Reviews

Alto IRA Review: Tax-Deferred Investing in Crypto & More

Alto IRA Review
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Alto IRA is a self directed IRA custodian. In this comprehensive review, we’ll cover:

  • What to expect when signing up and investing with Alto IRA.
  • What we like (and don’t like) about the platform.
  • Alto IRA alternatives.
  • How to decide if Alto IRA is right for you.
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Alto IRA offers a low-cost and easy way to invest in alternative assets — like cryptocurrency, real estate and startups — through a self-directed retirement account. Fees are low compared to the other self-directed IRA custodians we’ve evaluated, as are the minimums ($10 for crypto). Alto IRA is a solid choice for advanced investors looking to diversify their retirement funds.

Pros:
  • Traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs are available.
  • A (mostly) flat fee structure benefits larger investors.
  • Low fees compared to the industry average.
  • Is rolling out staking to a limited number of users.
Cons:
  • You do not hold your own private crypto keys.
  • You cannot bring your own deals to the platform.
  • No stocks or ETFs.
  • No solo 401(k).

What Is Alto IRA?

Alto IRA is a self directed IRA custodian that gives you the ability to invest in a wider range of assets within your IRA compared to most brokers. 

While self-directed IRAs have been around since the 1970s (mainly as a vehicle for real estate investors), companies like Alto IRA have recently launched to meet the demand from individuals who want to invest in cryptocurrency (as well as startups and other alternative assets) within their retirement accounts.

Alto IRA itself does not offer investment vehicles. Instead, it provides access to investment options offered by third parties.

How Alto IRA Works

Alto IRA offers two different types of accounts:

  1. The Alternative IRA. This type of account gives you access to Alto IRA’s list of 15 partners, which includes managed crypto funds, private equity, venture capital funds, crowdfunded real estate platforms and more. 
  2. Alto Crypto IRA. This type of account is needed if you plan on investing in cryptocurrency outside of a fund. With this plan, crypto is bought, sold and held at Coinbase.

Alto investors can choose one or both of the Alternative IRA or Alto Crypto IRA plans, though a fee is required for each account.

You can choose to transfer existing IRA funds or contribute cash to fund your account, keeping in mind that you’re subject to the annual contribution limit (a maximum of $6,000 annually) when contributing cash.

Alto Crypto IRA

The Alto Crypto IRA account allows you to invest in the cryptocurrencies offered on Coinbase through Alto’s interface. In other words, you’re not opening a Coinbase account yourself, but instead investing via Coinbase through your Alto IRA.

This allows you to invest in anything from blue-chip crypto assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum to small-cap coins just launching on Coinbase’s platform. If it’s available on Coinbase, you can purchase it within your Alto IRA. 

You can view all potential crypto investments here

The cryptocurrency you buy is held in a digital wallet at Coinbase. You do not get access to this wallet, which means you cannot stake or transfer it to a private wallet, nor can you earn interest on your crypto holdings.

Fees for maintaining an Alto Crypto IRA are:

Account fee:$0
Custody fee:$0
Trade fee:1%
Account closure:$50
Outbound wire transfer$25

In late 2022, Alto IRA launched a staking pilot program that provided select users with the option of staking SOL (Solana). Users who joined the beta program got a 4% yield on their SOL holdings with a six-month lockup. There was a 25 SOL minimum needed to participate.

Currently, the waitlist to join the pilot staking program is closed. Alto says that it hopes to provide staking opportunities for additional currencies in the future, and we’ll update this article when such opportunities become available.

Alto Alternative IRA

The Alto Alternative IRA allows you to invest IRA funds with a wide range of partners. Investment minimums vary from partner to partner, and in many cases you need accredited investor status.

Some of the partner types the Alto Alternative IRA gives you access to include:

  • Art
  • Farmland
  • Private companies
  • Real estate
  • Startups

Each partner has its own minimum investment and fee structure.

Popular names on the list include:

One notable exclusion is equities. For those looking to maintain a large stock allocation, such as an index fund, it would be necessary to have another IRA account at a traditional brokerage. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Alto IRA no longer offers its Pro plan, which allowed users to bring their own deals to the platform. As a result, the account is limited to the list of select Alto IRA partners.

The Alto Alternative IRA fee structure is as follows:

Account fee:$10 per month or $100 per year if paid annually.
Custody fee:$0 per month.
Partner investment fee:$10 per transaction.
Account closure:$50.
Outbound wire transfer:$25.

Keep in mind that when investing through an Alto IRA partner, you’re also subject to that partner’s fees. For example, the fees for investing through AcreTrader are 0.75% on an annual basis. This fee is on top of what you’re paying to Alto IRA.

The partner investment fee of $10 per transaction also makes the account unsuitable for those who are dollar cost averaging small amounts of money on a recurring basis. In such a case, the $10 fee per transaction will certainly eat away at any potential returns. With this fee structure, you’re better off dollar cost averaging on an annual or quarterly basis versus bi-monthly or monthly intervals. 

Here’s a full list of Alto IRA’s investment partners.

Alto IRA Alternatives

Two Alto IRA competitors are Choice IRA by Kingdom Trust and Rocket Dollar. You can learn more about these below, and about additional alternatives in our list of the best crypto IRAs.

Alto IRA vs. Choice IRA

Choice IRA is an option for those looking to invest in cryptocurrencies within their IRAs.

The main differences between Alto and Choice are:

  1. Choice allows you to trade crypto on its platform through Kraken, which has far more options than Coinbase.
  2. Choice has a free plan (although it’s not covered by insurance).
  3. Choice gives you the option to hold your private keys or use a cold storage provider for a 1% annual fee.
  4. You can also invest in individual stocks through Interactive Brokers.

Learn more in our comprehensive Choice IRA by Kingdom Trust review.

Alto IRA vs. Rocket Dollar

Rocket Dollar is best viewed as an option if you’re specifically looking to invest in asset classes like private companies and startups.

Rocket Dollar is much different from Alto IRA in that you create an LLC, which then holds your assets. This allows you to invest in essentially anything, except for asset types that are prohibited in a retirement account.

One major advantage of Rocket Dollar over Alto IRA is that you’re allowed to make contributions from a solo 401(k). This allows solopreneurs to contribute directly from their company into alternative investments.

Learn more in our detailed Rocket Dollar review.

Alto IRA FAQs

Are Alto IRA accounts insured?

Alto IRA is a third party that doesn’t hold client funds besides cash and doesn’t provide insurance directly. The cash held within an Alto IRA is FDIC Insured. Many partners on the platform do provide some type of insurance, whether that’s through the SPIC, or in the case of crypto, Coinbase’s Account Protection program.

Who owns and operates Alto IRA?

Alto Solutions, Inc. (d/b/a Alto IRA) was founded in 2018 by Eric Satz, who remains the company’s CEO. In 2021, Alto raised $17 million in Series A funding. Unusual Ventures led the funding round, which included names such as Coinbase Ventures, Franklin Templeton and New York Life Ventures. In 2022, Alto raised an additional $40 million in a funding round led by Advance Venture Partners, which included Coinbase Ventures and Unusual Ventures. The company is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee and currently has more than 15,000 clients.

Alto Crypto IRA Review: Final Verdict

Overall, Alto IRA is a good low-cost SDIRA IRA custodian that offers access to many high-quality investment options for a reasonable fee.

If you’re an experienced investor, it can offer additional ways to diversify tax-advantaged funds (with the obvious caveat that this of course comes with additional risk). 

Keep in mind, with limited history behind them, alternative asset classes shouldn’t compromise a large percentage of your retirement balance, primarily because of the wide range of outcomes they can produce.

After all, such a wide range of potential outcomes makes it all but impossible to plan for retirement. 

Therefore, my rule of thumb is that no more than 10% of my total net worth can be in alternatives. I recommend setting a limit for yourself that allows you to realistically reach your retirement goals. 

Visit AltoIRA.com to learn more.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

14 Comments

  1. Mr. Weiss,

    I am a beginner when it comes to investing. Where would you recommend I start, if I wanted to get involved in cryptocurrencies? The investment would not be connected to an IRA?

    1. Hi Paul,

      Personally, I would commit the vast majority of my funds to a more traditional equity based approach. See: https://www.thewaystowealth.com/investing/how-to-start-investing/

      With crypto, I’d then reserve a small amount to invest essentially as a way to learn. I’ve always found what I invest in, even if it’s a small amount, I pay attention to. You’ll then be able to adjust your strategy once you gain more knowledge.

      1. Thank you.

  2. Mr. Weiss,

    Great article! I already have a Solo Directed 401K. If I am looking to invest in crypto, which of the platforms – Alto or Rocket Dollar – would you recommend? I am trying to keep my personal crypto investments (active DeFi trading) separate from retirement crypto holdings (long-term holds like BTC, ETH, SOL etc). Can I just invest directly into an exchange like Coinbase or Crypto.com?

    1. Hi
      I see this has not been answered. If this is to be a “crypto Ira”, non taxed, then Arlo or Itrust Capital is good. Alto uses Coinbase as the platform. With just a plain ,taxed, crypto buying and selling, a seperate coinbase account, is what I use to buy and sell 24/7, If I do that. I also have an traditional IRA that has Greyscale and other crypto assets , along with blockchain assets I can invest in. Including ETF’s that have crypto companies within.

  3. My apologies for missing your comment Richard.

    Just went live with our Rocket Dollar review: https://www.thewaystowealth.com/reviews/rocket-dollar-review/

    Mike gave a great answer. ( :

  4. What do Alto do for tax reporting as the custodian?

    1. Hi Jim,

      Will try to answer your question to the best of my ability. But, wasn’t 100% clear on what you’re asking. Feel free to follow up.

      Alto IRA is the custodian of the account. Custodians are required by IRS for any type of self-directed IRAs. As the custodian, Alto IRA is responsible for IRS reporting. Specifically, filing forms 1099-R and 5498 on your behalf.

  5. I understand that I cannot custody my own bitcoin if it is in an IRA. I’m concerned with the risk of not holding my own bitcoin. Can you provide a brief assessment of this risk (e.g. security, seizure, etc.)

    1. Coinbase holds the assets, so you’re getting their security team/profile. Hacks have happened at Coinbase, but because they use both hot/cold storage and multi-sig, we can only hope there won’t be any large-scale hacks at Coinbase where a large percentage of users’ assets are wiped out. Coinbase does carry a significant insurance policy and has refunded assets that have been stolen in the past. Overall, no situation is perfect for securing your digital assets via Coinbase is on the safer side.

      1. Thanks RJ!

  6. Does Coinbase put this in their cold storage or is the crypto rehypothecated?

  7. Hi, I saw a review of the Coinbase Alto partnership and discussing their IRA account service. Near the bottom of the article it stated that gains for Crypto were limited to 1000% of tax free growth, beyond that amount taxes are still applied. Is this information still valid for 2022? I can not find any mention of it anywhere, except for in that article.

    1. To my knowledge, and with some Googling, there are no limits to how much your investments/crypto can grow inside of your IRA. Never heard of any laws that resemble that outside of crypto either.

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