Charles Schwab and Co. revolutionized the brokerage industry when they opened their doors in 1975, allowing middle-class Americans to buy stocks with sharply lower commissions than those charged by Wall Street investment houses. E*TRADE had an equally disruptive impact in the 1990s, as the first broker to offer low-cost online trading that eliminated phone calls or car trips to a local branch.

E*TRADE had little in common with Schwab when the electronic brokerage opened for business at CompuServe and America Online but that’s changed considerably in the last 25 years, with customers at both operations accessing a broad basket of services that range from day trading and short selling to long-term investment and retirement planning. However, key differences remain and it's best to compare offerings and the fine print before funding an account. 

In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, Charles Schwab received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, Best for International Trading, and Best Web Trading Platforms.

E*TRADE received awards for Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, and Best Web Trading Platforms.

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $4.95 per stock and ETF trade, $0 for Schwab ETFs and $4.95 plus $0.65 per contract for options
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  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Fees: $6.95 stock and ETF trading
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Trade Experience

Both brokers provide comprehensive trading and investment services through the web, standalone software and mobile apps. There are no maintenance fees and $2,000 is needed to open margin accounts. A cash (non-margin) account can be opened at Schwab for $0.00 and E*TRADE for $500. The Power E*TRADE standalone platform features fully-integrated trading of stocks, options, ETFs and futures, as well as pro-level idea generation tools and advanced intraday and historical charting, with more than 100 studies, drawing tools and chart types. Schwab customers can trade stocks, options and ETFs, but no futures contracts, with the StreetSmart Edge platform. Both standalone and web versions include tools to identify potential trading opportunities, advanced technical analysis charting, streaming financial TV, real-time news and broad customization. 

Charles Schwab

  • Intuitive interface that's ideal for casual investors 
  • Range of research tools consolidated into one place
  • StreetSmart Edge standalone and web platforms

E*TRADE

  • Powerful mobile and desktop experience
  • Intuitive portfolio management 
  • Easily navigate between investment options

Mobile and Emerging Tech

Both brokers provide robust mobile apps and state-of-the-art robo-advisory services. Schwab's no-fee Intelligent Portfolio offers automated advice for a $5,000 minimum commitment. It also takes $5000 to join E*TRADE's Core Portfolio program, which gives automated advice for a 0.30% annual advisory fee. Mobile apps for iOS and Android at both brokers provide breaking news, intuitive order entry, real-time data and built-in research functionality.

Charles Schwab

  • In app research
  • No-fee robo-advisor
  • Mobile deposit for checks

E*TRADE

  • Mobile app easy to navigate
  • Low fee robo-advisor
  • Bloomberg TV integrated into mobile apps

News and Research

Schwab StreetSmart Edge software includes fundamental research with real-time news, company earnings, dividends, ratings and short interest. The web-based Insights & Ideas provides daily market updates, workshops, white papers and expert picks, as well as separate menus for retirement planning, personal finance, portfolio management, sector views and fixed income. Power E*TRADE includes basic research and Morningstar ratings as well as performance data and headline news. Account holders can also review TipRanks recommendations and access a suite of planning tools. Platforms at both brokers provide a diverse set of advanced technical analysis charting tools.

Charles Schwab

  • Product screeners 
  • Analyst ratings and reports
  • 100s of Indicators and studies

E*TRADE

  • Planning tools and calculators
  • Technical analysis charting tools
  • TipRanks recommendations

Education and Security

Schwab offers basic education on products and investments as well as in-person workshops. The monthly On Investing magazine covers general investment topics, with an emphasis on retirement, income protection and financial planning. E*TRADE also offers in-person events, supplemented by real-time webinars and a diverse selection of video content.

Both companies are regulated by FINRA and SIPC and carry federal deposit insurance plus additional third-party insurance coverage in case anything goes awry.

Charles Schwab

  • In-person workshops
  • Strong emphasis on retirement and financial planning
  • Additional third party insurance coverage

E*TRADE

  • Webinars and in-person events
  • Diverse selection of videos 
  • Additional third party insurance coverage

Costs

A Schwab online equity trade costs $4.95 for buy or sell orders while equity options cost $4.95 + 65-cents per contract each way. They have broad futures coverage, charging a competitive $1.50 per contract. New issue bonds/CDs, OneSource ETFs and mutual funds are commission-free but popular ETFs, including the SPDR Trust and Invesco QQQ Trust, incur the same commission as stocks. Schwab offers no direct forex coverage but clients can trade currency futures contracts. 

E*TRADE charges $6.95 for online equity trades and $6.95 plus 75-cents per options contract. They match Schwab at $1.50 per futures contract and also offer commission-free ETFs and mutual funds. However, read the fine print closely because both brokers charge $49.99 if commission-free mutual funds are held for less than 90 days. 

Charles Schwab

  • Stock trade fees: $4.95
  • Options trade fees: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract
  • Futures trade fees: $1.50 per contract

E*TRADE

  • Stock trade fees: $6.95
  • Options trade fees $6.95 + $0.75 per contract
  • Futures trade fees: $1.50 per contract

Methodology

Investopedia’s mission is to provide investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.

In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.

Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.