A self-directed IRA is a type of tax-advantaged retirement account recognized by the IRS. It allows users to set up an account through a custodian service to trade, allowing investors to make decisions on their own with little to no support from professional advisors. Self-directed IRA companies provide numerous investment vehicles and resources to support the trading process.
The best self-directed IRA companies provide a seamless process, competitive fees, and ample customer support to make trading easier. They also allow for various investment options, audit support, and online access for most decision making.
Best Self-Directed IRA Companies of 2021
Best Overall : Equity Trust
Equity Trust's extensive experience and no transaction fees make it a solid option. The high-quality customer service, along with access to stocks, bonds, and ETFs, and long history, makes the company an overall good choice.
No transaction fees
Excellent customer service
Good access to investment options
Some lack of control
Some fees are high
Equity Trust has much to offer, including a long history of operating as an SDIRA provider. The organization allows for the creation of customized portfolios that allow people to invest in both alternative and traditional assets, including EFTs, stocks, REITs, precious metals, and bonds. The company also states it works to reduce or eliminate taxes on investments through its strategies.
In terms of costs, there are no transaction fees with Equity Trust, which can prove beneficial to those who engage in numerous transactions. With a price point of $500, an account set up fee of $50, and an annual service fee of $75, however, costs do rise compared to some other providers.
There's much to like about the customer service. While it's necessary to manage transactions through account specialists (there's no checkbook control), the overall customer service team is stellar, providing support for every step of the process, no matter if the investor is new to the industry or more advanced. The company works to educate users through several educational tools on its site as well.
Best for Audit Protection : IRA Financial
IRA Financial is an excellent tool for audit support but also provides three self-directed options for users, moderate fees, and good support from experts.
Several account styles
More control for experienced investors
Limited investment options
IRA Financial is a flexible solution for those looking for an investment method right for their current situation (SDIRA, Solo 401k, and ROBS options available). Key in their offerings is audit protection, which means there's always support should anyone investigate your investment strategies.
While it doesn’t offer as many investment vehicle options, IRA Financial's accounts do provide checkbook control and custodian-controlled structures, allowing users to choose what's right for their needs. For those who want more control over investments, this can be a big factor. You can also choose alternative investment options such as cryptocurrency and real estate.
The process for opening an account is fully online with less hands-on customer support than some other providers. The cost is $999 for IRA Financial, which includes the account setup fee. There's also a $300 annual service fee. The flat-fee structure allows for a few benefits, including no minimum investment requirements or hidden fees.
Best Investor Experience : Rocket Dollar
For those seeking one of the best self-directed IRA companies for overall user experience, Rocket Dollar is a good choice for its automatic setup and easy-to-use online tools.
Solid online experience and customer service
Competitively low fees
Checkbook control provided
No limits on investment methods
Young, unproven company
Higher account setup cost
Rocket Dollar is a modern company offering exceptional tools to make creating and managing a self-directed IRA easy to do. That includes providing a seamless experience in setting up the account online, good customer service that's readily accessible, and ongoing support online and over the phone. It also makes transfers, rollovers, and other contribution methods very accessible.
Many may be impressed with the fee structure for Rocket Dollar. There are two plan options, starting at $15 per month with a $350 one-time setup fee. There's no minimum opening deposit requirement and no cost for cash transfers from current custodians. Users can get expedited service and transfers, four free wire transfers per year, and priority service if using the Gold plan, which is $30 per month.
While the company is young, established in 2019, it's designed to be web-based with simple-to-use tools enabling anyone that wants to set up an account to do so in under 15 minutes. Rocket Dollar also doesn't have a list of pre-selected investments, allowing users to invest in anything the IRS allows instead.
Best for Real Estate Investing : uDirect IRA
For those interested in real estate investment, uDirect IRA is an excellent choice, especially for those looking to diversify across various investment vehicles. Top customer service and competitive pricing are also benefits.
Good real estate focus
Good customer service
Investors have ample control
Cumbersome account management
Setup process can take time
When it comes to IRA custodians, uDirect IRA offers excellent options for those who wish to invest in real estate investments while also offering stock, mutual fund, and bond investments. It allows for trust deeds, private placements, and notes, along with other alternative investment strategies. With this account, users have checkbook access, giving them ample control overall.
Overall, costs are competitive with a $325 price tag, $50 account setup fee, and a $275 annual service fee. That cost provides access to some support services, including help with account setup and overall support through an online support system or over the phone.
While uDirect IRA’s website is functional and a good option for those with some experience, it may be somewhat cumbersome for those wanting a modern, easy-to-navigate system. Customer service online is good, especially with the wide range of online educational materials. The other downfall is the setup process, which requires sending in physical forms (most SDIRA custodians don't require this).
Best for Self-Directed Investments : Ally
Ally is a competitive choice for its overall versatility and low costs. There's no minimum for self-directed investment trading and access to a 24/7 market.
Users pay $0 commissions
Self-directed trading that's easy to use
No account minimum to get started
Less hands-on support
Fewer investment vehicles
Ally is a solid company for self-directed trading for its overall easy-to-use tools, constant connectivity to the market, and zero commissions and low fees. In terms of those commissions (which is one of the most attractive features it offers), users trade commission-free using the Ally Invest Self-Directed Trading tools. There's no commission on stocks, ETFs, and options. Pricing for bonds is $1 per bond. Users can buy and sell no-load mutual funds for $9.95 per trade. Stocks are priced at $4.95 per transaction plus $.01 per share.
Looking beyond the cost, Ally is easy to use and intuitive. The company offers intelligent tools designed to give users information on everything from watchlists, streaming market conditions, and much more. That includes eight chart types to help analyze investments. For those who are engaging in true self-directed investments, having this information on hand is critical.
Ally has no minimum requirements to get started but also offers less help. Customers may also find fewer overall investment options if they are looking for alternative methods.
Read the full Ally review.
Best Online Experience : Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab, a noted long-term investment provider, offers a versatile, easy-to-use website that enables users to have ample access to their accounts.
Large, established company
Easy-to-use online access
No foreign transaction fees
Fees can be confusing
Fewer alternative investments
Charles Schwab is one of the largest brokers and custodians in the U.S. Its online experience is streamlined and efficient, providing everything investors need at their fingertips, including trading tools and platforms to fit most needs. The company’s StreetSmart Edge platform also allows users to customize their trading platform and customers can connect to their accounts using the app.
Charles Schwab also doesn’t require customers to pay foreign transaction fees and offers low-cost products, including offshore mutual funds, futures, and bonds, along with standard U.S. investments.
Charles Schwab’s fees are competitive depending on how you trade. There is no online equity trade commission to pay. Options trading cost $.65 per contract. Online EFT commissions are also no commission. Costs range for more financial support.
Read the full Charles Schwab review.
Best for Ease of Use : Alto IRA
Alto IRA is a new company built to be user-friendly. It also offers a good user experience with intuitive technology and a simple online setup.
Easy to use for most
Lots of tech to support users
Fees depend on service
Fewer investment strategies
Although Alto IRA is a young company established in 2018, it has plenty to offer investors, including one of the easiest-to-use online experiences. It takes only a few minutes to set up the system online. Once you’re set up, you can navigate through a range of resources and make trades quickly.
One reason Alto IRA is so easy to use is the technology it offers. This intuitive system allows users to have access to charts and insights to make trading easier to do. This format provides users with a seamless system to invest as they desire.
Alto IRA provides numerous investment vehicle options, including venture capital, private equities, cryptocurrency, real estate, and traditional methods. Perhaps what's most notable (though sometimes confusing) is the fee structure. The company charges no commission and an account setup fee of $10 to $50 depending on the type of account. There's also a $500 fee for checkbook access and a service fee of $25 per month.
Equity Trust offers some of the most versatile tools and online access for those looking for self-directed IRA companies. Solid customer service and versatile investment strategies make it a good option for most users who want alternative and traditional investments.
Compare the Best Self-Directed IRA Companies
|Company||Fees||Checkbook Control||Years in Business||Ease of Use|
|Equity Trust Best Overall||$500 to start, $75 per year, $50 set up||No||47||Easy|
|IRA Financial Best for Audit Protection||$999 to start, $300 per year||Yes||12||Easy|
|Rocket Dollar Best Investor Experience||$360 set up, $15 per month||Yes||2||Easy|
|uDirect IRA Best for Real Estate Investing||$325 to start, $50 set up, $275 per year||Yes||5||Moderate|
|Ally Best for Self-Directed Investments||$75 to close account||Yes||102||Easy|
|Charles Schwab Best Online Experience||$0.65-$49.95 per transaction||Yes||50||Easy|
|Alto IRA Best for Ease of Use||$10-$50 per transaction, $25 per month, $500 checkbook fee||Yes||39||Easy|
How to Choose the Best Self-Directed IRA Companies
The best self-directed IRA companies provide easy-to-use tools that include educational materials or charts and interactive resources to support investors. Some allow users to control transactions more so than others, but the best companies do this on a competitive pricing scale.
Self-directed IRA companies also offer a range of investment styles and options while making the deposit of funds easy to manage, including when a rollover exists. This, along with a proven track record, can help in making a decision.
Self-Directed IRA vs. Solo 401k
A Solo 401k is an IRS-approved, tax-advantaged retirement plan that is often used by business owners who may not have employees. In comparison to a self-directed IRA, there's less overall hands-on trading done by the account holder. Rather, most Solo 401k accounts are managed by investment managers and advisors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Should Get a Self-Directed IRA?
A self-directed IRA may be best suited for those who want to do their own trading. For that reason, it's best suited for people with some understanding of investments and strategy-building concepts. It may also be beneficial for those who want access to alternative investments beyond stocks and bonds, such as real estate, cryptocurrency, and precious metals.
How Does a Self-Directed IRA Work?
After establishing an account with a custodian, users deposit funds into their account. Then, they can choose which types of investment vehicles they want to use, such as stocks, bonds, ETFs, or mutual funds. Some companies also provide access to live market trading tools, charts, and resources to help in the making of investment decisions. Users may pay for these services based on the transactions they perform, or through commissions or flat fees.
How Much Does It Cost to Set Up a Self-Directed IRA?
Some companies do not charge a commission but have higher service and setup fees. Most of the time, the account set-up fee will range from $0 up to $360. Keep in mind there may be additional costs including service fees and transfer costs which can range from a few cents up to several dollars.
Can I Buy Real Estate With My IRA?
It is possible to invest in real estate using a self-directed IRA. This often requires payment in cash with all ownership expenses paid through the IRA. This is a much more complex transaction than other investment strategies. It's only possible to purchase investment property through this type of transaction. You cannot live in the home and neither can family members.
After looking at 18 companies offering self-directed IRAs, we compiled this list based on costs, ease of use, type of investment options, and overall support from customer service. In addition, we considered the access to educational tools and commission structure.