Finance

M1 Finance Review: Pros and Cons

M1 Finance is a fee-free way to invest that lets you be as hands-on or hands-off as you want to be. The M1 Basic account is completely free (minus the typical fees associated with investing), but you can unlock even more potential out of M1 Plus, which is free for the first year and then $125 thereafter. Supported investment accounts include individual and joint taxable accounts, retirement accounts and event trust accounts.

Both M1 Basic and M1 Plus go beyond traditional investment accounts with cash management options like Borrow (loan) and Spend (checking) accounts that fit in nicely with the portfolio. M1 Plus members even have access to the special Owner’s Rewards Card by M1, with the annual fee waived.

In our M1 Finance review, we’ll start with a quick comparison of M1 Basic and M1 Plus, then dig into each of the components of an account: investing, retirement, checking, loans and the credit card.

Key Features

  • No annual fee
  • 1 ATM reimbursement per month
  • $100 minimum investment

The M1 Basic account through M1 has no monthly management fee and is great for beginners. If you aren’t sure that M1 is right for you long term, start with this account and upgrade to M1 Plus down the road if you’re satisfied.

M1 Finance Basic

Trading commissions

$0

Borrow rate

3.5%

Checking account APY

0%

Credit card

n/a

The no-frills M1 Basic account from M1 Finance boasts $0 trading commissions with an AM-only trading window. With M1 Basic, you can still open a checking account (Spend) and take out a personal loan. You just miss out on lower borrowing rates, checking account rewards and the rewards credit card.

The Borrow account comes with a 3.5% rate and requires a $5,000 minimum balance. The Spend account has a $0 minimum balance requirement, 0.8% to 1.0% international fees and one monthly ATM fee reimbursement.

If you just go with M1 Basic, this will serve you well as an investment account (the lack of fees is the big appeal), but you should seek out personal loans and a checking account elsewhere.

M1 Finance Plus

Best for Account Extras

Key Features

  • $125 annual fee
  • 4 ATM fee reimbursements per month
  • $100 minimum investment

The M1 Plus account through M1 may cost $125 a year (first year is free!), but the perks that come with the account are well worth the cost for those who will take advantage of them: cash back debit card, lower interest rate on personal loans, larger trade window and rewards credit card.

M1 Finance Plus

Trading commissions

$0

Borrow rate

2.0%

Checking account APY

1%

Credit card

Owner’s Rewards Card by M1

When you upgrade to the M1 Plus account, you’re getting far more than a basic investment platform; you’re getting a banking experience that rewards you for spending (plus more competitive borrowing options).

For starters, M1 Plus gets you AM and PM trade windows, rather than just AM. The minimum balance for the Borrow account is still $5,000, but the rate drops to 2%.

The Spend account is far more attractive with M1 Plus. For starters, you’ll get 1% APY on your checking, which is more competitive than most banks’ savings accounts. On top of that, you will pay no foreign transaction fees, get four monthly ATM fee reimbursements and can send paper checks from the M1 app. And did we mention 1% cash back on debit card purchases? With checking rewards this good and your own investment account, you could do away with a traditional savings account altogether.

M1 Plus members can also apply for the Owner’s Rewards Card by M1, a rewards credit card that incentivizes shopping with merchants that you’ve invested in. The $95 annual fee is automatically waived as long as you keep your M1 Plus account active. Cash back rewards range from 1.5% to 10% with a maximum reward value of $200 per month (or $2,400 per year). Those rewards are then automatically reinvested in eligible accounts.

Sign-Up Bonus

M1 Finance is currently running an enticing sign-up bonus. When you open a new M1 account and make a qualifying deposit within the first two weeks, you’ll get a bonus ranging from $30 to $500.

M1 Finance Bonus Breakdown

Deposit Amount Bonus Amount
$1,000 to $4,999.99 $30
$5,000 to $9,999.99 $75
$10,000 to $29,999.99 $150
$30,000 to $49,999.99 $300
$50,000+ $500

This promotion is running through the end of 2021. It is likely that M1 will run a similar promotion in 2022, but M1 has not released details on the bonus amounts for various deposits yet.

The bonus is only available to new M1 customers. If you have opened an M1 investment account previously, you are not eligible for the bonus payout.

M1 Finance Fees

The M1 Basic account has no annual fee while the M1 Plus account costs $125 a year (the first year is free). While other investment platforms often charge you commissions on trades, M1 Finance is truly fee-free.

However, you will pay fees for some less common tasks, like paper statements, account transfers and account inactivity. These are all very transparent on the M1 site, and it is not likely the typical customer would be paying these fees.

The full rundown on M1 fees.

M1 Finance App

As an online robo advisor, M1 Finance offers a great online platform that is relatively easy to use once you get used to it. Even more important, M1 offers a mobile app that is ideal for tech-savvy investors

Within the app, you can buy and sell individual stocks, mutual funds and ETFs; set up smart transfers (rules that automatically move money within your account); and manage your Borrow and Spend accounts.

At the time of publishing, the M1 mobile app had nearly 36,000 ratings on the Apple App Store with a star rating of 4.6. On Google Play, it has almost 17,000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating.

M1 Finance Customer Support

M1’s client success team is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on any day the U.S. stock market is open. The limited access to customer support agents can be difficult, especially for those accustomed to 24/7 customer service.

Because M1 is a robo advisor, you cannot contact financial advisors for investment advice or personal finance advice. If you need more tailored investment advice, consider a company with physical locations or real human advisors.

M1 Finance Review: Key Features

Below, we’ve spelled out the fine print of each part of an M1 Finance account. Look for Our Take at the end of each section for a quicker read.

M1 Invest

The M1 Invest platform includes automatic rebalancing of your accounts, which means the investment platform will automatically manage your investments (selling and buying various individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.) to keep your account proportioned how you want it (based on your risk tolerance, preferred asset allocation and investment goals). The auto rebalancing feature also includes tax loss harvesting.

While automatic rebalancing is a common feature among robo advisors like M1 Finance, the option for fractional shares is a little more unique and a hard sell. Fractional shares allow you to buy into part (i.e., a fraction) of stocks and ETFs (exchanged-traded funds) that might otherwise be too expensive for you to invest in.

The selling point of an Invest account with M1 is “The Pie.” This is M1’s solution for easy portfolio management. You can create custom pies via an interactive dashboard that lets you browse 6,000+ stocks and ETFs to truly customize your investment portfolio. But if you don’t have the time or knowledge to customize your portfolio, you can select from “Expert Pies” that the M1 Finance team has “baked.” With more than 80 curated Expert Pies, there is likely to be one or more that suits your investment strategy and risk tolerance.

Some examples of Expert Pie categories include:

  • General Investing
  • Plan for Retirement
  • Responsible Investing
  • Income Earners
  • Hedge Fund Followers
  • Industries & Sectors
  • Just Stocks & Bonds

Community Pies allow you to find and share portfolios that align with personal values. You can build and invest in pies that focus on publicly traded companies led by Black, female, or LGBTQ+ leaders.

You can make your portfolio as diverse as you’d like with M1, with access to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds and options. If most of this goes over your head, however, you will benefit from the Expert Pies already fresh out of the oven and served up for you.

Note: There is a $100 investment minimum for M1 Invest.

Our Take: For those who want hands-off investing through a robo advisor, rather than a real human financial advisor, M1 Finance is a great platform. And if you learn more about the market and want to play a more direct role in your investment strategy, the customizable Pies allow you to do so without needing to close your M1 account. If you simply want the investment aspect of M1 (and don’t care about the Spend, Borrow, or credit card portions), we recommend the free M1 Basic account.

M1 Retirement

The M1 Invest platform is designed for investing in the stock market for goals of any length, but you can also specifically open tax-advantaged accounts for your retirement. M1 has options for an IRA, a Roth IRA and even a SEP IRA.

These accounts share the same benefits of a traditional investment account with M1: access to Expert Pies, fractional shares and auto rebalancing. If you already have an IRA or 401(k) elsewhere and would like M1 to manage it, you can roll over your account.

Our Take: Try out M1 Invest first to make sure you are satisfied with the platform. If, after a few months, you find this robo advisor is the right match for you, roll over your retirement accounts to keep them under one roof. But if you are happy with how your retirement account portfolio is being managed elsewhere (and the fees are negligible), it’s perfectly fine, albeit a little more confusing, to have the accounts managed separately elsewhere.

M1 Borrow

M1 Finance is a portfolio line of credit, meaning it offers its customers a flexible line of credit that is borrowed against their own investments. Use it to start a business, fund a wedding or as a down payment on a house. There is no application involved and no payment schedule, and it takes just three clicks to borrow.

You can borrow up to 35% of your account value. Rates are 2% for M1 Plus members and 3.5% for M1 Basic members. This is an ideal scenario if you have high-interest loans, like student loans or credit card debt, that you would like to pay off; then you’d have a more manageable loan to pay off via M1.

This could also come in handy if you do not have the means to save toward an emergency savings fund. Instead, take out a low-interest personal loan through M1 Borrow to avoid high-interest medical debt or credit card payments.

Our Take: Never borrow unless you have to. Don’t take out a loan just to have some cash to play with. That said, if taking out an M1 Borrow loan can eliminate monthly payments on predatory loans, take advantage of this option.

M1 Spend

You can also utilize cash management account features via M1, which is a more recent addition to the platform. The M1 Spend account is ideal if you are an M1 Plus member because of the extra perks. We do not recommend the Spend account as a checking account alternative to those using M1 Basic.

M1 Plus customers with a Spend account will get the following cash management features:

  • 1% cash back on debit card purchases
  • 1% APY on your cash balance
  • Four ATM fee reimbursements each month
  • 0% foreign transaction fees

Other notable features of the Spend account (for both M1 Basic and M1 Plus) include early direct deposit access and a $0 account balance minimum. Both accounts come with the M1 Spend Visa Debit Card, but again, only M1 Plus members get the 1% cash back perk.

M1 Plus members can also set up smart transfers; if your cash balance in the Spend account hits a certain threshold, M1 will automatically transfer and invest it.

Because M1 is not a bank but a brokerage, it partners with Lincoln Savings Bank to service its checking account.

Our Take: This Spend account is much better than a lot of the high-interest checking accounts from other online banks. However, you do have to pay to get these perks. If the cash back and APY will more than cancel out the cost of the account, this is a must-have for M1 Plus members.

M1 Credit Card

The Owner’s Rewards Card by M1 is a standout feature of the M1 Plus account. You can earn cash back on purchases with brands that you’re invested in; the standard cash back is 1.5%, but select brands offer 2.5%, 5% or even 10% cash back.

Some of these popular brands include Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Spotify, Netflic, Peloton, Popeyes, Victoria’s Secret, Converse, Delta and Starbucks.

You can even choose to reinvest this cashback into your portfolio for continued growth.The credit card account comes with a contactless metal card with tap-to-pay.

Our Take: If you want a rewards credit card and plan to invest with M1, this should absolutely be on the top of your list. Even if you have another rewards credit card, the 10% cash back on select merchants is too good to pass up. Since the fee is waived for M1 Plus members, you could even open this credit card and only use it when you’ll get the 10% cash back if you have another rewards credit card to utilize in other scenarios.

M1 Finance Pros and Cons

If our M1 Finance review has not given you a clear decision on whether to invest quite yet, check out these pros and cons of M1 Finance.


Pros

  • Automatic rebalancing for preferred asset allocation
  • Fractional shares
  • Hands-off investing for beginners
  • More customization for advanced investors
  • Cash back debit and credit cards
  • High-interest checking account
  • Low-rate loans


Cons

  • No savings account
  • No checking account perks for M1 Basic account
  • $125 fee for the M1 Plus account
  • No access to human financial advisors

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About M1 Finance

Still have some questions about M1? Here’s what other readers like yourself are asking — and the answers to those questions:

Is M1 Finance Trustworthy?

M1 is a trustworthy automated investment platform. M1 is a registered broker/dealer with FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and a member of SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation).

In addition, your funds in the Spend account are insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).

What are the Cons of M1 Finance?

M1 Finance’s pros far outweigh the cons; however, we have determined a few downsides to M1:

1. There is no savings account.
2. There are no checking account perks for an M1 Basic account.
3. To unlock the checking account perks, you must pay the $125 fee for the M1 Plus account.
4. There is no access to human financial advisors.

Is M1 Finance Good for Beginners?

Because of the Expert Pies that allow users to choose among investment portfolios curated for their specific needs, M1 Finance is great for beginners. Even better, the M1 Basic account is free and has no commission fees.

Is M1 Finance Really Free?

M1 Finance is a free automated investing platform. The M1 Basic account is free, and there are no commissions on trades. However, the M1 Plus account is $125 a year, though the first year is free.

If you plan to take advantage of the M1 Borrow loan, the perks of the M1 Spend checking account and/or the cash back from the M1 credit card, paying $125 a year for an M1 Plus account makes a lot of sense.

M1 Finance is a brokerage account, but it also operates a digital bank account with cash management account features like a checking account. The checking account is interest bearing if you pay for an M1 Plus account. However, you cannot open a savings account with M1, nor can you apply for auto loans or home loans. In that sense, it does not operate like a traditional bank account.

Does M1 Finance Offer Tax Loss Harvesting?

Yes, M1 offers tax loss harvesting. Tax efficiencies are built into the M1 robo advisor platform.

Timothy Moore covers bank accounts for The Penny Hoarder from his home base in Cincinnati. He has worked in editing and graphic design for a marketing agency, a global research firm and a major print publication. He covers a variety of other topics, including insurance, taxes, retirement and budgeting and has worked in the field since 2012.

Investing in securities involves risks, including the risk of loss. M1 Finance LLC is an SEC registered broker-dealer. Member FINRA/SIPC.

Borrow rate may vary. Borrowing involves additional risks, including the risk to lose more than deposited. Not available for retirement, custodial, or trust accounts.




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