E*TRADE, established in 1982, is a very large broker that helped to disrupt the brokerage industry as one of the earliest online brokerage platforms. Robinhood was formed much more recently in 2013, and was also an industry disruptor because of their primary focus on their mobile app and elimination of commissions for stock/ETF, options, and cryptocurrency trading. While E*TRADE and Robinhood do have some features in common, we will also look at some of the key differences between these brokers to help you determine which one is the right fit for your investment needs.
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- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
New and Notable
On May 17, 2022, Robinhood announced that it is building a brand new non-custodial, web3 wallet. The company will begin inviting waitlist customers to join its Beta program in the late summer and make the product generally available to all Robinhood customers by the end of 2022.
On April 7, 2022, Robinhood announced that it rolled out Crypto Wallets to every eligible person on the WenWallets waitlist of more than two million people. According to the company, all eligible customers who signed up for the waitlist will be able to send and receive any of the cryptocurrencies currently available on Robinhood.
Robinhood’s website and app are both designed to be straightforward with a similar look and feel. Funding an account, checking your account balance and buying power, and other account related tasks are easy to do. Robinhood’s streamlined, no-frills app will help you place and monitor orders and positions. It is important to note that stripping the mobile app down to bare essentials is somewhat easier for Robinhood because they only focus on long stock and ETF positions, as well as cryptocurrencies. The trade-off for simplicity and ease of use, however, are platforms that can’t be customized and have limited charting.
E*TRADE also provides intuitive and easy to use platforms, but they are not as clean as Robinhood’s platform because the broker has more assets and markets available, including mutual fund, futures, fixed income, and over-the-counter (OTC) markets, along with screeners, calculators, and educational and market content. E*TRADE’s full featured mobile app is one of the best available. Although it is not as streamlined as Robinhood’s app, it is still easy to use and offers trading in all available asset types on its mobile app. E*TRADE’s website makes it simple for beginners to get started, but its double menu interface is not as easy to navigate as the broker’s mobile app. The Power E*TRADE and E*TRADE Pro desktop trading platforms are for more active and advanced users, respectively, and are both highly customizable.
While Robinhood’s platforms are incredibly easy to use, we give E*TRADE the advantage because of how many more assets and markets are available, combined with the deep features including multiple screeners, analytical tools, calculators, and educational content, as well as ability to customize platforms. That being said, we understand that Robinhood’s bare bones approach has fans, particularly those who are new to investing and not sure what to do with a wide range of tools. As those investors continue to develop, however, the constraints of Robinhood’s platform become harder to overlook.
Desktop Trade Experience
Robinhood is a mobile-first broker, but it still has a web platform that is smooth and simple to use. That said, Robinhood’s website platform does not come close to the functionality offered by E*TRADE’s various platforms. Robinhood’s desktop platform has basic watchlists, quotes, charts, and news, but does not offer any customization options. Moreover, while standard orders to purchase stocks and ETFs are intuitive and are likely to appeal to newer and younger customers, Robinhood’s options order entry is not nearly as good as it should be. On top of this, Robinhood doesn’t offer the ability to stage orders or trade directly from charts.
E*TRADE was an early industry adopter of electronic trading and now features multiple trading platforms for the desktop. The more casual platform is the E*TRADE website. The website offers a clean order entry system, and the interface can be customized so that you can control the layout of account, market, and trading information. The other platform, Power E*TRADE, is the broker’s desktop application. Power E*TRADE is an ideal platform for active investors and traders that want to track and trade markets. Power E*TRADE also includes the ability to select tax lots from the order ticket, charting tools that populate charts with technical analysis patterns, and options analysis tools that explain what the Greeks are and what they measure. Options order entry on E*TRADE has also been improved, with drop down listings for various options strategies.
Robinhood and E*TRADE’s trading platforms are hard to compare directly because the approach behind them is so different. If you are looking to trade rather than simply go long, then E*TRADE’s platforms are superior in every way. New investors and those looking for a simple platform may still benefit from Robinhood’s platform, but E*TRADE’s website is designed with the new investor in mind as well and does a good job of selecting the most useful tools and capabilities so it is not overwhelming. The Power E*TRADE platform is much more robust, with some sophisticated technology options for more experienced investors and traders. We give E*TRADE the edge in the desktop trade experience because it actually has one, whereas Robinhood’s simple is best approach lacks many of the tools and features that traders depend on.
Mobile Trade Experience
Similar to their desktop offerings, Robinhood provides a simple mobile app that is designed as the company’s primary interface to the Robinhood trading platform. Robinhood’s mobile app has news and basic company information for account owners, but is not customizable in any sense, and does not have many tools or calculators to assist you in investing. Charting on the Robinhood mobile app is also weak in general and you can’t trade directly from charts. Unsurprisingly, the mobile app also lacks conditional orders and doesn’t let you enter multiple orders simultaneously or stage orders for later entry.
E*TRADE offers two mobile apps that correspond to the website and Power E*TRADE desktop platforms. If you are looking for a simpler experience, the E*TRADE mobile app supports watchlists, market research, quotes, and portfolio management. The E*TRADE mobile app is an excellent choice for new and less active account holders. The Power E*TRADE mobile app is designed for active traders and, like the basic mobile app, supports investment research, real-time data streaming, and market news, but also supports more advanced trading like executing an options strategy. E*TRADE’s apps do not support fixed income trading, but do support all other asset types and markets that the broker offers. In the app, a single trade ticket can be used to trade stocks, ETFs, futures, and basic and complex options strategies up to four legs.
We give E*TRADE the advantage over Robinhood when it comes to mobile trading. Robinhood’s mobile app is very easy to use, but E*TRADE’s basic mobile app provides offerings for newer and more passive investors, while the Power E*TRADE mobile app provides a great deal of customization, tools, and features for more active traders. This gives you the choice of picking the app that best suits your investment style.
Range of Offerings
E*TRADE has a much wider range of offerings than Robinhood. Only those looking to trade cryptocurrencies would choose Robinhood when it comes to range of offerings, as it is one of the asset types E*TRADE does not currently offer.
|Robinhood vs E*TRADE Range of Offerings|
|No-Load, No-Fee Mutual Funds||4,440+||0|
|Complex Options||Y (4 legs)||Y (4 legs)|
|Cryptocurrency||Bitcoin Futures Only||Y|
|OTCBB and Penny Stocks||Y||N|
Both Robinhood and E*TRADE offer the standard orders such as market, limit, and stop-limit orders. Only E*TRADE offers contingent, bracketed, one-triggers-the-other (OTO), one-cancels-the-other (OCO), one-triggers-a-one-cancels-other (OTOCO) orders that are not available on Robinhood. Here again, E*TRADE has a clear advantage in the order types available to its customers.
When it comes to trading technology, the gap between the brokers isn’t as big as some of the other categories. Robinhood and E*TRADE both accept payment for order flow and use their own proprietary system for routing orders, but only E*TRADE provides any information about the effectiveness of their routing systems. The average time to fill an order at E*TRADE is between 0.11 and 0.19 seconds depending on whether a stock is part of the S&P 500 or not, with price improvement of $.0007 per share and $3.38 per contract on option orders. Neither broker offers backtesting of trading strategies. E*TRADE offers portfolio margining while Robinhood does not, but Robinhood allows for fractional share trading that E*TRADE only offers in its dividend reinvestment and robo-advisor offerings. Finally, while both companies have a stock loan program, E*TRADE shares revenue with the account holder and Robinhood keeps all of the revenue to itself.
In light of Robinhood’s lack of transparency on the effectiveness of its routing system and their generating the majority of their revenue from payment for order flow (PFOF), we believe E*TRADE has better trading technology for customers. Those with smaller account balances, however, may find Robinhood’s support for fractional shares appealing.
Robinhood and E*TRADE do not charge commissions for stock or ETF trades. For options trading, E*TRADE charges $0.65 per contract if less than 30 trades per quarter, and $0.50 if 30 trades or more, but Robinhood does not charge anything for options trading. There are no account opening, maintenance, or inactivity fees at either broker. Margin trading is more competitive at Robinhood, which charges a monthly fee of $5 for $1,000 of margin and market data and Morningstar reports, and just 2.5% interest on margin exceeding $1,000. E*TRADE’s margin rates vary between 8.70% on $10,000 balances to 5.45% on an account with a $1 million balance.
Robinhood charges $20 to send a check, compared to $10 at E*TRADE, and Robinhood does not charge for domestic or international wires, where E*TRADE does not charge a fee for domestic wire transfers into an account and $25 for international wires and outgoing domestic transfers. Robinhood does not charge a direct commission for cryptocurrency trading, which E*TRADE does not have. Robinhood does not offer any of the following, but E*TRADE charges $6.95 to trade OTC, OTCBB, gray market, and OTC-traded foreign securities or $4.95 if the account has 30 or more trades per quarter. Further, E*TRADE charges $1.50 per contract per side for futures and $2.50 for Bitcoin futures. E*TRADE also makes live brokers available for a fee of $25 per trade that is waived during extended hours and overnight sessions between 4am and 7am Eastern.
If you are only looking to trade in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies, and are using margin, you would pay less at Robinhood because they don’t charge for options or cryptocurrency trading and have lower margin rates. However, if you want access to fixed income, mutual funds, the over-the-counter markets in addition to no commission stock and ETF trading, you need to use E*TRADE, whose rates are reasonable but not the lowest available. That being said, Robinhood has the edge as far as the lowest costs if you are satisfied with the more limited range of offerings.
Account and Research Amenities
This category is not close, with E*TRADE providing much more than Robinhood in the way of research and account amenities. Both brokerages provide news, videos, podcasts, and newsletters. Robinhood provides Morningstar ratings for stocks, but only to customers that pay a $5 per month to be Robinhood Gold customers. E*TRADE provides access to third party research from Moody’s, Thomson Reuters, Morningstar, MarketEdge, Trefis, and others free of charge. Both companies also have a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). Customers enrolled in Robinhood’s deposit sweep program pays interest of 0.30%, which is higher than the 0.01% offered through E*TRADE mutual fund sweeps for their managed accounts.
While there were some comparisons above, there is a significant difference between the companies on research amenities. Robinhood does not offer any stock, ETF, mutual fund, options, or fixed income screeners, while E*TRADE has robust offerings for all of these screeners and the ability to screen for environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and socially responsible investing (SRI), as well as thematic screens, such as robotics or infrastructure. Finally, both platforms provide charting, but Robinhood’s offering is much more basic and doesn’t allow drawing or customization, while E*TRADE’s charting tools are much more robust. E*TRADE is the clear winner for research and account amenities.
E*TRADE has significantly better portfolio analysis tools than Robinhood, which only has very basic basic account information such as balances, percent gain, margin, buying power, dividend history, and tax reports. E*TRADE has all that and much more, including an extensive offering of account analytics, calculators, portfolio analysis, ROI, and multiple other tools. E*TRADE has a clear advantage over Robinhood for portfolio analysis.
Robinhood offers educational resources to its customers, but its focus is more on providing news and content to make finance easier to grasp for newer investors. Robinhood’s educational content provides definitions and educational content about investment terminology as well as more than 650 published articles. E*TRADE has a lot of good information for new investors covering long-term investing, tax planning, and options and futures. E*TRADE also recently introduced Virtual Learning Environments, which are full-day structured online events with targeted learning objectives, such as beginner options.
E*TRADE has a more complete education offering than Robinhood because of their virtual learning environment, much more content on long-term investing and planning, and thorough resources for brand new investors.
Robinhood does not offer phone support, solely providing customer service through the app and website. E*TRADE offers phone support, but they have experienced a significant increase in hold times to get through. Getting someone on the phone with E*TRADE took 44 seconds to reach someone from 2017 through 2019, but the significant increase in customers and trading activity since the Covid pandemic has resulted in a 65% increase in inquiries that brought their average hold time to more than 11 minutes. E*TRADE is working to ramp up their capacity.
Even with the long hold times, having customer support you can call makes E*TRADE the winner in this category. E*TRADE has stated its intention to continue providing phone-based support and improve on hold times. While younger, tech-savvy investors may be more comfortable with just electronic means of communication, there are plenty of investors who want to speak with someone when they have questions about their financial accounts.
Both Robinhood and E*TRADE offer two-factor authentication as well as face or fingerprint biometric login for their mobile apps. Many brokers, including E*TRADE, supplement Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance with additional insurance policies. Robinhood does not offer any protection beyond the SIPC protection. Regarding account security, E*TRADE did not suffer any serious platform outages in 2020, but Robinhood suffered significant outages in February and March 2020 because their systems could not handle the stress of the increased activity on its platform. Robinhood has also suffered data breaches, including one in November 2021 that involved 7 million customers.
E*TRADE has better security because they provide insurance in excess of SIPC coverage and did not have outages or data breaches. Robinhood falls short in all three categories.
While both E*TRADE and Robinhood have something to offer to their respective customers, E*TRADE is the clearly better choice for most investors and traders. They have strong offerings that support multiple markets, allow customers to customize their platforms, and find investment opportunities from extensive screeners. Robinhood’s limited offering of just stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies pales in comparison to the breadth of offerings, analytics, and tools available on E*TRADE. While options do not have commissions with Robinhood, the lack of price improvement information from Robinhood on equities, ETFs, and options makes us question if commissions and a better, transparent fill may not benefit customers more.
Overall, Robinhood’s offerings don’t match up well with many larger online brokers, including E*TRADE. While there is nothing wrong with simplicity as an approach, Robinhood will have to add to its offerings to be more competitive with the stronger brokers.
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