SogoTrade Broker review

sogotradeNice and easy with Sogotrade.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

SogoInvest has been around since 2006, and SogoInvest online stock trading may be one of the big boys in the finance industry but they maintain the personal touch. The trading platform itself has everything an investor could ask for but is always warm and cuddly to the eye. What makes Sogotrade online stock trading so popular? It is very welcoming with 100 free trades when a new investor signs on. It is very responsive to the touch with ‘real-time’ transactions. It is also open to the whole of the stock market with ‘fractional’ shares on offer for the smallest investor.

Fees and commissions are not too scary either since SogoInvest is one of the few online brokerages that do not charge a monthly subscription fee.

They have three different account levels from the small investor to the large portfolio and have an introductory discount of the first 90 days at $1 trades. Few savvy investors or traders could resist this offer with SogoInvest. The whole ethos of the brokerage is in giving traders simple straightforward service combined with low costs. They aim to help investors, from the beginner to the experienced, build diverse long-term profitable portfolios.

The account opening process with SogoInvest is refreshingly easy too. Support for the real novice is available in the right-hand screen box. There newcomers can find the selection to ‘Learn More’ and get help with the application process if they need it. If ease of use is important to you as a customer then the SogoInvest stock trading application is the easiest and quickest by a long way. It takes less than 10 minutes with totally self-explanatory steps and there you are; trading stocks with all the personalized features you could want.

SogoInvest stock trading fees are a very low at $3 each and you only need $500 to begin your account. Unlike many other online brokerages Sogotrade will not charge you for not using your account. In other words no inactivity fees which in this authors’ view should be the norm but isn’t and therefore worthy of special mention. SogoInvest will also reward you for doing their marketing for them since they offer 25 free trades for every customer referral.

Apart from the low-cost trades already mentioned SogoTrade offer fractional shares to give access to even the highest valued stocks for the small investor. There is no slippage between quoted and transaction prices and all transactions take place instantly. For the more passive investor SogoInvest also do automatic reinvestment of dividends and profits so that the investors cash is never left idle. They also offer SIPC insurance on all accounts.

The SogoInvest stock trading process itself is equally easy. As the investor you are given the choice as to whether you see symbols or quotes and real-time orders up front. Managing your positions and accounts with full control and information is also a breeze. If you require support or clarification at any time, there are video demonstrations and ‘Help’ texts just a click away. By definition, simplicity has to mean a lack of some more complex functions. Trading with SogoTrade is perfectly satisfactory and buying and selling securities from the main trading platform screen works well enough. However, closing out your open positions from the portfolio screen could be smoother and while cancelling open orders works fine there is no way to modify open orders.

Furthermore there isn’t a specific order confirmation screen. There is the ‘quick trading’ option that bypasses the single confirmation screen. This is a good feature for high volume day traders. Email notifications are sent automatically when new orders are entered. More sophisticated traders may miss some of the more sophisticated trading facilities with SogoTrade.

The SogoTrade online stock trading customer support is very efficient and user friendly. They have the usual FAQs database, feature tours, an online glossary, email support and a secure message center for account holders. Support can also be had via a toll-free phone number. In Summary SogoTrade are easy, effective and transparent and an enjoyable refreshing change from the usual finance industry offerings.


Fidelity broker review

fidelityFidelity for the quick niche and everything else.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

If you are an investor or a trader and your ‘must-have’ feature is instant trade execution, then your choice of online brokerage is a simple one. Fidelity has provides the ability for a one–second trade execution. Their confidence is backed up by a commission refunding guarantee on all eligible orders, if there is a delay in execution. So, if you are trading on narrow profit margins and speed is of the essence and before prices fluctuate against your position, Fidelity is the outfit for you.

A quality online brokerage service is one that meets its customers requirements whatever those requirements may be. Fidelity may not be a quality outfit if your requirement is to know in advance what your fees and commissions payment will be. It varies with the size of your investment pot. The bigger your pot and the more trades you do, the lower the price. As low as $8 each in fact for 120 plus trades in a year. Or they can be as high as $20 minus 5 cents when you do less than 36 trades a year. There is a minimum start up account size of $2500. They charge no fees on mutual funds and bonds. Fidelity’s options contracts fees is 75 cents. This is very competitive in the industry. The investment accounts and the resources are fully comprehensive and meet the quality requirements of all users from the advanced options trader to the bewildered beginner. There is professional support appropriate to your level of expertise, advanced options tools and no hidden fees.

The best thing about the Fidelity website is the easy access folder format across the top of the page and the plain English drop down menus. The functional search facility is also very intuitive and easy to use. I typed in ‘options contracts fees’ and went direct to the full matrix of all fees. It could not be simpler or more comprehensive. Every conceivable type of investment vehicle is covered in jargon-free ways. Just enter your area of interest from trusts for children to retirement planning and finding your way around the different sections of the site is very easy.

The knowledgeable investor will be able to work with the many practical research and trading tools. You can create your own Fidelity  desktop with charts, graphs and quotes relevant to your preferred investment strategy and automated trading. There is large amounts of easy referenced learning material to develop your investing experience. There are Fidelity news updates, company research analysis and trend reports as well as articles on every financial issue. There are also live online workshops or seminars at local investment centers. Fidelity has 103 branch investment centers across the country so you can consult with an advisor in person and attend seminars. All the usual online help and support features are there with downloadable text and FAQs of course. You can choose your preferred  customer support channel from email, phone or instant messaging.

Fidelity is head and shoulders above the competition as the best all-round online stock trading and financial service provider. They offer everything that you could expect and they do it to the highest standard. They also have a number of outstanding features including the singular one–second guarantee as the icing on the practical investment tools cake. The final word has to belong to this typical ‘Dogs of Dow’ blogger; “There is not much else to say except: superior service; seamless accessibility; excellent fees and commission. I can sincerely say there is not another comprehensive financial company I would rather work with more than Fidelity.”


TradeMonster Broker Review

TradeMonsterPaperTradeKeeping promises at tradeMONSTER.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

The tradeMONSTER website is very attractive and makes three promises to the potential investor; Competitive prices, powerful trading tools and trading education for the customer to make money by opening an account. The tradeMONSTER pricing structure is nicely simple and  transparent. Depending on the trading pattern this structure could save the trader some serious money. There are cheaper stock trading platforms such as TradeKing ($4.95 commissions), but tradeMONSTER are chasing the same high volume discount market. For options trading, they’re equal to Tradeking for 1-10 contracts but TradeMONSTER are definietly cheaper for the larger orders. TradeMONSTER outstrip the competition for all other higher end services.

On pricing, tradeMONSTER do not offer free stock trading. Nor do they beat Zecco.com, on cheap options trades. Unfortunately with the varying levels of execution and customer service premiums for limited trades per month, it is impossible to say if they are “high priced” across the board. But At the end of the day they keep their ‘competitive prices’ promise as a $7.50 stock trade next to a $5 stock trade is clearly a bargain especially when it costs $10-$13 at Ameritrade and E*Trade.

The tradeMONSTER system is a superior interface with user-friendly tools and more of a trader oriented feel than some other big rivals such as Ameritrade. Three examples of features where tradeMONSTER have worked hard to build in enhancements for the user are 1. drop-down tickers drawn from the users’ own most recent entries. This is much better than retyping symbols that are referred to regularly. 2. scroll-through the most recent news items. 3. Easy to read ‘candle’ charts with mouse over data boxes. All these are on the one screen.
For customers that operate a trend analysis type strategy the tradeMONSTER system has good instruments for charting and trending. You can draw your own trend lines and upper/lower band lines on the charts, using the same easy interface. Each of the web pages allow for a lot of personalization. For example, traders can elect with the ubiquitous tick boxes to select whether they get to see ‘year to date’ appreciation or the number days left till the expiration date on options or a cost basis or profit target, etc.

Traders can remake their screens to their own preferences by dragging tags and windows around. It’s very easy to maximize and hide these windows too. Traders will quickly establish a watch list of potentially valuable stocks worth tracking using the tradeMONSTER recommendations to start. They can simply click on the symbol and a new ‘quick trade’ window opens up to allow for swift execution. This is very much quicker and more convenient than repeatedly typing the ticker symbol in a small text box. A neat feature on the tradeMONSTER home page is the introductory video that demonstrates all the main interface functions. This is just the start of the learning resources on the website.

There are just a couple of minor drawbacks on the tradeMONSTER platform. It is a browser based system using the Adobe Flash technology. This causes a slight delay in bringing up the pages behind the various tabs and buttons. If the customer has a very fast broadband connection this will be less noticeable.  The faster the Internet connection, the less will be the delays in loading time. With regard to the platform content tradeMONSTER offer their own “Trade Ranking” for stocks. What isn’t obvious is the criteria used to rank these potential ‘winners’. Among the top rankings are some highly leveraged Exchange Traded Funds that would not be top performers but for the leverage. So the ranking method is simply numerically based without weighting or judgment used to screen these out.

In summary, tradeMONSTER makes three promises to their investors and traders and they do keep them.


Lightspeed Broker Review

lightspeedLightspeed lives up to their name.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

Log on to lightspeed.com and you will see there is a price comparison box that is constantly updating with Lightspeed offering the lowest commissions on a whole range of trades when compared with other major discount brokers. Clearly, they are marketing toward the professional speculator more than the ‘Joe Public’ investor. Lightspeed’s trading platform gives direct access dealing to equities,options, futures and Forex. It is a trading platform designed by traders for traders.

Price and effective speed of transaction are the battlegrounds in the fight for the American speculative dollar. Headline advertising of Lightspeed pricing offers 40 cents per 100 trades on stocks, 40 cents per contract on futures, 50 cents on options contracts and 0.1 of pip on ‘forex’ trades. This is deliberately the lowest price range for brokerage services and the major reason to give them a long hard look. But only if you are planning to make a living from full time trading. It is difficult for a trader to predict  their exact dealing costs.Until recently, Lightspeed’s profit and loss calculations didn’t include commissions either. This is important because Lightspeed does not charge a flat fee per transaction in the way other brokers do. So rates vary with trading frequency too. They do include commission in their net P&L calculations and also provide a detailed execution cost breakdown in order to better help traders manage and minimize their total cost of trading.

Lightspeed not only offers exceptional rates but they are very reliable. There is no slippage between the actual market price and the chosen executing price, what you see is what you buy or sell for. They do not have enough customer service staff to answer the burgeoning needs of their professional customer base. So customers are having to queue a little longer, maybe one or two minutes, to speak to someone. They definitely do not have the support function to answer long term financial planning or basic life investment type questions nor do they want to at this time. Per their chief strategy officer Andrew Actman, “As a broker that caters to self-directed traders, we do not provide any investment or financial planning advice.”

Lightspeed brings several useful institutional research tools within its own platform. For example, net-order imbalance signals and a block-trade filters. The Nasdaq has its ‘Opening Cross’ and ‘Closing Cross’ filter while the NY Stock Exchange has a facility to highlight stocks with net order imbalances on ‘Market on Open’ and ‘Market on Close’. These tools list the stocks that have abnormal disparities in their buy to sell ratios, and potentially signal imminent price volatility either up or down. Lightspeed’s ‘order-imbalance’ tool pulls these stocks together on a single screen, and allows the trader cherry pick those that fit their strategy.

Lightspeed’s ‘Block Trades’ filtering tool has two sides. One shows when a trade of more than 10,000 shares takes place on any public exchange under any company ticker symbol. The other side can be customized to show only stocks that meet specified criteria. For example, the tool can be set to show stocks that are traded in volumes over 100,000 shares in say a 24 hour period. Many day traders have a “follow the market-maker” type strategy and need to track institutional activity in their targeted stocks. Such movements can signal that a major mutual fund player or other insider is causing price movements that can be profited from.

The Lightspeed ‘Knowledge Center’ is an excellent speculator resource. There, the interested watcher can find more than 2000 informative articles for building ‘the big picture’ for investors and traders alike. They cater to individuals and trading groups who trade from their own homes or offices.  These guys care what customers are saying about them and seem willing to go that extra mile to make certain their customers are satisfied.

In Summary, Lightspeed has the best value commission structure, very few extra fees, excellent platform features, and they are definitely seeking to dominate the speculator end of the investment market.


OptionsXpress broker review

optionsxpressOptionsXpress offers a “try it before you buy it” – risk free trial

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

If you have some money to invest, you will need to find a broker to help you. OptionsXpress should be one of the first online brokerage houses that you look at. They offer many helpful tools for you to learn about investing in the first place. Then, they can provide all the brokerage services you may need in order to trade in the stock market. OptionsXpress charge relatively low commissions and do not require a minimum account balance to get started in trading stocks, options, mutual funds or even bonds.

An excellent feature with OptionsXpress is the 10 day trail account. The idea of trying your broker on before deciding to buy is brilliant. They enable new investors with ‘virtual trading’ where everything is real but the money is fake, so it is risk-free. But if you already have the expertise to trade on your own OptionsXpress will simply charge you for the use of their trading platform and the fees are very competitive. If you need lots of broker support and advise then OptionXpress can do this too. They do it very well and charge you a reasonable rate for it too. Their flat rate trading fees are in the middle of the financial sector range; commission is $9.95 or $14.95 on all orders and this includes broker–assisted ones. The lower price is yours if you make at least 9 trades per quarter. They call it the “Stock Trader Rate”. OptionsXpress takes $1.50 for each options contract.

OptionXpress probably has one of the best websites to learn about investing with extensive educational resources available, for trading novices and professionals alike. You can literally learn something new every day. Many of their trading tools are unique such as Dragon, TradeWizard and Xspreads Spread Book.

OptionsXpress has been around since 2000 and offer an array of the more mainstream investments such as stocks, mutual funds, exchange–traded funds and bonds. They don’t however deal in Certificates of Deposit or some of the niche securities such as mortgage–backed securities and unit investment trusts. In addition to this the brokerage offers financial planning and Individual Retirement Accounts to take care of your sunset years. If your need is for an education savings plans (maybe a Coverdell ESA) or a custodial account then OptionsXpress do these very well too.

The website is very user-friendly so you simply click on the the items you are concerned with and follow the paths through learning, practice and actual trading or you simply go direct to the “toolbox”, depending on your own level of confidence. Your personal account information is ALWAYS available and up to date. Two ‘must have’ features for professionals and amateur investors alike are the alerts and automatic trading. The first provide instant warning of major stock price changes that may trigger trading action on your part, while automatic trading is where you preset buys and or sells and when the market price conditions come about the OptionsXpress trading tool implements your instructions.


Customer service at OptionsXpress is very good as you can contact your broker at any time by phone, email or  ‘live chat’. You can even trade when you are on the move, away from the office using your Internet Explorer enabled mobile phone and the ‘Blazer’ Internet browser. However, a drawback with OptionsXpress is the fact that they only have two offices. So if you need the reassurance in interpersonal interaction you should probably look elsewhere for your online brokerage.

The OptionsXpress ‘toolbox’ of educational resources and trading platforms is comprehensive. Everything you need need to make your money work to meet your life needs is here. You will find calculators, charts, constant headline news and analysis reports. The trading is nearly instantaneous with instant access to level I and level II quotes. Once you become familiar with the website you can turn it into your own virtual office to check on all of your nest eggs at a glance.


Charles Schwab broker review

schwab(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

What’s the deal with Charles Schwab brokerage services?

Charles Schwab online brokerage services have everything you could need. They are a bank, a financial planner especially for IRA retirement work and online stock and securities trading. Commission is competitive and there are no account management fees. You can open an account with as little as $1000 and get access to their 3 trading platforms. A genuine strength for Charles Schwab is in the 2000 ‘no-load’ mutual funds that they can offer to the investors who like these vehicles.

Similar to most online brokerages the commissions charged for trading come down as the number of trades the investor makes  goes up and the same is true for the larger the balance held. For example, if you’re balance is over $1 million or you execute more than 120 trades in a year you can pay the minimum $8.95 per trade. A lesser level of trading activity and you will pay an above average commission of $12.95. Options contracts are typical for the sector at 75 cents. Margin rates also vary with account balance from base rate plus 1/2% to plus 2%. Experienced traders who are looking for brokerage purely on price will find better commission rates elsewhere.

Charles Schwab is a gateway online broker to the total investment landscape. All of the basic investments are available including stocks, options, mutual funds, futures and exchange–traded funds. They also offer any other fixed income investments that you can think of including bonds, treasury issues, Certificates of Deposit and many more. They offer a wide portfolio of 2,000 no-load mutual funds, annuities, money market funds and margin loans. You can also get trading access to non-U.S. securities and American Depositary Receipts or ADRs, and Canadian foreign orders. These esoteric investments are an attractive feature of Charles Schwab which otherwise has trouble standing out from the crowd.

The Charles Schwab trading platform has all the functionality of typical brokerage software. It is easy to use once the investor is familiar with it, but for the beginner these powerful trading tools may be an obstacle to effective investment management. The software enables you to make your own investment ‘desktop’ specify alerts for significant changes to your investments, level I and II quotes, option chains, ‘screeners’, ‘hot stock’ lists, charts and graphs and a great deal more. They also offer investment learning resources to build your technical knowledge of investment. Other resources include streaming headlines, research reports and daily and weekly market commentary from Market Edge®. They do not yet have a ‘roving’ investment option for trading via a cell phone. Why anybody would want to risk this kind of distracted investment on the move I cannot imagine but other brokerages offer it, yet Charles Schwab does not.

Where Schwab does score well is in customer service, with 300 physical offices around the country and all possible means of customer contact round the clock. However, customer service is all about responding well when mistakes are made and two ex-investors on ‘Dogs of the Dow’ tell stories around Charles Schwab that seem to indicate some systemic blemishes. The first one tells of a 2003 IRA contribution posted to 2004 and a stock offer that was paid in cash rather than stocks as requested by return mail. The second tells of two further blemishes. First, any cash in Schwab is swept into an account that only pays 1/2% unless you have more than half a million in assets and secondly, to use the “sell one fund and buy another” function, your buy trade execution takes 24 hours. You have to sell and buy in separate orders so that you get same day execution. This is not made clear at the time of trade.

Overall, Charles Schwab has an excellent brokerage service, the question you need to answer before deciding on these guys – is how much are you willing to pay as it relates to service? Tradeking (which we’ve reviewed for you), or one of the other brokerage companies (we have several reviews) may be a better option if you’re concerned about costs.

(Schwab is often mispelled Schwabb)


Sharebuilder broker review

sharebuilderShareBuilder looks good for the passive investor.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

ShareBuilder online brokerage has a new owner. They are now part of the ING Direct group that specializes in savings with good earnings. Now you can link your savings account to your ShareBuilder account for improved returns. ShareBuilder is always ranked in the top 5 of online brokerages because it has reasonable fees and commissions, a readily accessible trading system and good customer service rather than support.

You do not have to place a minimum amount of money with ShareBuilder in order to open an account and they do not charge a maintenance fee. ShareBuilder offer a unique service among brokerages with their automatic investing and reinvesting. The target market is the passive investor. The small saver who has a regular amount of cash salary deducted and wants it all invested but doesn’t want to self-manage the portfolio. So if you are looking to make ALL of your savings work but can’t be bothered watching the Dow Jones index or making limit orders then ShareBuilder is for you. ShareBuilder will give even the small savers access to the high-priced shares with fractional shares. For example if you wanted a piece of Microsoft but only had a hundred dollars saved, ShareBuilder would place a part of a share in your portfolio and you would earn pro-rata dividends and capital growth.

All of the savers’ portfolio is in stocks or other investments all of the time because of automatic investment and reinvestment of earnings by ShareBuilder and the investor is not involved in any of the decisions or actions. The passive investor will probably be attracted by the ShareBuilder headline price of $4 trades but the more active day trader would be more wary of these ‘window’ trades. This commission is only available on buys and once a week on Tuesdays. You have no influence on say the limit price or even the timing of the sale. When you place a sell transaction the commission is $9.95. While this is about the market average, day traders and active stock pickers can do better at other discount brokerages.

ShareBuilder offers three alternative savings plans to customers. They are the ‘Basic’ the ‘Standard’, and the ‘Advantage Plan’. The Basic plan is free, does the $4 automatic stock buys and makes ShareBuilder the best value choice among the competing savings companies. The Standard Plan has a monthly fee of $12 and gives 6 free automatic investments plus additional ones at $2 each. The Advantage Plan is pricier still at $20 per month, but with many more free offers; 20 automatic investments and further investments for $1 each. Real time and options trades are a single price with ShareBuilder no matter which plan you opt for. ING mutual funds are also on offer through free trades by ShareBuilder.

With Sharebuilder the saver is buying more into a strategy than developing their own. The strategy is automatic investment and zero cash holding. Their rates for automatic trades are discounted so as to encourage the passive investor while fractional shares ensure all of the money is working all of the time. In this way, wealth is built up over the long term. The price you pay for this passive investing ShareBuilder strategy is all front-loaded. For example if you looked to put $100 each month into Exchange Trade Funds $8 per month or $96 in a year is a big cost and your ETFs need to earn over 8.6% before you start to show a profit. There are better ways to get into mutual funds but it does require effort on the part of the investor. This price is just too high for the savvy trader.

Customer service at ShareBuilder is just that. If you want customer support with lots of high-tech platforms and research data to self-manage your investments then there are many cheaper online brokerages out there.



Scottrade broker review

Scottrade

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

Scottrade is one of the top four online brokerage services. It offers the full range of services around mutual funds, bonds, certificates of deposit, options and  stocks. It gives good value on a satisfactory website for investment research and trades. However reports about customer satisfaction are a very mixed bag.

Headline advertising of Scottrade pricing is $7 per trade. This is well down the price range for brokerage services and good reason to give them a long hard look. Options are $7 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. This is a little above the norm for the industry. Compared with its big 3 competitors (Ameritrade, Interactive and E*Trade) Scottrade has the lowest commission option. However, on a straight per trade comparison there are even better discounts to be had.

Where Scottrade really scores well is on fees, or more precisely, the lack of them. It seems strange to talk about things that are not charged for, but these items are so prevalent with other brokerages that it is important to consider them. Scottrade does not charge an annual account maintenance fee nor a fee when the account is dormant. Unlike many brokerage houses there are no account closing fees. This can be an important consideration when closing out your IRA. Their electronic statements are free too.

Five other services that come as a standard part of the Scottrade account are the Dow Jones real-time news, real-time streaming quotes and charts, cost basis accounting, incoming and or outgoing Direct Registration System and Direct Withdrawal at Custodian. Scottrade aims to attract the small investor too, with a low minimum $500 account opening sum.

Scottrade is very good in the area of mutual funds. With no-load, ‘no-transaction fee’ (NTF) funds, it costs you nothing to buy and sell. For funds outside the NTF program, the fee is $17 per transaction which is still cheaper than many other brokers. So, if your strategy is to focus on these kinds of funds, Scottrade’s commission in this niche will be good for you.

Scottrade has three different trading platforms, which, for the most part, work fine… while the website itself could be more intuitive and easier to look at. There are also reports of slippage between level II price quotes and their bid and ask prices.

The three platforms are:

Scottrade Trading Website – The web platform is actually web based so you don’t have to install anything on your computer. It will meet your investor requirements and is on par with the other major discount broker platforms.

Scottrade Mobile – A mobile phone application that strips down the web based version to allow for rapid trading on the go.

Scottrade Elite – Is the all-singing, all-dancing trading application that equals the hardcore trading platforms of the competition with streaming quotes, customizable and recorded sessions as well as real time news headlined continuously.

The Scottrade ‘Knowledge Center’ is a very good investor resource. It offers over 2000 articles online aimed at informing the novice investor and the seasoned professional alike. Scottrade have more than 400 branch offices across all 50 states, so on the odd occasion when you have a question too nuanced for the FAQs-type-help, you can talk with a human being in person or on the phone. In truth, blog reports for Scottrade customer responsiveness tells a very mixed story. Many say that everyone is helpful and happy to meet your needs while some other individual anecdotes can cause you to think twice. Two such repeated stories are being unable to get online when trades are about to peak, missing out on profits, an unsympathetic response and no compensation and perhaps worst than this are reports of long delays in getting settlement payments out of Scottrade. One blogger put it this way about the Oakland branch:”They take their fees pretty quick, but you need an act of congress to get them back”.

In Summary, Scottrade has good value for the money, very few extra fees, excellent platform options, but some may argue – they maybe a little patchy when it comes to personal service.


TD Ameritrade review

td ameritrade signGetting what you pay for with TD Ameritrade.

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

TD Ameritrade is a long-established brokerage service that offers online access to more than 13,000 mutual funds, bonds, CDs, options and of course stocks. It is an excellent website for investment research and company information with a good set of trading tools. However it all comes at a high price.

Because it is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of online trading and brokerage services TD AMERITRADE charge commissions and fees accordingly. At $44.99 for broker assisted trades and $34.99 for using their interactive voice response telephone system to put an order in place, it is at the top of the market price range. It doesn’t feel like value for money when you pay $35 to talk to a machine though. With DIY trades, market, limit and options trades carry a significant $10 flat rate charge with options contracts taking another 75 cents. (Actually it’s only $9.99 but who do they think they are kidding?)

You do get your money’s worth however. The trading platform has all of the tools and information you need to work out, then implement investment strategies and trade securities without slippage. There is a minimum $2000 account opening sum but no account maintenance fee. The charges may be high but they are simple and transparent, which is always refreshing. Optional extras such as level II price and quote data streaming will cost extra. So be sure you really will make money on it before choosing it.

Probably the best feature of TD Ameritrade is the access to seemingly endless amounts of market data from all the usual suspects such as Morningstar®, S&P® and Market Edge® Opinion. It is good to know that you are seeing the broadest possible market research, but this could be a little overwhelming for the beginner.

TD Ameritrade would be the online brokerage of choice for professionals when they aren’t paying fees from their own money. There is every conceivable type of investment available here. They are second to none in stocks, options, mutuals and ETF’s as well as all the low-risk securities like Treasury and agency bills, bonds, CDs, unit investment trusts, and mortgage backed securities too. Whatever stage you are at in your financial life TD Ameritrade has a customized account. They offer speciality accounts for IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, Coverdell ESA’s and hundreds of higher education plans.

All of the website screens are user friendly and well-indexed, with top-of-screen tabs that make it easy to navigate all of the trading. All the information screens are just a click or two away. It also provides web-browser so that you can use the Internet as your investments develop. The help function is always available too. The trading control panel is large enough to cover the full range of investments that they offer. It is easily personalized to instantly show your individual trading preferences. You can scan the markets in your way and spot your money-making opportunities.

Customer support is second to none with TD Ameritrade. It has available, everyday-all day online and phone support as well as the facility to trade using your mobile. This brokerage also has a significant branch network with over 200 offices around the country. You can find the one nearest to you from the website. There is also the ubiquitous FAQs of course with a consultant just a phone call, email or ‘chat’ away. There is a great deal to learn from the TD Ameritrade website. It provides regular newsletters, articles and online seminars. There are mortgage and pension calculators and tools for personal financial planning for people at every life stage from insurance when children are dependant, through providing college education all the way to retirement and beyond.

In Summary then, TD Ameritrade has everything for the investor and while the charges are the highest around they definitely give value for money.



ThinkorSwim review and company profile

Thinkorswimlogo

(Check out all of our broker reviews here)

Besides its cool name, thinkorswim.com is known for its awesome do-it-yourself investor education courses and services. Moreover, last year it was rated the #2 overall broker by Barron’s. So what makes this company so great and why would you decide to choose these guy’s over their competitors? This analysis will  break down the details of this company as we profile their services and products, and provide you with some information to help you make the best choice when it comes to selecting a broker or brokerage firm.

When it comes to the trade experience, customers are saying thinkorswim delivers high scores across the board. Their trading technologies rank highest in the industry; system usability is excellent, their reporting features were ranked highest in the industry. Not to mention, customer service was outstanding and their costs we’re definitely in the middle of the pack, not being too cheap – but certainly equal to competitors whom offered far less features and or their service was worse off. What’s more? If you’re tech savvy and are always on the go – they’ve got several aps for your mobile phone.

Now, we’ll get into the specifics of the companies pricing and help you decide if they’re right for you:

Costs, commissions, fees

Think or Swim’s cost are good for beginning investors who probably are going to be trading too often. Not to mention their minimum balance is only $500. Their stock trades will run you $9.95 per trade, while their option contracts depend on size and will cost around $1-$3 each. Trading mutual funds will cost you nothing for your first 3 per month, and $15 thereafter. Futures and or options contracts will run you in the mid $3 range.

Getting started right away

These guys can help you along your way get educated about the various investment options you may have. They can help you setup an IRA or other savings plan while allowing you the most investment options out there. If you’re still holding onto an old 401k plan through a former company of yours – you should consider rolling it over to an IRA and take advantage of a much wider array of options to invest in outside of your limited 401k choices.

Applications and or software

They have four platforms which are as follows: think desktop, web-based trading, think anywhere and think mobile. Their desktop program is just that, software that’s installed on your home or personal computer and used from there. On the other hand, the web-based trading application is an awesome tool that can be used from anywhere you can access a computer, it’s nice in the fact you can be so flexible as you can access it away from home, without a cell or other mobile device. The final two, think anywhere and think mobile allow you the flexibility to manage your finances from anywhere you can grab a signal for your device.

Summary

This company is better for the new investor than the more professional crowd than others for a couple of reasons, the infrequent amount of trades a newer investor makes, and the awesome educational assistance the company provides. More importantly, their trading platforms are generally easier to use than many of its competitors. Why pay for technology you aren’t going to use? This company has been rated excellent and we would have to agree – however, if you’re a more professional trader – you may be better off heading over to a company like interactive brokers as their pricing structure will suit your needs better.