E*Trade® review 2021

James F. Royal, Ph.D., is a senior reporter on investing and wealth management at Bankrate. He was formerly a stock analyst for The Motley Fool and a writer for NerdWallet. He is the author of The Zen of Thrift Conversions, a book about how to invest in hidden bank stocks. He believes in the power of education to help individuals make smart financial decisions that can markedly improve their lives. Royal is regularly quoted on investing topics in national news media, such as CNBC and Forbes. He holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Florida, where he was an award-winning instructor.

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E*Trade Logo

Best For

  • Active trading
  • Robust trading platforms
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds

E-Trade is a solid all-around pick for any investor, beginner to advanced. For beginners, the broker offers plenty of education and research, and the wide range of no-fee funds should appeal to this group as well. But the broker definitely tries to attract a more-active trader with two quality trading platforms, a high-powered mobile app, a range of tradable securities and discounted options commissions for active traders and more. And of course, you’ll find E-Trade offers no-commission stock and ETF trading, right in line with the rest of the industry. So E-Trade will provide the service you’re looking for, regardless of your ability and knowledge. 

E-Trade was purchased by Morgan Stanley in 2020 and is being run as a separate unit. 

E*Trade at a glance

Star Rating

4.5
  • Cost: 5 of 5
  • Accounts and trading: 4.5 of 5
  • Research and Education: 4.5 of 5
  • Mobile: 4 of 5
  • Customer Experience: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $0
  • Cost per options trade:
    $0.65 per contract or $0.50 per contract with 30+ trades per quarter
  • Promotion:
    Up to $2,500 cash
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    All
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    4,400+ NTF mutual funds
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, options, futures
  • Customer service:
    Email, phone, online chat are all 24/5
  • Account fees:
    $25 fee for partial transfers/$75 for full transfers, though E-Trade will waive the fee if more than $5,000 remains in the account after the transfer.
  • Mobile app:
    E-Trade offers the “E-Trade Mobile

Top features you’ll love

Power E-Trade

Power E-Trade is the broker’s flagship trading platform, which it brought over from rival broker OptionsHouse, acquired a few years ago. The well-regarded web-based platform provides more than 100 technical studies and more than 30 drawing tools to help investors analyze the trading action. It also provides tools to help you trade more profitably: 

  • Overlay technical patterns on the stock chart to help you understand what’s going on
  • Show your risk-reward on options trades, breakevens and more
  • Scan for unusual stock activity, such as high-volume stock and option trades

Other tools include a snapshot analysis, which provides a visual representation of the risk and reward of an options trade. Similarly, a spectral analysis tool offers visual representations of potential options scenarios. The platform also offers streaming of Bloomberg TV right onto your desktop.

Power E-Trade mobile app

Available for both iOS and Android, the Power E-Trade mobile app offers interactive charts and technical studies, though it’s not as fully featured as the flagship web-based program. But you will be able to enter orders – including complex options trades – on a single ticket. You’ll also get streaming news, quotes and third-party research. And you can even access stock charts and the most popular technical studies to find trading ideas. 

Pros: Where E-Trade stands out

Tradable securities

E-Trade offers the standard range of investment choices, including stocks, bonds, ETFs, options and mutual funds. That’s the core for most brokers, but E-Trade also provides one of the lesser-offered asset classes – futures. That offering puts it among a handful of brokers who allow customers to trade one of the fastest-paced and high-risk securities in the market. While that probably has limited appeal for newer investors, more advanced traders may find the addition a bonus.

Funds without transaction fees

The broker sits near the top for fund investors, too. E-Trade offers more than 4,400 no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds, among the upper echelon in the industry. Yes, Interactive Brokers has more total no-transaction-fee mutual funds, but E-Trade offers more than enough funds to find what you need. Plus, you’ll be able to set up a recurring investment in mutual funds for as little as $25 per scheduled investment. 

E-Trade offers all its ETFs commission-free, adding a solid complement to the wealth of mutual funds. Of course, while mutual funds and ETFs may not have a commission, investors still must pay the fund company’s expense ratio, which is deducted seamlessly from the fund itself.

Discounted commissions

Like most of the industry, E-Trade’s basic commission for stock and ETF trades has been slashed to $0. But unlike many rivals, the broker offers a discounted commission for options trades. The standard price is $0.65 per contract, but if you make more than 30 stock, ETF or options trades each quarter, the options commission declines to $0.50 per contract. So there’s definitely some incentive for high-volume traders to operate here.

E-Trade has recently moved its account minimum to $0, so you can get started without adding any money to your account, though of course you won’t be able to buy anything. However, E-Trade has long offered no minimum for IRA accounts. In any case, the move brings the broker in line with all the other major online brokers. 

Trading platforms

The real standout here is E-Trade’s flagship platform, Power E-Trade, but the broker’s base platform, called E-Trade Web, offers a solid package, too. It’s for investors who don’t require all the advanced trading analysis but are still looking for a platform that helps source ideas.

The web platform provides streaming quotes, charts and market commentary. Its screeners will help you select the stocks, bonds or funds that meet your needs. You can analyze options trades and backtest trading strategies, and you’ll have access to research here, too.

And for mobile traders, the broker offers E-Trade Mobile, the base trading app. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices, including the Apple Watch. The app allows you to trade stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and multi-legged options, and you’ll be able to access Bloomberg TV, research and news as well.

The app also allows you to do a few of the more mundane financial tasks, such as deposit checks, transfer money and pay bills, so it’s not all about trading.

Research and education

E-Trade gets high marks here, too. The broker provides its own daily commentary on the markets and offers third-party research. Independent research includes stock reports from Thomson Reuters and TipRanks, and fund analysis from Morningstar, among others. It’s a broad array of research that’s offered to clients at no additional charge.

If you’re just getting started, E-Trade has you covered with tons of articles, videos and classes as well as a library of finance topics. You’ll also be able to attend webinars or live events on investing topics, from the basics to complex trading strategies for those looking for an edge. Plus, you’ll get E-Trade’s commentary on the markets and what’s trending. 

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
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$0 4.5 of 5
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Cons: Where E-Trade could improve

Account fees

E-Trade still charges those pesky “transfer out” fees when you want to move your money to another brokerage. And frankly it’s hard to blame brokers too much, because it’s a charge that may help incentivize you to stay, especially if you won’t be able to take advantage of a bonus offer with your new brokerage and offset that transfer fee.

E-Trade charges you $25 for a partial transfer or $75 for a full transfer, but it will waive the partial transfer fee if more than $5,000 remains in the account afterward. However, Fidelity has eliminated that fee, in line with its investor-friendly reputation. 

Fractional shares

At E-Trade, you can reinvest your dividends into fractional shares. This allows you to roll the whole payout into more stock, which is a nice feature for investors looking to amass wealth. However, the broker does not allow investors to purchase partial shares, so you’ll be limited to buying whole share amounts. That puts the broker at a disadvantage to Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments, both of which offer fractional shares on both dividend reinvestment and purchases. 

Bottom line

E-Trade caters well to two different groups (beginning investors and more-advanced traders) that often have quite different needs and expectations. But the broker does a good job serving both adequately:

  • A discounted options commissions (with a reasonable threshold) puts E-Trade among the leading online brokers for commissions. 
  • The wide selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and research should be a boon for newer investors or those focused on long-term buy-and-hold investing with funds. 
  • The high-quality trading platforms and range of available securities make the broker more interesting for active traders, too. 

If you’re looking to avoid having to reach a threshold to get your discounted options commission, check out Ally Invest, which offers a lower standard commission. Or check out Robinhood for no commissions at all. Investors on the hunt for a strong broker for beginners will find TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments to all be highly capable and investor-friendly.

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