Charles Schwab vs TD Ameritrade vs Etrade vs Fidelity


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



Pricing


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Ally Invest $0 $9.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $0 $49.99 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Etrade $0 $19.95 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Fidelity $0 $49.95 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $0 $49.95 $0.65 per contract $0 $0

** Vanguard is charging $20 annual maintenance fee (waived if user chooses to receive statements and other information electronically).


Services


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


TD Ameritrade vs Charles Schwab vs Etrade vs Fidelity: Overview


Fidelity, E*Trade, Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Ally Invest are five top rated brokerage firms who attract a lot of customers. So which broker delivers the best value? Let's find out.


The Cost of Trading


Trading stocks and ETF's at all five brokers costs $0. Options at E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, Schwab and Fidelity an $0.65 and at Ally $0.50 per contract.

Completing a trade with a live broker at TD Ameritrade, Schwab and E*Trade is a rather steep $25. Fidelity is higher at $32.95, and Ally charges only $20.

Brokerage accounts at all five companies carry no maintenance fees or inactivity fees. Schwab requires a minimum of $1,000 to open an account (this obligation can be waived by opening a Schwab checking account during the application process). Fidelity has a minimum opening requirement of $2,500, while E*Trade requires at least $500, and TD Ameritrade and Ally are at $0.

Ally Invest takes this category.


Investing in Funds


Schwab provides more than 5,000 mutual funds for its clients. More than 3,500 are OneSource funds, which have no load and no transaction fee. Mutual funds that carry a transaction fee are a pricey $49.95 to buy, but they are free to sell.

There are more than 13,000 mutual funds at TD Ameritrade. Approximately 4,200 have no load and no transaction fee. Transaction-fee funds carry a $49.99 charge.

E*Trade customers can buy and sell more than 10,000 mutual funds. Of these, nearly 4,200 are available without a load or transaction fee. There is a $19.99 charge for transaction-fee funds.

At Fidelity, investors have access to more than 10,000 mutual funds, of which less than 3,500 have no load and no transaction fee. A charge of $49.95 is assigned to transaction-fee fund purchases.

Ally Invest has over 12,000 mutual funds and the lowest commission — $9.95 per trade. Even though the broker does not offer NTF funds, the funds you actually want to own will likely not be on that list anyway.

ETF investors won't be disappointed with any of the five brokers — they are all commission-free.

Ally Invest is victorious in this category.


Customer Service


Schwab representatives are available over the phone 24/7. The broker also has reps who speak Chinese. Additionally, the firm maintains a system of branches for customer assistance. At present, Schwab has more than 300 locations.

E*Trade has far fewer branch locations than Schwab, with only 30 currently. The broker does provide customer support over the phone around the clock.

Clients of TD Ameritrade can contact a customer service representative over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Like E*Trade and Schwab, the broker also has a branch network. Currently, there are more than 450 locations.

At Fidelity, customer service reps can be reached all hours of the day. The broker has more than 180 locations throughout the United States for clients who want personal assistance.

An Ally Invest representative can be reached 7am-10pm ET, 7 days a week. Besides phone service, the broker also provides a chat function on its website. There are no local branches.

Schwab wins the category.


Trading Tools


E*Trade offers an attractive website that's easy to navigate. Advanced trading platform is available, Etrade Pro, in both desktop and browser formats. However, traders must meet minimum trading thresholds.

Schwab's website is not as good looking as E*Trade's, but is simple to use nonetheless. Users can place orders using the standard browser, or with StreetSmart Edge, the broker's most advanced trading system. Investors must have a $1,000 account balance to use StreetSmartEdge.

TD Ameritrade provides three trading platforms. The most basic is the website, which is easy to navigate. Second in line is Trade Architect, a web-based and Java-based system. Last but not least is Thinkorswim. This is an advanced platform for sophisticated traders. The broker has no active trader requirements for any of these platforms.

Fidelity's website is user friendly and easy to use. A trade ticket is available for quick order entry. Active traders who meet certain minimums can use the firm's advanced platform. The broker recently launched an app for Apple TV.

Investors who want to use a trading platform have access to Ally Invest LIVE, a browser-based program that is fairly simple. Charting comes with technical studies, comparisons, and multiple graph styles. There is no desktop platform here. The broker does provide a trade bar, and orders can be placed on it.

TD Ameritrade wins this category.


Mobile Trading


Schwab clients can trade on Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Android, and mobile web. The platform is intuitive. Several important features are on the app, such as mobile check deposit, funds transfer, and live streaming of CNBC.

TD Ameritrade's app also has live streaming of CNBC. The broker offers a total of three mobile apps. They can be used on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Android. One app can be used on Windows 10. Traders can deposit a check, read market news, or watch financial videos from Reuters and CNBC.

E*Trade offers mobile trading for Android phone and tablet, Windows phone, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Amazon Fire phone, and Kindle Fire HD. The app displays charts and offers mobile check deposit. Regrettably, live streaming of CNBC is only available to active traders.

At Fidelity, traders can use mobile apps with Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Windows phone. Users can deposit a check, pay bills, and sign up for alerts. Live steaming of Bloomberg market news is available at no cost.

There is one Ally mobile app, and it can be used for both banking and investment purposes. The brokerage side has watchlists, positions, market news, and option chains. Charts are also available, and the software has some technical indicators.

TD Ameritrade wins again.


Cash Management


A checking account at E*Trade comes with checks and a debit card at no cost. ATM fees are rebated for accounts with more than $5,000 on deposit.

TD Ameritrade clients can open a checking account that comes with checks and a debit card. The broker reimburses all ATM charges. The first $500,000 is FDIC insured.

Schwab has an FDIC-insured bank that offers brokerage customers a checking account. It has checks and a debit card at no cost. The broker also refunds ATM fees.

Fidelity offers a hybrid brokerage-cash management account. Investors can have checks and a debit card added free of charge. ATM charges are refunded, and FDIC insurance covers the account for a full $1,250,000.


Ally Bank checking, savings, or money market accounts are easily linked to an Ally Invest account. Transfers between bank and brokerage accounts are instantaneous. The firm offers one of the best rates on savings account today: 1.25%.

Fidelity wins here.


Recommendations


Ally Invest is our recommendation to customers new to investing or for IRA accounts.

TD Ameritrade is a great broker for traders and anyone looking for the most advanced trading tools.

Fidelity Investments is suggested to clients who want to build a nest-egg investing mostly in the company's own family of mutual funds and ETFs.

Charles Schwab is good brokerage firm for long-term, "buy-and-hold" investors.

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

To make sure you picked the best possible match for your needs, we highly recommend reading detailed reviews (containing new customer incentives) for Ally Invest (learn more), TD Ameritrade (learn more), E*trade (learn more), Fidelity Investments (learn more), and Charles Schwab (learn more).


Promotions

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + $0 commission trades.

TD Ameritrade: $0 commission stock and ETF trades.

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

Fidelity Investments: Get 500 free trades with $100,000+ deposit.

Etrade: Get zero commission on stock and ETF trades.