Investor’s Manual: What Is an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)?

Understanding the basics of an exchange-traded fund. This is a brief ETF 101 article defining what is an exchange-traded fund.

https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/What is an Exchange-Traded Fund
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An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is listed on an exchange and can be traded like a stock, allowing investors to buy or sell shares in the collective performance of an entire stock or bond portfolio or an index as a single security. ETFs are subject to risks similar to those of stocks, including short-selling and margin account maintenance.

ETFs are baskets of securities that typically track a sector-specific, country-specific, or a narrow- or broad-market index and are thus considered to be passively managed (Meaning that, in most cases, someone isn’t actively choosing which stocks to buy and sell.) They’re listed on exchanges just like stock, so you can conveniently trade them through your brokerage account. Keep in mind that the risks you face when trading equities are the same risks you face when trading ETFs.

Time to Hit the Market?

Ready to start your search for the ETFs that best fit you? TD Ameritrade clients can start with the TD Ameritrade ETF Market Center, which provides a broad selection of ETF research tools and third-party market insights and analyses. And, it’s home to a list of more than 300 commission-free ETFs, which can provide you with a wide range of potentially low-cost investment opportunities.

Visit this page for a side-by-side comparison of ETFs and mutual funds.

Also, watch the video below to learn more about ETFs.

Investing Basics: ETFs
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Carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. A prospectus, obtained by calling 800-669-3900, contains this and other important information about an investment company. Read carefully before investing.

ETFs are subject to risk similar to those of their underlying securities, including, but not limited to, market, investment, sector, or industry risks, and those regarding short-selling and margin account maintenance. Some ETFs may involve international risk, currency risk, commodity risk, leverage risk, credit risk, and interest rate risk. Performance may be affected by risks associated with nondiversification, including investments in specific countries or sectors. Additional risks may also include, but are not limited to, investments in foreign securities, especially emerging markets, real estate investment trusts (REITs), fixed income, small-capitalization securities, and commodities. Each individual investor should consider these risks carefully before investing in a particular security or strategy. Investment returns will fluctuate and are subject to market volatility, so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed or sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Unlike mutual funds, shares of ETFs are not individually redeemable directly with the ETF. Shares are bought and sold at market price, which may be higher or lower than the net asset value (NAV).

Information provided by TD Ameritrade, including without limitation that related to the ETF Market Center and commission-free ETFs, is for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered a recommendation or investment advice.

*ETFs purchased commission-free that are available on the TD Ameritrade ETF Market Center are available generally without commissions when placed online in a TD Ameritrade account. Other fees may apply for trade orders placed through a broker or by automated phone. 

TD Ameritrade receives remuneration from ETFs that participate in the commission-free ETF program for shareholder, administrative and/or other services.

No Margin for 30 Days. Certain ETFs purchased commission free that are available on the TD Ameritrade ETF Market Center will not be immediately marginable at TD Ameritrade through the first 30 days from settlement. For the purposes of calculation the day of settlement is considered Day 1.

Mutual funds are subject to market, exchange rate, political, credit, interest rate and prepayment risks, which vary depending on the type of mutual fund. Fund purchases may be subject to investment minimums, eligibility, and other  restrictions, as well as charges and expenses.   Certain money market funds may impose liquidity fees and redemption gates in certain circumstances.



Market volatility, volume, and system availability may delay account access and trade executions.

Past performance of a security or strategy does not guarantee future results or success.

Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options.

Supporting documentation for any claims, comparisons, statistics, or other technical data will be supplied upon request.

The information is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Clients must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before trading.

This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business or where such offer or solicitation would be contrary to the local laws and regulations of that jurisdiction, including, but not limited to persons residing in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK, and the countries of the European Union.

TD Ameritrade, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. TD Ameritrade is a trademark jointly owned by TD Ameritrade IP Company, Inc. and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. © 2019 TD Ameritrade.

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