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E-Trade Review 2018

Brokers, Investing

E-Trade is one of the best-known online brokers, and not just because of its full-court-press advertising and marketing practices. Notable features include its cleanly designed and easy-to-navigate trading platforms — browser, desktop and mobile — its library of educational resources and its tools to help investors assemble a risk-appropriate, balanced portfolio.

Although E-Trade’s commissions aren’t particularly noteworthy compared with those at other discount brokerage firms, frequent traders will appreciate the tiered commission structure, and buy-and-hold investors shouldn’t be too turned off by it.


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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
Winner of NerdWallet's award for best broker for investment selection
Account minimum
  • $500 for brokerage accounts
  • $0 for IRAs
Stock trading costs
  • $6.95 for fewer than 30 trades/quarter
  • $4.95 for 30 or more trades/quarter
Options trades
  • $6.95 + 75 cents per contract
  • With 30 or more trades/quarter, $4.95 + 50 cents per contract
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)
  • No annual or inactivity fee
  • $75 full transfer out fee; $25 partial
Commission-free ETFs
Over 150 commission-free ETFs
Mutual funds
4,400+ no-transaction-fee mutual funds; $19.99 commission for transaction-fee 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.

E-trade vs. similar brokers

Trade Fee
$6.95
$6.95
Account Minimum
$500
$500
Promotion
60
60
days of commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit
Trade Fee
$6.95
$6.95
Account Minimum
$0
$0
Promotion
$100-$600
$100-$600
in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit
Trade Fee
$6.95
$6.95
Account Minimum
$0
$0
Promotion
$100-$600
$100-$600
in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

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