Etrade vs Scottrade vs Ameritrade

Compare Scottrade vs TD Ameritrade vs Etrade


Comparison of trading and investing fees, IRA (Traditional, ROTH, SEP) accounts, stock/mutual fund/ETF pricing, and brokerage service differences.



Etrade vs Scottrade vs Ameritrade Comparison Chart


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Scottrade $6.95 $17 $6.95 + $0.70 per contract $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 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
Scottrade
TD Ameritrade
Etrade


Overview


E*Trade and TD Ameritrade lowered their equity commissions, which places them very close to Scottrade. Despite this change, the three brokerage houses retain unique characteristics that make them ideal for certain investors. Let’s compare these three brokers, and see if one is the best value.


Mutual and Exchange-traded Funds


Scottrade customers have access to more than 11,000 mutual funds. Over 2,100 of these come with no load and no transaction fee. The broker charges $17 for trades of transaction-fee mutual funds. This charge is applied to purchases, sales, and exchanges. Load funds are always free to buy at Scottrade. NTF funds that are sold in less than 90 days are assessed a $49 fee.

Scottrade Mutual Funds


E*Trade’s mutual fund screener returns 9,093 products. Of these, 4,423 come with no load and no transaction fee. There is a $19.99 charge for funds that don’t appear on the broker’s NTF list. The fee is assessed against sales, purchases, and exchanges. There is also a $49.99 charge for NTF funds if they are sold in less than 90 days after purchase.

The TD Ameritrade mutual fund screener generates over 11,800 products. More than 3,700 of these have no load and no transaction fee. Buying a fund that isn’t on the firm’s NTF list costs $49.99, and the fee is applied to the sell side as well. The company has a short-term redemption fee of $49.99 anytime an NTF fund is sold in less than 180 days.

ETF traders will find all US-listed products available at the three brokers. E*Trade offers more than 100 products that are free to trade, and so does TD Ameritrade. Scottrade unfortunately doesn’t provide any commission-free ETF’s.


Customer Service


E*Trade and TD Ameritrade have representatives on the phone around the clock, day and night. E*Trade also has an on-line chat function for general customer service on its website, although TD Ameritrade does not. TD Ameritrade does have chat for certain functions.

Scottrade has neither 24/7 service nor on-line chat. A company associate can be reached during the week from 6 am to 1 am, EST, and from 9 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

What Scottrade does have that the other two don’t is the largest network of branch locations of any on-line discount broker. There are currently more than 500 Scottrade offices throughout the United States. TD Ameritrade has over 100, and E*Trade operates just 30.


Fees, Commissions, and Account Minimums


A recent price war in the brokerage industry has prompted TD Ameritrade and E*Trade to lower their stock and ETF commissions from $9.99 to $6.95.

E*Trade also provides active traders with a $2 discount. Investors who place 30 or more trades per quarter will pay only $4.95 per transaction.

Equity transactions at Scottrade cost $6.95. Options are an additional 70¢ per contract. Derivatives at TD Ameritrade are an extra 75¢, while E*Trade will charge 75¢ for regular customers and 50¢ for active traders.

Scottrade requires a $2,500 deposit to open a brokerage account, while E*Trade requires just $500. TD Ameritrade has no such policy. There are no annual fees at any of the three firms. There are also no inactivity, low-balance, or closeout fees.

All three securities firms offer margin accounts. A debit at Scottrade of less than $10,000 currently costs 8.25%. TD Ameritrade charges 9.25%, while E*Trade customers also pay 9.25%.


Technology


E*Trade’s website is nicely designed. It is user friendly with helpful menus. These assist users to find information on banking, retirement, education, and much more. Trades are placed on web pages because there is no trade bar on the E*Trade site.

E*Trade has good charting tools with many technical indicators. A graph can be expanded to fill the entire monitor. A desktop platform called Etrade Pro is available to active traders. It has advanced tools for options trading, and CNBC streams at no additional cost.

The Scottrade website has an updated menu that makes navigation simpler. There are good Java-based charting tools. A graph’s window can be displayed full screen, although the graph itself does not stretch the full width of the monitor. Unlike E*Trade’s site, Scottrade does have a trading ticket. The broker’s flagship trading platform ScottradeELITE comes with frequent trader requirements.

Of the three brokers, TD Ameritrade has the most sophisticated website. It is easy to navigate and has lots of great resources. There is also a handy trade bar called SnapTicket. It appears at the bottom of the screen and can place orders for options, ETF’s, and stocks. It can also display a small chart.

Trade Architect is TD Ameritrade’s basic web-based trading platform. A more advanced desktop system called Thinkorswim is also available, although it’s more difficult to learn. It offers a practice platform for users who want to learn the software before risking real money. Both programs carry no active trader requirements.


TDA Trade Architect


Mobile Trading


Traders at all three firms can buy and sell securities using mobile devices. E*Trade offers a platform for iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire HD, Amazon Fire phone, Android devices, and Windows phone. There are many handy features, including check deposit, charting, and bill pay. On-demand videos from CNBC can be viewed by all customers, while live streaming is available to frequent traders. The broker also has a platform for Apple Watch users.

Etrade Mobile App

TD Ameritrade actually has three separate apps. One of them is a thinkorswim version, modeled after its advanced desktop platform. It is intended for experienced stock traders and includes paper trading. A simpler version can trade mutual funds and has mobile check deposit. Unlike E*Trade, CNBC streams live for all traders. Like E*Trade, TD Ameritrade has a platform for Apple Watch.

Scottrade has the simplest mobile platform. It does have basic charting along with check deposit, funds transfer, and bill pay. There are no videos or streaming news. The app can be used on Apple and Android devices. There is also a mobile website version.


Managed Accounts


All three firms have an affiliated company that provides financial advice and portfolio management services. Both E*Trade and TD Ameritrade have robo-advisory services for investors who want account management at the lowest possible cost.

E*Trade’s service is 0.30% annually, and requires a $10,000 initial deposit. Called Adaptive Portfolio, it includes six months of management for free. Human advisors are available for larger accounts that are willing to pay a higher management fee.

TD Ameritrade’s robo-advisory service is called Essential Portfolios and costs 30 basis points per year. It requires only a $5,000 balance to start, but doesn’t offer any months for free. The broker’s affiliate Amerivest also offers human advisors for an increased cost.

Scottrade has an affiliate named Scottrade Investment Management that offers financial planning and portfolio advisory services. It does not offer an automated system to trade its clients’ accounts.


Research & Education


The E*Trade website has many materials devoted to education and research. There are articles and videos that cover several areas, such as 401(k)’s and bonds. The broker provides equity reports at no cost. These are from third-party analysts. Because E*Trade offers trading in futures, there is helpful literature on these products as well.

E*Trade also has good screeners that can look for various security types based on a number of search criteria. The broker hosts live on-line events on a weekly basis. Some of the firm’s local branches also have in-person events.

Scottrade’s website has less material than E*Trade’s. There is an area of the site called Knowledge Center. Here, traders will find various articles on important investment topics. These articles, however, tend to be rather short. Stock reports can be downloaded from the Scottrade website free of charge.

TD Ameritrade has the largest selection of educational materials. Like the other two brokers, it provides stock reports free of charge. There are helpful videos and self-guided courses on the firm’s website that cover a wide range of financial topics, including technical analysis and interest rates.


Scottrade Update


Scottrade was acquired by TD Ameritrade last year. TD Ameritrade plans to fully integrate Scottrade by the end of first quarter. For this reason it makes more sense to open an account with TD Ameritrade directly and skip possible transition inconveniences. New customers could take advantage of TD Ameritrade's bonus offer that allows them to trade for free for two months and gives up to $600 bonus.


Promotions

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

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

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



Recommendations

We strongly recommend Scottrade to anyone new to investing and for individual retirement accounts (Traditional, ROTH, and SEP). Because of huge selection of commission-free mutual funds and the lowest commission on all other funds the firm is also great for mutual funds investors.

Best trading software, free Level II quotes, and free virtual trading, earns TD Ameritrade a recommendation for active traders as well as for forex, futures, and penny stock trading.

Etrade is our pick for bonds and fixed income investing.


Broker Reviews

Scottrade (read review),

TD Ameritrade (read review),

Etrade (read review).