E-Trade has long been one of the most popular online brokers, largely because of its easy-to-navigate online experience on both its website and mobile app. The company offers a tiered commission structure that favors frequent traders but can add up to high costs for casual investors. E-Trade
E-Trade is best for:
- Frequent traders
- Beginner investors
- Mutual fund investors
- ETF investors
- IRA accounts
- Automated trading platforms
E-Trade was one of the first brokerages to enter the online space, and the company has been an innovator ever since, offering a range of features that appeal to investors of all skill levels. Investors have access to free analysis and research, streaming stock quotes and investment screeners on platforms that have been lauded for user experience. E-Trade recently updated its website to make navigation even easier.
Trade commissions are on the high side, but the company offers a range of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds that aren’t typically available through discount brokers. That’s one reason why E-Trade was one of NerdWallet’s picks for best IRA account provider.
Open a new account and get 60 days of free trades on deposits of $10,000 or more, plus cash bonuses on deposits of $25,000 or more.
E-Trade at a glance
|Account minimum||$500 for brokerage accounts; $0 for IRAs|
|Account fees||$60 IRA closing fee|
|Mutual funds||Over 1,300 transaction-fee free mutual funds|
|Commission-free ETFs||Over 100|
|Options||$9.99 + 75 cents per contract|
|Broker-assisted trades||$25, plus applicable commission|
|Research and data||Free|
|Customer service||Phone support 24/7; email support and live chat; 30 local branches|
Where E-Trade shines
Commission-free ETFs: E-Trade has over 100, putting it among the ranks of TD Ameritrade, Vanguard and Fidelity. The company offers an ETF quick-search tool to help investors narrow down their choices.
Account minimum: It doesn’t get better than a $0 minimum for IRA accounts, which makes this broker attractive to beginner investors looking for a place to house their first account. Other brokers often make customers reach a bar of $1,000 or more. However, E-Trade’s brokerage accounts do require a $500 minimum investment.
Trading platforms: E-Trade has two trading platforms, E-Trade 360 and E-Trade Pro. E-Trade 360 is a Web dashboard for retail investors who want to track their accounts, create watch lists for stocks, view free streaming market data and make trades. E-Trade Pro is where the company kicks it up a notch for more-active traders, and there’s a barrier to entry: To gain access, customers must maintain at least a $250,000 account balance or execute at least 30 stock or options trades per quarter.
If you can clear that bar, the desktop platform is pretty impressive, with idea-generating tools like the company’s Strategy Scanner, back-testing capabilities, a professional-level options screener and customizable charting.
Both platforms are customizable, so users can create a workspace that meets their needs. There are plenty of educational materials and demos on the E-Trade website that give customers a peek at each platform’s functionality.
Google Chrome plugin: E-Trade offers a free Google Chrome plugin that allows users to research and trade from within their browser. The extension scans Web pages — news stories, for example — for stock symbols, then displays their current price and other data to E-Trade customers in real time. Users can also search other symbols, and quickly place trades without navigating away from the page.
Mobile app: E-Trade’s free mobile app is a standout, perhaps the best available from any online broker. Available for iOS (including Apple Watch), Android, Amazon and Windows Phone, the app allows users to easily manage their accounts, place trades (including options trades), and get real-time quotes, charts and CNBC Video on Demand. The iPhone and Android versions also have advanced mobile features like stock and ETF screeners, options chain filters and access to educational videos.
Customer support: E-Trade is a great start for beginning investors in part because of the educational resources offered by the company, including live online seminars on topics like retirement planning, stock market basics and analyzing trade ideas. The website also offers a large selection of online courses — set up like a college course catalogue — that includes classes such as Stocks 101 and ETF Best Practices. Investors can learn how to construct and monitor their portfolio, how to analyze risk, and whether certain products like variable annuities may be worth considering. E-Trade also has strong in-person customer service, with over 30 branches staffed by financial consultants.
Retirement planning assistance: E-Trade recently redesigned its retirement pages, so they’re organized intuitively and feature interactive widgets that are populated with the user’s actual financial information. There’s an easy-to-use retirement calculator that shows projected nest egg growth; it allows users to estimate retirement expenses so they can create a personalized retirement action plan.
Where E-Trade falls short
Commissions: E-Trade’s commissions are high at $9.99 per trade for customers who execute fewer than 150 trades per quarter. High volume traders will benefit from tiered pricing that drops to $7.99 a trade for 150 to 1,499 trades a quarter and $6.99 a trade for 1,500 or more. Still, competitors like OptionsHouse and TradeKing edge E-Trade out with flat $4.95 trade commissions. Worth noting for investors who frequently use mutual funds or ETFs, however, is that E-Trade offers access to a wide selection of those at no charge, something not offered by many other discount brokers.
Access to E-Trade Pro: It’s not uncommon to require a certain number of trades or minimum account balance in order to access a premium trading platform, but customers who want a robust trading platform and aren’t able to reach these minimums may prefer TD Ameritrade, which offers some of the best trade platforms in the business — Trade Architect and thinkorswim — completely free to all customers.
No paper trading: Neither E-Trade platform offers a virtual trading option, which might disappoint some investors who want to test strategies — or simply test the company’s platforms — before taking risk.
The bottom line
E-Trade’s biggest drawback is its commissions, which put it above discount brokers, but also above many full-service brokers like Fidelity and Charles Schwab. It’s right in line with TD Ameritrade, which offers more free access to tools in exchange for its higher trade commissions. That said, it has appeal for beginner or IRA investors because of its wealth of retirement planning resources and large selection of commission-free ETFs and transaction-fee-free mutual funds, and frequent traders can benefit from the company’s tiered pricing and E-Trade Pro platform access.
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