Huge Bonus Offers From Brokers: TD Ameritrade, ETrade, Fidelity, Merrill Edge

[Updated on March 2, 2015.]

The stock market recovered. People warm up to looking at their brokerage accounts again.

I don’t know who started the “stealing customers” campaign. Right now the major discount brokers are all running promotions to lure customers from their competitors.

TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, Fidelity, and Merrill Edge are offering big bonuses — as high as $2,500! — for moving money to them.

Here’s a summary of the bonus offers from TD Ameritrade, E*Trade, Fidelity, and Merrill Edge. Schwab used to have a similar offer but it’s no longer active online. Note Vanguard and Wells Fargo are not in this sign-up bonus war.

As with any other offers of this size, you have to read the fine print and/or call customer service to confirm eligibility. Some are only for IRAs. Some brokers offer the bonus only to new customers. Some offer it to both new customers and current customers who bring more assets from another broker. If you are moving money to an existing account, you may have to register your account with the promotion first.


E*Trade offers an easy-to-use website. Logging in with security token comes standard on all accounts.

Bonus (account size) $600 ($250k+)
$300 ($100k+)
$200 ($25k+)
Current customer eligible? Yes
IRA eligible? Yes
Non-IRA eligible? Yes
Must open acct by* 12/31/2015
$$ must arrive w/in 45 days
Must stay for 6 months
Fine Print IRA

* Note: The offer keeps getting extended. If the table above shows the offer expired, click on the link anyway. Chances are the offer is still active.

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade offers 101 commission-free ETFs, 32 of which are from indexing leader Vanguard. If your total account value is $100k or more, you qualify for the preferential Apex service, which means no service fee on most things, including free wire transfers and no transfer-out fee.

TD Ameritrade
Bonus (account size) $600 ($250k+)
$300 ($100k+)
$100 ($25k+)
Current customer eligible? Yes, but must open new account
IRA eligible? Yes
Non-IRA eligible? Yes
Must open acct by* 12/31/2015
$$ must arrive w/in 60 days
Must stay for 12 months
Fine Print IRA

* Note: The offer keeps getting extended. If the table above shows the offer expired, click on the link anyway. Chances are the offer is still active.


Fidelity offers 65 commission-free ETFs from industry leader iShares. If your total account value is $250k or more, you qualify for Premium Services, which gives you a higher level of customer service and free wire transfers.

Bonus (account size) $2,500 ($1 mil.+)
$1,200 ($500k+)
$600 ($250k+)
$300 ($100k+)
$200 ($50k+)
Current customer eligible? Yes
IRA eligible? Yes
Non-IRA eligible? Yes
Must open acct by* ongoing
$$ must arrive w/in 60 days
Must stay for 9 months
Fine Print link

* Note: The offer keeps getting extended. If the table above shows the offer expired, click on the link anyway. Chances are the offer is still active.

Fidelity also has other bonus offers giving frequent flyer miles — United, Delta, American — 50,000 miles for bringing in $100k or more.

Charles Schwab

I’m not aware of any publicly-advertised cash bonus offer from Charles Schwab at this time. Call a Charles Schwab local office to find out any unadvertised offers.

Schwab offers these non-cash bonuses:

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge offers free online equity and ETF trades through Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program if your total account value is $50k or more and you have an active Bank of America personal checking account.

Merrill Edge
Bonus (account size) $600 ($200k+)
$250 ($100k+)
$150 ($50k+)
$100 ($20k+)
Current customer eligible? Yes
IRA eligible? Yes
Non-IRA eligible? Yes
Must open acct by* ongoing
$$ must arrive w/in 45 days
Must stay for 90 days
Fine Print link

* Note: These offers keep getting extended. If the table above shows the offer expired, click on the link anyway. Chances are the offer is still active.


You don’t have to liquidate everything: just do a partial in-kind transfer and leave some positions behind to keep the account open. An in-kind transfer means your investments stay in the market at all times; you won’t trigger any capital gains tax either. Keeping the account open also makes it easier for your current broker to welcome you back with another bonus in the future.

You can keep using your current account for new purchases if you’d like. Therefore you don’t have to worry about the availability or commission at the new broker.

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  1. indexfundfan says

    I love these bonuses. I’m now waiting for my holdings to “age out” at TD Ameritrade. After that, it looks like they will be transferred to Fidelity.

  2. bruce says

    Spoke to a Schwab representative on 2/27/2012 3:15PM EST 800-750-9073, requires a holding period of twelve (12) months. If you transfer your money to another broker before 12 months, you will not qualify.

  3. Mel Langer says

    One important correction to the article. Partial transfers with almost all brokers listed, will incur a fee. The fee is not as large as it would be for closing the entire a/c…but a fee nevertheless. Be aware of this.

  4. Alex says

    @TFB: where do you see that existing TDA customers are eligible if opening a new account? I have a dormant near-zero-balance account at TDA, and want to make sure I’m eligible before I start the process (and incur a fee at WF). Can one have two regular brokerage accounts at the same firm? Thanks!

  5. Harry Sit says

    Alex – You should send a message to customer service to confirm (refer to offer code 207). That way you have it in writing. The fine print didn’t say anything about existing customers not being eligible. It only said you must open a new account, not fund an existing account. Yes you can have two regular brokerage accounts at the same firm. On a similar offer in 2011, TD Ameritrade allowed the bonus to an existing customer opening a new account. See

  6. Pat says

    Fidelity customer service is great….if you’re transferring in a large amount, ask if they’ll reimburse the transfer fee from the other brokerage (i.e. Schwab charges $50 for a partial transfer or $75 for a full transfer…..Fidelity has reimbursed those fees for me)

  7. ec on says

    Fidelity promised me an offer in writing last year, verified a 2d time; I deposited as per offer; Fidelity refused the bonus although met all terms!

  8. Ron says

    TD Ameritrade now allows you to get two bonuses for two account transfers. I moved $250K x 2 to get $1000 x 2 bonuses. Not yet advertised. No more than two bonuses allowed.

  9. cdog says

    Ron, did you have to create seperate login ids for each account? Or can you view both accounts under your dashboard?

  10. ARD says

    Major houses will match or go beyond for HNW (250K) accounts. Talk to the supervisor in CS or your local branch manager can do the same.

    You can ask for limits that are not published to the public.

  11. wdjax0n says

    TD refuses to allow me any promotion, as did one 10 years ago with Waterhouse Securities predecessor and one 6 years ago with Ameritrade.

    • The Answer Man says

      They’re just putting you off. Speak to someone else. You can do these transfers annually. Transfer money out of TD, and then one year later, ask if they’ll give you a bonus for transferring money back in. Again, speak to someone in authority. You will succeed.

  12. John B says

    I’m getting an empty page from the Schwab link. Is the offer gone, or does anyone have a working link? I thought it worked when I checked it last weekend.

  13. BN says

    Harry and others-

    For large portfolios, wouldn’t the time (5-7 days) out of the market for most rollovers potentially cost more than the bonus would make up for?

    • Harry says

      You transfer the positions in-kind. No selling, not out of the market for a single day. Best for ETFs that any broker can hold.

    • Jeff says

      You do have to sell any fractional shares because only whole shares can be transferred. If you hold mutual fund positions, fractional shares can be transferred. However, not all mutual funds are available at all brokerages. Also, you should check the “no transaction fee” status at the new brokerage for any mutual funds you own.

  14. TFB fan says

    TFB — I love this page and have it bookmarked. Any chance we could get a 2014 update?


    PS Where did all the 1M transfer bonuses go? Looks like only Fidelity is still running one.

  15. Benu says

    Agree with TFB fan…can we get an update for 2014?

    Also, has anyone had any success in negotiating with the brokerage firms for bigger offers or do they have to stick with the advertised bonus?

    • Harry Sit says

      I just checked and updated the links. Merrill Edge has a new and better offer. I heard some companies match offers.

  16. Cinelliman says

    E-trade appears to offer higher cash bonuses for larger transfers. Here is the fine print I found on their site today:

    “Offer valid for one new E*TRADE Securities Retirement account opened by 12/31/2014 and funded within 60 days of account opening with at least $10,000. Other restrictions may apply.

    Credits for cash or securities will be made based on deposits or transfers of new funds or securities from external accounts made within 45 days of account open, as follows: $1,000,000 or more will receive $2,500, $500,000 – $999,999 will receive $1,200; $250,000 – $499,999 will receive $600; $100,000-$249,999 will receive $300; $25,000-$99,999 will receive $200. Your account will be credited within one week of the close of the 45-day window. “

  17. Cinelliman says

    Merrill Edge is only offering Max $600 for transfer – how do you get the $1,000 bonus for transferring $500k?
    Can find nothing in writing on the Merrill Edge website.

  18. Al says

    I am having trouble trying to go a second round with Fidelity, and have had funds positioned to do so for some time. The fine print indicates it is limited to one per rolling 12 months (pasted below), but it has now been over 17 months since the bonus, and thus over 15 months since the 60 day window closed. This true both for my accounts and those of my wife.

    Instead, I get this:
    “You are not eligible to sign up for this Offer due to the reason(s) listed below: We apologize, but this offer is not available to all Fidelity customers.”

    Does anyone out there have any experience with this, attempting a second bonus after the time limit has expired?

    Thanks in advance.

    “Offer is nontransferable, limited to one per individual per rolling 12 months, and may not be combined with other offers.”

    • TJ says

      Because it would not benefit the mutual fund owners, which own Vanguard, to offer incentives like this.

  19. mike says

    does anyone have tiers above 1mil? Fortunate to have more than that. Do they not want bigger accounts or people with more than that aren’t ‘playing’ with sign on bonuses? Along the same lines, what do you think about the brokerage’s logic on giving a low commission rate or better margin rates? If I am looking for $5 commissions and they normally charge $10, at times it seems they want you to be a big trader. But if they lose money at $5, but they want a big account, why not just bite the bullet – yeah you trade 2x a year. Sure we’ll give you $5 commissions. Same for margin. want you to be a big margin borrower to get a better rate. But again, isn’t a big account worth something on its own? They are willing to give you 2.5K for the account. But then nit pick on trading volume?

  20. Robert Wein says

    How have people been addressing the tax aspects of these bonuses? I moved IRA and Roth IRA money and got a bonus into each account. Anyone know if/how these are taxed?

  21. The Answer Man says

    IRA and Roth IRA transfers are not taxed. You will not get a 1099. The bonus just becomes part of your overall IRA balance from which you must take RMD’S when you are 70.5.

    • msf says

      It appears to depend on how the brokerage handles the bonus. It can be treated as earnings in the IRA, and thus nontaxable. But it can also be treated as a contribution to the IRA, and count against your contribution limit.

      From a 2012 WSJ article entitled Be Careful With Brokers’ Giveaways:

      “Find out how the firm is treating IRA bonuses. At ING Direct, they will be paid to accounts by March 16, designated as 2012 contributions, and reflected on next year’s Form 5498 for IRA contributions. At E-Trade and Scottrade, by contrast, the bonuses will be considered IRA income, which isn’t currently reportable or taxable.”

  22. Bill Funny says

    Hey….. Ameritrade has an offer now if you bring in over $100,000 stock you get an ipad air 2, 64 GB I just did 2 of them… Value is listed at $599.00 a piece.. Did one in wife’s name and one in mine.. Offer has been extended till 9/2016 Been doing several cash bonuses for a cpl years now… Thousands of dollars for just moving stock around… Some brokerages even reimburse fee.. It’s a wonderful world

    • The Answer Man says

      Good job on getting those bonuses. And yes folks….Brokerages will pay the onerous $50-$100 fee for transferring stock or cash to them. You must ask, though.

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