Interactive Brokers has a streamlined approach to brokerage services that focus on broad market access, low costs, and trade execution. Although Interactive Brokers usually stands out as the low-cost leader, there are other differences that may give E*TRADE an edge for some traders.
After blazing trails over the past 30 years, E*TRADE has become a financial powerhouse with a huge customer base and wide service offerings, providing comprehensive trading, investment and research facilities for individual investors.
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.
Interactive Brokers received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Low Costs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Day Trading, and Best for International Trading.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0.005 per share for the standard platform, $0 for IBKR Lite
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
E*TRADE offers 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.
While Interactive Broker’s desktop platform is difficult to learn and lacks many expected features, it is fast which is a plus for active traders. The PIN-protected mobile platform is available on Android and iOS, and is a slimmed-down version of the desktop software. Its simplicity avoids much of the annoying menu drilling from the desktop version, and configuration is easy. Ironically, charting is better on mobile than on the desktop version, with a variety of indicators and a clean interface. Unfortunately, logging into the mobile version shuts down the desktop automatically. This can frustrate at-home traders wanting to follow the market and trade positions while temporarily away from their computers.
- Powerful mobile and desktop experience
- Intuitive portfolio management
- Easily navigate between investment options
- Easy to navigate for both mobile and desktop
- Lightening fast trade execution
- Trade anywhere across PCs, web pages, and mobile apps
- IB Key technology for more security
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.
IB TWS for Android and iOS offer slimmed-down versions of the desktop software in a clear and easy to read format. The interface uses IB Key technology, requiring that you input a PIN or swipe as an additional authorization layer.
- Feature rich mobile apps
- Low fee robo-advisor
- Mobile support for advanced platforms
- Apps support watchlists, orders, trades, scanners, alerts, notifications, portfolio news, and market briefs
- Configuration much simpler than desktop experience
- Charting on app is better than on desktop
News and Research
Interactive Brokers offers educational resources, but not in depth. There is content addressing some market topics in detail, but there are big gaps. For example, Interactive Brokers’ Traders’ Academy is intended to provide more detailed course material but has just two programs, TWS for Beginners and an Introduction to Options.
E*TRADE provides complimentary tool sets that feature streaming news, asset screening, fundamental analysis and ratios, advanced technical charting and detailed analyst reports. The Power E*TRADE platform reduces the learning curve for complex options strategies. While each platform contains unique features, they are comparable in terms of research, charting and ease of use.
- Planning tools and calculators
- Technical analysis charting tools
- TipRanks recommendations
- Weak education section
- Trader's University with free webinars and courses
Education and Security
E*TRADE offers a library of articles and videos suitable for beginners but the educational section is limited to core principles.
IB's educational offerings cover a variety of market topics in detail, but large-scale omissions undermine the user experience. For example, Traders' Academy is intended to provide more detailed course material but has just two programs, TWS for Beginners and an Introduction to Options. Short videos in the Traders' University section offer greater variety, with entries on technical analysis, short selling, CFDs, options, and forex, as well as tutorials on TWS and mobile platforms.
- Webinars and in-person events
- Diverse selection of videos
- Additional third party insurance coverage
- Web-based seminars accessible live or to watch at a later date.
- Many programs focus on software and broker education
With Interactive Brokers, U.S. stock trades are only half a cent (or $0.005) per share. The spread cost for EUR/USD spot at Interactive Brokers was .8 pips, close to the industry average. IBKR Lite clients pay no commission on U.S.-based equities, but they are restricted to the web-based Client Portal and IB's mobile apps. The usual commission schedule applies to all other trades. IB has not charged a base fee for options contracts; infrequent traders will pay $0.70 per contract.
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.
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.