Vanguard Customer Service Complaints

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Vanguard is based right outside of Philadelphia, so the Philadelphia Inquirer often provides helpful insights on the company. Their new article Vanguard clients take to social media over customer service mishaps (possible paywall?) provides a good overview of the ongoing customer service concerns at Vanguard. I guess I am not alone.

“If I’m calling, it’s because I really need someone,” said Blumenkrantz, a 68-year-old retiree of the Internal Revenue Service. He needed help finding the correct amount for a required minimum distribution from an IRA. After posting on Vanguard’s Facebook account, “I got a boilerplate response directing me to the same phone number I’ve been unsuccessfully using.”

Loyal Vanguard clients, such as Blumenkrantz, are coming out publicly — in interviews, on social media, and in letters to the company — saying they’re fed up with what they see as declining customer service.

As a decades-long customer myself, it’s not just that Vanguard is growing fast because they have a suddenly popular product that they just can’t keep up. That might be understandable. What is annoying is that they are consciously spending even more money on advertising, questionable marketing arrangements, and annoying pop-up ads when I log into my account to grow even faster, while obviously not spending the same amount on hiring enough skilled staff.

It’s like they keep cramming more people on the bus, while yelling “Hey everyone! Get on the bus!”, while not making the bus any bigger.

via GIPHY

Internally, Vanguard customer service reps say that they’re overwhelmed.

“I never thought I’d have to tell a client looking to transfer $1 million to call back because of call volumes,” said one person currently working at Vanguard. “The only way to fix the issue is by mass hiring.”

The Inquirer article also included some results from JD Power’s customer satisfaction surveys, showing that Vanguard phone support was a weak point relative to Fidelity and Schwab.

I would love to be able to recommend Vanguard without any reservations. Right now, I can only recommend buying their ETFs from a commission broker where you are comfortable. Using their favored nautical terms: I feel the Vanguard ship is headed in the wrong direction. I am still hopeful that Vanguard will steer the ship back on course.

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Comments

  1. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that Vanguard is doing this on purpose. They probably just aren’t able to fill these customer service jobs right now. Labor is an issue in most industries right now.

  2. I have been with Vanguard for about 5 years. Initially, it has been better, but now even the supervisors do NOT respond back. I’ve had to vary large issues with Vanguard handling things. I initiated a partial transfer of my funds from T Rowe and Fidelity. Vanguard took ALL of the funds, thus causing the accounts to be closed by these brokers, and in turn, these brokers hit me with the closure fees (IRA accounts).

    I talked with two supervisors who gave me their names and extensions. Guess what, I kept writing through the secured message center at Vanguard, asking to forward my concerns to these supervisors and I also left a number of voice mail messages. It is dead in the water, NOTHING, no response at all. I would not trust Vanguard now, most of my funds are with Schwab. Yes, you may pay a bit more, but there is no price to peace of mind, I tried calling Vanguard, and good luck if your call is handled sooner than 1 hour. Their site constantly crashed when I tried selling positions. I wouldn’t do it again with them.

    Cassi Mayfield is one of these supervisors.

  3. I used to love Vanguard and had significant money there. I have since pulled out everything from them and put my money with Schwab. Schwab has stellar customer service and much better range of options (like buying individual stocks, not just index funds, which Vanguard seems bad at or incapable of).

    • I haven’t had any reason to use Vanguard’s customer service any time recently, so I can’t comment on that. However, this comment about individual stocks is greatly outdated. It’s been easy to trade individual stocks and ETFS at Vanguard for years. I just traded some this week.

    • Vanguard is terrible now!! I will be contacting Schawb!

      • Good luck to you, Bill! I hope you’ll be as pleased there as I have. Though I think we have to always be on the look out for any of these places to change. Vanguard used to have fantastic customer service.

  4. Thanks for covering this. Reaching Vanguard on the phone has been a nightmare for the past couple of years. It has reached a point where I just don’t trust them to be available when I need them. Are you planning to cover alternatives to Vanguard like Fidelity etc.?

  5. I have Vanguard and Schwab. Schwab customer service is hands down better.

  6. I was an investor with Vanguard from 1984 until 2020. I never thought I would leave Vanguard but their pathetic deterioration in service drove me away. I’m now with Fidelity and their tools and service are top notch. It is interesting that in recent brokerage rankings Vanguard declined to participate. I can understand – I wouldn’t want to play golf against Tiger Woods and Vanguard doesn’t want to be compete with Fidelity in the brokerage rankings. The service decline can’t be blamed on Covid – it started well before Covid hit.

  7. Sadly, I had to divorce Vanguard after 40 years. Schwab is a superior platform and I get personalized attention. Schwab also credited my new brokerage account $3500 to boot. I rarely called Vanguard in the past, so hadn’t realized just how much their customer service lines have deteriorated. They also make it hard to find a phone number on their website. I needed to get through to tender some shares on a corporate action because the website was not acknowledging it. After an hour on hold, I finally reached a human voice who told me I had to call back “tomorrow” because the desk that handles corporate actions was closed for the day. That did it for me (after a couple of earlier smaller frustrating encounters), I pulled the plug and transferred almost everything to Schwab.

    In addition, Vanguard just last week informed me that they are no longer accepting OTC orders. Any OTC securities can be sold but no longer bought. That just makes me feel that much better about my decision.

    Croce

  8. Vanguard really blew it with the target retirement funds massive capital gains the past year.

    Bogle must be turning in his grave.

    These MBAs bean counters chasing growth is going to be their downfall

  9. I tried to give them money and they wouldn’t take it 🙂 well their technical issues prevented it anyway. In the past i was a vanguard client & thought their investment options, performance and customer service were all top notch but my employer moved the 401k to Fidelity which have also been great. In October 2021 I thought I would use them again, so tried to create a new account and deposit $100k but I kept getting website errors. I called 6 or 7 times, talked to several supervisors, no one could figure it out and no one called me back. Their attitude was like “hmmm that’s strange we don’t know what to tell you” but it didn’t seem to bother anyone that they lost a new customer with a decent size deposit.

  10. thanks for the article. i’m a long time Vanguard customer (rollover/Roth IRAs).
    i have 2 401ks from previous jobs that I was planning to roll over to Vanguard (just for ease of keeping track), but now am thinking twice

  11. Ron Swafford says

    I am also moving my funds from Vanguard. Phone waits are excessive with numerous transfers and longer wait times. Further their customers website is the least user friendly I have experienced among large investors resources. It does not track funds data in detail regarding data. I have to track my funds through another entity. Unbelievable

  12. Dominique says

    I’m in the middle of a battle with Vanguard at the moment and have been surprised with the downright horrible customer service. All the things people have posted are true for me as well: extremely long wait times to speak to a person, constant transferring to someone else, being told that I called too early or too late in the day, etc. Today I called asking to speak to a manager because I was tired of spending hours each day for the past week babysitting this issue, and was told a manager would call me back in 1-2 days. I’m under a time crunch and can’t wait that long. Vanguard in proving to be completely incompetent, uncaring, and unwilling to help. I’m going to move my accounts elsewhere.

  13. paul riley says

    For the last 5 years customer service gets worse , but if you can transact on line they do offer some really good funds. On 5/11 I did what should have been a SIMPLE transaction with draw 1k from 401 and send to my bank ! It is now the 29th of May and I am trying to solve one problem after another . Each time i talk to someone they tell me everything is fixed ( assign case number ) and w/have no more problems I finally told them to close my account (again not done ). So far talked to at least 7 people and and tons of phone hours , Tuesday
    I will file SEC complaint and try to talk to them one last time. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND AVOID!!!!

    • Richard Paul says

      Yes they are thieves in my opinion. When I cashed out my.401k they sent $47360 to the wrong account due to a typo. I did.not realize it until 3 days later .They claimed I made a typo and dropped one number.Because of the wait of 3 business days. At the time of the withdrawal (5/19/2022) they sent a message that Bank of America accepted it.Three days later when I called them to ask where the money was they told me.they had sent it to me. Their customer rep said not to worry B of A would reject it. I.called back again the same day – same answer and it would take about 30 days. I asked them both times to recall it. They ignored the request.Both times the reps had such a heavy accent I could barely understand them.The next day I called again and asked to speak to their supervisor and was told they had none.I said I don’t believe you.and finally found a man who claimed to be one. Same answer – wait 30 days. Not until June 10 until I was contacted by someone from America. He said he would fax Wells Fargo to do a recall from B of A. I ased him why wasn’t he calling them.He said that was not their procedure. Finally on the next week he called B of A with me in a conference call. After 3 hours and 3 transfers we could not get the right dept.!!! Another week went by and still no response. Then he told me Wells Fargo said B of A had not responded. Finally he said they send another recall and B of A informed them they couldn’t find the money .Meanwhile I called B of A about 20 times each time for at least an hour and they were polite but couldn’t find the right department Unbelieveable… The last call I finally got the right person and he advised me to get a lawyer. So did Vanguard…It is the 24th of September now.I contacted two government agencies to help me. (FIMRA and the CFPB) They each took extensive reports where I explained everything including names and discussions. I also provided a log with dates from my phone. I am still waiting for an explanation. Vanguard said deal with B of A. Both are blameing the other. Still waiting for the agencies final decisions . If they do not return my retirement back they will help me find an attorney. I have also posted on Facebook and will a couple of TV stations to tell my story to the public.
      Due to the slow response of Vanguard customer service and the polite but uninformed people at B of A to address the $47360 loss I am not sleeping and take anxiety meds. Nice way to enjoy my retirement. At 70 years old I cannot afford this….?

      • Wow!!! What a shocking story!!! I’m so glad I got my funds out when I did. I hope you get this wrapped up to your satisfaction and sooner rather than later. Yikes

  14. Fred Batemen says

    Hi:

    You recommended “Right now, I can only recommend buying their ETFs from a commission broker where you are comfortable” I trust that you mean a “zero commission broker” I have them from TD Ameritrade and Fidelity with no issues.

  15. I have been with Vanguard for >50 years and have several Brokerage accounts and IRAs at Vanguard . I have become disatisfied with their customer service with typical waits >45 minutes. The quality of customer service personell has diminshed in the last several years. They suspended the personal contact person program which was disapointing. Vanguards IT function is incompetent . I have sent numerous messages complaining about lack of information on my investment web pages . When I had a personal contact I sent him a copy of Fidelity’s web page and suggested they just copy Fidelity . He said that Vanguard was working on improving the web page . A couple of years later the BIG AND BOLD concept for displaying information was introduced. B&B is a joke .Same information with larger font size spread over more pages which increased printouts of the web pages by ~25% requiring more ink and paper with no additional benefit. Finding a mutual fund on the new B&B page is impossible . Thankfully they still support the old mutual fund and ETF listings. They normally display quotes 20 minutes behind but with several clicks and pages you can get timely quotes but that takes time. All the IT effort appears to be more promotion on the opening pages and advertising. The timing of most of these changes and lack of corrective action seems to coincide with the most recent management changes. As Vanguard acquired more funds their performance deteriorated. After reading this blog ,it appears that many people have experienced numerous problems. Could it be that the individual investor is being ignored in preference for the institutional and corporate investor? I have started the process of transfering Vanguard accounts to my Fidelity accounts and plan to open a Schwab account and evaluate their service. Clearly Vanguard has lagged the finance industry dramatically as management has changed over the years .

  16. Everyone is totally correct about VANGUARD in 2022. I recently tried to get my 29 yr old daughter to start a Roth IRA via their online website. Naturally, because I did one for my wife and I 25 yrs ago. I also had a 529 plan for my kids to help for their education. When my daughter wanted to start her own Roth, the info she imputed didn’t match what Vanguard had on file. So, you know what that meant. After hours of waiting on numerous calls, one finally gets fed up. Especially after a service rep tells me that he can only speak to my daughter and asks her questions about an account I started for her when she was 7????? Stupid is, as stupid does.

  17. Joseph J. Hehir says

    In 2017 my wife established a checkwriting service at a brokerage account at Vanguard. Vanguard then sent her a checkbook to write checks from. This past month she wrote a $250 check just to see if everything works. The check bounced. Vanguard told her that she needed to establish a checkwriting service if she wanted to withdraw funds from her brokerage account.
    Which firm should she move her money to, Fidelity or Schwab?

  18. if I had followVanguard’s customer service, hackers would have stolen my entire life savings of half a million dollars.

    when I change my external bank account number on Vanguard’s website, I went back a few days later and noticed it was a completely different routing number and account number than when I had entered.

    I called up Vanguard and drew their attention to this mismatch, and they had no idea why. I asked if they had simply masked the true numbers during the external bank account approval process, and they said that could be it. and that I had nothing to worry about either way, everything was fine.

    something didn’t sit right with me, so I did more research and found that the routing number went to a private bank based in Florida that I had never heard of.

    when I called back Vanguard, they told me they would take out a fraud alert ticket on my account.

    when I followed up with Vanguard a couple days later, they said there was no fraud alert ticket on my account. in addition, there were no notes regarding my previous calls. I called back again and spoke with a different agent, and they told me the same exact thing.

    that was four months ago, and I have yet to have any follow up from the fraud department or any proactive phone calls from Vanguard.

    if I had believed what Vanguard told me initially that this unknown external account was fine, all of my money I have sweat, bled, and cried over during my entire life would’ve been completely wiped out and gone.

    and I have serious reservations that Vanguard would have done anything whatsoever to compensate me.

    needless to say, I have withdrawn all of my life savings out of Vanguard and put it into Chase Bank private client services.

    Vanguard should be the target of criminal investigation for corporate negligence. how they can continue to do business when they evidently coukdn’t care less when money is stolen from them is beyond me.

  19. My Dad has been with Vanguard for over 60 years. He bought into the Windsor fund for myself and my siblings back in the early 1960’s. I have been investing with Vanguard since I was old enough to invest. I am 62 now. Our account value combined is over $5.5 million. At one time they had the Flagship service. If you had over $1 million invested you would get the red carpet treatment. When you called there would be no wait time. The associate was always super helpful and could answer whatever question I had for them or connected me to someone with the answer fast. The service has been declining for the past several years. I called several times over the past 6 months to let them know that I was unhappy with them and I would be moving the $5.5 million to Fidelity if I could not get me better customer service. Apparently there is a new Flagship Select service that is like the old Flagship service. The requirement is that you need over $5 million in your account which we have. The young girl on the phone told me it must be $5 million in Vanguard funds only. It could not be a combination of vanguard funds and stocks. I asked if there was anyone above her that I could speak with in order to maybe somehow get this better service. She told me no and said it is strictly a numbers game and I don’t have the numbers. Bottom line is I just moved out $1.7 million to another brokerage firm last week and I will be moving the remaining $3.8 million to Fidelity within the next couple of weeks. Call me old fashioned but you would think for a $5.5 million account you could find someone to answer the phone in a reasonable amount of time and have the right answers. It seems like Vanguard is no longer interested in the small individual investor that wants to direct their own investment activity. We are the investment group that they always catered to and that is how John Bogle (Vanguard’s founder) grew Vanguard into the great investment company with great customer service that it once was. I was struggling with this decision for a long time and I am saddened to have to leave Vanguard but it just seems like they left me with no reasonable alternative. I sympathize with all other fellow individual investors that are wrestling with this same decision. Best of luck to you and may you all find an investment firm that values your business and gives you the superior customer service that you deserve!

  20. Regina Allen says

    I just cannot have my money in a company that does not get back to me when I call about my investment, right now times are hard and the customer service is horrible!! My only suggestion to anyone is to move your money somewhere else. This is my hard earn money and I refuse to settle for less with a company.

  21. I am still currently on hold with Vanguard. I have been investing with Vanguard since the 1990’s. I have hardly ever had to call Vanguard for anything much at all. Today, I need to sell a small amount of money in my money market to cover a check for replacing my roof. Guess what, I have been on hold for one hour and 7 minutes as of now, still holding. I tried to link my bank account online with Vanguard. I have always able to buy and sell btw Vanguard and my bank except today. It is so strange that I cannot do this today when I need to sell. I have never had such problem with Vanguard before. I also use Charles Schwab and their customer service is top notch. I was very happy with Schwab. I will transfer all my money to Schwab after I resolve my problem today,

    • Anita Graf says

      Yep; I’m still very happy with my accounts at Charles Schwab and not regretting getting out of Vanguard (I also joined in the 90s and left about two years ago now).

  22. Boris Zolotaryov says

    I want ‘All Vanguard mutual funds by asset class info’ in the old format. I do not like such unnecessary innovations. Why Vanguard does not ask its customers opinions? Who is responsible for such “wise” decisions?
    Response from Vanguard in Facebook: “While we aren’t able to revert back to our previous version, we’ve forwarded your feedback to the appropriate area for review.”
    What is the problem to revert back to the previous version. There is not an archive at Vanguard? Today is 2 weeks from my request. When will we know about the solution?
    Response from Vanguard in Facebook: “There is no option to revert our website back to a previous version. We appreciate your feedback and understand that change can take a bit of time to get used to.”
    Why do I have “ to get used to” while I was pretty happy with the previous user-friendly version? Who requested such innovation and why?

    • Boris Zolotaryov says

      “Enhanced” webpage!!!
      The response from Vanguard in my account messages:
      “Vanguard is committed to evolving the website experience through enhancing the look and feel of the Vanguard.com webpages.”
      The questions remain the same. What the reason was to “enhance” the compact user-friendly easy to understand webpage? Who requested such “enhancement” and why? Who has priority in such decisions, we, the investors, or those who are paid with our money?
      This is the real reason to switch to another investment company.

  23. Rob Schlegel says

    I believe Vanguard management underestimated the client reaction to their “forced Vanguard Brokerage Account” letter that came to us on Aug 19, 2022. Wait times for call in are now about 1 hour, and they appear to be scrambling to put more of their staff on telephone answering. We are retired folks who have appreciated Vanguard’s attention in prior years, but I’m re-thinking moving our funds to another custodian who will be less annoying and more thoughtful of their traditional duty.

  24. We have been trying to deal with Vanguard for 1 month to withdraw money to buy a new home. It has been a nightmare!! Finally decided to close account and transfer money into a Roth. We still are pending on our money. Vanguard blames NJM and they say it is Vanguard.

    WHO HAS THE MONEY!!!!!!

  25. Found this site because I, too, have experienced a huge decline in customer service and am on the verge of moving my accounts to Fidelity or Schwab, after I’ve been unsuccessful finding NO email address to send my complaints to VG. All I find are phone numbers which result in horrific hold times (one hour at a minimum) and then when I finally reach someone, they are not equipped to solve my issue or answer my questions. They then bounce me to other people who provide partial answers, or offer to have someone call me which never happens. After reading all of these examples above, I am even closer to jumping ship to another firm. And I will never recommend VG again to anyone I know. I already did to my poor sister and now she’s stuck with this awful service also. For me, it’s all gone downhill in the last 2 years but even worse in the last few months.

  26. I will add my voice to the chorus of dissatisfied Vanguard customers. I have been seeking resolution to a problem for over a month, including numerous phone calls, wait times lasting over an hour, and promised supervisor callbacks that have yet to occur. JD Power is either badly uninformed or lying in stating their calltime stats on customer service. Shame on JDP. If I was Buckley at Vanguard, I would fire two or three of the responsible execs immediately.

  27. I have been on hold “someone will be with you shortly” for over 36 minutes now and the estimated response time is till over 20 minutes. Pathetic.

  28. Vanguard no longer values long term customers with less than 1 million or other wise middle class investors.
    If you change to brokerage account they still charge the annual fees for the beverage account . This has forced to evaluate whether my money would be better invested elsewhere since the new fees means that they no longer low cost .

  29. Tom Howard says

    I was with Vanguard for 20 years. It was always great, until about 3-4 years ago. The customer service was terrible, the website would constantly crash or give weird errors or be unavailable. My advisor always seemed rushed, missed appointments, or would call back hours later saying he was swamped. When I quit Vanguard I had a long phone conversation with him. Even he said that he doesn’t recognize Vanguard anymore, and that he missed the old days when the company was rock solid. He said that his superiors are spreading him so thin that he doesn’t have time to really focus on his clients anymore. He told me that some of his coworkers had recently quit because they took pride in their work but refused to take on more clients than they could service properly. Recently Vanguard has promoted the most random executives, and the content on the website has become ultra-cringey. What is Vanguard?

  30. Had to file a FINRA complaint about Vanguard’s service no response at all and sitting on a phone hold for 75 mins. It is a bit too much to ask from customers. Only FINRA is there to help.

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