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How to Connect an Account

Learn how to connect your accounts and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Articles by Betterment Editors
By the Editorial Staff Betterment Resource Center Published Sep. 01, 2018 | Updated May. 05, 2021
Published Sep. 01, 2018 | Updated May. 05, 2021
10 min read

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Getting Started

External Portfolios

Troubleshooting


Connecting your accounts lets you see your holistic financial picture, and allows us to give you better advice.

Instantly connecting a financial account creates a secure, read-only connection with your firm through our data partner, Plaid. Most accounts are eligible for instant, electronic connection through Plaid, although not all are available at this time. As an alternative, you can always manually track any account.

How do I connect an external account so that I get holistic savings and retirement advice?

Log in to your Betterment account. Scroll to the bottom of your home page and underneath the section “Other connected accounts”, click on the “Connect accounts” button. You will then be able to choose the institution where your account is located and instantly connect by providing your login credentials.

How can I also see my spouse’s Betterment account balances?

If your spouse also has a Betterment account, you’ll each have a separate login that uses your own email address. If you want to see your spouse’s account balances, you will need to connect your spouse’s Betterment account as an instantly connected account by using an app password. In order to do this, you’ll need their consent and participation, as they will need to provide their login information.

Using an App Password: Please note, connecting another Betterment account to your own will require an App Password. These can be generated within the account that you are trying to connect when logged in from a web browser and navigating to Settings > Security.

In order to connect another individual’s account, you will first need to have that individual login to their account and generate an app password. You will then log into your own account and use that individual’s Betterment-associated email address and the app password generated in their account to connect their account to yours.)

Connecting your spouse’s Betterment account will allow you to see their balances, but will not allow you to take any actions on the account such as depositing and withdrawing.

What do I do with my manually connected accounts after I instantly connect those same accounts?

You’ll want to delete any duplicate accounts that were previously linked manually. Navigate to Connected Accounts and select “Edit” to the right of each manual account. Simply click “Delete this account” to remove it from Betterment.

Is it safe to connect my external accounts?

Keeping your data protected and secure is our top priority. This includes the strongest available browser encryption, secure servers, and identity verification services, among other precautions.

For more details, please review the Security & Privacy Promise section of our site.

When I connect an external account, does Betterment store my username and password?

No. Betterment does not store your credentials. Our trusted partner for account aggregation protects the credentials using bank-level encryption both when transmitted and when stored.

Can I delete or hide a connected external account from my Betterment profile?

After you’ve connected accounts from other institutions to Betterment, you may have reason to remove them. Perhaps you’d like to filter out an account from your personal net worth, or maybe you’re done using a certain account and you’d like to remove the information altogether.

You have the option to either remove some or all connected accounts from an external institution or simply hide a specific account from Betterment.

To delete a connected institution:

To delete a connected institution:

  1. Log in to your Betterment account
  2. Select your name at the top right and click “Settings”
  3. Select the tab called “Connected accounts”
  4. Locate the institution you would like to delete
  5. Select “Delete” on the far right from the institution’s name
    • You may also choose to “hide” individual accounts within an institution so that they are not factored into your net worth or goal balance. To do so, click “Edit” on the far right from the individual account, then “Hide” under visibility.

When you delete a connected account, that move cannot be undone, but you can always reconnect the account(s) again.

If the connected account was also set as your bank account for funding purposes, deleting the connected account will sever the instant electronic connection and create a manual connection to your bank account instead. This means you won’t be able to use certain features that depend on the instant connection, like cash analysis or Two-Way Sweep.

Hiding a Connected Account

You can hide a specific account to prevent it from showing up on your Betterment overview or being included in your total net worth. Hiding an account can be done from “Connected Accounts” by clicking “Edit” next to the specific account you wish to hide.

What are the assumptions for external portfolio analysis?

These assumptions apply to the analysis of external portfolios only.

Our projections for external portfolio analysis purposes are based on an assumed 7% annual return on all non-cash investments over a 30-year period. We assume a 0% return on cash or cash equivalents like Money Market funds.

Your external portfolio projection of non-cash investments is net of fund-level fees (provided by Xignite per fund) and advisory fees (or plan management expenses, if applicable) at the account level. You can add or update advisory fees or plan management expenses within Settings. For employer plans, such as 401(k)s, the plan management expense defaults to 0.6%, which includes record-keeping and other plan-level management expenses.  Other account types default to 0.0% advisory fees, so you should add these if you pay them for the most accurate advice.

Betterment portfolio projection comparisons are based on the Digital Plan fee of 0.25% and fund-level fees of 0.12%. Your actual performance, which depends on your stock/bond allocation, your own Betterment fee tier, Betterment ETF expenses, and investment horizon, will likely be different.

Our analysis assumes that your advisory fees and fund fees will remain constant through time.  This analysis is limited to the impact of your fees and idle cash and does not incorporate other aspects of your investment choices, including your asset allocation or tax efficiency.

Analysis of external accounts is provided outside the scope of Betterment LLC’s role as a fiduciary to your 401(k) plan.

What should I know about my externally connected portfolio allocation?

For each externally connected portfolio, the “Holdings” pie chart displays how much exposure each portfolio has in each of the 5 major asset classes (US Stocks, US Bonds, International Stocks, International Bonds, Cash) as well as “Other”. For diversified mutual funds or ETFs that may contain multiple asset classes (e.g. a target date fund), the allocation looks “through” the fund, meaning it splits up the fund by the relevant asset classes to give a more precise visualization of the actual holdings.

For example, a target date fund like VFFVX, the Vanguard Target Retirement 2055 Fund, has allocations to stocks, bonds, and cash, even though it is most heavily weighted towards US stocks. Unlike some other allocation tools, we display VFFVX’s allocation to each of the given asset classes rather than assigning 100% of VFFVX’s allocation to one single asset class like US stocks or a fund type like “Target date fund”.

Knowing your portfolio’s true allocation can help you better understand the risks you are taking and make decisions about the allocations in other accounts.

Is this allocation data real time?

Your balance in each account and fund is updated daily.  However, the underlying allocation data is only published by mutual funds on a quarterly basis, so your current portfolio allocation is only an approximation of the current actual allocation.

Is current portfolio allocation used to determine the fee level of a fund?

Our fee assessment of a fund uses the overall fund type (E.g. US Total Market Stock Funds, International Bond Funds or Commodity Funds) and not the asset classes within the fund.  While the overall fund type is related to the underlying allocation, the actual fund expense ratios are set per fund and not per asset class within the fund.

How do you determine whether my external accounts have high, medium, or low fees?

Understanding and managing the fees in your external accounts is very important because they can directly and significantly impact your long-term overall wealth. Here’s why.

Our fee calculation covers two kinds of fees—the expense ratio of funds, and the advisory fee that might be paid to manage those funds. We determine the expense ratio for mutual funds and ETFs based on the ticker you hold and our external data source of fund expenses. The advisory fee can be optionally entered by clicking “Settings” from the menu and then “Connected Accounts”. There, you’ll see an option to “Edit” each connected account. You may also pay one-time load fees on mutual funds (at purchase or sale), or commissions on trades, but our calculation doesn’t consider these since these were typically already paid.

Advisory fees are considered high if greater than 0.5% for most accounts. Employer plans like 401(k)s may have additional fees due to record-keeping and plan administration costs, so for employer plans, advisory fees are considered high if greater than 0.6%.

Funds are considered to have high fees if their expense ratio is not in the lowest 10% of fund expense ratios compared to funds with similar geographic exposure. To calculate the high fee threshold, we look across the universe of investable ETFs and mutual funds in the US with at least $100 million in assets. We group funds with mostly U.S. holdings together and funds with mostly international holdings together. We then identify the 10th percentile expense ratio for each of these groups. If a fund cannot be categorized by geographic holdings, we use the 10% percentile expense ratio across all funds.

High fee thresholds:

  • Funds that contain over 90% U.S. market exposure: 0.30%
  • Funds that contain over 90% international market exposure: 0.42%
  • Funds that do not fall into either of the two above categories: 0.35%

If fund fees, as a percentage of the account balance, are less than or equal to 0.25%, fees are considered low. If fees are between 0.25 and 0.5% they are considered moderate.  Above 0.5% is considered high.

If either your advisory fees or fund fees are high, your “Total Fees per Year” will be shown as “high” on your External Accounts page.

Why am I not seeing all of the accounts in my login?

You may need to log into multiple portals under the same institution in order to make sure all of your accounts at that institution are visible, even though you use only one login to view all accounts outside of Betterment. Try typing in your firm name in the search field to review all of the potential accounts that come up. You should connect all relevant accounts, especially if you have multiple account types (e.g. a mortgage loan and a 401(k) may require you to log in through multiple portals).

Why am I having trouble logging into my connected accounts at Betterment?

When connecting an account you may receive an error. If this occurs, try:

  1. If you are using a password manager, try disabling it before logging in.  Password managers or even your browser’s autofill can sometimes add extraneous spaces to the beginning or end of your username or password, or auto-fill incorrect passwords. Please manually type in these fields.
  2. Make sure the URL matches. Search by the firm name in the search field and then compare the URL to the URL you use to log directly into your account. There can be multiple possible matches when you are attempting to connect an institution. Alternatively, you can also search for the exact URL where you normally log in to view your accounts.
  3. Verify you can log in directly on the external institution’s website with those credentials. You may be password locked in your external account, so you may be blocked from logging in until this issue is resolved.

Why is the balance not updating on my accounts on a regular basis? Can I manually update the accounts?

Your instantly connected accounts generally update every business day. If you don’t see regular updates, you may need to navigate to “Connected accounts” and review your next steps to fix any connection issues.

What is OAuth and why am I being redirected to my bank’s website to authenticate my account?

Some of our nation’s largest financial institutions are switching to a new connection service called OAuth. If your bank uses OAuth, you will take the same steps described above to instantly connect your institution to your Betterment account. From there, our data partner, Plaid, will redirect you to your bank’s website or mobile app where you can log in directly to your bank, select which accounts to share, and then finally be redirected back into your Betterment account to finish connecting. The biggest take away is that the connection to your bank is faster and sign-ins should be easier.

If your bank makes the switch to OAuth, we’ll notify you within your Betterment account. Within Settings > Connected Accounts, you’ll see a notification prompting you to reconnect your institution. This will require you to go through the steps outlined above to re-authenticate your account and ensure we can access the data we need to support your Betterment experience.

When you complete OAuth for your bank, you explicitly choose which accounts to share. If you aren’t seeing a particular bank account on your Connected Accounts screen, please visit your bank’s website to adjust those settings.

I’m having trouble instantly connecting an account—what should I do?

While most customers find the instant connection process frictionless, there are instances where additional troubleshooting is required. In most cases, the connection can be fixed by you, without additional support needed from our side. For this reason, we suggest taking the following actions first:

  1. Open a second browser window and test your external account username and password credentials by logging into your current now. If the login is successful, proceed.
  2. Take note of the URL you see when you are on your firm’s login page.
  3. Switch back to your Betterment account and from “Home“, select the “Connect accounts” button.
  4. Begin typing the name of your current firm into the search bar. (Even if you see your firm listed in one of the pre-populated circles.) You will see a list of possible firms populate in a drop-down window.
  5. Review the listed options and select the specific firm option that has a URL that most closely matches the one you see when you go to your current firm’s login page.
    • Tip: if you didn’t follow steps 1 and 2, actually go to your firm’s login page now to confirm.
  6. Follow the in-app prompts to finalize the instant connection.

Note: It can take up to 24 hours for some institution’s data to fully pull through, so if the connection is not immediately successful, it’s worth it to wait to contact us.

If after 24 hours the connection is still not successful, please send an email to support@betterment.comwith completed answers to the following questions. We must have complete answers to the three questions below to proceed.

1) What is the login URL you usually use to access your current  account information?

    • This helps ensure we are targeting the correct brokerage.

2) What types of account(s) are you looking to connect?

    • For example:  401(k) or other employer-sponsored account, IRA (Roth or traditional), standard taxable brokerage account, or banking (checking/savings/mortgage).

3) Upon login, do you usually answer security question or need to send a PIN to your phone/email?

Still not working? Need our help?

If you cannot get the portfolio to connect or can’t find the institution or account you are looking for, we would be happy to help get this resolved. Please send us an email to support@betterment.com.

In this email please include the following:

  1. The exact URL you use to log into your account outside of Betterment
  2. The type of account you are attempting to connect (is it an annuity, retirement, brokerage, IRA or a different type of account?)
  3. Any screenshots of the error message within your Betterment account or the institution directly. For your security, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, email address, or account numbers in these screenshots.
  4. Please do not delete your connected account. While the account is connected, our team can investigate further as to what may be wrong.

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