E-Trade Review: Is It Still One of the Best Online Brokers?

E-Trade is still an industry leader, now with $0 commissions.

E-Trade was one of the pioneers of online brokerage, and it has always been one of the industry’s low-cost leaders. As befitting an industry that thrives on change and technological advancement, there has been a seismic shift in online brokerage pricing. Along with many of its competitors, E-Trade cut its stock and ETF commissions to zero in early October 2019.

Now that trading costs have reached their absolute floor, the question is, how does E-Trade stack up in terms of its overall product? To help answer that question, here’s an in-depth look at all that E-Trade offers — including comparisons with other firms — so you can see if E-Trade is the right choice for you.

Quick Take

Although E-Trade was one of the first online brokers, it’s still one of the best. With outstanding educational resources, low costs and a vast investment selection, E-Trade gets high marks for its overall platform.

E-Trade
Equity Trades$0
Account Minimum$0
PromotionUp to $600, for transfers of at least $25,000

For the latest GOBankingRates evaluations of other top online brokerages, the best retirement accounts and other information on investing, check out these articles:

Here’s the information you’ll find in this E-Trade review:

About E-Trade

Founded in 1982, E-Trade is one of the pioneers of online investing. The company lays claim to the first online trade placed on an exchange, in 1983, and since then has grown into one of the industry’s leaders, with headquarters in New York City and over 4,300 employees across America. While the company does have 30 brick-and-mortar branches, it’s primarily focused on online investors. Based on its vast capabilities, E-Trade ranks as one of GOBankingRates’ Best Brokers of 2019-2020.

Pros and Cons of E-Trade

Like any investment firm, E-Trade does have its drawbacks, but they are few and far between.

Pros

  • Plenty of educational resources, particularly for beginning investors
  • No account minimums
  • $0 commissions
  • Decent sign-up promotion

Cons

  • Website is not as intuitive as with some other brokers
  • No cryptocurrency trading

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E-Trade at a Glance

Here’s a quick look at the features and benefits of E-Trade brokerage services:

E-Trade at a Glance
Account Minimum$0
Stock Commission$0
Option Commission$0 + $0.65 per contract ($0.50 per contract with more than 30 trades per quarter)
Commission-Free ETFsAll ETFs are now $0
Zero-Transaction-Fee Mutual Funds4,400+
Investment SelectionStocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, CDs
Customer Service24/7 phone lines, live chat, email, regular mail, 30+ branches nationwide
Mobile AppYes, two full-featured mobile apps
News and ResearchExtensive financial education for both beginning and advanced investors
Miscellaneous FeesBroker-assisted trades, $25;  some mutual fund trades, $19.99 with $49.99 early redemption fees; NSF fee $25; full account transfer out, $75
Current Promotion$200 to $2,500 for transfers of at least $25,000 to $1,000,000+

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Individual Services Reviews

The general scope of services provided by most online brokers is fairly similar. But the specifics can vary significantly. Here’s a breakdown of how E-Trade measures up across various service parameters.

Trading Experience

E-Trade offers two different trading platforms online, plus the same two platforms via apps. Investors can use either platform at will. This is a nice feature, as E-Trade doesn’t tease a more expensive platform in an attempt to get more traders to subscribe to it.

Features available on the basic trading platform include:

  • Third-party analyst research
  • Quotes, news and charts
  • Investment screeners
  • Retirement planning resources

Using the Power E-Trade program, additional features include:

  • Charting tools with technical analysis patterns and education
  • Option trade probabilities
  • Intraday and historical charting with studies, drawing tools and multiple chart types
  • Risk analysis tools

As seen below, investors and traders can also use both of these platforms via mobile apps.

A Beginner’s Guide: How To Invest in Stocks

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Account and Investment Minimums

E-Trade has no account minimums.

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Commissions and Fund Expenses

Since early October 2019, online equity, exchange-traded funds and options trades cost $0, although there’s an additional fee of $0.65 per options contract ($0.50 if you make at least 30 trades per quarter). Although it’s hard to top $0 commissions, with the new competitive landscape in the industry, this puts E-Trade just in line with numerous competitors, such as Fidelity and TD Ameritrade.

There’s an additional $25 charge if you want to place a trade through an advisor. Some mutual fund transactions carry additional costs as well. Specifically, certain funds have transaction fees of $19.99, and a $49.99 early redemption fee applies to no-load, no-transaction-fee funds.

E-Trade used to offer a number of no-commission ETFs, but that distinction is now moot, as all such trades are executed with $0 commission.

Learn: How To Decide Between Mutual Funds and Stocks

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Trading Technology

E-Trade’s routing technology aims to provide the best possible execution for customers. For orders of 100 to 9,999 shares in Standard & Poor’s stocks in August 2019, 94.05% of E-Trade customer orders were executed at or better than the national best bid/offer, or NBBO. The average price improvement per order was $11.17, and the average market order was executed in just 0.07 seconds.

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Usability

E-Trade has a user-friendly interface with customizable charts and other adjustable features. Investors can choose from two trading experience platforms: the web site or one of the mobile apps.

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Mobile and Emerging Tech

E-Trade offers two types of full-service mobile apps. The first option, the standard E-Trade Mobile App, offers the following features:

  • Invest in stocks, mutual funds, options and ETFs
  • Manage cash with Bill Pay, Transfer Money and check deposit
  • Access to Bloomberg TV
  • View breaking news and third-party research

The basic E-Trade App is available for Apple and Android devices, including the Apple Watch and other tablet devices.

The more advanced Power E-Trade App is designed primarily for traders and has more advanced capabilities. Enhanced features on this app include the following:

  • Interactive charts and popular technical studies
  • Trade ETFs, stocks, futures, simple and complex options on a single ticket
  • Customizable options chain, including four-legged spreads and other options strategies
  • Streaming quotes, including news, dividends, earnings and gains

As with the basic E-Trade app, the advanced E-Trade app is available on both Android and Apple platforms.

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Range of Offerings and Investment Selection

E-Trade’s investment categories are somewhat limited, but the firm offers a wide range of options within each major category. Available investments at E-Trade include the following:

  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Futures
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • CDs

Customers have access to over 9,000 mutual funds at E-Trade, of which 4,400+ are no-load, no-transaction-fee funds.

E-Trade also offers a robo-adviser platform known as Personalized Investments that allocates your money across various mutual funds and manages them for a fee of 0.30% to 1.25% annually.

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News and Research

E-Trade has an extensive body of research available for its customers. Information is broadly diversified but is primarily divided across the following categories:

  • Investing basics
  • Advanced trading
  • Retirement planning
  • Taxes
  • Events

    E-Trade also provides basic market news, stock screeners, analytical research and a tutorial in thematic investing.

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    Customer Service

    E-Trade offers top-notch customer service options. You can contact the firm 24/7 via an 800 number, and you can also avail of their live chat. Email and regular mail are also options, albeit not as immediate. Although the firm has a reputation as an online brokerage, it has over 30 branches nationwide in case you need to speak with a broker in person.

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    Security

    E-Trade has a number of features to keep customer information safe. Encryption, firewalls and dedicated security teams help secure accounts. E-Trade focuses on these main areas regarding customer security:

    • Fraud protection
    • Privacy protection
    • Encryption and network defenses
    • Security alerts

    E-Trade also has a security tool known as Security ID that adds two-factor authentication to accounts.

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    Costs

    Trading costs for stocks and options used to be a bit expensive in the online world, but in October, E-Trade, along with many of its competitors, eliminated commissions for online equity trades, ETFs and options, although a per-contract fee still remains. Costs remain high for certain mutual fund transactions, such as the $49.99 fee for early redemption of certain no-load funds, and for using a broker to place a trade.

    Learn: Investing for Beginners: What First-Time Investors Need To Know

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    What E-Trade Is Best For

    E-Trade is best for the following features:

    • News and research
    • Customer service
    • Mobile and emerging tech
    • Commissions and fund expenses

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    Where E-Trade Falls Short

    Here’s where E-Trade comes up a touch short compared with some other brokers:

    • Range of offerings/investment selection

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    Current Promotions

    E-Trade offers cash bonuses paid out in five tiers:

    • $200 for deposits of $25,000-$99,999
    • $300 for deposits of $100,000-$249,999
    • $600 for deposits of $250,000-$499,999
    • $1,200 for deposits of $500,000-$999,999
    • $2,500 for deposits of $1,000,000 or more.

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    Comparison: E-Trade vs. Other Brokers

    In the recent “race to the bottom” when it comes to $0 commissions, E-Trade fits right in. Here’s how it stacks up with its competitors.

    Broker Comparison
    BrokerStock CommissionAccount MinimumPromotion
    E-Trade$0$0$200 to $2,500 for transfers from at least $25,000 to $1,000,000+
    Merrill Edge$2.95$0Up to $600 in cash with new account deposit
    Charles Schwab$0$0500 commission-free online equity and options trades for two years with $100,000 deposit
    Fidelity$0$0No promotions currently
    Firstrade$0$0Up to $200 in transfer fee rebates
    Robinhood$0$01 share of free stock when your brokerage application is approved
    TD Ameritrade$0$0Up to $600 in cash with new account deposit

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    Should You Invest With E-Trade?

    There is a lot to recommend about E-Trade, and only a few cosmetic drawbacks. For most investors, this internet brokerage pioneer remains one of the best options available.

    One of the few drawbacks of E-Trade comes in the form of its website, which, although accessible and packed with information, can be a bit hard to navigate when it comes to searching out specific items. Also, E-Trade doesn’t offer some of the more exotic investments, such as cryptocurrency, on its platform. But these are minor criticisms, particularly when compared with all of the company’s strengths.

    The bottom line is that E-Trade provides plenty of information for first-time traders to get started and its commission structure is appealing to all investors. With no cost for most equity and ETF trades, and a minimal per-contract fee for options trades, E-Trade is one of the industry’s low-cost leaders. Coupled with excellent mobile access and a robo-advisor platform for those so inclined, E-Trade offers a nice overall package.

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    Information is accurate as of Oct. 16, 2019; commission rates are accurate as of Oct. 16, 2019. This content is not provided by E-Trade. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by E-Trade. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.

    About the Author

    After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.