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 
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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 Investing 
28
comments

Beware Broker Transfer Out Fees

My wife’s Roth IRA currently sits at a TD Ameritrade account, where it’s been sitting for the last three or four years. With the majority of it in cash, mostly because we lost track of the account, we want to invest it in our retirement investment of choice, an index fund. Our index fund of choice happens to be the Vanguard 500 Index Fund because most of our retirement funds are with Vanguard. Vanguard does not have the cheapest index fund, I believe that title now resides with Fidelity’s Spartan 500 index. Paying the extra 0.08% seems reasonable considering we can manage it all in one place.

The only downside about this entire process is that TD Ameritrade has a $75 outbound full account transfer fee. :( Fortunately Vanguard does not charge you to transfer in an IRA (to my knowledge, no one does).

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 Investing 
4
comments

Kiplinger’s Best Discount Brokers

In the latest issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, they rated a dozen discount brokers on a variety of factors including commission, research & tools, fees, investment options, “easy of use,” and customer service. The results were pretty close to the results of Smart Money’s 2008 ranking of the best discount brokers.

Kiplinger’s Best Discount Brokers

  1. Fidelity
  2. Charles Schwab
  3. Muriel Siebert
  4. TradeKing
  5. E*Trade
  6. OptionsHouse
  7. TD Ameritrade
  8. WellsTrade
  9. Firstrade
  10. OptionsXpress
  11. Zecco
  12. Scottrade


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 Personal Finance 
0
comments

Stock Market Brokerage Phone Numbers and Contact Links

Need to absolutely reach your brokerage right now? Here’s a handy resources of all the brokerages I am aware of, their phone numbers, hours of operation, and a link to the brokerage’s contact page. On that page you’ll usually find a Fax number, overnight mail address, regular mail address, email addresses, and sometimes even an online chat. In many cases, there are multiple telephone numbers listed, I chose the one for existing brokerage clients (if that’s not what you need, just hit up the link and you’ll find the whole list).

Brokerage Phone Number Hours of Operation Contact
Charles Schwab 800-435-4000 24/7 link
E*Trade 800-ETRADE-1 7AM-Midnight ET link
Fidelity 800-544-6666 Unknown link
Firstrade 800-869-8800 8:30AM-9PM ET M-F link
Merrill Lynch 800-MERRILL 24/7 link
optionsXpress 888-280-8020 9AM-5:30 ET M-F link
Scottrade 800-619-SAVE Unknown link
Sharebuilder 800-747-2537 8AM-9PM ET M-F link
TDAmeritrade 800-669-3900 7AM-8PM ET M-F link
T. Rowe Price 800-225-7720 8AM-8PM ET M-F link
TradeKing 877-495-5464 8AM–6PM ET M-F link
UBS None Online only link
Vanguard 877-662-7447 24/7 link
Wachovia Securities 877-879-2495 8AM-8PM ET M-F link
WellsTrade 800-TRADERS 24/7 link
Zecco.com 909-657-6655 9AM-6PM (EST) M-F link


Did I miss your brokerage? Let me know and I’ll add their phone number.


 Investing 
78
comments

Online Brokerage Comparison: I Gave Up on Scottrade!

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 http://www.freetrade.com/ (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.


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