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Overall

While E*TRADE may not offer the cheapest trades, the broker provides a user-friendly website, a high-quality mobile experience, and thorough research that will satisfy both casual and sophisticated investors.

By Blain Reinkensmeyer / February 21st, 2017 / Updated: November 28th, 2017

Dislikes
  • To access, the E*TRADE Pro platform requires 30 trades per quarter or $250,000 in assets
  • $6.95 trades pricier than most
  • Customer service quality has fallen compared to previous years
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Once known for its talking baby commercials, E*TRADE has worked hard over the years to evolve as a brand and speak more directly to its current and target customers. In 2017, E*TRADE’s target clientele are investors who are confident, independent, yet willing to ask for help when they need it.

With this customer image in mind, E*TRADE executes well overall. E*TRADE may not be the least expensive on the block, but the company continues to invest in its overall client experience and provide value, despite a higher price tag per trade.

Commissions & Fees

While mostly competitive with its other full-service broker competitors, such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab, E*TRADE is not an ideal choice for investors seeking discounted commissions. In the broker space, though, most often what you pay for is what you get, and E*TRADE 's well-rounded offering offsets its higher rates.

Regular stock trades are $6.95, with options trades costing $6.95, plus $.75 per contract. All trades are flat rate commissions, meaning there are no gimmicks to watch out for, and active traders can get their rate as low as $4.95 if they make 30-plus trades per quarter. Under this tier, options trades are also reduced to $4.95 + $0.50 per contract.

E*TRADE does stand out from its competitors with its mutual fund commissions, which run at $19.99 per trade. Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade charge $76.00, $49.95, and $49.99, respectively. As far as total selection is concerned, the broker offers just over 8,000 to choose from.

View All FeesE*TRADETD AmeritradeFidelity Charles SchwabScottrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$6.95$6.95$4.95$4.95$6.95
Options Base Fee$6.95$6.95$4.95$4.95$6.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.75$0.65$0.65$0.70
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$19.99$49.99$49.95$76.00$17.00
Commission Free ETFs156296912440
Commissions & Fees 2.5 Stars 2.5 Stars 3 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars

Lastly, E*TRADE has a reputable offering of commission-free ETFs, an offering that has become increasingly popular industry wide in the past few years. While the broker does not quite match Charles Schwab's 200-plus commission-free ETFs offering, there are still 149, which is second highest in the industry.

UPDATE 03/13/17 – E*TRADE reduced its equity commissions. Equity trades, including stocks and ETFs, have been lowered to $6.95 per trade (previously $9.99). Since these new rates were announced after the 2017 Review was published, they are not incorporated into E*TRADE's star rating for this category.

Research

While the research experience is outdated from a design perspective, performing research on E*TRADE is simple. After pulling up a quote for Apple (AAPL), clients see a quick overview of key statistics alongside a mini chart of the current day's action, alerts setup, buy and sell buttons, headlines, price analysis from Trefis Research, a company overview description, and a box highlighting some recent analysts’ research reports.

ETRADE stock quote

E*TRADE 's third-party research report providers include Thomson Reuters, Standard & Poor's, MarketEdge, and SmartConsensus. Access to the four providers is strong and not usually found among discount brokers; however, compared to its closest competitors, E*TRADE falls short, as Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade all provide access to at least six.

For investors who value analysts’ recommendations, E*TRADE offers consensus ratings from multiple third parties, and in 2015 added breakdowns from individual analysts. Powered by TipRanks, individual analysts are ranked and profiled, and their consolidated average price target is plotted with high and low estimates included.

ETRADE tipranks

Even though plotted average price targets were clean and useful, I found the Individual Analyst breakdowns below them to be a distraction. For example, Apple had 37 analyst recommendations. Of these analysts, 23 (65%) had at least a four-star TipRanks ranking (five stars is the highest), which left me wondering, “Whose opinion should I trust most?” There is certainly potential; however, the ratings need some tuning.

Reports and analyst analysis aside, I particularly enjoyed the charting functionality, as I could pop out the chart box into its own window and then enlarge it to take full advantage of my 24-inch monitor.

Reports and analyst analysis aside, I particularly enjoyed the charting functionality, as I could pop out the chart box into its own window and then enlarge it to take full advantage of my 24-inch monitor. Adjusting settings and adding studies alongside company event data such as splits, dividends, earnings, and insider trades was helpful. The standout feature here was the ability to display post-hours trading activity, which is great to use during the earnings season.

ETRADE website stock chart

Considering the price per trade, E*TRADE’s research experience is thorough overall and provides investors with what they need to succeed. That said, when compared against leaders in the industry, Charles Schwab and Fidelity, E*TRADE clearly lags behind. This is especially true for in-house research and market commentary.

E*TRADETD AmeritradeFidelity Charles SchwabMerrill Edge
Equity Research - Reports471283
ETF Research - Reports Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Reports Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Equity Research - Social Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Platforms & Tools

UPDATE 08/07/17 – E*TRADE has completed its integration of OptionsHouse, the online broker it acquired in 2016, which is now available for all E*TRADE customers. For a breakdown of OptionsHouse's platform, read our review.

For clients looking to simply track their favorite stocks and holdings, the E*TRADE MarketCaster is the broker's real-time streaming quotes tool, which pops up as a new window when launched. MarketCaster is simple and easy-to-use; however, given the new streaming watch lists experience built right into the E*TRADE website, I think MarketCaster’s days are numbered. Long term, the website experience should prove to be a good one.

ETRADE MarketCaster

For feature-hungry clients, there is E*TRADE Pro (desktop-based). Access to E*TRADE Pro requires Pro Elite status, which means making at least 30 stock or options trades per quarter or having a portfolio balance of $250,000. In comparison, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab both give full access to their flagship platforms with no strings attached, while Fidelity and Scottrade also have requirements.

ETRADE Pro

On the surface, E*TRADE Pro has all the bells and whistles an active trader could want, with snap grid functionality for quick and easy customizing. Pro supports some 20-plus tools, including streaming live CNBC TV, a real-time strategy scanner, several options tools, advanced charting, real-time sales, and level II quotes, among others.

Over the past few years, I was consistently unimpressed by E*TRADE Pro’s lack of depth in two key areas: charting and alerts functionality. While alerts can still not be viewed on charts, fortunately, in 2016, E*TRADE made big improvements everywhere else in the charting experience, thanks to its new charting engine powered by Chart IQ.

ETRADE Pro stock chart

Charting now on E*TRADE Pro is a crisp, clean experience.

Charting now on E*TRADE Pro is a crisp, clean experience. While the overall feel is mostly similar to its predecessor as far as menus go, there is more depth throughout. The biggest difference is that instead of the previous 47 technical studies made available, there are now 118. Although 118 still falls below the 270, 166, and 370 offered by TradeStation, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade, respectively, it’s a big step in the right direction. Similarly, total charting tools have jumped to 24 from only eight.

Beyond charting, the options capabilities on E*TRADE Pro are robust, thanks to significant upgrades in both 2015 and 2016. Updates included a new interface, updated option graphs, expanded option probability analysis, and streamlined order entry. For options traders with complex portfolios and margin requirements, Margin Analyzer gives clients exactly what they need to monitor, manage, and plan for margin changes in their portfolios.

ETRADE Pro Options Analyzer

All 58 variables considered, E*TRADE’s offering of platforms and tools will satisfy most investors and traders; however, like category Research, the experience trails its closest competitors. In 2017, E*TRADE slipped out of its previously held top five spot.

E*TRADETD AmeritradeFidelity Charles SchwabMerrill Edge
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charting - Indicators / Studies1183971664173
Charting - Drawing Tools3122221522
Option Chains - Total Columns3933263462
Watch Lists - Total Fields13051485108216

Mobile Trading

As the first broker to really push mobile, E*TRADE reigned supreme over the past four years, finishing first from 2013 – 2016 despite tough competition. While E*TRADE was dethroned this year to TD Ameritrade in the Mobile Trading category, the broker still provides an excellent experience for clients.

E*TRADE’s mobile app is rich with features, easy to use, and has a handful of features few other brokers offer: streaming live CNBC TV, level II quotes, customized stock screening, third-party research ratings, and a customizable dashboard, among others.

E*TRADE’s mobile app is rich with features, easy to use, and has a handful of features few other brokers offer: streaming live CNBC TV, level II quotes, customized stock screening, third-party research ratings, and a customizable dashboard, among others.

E*TRADE mobile screener

In 2016, E*TRADE updated its charting provider to ChartIQ, the same engine chosen to run the new charting experience on E*TRADE Pro. With both mobile and desktop engines being the same, functionality enhancements quickly emerged. For example, add a note to any chart on E*TRADE Pro and that note will then appear on the same chart in mobile. This includes drawings as well such as channels and trendlines.

E*TRADE mobile quote

While the charting engine update was certainly a positive one, charting still lags behind industry standards in the availability of technical studies. In 2015, only two indicators were supported and in 2016 E*TRADE increased that number to 10; however, it is still well below the industry average of 36. That said, E*TRADE does offer the ability to build a studies favorites list from E*TRADE Pro, meaning clients can select any 10 studies from E*TRADE Pro’s 118 studies and offer them on mobile.

Investors should take note though, to use any functionality tied to E*TRADE Pro, you have to have access to the platform to begin with, which requires making at least 30 stock or options trades per quarter or having a portfolio balance of $250,000.

Charting aside, with 52 variables being assessed for mobile trading, E*TRADE earned 94% of total possible points. The broker placed No. 2 and remains an industry leader because its apps are easy to use, dependable, and feature rich.

E*TRADETD AmeritradeFidelity Charles SchwabMerrill Edge
Watch List Syncing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charting - Technical Studies1139723222
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Customizable Homescreen Yes No Yes No Yes
Touch ID Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stream Live TV Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Ease of Use

The E*TRADE website is a breeze to use, thanks to clean navigation and its freshly redesigned Portfolios experience, which launched in late 2016. The broker also completely redesigned its watchlists tool and order entry pages for both stocks and options in 2016, all three of which were outdated and desperately needed an overhaul. *Note: As the time this review was published in February 2017, these products were in different phases of their roll outs and were not available to all 3.4 million+ E*TRADE customers.

E*TRADE portfolio holdings

What stands out with these tools is a clear focus on a seamless client experience. The styling, colors, and overall feel flows easily from tool to tool. This is very important for E*TRADE long term as E*TRADE’s website tools have fallen away from modern design standards over the years. Even E*TRADE 360, which was once a featured focal point of the website experience, now feels out of place and in need of some love. The same goes for E*TRADE’s client account settings area and MarketCaster (discussed further below), E*TRADE’s streaming quotes web applet, which is way behind the times.

Overall, the main takeaway for 2017 is that even with several outdated tools and areas, E*TRADE’s website experience has never been better, and I am excited to see how the experience continues to evolve.

Customer Service

In this year’s 2017 Broker Review, we were disappointed at our testing results. In our 2016 Review, E*TRADE’s customer service finished fifth overall, good for a Best in Class designation. This year, though, E*TRADE not only fell out of the top five, but tumbled all the way to the bottom half of the rankings.

In our phone testing, E*TRADE’s support had us waiting on hold for three to five minutes, on average, before being connected to a service agent. Fortunately, once connected we found the agents were well trained and left us with a positive vibe. That said, given several of E*TRADE’s competitors had average wait times of less than one minute, we expected more from E*TRADE.

The rocky experience translated into email support as well. Unfortunately, early on during our testing cycle over several months, E*TRADE decided to shut down its email support completely for prospective clients. This resulted in multiple test scores for E*TRADE being missed, putting more emphasis on the few that we had already completed, which were mixed experiences. In the final weeks of 2016, E*TRADE re-enabled its email support service, but sadly it was too little too late. We expect a better result next year.

All our chat sessions were connected to a rep in less than 60 seconds, and nearly half our tests resulted in perfect scores. Considering our strict institutional grade testing criteria, this is no easy feat, and E*TRADE’s chat support finished first overall.

While phone testing weighs highest in our overall scoring, and email was a mixed bag, E*TRADE wasn’t all gloom. Live Chat support surprised us with fantastic overall quality. All our chat sessions were connected to a rep in less than 60 seconds, and nearly half our tests resulted in perfect scores. Considering our strict institutional grade testing criteria, this is no easy feat, and E*TRADE’s chat support finished first overall.

The bottom line: if you want to get hold of E*TRADE in 2017, use live chat.

Other Notes

E*TRADE acquired discount broker OptionsHouse in July, 2016. OptionsHouse is best known for its fantastic platform for options trading; a platform that should become a great new addition for E*TRADE clients. Details are still being worked out on how the merger will take place and this is certainly something we will be watching throughout 2017.

Also in 2016, E*TRADE launched E*TRADE Adaptive Portfolio, its take on a robo-advisory offering. For a look at the offering, read our in-depth review.

Besides trading, E*TRADE also offers basic banking services, including checking accounts with no ATM fees and debit cards. The broker also provides 30 local branch offices.

Final Thoughts

E*TRADE as a brand has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years. The broker rose to be a leader in the industry in the early 2000s, then the stock price took a beating throughout 2007 and 2008 as the broker's mortgage portfolio became toxic. Despite these struggles during the worst financial crisis in US history since the Great Depression, E*TRADE’s trading experience has stood strong.

The broker pressed forth and became the undisputed leader in mobile trading, which was then unchartered territory. Most recently, the move away from the iconic baby commercials has E*TRADE focusing on its core clients. The broker remains an industry leader in its mobile offering, continues to innovate by refreshing outdated website tools, and provides a well-rounded offering for its clients.

Whether you’re an active trader or a new investor, E*TRADE is a dependable, full-service broker that impresses all investor types and gives its competitors a run for their money.

Methodology

For our 2017 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked sixteen different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 349 customer service tests, collected 5,277 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. How we test.

References

View all E*TRADE Fees & Features
Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format seven years ago, a format broker executives consider the most thorough in the industry. Blain currently maintains funded accounts with more than a dozen different US-regulated online brokers and has executed thousands of trades throughout his career. He enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.

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Ratings Overall

Summary

Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
Research
Customer Service
Banking

Best in Class

2017
 4

Overall
  • Overall
  • Offering of Investments
  • Research
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
2016
 3

Overall
  • Overall
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
  • Order Execution
  • New Investors
2015
 3

Overall
  • Overall
  • Offering of Investments
  • Research
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
  • New Investors
2014
 4

Overall
  • Overall
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
  • New Investors
2013
 2

Overall
  • Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
  • New Investors

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.

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