Airlines and hotels assign elite status to their customers based on how much business the customers do with them. They give you Platinum, Gold, Diamond, Executive, and other nice-sounding names. You get small incentives to make you feel special, such as priority boarding, late checkout, two bottles of water, and sometimes free upgrades.
Vanguard and Fidelity do the same. What difference do these service tiers really make?
$50,000 invested in Vanguard funds and ETFs at Vanguard gets you the Voyager status. It qualifies you for the optional Personal Advisor Service — you pay 0.3% to have your accounts managed and your questions answered by a human advisor.
It’s a good milestone to hit if you want the Personal Advisor Service. Otherwise the Voyager status doesn’t do much. You get a different customer service phone number. Trading commission on Vanguard mutual funds and all stocks and ETFs is zero for everyone anyway.
You get the Voyager Select status when you have $500,000 invested in Vanguard funds and ETFs. The highlight now is that you get another different customer service phone number, which supposedly puts you in touch with more experienced and maybe less busy customer service reps.
At $1 million in Vanguard funds and ETFs, you get the Flagship status. You get access to a team of representatives for customer service.
Don’t mistake the Flagship rep for an advisor. The Flagship rep is still in the customer service role. Make sure you only ask the right type of questions. See The Right And Wrong Types of Questions For Customer Service.
If you are interested in actively managed funds, with Flagship status you can invest in closed funds that aren’t available to other customers. The notable closed funds are PRIMECAP, PRIMECAP Core, and Capital Opportunity funds, all of which are managed by PRIMECAP Management Company. All beat the market by a good margin, which is why they are closed. If these funds continue to beat the market on a risk-adjusted basis, being able to invest in them could be worth it. Of course that’s a big if.
It takes $5 million in Vanguard funds and ETFs to become Flagship Select. You get more attention from Vanguard. You can have personal consultations with Vanguard experts.
You pay a lower service fee if you enroll in the Vanguard Personal Advisor Service. You can invest in the Institutional share class of some Vanguard funds with a slightly lower expense ratio.
Now we turn to Fidelity. When you have $250,000 at Fidelity, you get Premium Services status. Unlike Vanguard, all assets count, not just Fidelity funds.
You get a separate phone number for a group of more experienced and maybe less busy reps. If you get a debit card for your account, you can request to get the ATM fees reimbursed.
With $1 million at Fidelity, you get Private Client status. Now you get an assigned rep and maybe free TurboTax. It’s a “maybe” for free TurboTax because Fidelity doesn’t officially say what makes you qualify for it. Some clients get it; some don’t.
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