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ETrade Online Broker: Discount Brokerage Account Review

Published 10/15/09 (Modified 3/22/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Update: Get 100 Free Trades With This E-Trade Promo Offer I Just Found

Back when I first started getting serious about investing during college, E-Trade was one of the very first online brokerage firms that I opened a trading account with. My inaugural entry into the world of investing occurred around the time of the dot com bubble in 1999 - when E-Trade wasn't exactly known for its cheap commissions or discounted fees. At the time, one couldn't really consider E-Trade a true discount broker - as back then, the firm catered more to the savvier advanced traders who were willing to pay substantially more for exclusive access to premium research and stock tracking tools. But over the years, with the rise in the popularity of Internet based discount brokers offering supremely low cost options for cheap stock trades, E-Trade's fee commission structure has gradually fallen to where it is now today. Fortunately, despite the fall in pricing over time, the firm has not sacrificed any of its premium account features but rather has continued to grow and steadily outpace its competition in terms of building a better online product for typical do-it-yourself investors like you and I.

Today, while ETrade isn't the cheapest discount brokerage around, it's one of the top online investment solutions for those looking to reap the maximum product offerings available without having to fork over the rip off fees and hefty commissions levied down by most of those big name full service brokerages on Wall Street. If you're primarily a self directed, do-it-yourself investor who wants all of the beginner and advanced trading tools from a single console without having to turn to multiple online sources for all of your financial needs - E-Trade Financial might be exactly what you need.

While there are other broker options that offer much cheaper rates, ETrade does provide its account holders a tremendous amount of value for their money. The company's services are very ideal for those looking for a complete, one stop shopping source for all of their investing and banking needs. Other popular and recognizable discount brokers like TradeKing, Scottrade, and even Zecco offer perhaps cheaper rates for stock and option trades, but they are somewhat outmatched by E-Trade's completeness and comprehensiveness in the account tools and resources department. Unlike many of its financial peers and rivals that focus squarely on either investment or banking services exclusively, E-Trade's primary allure stems from its ability to offer a mass appeal of products from a singular inter linked and centrally managed financial platform. With features for both long term passive investors and active day traders alike, E-Trade touts everything from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IPO's, foreign currencies, foreign stocks, and exchange traded funds (ETF's) - to its bank based products like high yield savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, certificate of deposits (CD's), and even Etrade branded credit cards.

Best Discount Broker Overall According To Online Brokerage Reviews

I'm just a regular guy who has some amateur experience with stock market investing and who also currently trades with an E-trade account. I really like E-Trade a lot, primarily for its all-in-one packages - but then again, you certainly don't have to read my discount brokerage reviews and just take my word for it. Take a look around at what others are saying about the online broker. Even objectively speaking, ETrade is one of the most highly touted "Best of Breed" financial firms in the market today and has received numerous awards and accolades for its features and highly regarded customer service reputation. Out of numerous highly ranked brokers, and for the third straight year since 2007 and 2008 - the publishers at SmartMoney (A Wall Street Journal magazine) again picked Etrade as the overall top discount broker for year 2009. E-trade ranked high in almost every category including customer service, trading tools, research tools, banking services, and selection of mutual fund & investment products. Even Barron's Magazine, in its 2008 online broker survey - rated Etrade in its top 10 best online brokers, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars - for categories such as trade experience, trade technology, usability, range of offerings, research amenities, portfolio analysis & reports, customer service & access, and costs.

E-Trade Pricing: Low Cost Commissions and Investment Brokerage Fees

Like I mentioned earlier, although it's not the absolute cheapest of all of the discount brokerages, E-trade's rate fees and commissions are pretty competitive considering all of the account features and tools the company provides to you at your disposal. Etrade's commissions for stocks and option trades are dependent on how frequently you trade and the balance amount invested in your account. As evidenced by the pricing chart above, the standard base pricing rate is $12.99 per stock trade trade and $0.75 per options trade. Those with balances of $50,000 or more in their linked Etrade brokerage and banks accounts, or engage in more than 30 equity trades per quarter enjoy a lower commissions rate via enhanced Power E-trade promotions at $9.99 per trade. Those who trade even more frequently at 1,500 trades or more per quarter (such as by day traders of penny stocks for example) and those with substantial assets - may qualify for super cheap pricing of $6.99 per trade or lower.

All-In-One Brokerage: Etrade Complete Banking and Power Etrade Investing

Voted as "Best In Breed" by Money Magazine for its popular banking services, E-Trade is not only a big time brokerage, but also a popular provider of FDIC insurance protected savings and CD options such as the following:

While APY interest rate offerings by Etrade's checking and savings accounts could use a boost of late, they do provide brokerage account holders additional choices beyond just leaving their un-invested cash sitting idly in their accounts. Because the Etrade bank and brokerage services are so interconnected and linked, many account holders utilize the higher APY rates offered by their Etrade online savings accounts as primary cash sweep solutions for their idle brokerage cash. This compatibility between the brokerage and banking platforms make monetary transfers between the two quick and easy via free instant transfers and affords a tremendous degree of FDIC insured flexibility for optimizing your cash investments. In terms of maintaining real life access to your Etrade banking funds, although the firm's banking arm only offers a tiny handful of actual brick and mortar based retail locations across the United States, it does offer customers the convenience of unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and refunds from any machine, any bank, nationwide.

Premium Online Tools For All Individual Investment and Retirement Accounts

When aspiring investors sign up for an online brokerage account with Etrade, they are buying into Etrade's Complete Investment Account program which provides what the firm calls - an integrated investment and cash management system, with its unity of investment, banking, loan, and even credit based services at once source. Those retirement minded investors out there looking for the best IRA broker might want to give an Etrade-managed account a try. The firm is a popular fit for those seeking the necessary resources to help them in achieving their long term individual retirement account planning objectives.

  • Open an Etrade IRA or Roth IRA account - Retirement accounts offer excellent tax deferred benefits and tax deductions for maximum compound interest rate growth. Don't miss out on building your financial future today.

In terms of looks and appearances, Etrade's online website layout is not only professionally designed and intuitively simple to use, the online platform that it provides is easy to navigate and tinker with. Compared to some of the other discounted brokerages out there such as Scottrade, Etrade ranks much higher in aesthetic appeal and graphical design in my opinion. But it's not just the surface features either as Etrade's inner workings boast a pretty powerful array of real time trading tools and sophisticated market research material. Along with all of the stocks and bond investments available, Etrade also provides a variety of automatic investment plans, exclusive alerts to initial public offerings that other brokerages don't offer, as well as superior access to more than 7,000 leading mutual funds, including 100's of Morningstar top-rated funds, and every ETF sold. Among the fund choices, there are also more than a 1,000 no load, no transaction fee mutual funds to invest in. To help beginners and advanced experts alike wade through the pile of investment options available, Etrade provides plenty of online explanatory help with all types of stock screeners, customizable charts, and download-able software applications for your iPhone or Blackberry handheld devices - that you would need to pick out the winners.

If you're an active trader, you might be able to qualify for lower trading costs, get better prices, and gain access to more advanced research tools through an Etrade program for advanced traders. E-Trade Complete Investment Accounts are automatically upgraded and qualified for an enhanced Power E-Trade Account when an account holder makes at least a minimum of 30 stock or option trades a calendar quarter. The enhanced Power Etrade tools offer frequent investors more advanced charting features and more in depth technical stock screeners for better viewing of complete marketing activity.

As for the universally dreaded account maintenance and inactivity fees that many brokerages impose, Etrade imposes none for retirement accounts such as IRA and Roths, and levies no monthly maintenance fees for new individual investment accounts for the first 12 months. Thereafter, so long as you maintain a brokerage balance of at least $2,000, maintain a linked Etrade bank and broker balance of at least $20,000, or execute at least one or more stock, option, or mutual fund trades per quarter - then you will avoid having to pay the quarterly assessed account service fee of $40. Etrade has apparently dropped the minimum balance required to avoid the quarterly assessed inactivity maintenance fee from the previous $10,000 in years past to the present, more manageable minimum balance of $2,000. As such, if you are a new investor with very little money to invest (less than $2,000 to play with), I'd recommend going with another brokerage firm like TradeKing or Scottrade. None of those two broker alternatives impose any maintenance or inactivity fees whatsoever. While Etrade's account features and premium resources are much better than that provided by most other heavily discounted brokers, the fees and account maintenance terms and conditions of Etrade are much better paired up with those self directed investors who attend to trade more regularly or have more than minimal assets.

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4 Responses to “ETrade Online Broker: Discount Brokerage Account Review” 

  1. John says:

    Etrade isn't too bad as far as minimum balances and maintenance fees go. I know some people gripe about the quarter fees they charge, but that's only for people with next to nothing in their accounts or who never use their accounts to invest or trade in years. For people with a few thousand there are no fees whatsoever. I've never been charged any inactivity fees but then again I trade a few times a year at least and have a bit over $10,000 invested in my little Etrade broker account.

    For Etrade, it's a $1,000 minimum to initially fund for cash accounts and $2,000 for margin accounts. I can live with that. But I think overall Etrade provides a lot of services...good value as they say.

  2. SSingler says:

    What's so great about E*Trade's bank accounts? The max rate checking and complete savings accounts offer pretty shabby interest rates. They used to be pretty good but E*trade has dropped them down to essentially nothing..basically down to the same levels as ordinary retail banks. I think you'd be better of putting your unused brokerage firm cash in a money market fund or just investing it straight up into an ETF or something.

  3. Kathie says:

    I too know some people gripe about the quarter fees they charge, but that's only for people with next to nothing in their accounts or who never use their accounts to invest or trade in years. For people with a few thousand there are no fees whatsoever.

  4. Sue says:

    I was hoping to find a way to reverse 5 (FIVE) years of inactivity fees which they started charging me once I turned off paper statements. If I had been getting a paper statement I would have done whatever it took to stop these exorbitant fees. I only had 2 stocks with $2000 in the account and actually forgot about them until I wanted to transfer them to another brokerage account. They have been stealing all of my cash dividends which I have been paying taxes on for five years and STILL charging me $40 a quarter for an Inactivity Fee!

    Now before I can transfer these stocks I have to pay over $800 in Inactivity Fees and $60 to transfer and close the account.

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