Investing 
15
comments

2011 Kiplinger’s Best Online Brokers

Every year Kiplinger’s magazine puts out a survey of the best online brokers. Every year, I take a look at the list because I’m curious how the different brokers stack up. I’d like to know if anyone has made any big changes or improvements to their service, it might change my mind about who I do business with.

Usually the lists don’t change all that much. As you scan this year’s list, you’ll see the same ones near the top, the same ones near the middle, and the same ones near the end. The meat is in the article detailing the different categories (like commissions and fees, investment choices, etc.) because it adds a little color to an otherwise robotic list.

One important thing to remember as you peruse this list: the best online broker is the broker that satisfies all of your requirements. All the bells and whistles in the world don’t matter if they don’t offer exactly what you need. With so many brokers, many of which are inexpensive, you should be able to find your best broker, online or offline, if you’re diligent.

Let’s get to the list…

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 Investing 
18
comments

E*Trade Has Useful Advertisements!?

I was reading CNN Money over the weekend when I saw one of E*Trade’s latest banner advertisements, which I’ve included below. I want to salute them for using advertising that is actually useful.

Useful advertising?!?

It’s pretty obvious, with interest rates so low, that dividend stocks have become more and more enticing. Part of me wonders if we’re having the Time magazine effect, which is my leading indicator that something has jumped the shark, but I still think that buying a bunch of dividend yielding stocks is probably your best bet if you’re able to hold them for a while (and cash the dividend checks).
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 Investing 
14
comments

Smart Money 2010 Best Online Brokers

Smart MoneyEvery year, Smart Money takes an in-depth look at online brokers, from their trading platform to their customer service, and rates them based on their performance. They open up accounts and make trades, they call up customer service and pore through the reviews, and they share all of their experiences with you – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

One thing that does surprise me is how little the list changes each year. For yet another year, the top five are the same, though their order has changed a little, and the back of the list sees the same faces. You would think that these brokers would look at these problem spots and at least make some steps to address them.
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 Bank Deals 
8
comments

E*Trade 500 Free Trades Offer

E*TradeSome brokers offer you free cash to transfer your brokerage to them, E*Trade is just offering up 500 free trades. You can see the offer on this page, where they explain you can trade free for 60 days if you open a new Power E*Trade Account with at least $2,000. The offer is for 500 free trades in stock or options trades made within the first 60 days of the funds clearing and accounts must be funded within 60 days of account opening. Afterwards, you pay regular commissions.

How valuable are 500 trades? Well if you use them all, the rate is $9.99 for the first 149, then $7.99 for the rest for a grand total of $4,293 saved. If you make 500 trades in 60 days, this is a screaming hot deal. If you don’t, as I suspect most people don’t, this offer is only as good as often as you think you’ll use it.

Some more specifics:
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 Investing 
10
comments

Transferring Brokerage Assets from E*Trade to TradeKing

When I learned about E*Trade selling their banking business to Discover, I knew my days with them were numbered (I later learned that only bank accounts with no brokerage relationships were moving… but alas the ball was already rolling). Brokers are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves and when you can get good customer service at a cheaper cost elsewhere, even the pioneers are going to find their businesses suffering. Those who have been reading for a while may remember me mentioning my investments at E*Trade and how I’ve been doing any new investing with TradeKing. My original approach was to leave my assets at E*Trade until I sell them, but a recent offer changed my mind.

TradeKing has a promotion where they will reimburse new accounts, defined as opened in the last thirty days, up to $150 in transfer fees. My account is far older than that but I asked a CSR if they’d be willing to extend that offer to me and they agreed! (had they not agreed, I wouldn’t have transferred…) E*Trade has a $60 full account transfer fee, much less than the $150 reimbursement limit, that is paid using account assets. I’m not sure what would happen if I had $0 cash, but the simple solution was to transfer $60 into the account prior to initiating the transfer. If you plan on doing this, be sure you have the amount of the fee in cash or you might not like what the brokerage does on your behalf!

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 Banking 
15
comments

Closing E*Trade Bank Savings Account

E*Trade Financial BuildingYou may have read on the interwebs that E*Trade is shutting down bank operations to focus more on the brokerage. As part of that process, all accounts are being sold to Discover Bank in what seems like the first bank sale that didn’t involve the FDIC. :)

Unfortunately for E*Trade and the hilarious E*Trade baby, taking away the bank account takes away their last differentiator. The savings account, despite it’s abysmal rates, acted as a higher than average interest rate sweep account for brokerage funds. It was an FDIC insured place you could keep your money between investments. The interest rate wasn’t that great, probably foreshadowing this sale, but it was better than getting nothing.

Update: It turns out that not all savings accounts will be transfered, just those without an ongoing brokerage relationship. Thanks to all the readers who shared that in the comments below, you can get more detailed coverage here.

So today I started the process of closing my E*Trade Complete Savings account. Fortunately, it was pretty easy and you can do it online:
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 Investing 
34
comments

Your Take: How Do You Evaluate Brokers?

Charles SchwabCharles Schwab announced today that they would be charging a flat $8.95 per online equity trade regardless of the customer’s account size or the number of shares traded, down from $12.95. Schwab has been marketing itself as the broker of the average Joe, with their “Talk to Chuck” marketing, and moving to $8.95 a trade is certainly going in the right direction.

I’ve always thought of Schwab as a full-service broker along the lines of a TD Ameritrade, who charges $9.95 a stock trade, and less of a discount broker, like TradeKing ($4.95) or E*Trade ($12.99). As the lines between services that discount and “full-service” offer gets blurred, the only differences will come down to the commissions. Right?

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 Investing 
1
comments

OptionsHouse Free Stock Trades Promotion

OptionsHouse is offering 100 commission free trades for new accounts with promotion code FREE100. You must deposit at least $3,000 within 45 days and the 100 free trades expire after 60 days of funding. This offer expires December 31st, 2009.

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