Do ETFs Have Fees? – Purpose of Management Fees on ETFs

ETFs (Exchange-traded Funds) are the financial instrument that monitors indexes and some securities and allows you to trade on the market, which has many similarities to stocks. However, while buying exchange-traded funds, you will be paying a management fee, and then the question comes, why do you need to pay this fee?

ETFs are levied with management fees because additional brokers’ expenses come with them, including staffing, funding, investment management costs, etc. This fee is deducted from the ETF earnings, meaning a high fee equals less profit transferred to you. This blog talks about the meaning of ETFs, the management fee, and all other aspects tied to this subject. Hence, it will enhance your investment knowledge and help to get more significant gains.

Do ETFs have fees?

Yes, ETFs have three types of fees: trade commissions, Operating expense ratio (OER), and bid-ask spread. Usually, most brokers offer no trade commission fee, up to 0.75% of expense ratio fee where bid/ask spread is from $0.01 to $0.3.

The expense ratio means that if you have $10,000 in an ETF with a 0.27% expense ratio, you pay about $27 per year in expenses.

How are ETF management fees collected?

ETFs management fees are collected daily and usually deducted every month from the fund assets, which are reflected in the daily price of the ETF. So, ETF investors will not pay management fees directly to the ETF manager.

Why pay the ETF management fee?

ETFs track or monitor other securities, sectors, and indexes. In addition, they can trace single or multiple assets like bonds or stocks.

ETFs are not very different from stocks. You can trade them on any exchange platform, and at any time of the operating hours, their prices fluctuate like stocks, based on the market forces. Every fund contains different securities, and hence the impact of price exists.

ETFs help diversify your portfolio and give more significant returns, with less investment fee than other investment securities. 

The management fee exists because you probably have a brokerage that manages your funds. Hence, this fee is charged for controlling your funds of an ETF, and that is how your broker garners money. This fee concludes everything that the brokerage incurs while handling your ETF investment. 

ETFs have lower fees as compared to actively traded mutual funds. This is because ETFs are not active, and their role is to monitor securities and their value. This passive nature hence explains the low fees.

Since an active fund needs more watchful eyes without many intervals, the overhead costs and fees are higher.

This fee changes based on the ETF and the securities that it comprises. International ETFs tend to be more expensive because research and employees from foreign countries back them.

Let’s learn how this management fee is calculated in the next section.

The calculation of ETF management fee 

The ETF management fee is calculated through the expense ratio. To do so, you need to divide the total cost of investment by real investment in assets, and it will usually result in 1/5th of the percentage of 1%.

The ETF expense ratios are lower than the mutual funds, at @% to 2.5%.

This ratio is recounted yearly. You can calculate it before buying an ETF. This expense ratio has a crucial role in determining your earnings too!

You can get the expense ratios on websites during your research for ETFs. You can compare and contrast this ratio for the different ETFs from various brokerages.

These management charges are also subject to compounding. Hence, if you retain an ETF for multiple years, you will be paying the fee for all those years when you sell your ETF. This leads to changing expense ratios every year. But, again, you can get an alert for them through your brokerage every year.

If you retain your ETF for multiple years and it has an expense or price ratio, you will be paying substantial management fees, even when the balance remains the same. That is due to the price percentage being higher now. 

If you are getting zero returns from your ETF or, unfortunately, negative returns, you will still pay a management fee. You should be aware of what fee you will be paying on your ETF because it certainly lowers your return.

The impact of management fees on the return

Any fee is subtracted from your returns when paid for your investment. High returns convert to high fees. However, ETF fees are low compared to active funds, and the passive nature saves money for you.

Net Asset Value is the value that you will be paid. As per Investopedia, NAV is known as the net value of anybody. Therefore, it would help to calculate the total liabilities from total assets.

In the case of ETFs, you can calculate NAV by subtracting the ETF’s price from the management fee. Management charges are also the same as the expense ratio. Hence, you can also figure it out by removing the ETF price from the expense ratio.

Let’s understand the scenario. Think that you have bought an ETF to hold for one year, and it has a 12% return. In that case, if the expense ratio is 1%, then your payout will be 11%.

If you have two expense ratios, one has a low expense ratio with a holding period for many years and another with a high expense ratio for one year. Your total payout will fall below the ETF with an elevated expense ratio. 

It would help if you also thought about the ETF price before buying. A high price means a high management fee. However, it could also translate to earning high potential.

The management fee is calculated annually; hence holding the same ETF for many years will lead to a high management fee. For instance, if you hold an ETF with a 1% expense ratio for five years, you will be paying 1% of your return all those years.

More about ETFs

ETFs are great for diversifying the portfolio. However, one cannot jump in without the proper knowledge of the risks and costs that come with it. You can buy David Schneider’s Index Funds and ETFs online to learn about it. It will provide you with the best trading styles and set investment goals. In addition, you will learn all the basic concepts of ETFs, ETF investment plans, and how to avoid potential risks. 


The cost of trading online in an ETF is the management fee. You have to pay it yearly, which will change based on the expense ratio, which compounds every year.

Different ETFs and brokers lead to additional fees. You should assess this fee before buying an ETF.  



Igor has been a trader since 2007. Currently, Igor works for several prop trading companies. He is an expert in financial niche, long-term trading, and weekly technical levels. The primary field of Igor's research is the application of machine learning in algorithmic trading. Education: Computer Engineering and Ph.D. in machine learning. Igor regularly publishes trading-related videos on the Fxigor Youtube channel. To contact Igor write on:

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