M1 Finance Review: Is It the Best Investing App?
M1 Finance is an investing app that offers self-directed trading and a robo-advisor. It lets you invest in over 6,200 stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or pick from a selection of expert portfolios, called “pies”. Learn if it’s a good fit for you.
SustainFi Updated December 12th, 2021
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Rating: Excellent (4.5 / 5)
- Customizable portfolios let you invest in over 6,200 ETFs or stocks plus 80 expert portfolios
- Socially responsible investing “pies”
- No management fee or trading fees
- A checking account that pays up to 1% APY
- Attractive borrow rates on margin loans
- Fractional shares
- No mutual funds, options or crypto
- You are limited to 1-2 daily trading windows
- Inactivity fee for accounts with less than $20 and no trades over 90 days
- No goal-setting or budgeting tools
- No human financial advisors
- No tax-loss harvesting
|SustainFi Rating:||4.5 / 5|
|Socially responsible options||Yes|
|Account types||• Individual and joint investment accounts
• Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs
• 401(k) rollovers
• Custodial accounts (M1 Plus)
|Best for||• Customized portfolios for self-directed investors
• No management fee
What is M1 Finance?
M1 Finance is an investment platform that’s more than just a brokerage account: it’s an online broker and robo-advisor hybrid. The app lets you build customizable portfolios (called “pies.”) With the pie portfolio model, you can add a stock or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) as a piece of the pie. And you choose what percentage to invest in each asset.
If you don’t want to “bake” your own pies, M1 Finance comes with over 80 premade options. The app even offers two socially responsible pies. In addition, M1 Finance offers fractional shares and lets you borrow to invest.
Despite its flexibility, M1 Finance is a platform for investing, not for day trading. For example, you can only buy and sell during the daily trading window (two windows for M1 Plus members.) To make sure that your order is executed that day, you need to make any changes before 8 am. M1 Plus members get to trade again, in the afternoon. If you are interested in trading more frequently, check out Public, a social investing app.
Brian Barnes started Chicago-based M1 Finance in 2015. His startup has recently surpassed $4.5 billion in assets under management, raising over $300 million from investors like Softbank.
M1 Finance is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
M1 Finance signup process
It’s easy to sign up. There is no risk assessment questionnaire, and you can start building pies once you’ve linked your bank account using Plaid.
M1 Finance account types
M1 Finance supports:
- Individual and joint taxable investment accounts
- Traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs
- Trust accounts
- Custodial accounts (UTMA/UGMA accounts for kids
Custodial accounts are for M1 Plus members only. You can also roll over your 401(k).
🔔 Learn more about opening an IRA with M1 Finance.
What can you invest in?
M1 Finance’s pie portfolio model allows you to easily add a stock or ETF as a piece of your pie. You can choose from over 6,200 stocks and funds, and the number is growing. You choose what percentage to invest in each asset.
M1 Finance doesn’t have options, mutual funds, or crypto.
M1 Finance asks you to deposit $100 into your account to start building pies. The minimum goes up to $500 for IRAs.
Unlike most robo-advisors, M1 Finance doesn’t charge a management fee. M1 Finance makes money on lines of credit and optional extras like Plus memberships.
However, accounts with less than $20 and no trading activity for over 90 days are charged a $20 maintenance fee.
Note that if you buy ETFs through M1 Finance, you have to pay the ETF’s expense ratio, for example, 0.10% a year ($10 on a $10,000 investment.) The money is subtracted from the fund’s return, and it goes to the fund manager, not to M1 Finance.
M1 Plus memberships
Plus memberships cost $125 per year and offer access to various perks like an extra trading window and discounted interest rates if you borrow through M1 Finance. Plus accounts also let you set up Smart Transfers, a service that sweeps excess cash into your investing account. As a Plus member, you also earn interest and get cash back on your M1 Spend account.
Here is the list of the perks:
- A second daily trading window
- Smart transfers
- Custodial accounts
- 2% borrow rate on margin loans (vs. 3.5% for non-members)
- Earn 1% APY on your checking account (none for non-members)
- 4 monthly ATM reimbursements
- Earn 1% cash back
- Send paper checks
M1 Spend is a free savings account that comes with a Visa debit card. M1 Plus members get 1% APY on their money and 1% cash back on qualifying purchases. The account is FDIC-insured for up to $250,000. M1 Plus members get reimbursed for up to four ATM transactions each month and for international fees.
🔔 Read the M1 Spend review.
M1 Owner’s Rewards Card
The Owner’s Rewards card lets you earn 2.5% – 10% cash back when you shop with some of the big brands in your portfolio, including Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks. You can reinvest your rewards in your portfolio.
🔔 Read the M1 Owner’s Rewards Card review.
M1 Finance gives margin loans to customers with over $5,000 in their investment account. The platform charges 3.5% interest (2% for M1 Plus members), and you can borrow up to 35% of the value of your account.
🔔 Read the review of M1 Borrow.
Smart Transfers is a service that lets you transfer any money above the specified amount that’s in your Spend account into the Invest account. You can use Smart Transfers to max out your IRA account, pay off your M1 Borrow loan, and then invest. It’s available to M1 Plus members only.
M1 Finance will automatically adjust your holdings if the portfolio strays from the predetermined asset allocation when you add or remove money from your account.
You can also make M1 Finance rebalance your pies whenever you want by clicking the rebalance button on the dashboard. Unless you make new trades, M1 Finance won’t rebalance your portfolio without authorization from you.
M1 Finance doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting, a tax minimization strategy that involves selling loss-making investments to reduce your tax bill. If you have over $100,000 to invest and are interested in advanced tax-loss harvesting capabilities, consider Personal Capital.
M1 Finance lets you add individual stocks and fractional shares to your pies.
Fractional shares allow you to buy a piece of a share if buying the entire thing is more than you would like to spend. For example, one share of Tesla (TSLA) stock costs $1,000, but if you only want to spend $100, you can buy 1/10 of that share. Buying fractions of shares limits how much cash is sitting in your account unspent.
Socially Responsible Investing with M1 Finance
The app offers two socially responsible “pies,” the Responsible Investing and the International Responsible Investing Pies. These pies invest your money in funds with better environmental, social, and governance ratings.
The International Responsible Investing Pie includes seven Nuveen ETFs. International “slices,” split between developed and emerging market ETFs, are 30% of the pie. The remainder is made up of large, mid, and small-cap U.S. stock ETFs.
The Responsible Investing Pie has the same U.S. stock ETFs as the International Responsible Investing Pie. It doesn’t include any international ETFs. The pie splits the portfolio into five “slices,” including large-cap growth and value stocks, mid-cap growth and value stocks, and small-cap stocks.
This is what the dashboard looks like for the Responsible Investing Pie:
Is M1 Finance safe?
M1 Finance is a broker-dealer that is registered with and overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In addition, cash in your checking account is FDIC-insured for up to $250,000, and your investments have SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 (including up to $250,000 in cash.) Note that SIPC protects you only if your broker goes out of business, not from the consequences of bad investment decisions.
- M1 Finance is a great investing option if you are a self-directed investor who is looking to invest for the future, not day trade
- If you need more guidance on asset allocation and need help saving, we suggest using a robo-advisor for beginners like Acorns
- If you are looking to trade actively every day, check out Public
🔔 Want to compare more options? Check out this list of the top 10 investing apps.
- M1 Finance vs. Acorns
- M1 Finance vs. Wealthfront
- M1 Finance vs. Fidelity
- M1 Finance vs. Betterment
- M1 Finance vs. Robinhood
- M1 Finance vs. Public
- M1 Finance vs. Webull
- M1 Finance vs. Vanguard
NOT INVESTMENT ADVICE. The content is for informational purposes only; you should not construe any such information as investment advice.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is M1 Finance trustworthy?
M1 Finance is an SEC-registered broker dealer. In addition, you have insurance from FDIC and SIPC.
Is M1 Finance good for day trading?
No, M1 Finance targets investors, not day traders. M1 Finance has one daily trading window (two for M1 Plus members), so it tries to discourage people from trading throughout the day.
Does M1 Finance do DRIP?
No, M1 Finance doesn’t automatically reinvest your dividends. But you can enable Auto-Invest which will automatically invest cash sitting in your account.