Overview of Folio Investing, TD Ameritrade, Etrade, and Vanguard

If you’re thinking about opening an account with Folio Investing, you may want to do a quick comparison to some of its rivals first. We’ve done all the work for you.

Broker Commissions and Fees

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Fidelity $4.95 $49.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $4.95 $76 ($0 to sell) $4.95 + $0.65 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*
Folio $4 or $10 $4 or $10 n/a $5 or $29 $5 or $29


Services

Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
TD Ameritrade
Fidelity
Charles Schwab
Etrade
Vanguard
Folio


Customer Service

Folio Investing has representatives on the phone from 7 A.M. until 9 P.M., Monday through Friday. Hours on Saturday and Sunday are 8 A.M. until 4 P.M. The company has no brick-and-mortar offices, and its website lacks online chat.

We get an improvement with the other four brokerage houses. All of them manage nationwide networks of branch locations. Schwab has the most branches (300+).

The four companies offer 24/7 phone support; and they all have online chat, although sometimes at less frequent hours. E*Trade’s chat service seems to be available more frequently. The quality of online chat can also vary from broker to broker. We recently received a wrong answer during a chat with Schwab, for example.

E*Trade, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade have the best self-help website sections, with services ranging from downloading a form to signing up for e-statements.


Mutual and Exchange-Traded Funds

Folio Investing clients have access to 1,538 mutual funds. On this list, there are about 1,100 that carry zero load. Mutual funds are traded inside of the broker’s folios, which have trading fees. Same is true for ETF’s. Information on both types of funds is very scant on the company’s website.

Moving to E*Trade, there are more than 8,000 mutual funds available, and over 4,000 of them are no-transaction-fee, no-load securities. Over 250 ETF’s are commission-free, and the broker offers good resources on both mutual and exchange-traded funds.

Using TD Ameritrade’s screener, we found nearly 11,800 mutual funds. Roughly 3,800 of these are free to trade. More than 300 exchange-traded funds have zero commissions, and the broker provides lots of information for fund traders.

Schwab offers a smaller list of mutual funds (5,845 to be exact), but 3,422 carry zero load and zero transaction fee. Schwab offers 265 ETF’s without any commissions (or short-term redemption fees). We like Schwab’s mutual fund report cards, too.

Finally, we come to Fidelity. The broker doesn’t disappoint with its list of 10,538 mutual funds (roughly 1,800 have neither load nor transaction fee). Also not to be missed is the company’s list of 265 ETF’s with zero trading fees. The list is composed of just Fidelity and iShares funds. By comparison, E*Trade, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade offer more than two fund families. On the upside, we liked Fidelity’s very extensive fund information.


Trading Tools

Folio Investing’s trading tools are very limited. The broker-dealer doesn’t offer a browser platform or a desktop system. Trading takes place on its website, which isn’t very sophisticated. There is no trade bar, so trades are placed through its site. Charting does not offer any technical studies or drawing tools. A chart can be blown up the width of the monitor, but there are no comparisons. There are five graph styles.


Ready-To-Go folios


When we logged into our trial account at E*Trade, we found much better trading resources. The broker’s website is better designed; and although there is no trade bar, the company does offer a browser platform called Power E*Trade. Charting here is much better than Folio’s program, and options can be traded as well. If the browser isn’t enough for your needs, E*Trade also has a desktop program for active traders.

TD Ameritrade offers a software program with no trading requirements. Called thinkorswim, it is the most advanced desktop system we have used. It offers a few hundred technical indicators plus many other robust trading tools. The broker’s website itself should be sufficient for most trading needs. We have successfully submitted orders via SnapTicket, a trade bar on TD Ameritrade’s website.

Schwab also has a desktop platform, although it’s not quite as advanced as thinkorswim. The broker’s website offers many nice trading features, one of which is a trade bar (once again, it underperforms TD Ameritrade’s). Charting on both the website and platform offer many helpful tools.

Fidelity has a lot of the same resources (great desktop platform and good website). One weakness seems to be its trade bar, which doesn’t sit at the bottom of the screen. Instead, it pops out to the left-hand side of the monitor. Charting is very good on both the desktop and website.


Mobile Apps

In the mobile category, Folio Investing once again underperforms. In fact, this is going to be the broker’s worst category. While we were able to install an app called “Folio First,” there was nothing inside when we logged in.

A great improvement is found at E*Trade, who now offers two apps: the older E*Trade app, and the newer Power E*Trade app. The latter is the browser system condensed into mobile format. Both apps provide a lot of great trading resources.

Schwab’s app provides information on market happenings plus advanced charting and a good trade ticket. Fidelity’s platform offers more market news and has an emphasis on global financial news. Charting and the order ticket should satisfy the needs of most traders.

TD Ameritrade outdoes E*Trade here by offering three apps, one of which is a thinkorswim system. It offers very advanced charting (the most sophisticated we have seen on a mobile device) plus the ability to trade futures and forex.


Managed Accounts and Investment Advice

Portfolio management is available at all five brokers in our investigation. Folio Investing is the one broker to offer only managed folios, which are baskets of stocks, ETF’s, and mutual funds. Beyond these investments, the company does not offer any type of investment advice.

Much more is available at Fidelity and Schwab, both of whom offer their own mutual and exchange-traded funds. Besides these securities, both companies have robo and human advisory services. Schwab’s AI is free, while Fidelity charges 0.35%. Schwab offers its robot with a Certified Financial Planner for 28 basis points. Many different traditional packages are available at both brokers.

E*Trade has its own lineup of managed accounts. At the bottom of the pricing schedule is its digital advisor. It costs nothing the first year and 30 basis points thereafter. Traditionally-managed accounts are a little pricier (0.65% up to 1.25%), although the other brokers in our survey are around the same level.

TD Ameritrade customers can use the broker’s digital advisor for 0.30% annually. As with the other algorithms, this one trades low-cost ETF’s. The company’s human advisors can trade much more, although the cost increases by as much as 60 basis points. Minimums can also be as high as $250,000 for old-school packages.


Recommendation

If you plan to day trade or otherwise need the best software, we definitely recommend TD Ameritrade. If you’re on a budget and need the best value, Fidelity or Schwab would be a good replacement.

For mutual fund and ETF traders, we’re going to suggest TD Ameritrade over its rivals here.

If customer service is of utmost importance to you, we recommend Fidelity. Our experience in this category has been best with Fidelity.

If you need guidance or financial advice, we’re going to propose Schwab. Its services start at 0.00%, and there are many brick-and-mortar locations for in-person counseling.

Finally, if you’re impressed by Folio Investing’s method of financial management, then we certainly recommend giving it a try. The broker offers a 60-day free trial.


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

Charles Schwab: Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.

Fidelity Investments: Get 500 free trades with $100,000+ deposit.

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

Folio Investing: Try the Folio Unlimited Plan free for 60 days.


Recap

Folio Investing has a unique style of money management that definitely offers something fresh and different. But in most categories, the old stalwarts outperform it.


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