E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade brokerages have followed similar paths in the last three decades, building track records of trustworthiness and efficient order execution dating back to the advent of online trading in the early 1990s. These financial powerhouses have grown exponentially in customer base and service offerings over the years, providing comprehensive trading, investment and research facilities for individual investors. TD Ameritrade is best-known for its powerful thinkorswim platform while E*TRADE's OptionsHouse software has been rebranded as Power E*TRADE.

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.

TD Ameritrade received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, Best for Day Trading and, Best Web Trading Platforms.

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
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  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Free stock, ETF, and per-leg options trading commissions in the U.S., as of October 3rd, 2019. $0.65 per options contract.
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Trade Experience

E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade offer clean, intuitive desktop and mobile experiences. Web and platform-based portals overflow with actionable information, analytics and resources that are presented without clutter or confusion. Account holders at both brokerages can also upgrade to professional or advanced platforms that expand trading and investment opportunities.

E*TRADE

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

TD Ameritrade

  • Advanced thinkorswim platform 
  • Comprehensive options chains and strategies
  • Timely data and technical analysis

Mobile and Emerging Tech

Both brokers offer robust mobile applications for iOS and Android. E*TRADE customers seeking investment advice can build a Core Portfolio, which automates passive indexed strategies utilizing modern portfolio theory. Minimum account size is $5,000 and fees are 0.30% per year of assets managed. TD Ameritrade's Essential Portfolios robo-advisor follows similar strategies as Core Portfolios, also requiring a $5,000 minimum balance and charging 0.30% per year.

E*TRADE

  • Feature rich mobile apps
  • Low fee robo-advisor
  • Mobile support for advanced platforms

TD Ameritrade

  • Access thinkorswim through mobile app
  • Low fee robo-advisor

News and Research

E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade provide complimentary tool sets that feature streaming news, asset screening, fundamental analysis and ratios, advanced technical charting and detailed analyst reports. TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platform aggregates social media cues and technical signals to augment decision-making while the Power E*TRADE platform reduces the learning curve for complex options strategies. While each software package contains unique features, they are comparable in terms of research, charting and ease of use.

E*TRADE

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

TD Ameritrade

  • Feature rich technical analysis reports
  • Extensive webinar schedule

Education and Security

E*TRADE offers a library of articles and videos suitable for beginners but the educational section is limited to core principles. On the other hand, TD Ameritrade has done an excellent job assembling tutorials under a well-organized Education menu. Clients can sort and filter content by topic, media type and skill level while tracking progress that opens new materials based on growing interests and current knowledge.

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

E*TRADE

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

TD Ameritrade

  • Broad range of educational materials
  • Social Signals portal that scans Twitter
  • Additional third party insurance coverage

Costs

E*TRADE eliminated its base trading commissions on equities, ETFs, and options in the U.S., effective October 7th, 2019. Options trading is $0.65 per contract, though customers who trade more than 30 times per quarter, or who have more than $250,000 in their accounts are eligible for $0.50/contract commissions. Margin interest rates are near the top of the brokers we surveyed.

Previously the most expensive of the major online brokers, TD Ameritrade also eliminated base trading commissions on equities, ETFs, and options for U.S.-based customers. Though they have cut trading commissions, their margin interest rates also remain on the high end of the scale.

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Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing 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.