Both E*TRADE and Fidelity have websites and downloadable platforms packed with features, news feeds, helpful research, and educational tools to grow your knowledge base and help you learn about other asset classes. In our overall rankings, Fidelity ranked first and E*TRADE sixth. Both brokers also offer multiple web-based and mobile platforms, and a downloadable platform aimed at frequent traders. E*TRADE's flagship web platform at ETrade.com has been remodeled to be easier to navigate, while the acquisition of OptionsHouse several years ago has given them some top-notch options tools. Their services are geared to active traders and the mass affluent, which is defined as investors with more than $100,000 in tradable assets. E*TRADE customers need to have at least $1,000 in their accounts to see real-time quotes.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, 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.
Fidelity Investments received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, Best for International Trading, and Best Web Trading Platforms.
- Account Minimum: $500
- Fees: $6.95 stock and ETF trading
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $4.95 per stock/ETF, $4.95 plus $0.65/contract per options trade
Choosing between these two comes down to personal preference, and perhaps the geographic availability of one of their offices. Both have excellent fundamental research offerings and over 200 commission-free exchange-traded funds. E*TRADE clients can trade futures and futures options while Fidelity's customers have greater access to international equities, derivatives, and currencies. Fidelity has full banking capabilities as part of their offerings, including a cash-back credit card, plus more opportunities for short sellers.
Fidelity lets you open an account for free, though an unfunded account will not have access to most of the research functions after 30 days. E*TRADE has a minimum deposit of $500 to open a cash account.
E*TRADE's main website is aimed at investors who are just getting started, while Power E*TRADE is the place to go for options traders and charting. E*TRADE Pro is designed for very frequent traders. On all three platforms, you’ll find a ubiquitous trade ticket with streaming real-time data. You can place orders from a chart and track it visually. Their advanced order routing technology seeks the best execution available in the market.
Fidelity's trade execution engine gives its clients a high rate of price improvement. Active Trader Pro, Fidelity's advanced platform, offers streaming data and customizable charting. There is always an order ticket on display, and contextual help has been added to guide you through the process.
- Streaming real-time data on all platforms
- Power E*TRADE has terrific tools for options traders
- Twelve ETFs can be traded around the clock during the week.
- Streamlined trade ticket with contextual help available
- Streaming real time data on Active Trader Pro platform
- Excellent order executions that generate price improvement
Mobile and Emerging Tech
Fidelity's mobile apps are much fresher and easier to use than the website, which is reflected in the 50% increase in trades placed on mobile devices between 2017 and 2018. The startup screen can be customized, and contextual help has been added to the trade ticket. Watchlists you generate on the website can be viewed on mobile devices as well, and the full range of offerings can be traded on your phone or tablet.
Each E*TRADE platform has its own mobile app. Power E*TRADE includes futures trading, including a ladder and additional research and charting. Watchlists are integrated across platforms, and the full range of tradable assets is accessible on the mobile apps. The workflow is smoother on the mobile apps than on the Etrade.com website.
- Watchlists are synched across platforms
- Power E*TRADE Mobile lets you trade futures using its ladder functionality
- Smooth workflow on mobile apps
- Streaming data and customizable news feed
- Customizable landing page
- Watchlists synch across platforms
News and Research
Fidelity's screening tools can be used to narrow down your investment choices across a wide array of asset classes, including stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds and fixed income. Their proprietary charting packing is augmented by Recognia’s technical patterns and events. On Active Trader Pro, you can set up streaming news feeds and ideo from Bloomberg TV. The stock snapshot pages include environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings from MSCI.
The best tools for options traders are on the Power E*TRADE platform, where you can analyze options trading ideas using TradeLab. TradeLab starts with relatively simple analytical techniques and gets more complex as you scroll down the page. StrategySEEK, also on Power E*TRADE, is a visual tool that helps clients find trading opportunities, starting with market outlook and how much you want to invest. Each resulting strategy is spelled out in terms of risk profile, uses of the strategy, and overall risk. The LiveAction widget in Power E*TRADE lets clients scan the markets on specific technical patterns using live, real-time data. You'll need a minimum of $1,000 in your account to see real-time quotes.
- Terrific options analysis tools on Power E*TRADE platform
- Thematic investing information helps you find ETFs according to categories, such as gaming and clean water
- Real-time data access requires $1,000 balance in account
- Stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds and fixed income screeners available
- Stock snapshot pages include data for socially responsible investing
- Customzable charting package includes technical events from Recognia
Education and Security
E*TRADE’s education center is accessible to everyone, whether or not they are customers. It offers investor education in a variety of formats and covers topics spanning investing, retirement, and trading. Approximately 200 webinars per year walk customers through a variety of topics including retirement account choices, using futures, and technical chart analysis. Their complete protection guarantee covers any losses due to fraudulent activity, and gives customers access to additional mobile security.
Fidelity’s online Learning Center contains articles, videos, webinars and infographics that offer education for many investing-related topics such as options trading, fixed income selection, fundamental and technical analysis, and retirement planning. The firm offers webinars frequently, and online coaching sessions for more advanced topics. There are learning programs aimed at beginning investors in the mobile apps. Fidelity conducts a risk assessment when a client logs in, and based on certain criteria, may challenge the client with a two-factor authentication process, or with a security question.
- Investor education covers retirement, trading, and asset classes
- Approximately 200 webinars annually focusing on investing and trading topics
- Complete protection guarantee covers losses due to fraudulent activity
- Online learning center contains articles, videos, and other media for a wide range of investing and trading topics
- Learning programs for those new to investing can be accessed from mobile apps
- At logon, a risk assessment is performed. The security guarantee covers you in case of losses due to unauthorized activity
E*TRADE’s standard rate of $6.95 per stock transaction is higher than average. Customers who trade more than 30 times per quarter, or who have more than $250,000 in their accounts, qualify for $4.95 commissions. Margin interest is near the top of the brokers we surveyed. Futures commissions are higher than average at $2.99 per contract.
Fidelity’s commissions are in the middle of the pack, for the most part. Their margin rates are slightly higher than average. For mutual funds that are not on the no transaction fee list, there is a $49.95 charge for an initial purchase, which is higher than average. Their bond transaction fees are just $1 per bond, and they do not mark up the secondary market bonds, which lowers the yield. Very frequent traders can work out their own commission schedule.
- Stocks/ETF trade fees: $6.95. Frequent traders and high account balances qualify for $4.95 commissions
- Options fees: $6.95 per leg plus $0.65 per contract. Frequent traders and high account balances qualify for $4.95 per leg commissions
- Futures fees: $2.99 per contract
- Stocks/ETF trade fees: $4.95
- Options fees: $4.95 per leg plus $0.65 per contract
- Futures fees: Futures trading not enabled
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.