What Are Mutual Fund Class D Shares?

Learn the Definition and Basics of Class D Mutual Funds

An egg carton filled with golden eggs representing the concept of mutual funds.

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When you see the capital letter 'D' at the end of the mutual fund's name, it means you are looking at the D share class of mutual funds. But if you're like most investors, you may not know exactly how D shares can be beneficial or if you should consider other share classes of mutual funds. In this article, you'll learn what you need to know about D share mutual funds:

Mutual Fund Class D Share Definition

Class D mutual funds can be similar to no-load funds in that they are a mutual fund share class that was created as an alternative to the traditional and more common A share, B share, and C share funds that are either front-load, back-load, or level-load, respectively.

For example, one of the most widely held D share mutual funds is PIMCO Real Return D. Compared to PIMCO Real Return A, PIMCO Real Return B, and PIMCO Real Return C, the D share class is the only one with no load and it has the lowest net expense ratio.

Should You Buy Mutual Fund Class D Shares?

As in the case of the PIMCO fund above, D shares can be a smart way for investors to buy mutual funds without paying the load expense. A mutual fund load is a fee charged for the purchase or sale of a mutual fund. Loads charged upon purchase of fund shares are called front-end loads and loads charged upon the sale of a mutual fund are called back-end loads or a contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC).

The purpose of loads is to compensate an investment advisor for providing investment advice. Therefore the only time paying a load can make sense is if you are using an investment advisor. So if you are a do-it-yourself investor, you should always try to avoid paying a load.

Most funds that are A share, B share, or C share class are sold through a broker. Some mutual fund companies created the D share class of funds to accommodate the demand for no-load versions of the more popular funds.

Advantages of Buying Mutual Funds Without Loads

In most cases, no-load funds have lower average expense ratios than load funds and lower expenses generally translate into higher returns. This is because the expenses to manage the mutual fund portfolio come directly out of the gross returns of the fund.

Also keep in mind that D share funds are not the same as load-waived funds, which are those that are usually A share funds where the front load is waived. Load-waived funds will have an "LW" at the end of the fund name.

Finally, mutual fund purists may not recognize a D share fund as a true no-load fund, which does not have any share class letter or descriptor at the end of the fund name, but D shares normally do not charge any load.

The Balance does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.