M1 Finance vs TD Ameritrade, Etrade, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab in 2019



Overview of M1 Finance, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, E*Trade, and Schwab


If you’re tempted by the free trades that M1 Finance customers get, you might want to compare them by the products and services that are available from some of its rival brokerage firms. Let’s take a look.


Compare Costs


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
M1 Finance $0 na na $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $0 $49.95 $0 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Fidelity $4.95 $49.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $0 $76 ($0 to sell) $0 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Etrade $0 $19.95 $0 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Compare Services


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
M1 Finance
TD Ameritrade
Fidelity
Charles Schwab
Etrade


Investment Advisory Services


M1 Finance customers get to invest in the company’s professionally-built Pies. These are collections of investments with certain themes, like real estate or domestic bonds. They are based on Modern Portfolio Theory. Beyond these Pies, there is no investment advice available. Pies have no management fees other than the management fees of ETF’s they contain.

The other four brokers in our investigation don’t offer Pies, although they all offer mutual and exchange-traded funds, which are fairly similar. Fidelity and Schwab both manage their own mutual funds and ETF’s.

Although M1 Finance does not offer financial planning or account management, the other four companies do. E*Trade’s robo service is free for the first year, while Schwab’s is free perpetually. TD Ameritrade charges 0.30% for its computerized management, while Fidelity is at 35 basis points.

If you’re interested in traditional management, M1 Finance’s four rivals offer it. Schwab actually has a hybrid system that uses a software program in conjunction with a Certified Financial Planner. It costs 0.28%. Old-school management is more expensive but comes with a larger range of securities, like stocks and bonds. The same is true of the other three brokers.


Range of Financial Instruments


M1’s Pies are built using stocks and ETF’s. That’s it. The broker-dealer does not offer any other investment types. By contrast, the other four companies in our investigation offer stocks and ETF’s—and much more.


M1 Finance review


Mutual funds and fixed-income securities can be traded at the four big firms. Fidelity offers annuities and life insurance products. TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, and Schwab offer trading in futures contracts; and TD Ameritrade is the lone broker in our survey to offer forex.


Funds


All US-listed exchange-traded funds are available at M1 Finance. But the amount of information on them is very scarce. During our research, we found much better profile pages and ETF centers on the websites of the other four brokers.

We especially liked E*Trade’s ETF center, which offers pre-built portfolios of ETF’s based on conservative, moderate, or aggressive investment styles; and there’s no fee for access to these portfolios; the funds are commission-free.

E*Trade and Schwab offer lists of funds that their investment professionals believe will outperform other funds in the future. The brokers charge nothing to download these lists.

TD Ameritrade’s ETF center is far better than M1’s, offering information on commodity ETF’s, analyst reports, commentary from Morningstar, ETF videos, and much more.

The big four brokerage firms in our survey are pretty competitive in the arena of mutual funds. Screeners are very good, they all offer no-load, no-transaction-fee funds, and there are good learning materials for them as well. Fidelity has recently launched $0 investment minimums in its funds, and some have 0.00% or near 0.00% expense ratios.


Customer Service


The four large brokerage firms in our investigation provide phone support around the clock. M1 Finance does not. It offers service from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, Central Standard Time. And these hours are just Monday through Friday. There are no weekend hours. Furthermore, M1 does not offer chat service of any kind on its website, and forget about branch locations. The online self-service section for account holders is very basic.

We found much better online customer service tools at the other four. E*Trade, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade seem to outpace Fidelity on this issue. On E*Trade’s website, we easily were able to locate DRIP settings, order a checkbook, request a wire transfer, and much more.

Branch locations are available at the big four as well. Here, too, there are important differences. The largest number is found at TD Ameritrade, who offers 360. E*Trade has just 30.

As for online chat, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity have AI chat services that do a decent job of answering questions. If you don’t like an answer, human chat is able to provide additional assistance, at least some hours of the week. During a test chat with Schwab’s service, we received a wrong answer, and this perhaps says something about its cost-cutting during the recent brokerage price war.


Software


M1 Finance’s website is nicely designed, but it is very minimal. There is no trade bar, no browser platform, and no desktop software. Trades for Pies only execute at 10 am, EST; so there’s no need for an advanced order ticket. If you want to chart a stock, you would be better off using a free service elsewhere.

The other four brokerage firms in our exploration are pretty much the polar opposite. They all have very good desktop platforms that offer a wide range of trading capabilities, such as Level II quotes and direct-access routing. TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim is the most advanced of the four with currency windows and hundreds of technical studies.

E*Trade has a browser platform named Power E*Trade. It is left over from its acquisition of OptionsHouse, and as such, it has several good derivative trading tools. The platform can trade multi-leg strategies, for example.

Schwab has a browser system called StreetSmart Central. It has the ability to trade futures and options on futures. While it has a very good charting program, Power E*Trade’s order ticket is a little more advanced. TD Ameritrade has retired its browser platform, and Fidelity has never had one.

Three brokers in our survey (Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade) have rolled out skills for Amazon’s Echo devices. They are able to get market information and quotes. TD Ameritrade’s is the only one that can link to an account and submit orders by voice. Pretty neat. M1’s mobile app is as simple as its website. TD Ameritrade offers the most sophisticated mobile trading software.


Banking Features


If you want cash management features, you should drop M1 Finance and run to one of the other companies in our examination. M1 automatically invests cash balances above $10 in an account’s Pies, so there’s no need for banking features.

TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Schwab offers checks and a debit card free of charge with no minimums (E*Trade has minimums to avoid fees). While Fidelity and TD Ameritrade reimburse ATM fees nationwide, Schwab is the lone broker in the survey to reimburse fees incurred from overseas travel. Fidelity has the best FDIC insurance program, offering protection up to $1,250,000.


Retirement and IRA’s


IRA’s can be opened at all five brokers, but there are a lot of differences among the rivals. E*Trade, for example, has several $25 IRA fees that don’t exist at the other firms. Fidelity charges $50 to close an IRA, and M1 just doesn’t offer any retirement guidance.


Recommendation


If you want to purchase an expensive stock, but can’t afford a single share, we suggest you go with M1 Finance. It is the only broker of the five to offer trading in fractional shares.

For all other situations, we’re going to recommend the other four: TD Ameritrade for active stock and option trading, Schwab for futures and options on futures, Fidelity for mutual funds, and E*Trade for its browser platform.


Judgement


M1 Finance’s new way of investing is appealing in some ways especially to those who want the lowest possible pricing - $0 commission. For anyone who wants mutual funds and best trading and research tools opening a second free account with TD Ameritrade is a wise choice.


Promotions


TD Ameritrade: Trade stocks and ETFs for free + get up to $600 bonus.

M1 Finance: Pay $0 broker commissions or fees when you open account at M1 Finance.

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.

E*trade: At E*TRADE, get $0 trades + 65₵ per options contract.