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E-Trade Review 2018

Dec. 7, 2018
Brokers, Investing
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

E-Trade’s $6.95 trade commissions aren’t the lowest among discount brokerage firms, but the five-star broker offers value to both beginner investors and frequent traders with a library of educational resources, easy-to-navigate trading platforms, and tools to help assemble a risk-appropriate, balanced portfolio.


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Quick facts

  • Commission: $6.95; volume discounts available
  • Account minimum: $500
  • Promotion: 60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more
Get started on E-Trade's secure site

Compare E-Trade with other brokers.

E-Trade is best for:

  • Frequent traders
  • Beginner investors
  • Commission-free exchange-traded funds
  • Research and data
  • Retirement planning assistance

E-Trade at a glance

Overall
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Account minimum

$500 ($0 for IRAs)
Stock trading costs

$6.95 (volume discount available)
Options trades

$6.95 + 75 cents per contract (volume discount available)
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fee; $75 full transfer out fee, $25 partial
Commission-free ETFs

150+ funds available
Mutual funds

4,400+ NTF mutual funds
Tradable securities

• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
Trading platform

E-Trade Web and OptionsHouse for browser; desktop platform E-Trade Pro for customers who maintain at least a $250,000 account balance or execute at least 30 stock or options trades per quarter
Mobile app

Advanced features mimic a desktop trading platform
Research and data

Free and extensive
Customer support/branches

Phone, email, chat support 24/7; 30 local branches
Promotion

60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more

Where E-Trade shines

Trading platforms: E-Trade has three trading platforms, E-trade Web, OptionsHouse and E-Trade Pro, plus two mobile apps. E-Trade Web offers free streaming market data, free real-time quotes, live market commentary, analyst research stock screeners and more. From the dashboard, you can track your accounts, create watch lists, view streaming market data and make trades, even complex option strategies.

E-Trade bought the robust trading platform OptionsHouse in 2016, and it’s now fully integrated and available for free to all E-Trade customers. If you’re eager to trade, rather than buy and hold, then OptionsHouse is for you. The platform offers real-time data, dozens of charting tools, more than 100 technical studies, streamlined trade tickets, customizable options chains and more.

View of OptionsHouse platform

View of E-Trade’s OptionsHouse platform

 

With E-Trade Pro, the company kicks it up another notch, but there’s a pretty high barrier to entry: To gain access, you 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 impressive, with idea-generating tools like the company’s Strategy Scanner and back-testing capabilities.

You can customize all of the platforms to create a workspace that meets your needs. There are plenty of educational materials and demos on the E-Trade website that let you peek at what each platform can do.

Mobile app: E-Trade’s two free mobile apps are standouts, perhaps the best available from any online broker.

View of E-Trade's mobile app.

View of E-Trade’s mobile app

The E-Trade mobile app allows you to easily manage your account, place trades and get real-time quotes, charts and CNBC Video on Demand. It’s available for iOS — including Apple Watch — Android, Amazon and Windows Phone. The iPhone and Android versions also have advanced mobile features like stock and ETF screeners and access to educational videos.

The OptionsHouse app lets you take your mobile trading to the next level, with customizable options chain, interactive charts, technical analysis and more.

No-transaction-fee mutual funds: E-Trade offers more than 4,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Its robust lineup rivals those at Merrill Edge (over 3,200), Fidelity (over 3,700) and Schwab (over 4,300). E-Trade’s analysts produce a quarterly All-Star List to highlight the top no-load funds and ETFs offered. Like most brokers, E-Trade charges an early redemption fee on no-load, no-transaction-fee funds held less than 90 days ($49.99, which is pretty standard) and a short-term trading fee ($15.99 to $19.99) on sales of certain ETFs if held for less than 30 days.

Customer support: E-Trade is a great place to start for beginner investors, in part because of the educational resources it offers, including online courses on topics like retirement planning, stock market basics and analyzing trade ideas. You can learn how to build and monitor your portfolio, how to analyze risk, and whether certain products like variable annuities may be worth considering.

» New to investing? Check out our best online brokers for beginners.

E-Trade also has strong in-person customer service, with 30 branches staffed by financial consultants, and online chat available 24/7.

For more hands-on management, E-Trade’s robo-advisor service, E-Trade Adaptive Portfolio, will execute the trades for you and adjust the portfolio’s holdings for an annual advisory fee of 0.30%. The minimum investment for that service is $5,000.

» Robo-advisors are computer-based investment managers who do the heavy lifting for you. Here are our top picks for robo-advisors.

Where E-Trade falls short

Commissions: E-Trade’s commissions are on the higher side at $6.95 per trade. High-volume traders will benefit from tiered pricing that drops to $4.95 a trade for 30 or more trades per quarter. Still, competitors like Charles Schwab and Fidelity edge out E-Trade with flat $4.95 trade commissions.

Account minimum: E-Trade requires $500 to open an account. This might not seem like much, but it’s worth noting that several other brokers have no account minimum.

Website transparency: While not part of our current scoring, we look at how easily and quickly customers and potential customers can find key information on a broker’s website. E-Trade came up a bit short in this area. Our testers were unable to easily find the company’s required account minimum or guidance on how to close an E-Trade account once open, both of which should be readily available.

E-trade vs. similar brokers

 E-TradeAlly InvestMerrill EdgeTD Ameritrade
Full reviewFull reviewFull reviewFull review
Commissions$6.95$4.95$6.95$6.95
Account minimum$500$0$0$0
Tradable securities• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
• Forex
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
• Forex
Mutual fundsMore than 4,400 no-transaction-fee fundsNo transaction-fee-free mutual funds; $9.95 per tradeMore than 3,200 no-transaction-free fundsMore than 4,000 no-transaction-free funds
Commission-free ETFsMore than 150More than 100NoneNearly 300
Promotion60 days of commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit$50 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit$100 to $600 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit500 commission-free trades + up to $600 with qualifying deposit
Open accountOpen accountOpen accountOpen account

The bottom line

E-Trade’s investing tools, retirement planning resources, large selection of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds, and innovative trading technology are ideal for all kinds of investors. The biggest drawback is its commissions. Frequent traders, particularly those who execute 30 or more trades per quarter, won’t mind as much because they’ll benefit from tiered pricing. And more casual investors may decide that everything else the broker offers makes up for paying a few dollars more per trade.

About the authors