It’s online. That goes without saying.
Cheap transaction costs. If you have enough money to be investing, you probably have enough to qualify for the free checking, near 0% etrade index funds, high interest rate savings account, and ATM card reimbursements. Transaction cost should be everyone first consideration in looking for a financial services provider.
Single stop financial services shopping. While I think single stop is overrated for many things–it helps with the accounting to have all the banking type services in one place. When I have a separate account for checking, credit cards, stocks, savings, etc, I have way to many passwords to remember, way too much exposure to identity theft, etc.
Two factor identification. To get into my account you need to have something and know something. Hackers in Chelabinsk will not be able to rob me whilst sitting in their underwear eating dried herring, they would have to find me, mug me and torture me to get the necessary bits to steal my money.
Customer service. Email brings out the incompetence in customer service representatives. Etrade is a good example of that dynamic. So far, it takes an average of two emails to get them to understand my request. They have managed to muck up the names on my checking account, when I tried to deactivate automatic investing, they deactivate only half of my automatic investing–they deactivated the funding part, not the buying part.
Credit Card rewards. The worlds most dilapidated and painful to use online rewards catalog. It is truly a million times worse than a PDF. Obviously no that works at Etrade uses the company credit card or they’d know about this broken rewards site and fix it. I am starting to miss my Amazon.com card.
The Etrade rewards site is a very old looking Java Servlet application that is optimized for Netscape and MSIE 5. The website runs not at all in MSIE7 and Firefox 2.0 It has no option for just listing the rewards. The search capabilities appear to be broken. It is unusably slow. And it is in an Iframe that requires left right scrolling. If nothing else, it is a good example of why you shouldn’t write a website optimized for as single browser, shouldn’t use Iframes and should use Java Servlets (and what ever java goo is behind it) only if you do performance testing.
Debit Cards. Debit cards are evil. They are not much more than a way to facilitate identity theft. Apparently it was too hard to steal identities and clean out people’s accounts using ATM cards, so Etrade, and many other banks, now offer only Visa Debit cards to help the mafia drain the accounts of the little people like myself.
Given that Etrade doesn’t have physical branches very close to me (except for one in DC), I still have to have a debit card if I plan to ever get cash out of my account. Knowing that, it was surprising how hard it was to wring a debit card from the unwilling hands of Etrade. I know that I hate debit cards, but seeing that it was Etrade that thought they were such a great idea, you’d think they’d be more willing to give them to their customers.