enables customers to diversify and customize their portfolios according to their preferences and risk tolerance.

    TIAA and Fidelity focusing specifically on their 403(b) plans

    A 403(b) plan is a retirement savings option similar to a 401(k) designed for employees of certain tax-exempt organizations, including schools and nonprofit entities. TIAA and Fidelity offer 403(b) plans featuring distinct options and services. 

    TIAA has a long history in the nonprofit and education sectors, focusing on annuity products and fixed-income investments. In contrast, Fidelity provides many low-cost investment options and a user-friendly platform. 

    Carefully reviewing the details of each plan available through your employer and considering factors like options, fees, and support can help you determine the best provider for your needs.

    1. Plan Options:

      TIAA: TIAA’s 403(b) plans primarily emphasize annuity products, fixed-income investments, and various mutual funds, including stock, bond, and target-date funds.

      Fidelity: Fidelity’s 403(b) plans offer a wide range of investment options, including stock, bond, and target-date mutual funds, as well as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and other securities. Fidelity has an extensive lineup of low-cost index funds and actively managed funds.
    2. Fees and Expenses:

      TIAA: TIAA’s 403(b) plan fees can differ depending on the specific investment products selected. Annuity products and certain mutual funds may have higher management fees and transaction fees compared to other options.

      Fidelity: Fidelity is renowned for offering low-cost 403(b) plans. Generally, index funds and ETFs have lower expense ratios than actively managed funds, which may have higher fees.
    3. Customer Service and Support:

      TIAA: TIAA has a long history of serving the nonprofit and education sectors and offers specialized support for these groups. They provide financial planning services, educational materials, and dedicated customer support for 403(b) plan participants.

      Fidelity: Similarly, Fidelity provides comprehensive customer service and support, including financial planning services, educational resources, and online tools to help participants manage their 403(b) accounts. They have an excellent reputation for quality customer service across their products and services.
    4. Platform and User Experience:

      TIAA: While TIAA’s online platform and mobile app for managing 403(b) accounts may come across as less intuitive or streamlined than some other providers, they still enable participants to access their account information, make transactions, and access resources.

      Fidelity: Known for its user-friendly platform and mobile app, Fidelity makes it easy for participants to manage their 403(b) accounts, make transactions, and access educational materials. They also offer advanced tools and resources for more experienced customers.

    In summary, TIAA and Fidelity both offer 403(b) plans with different investment options and services. TIAA has a long history of serving the nonprofit and education sectors and focuses on annuity products and fixed-income investments, while Fidelity provides a wide range of low-cost investment options and a user-friendly platform. To determine which provider is best suited for your needs, carefully review the details of each plan available through your employer and consider factors such as investment options, fees, and available support.

    Investment Options

    TIAA and Fidelity cater to different customer needs, with TIAA primarily focusing on retirement accounts and Fidelity on index funds. However, both offer a variety of financial vehicles.

    TIAA emphasizes retirement plans, IRAs, proprietary mutual funds, annuities, and typical brokerage services like bonds, stocks, funds, and ETFs. TIAA also provides regular banking, home loans, life insurance, and charitable giving options.

    Fidelity’s offerings include a broader range of asset classes, such as stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, options, international investments, and CDs. Their consistent equity trade rate, unlimited trades, and shares cater to a diverse clientele, with international trading and an active trading philosophy as notable strengths.

    Although TIAA’s highly-rated mutual funds and annuities boast employer support and quality, offering various risk levels and customization options with robust security, Fidelity’s competitively low rates and diverse asset class choices uphold its strong reputation.

    Investment Options
    Investment Options

    Fees

    Regarding fees and commissions, TIAA and Fidelity aim to keep costs competitive. Here, we will explore their respective fee structures, providing an easy-to-understand comparison.

    Fidelity Fees

    Fidelity offers numerous fee-free services, including:

    • Online U.S. equity trades
    • Online options trades ($0.65 per contract)
    • Buy-to-close orders of $0.65 or less
    • Online ETF trades

    Additionally, Fidelity charges:

    • An Option Regulatory Fee ($0.02-$0.04)
    • $1.00 per bond for secondary bond issues
    • A flat fee of $19.95 for U.S. Treasury auctions and secondary issues (representative-assisted)
    • $0 for Fidelity mutual funds
    • $0 on purchase and $49.95 on redemption (if held less than 60 days) for No Transaction Fee (NTF) non-Fidelity funds
    • $49.95 per purchase and $0 on redemption for Transaction Fee non-Fidelity funds

    To view their fees on the official website, go to This page.

    TIAA Fees

    TIAA offers the following fee structure:

    • No charge for online equity, ETFs, and options
    • $0.00 commission for NTF-eligible ETFs, regardless of order size or holding period
    • $35 for Automated Telephone System (ATS) transactions (plus $2 per contract for options)
    • $55 for Client Service Assistance (plus $2.50 per contract for options)

    For fixed-income securities, TIAA charges:

    • $50 per transaction for U.S. Treasury securities (new issues, primary, at auction)
    • $1 per $1,000 face amount ($50 minimum) for U.S. Treasury securities (existing issues, secondary, already trading)
    • $50 + $2 per bond for municipal bonds, government agency bonds, unlisted (over-the-counter, or OTC) corporate bonds, and mortgage-backed securities

    For mutual funds, TIAA charges:

    • No fees for systematic (automatic recurring or dollar-cost averaging) transactions (minimum transaction $100)
    • $50 minimum short-term redemption fee for shares held less than six months (waived for shares transferred from another brokerage firm or financial institution)

    Finally, some common miscellaneous fees include:

    • ACH return fee and NSF/return check delivery fee ($25)
    • IRA termination fee ($130)
    • Outgoing wired funds fee ($25, waived for accounts in an advisory program)
    • Overnight check delivery fee ($12)
    • Reorganizations—voluntary ($25)
    • Transfers—outgoing full account ($50 per transfer)

    You may want to contact TIAA-CREF directly for more information.

    Asset Allocation

    TIAA and Fidelity emphasize the importance of asset allocation and diversification to safeguard long-term finances. 

    Fidelity concentrates on diversifying portfolios by offering numerous asset allocation funds backed by research, granting traders considerable flexibility. Their approach involves macroeconomic, quantitative, and fundamental analyses to identify ideas for all portfolios and funds. Though auto-trading is part of Fidelity’s strategy, it operates on sound principles.

    On the other hand, TIAA features an Asset Allocation Evaluator tool that assists in identifying optimal methods for allocating investment savings across various asset classes.

    Customer Service: Quantity vs. Quality

    When considering customer service, TIAA offers limited phone support but is known for being responsive and helpful. In contrast, Fidelity provides a wider range of customer service options, including email, chat support, and a virtual assistant. However, their responsiveness may be slower than TIAA’s.

    Target Markets

    Occupation-Based Options

    When choosing between TIAA and Fidelity, your occupation can play a significant role. For instance, if you work in education, medical, research, or cultural fields, TIAA may be the more suitable option as it provides solutions that seamlessly cater to professionals in these sectors. 

    Active and Tech-Savvy Traders

    Fidelity is an excellent option for traders seeking a more aggressive and hands-on portfolio management approach. With low trading costs and a robust online platform, Fidelity enables active traders to navigate their assets efficiently. Furthermore, Fidelity focuses on technological solutions, such as apps, to accommodate tech-savvy traders’ preferences.

    Which Should You Pick? Who Is Each Good For?

    question marks

    When it comes to managing your financial future, choosing the right financial institution is crucial. TIAA and Fidelity are highly reputable companies that prioritize their clients’ financial goals. Furthermore, the SEC and FINRA regulate both companies, ensuring they are trustworthy and reliable.

    But how do you choose between the two? TIAA specializes in providing retirement solutions for academics, medical professionals, and government employees. On the other hand, Fidelity offers a user-friendly platform and a diverse range of services that cater to individuals, businesses, and institutions alike.

    Ultimately, the decision between TIAA and Fidelity comes down to your priorities. Are you looking for a company that offers socially responsible options catered to your profession? Or are you looking for a company that provides a user-friendly platform suited for active traders? 

    Whatever your preference, always remember to do your due diligence and work with whoever fits your needs and priorities best.

    FAQ

    What is the difference between Fidelity and TIAA?

    Fidelity and TIAA are both financial services companies but differ in their focus. Fidelity specializes in investments such as mutual funds, stocks, ETFs, and financial advice. In contrast, TIAA is a specialized retirement services company that offers retirement income products, annuities, and investments. While both companies provide services and products directed toward retirement savings and investment strategies, TIAA’s services focus more on retirement income.

    Can I move my TIAA to Fidelity?

    Yes, you can move your TIAA account to Fidelity through a “rollover.” A rollover involves transferring the funds from one account to another without incurring taxes. Therefore, it’s important to research any potential additional fees or transfer limitations associated with the rollover. To initiate a TIAA to Fidelity rollover, you will need to contact both TIAA and Fidelity. Then they will guide you through the process.

    Does TIAA have high fees?

    No, TIAA has low fees compared to other brokerages. The company’s average total expense ratio for actively managed and passive investment products is only 0.10%, below the industry average. However, it’s important to note that fees can vary depending on the specific products and services you choose, so it’s best to review all associated fees before making any decisions.

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