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11 Index Funds Offering Almost-Free Broad Market Exposure

Though these index funds and ETFs aren't free from a cost perspective, they are not tethered to one brokerage platform.

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Fidelity's free index funds are making headlines. The two new index funds with zero expense ratios are Fidelity Zero Total Market Index (FZROX), a market-cap-weighted total U.S. stock market fund, and Fidelity Zero International Index (FZILX), a market-cap-weighted total international stock market fund (which excludes U.S. stocks). Not only do they have zero expense ratios, but Fidelity also removed investment minimums on the funds.

There's a catch, though. You have to invest in them through Fidelity's brokerage platform. The idea is to get investors to set up brokerage accounts with Fidelity, and the hope is that these investors will invest in other higher-margin products that will allow Fidelity to offset the costs of the free funds--think of it as the index fund equivalent of a doorbuster. (It's also worth noting that some of these index funds can earn back their fees and then some through securities lending, which allows them to effectively offer “free” exposure to their benchmarks, as my colleague Ben Johnson points out here.)

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Karen Wallace does not own shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.