E*Trade: Pennies are for losers

In Superman III Superman III, Richard Pryor figured out that he can make himself rich by taking the fractions of pennies left over from rounding down on financial transactions. Corporations for years have added millions of dollars to their bottom-line by raising rates a few pennies per customer (calculate PG&E’s 9.1 million customers getting a one-cent-per-month increase: $1,092,000 a year). And financial institutions use money in your account as loans and investments.

This is the likely explanation for why E*Trade doesn’t let me move pennies out of my brokerage account. I have with E*Trade a brokerage account, a checking account and a home equity line of credit (HELOC). I recently noticed a $4.16 payment due on the HELOC, and $3.04 in the brokerage. I figured I’d use the brokerage to pay off the HELOC, with the difference coming from checking.


Oh, it’ll tell you it will work, but will fail at some later point. The error message was classic too:

Transfer failed-insufficient funds
Your request to transfer $3.04 from Brokerage-#### to E*Trade Bank HELOC-#### count not be completed due to insufficient funds in Brokerage-####….

I have exactly $3.04 in there, I’m transferring $3.04, and yet it fails. When I call up their automated system, I’m told I have $3 even in the account! That four cents? Nonexistent as far as their system is concerned.

There appears to be no way to get fraction of dollars out unless I close the account. I could add $0.96 and then pull out the whole dollar, of course. But what a crazy workaround to a non-problem.

Yet another reason E*Trade continues to drive me nuts.

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