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Published: Aug 29, 2023 10 min read

Rankings as of Aug 29, 2023.

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Gold has long been the most popular option for investors seeking exposure to precious metals. But if you don’t want to buy physical gold, gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offer a more convenient and efficient way to invest. With a wide range of options available, it's essential to identify the best-performing gold ETFs for your investment goals.

Below, we provide a guide to some of the top gold ETFs to consider for investment based on factors like performance, expenses, liquidity and overall benefits.

Our Top Picks of Gold ETFs

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Best Gold ETFs Reviews

SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)

Pros
  • Biggest gold ETF in the market
  • High liquidity
Cons
  • Comparatively high expense ratio
  • No dividend payments
HIGHLIGHTS
Inception date:
Nov. 18, 2004
Assets under management:
$54.46 billion (as of Aug. 28, 2023)
Expense ratio:
0.4%
Holdings:
Physical gold and cash

Why we chose it: SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) is the most popular gold ETF choice with a strong track record dating back to 2004. It’s also the largest gold ETF, boasting nearly $55 billion in assets under management. With its considerable size and market presence, this gold ETF may offer investors stability and reliability.

GLD invests in physical gold bullion and also holds cash. This approach provides investors with direct exposure to the underlying asset, ensuring that the fund's performance aligns closely with the price movements of gold itself. In addition to its size and investment approach, GLD offers ample liquidity for investors, with an average daily trading volume of 5.77 million.

iShares Gold Trust (IAU)

Pros
  • Comparatively low expense ratio
  • High liquidity
Cons
  • Has traded within a range since 2020
  • No dividend payments
HIGHLIGHTS
Inception date:
Jan. 21, 2005
Assets under management:
$26.69 billion (as of Aug. 28, 2023)
Expense ratio:
0.25%
Holdings:
Physical gold

Why we chose it: iShares Gold Trust (IAU) is a highly regarded ETF that provides investors with exposure to the price of gold. With nearly $30 billion in assets under management, it’s a substantial fund in the gold ETF space. IAU is listed on the NYSE Arca, offering convenient access to investors.

One notable advantage of IAU is its lower expense ratio than other gold ETFs, like SPDR Gold Shares. The fund's lower fees make it a more cost-effective investment option for benchmarking the price of gold. Also, the fund's size and liquidity allow investors to easily buy and sell shares, with an average daily trading volume of 4.9 million.

GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR)

Pros
  • Comparatively low per share cost and expense ratio
  • Transparency into the gold bars held by the trust
Cons
  • Comparatively lower liquidity
  • No dividend payments
HIGHLIGHTS
Inception date:
Aug. 31, 2017
Assets under management:
$913.46 million (as of Aug. 28, 2023)
Expense ratio:
0.17%
Holdings:
Physical gold

Why we chose it: GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR) is a noteworthy gold ETF that focuses exclusively on holding gold bullion in its London vaults. It’s a much lower cost option due to its 0.17% expense ratio and per share price compared to other gold-leveraged ETFs.

BAR can be easily traded through a brokerage account or on the NYSE Arca exchange. However, it has lower liquidity than the other gold ETFs in this guide, with an average daily trading volume of around 617,000. The fund's dedication to transparency extends to its daily disclosure of the gold bars it holds, enabling investors to verify the physical backing of their investment.

VanEck Gold Miners ETF (GDX)

Pros
  • Provides diversification and minimized risk as the investment is spread across many companies
  • Offers dividend payments
Cons
  • Comparatively high expense ratio
  • Prone to equity market fluctuations
HIGHLIGHTS
Inception date:
May 16, 2006
Assets under management:
$11.5 billion (as of Aug. 28, 2023)
Expense ratio:
0.51%
Holdings:
Gold mining company securities

Why we chose it: VanEck Gold Miners ETF (GDX) offers investors exposure to the gold mining industry. This ETF offers a comprehensive approach by including nearly 50 major mining companies, including the two largest gold-mining companies in the industry: Newmont Corp. (NEM) and Barrick Gold Corp. (GOLD). By investing in GDX, investors can gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of gold mining stocks.

GDX allows investors to participate in the potential upside of the gold mining industry. The performance of gold mining companies can be influenced by various factors like production levels, operational efficiency and exploration success, so this ETF can be influenced by market pressures and not simply the price of gold. GDX is highly liquid, with an average daily trading volume of 16.94 million. Additionally, it's the only ETF in this guide that pays a dividend.

abrdn Physical Gold Shares ETF (SGOL)

Pros
  • Provides a list of gold bars it holds online
  • Comparatively low expense ratio
Cons
  • Has traded within a range since 2020
  • No dividend payments
HIGHLIGHTS
Inception date:
Sept. 9, 2009
Assets under management:
$2.64 billion (as of Aug. 28, 2023)
Expense ratio:
0.17%
Holdings:
Physical gold

Why we chose it: SGOL, or the abrdn Physical Gold Shares ETF, stands out as an attractive option for investors seeking a cost-effective gold ETF. With an expense ratio of 0.17%, this fund offers a compelling value proposition by keeping fees relatively low.

The fund holds gold bullion bars, which are securely stored in vaults located in Zurich and London. It has nearly $3 billion in assets under management, fewer than the largest gold ETFs on this list but still higher than BAR. SGOL also has decent liquidity, with an average daily trading volume of 2.14 million. An upside to this ETF is its transparency; SGOL publishes a list of its gold bars on its website.

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Gold ETFs Guide

Main things to know before choosing gold ETFs

Before investing in gold ETFs, it’s crucial to understand a few key aspects. Gold ETFs offer exposure to gold with convenience and flexibility, allowing you to buy and sell shares on stock exchanges rather than buying physical gold and needing to store and insure it.

When choosing a gold ETF, consider the expense ratio, which is the annual fee of owning the ETF and includes management, administrative and marketing costs. Evaluating the expense ratio can help determine the cost-effectiveness of the investment.

Investors must also be attuned to tax implications. The sale of ETF shares could result in capital gains or losses, and the tax treatment varies based on factors like holding period and tax jurisdiction. Understanding the potential tax ramifications can guide decision-making and overall portfolio management. Consider discussing this investment with a financial advisor if you’re unsure.

How do gold ETFs work?

An ETF is a security that pools investors’ funds and purchases a typically diverse basket of holdings. Compared to individual stocks, ETFs provide you with lower risk since the investment is spread out, often among numerous companies in a given market sector or industry.

Gold ETFs typically hold physical gold bullion in vaults or use derivatives to track the price of gold, while some invest in companies involved in mining and funding of gold production. Gold-backed ETFs issue shares that represent a certain amount of gold. As the price of the precious metal fluctuates, the value of the ETF’s shares changes accordingly. Investors can buy and sell these shares on stock exchanges throughout the trading day, providing liquidity and easy access to gold exposure.

What are the different types of gold ETFs?

There are various types of gold ETFs available that may cater to different investment strategies and preferences. One common type is the physically-backed gold ETF, which holds gold bullion in vaults and aims to track the spot price of gold.

Another type is the gold mining ETF, which invests in shares of companies that mine or fund gold production, providing exposure to the price of gold and the mining industry's performance. ETFs that invest in stocks of gold mining companies may offer dividends to investors, while gold-backed ETFs don’t.

What are the requirements for buying gold ETFs?

To buy gold ETFs, you need to open a brokerage account. If you don’t have one already, look into the best online trading platforms. You can trade shares of ETFs on the major stock exchanges.

Gold ETFs FAQs

How can I buy gold ETFs?

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Investors can buy gold ETFs through a brokerage account, where they can search for the desired ETF ticker symbol and place buy orders. It's important to choose a reputable brokerage that offers access to a wide range of ETFs and provides reliable trade execution.

Are gold ETFs safe to buy?

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Gold ETFs are generally considered safe to buy. However, like any investment, they come with risks and may not be the right fit for everyone. Make sure you carefully evaluate the ETF's prospectus, understand the underlying assets and consider gold market volatility and issuer credibility. Additionally, you can discuss the investment with a financial advisor to determine if it's right for you.

What are the benefits of gold ETFs?

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Gold ETFs provide exposure to the price of gold without needing to own, insure or store the physical asset. ETFs generally offer high liquidity, allowing investors to buy and sell shares on stock exchanges. Additionally, gold ETFs provide diversification, allowing you to add exposure to a different asset class within your investment portfolio.

What are the drawbacks of gold ETFs?

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Like any investment, gold ETFs come with their own set of risks. The value of these funds can be influenced by factors like changes in the price of gold, market sentiment and macroeconomic conditions. Additionally, while gold ETFs provide convenience, they lack the tangibility of physical gold ownership, which some investors may value as security.

How are gold ETFs taxed?

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The tax treatment of gold ETFs can vary depending on factors like the investor's country of residence and the specific regulations in place, as well as the ETF's structure. In the United States, for example, gains from selling gold ETF shares held for more than one year may be subject to long-term capital gains tax rates. On the other hand, if the shares are held for one year or less, they may be subject to short-term capital gains tax rates. Tax implications for gold ETFs are complex, so consider consulting a financial advisor to determine how you may be taxed before investing.

How We Chose the Best Gold ETFs

To determine the best gold ETFs of 2023, we analyzed various factors. First, we assessed the historical performance of gold ETFs, considering long-term returns, volatility and risk-adjusted performance. The cost-effectiveness of each ETF was analyzed by comparing the expense ratios of different gold ETFs to industry averages. We also considered the value each ETF provided relative to its fees.

Liquidity — a vital consideration for ETF investing — was carefully examined. The trading volume and average bid-ask spreads of gold ETFs were also analyzed to identify ETFs with sufficient liquidity for investors. This ensures ease of buying and selling shares, enhancing the overall investment experience.

Furthermore, we considered the reputation and track record of each ETF, including credibility, experience and financial stability. Assets under management (AUM) reflected the popularity and investor confidence in the ETFs reviewed. The AUM of each gold ETF was considered, as higher AUM often indicates a larger investor base and potentially better liquidity.

The information within this guide is for educational or informational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. Investors must conduct further research and consider their gold investing objectives before making investment decisions.

Summary of Money’s Best Gold ETFs of 2023

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