ETrade is an online brokerage firm that was one of the pioneers of Internet-based investing. Fundamentally, the steps to making a first trade with ETrade are similar to those for any land-based financial institution. The main difference is that with ETrade you'll conduct your transactions online, rather than in person. You can make your first trade with ETrade from anywhere with an Internet connection, and you won't have to speak with anyone or hear a sales pitch before or after your purchase. The cost of your trade will likely be lower than with a traditional brick-and-mortar firm as well.
Open an Account
ETrade allows you to complete all of your account application forms online. Start by clicking the "Open an Account" button on the ETrade homepage. Choose the type of account you want to open, such as a regular investment account or an individual retirement account. You'll have to provide the same information as if you were opening an account with a traditional firm, including your name and address, date of birth, Social Security number and relevant financial information, such as your employer's name and address. According to the E*Trade website, the whole process shouldn't take more than 10 to 12 minutes.
Fund Your Account
After you receive your account number, deposit money into your new ETrade account. You can fund your account with either a check, a wire transfer or the transfer of another account. ETrade also allows deposits via its "quick transfer" service, which is an ACH transfer of funds from another account, such as your checking account.
Research Stocks for Purchase
Before you pick a stock to buy, you should analyze which stocks are most likely to help you achieve your investment goals. Some stocks offer the potential for high returns but carry high risk, while others are less exciting but more reliable. Look at analyst reports, company earnings, market trends, the price and valuation of the stock and other factors to help you pick the right stock for your account. This step is particularly important if you are using your investment funds to buy only one stock.
Choose Your Method of Investing
E*Trade lets you buy stocks either online or via mobile device, such as a smartphone. You must download an app if you want to trade stocks on your mobile device.
Use the Order-Entry Platform
Go to the Stocks tab of E*Trade's order-entry platform. Enter the order type, which will be "buy" for your first stock trade. Enter the number of shares in your order, along with the stock symbol you want to purchase. If you want to execute your order immediately, enter "market" under order type; otherwise, select the appropriate time or price modifier, such as "market on close" or "limit." If you select a limit order, you'll have to enter the price at which you want to buy your stock – your "limit" price. If you want your order to last longer than the current day's trading, enter a time modifier, such as "good for 60 days."
Review and Finalize Your Trade
After entering all relevant parameters, click "preview order," review the order, then click "place order" to make your first trade.
John Csiszar has written thousands of articles on financial services based on his extensive experience in the industry. Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served for 18 years as an investment counselor before becoming a writing and editing contractor for various private clients. In addition to his online work, he has published five educational books for young adults.