The Bottom Line: E-Trade’s tiered commissions favor frequent traders, but may be costly for casual investors.
Pros & Cons
Large investment selection.
Excellent customer support.
Access to extensive research.
Advanced mobile app.
Reduced commissions for frequent traders.
Higher commissions for low-volume traders.
Minimum balance requirement for active trading platform.
E-Trade's $6.95 trade commissions aren’t the lowest among discount brokerage firms, but the broker offers value to both beginner investors and frequent traders with a library of educational resources, professional-level trading platforms, and tools to help assemble a risk-appropriate, balanced portfolio.
E-Trade is best for:
Commission-free exchange-traded funds.
Research and data.
Retirement planning assistance.
E-Trade at a glance
Where E-Trade shines
Trading platforms: E-Trade has three trading platforms — E-Trade Web, Power E-Trade and E-Trade Pro. All are free and available to all customers, with no trade activity or balance minimums.
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 market data and make trades, including complex options strategies.
E-Trade Pro, the company's desktop platform, is equally impressive, with idea-generating tools like Strategy Scanner and back-testing capabilities.
And for truly active traders, there's Power E-Trade, the result of the company's acquisition of OptionsHouse several years ago. The web platform offers real-time data, more than 100 technical studies, over 30 drawing tools, streamlined trade tickets, customizable options chain views and trading ladders.
There are plenty of educational materials and demos on the E-Trade website that let you peek at what each platform can do.
E-Trade also offers perks for investors who trade 30 or more times per quarter, with reduced pricing of $4.95 per stock or ETF trade. Options trades are reduced to a $4.95 commission and 50 cents per contract. These frequent traders have access to dedicated trading support specialists.
Mobile app: E-Trade’s two free mobile apps are standouts, perhaps the best available from any online broker. Both are available for iOS and Android.
The E-Trade mobile app allows you to easily manage your account, place trades and get real-time quotes and news, including Bloomberg TV. It offers advanced mobile features like stock and ETF screeners, as well as multi-leg options trades. The E-Trade app is available for Apple Watch as well.
The OptionsHouse app is the mobile-based cousin of the OptionsHouse by E-Trade platform, and offers many of the same capabilities on the go: Traders can access the customizable options chain, a selection of popular technical studies, charts, streaming quotes and news. The app can be used for trading complex strategies, including four-legged option spreads, and futures traders can enter futures orders directly from the futures ladder.
Investment selection: E-Trade offers a breadth of investment choices that will please active traders and retirement investors alike, including futures and advanced options strategies, as well as more than 4,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds and over 250 commission-free ETFs. That mutual fund and ETF lineup easily rivals those at other brokers. Mutual funds not on the no-fee list will cost $19.99 per transaction, and ETFs, as always, are subject to standard trade commissions if not offered commission-free.
E-Trade’s analysts regularly update a list of highlighted mutual funds called the All-Star Funds Report with the top no-load funds and ETFs offered.
Educational resources: E-Trade is a great jumping off point for beginner investors, in part because of the educational resources it offers. Online, investors can view webinars on topics like options trading, technical analysis and how to diversify a portfolio, and in-person events are regularly held at E-Trade branches.
» New to investing? Check out our best online brokers for beginners.
The company also offers online investing courses from independent investment research company Morningstar, covering everything from stocks 101 to how to build an emergency fund. A thematic investing section of the E-Trade website includes advice for how to invest in companies that align with specific values, like gender diversity, clean energy and cybersecurity.
E-Trade also has strong in-person customer service, with 30 branches staffed by financial consultants. Customer support is also available by phone, email and live chat 24/7.
If you'd rather skip learning and cede investment decisions to the experts, E-Trade’s robo-advisor service, E-Trade Core Portfolio, will manage your portfolio for you for an annual advisory fee of 0.30%. The minimum investment for that service is $5,000. Robo-advisors are computer-based investment advisors who build and manage client investment portfolios.
» Interested in a robo-advisor? Here are our top picks.
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 no matter how many trades you make.
Website transparency: Part of our analysis includes 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.
The bottom line
E-Trade’s investing tools; educational resources; large selection of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds; and innovative trading technology are good for all kinds of investors. The biggest drawback is its stock trading and options commissions, which are high for all but frequent traders.