: Tradeking vs etrade
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Best Online Brokerage Firms For Stock Trading (2021 Reviews)
Learn More About Online Brokerages
Brokerage Accounts are Best For.
- Retirement savings
- Passive investing
- Active trading
- Estate planning
- College savings
Pros and Cons
Brokerage accounts are used to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and other investments. You can open an account as an individual, a joint account with another person, as a trust, as a custodian for a minor, or one of several other options.
There are generally no major downsides to opening an investment account. However, it is important to understand that unlike a bank account, investment accounts can lose value. If you invest well, your investments can infinitely grow. However, a bad investment can quickly drop to zero value.
For example, investments in Google or Amazon performed well in recent years. Investments in the infamous company Enron became nearly worthless when the company’s accounting scandal broke into the news and the company declared bankruptcy in December, 2001.
Most brokerage firms require a minimum balance to open a new account. For example, Charles Schwab requires a minimum $1,000 deposit to open a new account. This is waived, however, if you setup a recurring direct deposit of $100 per month or more. Competitor TradeKing has no minimum to open a new account.
Some firms also have a minimum balance to access special account types and features. TD Ameritrade does not have a minimum to open a new account, but requires a $2,000 balance to access advanced features like margin and options trading.
Fees and Commissions
Opening Fee - Most brokerage firms do not charge an account opening fee. You should not have to pay a brokerage to give them your money!
Closing Fee - Some brokerage firms do not charge a tradeking vs etrade when transferring out an account, but it is not uncommon to see fees around $50-$75.
Maintenance Fee - Standard brokerage accounts do not charge any maintenance fees to keep the account open. Some brokerages charge a fee that is waived if you meet minimum balance or activity requirements.
Withdrawal / Transfer Fee - You should not have to pay any fees to withdraw cash from your account. Most firms do not charge a fee to transfer out specific assets. However, if you are transferring out all assets in the account, fees are not uncommon.
Trade Commission - Firms commonly charge around $10 per trade when buying and selling stocks. TradeKing is notably on the lower end with a $4.95 trade fee. Loyal3 offers fewer investment options than most firms, but allows you to buy and sell with no trade fee. Mutual fund fees vary widely. The biggest brokerage firms offer trades for a limited set of funds at no charge. For other funds, fees up to $50 are common.
Supported Account Types
Brokerages offer accounts that have different tax rules depending on how you set them up and plan to use them. A standard brokerage account allows buying and selling securities with capital gains taxes required on investment gains.
You can also open up retirement investment accounts. IRAs, Roth IRAs, and other retirement specific accounts offer tax advantages over a standard brokerage account.
How to Open An Account (Setup Process)
Most brokerage firms offer a simple, online account opening process. Expect to spend about ten minutes filling out the online forms. You can also request paper copies to send in by mail. Firms with physical branch locations typically offer the ability to open a new account in person as well.
To open a new account, you will be required to submit your contact information, social security number, and sometimes a photo ID to verify your identity. If you get stuck or have trouble along the way, you can get support by phone or online chat.
Once your new account is open, you will have to fund the account. The fastest method to fund a new account is a wire, but wires generally come with fees from your bank. The easiest and fastest method to fund an account is with an electronic funds transfer, sometimes called an EFT or ACH. Those generally take 2-3 days to clear. You can also send in a paper check or drop one off at a branch. Large deposits by check can be held for a short period until the funds clear from your bank account.
Brokerage accounts offer a wide range of trading platforms. You can generally trade online or by phone, but expect to pay additional fees for trades by phone.
Orders generally fill instantly during regular trading hours. After hours trading is available at some investment firms. Those trades may not fill as quickly. Settlement after entering a trade generally takes three business days.
Margin trading is a type of trade where you borrow funds to buy and sell stocks from capital one bank austin tx brokerage. This takes special approval and is designed for experienced traders. Similarly, short selling typically requires approval as there is a potential for unlimited losses.
Available Mutual/Index Funds?
Before signing up for a new brokerage account, review the list of available mutual funds and any fee-free mutual fund options. For example, Charles Schwab offers its Select List of funds with no trade fees. Most large brokerages offer a similar options for their own funds and sometimes for select fund families.
Research and Tools
Each brokerage firms offers different levels of access to investment research and reports. Large firms often have their own research in addition to reports from major reporting firms like S&P, Morningstar, Zacks, Ned Davis Research, and others.
Advisory / Investor Education
Some brokerage companies offer limited or no support, while others offer access to professional investment advisors. Depending on your investing experience, this may or may not be important to you. Look into this before opening a new account.
Support and Customer Service
Nearly all brokerage firms offer support via phone, email, and sometimes through chat support. Savvy web users should be able to do nearly anything in their accounts without additional support, but it is good to know how to reach customer service should you need help in the future.
Your financial security is incredibly important. In an age of regular security breaches, you are right to be concerned about security with an online brokerage. Brokerages use the highest levels of online security and encryption to ensure your data is safe.
Even with the best security, however, some breaches do occur from time to time. To protect yourself, ensure you use a unique, challenging password on each online account, particularly when they are tied to your money.
Uptime and Stability
Most online brokerage firms have nearly perfect uptime and stability. Downtime during trading hours can prevent your orders from executing. While some brokerage firms have experienced downtime in the past, it is not common for brokerage websites to go down.
Before signing up for a new account, a quick Google News search will tell you if your chosen firm has been plagued with downtime issues in recent years.
Ease of Use
Each online brokerage has its own unique experience. Virtually all of them offer screenshots or walkthroughs of their trading systems. Take a look at your top contenders and pick the one that you like best. After all, you are the one who is going to be using it so you should choose a service you will enjoy.
Cooper is a former equity research professional/finance analyst who holds an MBA in Financial Instruments and Markets from New York University's Stern School of Business. He left the investment banking world in 2015 to become a full-time investor. He contributed to InvestmentZen as an financial product analyst from 2016-2017.
Best online stock brokers for beginners in November 2021
You’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge to get a brokerage account. But the task probably sounds a bit daunting, especially after the intense fluctuations in the stock market during the COVID-19 crisis. But it can actually be quite easy to get started — and many brokers are investor-friendly, especially for beginners.
While options abound, you probably want a brokerage that includes accessible educational resources, an easy-to-navigate app and website, zero commissions, low fees and attainable minimums — all attractive qualities if you’re getting started. Here are several options to consider.
The best online stock brokers for beginners:
Topics covered on this page
Overview: Top online brokers for beginners in November 2021
TD Ameritrade is good for beginners because of all of the information it makes available to guide you into the world of investments. New investors can take advantage of all kinds of educational material, including more than 200 instructional videos, tutorials and more.
TD Ameritrade also makes it easy to ask investment questions without worrying about whether you’re getting judged for asking something “too basic.” You can also interact with the brand on apps you already use, like Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa devices.
Two mobile trading apps, TD Ameritrade Mobile and TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader, give you trading access and much more wherever you are.
(Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade, and will eventually integrate the two companies.)
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
E-Trade is considered by many as the online brokerage pioneer, but it’s kept up with the times, too, offering two mobile apps. On the E-Trade mobile app, you can move money using mobile check deposit in addition to other features, such as tracking the market or trading stocks and ETFs. Its other mobile app is called Power E-Trade, and allows you to enter orders, including complex options trades, on a single ticket. You’ll also get streaming news, quotes and a customizable options chain.
Importantly, E-Trade is great for beginners because it also offers all kinds of content to help you understand what you’re doing — videos, articles and live education sessions included.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
Ally Invest is a newer entrant to the brokerage space, launching a few years ago after purchasing TradeKing. Ally is a solid offering for those who already do business with Ally Bank and would like an easy way to expand their relationship into investing.
You can also access your account on Ally’s mobile app to get quotes and make trades. The direct bank is also widely recognized for its excellent customer service and its progressive digital banking features, and you can quickly move cash from your bank account to your investment account.
It also offers a resource center with helpful content written in a more enjoyable way than most — think headlines like “What mutual funds and pizza have in common,” for instance.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
With no minimum investment, Bank of America’s Merrill Edge is another good option for beginning investors — particularly if you’re a Bank of America bank customer. As one of the bank’s customers, you’ll have immediate access to cash transfers to your brokerage account, and you’ll be able to access a Merrill advisor at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations.
Merrill Edge’s integrated mobile experience lets you make credit card payments and place trades — assuming you’re a bank customer and investor.
Merrill Edge also provides ample research to help you make trading decisions and a wealth of educational materials can help you get up to speed on investing.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
Robinhood is the poster child for fintech disruptors, and subscriber growth has been meteoric, especially when it was among the only brokers offering free trades. This mobile-first broker made phone-based trading its standard, and its app retains that easy functionality.
If you’re just getting started, Robinhood will give you immediate access of up to $1,000 when you make a deposit, so you can start trading immediately. While the app’s basic functionality does not include much research or educational material, you can opt for Robinhood Gold (at $5 per month) and receive Morningstar reports on 1,700 companies as well as margin trading.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
Charles Schwab is the original discount broker and it’s made the leap to online broker with ease. Schwab is as investor-friendly as they come, and offers a full range of features, which will help you as you make your way from novice to confident investor.
Schwab offers stock reports, Morningstar reports and news from Reuters, while the broker’s ETF screener will help you search for a winning fund. Schwab also provides great educational materials for beginners, so you’ll be able to learn all the fundamentals of good investing.
A fully featured mobile app allows you to do virtually all you can do on the desktop platform. Also a nice feature for beginners: you can receive up to a $1,000 bonus with a qualifying deposit and a referral code from a friend.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
Fidelity may be the most investor-friendly broker out there, making it a great choice for beginners. This broker offers it all and does it at a high level, with remarkable customer service, too, especially by phone, where you can get an answer to your detailed question in seconds.
The research resources here are deep, with a variety of reports available. You’ll get all the basics on how to invest smartly and so much more. You can attend webinars or view recorded ones that cover almost any area of investing, so you’ll be knowledgeable in no time.
Fidelity’s site is easy to navigate, and you’ll find what you’re looking for quickly without much fuss.
- Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
- Minimum balance to open an account: $0
Other options: Top robo-advisors
If getting started is still too daunting and you want a low-cost option that manages a portfolio of investments for you, then a robo-advisor is a great option. A robo-advisor will create a portfolio based on your risk tolerance and time horizon, and you’ll pay a low fee based on how much you have in the account. And it still takes only a few minutes to get started.
Two of the largest independent robo-advisors are Betterment and Wealthfront.
How brokerage accounts work
Brokerage accounts allow you to purchase securities such as stocks, bonds and ETFs and are a great way to save toward your financial goals. A brokerage account might be used to save and invest for a specific financial goal such as paying for a child’s education, or it may just be used to build wealth over time. Brokerage accounts also typically come with a number of additional features such as access to research reports and other tools.
Unlike retirement accounts, you’ll be able to access your money at any time in a brokerage account, but will likely owe taxes on any gains on your investments, depending on your income.
Do you need a lot of money to use a broker?
The great news for investors these days: It’s never been cheaper and easier to get started investing. In fact, lower fees have made online brokerages more investor-friendly than ever. So you won’t need a lot of money to get started on your investing journey.
Virtually every major online brokerage allows you to get started with no account minimum, so you can start off with $5 or $500. It’s also easy to find a broker that offers no-commission trading of stocks and ETFs (and sometimes options), so you won’t rack up fees when buying or selling. With no commission, you can invest tiny amounts and have it all go into your securities.
About the only routine fee that brokers consistently charge is a “transfer-out fee” if you want to move securities to another account. And you’ll only pay that if you do make a transfer of securities, but you won’t pay for any cash transfers.
For these reasons it’s never been cheaper for investors to get started investing in the market.
Is my money safe in a brokerage account?
You may be familiar with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, and that it protects deposits held in FDIC-insured banks in the event a bank fails.
A similar protection exists for brokerage accounts through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC, a nonprofit membership organization that was created in 1970 by federal law. The SIPC protects customers of SIPC-member brokers in the event that the firm fails. Customers are covered for up to $500,000 for all accounts at one institution, including a maximum of $250,000 for uninvested cash.
It’s important to note that the SIPC does not protect you from investment losses, but rather only if your brokerage firm fails financially. So don’t expect a bailout if you see the value of your stocks or bonds decline.
How to withdraw money from a stock broker
Yes, unlike retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs, brokerage accounts don’t have age limits on withdrawing your money. You’ll be able to access your money in a brokerage account whenever you’d like, but there are a few steps to the process.
First, you’ll need to sell any investments in order to have cash in your account if you didn’t have uninvested cash already. Then you’ll need to transfer the cash to your bank account, which typically takes a couple of days. If you know the day you’ll need the money, it’s best to plan ahead and start the process a few days early. You could also request a physical check from your broker, but that would likely increase the time it takes to get the money in your hands. Keep in mind that money you need soon shouldn’t be invested in long-term assets such as stocks in the first place.
What’s the difference between a discount brokerage and a full-service brokerage?
Discount brokers are increasingly online brokers that offer investors the opportunity to buy and sell securities at tradeking vs etrade or care credit bill pay cost. A full-service broker also allows clients to trade securities, but will also offer advice on which securities to buy and may act as more of a financial advisor. This increased level of service and attention typically comes with a higher cost, either in the form of commissions on trades or an annual fee. You may need a larger amount of money to attract attention from a full-service broker, whereas discount brokers typically have no account minimum.
Discount brokers tend to be the cheaper option, but you will need to take a more hands-on approach to your investments because you’ll be the main person overseeing them.
What other resources do you need?
While cost is an important factor in choosing a brokerage, you’ll also want to consider other traits that may improve your experience, such as:
- Research: How much research does the broker offer? Is it in-house work or from third parties? Do you need research on individual stocks or are you looking for funds?
- Education: Many brokers offer a ton of educational resources so you can understand how to invest effectively. Quite a few brokers offer articles and webinars on how to use their advanced products and tools, especially if you’re looking to trade more often.
- Trading simulators: Some brokers offer trading simulators that give you a wad of virtual money and let you use the simulator to try out their platform and test your skills.
- Customer support: If you’re just starting out, you may have a lot of questions, so good customer support can be vital. Check a broker’s availability and see if it matches up with your needs.
- Mobile apps: If you’re looking to trade via mobile, you may want to take a peek at the broker’s app first. While some brokers are mobile-first and known for the quality of their app, almost all major online brokers offer an app that can get the job done.
Those are some of the major features that you’ll want to consider, but you may have other “must-have” features depending on your needs.
Note: Bankrate’s Brian Baker also contributed to this story.
Ally Invest Review
A few years ago, I moved a Traditional and Roth IRA account from ETrade to Ally Invest (formerly known as “TradeKing” at the time, prior to being acquired by Ally Bank). I had long been a fan of TradeKing as a great online broker option for a number of reasons, and with the change, I wanted to share my first impressions and give a first-look Ally Invest review after my account migration. Was the acquisition and transition a good move for former TradeKing customers and new investors? Read on to find the answer…
Having held discount broker accounts with ETrade, Vanguard, Fidelity, Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, Fidelity, Schwab, and a few others, I have a little more experience in this area than I’d probably like to, so hopefully this review provides some useful discount broker comparisons beach house weekend rentals emerald isle nc commentary.
What is Ally Invest?
Ally Invest is the online discount brokerage arm of Ally Bank (the 22nd largest bank in the U.S., with over $185 billion in assets). Ally Invest was formerly TradeKing, prior to Ally Bank purchasing it (in 2016) and re-launching it (in 2017).
In summary, Ally Invest has a low fee trading structure, no maintenance/inactivity fees, and strong customer service with 24/7 support.
You can trade stocks, bonds, funds, options and other equities through Ally Invest. I’ll get into what types of accounts you may want to consider opening or moving to Ally Invest in a bit.
Let’s cut right to what most of us care about the most when it comes to investing online with a discount broker – the fees. Here are Ally Invest’s fees:
- Stocks & ETFs: $0 on U.S. listed stocks and ETFs
- Bonds: $1 per bond (minimum $10)
- Mutual Funds: $9.95 purchases and sales
- Options: $0 + $0.50 per contract
The $9.95 to initially buy into mutual funds it is lower than many I have seen (and significantly lower than E-Trade at $19.99 and Vanguard at $35). If you prefer ETFs over funds, that’s not really an issue – but you can more cheaply buy and sell Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard branded mutual funds directly with those brokers, if that is your objective.
Here is a complete list of Ally Invest fees.
Ally Invest excels in this area, much like Ally Bank. Whereas some discount brokers try to nickel and dime you with hidden account maintenance or inactivity fees and IRA custodial fees, Ally Invest does not. There are no monthly or annual maintenance or account fees for both taxable accounts and IRA’s.
Ally Invest has no minimum balance requirement for their self-directed accounts. This is a key factor for someone just getting into investing for the first time, who might not have a lot of money to put into an account right from the get go. You will need at least $100 to start investing in an “Ally Invest Managed Portfolio”.
What About Ally Invest Features?
Ally’s user interface, at this time, is virtually identical to TradeKing’s, with a few minor cosmetic changes (different colors and branding, primarily). If you’re not familiar with those features, the breadth and depth has always been great – far exceeding any other brokers I’ve used. They include:
- ETF, mutual fund, and stock screeners and navigators
- Portfolio back testing (very cool!)
- Social network (over 200,000 members discuss investing)
- Profit and loss calculators
- Tax manager tool
- Educational resources, including multiple live webinars every month
- Technical analysis and charts
- Ally invest LIVE
- iPhone & Android apps for mobile investing
How is Ally Invest’s Customer Service?
Ally Invest offers 24/7 customer support. Most other brokers operate M-F and have skeleton support on the weekends (typically when people actually have time to call in for help), if at all.
You can reach Ally Invest’s customer service at 1-855-880-2559 or by email at [email protected]. They also offer chat support.
Bonus: Ally Banking Services
One nice thing about being an Ally customer is that they offer a full suite of banking services in addition to tradeking vs etrade new investment platform. This includes home loans, auto loans, debit/credit cards, checking accounts, online savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, and other bank related services. Kiplinger Magazine recently rated Ally Bank as the “best bank for millennials” and the “best internet bank”.
The 4 biggest changes from the purchase and tradeking vs etrade of TradeKing to Ally Invest that I have noticed thus far are:
- No more maintenance fee for a low balance or inactivity
- Expanded customer service hours to 24/7 support
- No fee stock and ETF trading
- Added banking features from Ally Bank
All positives. As a former TradeKing and current Ally Invest customer, I’m very pleased with the transition thus far.
Ally Invest is one of the few discount brokers I continue to use at the moment, so obviously, I like them. Great service, account security, low trading fees, and no hidden “gotcha” fees to screw you over. I’d recommend using them for both a regular post-tax investment account and a retirement account for everything but broker-branded (e.g. Vanguard, Schwab) ETFs and mutual funds. Disclosure: Ally Invest happens to have an affiliate program, so some of the links in this post are affiliate links, but this is not a paid or sponsored post, and I am an actual Ally Invest customer who recommends them based on my experience with their service.
TradeKing vs. E*Trade: Where to Open an IRA
Studies frequently show that fewer than one in five Americans use an IRA to save for retirement. That may be a huge mistake, as IRAs offer investors the unrivaled combination of more choices and big tax advantages.
To help you make a better decision on where to open an IRA, let's look at how retirement savers might compare two brokers like TradeKing and E*Trade to see what best fits the needs of a long-term investor.
Commissions aren't what they used to be, and that's a very good thing, indeed. The internet has played an integral role in driving down trading costs, and many brokers rolled out new price cuts in 2017.
Here's how TradeKing and E*Trade compare on commissions by the type of investment.
Stocks and ETFs
$4.95 per trade
$4.95 per trade + $0.65 per contract
$9.95 per purchase
$6.95 per trade
$6.95 per trade + $0.75 per contract
$19.99 per purchase
Data source: Company websites.
A broker's price list isn't always indicative of the price you'll pay to make a trade. E*Trade offers volume-based discounts whereby its particularly active customers see their commissions tradeking vs etrade to $4.95 per trade from $6.95 when they make 30 or more trades in a quarter. In addition, some mutual funds and ETFs are completely free to buy or sell on its platform.
Don't forget about perks you receive for opening an account, either. Across the industry, special offers for IRAs can be extremely lucrative, with cash bonuses frequently topping $2,000 or more just for opening an account.
Mutual funds, ETFs, and commission-free choices
When it comes to funds, brokers matter a lot. As you can see in the table below, the number of funds each broker offers, and whether or not you'll have to pay to invest in them, varies significantly by brokerage.
Total Mutual Tradeking vs etrade, No-Transaction-Fee Funds (NTF)
More than 12,100
More than 8,000
More than 4,400
More than 130 (WisdomTree, Global X, and more)
Data sources: Barron's, company websites, and representatives.
E*Trade has the advantage of having more than 4,400 fee-free mutual funds and more than 100 commission-free ETFs. However, if a fund or ETF isn't on E*Trade's list of free funds, TradeKing clients will pay less in commissions to buy or sell it.
Minimum deposit requirement for IRAs
Some brokers require new clients to deposit as much as $5,500 to open an IRA. Luckily, TradeKing doesn't have a minimum requirement for any of its brokerage accounts, and E*Trade waives its usual $500 minimum for IRAs. Thus, you could start an account with just $1.00 at either broker if you wanted to.
Image source: Getty Images.
International stocks and ADRs
Investors who want to invest internationally may find some brokers more limiting than others. E*Trade and TradeKing offer the ability to buy and sell American depositary receipts (ADRs) listed in the United States, but neither offer direct access to trade on international markets.
Many of the world's largest companies, like Honda, have ADRs in the United States, but smaller companies are more likely to have a ticker only on their home exchanges. For this reason, investors who want to be able to explore more of the world's exchanges may want to shop from the few brokers that offer international trading.
Mobile app reviews
You can check your account and make trades from your mobile phone or tablet from anywhere around the world. Here's how each broker's users and customers rated their mobile trading apps, as of Feb. 24, 2017.
Apple App Store
Data source: Relevant app stores.
Fees on IRA accounts
Make sure you fully understand a broker's fee schedule before opening an IRA account. Two fees that are relatively common are maintenance fees and inactivity charges. Luckily, if you know how they work, you can generally avoid them.
TradeKing has an annual inactivity fee of $50, but if you make at least one trade each year or keep $2,500 or more in your account, you won't have to pay it. E*Trade doesn't tradeking vs etrade an inactivity or maintenance fee.
Better for IRA Accounts: TradeKing or E*Trade?
There isn't any hard-and-fast rule for what makes a broker better than any other. It's all dependent on how you plan to manage your account.
For example, stock and options investors will pay less in commissions for each trade with TradeKing, but higher-volume traders who qualify for E*Trade's lower pricing will pay less per options contract ($0.50 vs. $0.65). On the other hand, ETF and mutual fund investors may find that they can construct a portfolio with E*Trade's fee-free fund list, in which case E*Trade may be the better brokerage for their accounts. Depending on how and what you invest in, you can make the case for either broker.
To be clear, The Motley Tradeking vs etrade does not endorse any particular brokerage, but we can help you find one that's a good fit for you. Visit Fool.com's IRA Center to compare several brokers all on one page, and see if you qualify for any special offers for opening a new account.
If you've been thinking about opening an account with Ally Invest, this review is for you.
I've been using Ally Invest as my primary stock brokerage for years. I started with TradeKing, stayed on during the acquisition, and have held a sizable portion of my investments with Ally Invest.
I'm a fan because they offer free trades, a rich suite of research tools, and an interface that is intuitive and easy to navigate. They don't offer free trades of mutual funds but I invest in mutual funds directly with Vanguard so this isn't an issue for me. (Ally Invest offers free trades on ETFs though)
Read on to discover this in-depth Ally Invest review.
Who is Ally Invest?
Ally Bank got into the brokerage game through acquisition in 2016 and renamed it Ally Invest Securities, or Ally Invest for short. They're regulated by FINRA, you can look up their listing on BrokerCheck, and they're licensed to operate in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
Ally Invest has self-directed trading accounts (taxable brokerage, IRA) as well as “Robo Portfolios,” which is their term for their robo-advisory-like automated investing services. We will dig more into both of those account types.
Self-Directed Trading Accounts
Ally Invest supports taxable brokerage accounts as well as individual retirement accounts with no minimum. You can trade practically everything – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, and even forex. The only asset not on that list is cryptocurrencies but I don't invest in cryptocurrencies – and here's why.
Best of all, with the exception of mutual funds, all those trades are commission-free. Options have a $0.50 per contract fee but no base commission is charged.
The platform is pretty sophisticated and offers everything you could need from your basic brokerage account. There are real-time quotes, research, a customizable dashboard, and it is all accessible online. You don't get Level 2 market data though.
Here's a shot of the top of the default dashboard (they call it Ally Invest Live, click to expand):
You can customize it but the default shows you a lot of data very quickly, with threads you can pull for additional research. The best way to use this is as a snapshot into your account to see how your portfolio is performing.
The Dashboard is very well designed and intuitive to use. When you click on a stock in your Holdings, all the other panels update to that stock – the Chart automatically updates to show you the trailing three months, Options Chains updates to show you all the call and put contracts (the option chains), etc. You don't have to enter it manually each time into each panel. When you enter a ticker into the search box within any panel, it updates every other panel too. That's smart.
For customization, you can change what's shown within each panel. You can also move the panels around but you can't add or remove panels – though I'm not sure if there is a panel that I'd add that isn't already here.
Within the Option Chains panel, you can dive into the chain of a stock and build an options strategy using their workbench (here I am buying out of the money calls on AAPL):
Ally Invest has good options forecasting and pricing tools because TradeKing catered to options traders (more volume meant more commissions, a smart business strategy!). As a result, Ally Invest now has great options trading tools.
If you don't want to use Ally Invest Live, the legacy platform still exists and makes it easy to build more positions.
Want tradeking vs etrade write a straddle? Here's the screen you use to enter it:
The fee structure on the self-direct account is pretty much as low as you can get:
- $0 commission-free trades on stocks, options, and ETFs. Options have a $0.50 per contract fee.
- $9.95 per trade on no-load mutual funds, fees to trade funds with a sales load will vary
- $0 account minimum
- No inactivity fee
- $150 ACAT fee – if you transfer your assets in-kind out of your account to another brokerage, they reimburse other broker's ACAT fees up to $150 when you transfer in at least $2,500 in assets
Personally, if you want to trade mutual funds, the best way to do that is to open an account with the company that offers the funds. For example, if you want a Vanguard fund, open a Vanguard account because you can buy and sell shares for free. And if you want a Vanguard ETF, you can buy and sell those for free on Ally Invest or Vanguard.
Ally Invest's mobile app has all the features you'd expect in a brokerage's mobile app – including the ability to complete any transaction on the app that you'd be able to do on the website. I don't use the mobile app because I don't like making major money decisions (like buying and selling shares of stock) on my phone. I prefer to sit at a desk, look at a computer screen, and “get into work mode.”
It's a little harder to do research on the phone as the only place where “news” is pulled into the app is on the research page and the only source appears to be from MT Newswires.
But if there was some kind of emergency or urgent need, I could do it.
Ally Invest Robo Portfolios
With a minimum of $100, you can get a cash-enhanced portfolio with practically no fees – no advisory fees, no annual fees, and no rebalancing fees. They do this because they set 30% of your portfolio into cash, earning a rate of interest comparable to their online savings account. Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios operates this way too – no fee but you have to put a set percentage of your allocation into cash. The upside of the cash allocation at Ally is that it's close to the prevailing rate you'd get with a savings account though you can't get access it as easily as you would a savings account.
If you want to avoid the cash allocation, you can get a “market-focused” Robo Portfolio but it also comes with a 0.30% annual advisory fee, charged monthly. With market-focused, you still have cash (roughly 2% of your balance) but much much less of it. 0.30% is similar to what other robo-advisors charge – for example, Vanguard's Personal Advisor Service charges 0.30% on assets up to $5 million.
With Robo Portfolios, you answer some questions about your goals, they'll build a mix of ETFs that meet your goals, and then you can tweak it as you wish.
Additionally, you can pick from four portfolio options:
- Core: “Highly diversified across domestic, international, and fixed-income assets. You can choose the amount of risk you are comfortable with, from conservative to aggressive. If you’re more of a hands-off investor, consider this portfolio type.”
- Income: “This portfolio type offers higher dividend yields while maintaining a more conservative risk profile. Consider this portfolio type if you’re most focused on yield and income.”
- Tax-Optimized: “If you make after-tax contributions to an investment account, this type of IRA may help maximize your investments. If you’re looking to invest using a diverse mix of tax-advantaged, low-cost Exchange Traded Funds, consider this portfolio type.”
- Socially Responsible: “Shaped by companies with ethical track records, you’ll only invest in businesses that actively practice sustainability, energy efficiency, or other environmentally friendly initiatives. Consider this portfolio type if eco-friendly practices are important to you.”
Then, their systems (and people) monitor your portfolio and rebalance as needed. It's similar to the robo-advisory services of other companies (in theory).
Integration with Ally Bank
They are both under the same branding but the two systems still feel a little separate because they're still separate entities. When you log into Ally.com to visit your banking, you can see your Ally Invest information.
If you want to take action in your brokerage account, you are transferred to investor.tradeking.com. This means that if you want to transfer money back and forth between, say, your checking account and your brokerage account – there's a delay depending on the accounts in question:
- To and from Ally Bank to self-directed accounts: 1-2 minutes
- From Robo Portfolios to Ally bank accounts: up to 5 business days
- Ally self-directed accounts to other institutions: up to 3 business days
- From other institutions to any Ally Invest account: up to 3 business days
Ally Invest Alternatives
Ally Invest has carved out a nice spot as a discount brokerage that does everything well, but how does it compare with some others?
Ally Invest vs. Robinhood
Robinhood's claim to fame was a slick mobile application with free trades. While not every other brokerage has a great mobile experience, many of them have matched them where it counts the most – free trades. Ally Invest bank of america bankamericard credit limit free trades too and Ally Invest's mobile app does everything Robinhood's app does but it just doesn't look as slick.
But when it comes to tools, Robinhood doesn't have the analysis tools that Ally Invest offers. While they give you access to the same tradable securities, Ally Invest's options tools far exceed those offered by Robinhood. Robinhood doesn't have the breadth and depth of research either – they keep costs low so they've opted not to offer any research from other firms. You can still get publicly available news, conference calls, etc – but anything extra is unavailable.
The area where Robinhood beats Ally Invest is in cryptocurrency – Ally Invest doesn't offer cryptocurrencies and Robinhood Crypto lets you trade several cryptocurrencies for free. If fractional shares are important to you, Robinhood has that too whereas Ally Invest doesn't. Robinhood's new account promotion is a free share of stock without a deposit requirement, Ally Invest offers cash but you have to transfer in funds.
In the realm of tradeable securities, they both offer stocks, ETFs, and options. Ally Invest offers bonds and forex but Robinhood doesn't.
Bottom line is that Ally Invest offers everything Robinhood does (except crypto and fractional shares) plus you can tack on a solid online banking experience all in one spot.
Here's my full Robinhood review.
Ally Invest vs. ETrade
ETrade and Ally Invest are very similar in that they've been competing in the discount broker category for tradeking vs etrade they're very similar, ETrade's big differentiator is that tradeking vs etrade lets you create paper trading portfolios to help you dip your toe into investing. With a wealth of educational tools, you can study stocks and use their portfolios to see how you're doing with a “practice” account.
ETrade has a $500 account minimum on their brokerage accounts band while trades of options are free, there is a $0.65 per contract fee at ETrade ($0.50 at Ally Invest).
Related: Best Stock Brokers that Offer Free Trades
Pros & Cons
Like any service, there are things we like and things we don't.
- Ally Invest offers both self-directed brokerage and robo portfolios, like a robo-advisor.
- Low minimum ($100) on Robo Portfolios
- Commission-free trades on stocks, options, ETF, and options ($0.50 per contract)
- No account minimums, no maintenance fees
- Very generous brokerage transfer bonus
- Incoming ACAT fee reimbursement up to $150
- Robo Portfolios is free but requires a 30% cash position or you can pay 0.30% per year
- Mutual funds cost $9.95 per trade
- No detailed Level 2 market level data
Ally Invest is a great all-around brokerage account because of its $0 minimum and commission-free trades on stocks, options, and ETFs. I've been using them for years and have never had any issues. With no minimum, association with a great bank in Ally Bank, it's a good place for webster bank bridgeport ct hours investor looking to start investing.
I first fell in love with them because they offered inexpensive trades but now that so many brokerages are offering free trades, I've stayed for the ease and simplicity of the platform.
Ally Invest is best for beginner to intermediate investors who are comfortable managing a self-directed investment account. The low minimums and free trades make it very accessible to someone who doesn't have a lot to invest but the tools and features of the account still support someone who needs more.
If you just want mutual funds, skip Ally Invest – go with the company offering the funds directly. If that's Vanguard, open a Vanguard account. If it's Fidelity, open a Fidelity account.
If you want a hands-off managed fund like a robo-advisor, Ally Invest offers a pretty good product but compare it with the leading robo-advisors currently available.
It's not ideal for advanced investors, day traders, technical traders, or someone who needs a lot of market data (Level 2) to make decisions. If that describes you, there are other brokerages that will give you that level of detail into the market.
New Account Promotion – up to $3,000
Ally Invest has a deposit-related promotion for new accounts – the more you deposit or transfer, the greater the bonus. What makes this promotion so good is that it applies to any type of account – not just your traditional taxable brokerage account. You can open a Traditional or Roth IRA too.
Here is the Ally Invest bonus structure:
|Deposit or Transfer|
|$10,000 – $24,999||$100|
|$25,000 – $99,999||$250|
|$100,000 – $249,999||$300|
|$250,000 – $499,999||$600|
|$500,000 – $999,999||$1,200|
|$1,000,000 – $1,999,999||$2,000|
|$2,000,000 or more||$3,000|
They will also reimburse you the ACAT fees another brokerage may charge you for moving your assets to Ally. They will reimburse up to $150 in charges when you transfer at least $2,500. This is separate from the cash bonus they will give you based on the amount of the transfer.
The cash bonus is credited to the account as interest so if you are opening an IRA, it is not considered a contribution.
Learn more about Ally Invest
- Commission-free trades on stocks, bonds, ETFs, options
- No account minimum
- High new account cash bonus
- $150 ACAT transfer fee reimbursement
- Expensive to buy and sell mutual funds
- No cryptocurrency trading