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November 11, 2015

Online Stock Trading

Charles Schwab Review

By boasting the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry alongside 24-hour customer support, it's evident that Charles Schwab has a clear and steady focus on their clients. With a flexible platform made up of powerful trading tools, Schwab excels in most areas, although new traders won't have the luxury of trying any of these tools unless an initial deposit is made.

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The Good

Exceptional trading tools with StreetSmart Edge

StreetSmart Edge is a highly flexible trading platform offering a variety of exceptional trading tools to choose from. The Symbol Hub integrates several tools into a single window. You can track multiple ticker symbols in real time while conducting deep research into the financials of the individual companies. StreetSmart Edge also delivers powerful charting tools that allow you to quickly construct basic and complex charts to visualize stock data just the way you want. The platform's pattern recognition tool even highlights important stock trends automatically, giving you more information to assist in your trade decisions. The StreetSmart Edge platform can be downloaded to your home computer or accessed directly online as a cloud application.

No minimums required to use advanced tools

Unlike many of the other top online brokers in the industry, Charles Schwab offers users access to advanced trading tools without a minimum account balance or trading frequency requirements. You can use the company's StreetSmart Edge trading platform for free, which makes it easy to monitor your orders and trade positions and conduct advanced research within a single integrated environment. Whether you make one or two trades per month or 30 trades every week, you will always have full access to the best research, analysis, charting, and screening tools that Charles Schwab has to offer.

Nationwide locations and 24/7 support

If you run into difficulty with your account, there is nothing to worry about because Charles Schwab operates a nationwide network of more than 300 traditional retail brokerage offices where you can get one-on-one help when you need it. If there are no office locations near you, or if you need help in a hurry, just call the 24-hour telephone support line for immediate access to a Charles Schwab representative. The company also offers several alternative support services, including email support and a live online chat option on their website. With a solid reputation for quality customer support service, you can trust that Charles Schwab will deliver real answers from real people just when you need them, which is absolutely essential when you have money on the line.

Improving commitment to mobile apps

Though Charles Schwab was once seen as behind the times in terms of mobile technology, the company has addressed this criticism by releasing several strong Schwab Mobile applications. You can now download full-featured apps for a variety of mobile devices. These secure apps give you the ability to manage your brokerage account, view your stock holdings, track your stocks in real time, and even execute trades instantly from wherever you are. You can even make a same-day mobile deposit to your account by taking a picture of your check, which is pretty useful when you need to fund a trade in a hurry. If you're looking to access advice from Charles Schwab experts on your iPad, download the Charles Schwab On Investing app for timely investing insights across a variety of investment products.

High customer satisfaction for self-directed investors

Charles Schwab ranks as the overall market leader in customer satisfaction according to a 2012 survey of 3,733 self-directed investors by J.D. Power and Associates. With top scores in the categories of account offerings, information resources, and account information, Charles Schwab is clearly focused on providing the services that its clients need and want. If you're looking for an online broker with a proven reputation among online traders like you, Charles Schwab is hard to beat.

Thorough research materials

Strong research tools plus access to expert opinions and analysis from investment professionals is a key to savvy investing online. Charles Schwab excels in this category, placing a wealth of data at your fingertips and delivering a variety of advanced tools that you can use to analyze your opportunities and support your investment decisions. You can also read free market commentary and analysis articles produced by Charles Schwab's in-house experts, giving you a unique perspective on investment topics that not all investors can see.

The Bad

No virtual trading or demo available

Most prospective clients are sure to be disappointed by the fact that Charles Schwab does not offer virtual trading. Virtual trading capabilities like those offered by other companies in the industry would allow you to test your strategies on Charles Schwab's web-based and StreetSmart Edge trading platforms without using real money. This is an excellent way to build familiarity with an online trading platform and determine whether it's a good fit for your investing needs. As it stands, you can't even try a free demo account to see how the platform works before making a commitment and depositing funds. Though the platform has received very favorable feedback from all types of users, the inability to open a demo account or conduct virtual trades is tough to overlook.

Must open separate account for optionsXpress

In 2011, Charles Schwab purchased optionsXpress, which offers several features absent from Charles Schwab's online offerings, including access to futures and forex markets. Unfortunately, these services remain outside of a Schwab account, requiring you to open a separate account with optionsXpress to gain access to them. It would be much more convenient if the company simply integrated these services directly into the standard account. In fact, Schwab's competitor, TD Ameritrade, did just this when it acquired the online brokerage firm thinkorswim and integrated many of its trading tools and technology into a standard account.

Need to call in for StreetSmart Edge cloud access

If you want to get started with the cloud version of the StreetSmart Edge trading platform instead of the desktop version, you can expect a short delay. Instead of simply logging in to the platform with your account details, you are required to call in to a company representative to request access. This is a relatively minor annoyance, but an annoyance no less.

No access to forex or futures markets

If you want access to forex or futures markets, you will have to look elsewhere as Charles Schwab won't suffice. To gain access to these markets, you have to open a separate trading account with optionsXpress, a Charles Schwab subsidiary that remains a separate entity. Having access to stock, options, futures, and forex trading in a single platform is common with other major brokers, but Schwab simply doesn't offer it.

The Details

Trading Costs and Fees

  • Broker Assisted Trades: $8.95 + $25 service charge
  • Futures Contract Fee: Not offered
  • Maintenance Fees: $0
  • Margin Rates: 6-8.5% [$25k-$2.5 million]
  • Minimum Account Balance Fee: $0
  • Mutual Funds Fee - Load: $0
  • Mutual Funds Fee - No-Load: $0
  • Options Contract Price: $0.75
  • Options Flat Fee: $8.95
  • Stock Flat Fee: $8.95

Other Fees

  • ACH/EFT Withdrawal: $0
  • Bounced Check: $0
  • Check Withdrawal: $0
  • Domestic Wire Withdrawal: $25
  • Forced Margin Sellout: Unknown
  • Full Account Transfer: $50
  • IRA Annual Fee: $0
  • Partial Account Transfer: $25
  • Stop Payment on Check: $0
  • Telephone Orders: $8.95 + $5 service charge

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