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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||You can pick and choose the service that fits best with your needs. More offerings than other providers that can protect your identity and monitor your credit.||Free scores from all 3 bureaus||$1,000,000||30-day free trial; $16.99/month|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports||Comparable to standard services of other providers and reasonably priced. There is some flexibility with their plan options. You can set up electronic alerts which can be synced to multiple devices for your convenience.||Free scores from all 3 bureaus||$1,000,000||14-day free trial; $19.95/month|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||All 3 credit scores free; great value, especially for families; free 14-day trial||Free scores from all 3 bureaus||$1,000,000||Free 14-day trial; $10.42/mo for individuals; $20/mo for families (w/ annual prepay)|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||Many free additional services for the same price as other competitors.||TransUnion||$1,000,000||7-day free trial; $17.95/month|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||You can pick and choose the service that fits best with your needs. Affordable and flexible plans. Roadside assistance and shopping discounts also included with some plans.||Depends on subscription level||$1,000,000||7-day free trial; 3 monthly options with varying services|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||Access all 3 credit scores free; ID theft services are more inclusive at other companies, but this company excels at credit monitoring and credit report updates.||Free scores from all 3 bureaus||$50,000||$1 for 7-day trial; $29.95/month|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||Affordable service with standard service options but less customer service support.||TransUnion||$1,000,000||7-day free trial; $17.95/month|
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|All 3 bureaus' reports (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion)||Comparable to standard services of other providers but higher priced. Less flexibility with plan options.||TransUnion||$1,000,000||7-day free trial; $29.94/month|
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|Experian||Very basic monitoring service. There are more comprehensive products on the market.||Experian Equivalent||None||Experian's National Equivalency Score provided for Free|
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|Experian - Free. All three bureaus for an additional fee||Very good service, but you must pay for additional bureaus. Other companies include 3 bureaus as standard for almost the same fee.||Experian||$50,000||7-day free trial; $14.95/month|
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.
You know the drill. You receive your bills and they pile up on the table unopened with the subconscious hope that they will magically disappear. You know you are carrying more consumer debt than you can handle and just the sheer thought of opening your bills is enough to set off a streak of procrastination, not to mention feeling like your life is spinning out of control. Sound familiar?
The good news is….you are not alone. Everyone has been there at one point or another in their life. The difference is in what you decide to do about it. In reality you know the bills are not going to go away so the best thing to do is face it head on by rolling up your sleeves and start finding your way out one step at a time. Once you get started you will find that getting debt free is easier than you think.
Gather All of Your Bills
Open up a blank spreadsheet in a program such as Microsoft Excel or Open Office and create a set of categories that relate to your finances. The categories should be broken down into columns that reflect your utilities, credit card bills, loans, and other bills that relate to your finances. Enter in the amount you owe for each, come up with a total amount for each category so you can see the amount for each and then add up the grand total. If the total is more than what you bring home then a lifestyle change is in order and you must come up with a plan of action.
Create a Plan of Action
The plan of action should involve prioritizing the bills that should be paid first and should include the bills you have that charge a high rate of interest such as credit cards. Cut up the high interest credit cards, stay consistent with your repayment plan, and take things one step at a time. If you look at the big picture you will get overwhelmed. Only keep one card. You do not need multiple cards that tempt you into spending money you do not have.
If necessary, consider a lower-interest consumer consolidation plan that allows you to place all of your debt into one payment. This way you can pay down what you owe faster without the high interest rates eating into the principal payment. With regular base bills such as utilities, use an automatic payment plan to ensure the bills are paid. This will also help you to gradually restore your credit rating over time.
Eliminate the Things You Do Not Really Need
Next, use another spreadsheet to make a list of all of the assets you have including those that you are regularly spending money on such as computer games, eating out, unnecessary play toys such as ATV vehicles, and any other things that are considered to be extra or unnecessary in most people’s lives.
Decide if you really need all of these extras and determine if there is a way you can find an alternative that does not cost as much money. For example, if you are always getting the latest PlayStation perhaps you can cut back on this luxury while you pay down your debt.
Most of your items you can sell on sites like eBay and other online auction sites or you can choose to hold a yard sale. Use the money that you make from selling non-essentials to pay down your debt.
Meet with Your Creditors
Meet with your creditors and do not be afraid to tell them all of the steps you have taken to date. If you wish, you can bring a credit counselor with you that will help you deal with your creditors such as banks and other financial institutions where you have debt. The fact that you have taken the time to meet with your creditors personally to provide documentation on what you have accomplished so far will add a lot of credibility to your meeting. Additionally, if you are working with a credit counselor this will show your sincerity as well.
Stay Out of Debt
Once you are out of debt….stay out. Period. In the long run you will find that it is well worth the piece of mind and it is a good feeling knowing that once again you are in control.
Scotia iTrade serves primarily as a Canadian online trading source. They’re popular in the realm, but given the abundance of American-based sources that are available from anywhere in the world, their Canadian approach doesn’t necessarily nab them any customers they wouldn’t already have.
That’s not to say they aren’t popular—they are. And they have a French translation on their website for those in the French speaking areas of Canada.
Regardless of their key demographic, Scotia iTrade still has a lot to offer. Simply put, Scotia has a wide variety of stocks at their disposal for easy and quick trading. Furthermore, they take as low as $6.99 per trade in commission, meaning traders get a better deal than with several other similar sources.
Their website is extremely user friendly, however. It doesn’t come with a full array of bells and whistles but Scotia gets something right in today’s market because they allow users to customize their own profile. They allow investors to create their own virtual world and personalize aspects of the trading process.
Scotia iTrade also offers an array of accounts, ranging from personal to non-personal accounts. They offer cash accounts, margin accounts, and cash optimizer accounts. Furthermore, they also tackle personal investments and retirement accounts, such as tax-free savings accounts and retirement savings accounts (separate from your traditional IRA).
Unlike many other services there’s virtually no start-up fee or minimum balance on your account. As their site advertises, all you need to start up is a check for $1 and a government issued ID. From there, you can set up an account through their website, personalize your page, and watch your accounts from there.
One perk of the Scotia iTrade site is that it gives you an Extended Hours trading source. What this does is give you access to the American markets even when the market hours are over. You can stay up to date with speculation on the market and important announcements, that way you can always be in peak trading condition.
Similarly, they set up a “watch list” for stocks that you want to stay up to date on. Or if you’re planning on selling a current stock at the appropriate time, it stays on top of that and notifies you when it reaches the correct point in the market.
Scotia Itrade also compiles a wide variety of analyst research as well. It forms a database from analysis done by trained professionals across the world. With this feature, they guide you in the right direction, help you understand the way the market works, and gives you a leg up on the competition.
Reviews of Scotia iTrade are primarily from Canadian sources, but most say favorable things. Because of the low fees, lots of people use Scotia. Furthermore, many people seem to favor their electronic transfer of funds. This makes it easier to quickly get going on a portfolio, allowing you to add funds from other bank accounts instantly.
One of the most prominent aspects of the service that people like is the do-it-yourself approach. People praise the fact that they can set up and design their own home page through the site.
Some reviews indicate a discrepancy from Scotia iTrade’s website, claiming that some trades result in up to $20 commissions for the broker, even though the service prides themselves on low fees.
For first time traders, Scotia iTrade might not be the right option. Given their Canadian base, it’s ideal for that crowd and there are a handful of more powerful options in the US.
However, Scotia does make it easy to transfer over existing portfolios, which is an added bonus for those who have already been in the investment game. They also give timely updates on the market, making it a useful source.
In the US, Etrade’s popularity is widespread. Of all the major online stock and investing services, Etrade advertises most heavily, indicating their prominence in the industry.
Etrade has been a leader in stocks and investing since its inception over 20 years ago. Even in the early 90s when the internet was still a fairly new creation, Etrade managed to establish themselves as a steady force in the investing and trading business.
They currently have over 4.3 million customers worldwide, with a net value of roughly $189 million. Unlike some online trade services, Etrade doesn’t require a large amount of money to start up and often finds you stock trades as low as $10 per share (if not lower).
One of the most promising aspects from Etrade is their full range of investment options and their tutorial website which helps the consumer find the right options for them. In fact, Etrade prides themselves heavily on their full range and emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded portfolio, which is something that not many other similar services focus on.
Like many similar sites, Etrade offers a wide array of modern technology to guide the consumer through the stock trading and investing process. Their programs go so far as to analyze risk, help you pick a retirement account, show you your current portfolio, and so on. There’s also an included income estimator and a search feature that helps you sort through both your current stocks and find potential future investments.
Should you need further information about your stocks Etrade also offers personalized assistance. They can set up a phone or personalized meeting where someone who’s professionally trained will run you through the process of buying and trading stocks. They even offer chartered retirement planning councilors. These specialists focus on both rollover and personal planning. Online chat and phone services are both options for your personal guidance sessions.
Unlike other similar services, Etrade also has an extensive grouping of tutorial videos available directly from their website. These videos specialize in specific topics, such as investment myths, how to protect your portfolio, and any other number of trade-related problems. Their videos are divided into three groups—basics, intermediate, and advanced—to help you with your specific problem.
Etrade is also available internationally and specializes in trading in international markets. Etrade is extremely popular in other countries such as China and many European countries. International investors use Etrade to get a jump on the American market, given how strong it typically is.
Reviews of Etrade are almost exclusively positive, with most consumers being extraordinarily fond of how simple it is to use the site, open up an account, and manage your stocks and bonds. Furthermore, consumers really like how informative the Etrade company is, specifically regarding their videos and tutorial programs.
As well as offering stock and investment services, Etrade also offers savings and checking accounts. This makes it extremely easy for a consumer to get involved in the stock industry since their funds are already attached to the Etrade site. There’s also a variety of Etrade apps for mobile phones of all sorts.
The Etrade customer service gets extremely high reviews as well. Those who’ve invested in Etrade for so long find that their customer service representatives are extremely easy to get along with.
The only real complaints regarding Etrade is that they take a hefty fee for their work. The pros seem to outweigh this for the most part, given their extensive information pool. But Etrade brokers tend to take a higher commission than other services.
The general consensus seems to be that if you’re a heavy trader, Etrade is a strong option. And although they do make it easy to get into the game and teach you what to do, it might not necessarily be the best site for beginning investors or those not looking to put much money into their investments.
Scottrade is a prominent online stock broker service with over 475 stores country-wide. They make it easy to set up a first-time account or to transfer over an existing portfolio with minimal hassles.
Although Scottrade is mostly an online service, unlike some other similar services they have stores where you can get one-on-one advice from licensed professionals. Part of the focus of their website is to help you find a branch near you so that you can get help in person and not be blindly stuck in the online world.
Reviews typically suggest that this is a favorable feature and extremely helpful for newer investors, since they’re not gaining their information from a website. Users of the service indicate that getting their advice from someone in person gives them a greater understanding of what they’re getting themselves into. Although there’s a lot of information on the internet it’s better conveyed in person, most people seem to believe.
This makes Scottrade a great stop for beginning investors. But for more experienced investors, they certainly won’t be in the dark. The website doesn’t cater to newcomers like many other services do—it almost assumes that the consumer knows what they’re doing.
It maps out things like minimum stock purchases, broker fees, and provides simple services like streaming quotes, up-to-the-minute updates, and so on. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of other services. It doesn’t feature online tutorial videos, downloadable content or cell phone apps. It assumes the investor is either going to go into a store and talk to an individual or already knows what they’re doing.
Further evidence of this is that the website provides a service that compares any current investment brokers you are using to their own. It analyzes your portfolio, your broker fees, and so on and gives an assessment, pointing out how they can benefit you.
Scottrade prides themselves on reliability, which is a word pasted all over their website. Because they offer in-store help, they feel they’re a highly dependable option for anyone looking to invest.
On top of that, Scottrade opts out of having a minimum account balance and doesn’t charge inactivity or maintenance fees, giving them a big leg up on the competition.
Although their website is mostly straightforward, it does offer some information about the investment process. It doesn’t leave everyone in the dark, so if you’re a first time investor and haven’t been into one of their stores yet, you can still access extremely helpful information from a link on the site.
Scottrade’s reviews are almost exclusively positive. Most people praise the user-friendliness of their website and how easy it is to open an account. Opening a new trade account through Scottrade takes less than ten minutes according to most who review the service.
Furthermore, people praise the diversity of the site. Scottrade allows you to trade a wide variety of stocks, bonds, funds, and so on through their site at extremely competitive rates, which consumers favor greatly. Similarly, they appreciate the low cost of broker fees.
Scottrade also offers a popular mobile phone application, which allows users to trade on the go. With this application, you’re always connected and you’re always in the loop, so you can strike when the iron is hot and trade whenever you need to in order to maximize your stock trading.
The lack of fees also ranks highly among people’s favorite aspects of the service. Although some users seem to believe that there’s a minimum account balance, which could be something that varies from place to place (the Scottrade website doesn’t indicate that this is the case).
Scottrade has also received several compliments from well-esteemed publications and sources. Forbes consistently names them to be one of the leaders in the stock broker industry.
One of the most desirably parts of using TradeKing is the extent of which their investment options run. They’re seemingly limitless on the matter and keep up with everything in today’s industry. And they, like many others, offer a tutorial website to help the consumer find the right path to take.
On par with several other sources, TradeKing offers multiple resources to help the consumer get through the process of stock trading and investing. Their services include easy access to your portfolio, streaming quotes, interactive charts, and similar services. They also include detailed options trading, an options screener, a probability calculator, a profit and loss calculator and volatility charts.
If you’re wanting more information about your stocks Tradeking also offers personalized assistance like many other online services. However, unlike the others, their customer service is not available 24-7 which can be a problem considering the other sources have such a leg up internationally, both in regards to other markets and to being utilized by those in other countries.
Tradeking offers $4.95 flat rate stock buying broker assistance rates. They also cut special deals depending on how much you’re going to be investing. In many cases you can get a substantial discount by purchasing or trading a larger number of stocks or bonds.
Unlike other sites, TradeKing’s website isn’t particularly the most user-friendly. It’s straightforward, which might appeal to many. Their approach gets straight to the point, outlines the site’s key services, provides information about stocks and bonds in general, and otherwise helps the consumer get to the right conclusion and find the stocks that are right for them.
But they don’t have all the bells and whistles of some other similar companies. Granted, these bells and whistles are sometimes the downfall of the site—people get too caught up in them and then realize they don’t fully understand their own portfolio or what they’re investing in.
With Tradeking, however, you don’t need a large sum to initially invest. In fact there’s no minimum so you can pay as you go, unlike other services. And even after you’re started, there’s no required minimum that you keep in your account.
Tradeking, thusly, is ideal for a new investor. It’s easy to get going, and they’re straightforward enough to make the process easy.
Similarly, the reviews of Tradeking are mostly positive as well. People are fond of the no minimum account balance and the extremely cheap broker fees. If you’re not a high-income employee and still want to get going in trading, Tradeking might be the route you want to take.
Different from other services, with TradeKing you can get a $150 bonus if you refer somebody else. Even if that person had been with another service before, TradeKing will still offer you and them a $150 bonus for converting.
TradeKing has earned the distinction of receiving four out of five stars from Barron’s—the leader in investing criticism and insights—running from 2007-2011. Smartmoney also named TradeKing number one in customer service in 2010. Overall, TradeKing comes with several distinctions and promising awards.
They also feature online chat service, but like the rest of their customer service it’s not offered 24-7.
But with TradeKing’s extensive trader network, the consumer learns more about investment through the actions of others. Popular trades are analyzed and explained in full. This option differentiates their services from that of other online trading sites.
Thinkorswim, gives innovative trading platforms to investors and market titans alike and has received recognition by many as one of the industry’s best trading services. In existence since 1999, ThinkorSwim has grown and developed substantially, delivering powerful and straightforward technology which supports active traders.
The company has served as an internet-based broker for over a decade, bringing together all necessary parties for prime investment. But they exceed the call of duty by incorporating a high-class customer service option to their services.
Simply put, Thinkorswim educates consumers. They educate those looking to invest. And although they also set up the connection between the investor, trader, and the client, their approach centers around educating the potential investor.
Similarly, ThinkorSwim has it imbedded in their mission statement that they challenge the consumer to educate themselves about the industry and to figure out how to be the best trader and investor they can be.
More so than anything, ThinkorSwim is a vast array of knowledge. It’s an information source for those trying to get into investing or trading. It’s like a training program unto itself, getting the investor ready to dive into the market.
Opening an account is simply accessible from their site’s front page and unlike some services you don’t need to put in a large sum of money to get going (though it is required that you put in funds up-front to begin constructing your portfolio).
The website features up-to-the-minute updates regarding the national stock market (as well as stocks on a global scale). It also offers several programs to download and install on your computer that can run you through the way trading and investing works. ThinkorSwim is also credited with being the first online company to use Web 2.0 technology in their site, giving consumers much more interaction than other sources typically do.
Their software is state of the art, always updated and refreshed so that you don’t experience bugs or glitches. It’s all accessible from their website. Furthermore, they have Flash tutorials to help you use the software that you can download from them.
Because of their education approach, many consumers find ThinkorSwim to be an ideal site. It’s a little more of an alternative pick—some people don’t like to stray from the path and choose to go with the more mainstream and popular sources. But for a small, web-based start up, the ThinkorSwim mission resonates with many people and makes the trading process easy.
ThinkorSwim also offers seasonal or semi-regular promotions to draw in customers. Depending on when you’re trying to open your portfolio, you might get a deal and be able to sign up for extremely free or cheap. These specials, however, do fluctuate. However it’s not necessarily something you’re likely to find on another site.
The company has also won several awards, stemming from the Barron’s award sessions, which gives out awards for the best online brokers on an annual basis. They’ve earned a 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars on multiple occasions, also being named “best for frequent traders” and “best option for traders” in 2009, 2008 and several times prior.
ThinkorSwim also offers a prominent mobile phone application so you can access your account, get tips, and so on from your cell phone.
Reviews of ThinkorSwim are generally positive, usually complimenting its user-friendly approach and excellent training program. However, some people complain that they’re not great for international traders. Also, the site requires a $3,500 deposit to open an account. Although in reality this is a smaller amount than through many sites, it’s still not a pay-as-you-go option.
Interactive Brokers has been a successful stock agency in the United States (and several other countries, as well) for the past 34 years.
The company is based entirely online and still serves as one of the largest stock distributors in the world. Interactive Brokers instigates broker, dealer and proprietary trading businesses throughout 90 markets on a national scale. They offer direct access, online trading and clearing services to both institutional and professional traders alike for products traded online, including but not limited to stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds, CFDs and funds.
Furthermore they engage in self-market making for roughly 6,500 different electronically traded products. They and their affiliates bring in nearly 1,000,000 trades every day.
Simply put, they’re in the fore-front when it comes to online stock and trade distribution.
Their electronic trading actually pre-dates the prominence of the internet, meaning that they’re extremely ahead of the curve and know what they’re doing. Since they’ve been trading electronically for so long, the rise of the internet age has only given them an appropriate outlet to reach out on an international level.
Their website spells it all out for you—they connect you to what it is you’re looking for with a wide variety of options. They offer multiple trading platforms to fit your specific needs, as well as applications to install to further interact with your online trading experience.
IB offers access to electronic records of stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds that originate from a wide variety of continents and countries, meaning you have the full palate when it comes time to buy or trade stock.
Since the site acts as a broker, connecting the investor or buyer with an investment, they tend to take a cut off the top. Any broker site is going to do this—that’s how they make money. However, given IB’s large volume of clients they’re able to keep these expenses down low, meaning that you aren’t paying heavily for your investments.
For those uncertain of what they’re doing or what to do, IB also offers somewhat of a tutorial course. This course is offered limitlessly and you can always download it from their website. It runs you through how to account for inflation, currency differences, and any number of other external factors—many of which are extremely complicated for the layperson to understand.
Because of this, they’re managed to hold onto a top spot in the world’s trading market. Their site also features up-to-the-minute updates so you can keep a close watch on the stocks in your portfolio.
IB also offers trade confirmation, so you aren’t kept in the dark about your important transactions and investments. This is a given of any company of the like, but definitely comes in handy.
Generally speaking, all user reviews of Interactive Brokers are positive. People commend the site’s accessibility, their vast array of information regarding current stocks, bonds and so on, and their customer service.
Specifically, people favor the interactive features of the site, including the installable applications and tutorial sessions. With these added features, the communication flow is at its highest and customers don’t feel overwhelmed by the process and thus are more likely to use and reuse the service.
And like similar services, IB keeps their fees and taxes low, so the consumer’s getting set up with the appropriate stock option and not losing a chunk of change in the process.
However, there are some drawbacks of the service, including its high start-up fee. In many cases, it requires you to begin with a $10,000 portfolio and isn’t easily accessible for those with lower incomes looking to trade.
This alienates lower-income customers but it’s not always a deciding factor—many people are still able to invest and trade. It does ring among one of the only cons of IB.
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