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Empower Retirement vs Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, Vanguard, and Charles Schwab (2020)



Empower vs Vanguard, and Others: Compare Costs


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
TD Ameritrade $0 $49.99 $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
Etrade $0 $19.95 $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Vanguard $0 $20 $1.00 per contract $20* $20*


Empower vs Charles Schwab and Others: Compare Services


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


Promotions

TD Ameritrade: $0 commission stock and ETF trades.

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

Etrade: Get zero commission on stock and ETF trades.



Competitors of Empower Retirement: Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and Vanguard


When looking to open a brokerage account, investors often consider E*Trade, Vanguard, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade. Let's take a close look at these firms and try to determine which one is the ideal choice.


Trading Costs


A $0 commission is charged for buying and selling stocks and ETF's at E*Trade, Schwab, Fidelity, Vanguard, and TD Ameritrade.

For option trades, E*Trade, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade charge an additional $0.65 per contract. Traders at Vanguard pay $1 per option contract.

Executing a trade with a live broker at TD Ameritrade, Vanguard, and E*Trade costs $25, Fidelity clients pay $29.95.

None of the four brokers charge any maintenance or inactivity fees. However, Vanguard does mandate that clients with under $50,000 sign up for electronic statements.

Fidelity has an initial deposit requirement of $2,500, while E*Trade's minimum is $500. TD Ameritrade and Vanguard have no minimum.

Due to its low flat fee, Fidelity wins the category.


Mutual Funds and ETF's


TD Ameritrade has a mutual fund offering of more than 13,000 funds. Over 4,200 carry no load and no transaction fee. The broker charges $49.99 for transaction-fee funds.

Traders at Vanguard have access to more than 16,000 mutual funds. A selection of these come without load and transaction fee. Funds with a transaction fee cost $20.

At E*Trade, investors can buy and sell over 8,000 mutual funds. Roughly 1,300 are available with no load and no transaction fee. The firm charges $19.99 for transaction-fee funds.

Fidelity provides more than 11,000 mutual funds. Over 3,000 of these carry no transaction fee and no load. Funds that do have a transaction are $49.95.

ETF investors also have some good choices: all these brokers (except Empower) have eliminated commissions on exchange traded funds.

TD Ameritrade wins this category for offering a large selection of both commission-free ETF's and mutual funds.


Customer Service


Customer service reps at TD Ameritrade can be reached on the phone around the clock. The broker operates a network of branches, with more than 100 locations currently.

E*Trade also has local branches. However, the broker only has 30 locations. The broker does offer telephone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Vanguard doesn't have 24/7 telephone customer support. TD Ameritrade has a large network of branch locations, with more than 450 locations currently. Vanguard doesn't have local branches.

TD Ameritrade wins this category.


Trading Tools


E*Trade's website is well-designed and easy to navigate. Advanced trading platforms are available from the broker, in both browser and desktop formats, but only for active traders.

TD Ameritrade offers three platforms. The regular web browser is the most basic. Second is Trade Architect, a web-based system. Third is thinkorswim, an advanced desktop platform. The broker maintains no active trader requirements for any of the three platforms.


Empower vs Ameritrade


Compared to E*Trade and TD Ameritrade, Vanguard's and Fidelity's websites are less sophisticated. Fidelity offers a trading system beyond the website: Active Trader Pro. Disappointingly, Vanguard doesn't have an advanced platform.


Empower vs Fidelity


The victory here goes to TD Ameritrade.


Mobile Platforms


E*Trade clients can trade on Android phone and tablet, Windows phone, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Amazon Fire phone, and Kindle Fire HD. Traders will find charts, a video library, and mobile check deposit. Live streaming of CNBC is available to active traders.

Live streaming of CNBC is also available at TD Ameritrade, but conveniently, there is no active trader requirement. The broker has a total of three apps. They can be used on iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Android. One app can be used on Windows 10. Users can transfer funds, make a mobile check deposit, or research securities.

Vanguard customers can trade on Android, Kindle Fire, and Apple. Users will find helpful features such as mobile check deposit and account history. The trading platform unfortunately doesn't have live streaming of financial news.

The Fidelity app lacks vital features that the other apps have. Traders can read market news and sign up for alerts.

TD Ameritrade wins here.


Banking Features


E*Trade clients can open a deposit account that comes with a debit card and checks. The account has no fees, and the firm rebates ATM charges for accounts with balances over $5,000.

TD Ameritrade provides a bank account with checks and a debit card free of charge. ATM fees are reimbursed, and the account is FDIC insured up to $500,000.

At Fidelity, investors can open an FDIC-insured cash management account that has a debit card and checks. The account carries no fees.

Vanguard has a cash management account, but its policies are the most restrictive. Clients must have $500,000 or more in order to open a cash management account. Checks and a debit card can be added, but they have fees for accounts under $1,000,000.

TD Ameritrade succeeds again.


Results


Fidelity came out ahead in one category, TD Ameritrade was victorious in five categories, and Vanguard and E*Trade failed to win in a single category. TD Ameritrade wins by a landslide. Nevertheless, Vanguard is still a good choice to invest in Vanguard funds, and E*Trade is a good value for ETF traders.


Promotional Offers

TD Ameritrade: $0 commission stock and ETF trades.

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

Etrade: Get zero commission on stock and ETF trades.

Empower Retirement: None

Vanguard: None