One can trade Vanguard's ETF with no fee for buying or selling. I have made several trades ( on the internet - no agent) over the last year for no fee. How do they make money ?

  • 1
    The ETF pays Vanguard for management. For Vanguard's VWO ETF, the expense ratio is 0.14%, which is small but not nothing.
    – zeta-band
    Aug 23, 2018 at 21:23
  • 1
    Was there a buy-sell spread?
    – Lawrence
    Aug 23, 2018 at 22:54
  • There is no buy/sell spread that I can see. I mean the sale commission, not the annual operating fee. Aug 24, 2018 at 15:09
  • @zeta-band and that's one of the more expensive Vanguard ETFs—many of the index funds are more like 0.04–0.07, and most of the sector ETFs are 0.1.
    – Kevin
    Aug 24, 2018 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


Vanguard is in an ETF price war with other brokers and they are all under pressure from brokers like Robinhood which offer free trading and are growing rapidly.

Vanguard is more of an asset manager and its profits from trading is far smaller than online brokers whose lion's share of profits come from trading commissions. By eliminating commissions on many ETFs, Vanguard is foregoing some commission revenue in exchange for stickier assets. “Sticky Money” is slang for investors that will stay around for the long-term.

Vanguard also offers traditional brokerage services, variable and fixed annuities, educational account services, financial planning, asset management, and trust services. Think of their 'no fee' ETF service as a loss leader aimed at attracting new clients and then offering them other services where they can make more money.

  • "loss leader" rest assured they sell the data and order flow, like everybody else.
    – CQM
    Aug 24, 2018 at 18:38
  • Yes, they sell order flow. They also earn a couple of million dollars in interest from loaning out securities. But that's peanuts compared to the big guys. Think of "loss leader" as foregoing a modest amount of commissions as compared to what they take in for many of their other much higher ticket services.. Aug 24, 2018 at 23:15
  • I guess i am a loser for them , I don't pay directly for any services except the online buy/sell commissions of $2. Aug 25, 2018 at 0:22
  • @blacksmith37: $2 commissions implies Voyager Select. That's quite a bit of money in Vanguard funds, on which you're paying a (low but non-zero) expense ratio.
    – Ben Voigt
    Aug 25, 2018 at 5:41

This site is temporarily in read-only mode and not accepting new answers.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .