E*trade vs USAA Investments


2019 Etrade vs USAA Investments: which brokerage is better? Compare accounts, online trading/options/investing fees, stock broker differences.

Etrade vs USAA Overview

Are you planning to open an investment account in the near future? If so, you may want to take a look at E*Trade and USAA. Both brokerage firms offer a lot of financial services at reasonable cost. Depending on what securities you plan to trade, one broker may be a better choice than the other. This survey will compare and contrast the two and then make a recommendation.

USAA vs Etrade: Costs

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Etrade $6.95 $19.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
USAA $8.95 $45 $8.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0

USAA vs USAA: Services

Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating

Portfolio Management

Both USAA and E*Trade offer portfolio management in return for a percentage of assets. USAA has three packages that trade mutual and exchange-traded funds. They all have a $25,000 minimum investment and they cost 1.1% for the first $125,000 invested. The fee goes down to 75 basis points for higher balances. A plan that trades stocks is available, but it has a very steep $500,000 minimum.

E*Trade has several traditional management packages, too. One service trades mutual funds and ETF’s. Like USAA, it requires $25,000 to start. Unlike USAA, it charges between 65 and 90 basis points annually.

If you want stocks in your managed account, E*Trade has a service called Dedicated Portfolios. It requires just $150,000 (must lower than USAA’s minimum) and costs between 95 and 125 basis points.

Both investment firms offer robo-advisory plans as well. USAA’s service costs 0.50% and has a very low $2,000 minimum. E*Trade’s algorithm costs 30 basis points per year and requires a $5,000 deposit to begin.

The Cost of Trading

If you decide to open a self-directed account instead, be prepared to pay commissions on all your trades. E*Trade customers pay $6.95 for each time they buy or sell a stock or ETF. This isn’t too expensive, but the broker-dealer offers a $2 discount to frequent traders anyway. To qualify, you must have at least 30 security transactions per quarter.

Option traders also receive good prices. The base charge for a derivative trade is $6.95, and the per-contract charge is 75¢. Active traders qualify for a 25¢ discount on the contract fee and $2 off the base charge. Exercises and assignments are always $4.95, a great deal.

A securities account at E*Trade requires a minimum deposit of $500. There are no ongoing fees. The broker-dealer does charge for paper statements.

Although USAA was setup for military families, a brokerage account with the financial conglomerate can be opened by anyone. There is a $3,000 minimum opening deposit for a regular account, while a USAA mutual fund account requires just $500. However, many USAA funds require a $3,000 minimum investment; so this policy seems rather pointless. The brokerage house also charges $100 to close an account if there is no activity for a year and it has a balance under $100.

Stock and ETF transactions at USAA cost $8.95. The brokerage firm recently dropped a service that offered discounts to active traders. Options cost an extra 75¢ each. For assignments and exercises, USAA charges its standard commission.

New Account Promotions

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

USAA Investments: None


During our research, we found E*Trade’s fund tools easy to use. The broker’s mutual fund screener can scan for products based on many criteria. The screener returns nearly 8,500 funds, and approximately 4,200 of these are no-load, no-transaction-fee products. Funds that aren’t on the NTF list cost $19.99 per transaction.

E*Trade vs USAA Investments

USAA has more mutual funds than E*Trade—roughly 14,000 in fact. These can be accessed in the fund marketplace, which is accessible through the USAA website. However, the broker’s list of no-load, no-transaction-fee funds is smaller than E*Trade’s. There are about 2,000 of these. USAA’s fee for transaction-fee funds is $45, much steeper than E*Trade’s charge.

USAA traders can buy and sell 24 exchange-traded funds without paying a penny in commissions. While this is a generous policy, E*Trade offers more than 200 ETF’s that are free to trade. The E*Trade website also has a better ETF center than USAA’s site.

USAA vs E*Trade

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Trading Tools

Self-directed clients have some useful trading software at E*Trade. The broker’s website itself is sufficient for placing trades for all the securities the brokerage house offers. There is a convenient trading ticket for equities, bonds, options, and mutual funds.

We especially liked the ability to launch Bloomberg television in a separate window from E*Trade’s website. There is no charge for this convenient service, it streams in HD, and it’s available 24/7. It would be especially beneficial for global traders, since Bloomberg has more of an international focus compared to CNBC.

One tool that is missing on E*Trade’s website is a trade bar. It would be nice to be able to quickly enter orders at the bottom of the screen, and hopefully someday E*Trade will add the technology.

Since E*Trade acquired OptionsHouse recently, it obtained its browser-based platform. Renamed Power E*Trade, it launches from the website to create its own window. The software has more than 100 technical studies and over 30 drawing tools. Even better, it is free to use by all clients.

USAA doesn’t offer a trading platform. Orders for securities must be placed on its website, which doesn’t quite measure up to E*Trade’s. There are alerts, watchlists, news, and charting. In our testing, we found the website’s charting capability to be rather undeveloped.

Both brokers offer mobile apps as well. As with E*Trade’s website, the brokerage firm’s mobile app offers live streaming of Bloomberg. The USAA app does not incorporate videos news. It also provides fewer stock reports than the E*Trade app.


E*Trade (learn more) is the better broker in most categories. It would be especially good for frequent stock and option traders who need advanced software. USAA (learn more) would be a good choice for mutual fund investors who need a large list of investment vehicles. Mutual fund investors who plan to trade primarily NTF funds would probably be better off at E*Trade due to the broker’s long list of those funds. Finally, current and former members of the U.S. armed forces might be better served at USAA.