By timestaff
February 5, 2010

Want to avoid trading costs on exchange traded funds (ETFs)? It’s now becoming easier to do so.

This week, Fidelity teamed up with iShares to eliminate trading fees on more than two dozen popular ETFs. The move comes three months after Schwab introduced eight of its own free-trade ETFs.

Traditionally, if you wanted to invest in an ETF, you had to pay a sales charge each time you bought or sold shares. When Schwab rolled out free-trade ETFs in November it put pressure on other big brokerages to do the same.

And Fidelity has responded–in a big way.

Fidelity investors now can choose from among 25 popular iShares ETFs (compared with Schwab’s eight). Examples include the iShares S&P 500 Index (IVV), iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond (AGG) and iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM).

And collectively, the iShares ETFs offer sweeping coverage of the market, including emerging-market stocks and bonds, blue-chip U.S. stocks, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), and muni bonds.

To buy the iShares ETFs at no cost, you have to have an account with Fidelity and the trades must be done online. Go here to read the fine print.

But the bottom line is this: Until now, the sales charge on ETFs, which tend to carry lower annual fees than mutual funds, has dinged investors who make small but regular contributions to their portfolio.

Now, however, Fidelity and Schwab (and others soon, perhaps) are offering the best of both worlds: super-low annual fees “without paying the price of admission,” as one Morningstar article put it.

To me, that sounds like a good reason to get in line for a ticket.

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