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Investing

Ally Invest Review 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Not having enough cash to open an online brokerage account can be seen as a barrier to starting your investing journey. If that’s a concern check out Ally Invest, which doesn’t have a minimum balance requirement.

Ally Invest is a good choice even if you don’t already have another account with Ally Bank. This online broker offers a wide range of account features, as well as a robo-advisor option. Take advantage of Ally Invest’s online platform and mobile app to track your investments whenever and wherever you wish.

Ally Invest
Visit AllySecuredon Ally Invest’s secure site
The Bottom Line: Ally Invest is an affordable broker with a wide range of investments to choose from.

  • Zero commissions on buying or selling ETFs, U.S. exchange-traded stock and options.
  • There’s no minimum deposit required for a self-directed trading account and no minimum account balance requirement.
  • Ally Invest offers tons of investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, options, futures and forex.
  • Managed portfolios don’t have advisory fees, annual charges or rebalancing fees.

Who should consider Ally Invest

If you’re new to investing, Ally Invest is a great option. It doesn’t have an account minimum to start, which lets you start investing even if you only have a few extra dollars. The managed portfolio — Ally’s take on a robo-advisor — requires $100 minimum to get started. The managed portfolio include a variety of individual retirement accounts (IRAs):

  • Individual
  • Joint
  • Traditional
  • Roth
  • Rollover
  • Custodial

Ally Invest is also a solid choice if you’re trying to minimize the impact fees have on your overall investments. Ally doesn’t charge trading commissions on exchange traded funds (ETFs), options or U.S. exchange-traded stocks.

Once you’ve opened your account, Ally Invest’s online trading platform and research tools are easy to use. While you won’t find earnings transcripts, SEC filings, earnings press releases or audio calls, you can still dig into technical data using free screeners and other tools powered by Recognia.

Ally Invest fees and features

Current promotions

New Ally Invest accounts accounts receive 90 days of commission-free trades, up to $500 in value, regardless of deposit amount. Cash bonuses are available for new accounts starting at $50 for if you deposit or transfer at least $10,000.

Stock trading fees
  • $0.00 per trade
Amount minimum to open account
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
  • Futures / commodities
  • Forex
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $50 full account transfer fee
  • $50 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • 529 Plan
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account(ESA)
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • SEP IRA
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android , Windows phone
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email

Commissions and fees

Online brokers, including Ally Invest, have reduced trading commissions to zero on a wide range of assets. As mentioned above, Ally Invest offers commission-free trading of ETFs, U.S. exchange-traded stock and options. However, the online broker still charges some fees:

  • Bonds: $1.00 per trade
  • Mutual funds: $9.95 per trade
  • Margin accounts: Varies
  • IRA transfer fee: $50
  • IRA closure fee: $25
  • Returned checks, ACH or wires: $30
  • Paper statements: $4
  • Restricted accounts and broker-assisted trades: $20 plus commission
  • Short stock: daily charge at cost
  • ATM withdrawals: $1

Additionally, Ally Invest will reimburse you up to $150 in transfer fees you might accrue from your current brokerage firm.

Fees mentioned in the article are accurate as of the date of publishing.

Tradable asset categories

Ally Invest allows you to trade a variety of asset classes, including:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options (equity and index)
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Margin account
  • Forex

If you’d rather take a hands-off approach, you can look into managed portfolios, which is Ally’s version of a robo-advisor. There are four different portfolio types:

  • Core: A variety of diversified choices, including international, domestic and fixed-income assets. You can choose your risk tolerance, from conservative to aggressive.
  • Income: If you’re in retirement or close to it, this option allows you to take a conservative risk tolerance with higher dividend returns.
  • Tax optimized: If you earn a lot of money, you can make after-tax contributions to your investment account, which can lower your tax bill and maximize investments.
  • Socially responsible: This account is filled with ethical companies that practice sustainability, energy efficiency or other initiatives that are good for the environment.

While these portfolios are managed and rebalanced algorithmically by computers like other robo-advisors, Ally Invest says that live financial analysts design its portfolios.

Trading technology and experience

Ally Invest allows you to set up an investing platform with customizable features that work best for you. You can create custom watchlists to observe market data that’s relevant to your investments. This also helps you monitor particular stocks or other investments — if they drop to a favorable amount, you can jump in to buy. Other technology highlights include:

  • Profit/loss graph: If you’re interested in a particular investment, the profit/loss graph gives you the chance to see the potential of it before buying. This is helpful if you’re considering an investment but want to determine whether it’ll earn you money without actually putting money towards it.
  • Market data: When you’re looking to learn more about a company, your investment platform lets you check company quotes, charts, high and low prices, dividend dates, peer performance comparisons and other news about the company.
  • Probability calculator: Unsure about an investment’s potential performance? This lets you check the volatility of it and see if it will help you hit your investment goals.

Ally Invest has mobile apps for iOS and Android users, or you can log in to your account through your mobile browser to use the Ally Invest LIVE platform. From there, you can check your watchlist and stream quotes.

You can also check quotes, charts, earnings, company news and more when you log in to your account and click “Research.”

Strengths of Ally Invest

Ally Invest has plenty of strengths to help it stand out from the competition, including the following:

  • No minimum deposit required: Ally Invest doesn’t have a minimum initial deposit requirement, which makes it simple to get started with only a little cash. You can also earn a cash bonus for opening an Ally Invest account if you deposit or transfer just $10,000, compared with a $25,000 minimum to earn a cash bonus with E*Trade or $20,000 with Merrill Edge.
  • Powerful tools and intuitive trading platform: Ally Invest’s online site offers you powerful tools to screen investments. Its trading platform is intuitive and provides the features necessary to be an informed investor. This includes a dashboard you can customize to your preferred view, as well as real-time streaming quotes and up-to-date data.
  • Responsive online and phone customer service: Ally Invest can be contacted via phone 24/7. There’s also an online chat feature, where you can get answers within seconds from helpful customer service agents. Email support is available, as well.
  • Hundreds of ETFs. Ally Invest offers 500+ ETFs from Vanguard, GlobalX, iShares and others.

Drawbacks of Ally Invest

Ally Invest also has some downsides to consider:

  • Mutual fund transaction fees: Ally Invest charges a $9.95 transaction fee per trade for no-load mutual funds. But many competitors offer options without any transaction fees, including E*Trade, which offers more than 4,400 fee-free funds.
  • A mobile app with minimal features: While you can do the basics with Ally Invest’s mobile app, it offers far fewer features and investment tools than competitor apps such as TD Ameritrade Mobile.
  • No physical branches: Ally Invest is an online-only company. There are no physical branches, unlike competitors such as Merrill Edge or E-Trade, which has more than 30 branches spread across the country.

Is Ally Invest safe?

Ally Invest is a trusted online brokerage with more than $4.7 billion in assets under management. It’s a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), so you can rest assured that the cash in your accounts is safe. And since the company has passed its Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker check, you can count on the fact that it’s in full compliance with regulations.

Since Ally Invest is online-only, it’s also important to review Ally’s data protection policies. The good news is Ally Invest promises that they use “multiple levels of security” to keep your info safe. This includes 128-bit SSL encryption for any exchange of data from your browser and Ally’s servers if your personal information is being transmitted. The downside, however, is that Ally’s privacy policy does permit Ally Invest to share your information with third parties. While common, it’s important to keep in mind.

Of course, once you invest your money, there’s always a risk of losses. Investing means you can potentially lose money. Research what you’re investing in carefully, and diversify your portfolio to minimize the risks you’re taking.

Bottom line

Thanks to the fact it has no minimum deposit requirement for its self-directed brokerage accounts, Ally Invest is a great choice if you’re looking to get started investing and you don’t have a ton of money. Commission-free investments give you a diverse offering of low-cost or no-cost options.

But the high mutual fund transaction fees are a turnoff. Along with that, not being able to meet with an advisor face-to-face could deter you from signing up. Since Ally doesn’t have physical branches, you may feel like you’re missing out without the in-person interaction.

Overall, it’s a great option for beginning and intermediate investors. The offerings might not be as detailed for expert investors, but if you’re looking to get started or enhance your experience, Ally Invest might work for you.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy |

Christy Rakoczy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christy here

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Investing

thinkorswim Review 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Thinkorswim is a free trading platform available to TD Ameritrade customers. You’ll need a TD Ameritrade account to use it and it’s one of several trading platforms available to investors, including a simpler web-based platform as well as a mobile platform that works on iOS and Android.

TD Ameritrade describes thinkorswim as a “professional-level trading platform for serious traders,” and it lives up to this promise. In fact, it’s one of the most feature-rich platforms offered, and only a few others, such as TradeStation, come close to comparing. Costs for frequent traders are rock-bottom since TD Ameritrade offers commission-free trading for stocks, ETFs, and options.

But while you’ll get all the premium features you can imagine — including real-time data streaming, more than 400 technical studies, advanced charting tools and much more — mastering professional-level tools can be challenging for beginners.

thinkorswim
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The Bottom Line: Thinkorswim is a trading platform with everything a professional trader needs.

  • All TD Ameritrade customers can use thinkorswim for free.
  • Investors can use thinkorswim to trade a wide variety of assets including equities, ETFs, options, futures, forex, and options on futures.
  • You can trade select securities 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, except holidays.

Who should consider thinkorswim?

If you’re already a TD Ameritrade customer, consider using thinkorswim if you’re an active trader or if you want to test out investing strategies without putting real money at risk.

If you don’t currently have an account with TD Ameritrade, it may be worth opening one to get access to this powerful trading platform, along with its paperMoney program, which allows you to test out trading strategies and monitor progress without putting real money at risk. Since there’s no minimum deposit required to open an account with TD Ameritrade — and all account holders can access thinkorswim for free — you have little to lose by giving the platform a try.

Another benefit is that TD Ameritrade does not charge commissions to trade stocks, ETFs, or options on U.S. or Canadian exchanges. If you have been looking to try out trading to see if it is right for you, thinkorswim is one of the lowest cost ways to get your feet wet. Competitors TradeStation and Zacks Trade have equally powerful platforms, but both charge trading commissions, which can add up fast for active traders.

thinkorswim fees and features

Current promotions

Get up to $600 when you open and fund an account within 60 calendar days of account opening, depending on deposited amount.

Option trading fees
  • $0.00 / trade + $0.65 / contract
Stock trading fees
  • $0.00 per trade
Amount minimum to open account
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Options
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Futures / commodities
  • Forex
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $75 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • 529 Plan
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account(ESA)
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Custodial IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • Solo 401(k) (for small businesses)
  • SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)
  • Trust
  • Guardianship or Conservatorship
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email, 364 branch locations
Research resources
  • Mutual fund reports

Strengths of thinkorswim

Some of the big advantages of using thinkorswim include:

  • Professional level-trading tools and access to endless data. Thinkorswim provides access to advanced charting tools including visuals, Fibonacci tools, and a choice of 20 drawings. You can also use thinkorswim to analyze more than 400,000 economic data points and economic indicators across six continents; can build your own algorithms using thinkScript; and can access options statistics including the Sizzle Index, which allows you to compare current option volume with the five-day average volume.
  • $0 stock, ETF, and options trading. TD Ameritrade allows customers to trade online exchange-traded stocks, ETFs, and options for free on U.S. and Canadian exchanges. This places thinkorswim ahead of competitors that charge more for similarly advanced trading tools. A similar equity trade at TradeStation would cost $5 per trade and an options trade would be $5 plus $0.50 per contract. One word of caution: while options trade commission-free at thinkorswim, there is still a $0.65 per contract fee.
  • Easy navigation and in-app support. You can quickly find the information you’re looking for with a dedicated in-platform search engine. And if you run into trouble when using the trading platform, the in-app chat allows you to text live with a trading specialist and even share your screen to get immediate assistance.
  • PaperMoney allows you to test out trading strategies and track the performance of your investments. This stock market simulator is a great one for beginning traders and for investors who are more risk averse and who want to see real-world results before putting funds at risk.
  • 24/5 trading of a wide range of investments. You don’t have to limit your trading only to standard market hours.

Drawbacks of thinkorswim

Potential downsides of thinkorswim include:

  • A steep learning curve. Mastering thinkorswim can be difficult for beginning investors who aren’t familiar with professional-level trading tools. There’s a learning center, but it may take time to watch demos and read the thinkorswim training manual to learn how to navigate the platform.

Is thinkorswim safe?

Investing is never risk-free. When buying Stocks, ETFs, Options or other investments, you assume the risk of losing money if the investments you buy perform poorly.

But with thinkorswim, you don’t have to worry about losing money because of your broker’s business practices. Thinkorswim is offered by TD Ameritrade, which has $1.3 trillion in assets under management and is a well-respected and established brokerage firm.

TD Ameritrade is a member of the FDIC and SIPC, so cash deposited in your account is federally insured. And the company’s FINRA broker page attests to the fact the broker is in full compliance with regulatory requirements.

TD Ameritrade also aims to deliver the highest security in the industry, and even promises to reimburse you for cash or shares lost from your account due to unauthorized activity that occurs through no fault of your own.

Final thoughts

If you want a full-featured trading platform that provides round-the-clock trading, automatic orders and all the data you could ever need, thinkorswim is a great choice. With commission-free trades for stocks, ETFs and options, both seasoned traders and folks taking their first trading steps can find the resources they need at TD Ameritrade.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy |

Christy Rakoczy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christy here

Advertiser Disclosure

Investing

Zacks Trade Review 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Zacks Trade is an online broker perfect for self-directed investors who want low per-share prices on trading U.S. and foreign securities. If you can meet minimum account balance requirements and want access to robust trading tools, Zacks Trade is a top choice.

Zacks Trade allows investors to open individual or Joint taxable accounts, as well as retirement accounts. There’s no inactivity fee if you’re not an active trader, and you pay per share to trade rather than paying a flat-rate commission. You’ll have your choice of trading platforms so you can opt for simplicity or robust features, and you’ll have plenty of tools to research Stocks, ETFs, Mutual funds and other investments.

Zacks Trade sets itself apart from other brokers because of the ease of trading foreign assets and the fact that there’s no additional charge for broker-assisted trades. Clients from more than 200 countries can trade using Zacks Trade, and traders can buy and sell assets on more than 90 international exchanges from one account. But if you need help choosing investments or want an account without a high minimum balance requirement, Zacks Trade may not be the best fit.

Zacks Trade
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The Bottom Line: Zacks Trade offers access to dozens of international exchanges with affordable commissions for trades — all on a feature-rich trading platform.

  • Trade Stocks and ETFs valued at $1 or more for just $0.01 per share, with a $3 minimum cost. For Stocks and ETFs valued at under $1, the commission is 1% of the trade value with a $3 minimum.
  • Zacks Trade has a $2,500 minimum balance requirement, but charges no inactivity fees and margin rates start at just 5.63%. This margin rate is well below many competitors, including E-Trade, which charges as much as 11% for accounts with balances of $10,000 or less, as of January 2019.
  • Investors get a choice of three trading platforms with Zacks Trade and can trade on the web and on mobile devices. Trading platforms are feature-rich, fully customizable and provide powerful charting tools as well as access to real-time data.

Who should consider Zacks Trade?

If you want to choose from several trading platforms, plan to trade actively, and are interested in trading on both U.S. and international exchanges, Zacks Trade is an ideal choice for your online brokerage.

Per-share pricing will keep costs low if you become a Zacks Trade customer, and you could see substantial savings depending upon your trading volume. If you maintain a $10,000 margin debit balance and you make 100 U.S. stock trades annually, buying 300 shares per trade of Stocks valued above $1 per share, Zacks Trade estimates you could save as much as $583.50 compared with Charles Schwab or Fidelity — and even more compared with E-Trade,
Vanguard or TD Ameritrade.

While low-cost trading is a major selling point for active investors, Zacks Trade sets itself apart with its more than 20 subscriptions to services providing market insight. But if you prefer to take a more hands-off investment approach and won’t take advantage of these tools, other brokers may be a better fit. This is especially true if you’re looking for commission-free ETFs or no-load Mutual funds, which Zacks Trade doesn’t offer.

Zacks Trade fees and features

Current promotions

New clients can trade stocks, options, and ETFs for as low as $1 per order for their first year after depositing at least $2,500 within 60 days of account opening.

Stock trading fees
  • $0.01 per share ($3 minimum) for stocks over $1 per share
  • 1% of trade value ($3 minimum) for stocks under $1 per share
Amount minimum to open account
  • $2,500
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Options
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Mutual funds (no transaction fee) offered
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Custodial IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • Trust
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Chat, Email
Research resources
  • A variety of free and paid research subscriptions

Strengths of Zacks Trade

  • Affordable investing with access to foreign and U.S. markets: Zacks Trade allows you to buy and sell both U.S. and foreign investments while paying some of the lowest commissions of any online broker. You’ll pay per share for trades, with a minimum $3 fee for stock and ETF trades. Depending on how many shares you purchase, you could save compared with competitors like E-Trade, which charges a flat-fee $0.00 standard commission for all trades — no matter how many shares you buy.
  • Powerful research tools: You’ll have access to more than 20 free research subscriptions and, for an additional cost, can add optional additional subscriptions.
  • Flexibility and robust feature-rich trading platforms: Zack’s Trade offers a choice of trading platforms for the web, desktop or mobile. You can choose between an uncluttered interface, a customized client portal, or a feature-rich TradePro platform for active investors. You can trade from your tablet or phone, fully customize your layout, and create multiple watchlists for different types of securities. You also have the option to set up real-time alerts and can easily place, modify, or cancel orders right from your orders screen.

Drawbacks of Zacks Trade

  • No commission-free ETFs or Mutual funds. Competitors such as Ally Invest offer hundreds of ETFs and thousands of Mutual funds at no cost, but trading Mutual funds costs $27.50 with Zacks Trade. This is well above many competitors including TradeStation, which offers advanced trading tools and a feature-rich platform like Zacks Trade but which charges only $14.95 for mutual fund transactions.
  • A $2,500 minimum balance is required. This is well above what other brokers require. TradeStation, for example, requires an initial deposit of just $500 for some of its accounts. Other competitors, such as Fidelity , have no minimum balance requirements at all for most account types.
  • Limited options for customer support. While you can get help via phone, email or online chat, customer support is available only during limited hours — unlike competitors that may offer 24-hour support. Plus, there are no branches to visit if you’d like to meet with someone face-to-face, while E-Trade has more than 30 and other online brokers such as Merrill Lynch also offer in-person support.

Is Zacks Trade safe?

Zacks Trade has more than $5 billion in assets under management. Its FINRA Broker Check page confirms it has met all regulatory requirements, and it’s a member of the SIPC, which means cash in your account is insured in case Zacks Trade goes under.

Zacks Trade also takes customer privacy and security seriously, with all Zacks Trade clients receiving a special security code that must be entered with each login.

But when you invest in anything, you’re always taking a risk because those investments could lose their value. You need to understand you could end up with less money than you start with when you invest, although you can take steps to minimize risk — including researching investments carefully and building a diversified portfolio.

Final thoughts

Zacks Trade is a great option if you have at least $2,500 and you want to be proactive in managing investments. The subscriptions and choice of trading platforms give you the control you need, and access to international exchanges means you have a wide pool of investments to choose from.

But if you’re looking for a robo-advisor so you have help managing money, Zacks Trade doesn’t offer this service; you may want to consider competitors such as Betterment or Wealthfront instead. Similarly, if you’ll primarily be investing in ETFs or Mutual funds, research platforms such as Ally Invest or E-Trade, each of which offer many commission-free investments that Zacks Trade doesn’t provide.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy |

Christy Rakoczy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christy here