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OptionsHouse vs. E*Trade: Best IRA Brokers

By Jordan Wathen - Apr 2, 2017 at 12:06PM

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Here's how OptionsHouse and E*Trade compare for individual retirement accounts.

If you're not saving for retirement, you may be falling behind. The good news is that it isn't that hard to catch up.

One study found that the median person in their 40s had about $17,700 in an IRA. Those in their 20s failed to break the $5,000 mark. The hardest part of saving is getting started; it's difficult to figure out where, exactly, you should open an IRA. By focusing on the most important pieces, investors can make an informed decision about the best place to get started. Below, we'll do a simple comparison to see how OptionsHouse and E*Trade stack up for long-term retirement investors.

Commission prices

Even though OptionsHouse and E*Trade are owned by the same parent company, they have very different pricing structures.

Brokerage

Stocks and ETFs

Stock Options

Mutual Funds

OptionsHouse

$4.95 per trade

$4.95 + $0.50 per contract

$20.00 per purchase

E*Trade

$6.95 per trade

$6.95 + $0.75 per contract

$19.99 per purchase

Data sources: Company websites.

As you can see, commission prices come down to about $2.00 per trade for the basic stock, option, and ETF trade. But the differences in prices for higher-volume traders are almost completely negated. E*Trade offers $4.95 trades ($0.50 per options contract) when you place 30 or more trades per quarter. Thus, the only difference is the penny on mutual fund transactions, a difference many could overlook.

Price breaks and discounts are relatively common, particularly for people who open a new IRA account. Learn more about special offers for IRAs to see what you might get when you open an account.

Mutual funds, ETFs, and commission-free choices

Some brokers offer free trades on selected mutual funds and ETFs. These funds can ultimately save investors hundreds if not thousands of dollars in transaction fees, especially when a saver wants to make routine regular contributions.

Brokerage

Total Mutual Funds

No-Load, No-Transaction-Fee Funds (NTF)

Commission-Free ETFs

OptionsHouse

More than 12,100

None

5 (O'Shares)

E*Trade

More than 8,000

More than 4,400

133 (GlobalX, WisdomTree, and more)

Data sources: Barron's, company websites, and representatives.

Minimum deposit requirement for IRAs

E*Trade and OptionsHouse do not currently have minimum deposit requirements for Roth or traditional IRA accounts, so whether you want to start with $1.00 or begin by rolling over $100,000 from a 401(K), you won't find any resistance in opening an account.

Man makes trades through mobile phone.

Image source: Getty Images.

Foreign stocks and ADR trading

One of the great things about the internet is that it opens up a world of information. It also opens up a new world of investment opportunities. OptionsHouse and E*Trade clients can trade foreign stocks that have an American depositary receipt (ADR) on a U.S. exchange. Such companies include large international companies like Baidu or Unilever, for two well-known examples.

Investors who would prefer to trade directly on an international stock exchange in, say, England or the Netherlands, will have to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, only a select few brokerages currently offer international trading.

Mobile app reviews

If you own a phone or tablet, and you have internet access, you can trade from anywhere via a mobile app. Here's how each broker's users and customers rated their mobile trading apps (as of March 15, 2017).

Brokerage

Apple App Store

Google Play

OptionsHouse

1.6 stars

3.1 stars

E*Trade

3.5 stars

3.9 stars

Data sources: Relevant app stores.

OptionsHouse vs. E*Trade for IRAs

Depending on how an investor plans to manage his or her IRA, either broker could be the better pick. E*Trade offers more no-transaction-free funds and ETFs, but has higher commissions for people who do not place at least 30 trades per quarter. OptionsHouse has lower commissions, even for low-volume accounts, but it doesn't offer nearly as many no-cost funds as E*Trade.

Ultimately, it's all about how a broker's offerings align with your portfolio. To be clear, The Motley Fool does not endorse any particular brokerage, but we can help you find one that's a good fit for you. Visit Fool.com's IRA Center to compare several leading discount brokers on one page.

Jordan Wathen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Baidu. The Motley Fool recommends Unilever and WisdomTree Investments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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