Free Morningstar Premium Mutual Fund Reports via Public Library Card

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Updated 2019. Let’s say you are a DIY investor and doing some research on some mutual funds. You decide to learn more about the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund. You pull up the Morningstar quote pages (ticker VWITX and VWIUX) and find some useful numbers, plus an analyst report hidden to the public as a “premium” feature.

You see a 14-day free trial and after some more clicking around, you discover that a premium membership to Morningstar costs $199 a year or $24 a month.


Now, I’d like to read the rest of that analyst report, but I’m not sure if it is worth the fee. Well, you may already have access to those analyst reports through your payment of local and state taxes. Yup, the good ole’ public library!

Many public libraries have a subscription to what is called the Morningstar Investment Research Center database. Most offer instant, online access via your library card number and PIN. You should look under the “Databases” or “Resources” section. Some only have a limited amount of offsite licenses, so you’ll have to either ask for a password or you’ll have to read them in a branch. Here’s a screenshot of my free report accessed from the comfort of my home, with all the good stuff blurred out of course:

I was also able to access their analyst reports for stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs, as well as the premium version of tools like Portfolio X-Ray.

Now, if your local library system doesn’t provide this access, you can also look at state libraries, university libraries, or other libraries in the region for which you are eligible. Finally, there are some public libraries that offer library cards to non-residents for an annual fee. For example, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina offers library cards by mail for $45 a year (Seniors 62+, $35 a year).

Non-residents of Mecklenburg County can obtain a Charlotte Mecklenburg Library card for an annual fee of $45.00. This amount is approximately equal to the annual property tax a Mecklenburg County resident pays to support the Library. A non-resident library card entitles you to the full services of the Library at all locations.

According to their website, they also offer access to the Morningstar database. $45 a year is still significantly less than $199 a year, and there are other library benefits like access to Libby/Overdrive eBooks and RB Digital magazines. However, I would call them to confirm before you plunk down $45 as the services they offer can change at any time.

That is just one example. Here are some more libraries with non-resident borrowing privileges, although I haven’t checked again in 2019 as to whether they offer M* access.

Bottom line. If you want to access reports and information from the Morningstar Premium section, check your local and state libraries to see if you can access it for free with your library card. Some public libraries also offer library cards to non-residents for an annual fee. However, if you are signing up for a specific service like Morningstar, I would call them up first and confirm that they are still offering it for non-resident cardholders before you pay any fees.

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  1. Jonathan – what a wonderful tip! This works flawlessly through my library account (City of San Francisco). Your site rocks – thanks, and have a nice weekend.

  2. Neat trick. I wonder how many of these random librariries will have an influx of out-of-town members. 😀

  3. Thanks! Great tip. Related to this, check out Zinio for Libraries. Free access to hundreds of online versions of magazines with your library card.

  4. wow, it really works; thanks for the tip; what a treasure trove of
    data I can access now for free;
    I really love my local library; so much resources they have from
    audio/ebooks to movies and books; I always donate to them
    every year;

  5. I check out with my local library which is free to go to. Johnson County Library in Kansas. You will get the access for free.

  6. this is gold! you are a genius

  7. Did you find anything useful or actionable in the Morningstar report? I haven’t ever tried to read their premium reports, but I can’t think of what they would offer to the index fund investor.

    • Yes, I think the reports can provide some useful insights. I agree that there won’t be very much for index-centric investors, but it’s not always possible to be an index-only investor. Many low-cost bond funds are actually actively-managed, like Vanguard’s TIPS funds, most of their muni bond funds, some Treasury funds, high-yield funds, and so on. Here, is it important to understand their historical philosophy and methodology.

      • Can you give any specific examples of how they helped you choose one fund over another? (Maybe this is a new blog post topic?)

        • For me, it’s mostly about expanding my knowledge base of what I own when I buy shares of any mutual fund. Municipal bond funds vary widely. Some are very conservative, others take on additional risk in an attempt to get higher yields, for example Puerto Rico bonds.

  8. This was a great suggestion! I found that my local library (Portland, Oregon) does offer this free access to Morningstar, and when I poked around a little further, I
    discovered it gives me online access to ValueLine and S&P research as well! Since my brokerage has really cut back on research access, this is a big help. Thanks!

  9. Jonathan, thank you for the suggestion. However, like Adam I haven’t found it to be much useful. Yes they give a good advice, but it’s not actionable.

    And Cory, yes ValueLine can also be there, but it had lost its usefulness about 10 yrs ago. As a student at a grad school, our call managed an investment portfolio of live 100k in college funds. Every memebr of our team wanted to get an access to ValueLine, but the subscription at that time allowed only 1 to have full access. Then, the school invited/hired a fund manager from Morgan Stanley. When he came onboard, he laughed at that site. He said that none of the fund money managers rely on ValueLine and began producing in-depth analytical reports generated by top analysts from inside Morgan Stanley.

    I tell you, it’s like night and day, the inside reports revealed which world regions are expected to produce marketable growth and which sectors. That was a well know insider fact 10 yrs ago, analysts reports vs ValueLine.

  10. I meant our class managed live portfolio.

  11. Thank you for the good tip!

  12. Had been using this feature including Full Analysis report for 5 years using Denver Public library, but they removed this feature in last couple months.

  13. Thanks for the suggestion, works with some library systems! Libraries generally seem underutilized for online research purposes, it seems many people, once they graduate college, forget (or aren’t even aware to begin with?) that not just university libraries offer access to research databases and other resources, and falsely assume such resources are no longer accessible to them due to high cost of individual membership. Thankfully that just isn’t the case, and the US libraries bridge the access gap. It’s our tax dollars at work that fund the libraries and pay for these institutional subscriptions, so might as well use the benefits.

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