Online Brokerage Comparison: I Gave Up on Scottrade!

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This is a guest post authored by frugal at My1stMillionAt33.

Before I tell you about my terrible experience with Scottrade, let me first compare several online brokerage firms in terms of commission costs:

  1. TradeKing: Best for active traders. $4.95 per trade, even broker assisted trades, very cheap rate for option contract at $4.95 + $0.65 per contract. They’ve also won numerous awards from the likes of Barron’s, SmartMoney, etc. They were named Smart Money’s Best Discount Broker many years in a row.
  2. Scottrade: Best for casual traders and/or investors. $7 per trade. $0 for loaded mutual fund, but $17 for most other non-loaded mutual funds. Option contract at $7 + $1.25 per contract. Has offering on CD & fixed income bonds. Can only do the following option trades: buying put/call, or sell covered call.
  3. ETrade: More expensive compared to both Ameritrade Izone and Scottrade, unless trading more than 1500 trades per quarter.
  4. Sharebuilder: Good for long term investor. $4 for automatic investment, and can be as low as $1. Selling is $12 to $20 depending on the plan. The biggest downside is that you give up the control on the market timing for your buy order. Instead you will do time-averaging through automatic investment.
  5. BuyAndHold: Best for asset allocator and long term investor. I will recommend this to anyone who is currently using Sharebuilders. I like their $14.99 per month for unlimited number of “window” trades which get routed 3 times a day. With $120 $180 a year, you can buy and build 1000 stock portfolio if you want (just kidding, but it’s true). I don’t think you can beat this deal, especially after (under Ameritrade) is gone.
  6. FirsTrade: Even better than Scottrade. I’m sure everyone has lamented the reduction in the NTF program for mutual funds at Scottrade. Well, if you use FirsTrade, you can get it back. Yes, ALL mutual fund trades are FREE. And the stock trades are 5 cents cheaper at $6.95. Their pricing model is essentially the same as the old Scottrade. But they don’t have any physical branches.

Enough of cheap commissions, but if it is not reliable, it is pretty much useless. So back to my Scottrade bad experiences. My problems with them is that their internet servers are getting so unreliable, especially the first half hour right after the market opens, that it is no longer usable.

  1. One time I tried to day trade a stock, and I almost got sacked by Scottrade. I placed limit order, and I was barely able to cancel and modify my entry price in time because their servers kept non-responding.
  2. The second time, it was pretty much unforgiveable. I put in a limit order, and when I attempted to cancel the order, I simply cannot cancel it, even though it is still showing on my screen as open order. Somehow somewhere there is a server problem. Minutes later, my limit order became executable. I called up customer services, and they could not determine whether my order was filled or not. After an hour, my order got executed with a timestamp of an hour later. Scottrade claims that the timestamp is the reporting time, not the executed time, and my order was filled minutes later, instead of an hour later. Scottrade refused to correct anything, but simply blaimed everything on the delays of the market makers.
  3. Yesterday, again, stupid me, I was doing trades near market open. I am so certain that I cancelled my order. But I had some problem with their server again in the morning. After a couple of hours, I finally found out that my “un-cancelled” order got executed. They claimed that I never cancelled the order. They really have a big problem with this process. At the end of cancellation screen, there is never a confirmation number given out. I can never write down any # to prove that I have attempted to cancel my order. So after a long talk of repeating the same information over and over, and an eventual non-callback, it appears again that they will not do anything to my phantom trade becoming real and losing significant money in such a big down day.

I know that FirsTrade has its problems, especially with market quotes right after market starts. But at least there is never a problem with non-responding servers that give you a page-not-found error. Probably because they are smaller company. In any case, I am moving majority if not all of my money out of Scottrade. I’m so fed up with their parrot-talking customer non-service. I was planning to move my tradings to Ameritrade Izone, but after reading some comments at Dogs of the Dow, I’m a little hesitating now. If you have recent positive experience with Ameritrade or any online brokerages besides Scottrade, would you please suggest them to me? I don’t really know where I could find a reasonable priced and reliable brokerage now. I plan to use FirsTrade for now. Since I never tried their streamer, maybe FirsTrade streamer will not have quoting problem. I can always use the other online brokerage accounts for quote too, so it won’t be such a problem.

Thanks in advance for your online brokerage suggestions to me. Cheap commission is not everything. Without reliability, all (stock) bets are off. I’m planning to take my complaints to NASD. By the way, I really miss the reliability offered by Datek, which was bought by Ameritrade. That was my first reason of moving to Ameritrade since I assume that the platform would be similarly reliable. And I hope you will find both FirsTrade and BuyAndHold useful.

{ 78 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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78 Responses to “Online Brokerage Comparison: I Gave Up on Scottrade!”

  1. eROCK says:

    From what I’ve read, despite the technical problems, Scottrade is still your best bet overall. All of these applications are going to get bogged down during high-volume times. The same can be said for popular websites and poker applications. High-volume causes the systems to slow.

    From Scottrade’s point-of-view, it probably isn’t worth the upgrades to provide the seamless service, considering their servers are probably maxed a small fraction of the operation time. Then again, I’ve never used any of these yet. (no money)

    Good blog btw!

  2. MafiaDon says:

    I’ve been trading since 1996 and I’ve used several brokers, starting with Kennedy & Cabot to Etrade.

    I have to say that the top two has been Schwab and Etrade, with Etrade getting the nod. I’ve never had an account with Scottrade so I don’t have any experiences with them. Like you, I value dependability rather than price. I chose Etrade for the fast conformations and clearity of the website design. Not to mention the reliability which is incredible. I have never had a problem with Etrade and I have been with them for 2 – 3 years now.

  3. Dallyn says:

    My biggest problem with Scottrade was fund availability. After selling a MF, funds would take days to clear before being able to buy from another MF family. Depsoiting funds by check also caused a significant delay in fund availabilty. I currently use E*Trade adn accept the higher costs in exchange for ability to download to Quicken, quick fund availability, and research.

  4. denon says:

    I can’t say I do a lot of daytrading-style-trading, but I’ve had pretty good performance luck with Ameritrade in general.

    I don’t think there’s any excuse for latency or downtime in these scenarios – low-latency bandwidth is cheap, and so are racks and racks of dual xeons. It’s just a matter of making your app more scalable, then scaling it. Boils down to incompetant coders, or cheapskate network management.

    It can be done – after all, you don’t see the NYSE’s systems getting bogged down, do you? 🙂

  5. srian says:

    anybody tried sogo invest or tradeking ? they are the latest entrants in discount brokerages

  6. eROCK says:

    Denon, I stand corrected! That’s what I get for always being on the hardware side … I didn’t even think of application side and scalability issues from that perspective.

  7. Mike says:

    No matter where you go, there will always be that inverse relationship between price and service. Before you make the same mistake again, decide upon which aspects you can live with, or without.

    I have been using VBS since it was first offered. Of course, it’s more expensive, but they provide great customer service and fix any problems they have caused. Like you, I went the Scottrade route.. and experienced similar problems before also closing my account with them. I would never recommend Scottrade, at any price.

  8. CB says:

    Perhaps I’m cynical but it sounds like you are recommending firstrade so you get free trades. I’ve had my roth ira at scottrade for years and have always had a great experience. They answer emails within an hour and you can always get someone on the phone.

  9. Kevin Dodson says:

    Hi, I’m Kevin Dodson, Manager of Online Trading Platforms at Scottrade. I saw your blog and I thought that I might be able to provide you and your readers with some helpful information. Scottrade values its customers and constantly strives to provide award-winning customer service. Frugal’s experience is atypical for Scottrade customers, and Scottrade takes customer feedback seriously. Whenever customers have unresolved issues, they are encouraged to contact their local branch office to assist them.

    Our licensed branch managers and brokers are well-trained and customer contact is regularly monitored to ensure that customers receive exceptional customer service. If you have any questions or issues with Scottrade, we encourage you to e-mail or call 1-800-619-SAVE.

    As part of our mission to provide outstanding customer service, Scottrade is reaching out to customers and potential customers on the Web. I hope you and your readers found this information useful. Please contact Scottrade for more assistance..


    Kevin Dodson
    Manager of Online Trading Platforms

    • Ian says:

      Hi Kevin,

      I have a question regarding settlement of funds. Why does it take three days for funds to settle after buying or selling a stock? I would like the ability to buy a stock, sell it and buy something else and then have the ability to sell it again that same day.



      • Amber says:

        Hi Ian – I am with Scottrade’s Public Relations team and saw your comment.

        It takes three days after the day the trade is placed to fully process your transaction. This is called the settlement period (the trade day plus three business days). This is an industry standard, not Scottrade specific.

        Option transactions have a one business day settlement period and mutual fund transactions have settlement periods that are determined by the individual fund companies and can range from trade date plus one to five business days.

        For additional questions feel free to contact the e-mail address or phone number Kevin provided in his comment above.


        Online PR Specialist, Scottrade

        • Russell Smith says:

          Scottrade elite quotes are not commpatible with 64 bit computers.I talked to the tech deprtment oct 08,they said they were trying to get a fix.I called again today feb 2,09…no fix yet..any thoughts on this

          • Amber says:


            I spoke with the ScottradeELITE team and they would like to learn more about your situation. Please send me an e-mail at mediarelations (at) scottrade (dot) com. Once I receive your e-mail, a member of the ScottradeELITE team will be in touch.


            Online PR Specialist, Scottrade

      • jc says:

        As i see it, if you have enough funds you can do this. It is only the exact fund proceeds that get held up . A cushion of other funds allows you to keep buying and selling.

      • Leslie says:

        Ian I had the same problem with Sharebuilder and was told it was a SEC regulation. In actuality the SEC say trades have to be settled during the three trade days that follow the actual trade. Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and others allow you immediate access to the proceeds of a sale to buy and sell using the same funds over and over in a single day. I have had problems with Sharebuilder holding my money hostage and am now reviewing as many online brokers as possible looking for “the right one”, at the right price.

        • Brian says:


          You are never permitted to sell a security you purchased using unsettled sales proceeds and then sell it before the sold security settles unless you had sufficient settled cash in the account.

    • Still Angry says:

      My account was summarily closed by Scottrade after they decided there was “unusual activity that did not make any business sense.” They never attempted to ask me, and I could have made it clear. (My father died last year and I was getting some inheritance, most of which I was starting to put into Scott.)

      I live most the year outside the US but have a permanent US address, a US bank account, pay US taxes, and am registered in my home state to vote, plus have a US driver’s license, and own property there. So how more legitimate than that do you need to be?

      I had the account for 6 years and was very happy with Scottrade, so was stunned when the account was shut about a six weeks ago without absolutely no warning.

      I cannot imagine that I am the only expat who has been treated this way. When I called the office and talked to the manager I was practically accused of money laundering or funding terrorists. My lawyer got an entirely different story from the “compliance officer” but I was treated shabbily by the manager at my city office over the phone. I am still steamed over it.

      I recommended Scottrade for years and now see this company in a completely different light. So THAT’S customer service? Avoid them like the plague if you are someone who might spend any extended time outside the US!

      • Still Angry says:

        I sent an email to Amber at Scottrade and am anticipating a response, as I still have a hope that there was some sort of mistake that caused this stupidity. Otherwise I have liked every other aspect of the company.

        I saw I wrote “without absolutely no warning” when I meant “with.” Apologies!

        • Still Angry says:

          Three days later and still no response to my email directly sent to Amber at the Scottrade address she gave on this blog. I’ll post whatever response I get, if any.

          In the meantime I am waiting for my my e-trade account to go active. Already finding some things I like better about it.

          I wonder if that Scottrade manager did me a favor…?

          • Amber says:

            Still Angry,

            I apologize for the delay, I wanted to make sure that I fully understood your situation. I spoke with our Compliance team and they will be sending you a letter about your situation. In the meantime, if you would like to speak with someone on their team, they can be reached by calling 800-619-7283 and asking for Compliance.

            Kind Regards,

            Online PR Specialist, Scottrade

          • Still Angry says:

            I just today received a threatening letter from Scottrade saying that they would take legal action if I did not satisfy a $25 debit I apparently received AFTER I closed out my account.

            This company has some very serious problem, if they deal with a formerly very satisfied client this way. I spent thousands with Scott in trading and margin fees, got summarily booted out because I don’t live full time in the States, and now am threatened with legal action and credit rating damage over $25 I DON”T EVEN OWE.

            This is absolutely unbelievable!

          • Amber says:

            Still Angry,

            We received your e-mail and a member of our Compliance team will be reaching out to you shortly.

            Amber, Social Media Marketing Supervisor

          • Still Angry says:

            I eventually got a threatening letter from Scottrade over a $25 “debt balance” that appeared weeks AFTER they had kicked me out. Scroll down to see what happened with that bizarre development. I am still shaking my head.

            Writer Fairtrade, a few posts below, similarly ran into the “Patriot Act” paranoia that seems to be guiding Scottrade executives.

            My lawyer read one compliance officer the riot act and he responded that it had nothing to do with it. But prior to that I had heard it from two different people, including the manager of the Scottrade office. The first specifically stated that they were “having to be more careful.”

            I guess that was an implied warning… but the way I eventually found out was by suddenly not being able to trade on my account. Sure made me feel silly after having been such a Scottrade fan until then!

        • Fairtrade says:

          Still Angry.

          I hear you. I have had a trading account with Scottrade for many years. Then, i inherited an IRA. So I tried to open an IRA with Scottrade and do a custodial transfer. The broker said, the ACAT was in order and the transfer should take about 1 week. Next week the branch manager called me, said, they would not be able to do the transfer, “patriot act” issues. Next day, I find out Scottrade took the funds. I called the local office, broker said, “Your funds are now our funds and you will not get them back until you prove your identity.” I am currently out of the country. I am a US citizen and currently have an active trading account with you. Broker said-we are a big company with big money and we will not return it to the mutual fund company and we will not give it to you. Therefore, it is ours. I filed a FINRA complaint and a few days later the same broker called to tell me that he made sure my funds were returned to the mutual fund company and how he is the “hero” in making sure that Scottrade did the right thing-Now I am filing suit to have him and his supervisor fined, suspended and anything else I can think of.

          Here are some common violations against Scottrade:

          1). FINRA Rule 2010 – Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade
          2). NASD Rule 3010 – Supervision
          3). FINRA Rule 8210 – Provision of Information and Testimony and Inspection and Copying of Books
          4). FINRA Rule 1122 – Filing of Misleading Information as to Membership or Registration
          5). FINRA Rule 2310 – Recommendations to Customers (Suitability)
          6). FINRA Rule 2020 – Use of Manipulative, Deceptive or Other Fraudulent Devices
          7). FINRA Rule 3110 – Books and Records
          8). NASD Rule IM-2310-2 – Fair Dealing with Customers
          9). FINRA Rule 2330 – Customer’s Securities or Funds
          10). NASD Rule 3070 – Reporting Requirements
          11). NASD Rule 2210 – Communications with the Public

          • Jessica says:


            We would like to look further into your situation. Please call us at (800) 619-7283 and ask to speak with the Compliance Department.

            Social Media Specialist, Scottrade

  10. Sri says:

    I have accounts with both Izone and Scottrade (use either half the time). I had a similar experience as Frugal with Scottrade 2 months back (dec 2006) – I needed to sell off 20 aapl like a hour before closing. I had used the sell option, reviewed the price, then got a phone call for around 2 minutes. When I got back, I again refreshed the screen to see the latest price – my MISTAKE. The screen went back to the default “buy option”, I ended up buying 20 aapl instead of selling. Immediately noticed this in the review screen and cancelled the transaction, but of course it was a no-go, the trade had already gone through. I talked to my local agent office within 3 minutes of this, but they did not help as they said that the transaction had already gone through and it was near closing time and they can do nothing!!

    So, now I am pretty careful, I do not use Scottrade as much as I used to – the commision’s anyway more, shifted some cash and stocks to Izone. One thing, I have not faced this situation with Izone yet and am pretty careful reviewing my trades. But someone do let me know if you have faced similar situation with izone.


    • Julia says:

      I just joined Scottrade a few weeks ago and was very pleased with the on line and personal support. This is my first time trading stocks and so far it has been an exciting experience and Scottrade has made it easy. Their knowledge tools are very educational. If you use a limit order and it isn’t filled, at first it appears as though you are charged for a trade but shortly afterward it is credited back to your account. Hope this has been helpful.
      Thanks, Julia

  11. abudabu says:

    > Frugal’s experience is atypical for Scottrade customers, and Scottrade takes customer feedback seriously.

    Despite what Kevin Dobson writes, I have had the same experience. I really like Scottrade’s interface, but I’ve had the same issues with trades not cancelling when they were supposed to. The problem is that their software does not confirm executions properly.

  12. denn says:

    I met the same things as you with scottrade,it is stupid.

  13. Mishko says:

    Is it possible that orders was not canceled because of a firewall? That happened to me once on IB account. Which is, as far as I know, the best platform, I have IB and Firstrade

  14. aanthony says:

    Same deal with Scottrade, only when its peak time to trade – yes day trade – at least 3 times i have been locked on a page and not able to order – watching my trade slip out of my hands . Have to move somewhere ( happened today for the last time) thats why im here.

    • Mike Tataovich says:

      I had a like yours that ended us causing a $31,000.00 loss. I then printed out my trade executions and found over 27 trades were nothing like the orders placed. I contacted Scottrade local office and talked for two day back and forth with not results or explanation. due to the large nature of my problem I am taking it to the SEC for a formal review if any one would like to support this effort please let me know

      • Quercus says:

        I have had these kinds of problems and others as well, lost huge amounts of money (for me) and had a margin call I couldn’t satisfy on top of everything else because I simply couldn’t get the direct deposit function to work (like much else) nor could I delete it and then add it back, because it was somehow storing the old information…maybe.

        My money is still just sitting in their account, for THEM to make money with, because I have simply been too demoralized to try again to get it out. At some point, obviously, I’m going to have to make another attempt at dealing with their tech support people–who have just never heard of such problems…”Why whatever are you talking about?” Yeah, RIGHT. I can almost see them batting their eyes.

        After spending a couple of frantic afternoons on the website and on the phone with my bank–didn’t EVEN bother to try to talk to anyone at Scottrade at that point, as I had tried fruitlessly the day before–I had to simply succumb to my fate.

        As mentioned above, it was such a long process, with such incomplete information that I soon became totally bewildered even with the screen shots I had managed. (And try doing THAT while you frantically try to stop your money from rushing down the toilet.)

        Additionally, it seemed to me that it HAS to be deliberate that there is no way to actually see the times, charges and all the other relevant data on sales in one place in any useful way. I had an absolutely terrible time.

        What I want to find out is, as I am not normally a litigious person, and they have made it clear they have no intention of compensating me for basically destroying my attempt to earn a living this way, what should I do next? Does anyone know who the baddest lawyer around for this sort of thing is? Is there a point in us banding together to see one?

        I belong to T3, where most of the traders are way more experienced than I, and some of them have good old Scottrade in their pasts as well. OR as several people have suggested to me should I simply work them over on the net. I can. I’ve been earning my living with a computer since 1989 and that’s been on the net since it’s inception…doing MARKETING. I KNOW how to get the word out. And people take such a PLEASURE nowadays in such things, nailing bad guys…facebook, Twitter, blogs…

  15. Elmer Wagner says:

    Hi, I’m Elmer Wagner and my email is I noticed and anomaly while trading and called the broker. The local manager did not seem concerned, but I said in good faith I must report it to the SEC. The broker took offense to my action and wrote me a letter that our relationship had changed and that I could only sell my stocks. Essentially the broker said that I was not welcome. However, I did not agree with his methods and sent a counter proposal, saying essentially set a date to terminate the account and those stocks not sold can be delivered in certificates. The broker did not respond and when I realized he had not intention of being reasonable. I took other actions. We are currently stalemated. Meanwhile, I have contacted State and Federal Government Offices and have begun a campaign to stop this unethical broker action. You have a right to your property and a broker cannot hold in without good cause. It’s very unethical. Write me if you had a similar experience. Oh! The broker? Write me and I’ll share more with you.

  16. Elmer Wagner says:


    I’m Elmer Wagner and I apologize for the typo in my last entry on Oct. 6, 2007 . My email address should read namonsa

    Thanks for your understanding

  17. Jim T says:

    Ditto here on Scottrade, which if anything is getting worse, I can’t remember how many months now it has been impossible to even login to my scottrade accounts in the first 20-30 minutes after the market opens.

  18. Kevin R says:

    Ditto what others are saying about Scottrade! I’ve used ScottradeElite for as long as it’s been out, kudos that they try to add features however, they tend to have problems, at times screens don’t update, execution windows freeze and you have to exit and re-open the platform to see what’s happening. I have emailed the and I get no concern or action. They tell me to call my firewall software provider so I can determine how to changes a cryptic port #. Right, that’s something the average person would feel confortable doing…

    Regarding the fund clearing issue I still am amazed it takes 2 days for funds to clear. Are they parking monies in bank accounts to offset lower transaction fees? With todays techonology 2 days makes little sense.

    Whats the best online trading platform wrt commisions, fund clearing time, and trading features?

  19. scottjacksonville says:

    ScotTrade was down for hours today. And today was an especially horrible experience. Normally I just call my broker when I want to place trades and the site is down. My broker gives me the $7 rate understanding that the site is down. No problem. But today I wanted to place an after hours trade. After all, some bad news had just come out about my stock and I felt like the price was going to tank. It was time to sell. Finding the site down, I called my local office, but it was closed. I was transferred to some national call center where I was connected with a broker. THE BROKER TOLD ME THAT THEY CAN NOT PROCESS AH TRADES!!! I could do nothing but sit there and watch my stock drop in price and watch my profits fall. I immediately hung up the phone and called E*Trade. I’m switching my accounts over right away. The commissions are much higher, but it’s well worth it for the reliability. E*Trade’s servers do not crash, not even during last week’s very heavy volume when both ScotTrade and AmeriTrade were both down.

  20. Don Wu says:

    I can’t enter order online with Scottrade on 4/1/08 half hour before market open and again I can’t even login my account online with Scottrade on 4/2/08 half hour before market open.

  21. jojo says:

    I read the comments from Kevin Dodson and almost busted a gut.

    Scottrade is the most unreliable, slow online platform I have used. When you call them they shrug and say that it’s not their fault. This is based on experience over the last few years that has caused me and most of my sophisticated investor friends to leave them.

    They clearly do not value their customers or they would have resolved their online issues several years ago when Mr. Dodson left us his note (further up in the thread) with nice sentiments but a complete lack of reality.

  22. kam says:

    Scottrade has cost me atleast $3000 bucks in slip ups, just like the guys above the order hangs there, you cannot cancel it or modify it, worse still is when i called their office they couldn’t resolve it. other times I sent an order to sell i got the confirmation number but the trade never got executed..? they told me there was a hiccup with the connection. I day trade so I give them at least a $150.00 a week for commissions, I found out for that kind of money I cant trade with the best platforms like tradestation or optionxpress. Scottrade is best for the casual investor, these are the same people who vote them number 1 in customer satisfaction every year. I suggest Izone, Optionxpress or tradestation for the active trader.

  23. KDLooHoo says:

    I’ve been using Scottrade for a while and I really like their live ticker and trading system.

    Use this code: SLHN6967 for 7 FREE TRADES when you sign up for Scottrade! Only 3 free trades after 10/31/2008.

  24. websight says:

    I deposited an additional $7,000 in my etrade account yesterday morning. They told me the funds wouldn’t be available for 4 days. Today, they notified me that my funds would not be available for trading or withdrawal for another 9 days! Apparently holding customer funds hostage and making money off the float is part of their revenue strategy. Scotttrade here I come.

  25. Athena says:

    FREE TRADES (Save at least $70 in trading fees). Promotional code for Scottrade: Use referral code XYRM9330 to get 7 free trades when you open an account. You can then refer additional people and continue getting free trades.

    • Quercus says:

      This really cracks me up. Like seven trades is supposed to make up for thousands of dollars of losses. Do you by any chance WORK for Scottrade?

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