Archive for September, 2011
BMO Investor Online offers premier stock trading for the country of Canada, focusing on the American market. However, they have their work cut out for them, giving other stronger figures in the industry.
Their depth into the markets isn’t quite up to par with other similar services offer. Their website is designed with customer service in mind, and its use of new technology gives an interactive stock trading experience that’s easy on the consumer.
With their use of Flash and other Web 2.0 technologies, their site guides the investor through the process while giving them up-to-the-minute updates regarding the markets, insights into successful investments, and so on.
The entire organization focuses heavily on individual retirement accounts and the wide variety thereof. They include both Locked-In retirement plans and self-directed PSPs. They also offer tax-free savings accounts, which aren’t quite as popular as the individual retirement accounts but are still prominent.
Unlike other similar services, BMO Investor Online doesn’t necessarily aim to educate the consumer, although there’s still a variety of helpful information accessible from their site. They’re also not striving to help develop the customer’s portfolio like some other services are.
When it comes to first-time investors, BMO might not be the best option for you. They do offer an extensive array of personal accounts but they don’t place much focus on stocks and bonds (with some personal bonds being an exception). They give updates on markets, but they don’t guide you through the process. They don’t tailor their site to your personal growth as an investor.
They do, however, feature products that are beneficial to an individual in the long run. When it comes to Canadian savings and retirement accounts, BMO Investor is a front-runner.
Several perks do come with the site, however. They have a foreign currency calculator to help you figure out the conversation between Canadian and American currency (or for those in other countries as well). They also provide easy electronic access to funds, where you can transfer from other accounts into your BMO Investor Online account, making it easy and quick to get a portfolio or savings account up and running.
The site does offer some self-educational opportunities, however, but their resources don’t go in depth. They’re limited to some basic advice, a glossary of terms, and similar low-brow approaches.
Whereas it’s easy to set up an account and get going, their customer service isn’t anything to write home about. It doesn’t lack but it’s also not super prominent (it’s not even available from their website) and it doesn’t have the availability that some sources do—there’s no internet chat or 24-hour hotline to call.
BMO doesn’t get a spotless review from all investors, either. First of all, their near $30 fee for the first 1,000 interactions runs a bit high, with several cheaper options available. They have a high flat-trading fee of $10 and you don’t get a break until after many trades.
Furthermore, people complain that their savings account division isn’t easily accessible. They say they’re misled and that it’s technically two separate sources, which the main page on BMO Investor Online doesn’t clear up. Some reviews even go so far as to claim their customer service is lacking, with specific regard to their savings accounts and trying to connect one to their investment portfolio.
Finally, a frequent complaint is centered around BMO Investor Online’s lack of available stock options. As mentioned, they don’t have quite the depth in the market that other sources do, meaning you’re left in the dark about certain prominent stocks or don’t even have the option to purchase them in the first place.
Overall, there’s not a lot that BMO Investor Online has to offer over similar services, even in the Canadian market.
Banking account fees have been the subject of much warning, debate, and ridicule over the years. As the banking industry has continued to grow in the US, you have a variety of regional, local, or even sometimes national banks that are trying to outdo each other.
The way they make their money: bank account fees.
Fees can come in all styles. To a certain extent it’s a politics game that banks play, masking their fees with fine print, misleading sales pitches, and dishonest sales people.
Although there’s virtually any number of fees that your bank can assess you for any given reason, there are a few straightforward, common ones. For example, if you take out a checking account with a major bank, they’re likely going to charge you a monthly fee. Most of the time these fees are small, falling in the $9-20 range, but in today’s industry you don’t even need to settle for something like that.
Regional and local banks or credit unions tend to forego such fees. They want local business, so they even sometimes allow you to sign up with no fees.
That’s where more secretive fees come into play.
It’s sort of a no-brainer that banks charge over-withdrawal fees. If you accidentally spend up more than what’s in your account, you’re looking at a fine from anywhere from $20-$50 depending on the bank. Similarly, there might even be a bounced-check fee that’s a higher penalty.
If you use your card at an ATM for another bank, you’re going to get a double-fee. And that’s something most people overlook. The ATM’s going to charge you a fee flat-out for using a machine that’s not on your network. But then a few days later when the charge goes through on your account, your bank is also going to charge you a fee for using a foreign ATM. Usually, these are only between $2-4 but it also means that you end up spending $5-10 just to take money out of your own account.
None of these fees are secretive and most people who have a checking account are aware of this.
However, if you also have a savings account, you might want to look at the fine print. Most savings accounts are set up in such a way that they need to have a minimum balance. If you go below this balance, you get a fee that’s usually some kind of flat-rate. Similarly, if you have a savings account, you’re only allowed to withdraw from it a certain amount of times per month. If you go above this amount, you’re going to face some kind of fee and you might even have your savings account aborted all together and converted into your checking account.
Because there’s controversy surrounding overdrafts on some checking accounts (specifically those which are linked to a savings account through the same bank) there’s new legislation that goes into effect this year preventing banks from charging certain fees or block you from linking your checking and savings account.
Similarly, this new legislation bars some forms of maintenance fees, upkeep fees, and annual fees. Whereas an annual fee is common with a credit card, and there are some monthly fees imposed on checking accounts, additional annual fees are mostly done away with.
Some banks might charge to use their online service. In other words, you’ll have to pay to access your account online. However, this has become increasingly less common over the years and isn’t something you’re bound to find, necessarily.
The bottom line is that if you have an account with any major bank you’re likely going to experience at least a monthly fee on a checking account and you’re lined up to deal with fees serving as penalties for not following their guidelines. It’s worth it to make sure you fully understand this from the beginning before you get involved with a certain bank.
Right off the bat, TD Ameritrade, a prominent online stock broker site, gives investors reason to get involved: a free trial for 30 days. Many similar services require some kind of start up fee or minimum account balance, but TD Ameritrade doesn’t, which draws in tons of consumers.
Backing up a bit, TD Ameritrade has held one of the top positions in the US stock and bond trade for decades. Even in the late ‘80s they were ahead of the curve, offering touch-tone phone trading. Come the early ‘90s they launched into the online boom with a Windows-based program that utilized the Internet to connect you to the trading world.
In short, during the 2000’s Ameritrade had potential to acquire several other small similar businesses, often opting to do so and eventually becoming the powerhouse that it is today.
Currently, they have over six million customers worldwide and are only continuing to expand. They specialize in offering preferred stocks, futures, ETFs, option trades, mutual funds, fixed income, margin lending, and cash management services.
They offer $10 broker commissions on trades, which is high by some standards, but given their stronghold on the market it’s well-deserved. Their depth into the US market is essentially unparalleled making them one of the most viable options for anyone who’s going to get serious about investing.
Typically new customers are given a free 30 day trial run, which several of their competitors also offer. Similar to the competitors, they also offer a vast array of information so that the consumer can educate his or herself on trading and the details on various stocks and bonds.
Their website is laid out specifically with customer service in mind, running the newcomer through crucial information, providing helpful resources, and offering tutorial services.
But what Ameritrade’s website really puts its emphasis on is their fair pricing. With access to a wider variety of stock information than most sources, Ameritrade also charges a relatively low stock broker fee which brings in traders of all kinds, with all kinds of budgets.
Ameritrade’s site lines up objective research for the trader who’s wanting insight into the market. This information is accessible from their main page, taking you into a separate program. Furthermore, they include frequently updated webcasts to walk you through important breaking information, online workshops where traders come together and share information, and even a sort of brainstorming room called the “Idea Generation.”
Furthermore, their site includes an interactive trading platform that allows you to access current market information. It’s updated by the second, so you always have a leg up on what’s going on in the marketplace.
Barron’s magazine named the TD Ameritrade web platform the best in the business in 2008 and has given distinctions to the company since then in some form or another.
As far as customer reviews go, Ameritrade usually gets high marks. People are particularly fond of their easy web platform and find the vast array of stock market information accessible from the website to be extremely helpful.
People tend to feel like Ameritrade is on their side, helping them make the best choices and to otherwise become as fluent in the market as they’d like to be. They believe Ameritrade exceeds the call of duty for what they provide their customers.
It’s possible to find cheaper overhead stock broker commissions out there at other sources, which tends to turn some people off. But the overall consensus is that Ameritrade’s depth into the market makes up for the slightly higher (although still considered to be on the cheap side, relatively speaking) broker fees.
With a company that’s succeeded so well in the past 30 years, it’s pretty safe to say that Ameritrade is a good bet for your stock market trading needs.
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