Discount stock broker comparison: Etrade vs Vanguard vs TD Ameritrade vs Ally Invest? Brokerage, IRA account fees, commissions, ratings and rankings. Which online brokerage firm to choose?

Compare Vanguard vs Other Brokers: Fees

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Ally Invest $4.95 $9.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Etrade $6.95 $19.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Vanguard $7-$20 $8-$35 $30 + $1.50 per contract $20* $20*

Services

Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Ally Invest
TD Ameritrade
Etrade
Vanguard


Vanguard vs Other Brokerage Firms Overview

Investors at Vanguard have good mutual funds selection along with the financial strength of Vanguard Group. However, some of the broker's rivals also offer a host of investment services, often at a lower price. In particular, Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade both provide securities trading at competitive pricing. Let's take a look at how Vanguard compares against other online brokers.


Technology

There are only very basic trading tools at Vanguard. Charting is not advanced, with few technical indicators, drawing tools, and graph styles. There is no handy trade bar at the bottom of the site. The firm does not offer a desktop platform as well as no paper trading system, sometimes also called Virtual Trading.

TD Ameritrade has two desktop platforms, both of which are free for all clients. Trade Architect is browser-based and is the simpler of the two. Thinkorswim is an independent software program that is more advanced. It has over 400 technical studies, and is more difficult to learn. The website itself is sufficient for trading. A trade bar called SnapTicket appears at the bottom of the screen, can produce a small chart.

Trades at Etrade are placed on the broker's free desktop platform (OptionsHouse), website or on Etrade PRO - advanced trading platform with access requirements. Etrade has advanced charting where a graph can be displayed full screen. It has paper trading, too. Watchlists, an economic calendar, and security research are also available.

Ally Invest's site is user-friendly, with menus at the top of the screen making navigation simple. A trade bar provides quick order entry for stocks, ETF's, and options. A simple browser-based platform called Ally Invest LIVE is available free of charge, while a more advanced system is available to frequent traders.


Mobile Apps

All the brokers in our survey offer mobile apps at no cost. TD Ameritrade actually has three, one of which is a thinkorswim version. This app has very sophisticated charting, along with live streaming of CNBC and paper trading. The broker also provides a platform for Apple Watch.

Vanguard has apps for Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, and Android. The app is user friendly. Users can make a mobile check deposit, get in touch with customer service, or place trades. Unfortunately, there's no live streaming of news.

Etrade’s mobile app works on Apple, Android, Windows devices, Kindle Fire HD and Amazon Fire phone. Mobile check deposit and charting are offered. Etrade ProElite clients get free streaming of CNBC channel. The firm also has a platform for Apple Watch.


Security Research

Vanguard has good information on its website for investors planning for retirement. The firm has decent screeners for all major securities. Stock reports from Argus and MarketGrader are available to Vanguard customers free if charge.

TD Ameritrade offers analyst reports for both stocks and options. The broker has excellent search tools for ETF's and mutual funds. Ally Invest provides stock reports from S&P Capital IQ.


Commissions

The pricing schedule at Vanguard is more complicated than at other online brokers. Small accounts (defined as smaller than $50,000 invested in Vanguard funds) are charged $7 for the first 25 trades per year, and $20 for every trade after. Options cost $1 plus a $20 base charge. Larger accounts receive lower commissions, including free trades for those $1 million or more.

Etrade customers pay $6.95 for stock and ETF transactions. ProElite clients (defined as 30 or more trades per quarter) pay only $4.95. Options cost 75¢, and clients who meet the active trader requirement pay only 50¢.

TD Ameritrade charges $6.95 for equity trades. Derivative contracts are an additional 75¢. Using a live agent over the phone to place a trade is a very steep $44.99.

Ally Invest is the lowest-cost firm, charging just $4.95 for stock and ETF trades. Ally Invest derivative pricing is at 65¢. Trading over the phone with a live rep costs $24.95 at Ally Invest.


Promotions

TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.

Etrade: Deposit $10,000+ and get up to $600 bonus and 60 days of free trades.

Vanguard: no promotion.


Recap

While Vanguard has great mutual funds, the broker seems deficient in other areas. Traders who need an advanced platform or want the best value will probably find a better home at one of the firm's rivals.


Broker Reviews

Ally Invest Review

TD Ameritrade Review

Etrade Review

Vanguard Review