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E-Trade and Ally Invest are two of the most popular discount online brokerages on the market. Benzinga looked into a multitude of data points and key differentiating factors to bring you a full comparative research analysis between Ally Invest and E-Trade.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Overview

Commissions
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Commissions
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Best For
  • Investors who already bank with Ally and want to streamline between accounts
  • Beginners looking for easy-to-follow educational tools
  • Stock investors looking for affordable access to low-priced options and commission-free stock trading
Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers

Ally Invest is the online discount brokerage arm of Ally Financial, a financial services company that offers brokerage services as well as services that range from banking and credit cards to auto and home loans. Ally Invest was created when the online Ally Bank merged with TradeKing in 2016.

Founded in 1982, E-Trade, in addition to banking, offers diverse financial instruments and 30 retail banking branches across the U.S.

Who is Ally Invest For?

Ally Invest is a better bet for advanced forex and futures traders who frequently trade.

Cost-conscious traders: Ally Invest offers separate active trade pricing. This, combined with a no-account minimum, makes it one of the cheapest options on the market.

Hands-on traders: Ally Invest offers virtually no educational or research resources, which is a good fit if you’re a hands-on trader equipped to do your own background research.

Read Benzinga’s full Ally Invest Review

Who is E-Trade For?

E-Trade’s sophisticated trading platforms and advanced tools are definitely a “must-have” for advanced traders. That said, E-Trade’s comprehensive research offerings and educational tools appeal to beginners as well. Active traders also prefer E-Trade for its tiered commission structure, cheaper for more frequent traders.

Advanced traders: E-Trade’s risk analysis tools and market research help you conduct your own research to zero in on investment opportunities.

Frequent traders: More frequent trading or active trading allows you to qualify for commissions as low as $4.95 for equities and fees of $0.50 per options contract.

Beginners: E-Trade offers a rich reserve of educational resources if you’re just beginning to explore the financial markets. The robo or automated investing feature E-Trade offers allows you to invest in a professionally-managed portfolio of leading ETFs, customized to your investment goals. The firm also offers a simulated trading environment for practice.

Read Benzinga’s full E-Trade Review

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Platform and Tools

What Ally Invest Offers

Ally Invest offers a web-based streaming HTML5 platform, with features such as a customizable dashboard, real-time streaming quotes/data, and several trading tools. The charting application has six chart types and over 90 chart studies and drawing tools.

Ally Invest Vs. E-Trade
Source: Ally.com

The firm also offers a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones and tablets, which allow trading as well as access to its web-based platform.

Forex trading is done through the Ally Invest ForexTrader desktop platform, which offers advanced charting, customizable technical indicators and drawing tools, a Reuters newswire and market commentary. It also offers the MetaTrader4 trading platform for forex trading.

What E-Trade Offers

E-Trade offers a desktop and a web trading platform as well two mobile apps.

The desktop platform, called the Power E-Trade, offers user-friendly tools and features for stock trading, options, and futures. The platform carries Bloomberg TV and news, interactive charts, technical pattern recognition tools, snapshot analysis, spectral analysis, etc. The charting application carries 100+ technical studies and 30+ drawing tools.

The advanced E-Trade Pro platform, though free for clients, is available only for customers who execute at least 30 stocks or options trades in a quarter or maintain a brokerage account balance of at least $25,000.

The E-Trade web platform offers basic features such as tracked accounts, managed watchlists, viewable streaming data, and trading.

The firm’s two mobile apps are Power E-Trade app and its mobile app, which has been built as a companion for the Power E-Trade platform and is available for download on Google Play as well as the App Store.

The E-Trade mobile app is available for Android and Apple devices, including the Apple Watch and other tablets. Some of its features include investment in stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and options, cash management with money transfer, check deposit and bill pay and access to Bloomberg TV, third-party research and breaking news.

E-Trade Offers
Source: Etrade.com

Bottom Line

In terms of sophistication and feature-richness, E-Trade wins, hands-down. E-Trade’s mobile app is considered to be an industry-leading application.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Research Offerings

What Ally Invest Offers

Ally Invest has a separate webpage dedicated to educational content for investing, trading, stocks, bonds, options, and mutual funds.

Ally Invest carries research reports and real-time news from Benzinga, Seeking Alpha and Briefing.com.

What E-Trade Offers

E-Trade offers a complete suite of research offerings that include in-depth reports, consensus ratings and price analysis from leading market analysts. Fundamental research available on the firm’s platform is from Credit Suisse, Morningstar and Thomson Reuters and technical research from Market Edge, mutual fund and ETF research from Morningstar and Bond research from Moody’s.

The firm’s website also sports a separate webpage for knowledge, which encompasses education, thematic investing and markets, and news. Tutorial content is made available in the form of videos, articles and live educational sessions for beginners.

Bottom Line

E-Trade’s research and educational offerings are by far more superior to Ally Invest, which distinctly lacks third-party research.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Commission and Fees

Ally Invest’s Fees

Ally Invest offers two types of accounts: self-directed trading and managed portfolio accounts. Self-directed trading pricing for stocks and ETFs include:

  Account Minimum Commission
Standard Pricing No $4.95
Select Pricing 30+ trades per quarter of daily account balance of $100,000 or more $3.95

However, for stocks priced less than $2, a penny per share is charged over the regular commission and the maximum commission per order cannot be greater than 5% of the trade value.

Ally Invest also provides clients with the option of trading a select list of commission-free ETFs. For professionally managed services, the firm charges an annual advisory fee of 0.3% and mandates an account minimum of $2,500 to start investing.

The managed portfolio is built based on your personal goals, time horizon and risk tolerance and is robo-managed, which means that technology will monitor and automatically rebalance your account. Commissions for options trading:

  Account Minimum Commission
Standard Pricing No $4.95 + 65 cents per contract
Select Pricing 30+ trades per quarter of daily account balance of $100,000 or more $3.95 + 50 cents per contract

For bond trading, the firm charges $1 per bond and a minimum investment of $10. The fee applicable for mutual fund is $9.95 per trade.

E-Trade’s Fees

The following are the commissions applicable for stock and options trading through E-Trade:

  0-29 Trades per Quarter 30 or More Trades per Contractor
Stocks $6.95 $4.95
Simple options $6.95 + 75 cents/contract $4.95 + 50 cents per contract
Complex options $6.95 + $6.95 + 75 cents/contract $4.95 + $4.95 + 50 cents per contract

The firm charges an extra $25 for broker-assisted trades. Directed trades executed on E-Trade Pro to an ECN during regular or extended hours are charged a direct order fee of $0.005 per share.

ETF trading involves a $6.95 commission and for volume trading (30 or more trades per quarter) a commission of $4.95 is charged. Commission-free ETFs are free of cost. However, for short term trading in commission-free ETFs, a $19.99 fee is charged, which trims down to $15.99 for volume trading.

E-Trade charges $1 per bond, with minimum and maximum investments at $10 and $250, respectively. Broker-assisted trades involve an additional $20 commission.

Futures trading is $1.50 price per contract per side, including fees. Bitcoin futures are $2.50 per contract, per side and fees are charged.

Mutual funds fees:

No-Load, No Transaction Fee Funds Transaction Fee Funds Load Funds Early Redemption Charges for No-Load, No Transaction Fee Funds
$0 $19.99 Varies $49.99

Bottom Line

The no-frills, deep discounter Ally Invest is a clear winner in the commissions and fees department; it scores over E-Trade in all instruments.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Security

What Ally Invest Offers

Since Ally Invest is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), customer claims up to $500,000, including a maximum of $250,000 for cash claims, are covered.

Over and above this, Ally Invest has an additional coverage up to $37.5 million, including $900,000 in cash, with an aggregate cap of $150 million. To protect the security and privacy of personal and account information, Ally Invest uses firewalls and secure socket layering, or SSL technology, which encrypts sensitive information online.

Following a set number of failed login attempts, the firm blocks access to your account and can only be restored by contacting the firm.

What E-Trade Offers

Like Ally Invest, E-Trade is also a member of the SIPC, and covers your funds up to $500,000, including $250,000 cash claims. E-Trade offers additional coverage, with an aggregate limit of $600 million.

E-Trade promises secure investment with features and resources such as encryption, firewalls, dedicated fraud protection teams and multi-factor authentication. The firm covers any loss resulting from the unauthorized use of its brokerage services. It does not sell personal information to third parties or marketers and personal information is protected by layered defense systems and advanced encryption.

E-Trade Security ID, a free app, is a security tool that provides two-factor authentication by generating a unique access code that must be used in conjunction with an account password.

Bottom Line

Both Ally Invest and E-Trade have similar security provisions, although E-Trade’s two-factor authentication is a little more sophisticated.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Customer Support

What Ally Invest Offers

Ally Invest offers 24/7 access to a customer support team. Its 24/7 support is available at 1-855-880-2559. You can also live chat 24/7 with a registered representative or shoot an email to support@invest.ally.com. They also have an online help center, which answers a series of questions about products, account management, apps, and tools.  

What E-Trade Offers

Help is available at E-Trade through multiple avenues such as phone, email and chat at its 30+ branches across the U.S. and through the FAQ section on its webpage. The firm’s customer service representatives can be contacted at 800-387-2331, while overseas clients can call +1 678 624 6210. A live chat option is also available.

If you’re an existing client, you can log in with your credentials and send a secure message using an online form. If you’re a new client, you can fill out an online form and request a call back or an email reply.

Bottom Line

Customer service is comparable for both Ally Invest and E-Trade. However, E-Trade slightly edges ahead of Ally Invest due to its physical locations.

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Tradable Asset Classes

What Ally Invest Offers

As seen earlier, Ally Invest offers the following instruments:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs (both commission and commission-free ETFs)
  • Options (equity and index)
  • ByRDs (binary return derivatives)
  • Bonds (corporate, agency, Treasuries, municipals, strips and zeros, CDs and new issues)
  • Mutual funds
  • Forex (over 80 currency pairs as well as gold and silver)

What E-Trade Offers

Here’s the list of investment choices E-Trade offers:

  • Stocks
  • Options (equity and index)
  • Futures and options on futures (metals, energy, interest rates and currencies)
  • ETFs (option to trade in over 250+ commission-free ETFs)
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds and certificate of deposits (U.S. Treasury, agency, municipal, corporate, high-yield and brokered CDs)

Bottom Line

It’s a tie. Tradable securities offered by both firms are essentially the same. 

Ally Invest vs. E-Trade: Ease of Use

What Ally Invest Offers

Ally Invest, with its simple and straightforward platform and tools, can claim user-friendly status. However, there are some wrinkles, such as having to open separate accounts to trade in forex, and the lack of well-rounded research, especially fundamental research.

What E-Trade Offers

E-Trade is an advanced trader’s delight, given its customizable platform and features. At the same time, if you’re a beginner, you might prefer it because of its extensive educational resources. The best-in-class mobile app makes life easier due to its integration with banking functions.

Bottom Line

E-Trade appeals to a whole range of clients, from beginners to the most advanced traders. The whole process, from account opening to conducting research, is seamless. Although Ally Invest doesn’t fall way behind here, it definitely trails behind E-Trade.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, considering several factors, E-Trade pips past Ally Invest. Given its low-cost appeal and fairly decent platforms and tools, Ally Invest runs neck-and-neck with E-Trade in terms of the breadth of product offerings, security and customer service. Where Ally Invest falls way behind E-Trade is on research and educational resources. However, it offers major value for its discounted pricing.

Best For
Socially Responsible Investing
Overall Rating
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1 Minute Review

Ally Invest is a comprehensive broker offering easy access to domestic markets. Combining a wide range of charting tools with an easy-to-master platform, Ally is a solid choice for both new and experienced investors. Ally’s mobile app is particularly impressive for investors who already bank with Ally, offering seamless compatibility between accounts. While more experienced investors might be disappointed with Ally’s beginner-oriented educational center, they’re bound to love Ally’s wide range of technical tools and rock-bottom pricing.

Best For
  • Investors who already bank with Ally and want to streamline between accounts
  • Beginners looking for easy-to-follow educational tools
  • Stock investors looking for affordable access to low-priced options and commission-free stock trading
Pros
  • Streamlined interface that’s easy to use and quick to master — even for beginners
  • Wide range of unique tools that makes analyzing securities simple
  • Seamless integration between mobile and desktop offerings, especially for Ally Bank account holders
  • Diversified managed investment portfolios with a low minimum and no advisory fees
  • Impressive ETF screening tools that make it easy to find your next fund
Cons
  • No fee-free mutual funds
  • No access to futures trading
Best For
Desktop Trading
Overall Rating
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1 Minute Review

E*TRADE is an online discount trading house that offers brokerage and banking services to individuals and businesses. One of the first brokers to embrace online trading, E*TRADE not only survived both the dot-com bubble and Recession — it thrived. You can choose from two different platforms (one basic, one advanced). E*TRADE is a suitable broker for traders of most skill levels, whether you want to buy mutual funds and hold them for decades or dabble in options swing trading. E*TRADE offers a library of research and education materials to help you out.

Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers
Pros
  • Sophisticated trading platforms
  • Wide range of tradable assets
  • Exceptional customer service
Cons
  • Limited currency trading
  • Higher margin rates than competitors
  • No paper trading on its standard platform

If you decide to open an account with either, make sure to check out Ally Invest’s current promotions and E-Trade’s current promotions for new customers.