E*TRADE Core Portfolios Review 2020

E*TRADE's robo-advisor brings low expense ratios and strong portfolio choices. It will especially appeal to existing E*TRADE customers.

Kevin VoigtSeptember 24, 2020

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: E*TRADE Core Portfolios offers notably low expense ratios and deep educational resources, as well as a strong selection of portfolios to match a variety of risk profiles and investment aims.

E*TRADE Core Portfolios

E*TRADE Core Portfolios



management fee

Account Minimum




no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons


  • Portfolio choice.

  • Strong customer service.

  • Competitive management fee.


  • No tax-loss harvesting.

Compare to Other Advisors



management fee



management fee

Account Minimum


Account Minimum



Up to 1 year

of free management with a qualifying deposit



amount of assets managed for free

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Full Review

E*TRADE is known for active traders, but hands-off investors will find much to like about its robo-advisor offering, E*TRADE Core Portfolios.

The service has gone through a handful of changes in recent years, but the bones remain the same and worth a look: Core Portfolios offers low costs and strong portfolio choices, including a socially responsible investment option.

E*TRADE Core Portfolios is best for:

  • Current E*TRADE customers.

  • Cost-conscious investors.

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Automatic rebalancing.

E*TRADE Core Portfolios at a glance

Account minimum


Account management fee


Investment expense ratios

Expense ratios range from 0.06% to 0.12%.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

$75 full transfer out fee; $25 for partial transfer.

Portfolio mix

Choice of several portfolios, including socially responsible, smart beta and tax-sensitive options.

Accounts supported

• Individual and joint non-retirement accounts

• Custodial accounts

• Roth, traditional SEP and rollover IRAs

Tax strategy

Tax-sensitive investments in taxable accounts. No tax-loss harvesting.

Automatic rebalancing

Twice a year.

Human advisor option

Limited access to financial advisors.


Access to E*TRADE's educational and retirement planning resources and tools.

Bank account/cash management account

E*TRADE offers a Premium Savings Account with competitive APY.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Phone support available Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern; live chat 24/7.



Where E*TRADE Core Portfolio shines

Investor risk profile: Each customer or potential customer — admirably, the profile questionnaire is available without logging in or creating an account — is taken through a series of nine questions designed to assess risk tolerance. The questionnaire is one of the most thorough we’ve seen. E*TRADE poses queries from multiple angles to try to figure out how the investor will tolerate various levels of risk and market fluctuations.

Once you've finished the questions, you're able to view a recommended portfolio. E*TRADE doesn't disclose the specific investments used, but the company does share a recommended asset allocation, along with 15-year historical index returns in a best, worst and average case scenario for context. Investors are presented with two options — a recommended portfolio choice and a suitable alternative.

One of E*TRADE's portfolio recommendations.

One of E*TRADE's portfolio recommendations.

E*TRADE uses low-cost exchange-traded funds, with expense ratios that range from 0.6% to 0.12%, depending on the portfolio.

Alternative portfolio choices: Clients have the option of personalizing the equity portion of their portfolios by swapping E*TRADE's standard-issue large-cap ETF with a socially responsible ETF, which will screen out companies that don't align with certain environmental and social values. There is also the option of a smart beta ETF. Smart beta funds take a more active approach to investing, with the goal of outperforming a benchmark rather than just mirroring it.

Integration with E*TRADE brokerage accounts: The $500 minimum applies specifically to an E*TRADE Core Portfolios account, rather than an aggregated balance across all E*TRADE accounts. However, existing E*TRADE clients can convert their accounts to Core Portfolios accounts by simply enrolling in the program. You don’t need to sell any securities before doing so — the robo-advisor will do that for you by liquidating holdings that aren’t in your recommended portfolio, commission-free. (You may, however, have capital gains or losses in the process.)

Clients also have access to all of the educational content provided by E*TRADE, which is extensive: Investors can learn about topics such as how to build an emergency fund and how to perform complex options trades. E*TRADE's website also provides impressive retirement planning tools and guidance.

Where E*TRADE Core Portfolios falls short

Tax strategy: The company doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting, a service that can significantly reduce capital gains taxes. In taxable accounts, the practice involves selling losing investments to offset the gains from winners. It’s widely available among robo-advisors, often for free, though some advisors impose an additional balance requirement before the service takes effect. Instead, Core Portfolios offers a tax-sensitive strategy, which uses municipal bond ETFs to minimize Uncle Sam's bite.

Website transparency: A portion of our rating for customer support is devoted to how easily our testers are able to uncover key bits of information on the provider's website. With E*TRADE Core Portfolios, we struggled to find details we believe are important for potential customers, including the investments used in portfolios and instructions for closing an account.

Is E*TRADE Core Portfolios right for you?

E*TRADE has created a solid contender in the robo-advisor arena. While the service's management fee is a bit above that at two other robo-advisor heavies — Wealthfront and Betterment each charge 0.25% — the ETFs used by E*TRADE may have lower expense ratios, depending on your portfolio.

Arielle O'Shea contributed to this review.