E-Trade Review: Deep Research and No-Balance Trading

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Introduction

Anytime you want to start something new, be it online stock trading or anything else, it’s always best to look at the big names and see what they have to offer. With that in mind, E*Trade is one of the biggest investment platforms out there, so this review should be helpful for you.

What are E*Trade’s Main Features?

E*Trade innovates by offering customers a wide depth of research on ETFs, as well as mutual funds, equities, and other opportunities. They can also provide screeners for stocks and bonds, as well as options, mutual funds, and ETFs.

E*Trade’s bread and butter is its mobile app, which provides many of the central features a modern investor needs to track their accounts. Their mobile app features watch list syncing, quotes and Market Movers, stock alerts, and easy stock trading. For advanced investors who want to get involved in high-risk, high-reward trading, E*Trade also deals in forex and futures trading.

They are not just a stock trading platform either — E*Trade offers checking accounts, debit cards, ATM fee reimbursement, no-fee banking and more.

If you don’t want to do all your banking online, ETrade also has 30 different brick-and-mortar locations across the US, allowing you to get some face to face assistance with your accounts.

Finally, it’s worth noting the individual 401k options available to traders, particularly traders who are self-employed. E*Trade offers both solo and ROTH IRA 401k plans for self-employed users looking for safe ways to save for retirement.

What are the Pros and Cons?

Pros

  • Industry leader among electronic brokers
  • Easy to use
  • Above average customer service
  • Streamlined mobile app for easy trading
  • Wide variety of services available
  • Banking services for consolidation of financial institutions
  • Free perks for opening new accounts (free trades, cash bonus)

Cons

  • No virtual trading
  • High commission rates
  • Steep costs and a high level of activity to upgrade to a PRO account

How Do You Open a E*Trade Account and What are the Requirements?

Opening an E*Trade account is fairly easy. All you need to do is head to the ETrade website, head to their application page, and enter your address, date of birth, Social Security Number, and the name and address of your employer.

There are a few more personal details that they’ll ask from you, but none are too invasive. If anything, entering these details will help E*Trade personalize your account and help them customize their services to your needs. The whole process takes 10–15 minutes.

Once everything is entered, just set up your account goals and decided what kind of trading you are doing (IRAs, retirement accounts, etc.). After you are approved by ETrade, you have to set up a minimum balance of $500 to start trading. (This is different if you are working with a retirement account.)

You can select a number of different account types to manage, each of them with a slightly different process but nothing that will make you feel lost. At all times, E*Trade has a support number you can call, with representatives who will walk you through any step of the process.

E*Trade also offers an upgraded program called E*Trade PRO, which costs nothing extra as long as you make more than 30 trades in a month. (Otherwise, it costs you an additional $99 per month.

For the most part, E*Trade PRO provides a much more detailed brokerage experience, offering more complex keyboard shortcuts to place orders more quickly, a number of virtual desktops to make your workspace more efficient, streaming market news, and other nice features.

invest - E*Trade review

What Are the Rules for Trading on E*Trade?

When trading on E*Trade, the fees are what you really need to worry about, as they can be a little difficult to anticipate. There are two different pricing structures available on E*Trade, depending on how often you invest (more or less than 150 trades per quarter).

If you trade more than 150 times in a quarter, there is a $7.99 flat fee, with 75-cent fees per contract. Broker-assisted trades are $25, plus any commissions they have, and futures are $3 per contract. Luckily, E*Trade offers commission-free ETFs, US Treasury trades, and a few others.

If you trade fewer than 150 times per quarter, however, your flat fees can go up by $2, but they are largely the same otherwise.

If you decide to take advantage of E*Trade’s reputable roster of 8,000 mutual funds, you might like what you see. More than 1,300 of these mutual funds are no-load, no-transaction-fee funds, which is just about the lowest barrier to entry you could ask for.

What Kind of Trader is E*Trade Best For?

Anyone looking for a lot of advice and support would benefit well from E*Trade’s various methods of customer service.

Overall, E*Trade’s user experience is very highly rated, particularly their Investor Education Center and Retirement Center. Both of these sections offer detailed, personalized advice on how best to learn the complicated ins and outs of trading, and helping people plan for their retirement as best they can.

Customers can call in, send email requests for support, and even engage in live chats with one of E*Trade’s numerous support representatives. Support is 24/7, so you can call in with a question whenever you have any kind of problem.

On the other hand, if you want easy access to your E*Trade account so you can manage it from anywhere, E*Trade’s mobile app makes it great for more hands-on investors.

For traders who are a bit more active, E*Trade PRO is a fantastic platform — with a variety of features, options and tools to choose from, those who explore their markets frequently will appreciate the free upgrade for high-activity investors.

Other Good Products

If you like E*Trade’s online platform but want something with a few more options, Scottrade might be a good alternative. Scottrade asks for a bit more money ($2,500) as an opening balance, but in exchange you get minimal fees for trading and a strong infrastructure on which to build your trading strategy.

If you’re used to brokerages that provide live chat support, consider TD Ameritrade. The commissions and features at TD Ameritrade are pretty similar, but the live chat feature might be the deciding factor for some people trying to choose between the two brokers.

If charting is critical to your research, then consider ThinkOrSwim by TD Ameritrade. The charting capabilities on the ThinkOrSwim platform are among the best from the brokerages we’ve reviewed.

Stash Invest is another fantastic option for E*Trade fans who still want the streamlined nature of their mobile app, but desire even greater simplicity in their investing activities. Stash Invest only asks for a $5 opening bid, and asks you to choose from a variety of pre-packaged themed portfolios.

A Few Final Thoughts

All in all, E*Trade provides a superior brokerage experience than many of its competitors, and it’s a nice mid-range platform for those getting into investing.

E*Trade’s variety seems to be its major advantage — there is a strategy and product for investors of any activity level, and high activity is soundly rewarded with free software upgrades and better equipment. This makes E*Trade a good all-purpose brokerage solution for someone who wants a little bit of everything.

Either way, E*Trade offers a nice overall package of options that does not get overly complicated, and doesn’t ask for too much money upfront. That puts E*Trade at the head of the pack in terms of customer service and brokerage quality.

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