E*TRADE and Fidelity are full-service online brokers that have been around for decades. Founded in 1982, E*TRADE was one of the first U.S. brokers to offer online trading services. The firm positioned itself as one of the best online brokers for options trading after acquiring OptionsHouse in 2016 and integrating a quiver of OptionsHouse tools into the E*TRADE Power platform.
Fidelity was founded in 1946 and made its internet debut in 1995—about a decade after E*TRADE. The company offers a solid all-around package with low costs, excellent research amenities, and valuable tools. While these two brokers have a lot in common, we’ll compare the two to help you determine which one is the right fit for your investing needs.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade
New E*TRADE customers can easily open and fund an account using a mobile device or computer. There are two main web-based platforms with dedicated mobile apps that mirror the functionality of the respective web platforms. One platform is aimed more at casual traders, and the Power E*TRADE platform is designed for the more active crowd.
Fidelity is quite user-friendly overall. Here again, the broker has addressed the challenge of having tools for active traders while accommodating casual investors by splitting its offerings into two platforms. Initial account opening with Fidelity is simple, especially if you’re adding an account to an existing household.
Overall, we found E*TRADE is a good choice for active traders and investors—especially those who want access to a suite of excellent options tools. At the same time, Fidelity is better for casual investors and traders looking for low costs and access to international trading.
Desktop Trade Experience
E*TRADE’s standard website can be challenging to navigate due to its two-level menus. However, the fully customizable Power E*TRADE platform is more intuitive, and you can access all your favorite tools in a single layout. You have access to streaming real-time quotes across all platforms, and you can stage orders and send a batch simultaneously. You can also place orders from a chart and track them visually.
Fidelity’s workflow for analyzing or trading existing positions on the website is relatively easy, although it’s a bit clunky sorting through the tabs and drop-down choices. Buy-and-hold investors should find the web-based platform more than adequate, but keep in mind that quotes are delayed by 15 minutes unless you sign up for real-time quotes. More experienced investors and traders will appreciate Active Trader Pro’s charts, technical indicators, screeners, and advanced order types.
Although it was close, we found that E*TRADE offers a more satisfying desktop trading experience due to its robust Power E*TRADE platform and backtesting capabilities.
Mobile Trade Experience
E*TRADE and Fidelity offer mobile apps that are reasonably easy to navigate. On E*TRADE, watchlists are integrated—and a full range of tradable assets (except for fixed income) are available—across platforms, making it easy to bounce between devices. Unlike Fidelity, E*TRADE’s mobile app supports conditional order types.
Fidelity supports stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds on its mobile app. Like E*TRADE, fixed income is missing from Fidelity’s mobile lineup. Mobile watchlists are shared with the desktop and web applications, and you can trade fractional shares and specify dollars rather than shares when entering an order. Fundamental analysis and charting are extremely limited on mobile.
While both apps are well-rated on the App Store, Fidelity has far more reviews. E*TRADE has 4.6 stars from 139,300 reviews, while Fidelity has 4.8 stars from some 1.9 million reviews. Overall, we found that either app should fit the needs of casual investors and traders, but only E*TRADE supports conditional orders, which could be an essential distinction for active traders.
Range of Offerings
E*TRADE and Fidelity offer all the standard trading products, including stocks (with shorts), ETFs, bonds, and mutual funds. Beyond that, there are a few notable differences. Only E*TRADE supports futures, futures options, and Bitcoin futures, while only Fidelity offers access to Forex and dozens of international exchanges. Ultimately, a preference for one broker over the other may come down to the brokers’ range of offerings.
|Fidelity vs. E*TRADE Range of Offerings|
|No-Load, No-Fee Mutual Funds||4,533||3,457|
|Complex Options||4+ legs||4+ legs|
|Cryptocurrency||Yes (Bitcoin futures only)||No|
|OTCBB and Penny Stocks||Yes||Yes|
E*TRADE supports a respectable variety of order types, including conditional orders, on its website and Power E*TRADE platforms. Mobile users can enter a limited number of conditional orders. It’s possible to stage orders for later entry on all platforms, and you can select a tax lot from your portfolio or order ticket to optimize tax efficiency.
Fidelity also supports the usual suspects (market, limit, stop, and trailing stops) and conditional orders on its web and Active Trader Pro platforms. Unlike E*TRADE, however, Fidelity doesn’t offer conditional orders on mobile. You can automatically allocate investments across multiple securities with an equal dollar amount or number of shares—a feature that’s not found at many online brokers.
In terms of order types, the gap between the two brokers is negligible for most individual investors, but active traders will value the additional flexibility E*TRADE offers over Fidelity.
E*TRADE’s order routing technology uses both spray and sequential routing, and it sends most orders to market makers. The router looks for a combination of execution speed and quality. According to its execution quality report, orders are filled in 0.10 seconds, on average. E*TRADE reports an average net price improvement of $0.007 per share, and it receives less than $0.0020 in payment for order flow for equity trades and less than $0.47 per options contract.
Meanwhile, Fidelity’s smart order routing technology seeks the best price available and can access all types of market venues, including dark pools, exchanges, and market makers. The company reports a net price improvement of $0.0264 per equity share and an average execution speed of 0.04 seconds. Unlike E*TRADE, Fidelity does not accept payment for order flow for stocks or ETFs (it does collect an average of $0.2514 per options contract).
Overall, Fidelity wins in the trading technology department due to its superior price improvement statistics, faster execution speeds, and lack of payment for order flow.
E*TRADE and Fidelity offer $0 commissions for online equity, ETF, and options trades. You’ll pay a $0.65 per-contact options fee at either broker, though E*TRADE drops that fee to $0.50 if you place at least 30 trades per quarter. OTCBB trades are free at Fidelity and either $6.95 or $4.95 per transaction at E*TRADE, depending on how many trades you place per quarter.
At $25, broker-assisted trades are a bit cheaper at E*TRADE versus Fidelity’s $32.95 fee. Transaction-fee mutual funds will set you back $19.99 at E*TRADE and $49.99 at Fidelity. Only E*TRADE offers futures, which you can trade for $1.50 per contract, per side. Margin rates at Fidelity are a bit cheaper than E*TRADE’s. On a $100,000 balance, the rate is 6.825% at Fidelity versus 7.45% with E*TRADE.
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