By request, I’m posting a review of my opinions experiences with online discount broker TradeKing. I’ve actually had an account with them for over a year now. This will be done from the perspective of a buy-and-hold investor in stocks and ETFs, not an active trader.
Commission and Fee Schedule Overview
TradeKing offers $4.95 stocks trades across the board – market or limit, online or broker-assisted. $4.95 isn’t as low as it used to be, with brokers like Zecco.com offering free trades now, but it’s still much cheaper than the big discount brokers like E-Trade or TD Ameritrade for non-active traders. They also offer options for $0.65 per contract, also a competitive price.
There are no minimum opening balances, and also no maintenance or inactivity fees to worry about. (You need $2000 to open a margin account.) There are no annual maintenance fees for IRAs, but to transfer out or terminate one costs $50. Electronic statements are free, but paper statements cost $2.50 each.
The application seemed pretty standard, including having to sign off on all those long disclosures. It was all online and I did not have to mail anything in.
One thing to note is that if you want to fund your account via an online bank transfer, you’ll have to be very patient. After you provide them with the account and routing numbers, they require 5 business days to verify it. Then, every online transfer (max $10,000) takes 5 business days to complete. So if you choose this option like I did, you’re looking at two weeks minimum before you’ll be ready to trade. The quickest way to start is to perform a wire transfer into your new account.
My first impression of the account several months ago was that the interface was a bit sluggish. But recently, the response time has been great and overall I like the interface. Here are some screenshots of the Account Summary and the Trading screen:
They offer trailing stops and contingent orders based on price triggers, as well as complex options trades like spread, straddle, strangle, combo, butterfly, collar, and condor.
Customer Service. They are actually very responsive on the customer service side. I can usually get someone on Live Chat within 5 minutes, and they are faster to pick up the phone than my previous calls to Ameritrade and E-Trade. I can’t speak as to how they handle complex questions, as I haven’t been faced with any real problems yet.
Dividend Reinvestment. They offer free automatic dividend reinvestment, with the ability to purchase fractional shares. This can be set for all your stock holdings, or just specific ones. This is nice if you have ETFs and you want to reinvest dividends like you used to with mutual funds.
Money Market Sweep. By default, only 1% interest is paid on cash balances. You can sign up for one of three money market sweep accounts (taxable, tax-exempt, treasury), with the taxable option is currently paying 4.22% and is FDIC-insured. I highly recommend signing up for this right away, it takes just a second to send them an e-mail message and you’re all set. No forms to fax or mail in.
Long Transfer Times. Again, ACH deposits are subject to a trading hold of 5 business days, and also cannot be withdrawn for 10 business days. This can be a pain if you have a hot idea and want to make a trade fast, so I would keep whatever money you want to invest in the money market sweep above.
Awards. TradeKing has many of their awards on their site, including getting ranking #1 in Customer Service from SmartMoney magazine in 2010.
Sign-up Bonuses. For new customers they will reimburse ACAT transfer fees charged by your existing broker up to $150 when moving your account over to TradeKing.
I hope this helps people make a decision! I like TradeKing, but it’s very hard to simply call any broker “the best” or “the worst” as everyone has different trading levels and preferences. What one person deems a critical feature, another cares nothing about.