Charles Schwab vs TD Ameritrade vs Etrade

Compare TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and Etrade: fees, IRA (ROTH), investment products, account pros and cons. Which broker is the best?

Charles Schwab vs Etrade vs TD Ameritrade Review

When choosing a brokerage, many investors will look to Schwab, E*Trade, or TD Ameritrade. Let's take an in-depth look at these largest online brokers and see how they compare to each other.

Cost Comparison Chart

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $4.95 $76 ($0 to sell) $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Etrade $6.95 $19.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
TD Ameritrade
Charles Schwab

Commissions and Account Requirements

Buying and selling equities at E*Trade and TD Ameritrade incurs a $6.95 charge, while Schwab clients pay $4.95. Derivative traders at E*Trade, and TD Ameritrade pay an additional $0.75 per option contract, and at Schwab it's $0.65 per contract.

Using a living, breathing broker at TD Ameritrade to buy or sell is $44.99, while Schwab is cheaper at $33.95. E*Trade is the lowest at $25.

A brokerage account with any of the three brokers comes with no maintenance fees or inactivity fees. Schwab clients must deposit at least $1,000 to open a regular brokerage account, although this obligation can be removed by opening a Schwab checking account with the securities account. E*Trade has a 500 minimum initial deposit requirement, and TD Ameritrade has no minimum.

Mutual Funds and ETF's

Investors at Schwab can trade over 5,000 mutual funds. More than 3,500 of these are OneSource funds, which have neither load nor transaction fee. Mutual funds that have a transaction fee are an expensive $76 to purchase, but there is no charge to sell.

TD Ameritrade customers have access to over 11,000 mutual funds. Over 2,600 have no load and no transaction fee. A $49.99 commission is charged to trade transaction-fee funds.

E*Trade provides more than 8,000 mutual funds. Roughly 1,300 of these are available with no load and no transaction fee. A $19.99 charge is assigned for transaction-fee funds.

For ETF investors, Schwab has over 200 exchange-traded products that are free to trade, E*Trade offers 118, and TD Ameritrade has 296.

Customer Service

Schwab offers customer service over the telephone 24/7. The broker also has representatives who speak Chinese. Furthermore, the company operates a nationwide network of branches with more than 300 locations currently.

E*Trade operates 30 branch locations. The broker has customer support over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

TD Ameritrade also has customer service reps on the phone all hours of the day. The broker has a nationwide network of branches. Presently, there are over 450 locations.

Trading Tools

E*Trade's web site is nicely designed. Clients can use advanced trading platforms (Etrade Pro), in either browser or desktop format. However, active trader requirements must be met.

Schwab's web site is not as attractive as E*Trade's, but is user friendly nevertheless. Traders can place orders using the web browser, or with StreetSmart Edge, an advanced trading system. The platform just requires a $1,000 account balance.

TD Ameritrade operates three platforms(!). The simplest is the web browser. Second in line is Trade Architect, which is Java-based. Last, but certainly not least, is Thinkorswim. This is a very advanced platform. TD Ameritrade has no active trader requirements for any product.

Mobile Platforms

Schwab offers an app that can be used on Kindle Fire, Android, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and mobile web. The mobile platform is easy to learn. Several features are available, such as funds transfer, mobile check deposit, and live streaming of CNBC.

Live streaming of CNBC is also available on TD Ameritrade's app. The broker maintains three different apps. They can be used on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The most basic app can be used on Windows 10. Users can perform many tasks, such as deposit a check, read market news, or watch business videos from CNBC and Reuters.

E*Trade has mobile applications for Windows phone, Android phone and tablet, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Amazon Fire phone, and Kindle Fire HD. Features include charts, a video library, and mobile check deposit. Unfortunately, only active traders can access streaming of CNBC.

Cash Management

E*Trade clients can open a checking account that comes with checks and a debit card free of charge. The firm rebates ATM fees for accounts with balances above $5,000.

TD Ameritrade has a checking account with checks and a debit card. There is no charge for the account, and ATM fees are refunded. The account is insured by the FDIC up to $500,000.

A checking account is also available at Schwab. It comes with checks and a debit card free of charge. ATM fees are reimbursed, and FDIC insurance covers the first $250,000.


Thanks to more free services and top-notch trading technology, we strongly recommend TD Ameritrade to most customers, especially to beginners, stock, forex, futures, and penny stock traders. It is also excellent for long-term and do-it-yourself investors, mutual funds investing, IRA accounts, and clients new to investing.

Etrade is our recommendation for IRA accounts (Traditional, ROTH, SEP, 401(k), and Rollover) as well as bonds investing.

Charles Schwab is a very good for retirement accounts and fairly inactive investors as well as for investing Schwab's own mutual funds.

We encourage readers to take a look at the full brokerage reviews, containing promotional offers: TD Ameritrade (read review), Etrade (read review), and Charles Schwab (read review).

TD Ameritrade, Schwab and Etrade Promotions

TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.

Open TD Ameritrade Account

Charles Schwab: Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.

Open Schwab Account

Etrade: At E*TRADE, get $6.95 trades + 65₵ per options contract.

Open Etrade Account