Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

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DTalos
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Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by DTalos »

Have read lots of anecdotal reports of declining customer service quality at Vanguard over the past year on this message board and I have my own anecdotal experiences with Vanguard's poor quality customer service as well. Long wait times, reps that don't call back and representatives that don't seem to have a lot of knowledgeable experience in the field. I feel like I am calling a call center full of rookies. I want my account beneficiaries to have a smooth experience receiving my accounts in the future.

I don't need financial advice or planning. I just need a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling. Since many brokerage firms are competitive on trading and annual fees these days, I'm assuming there aren't significant differences between them in that regard. I don't care about Vanguard specific mutual funds.

What I do want is competent, knowledgeable, customer service representatives, perhaps even one that's assigned to you and not a random one each time you call that returns calls and emails. What firm will I find this at? Fidelity and E-Trade are two alternative competitors to Vanguard that come to mind.

How many clients does a competent, knowledgable, dedicated representative usually have? A dedicated representative is meaningless if they have 10,000 clients to service.
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

DTalos wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:28 pm I don't need financial advice or planning. I just need a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling. Since many brokerage firms are competitive on trading and annual fees these days, I'm assuming there aren't significant differences between them in that regard. I don't care about Vanguard specific mutual funds.

What I do want is competent, knowledgeable, customer service representatives, perhaps even one that's assigned to you and not a random one each time you call that returns calls and emails. What firm will I find this at? Fidelity and E-Trade are two alternative competitors to Vanguard that come to mind.

How many clients does a competent, knowledgable, dedicated representative usually have? A dedicated representative is meaningless if they have 10,000 clients to service.
do you even need customer service if all you say you need is:
a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling
It's "Stay" the course, not Stray the Course. Buy and Hold works. You should really try it sometime. get a plan: www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investment_policy_statement
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beyou
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by beyou »

I had a dedicated “Flagship” rep but rarely spoke to him, and they changed every couple of years. They removed the dedicated rep for most Flagship clients but they do put more experienced staff on large accounts. Lookup and see if you qualify for Flagship service.

That said, I have a small acct at Etrade and the service is excellent.
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DTalos
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by DTalos »

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:31 pm
DTalos wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:28 pm I don't need financial advice or planning. I just need a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling. Since many brokerage firms are competitive on trading and annual fees these days, I'm assuming there aren't significant differences between them in that regard. I don't care about Vanguard specific mutual funds.

What I do want is competent, knowledgeable, customer service representatives, perhaps even one that's assigned to you and not a random one each time you call that returns calls and emails. What firm will I find this at? Fidelity and E-Trade are two alternative competitors to Vanguard that come to mind.

How many clients does a competent, knowledgable, dedicated representative usually have? A dedicated representative is meaningless if they have 10,000 clients to service.
do you even need customer service if all you say you need is:
a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling
Yes, I sometimes need assistance on in-kind account transfers and general account questions. I don't want my heirs to receive low quality customer service when it comes time for them to inherit my accounts. I also don't want them to have to undergo a top secret clearance and hassle to receive the accounts either.
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Cheez-It Guy
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by Cheez-It Guy »

Tim Buckley here!

So, you've created this additional thread on Bogleheads.org in order to. . . read more anecdotal reports?
shess
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by shess »

beyou wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:34 pm I had a dedicated “Flagship” rep but rarely spoke to him, and they changed every couple of years. They removed the dedicated rep for most Flagship clients but they do put more experienced staff on large accounts. Lookup and see if you qualify for Flagship service.
This actually kind of bummed me out on Vanguard, a little. Most of the Flagship perks these days aren't all that interesting - $0 trades and no account service fees? Whatever. The $5M+ "Flagship Select" services have more stuff, but it all starts to sound suspiciously like a standard full-service brokerage come-on. Maybe this is just a sign of the times, where everyone else has caught up on most of the practical pricing issues, so now it's all "advisors and specialists and relationship teams" woo-woo.

Whereas at least with the dedicated rep, we'd touch base maybe once every year or two, and I do know that there were a couple times I dialed in with a question where I was willing to ask the dedicated rep, but probably wouldn't have bothered to waste my time calling into a phone pool.
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Nate79
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by Nate79 »

Experience with Etrade, Schwab and Vanguard. Both Etrade and Schwab have excellent customer service easily available to you.
UpperNwGuy
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by UpperNwGuy »

What does a customer service representative do for you? I've never consulted one. I buy and sell online, and I get my advice from the bogleheads forum. I have accounts at Vanguard, Fidelity, and Schwab, and all three have left me alone, for which I am grateful.

Full disclosure: I have very simple investments, but that's by design.
brad.clarkston
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by brad.clarkston »

I have a fairly complicated Fidelity account (401k/ira/roth/term life/2 company ESSP's/savings) and a 3 port Vanguard account.

If your just going to hold a 3 port account with little to no interaction Vanguard is the way to go. I would turn it into a single target or balanced fund before you die as there customer service isn't all that timely or easy to deal with unless your very up on there products.

Fidelity has hands down the best of the big brokerages customer service. They make money off of it unlike Vanguard. It can be a bit complex with more products in the account but any decent sized city will have a Fidelity office or two that's actually been helpful the couple of times I've needed it.

Etrade and Schwab would be distant third place in my personal ranking. The rest, no thanks.
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FiveK
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by FiveK »

Some direct customer service interactions with Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard. E.g., updating cost basis on "pre-covered" shares transferred in; converting old paper certificate to electronic holding; processing inheritance of beneficiary shares.

All were handled well - no complaints about any of the above.
student
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by student »

I think once you talk to a person, they are all good. However, having 24/7 customer service is important to me. So I place Vanguard third among the three on your list.
SxSW
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by SxSW »

UpperNwGuy wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:45 pm What does a customer service representative do for you?
In my experience, they make mistakes processing my roll-ins and then give me the wrong information when I call to fix it.
usagi
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by usagi »

My view:

I have no experience with Etrade.

Some of the firms I have experience with are:

Fidelity
Vanguard
Schwab
Scottrade (now TDAmeritrade)
TDAmeritrade
FirstTrade
MorganStanley

among others.

Schwab and Fidelity are standouts for customer service and are first tier firms. The have a network of local offices that can be very handy in the event you want to bring in your team of professionals to review estate plans, tax planning etc, need a notary, or simply to attend education sessions. Both offer bank life services that are painless to utilize.

TDAmeritrade and Morgan Stanley I would now put in the second tier as they do not offer the breadth of services that Schwab and Fidelity do. I place FirstTrade in the third tier, great for do it youselfers and with excellent virtual education classes. I would place Vanguard not in the fourth tier, not in the fifth tier, but in the sixth or seventh tier; in my estimation they are that bad.

My opinion, based on my personal experiences.
Cyanide123
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by Cyanide123 »

DTalos wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:28 pm Have read lots of anecdotal reports of declining customer service quality at Vanguard over the past year on this message board and I have my own anecdotal experiences with Vanguard's poor quality customer service as well. Long wait times, reps that don't call back and representatives that don't seem to have a lot of knowledgeable experience in the field. I feel like I am calling a call center full of rookies. I want my account beneficiaries to have a smooth experience receiving my accounts in the future.

I don't need financial advice or planning. I just need a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling. Since many brokerage firms are competitive on trading and annual fees these days, I'm assuming there aren't significant differences between them in that regard. I don't care about Vanguard specific mutual funds.

What I do want is competent, knowledgeable, customer service representatives, perhaps even one that's assigned to you and not a random one each time you call that returns calls and emails. What firm will I find this at? Fidelity and E-Trade are two alternative competitors to Vanguard that come to mind.

How many clients does a competent, knowledgable, dedicated representative usually have? A dedicated representative is meaningless if they have 10,000 clients to service.
My solo 401k is with etrade. Extremely impressed with their customer service. They are very knowledgeable, and their customer service hours are reasonable. Wait times are bad if you call the regular customer service number, but their retirement line has a different number and they've always been really good.
bondsr4me
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by bondsr4me »

For customer service and website, Fidelity and Schwab are top notch IMHO.
When I have an occasional question, both have real-time chat which I really prefer to a phone system.
Either one would be a very good choice when compared to Vanguard.
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by galawdawg »

Put Fidelity, Schwab and E*TRADE to the test. Come up with a list of your questions about in-kind transfers, transaction fees on the funds you currently hold, and anything else you want to know. Call them up when it is convenient for YOU and see how long the wait time is, how helpful the representative is and how accurate and informative their answers.

I moved to E*TRADE after thirty years at Vanguard. Same great Vanguard mutual funds, no transaction fees, and much, much better service.

viewtopic.php?t=291658
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arcticpineapplecorp.
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

DTalos wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:12 pm
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:31 pm
DTalos wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:28 pm I don't need financial advice or planning. I just need a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling. Since many brokerage firms are competitive on trading and annual fees these days, I'm assuming there aren't significant differences between them in that regard. I don't care about Vanguard specific mutual funds.

What I do want is competent, knowledgeable, customer service representatives, perhaps even one that's assigned to you and not a random one each time you call that returns calls and emails. What firm will I find this at? Fidelity and E-Trade are two alternative competitors to Vanguard that come to mind.

How many clients does a competent, knowledgable, dedicated representative usually have? A dedicated representative is meaningless if they have 10,000 clients to service.
do you even need customer service if all you say you need is:
a place to park my money and do occasional rebalancing and selling
Yes, I sometimes need assistance on in-kind account transfers and general account questions. I don't want my heirs to receive low quality customer service when it comes time for them to inherit my accounts. I also don't want them to have to undergo a top secret clearance and hassle to receive the accounts either.
got it.

presumably your heirs will have to provide your death certificate to establish your death no matter what institution and verify they're the beneficiaries on the accounts.
It's "Stay" the course, not Stray the Course. Buy and Hold works. You should really try it sometime. get a plan: www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investment_policy_statement
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

My experience:

Fidelity: I have a "Private Client Manager" and NEVER talk to him. When I call in, the front line people are excellent and have answered my questions. I've called for the first time I rolled an external 401k into a rollover IRA online just to be sure my understanding was correct (it was). This was a 3am Sunday morning call, by the way. I also had another rollover we were doing for DW. The "from" company had a 19 page document that was ultra confusing, likely to keep people from leaving them. We stopped at a Fidelity brick and mortar place between my father in law's house and ours. They filled in the form, notarized it, just in case, gave us an addressed envelope to send it to the correct address and assured us that everything was now ready to go. Indeed, the funds transferred without further issue. I also had a year where we ended up in the phase out for Roth contributions. I worked with Fidelity over the phone to correct this. They did the calculations, refunded me the correct amount and sent the forms to inform the IRS and pay the taxes on gains.

Schwab: I "referred" DW so we both collected something (I think $50) for a new account. Because of the "know your customer" requirements, they needed an ID verification. The easiest way for DW was to go to the local Schwab office with her passport. They did the ID and also were knowledgeable enough to ask if we would like our accounts linked so each of us could see both accounts. We did want that and it was done. Like above, Schwab was the other account with an overage in Roth contributions and again, over the phone, it was done, later calculated, refund check sent and taxes calculated.

eTrade: Never had to call or do anything with customer service. While the website is somewhat clunky, I'm able to find things with some looking.

Vanguard: When opening the account, I was assigned a concierge rep. He did not have a phone extension and when calling, there was no way to contact him. Eventually, Vanguard sent me a huge stack of paper to fill out and get notarized. I sent these in and 2 weeks later, they sent me a new stack of paper with a note that they forgot to send these the first time. I filled these out, notarized them and sent them in. A month later, the account was transferred. Years later, I decided I wanted to change my mutual fund into an ETF. I called to ask to do this. Because I read on Bogleheads that this is easily done at Vanguard because of their patent and no sale/buy was needed, I asked that it get converted. Vanguard's rep insisted that this was impossible and that I had to sell, let the sale settle, then buy the ETF. The sent 2 separate documents backing up their assertion. I then asked on Bogleheads and was given the hints on finding the double secret "correct answers" phone number at Vanguard. I called that number from inside the cone of silence and was told that yes, they could convert with no sale or purchase or time out of the market. The made the changeover. I let that settle, then moved the ETF out to TDAmeritrade, not needing any double secret telephone numbers or given any absolute proof of incorrect answers.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid
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DTalos
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by DTalos »

galawdawg wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:03 am Put Fidelity, Schwab and E*TRADE to the test. Come up with a list of your questions about in-kind transfers, transaction fees on the funds you currently hold, and anything else you want to know. Call them up when it is convenient for YOU and see how long the wait time is, how helpful the representative is and how accurate and informative their answers.

I moved to E*TRADE after thirty years at Vanguard. Same great Vanguard mutual funds, no transaction fees, and much, much better service.

viewtopic.php?t=291658

Thank you for the link to your comprehensive post. When you call Vanguard, the automatic system immediately recognizes the phone number you are calling from and then asks for the last 4 digits of your SSN. The rep, then further authenticates you. I don't know one can test other companies on their customer service if they have similar procedures if you don't have an account with them and if you have to immediately provide details.
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by galawdawg »

DTalos wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 4:14 pm
galawdawg wrote: Wed Sep 16, 2020 6:03 am Put Fidelity, Schwab and E*TRADE to the test. Come up with a list of your questions about in-kind transfers, transaction fees on the funds you currently hold, and anything else you want to know. Call them up when it is convenient for YOU and see how long the wait time is, how helpful the representative is and how accurate and informative their answers.

I moved to E*TRADE after thirty years at Vanguard. Same great Vanguard mutual funds, no transaction fees, and much, much better service.

viewtopic.php?t=291658

Thank you for the link to your comprehensive post. When you call Vanguard, the automatic system immediately recognizes the phone number you are calling from and then asks for the last 4 digits of your SSN. The rep, then further authenticates you. I don't know one can test other companies on their customer service if they have similar procedures if you don't have an account with them and if you have to immediately provide details.
Give it a try! You may find yourself surprised (or not) at the responsiveness (or lack thereof) of each of those competing brokerages to your inquiries.
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by abuss368 »

We were with eTrade years ago and did not have issues. I have never had issues with Vanguard in the rare event I contact client services.

I have no experience with Fidelity.
John C. Bogle: “Simplicity is the master key to financial success."
rich126
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by rich126 »

It sounds like you are more concerned with the future than now, if that is true, I don't think there is a correct answer. Between now and whenever an heir would need help, things can change greatly. Over the last few years two of my brokerages have been bought out. Customer service can go up or down.

Right now Fidelity seems solid. I have TD Ameritrade and haven't had any issues but it is rare I need to call.

If you think your heirs will need anything involved, I think the better, although not cheaper, path would be to establish a relationship with a local financial person or attorney to walk them through what they need to do. Even then things can go wrong. I had a nice attorney (and I rarely combine those words) but unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly so I had to try and find someone else.
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DTalos
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Re: Vanguard vs Fidelity vs E-Trade..etc Customer Service

Post by DTalos »

rich126 wrote: Thu Sep 17, 2020 11:51 am It sounds like you are more concerned with the future than now, if that is true, I don't think there is a correct answer. Between now and whenever an heir would need help, things can change greatly. Over the last few years two of my brokerages have been bought out. Customer service can go up or down.

Right now Fidelity seems solid. I have TD Ameritrade and haven't had any issues but it is rare I need to call.

If you think your heirs will need anything involved, I think the better, although not cheaper, path would be to establish a relationship with a local financial person or attorney to walk them through what they need to do. Even then things can go wrong. I had a nice attorney (and I rarely combine those words) but unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly so I had to try and find someone else.

Well yes, I am concerned about the future and I like to stay with a company for many years, whether it be a brokerage or a credit card. It's a hassle switching cards, brokerage firms, etc., so with a brokerage company, I'd like to find one with hopefully long-term consistency in good customer service.
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