You can now give the gift of stock ownership through stock gift cards.
In October 2015, Stockpile started offering physical gift cards in stores and for order online for people to present their loved ones with $25, $50, or up to $1,000 of stock ownership in their favorite companies, such as Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook, and more.
The idea behind the stock gift cards is to allow anybody to give, receive, or purchase their own stock in their favorite companies.
Stockpile has nearly a thousand stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), and American depositary receipts (ADRs) to choose from. When you buy a gift card for yourself or redeem one someone gave you, you’ll have stock in a real brokerage account.
In this review, we’ll go over how to use Stockpile, prices and fees you’ll need to look out for, the fine print, and the pros and cons of using this unique brokerage for investment.
How Stockpile Works
Stockpile gift cards are available in stores, but you can also shop on their website and pick out the card you want, depending upon which company you’d like to hold a share in. If you’re buying a stock gift card for someone else, when the recipient redeems it, they’ll get fractional shares of real stock in a real brokerage account.
Stock holders can hold onto their stock and track its progress, buy more, or cash it out by selling it at any time.
Children and teens can own their own stock as long as an adult is on the account with them, but they will be referred to as the beneficiary until they turn 18. Minors can set up their own login on Stockpile separate from the adult on their account and place trades with the adult’s consent.
It’s also important to note that there is no expiration date on the stock gift card, and the value of the card doesn’t change until the card is redeemed for stock. Then, the value of the stock will fluctuate based on the market. Redeeming the card and getting the stock is as easy as entering the code on the back of the card at stockpile.com and signing up for an account on the website.
Stockpile has a short form that needs to be completed before opening an account, which usually takes about three to four minutes to complete. Then, your information will be verified electronically, and you can set up your account instantly in most cases.
Costs and Other Fees
Stockpile prides itself on having affordable fees that are also clear to understand so customers don’t have to feel like they are buying and trading stock on Wall Street.
Customers can purchase e-gift stocks, which are stock ownership gifts delivered via email, that range from $1 to $1,000 plus fees. There are a few fees to consider, depending on how much stock you buy. For stock gift cards that are purchased for $100 and under, there will be a $1.99 fee charged per gift card.
For gift cards over $100, there will be a $1.99 fee plus 3% per gift card. If you want to trade or sell your stock, a $0.99 fee will apply per trade.
Most cash transfers are free, including linking to your bank account and incoming and outgoing Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions. There is no minimum balance requirement or monthly fees, and electronic statements, trade confirms, and tax forms are all free.
On the other hand, there are a few fees that might come as a shock if you’re not prepared, such as the their $30 returned check/ACH/stop-payment fee. If a customer wants to transfer their account to another brokerage, there is also a $75 fee to consider.
Stockpile has pretty straightforward information on its website about how to purchase and use its stock gift cards, but overall, the company has introduced a newer concept by allowing customers to purchase stock gift cards as opposed to doing it through a brokerage firm so it’s important to be aware of the fine print.
Stockpile Investments is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and insures customers’ accounts for up to $500,000. You can transfer your stock to another brokerage, but Stockpile does charge a fee, and it recommends you check with the other brokerage to make sure you meet their minimum balance requirements (if any) and check for any other fees they might have.
While Stockpile gift cards are capped at $1,000, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy more than one. Stockpile sets the limitation due to federal regulations that indicate closed-loop gift cards (cards offered and redeemed by one company) can’t exceed $2,000.
When selling or trading your stock(s), timing is everything. If you place a trade before 3 p.m. EST, your trade will take place that day at the stock’s closing market price, and your stock will be in your account by 6 p.m.
If you are selling a stock and place a trade before 3 p.m. EST, your trade will take place that day at the stock’s closing market price minus the $0.99 commission charged by Stockpile, and the funds will show up in your account within three business days.
If you have tax liability concerns, Stockpile addresses them by providing you with an annual 1099 form that will be posted to your account. While the company doesn’t provide any tax advice, the 1099 will show information about the stocks sold and cash dividends received during the calendar year.
For customers who buy a gift card for others, their taxes will be unaffected and treated as if they were simply buying a gift card with prepaid value. For those who receive a stock gift card, their taxes will remain unaffected until they sell stock or receive any dividends.
Pros and Cons
Pro: Simplified stock buying and trading process. Stockpile’s process is very simple compared to other online brokers. It allows customers to send the gift of stock or to invest in large, well-known companies that they might not have had the option to invest in with other brokers due to the cost and complexity of the overall process.
Con: Variety of fees to consider. While we didn’t find any hidden fees, there are quite a few fees to look out for, including the $75 transfer fee if you want to change brokerages.
Pro: It's easy to convert to a regular gift card. If gift-givers purchase a card for someone who doesn’t want to get into the stock market or won’t find it useful, the recipient can always opt out of using it for stock and use it as a regular prepaid gift card at the retailer or company.
For example, if you purchased a share of stock through a Stockpile gift card for a loved one with a company like Apple, Amazon, or Burger King and the recipient didn’t want the stock, they could redeem it for cash instead. Kids need an adult's permission to do this. This way, the money spent initially doesn’t go to waste.
Con: Limited purchase amount. Some customers may view the limited purchase maximum as a disadvantage if they want to buy more stock than allowed. While the limit is put in place to avoid situations like money laundering and other types of fraud, it’s not necessarily cut out for someone who wants to purchase lots of stock. When a customer initially tries to purchase stock for certain companies, Stockpile may even post a stricter limit in an attempt to help customers avoid high debit and credit card fees. For example, customers can only purchase a maximum of $200 in Amazon stock on the website, but they will have the opportunity to purchase more when they link up their bank account. This two-step process can seem tedious.
Who Stockpile Is Best For
Overall, Stockpile is not best for people looking for a long-term investing strategy. That's because it is widely considered unwise to invest in individual stocks as part of a long-term investing strategy. If long-term investing is your aim, then you should explore better long-term investing options such as opening a low-cost brokerage account or contributing to your employer's 401(k). We have tips on finding a low-fee brokerage firm and a simple guide to setting up a 401(k) here. We've also reviewed several roboadvisors, which are firms that offer low-cost access to the market and mostly allow members to invest in mutual funds and exchange traded funds.
That being said, Stockpile can be used if you'd like to give a loved one a gift of stock, which they can watch grow and learn about investing along the way. The low purchase and sharing fees make buying stock gift cards simple and affordable. For that reason, Stockpile might be a good option for adults who would like to give children in their family an easy way to begin their investing education.
Investing early is important in order to build wealth. Minors who receive stock gift cards for their favorite companies, such as Disney and Mattel, can log in to their account whenever they want and learn more about placing trades and check on the value of their stock with the account’s adult custodian.
However, if you are looking to encourage long-term investing, Stockpile can be an expensive tool to use. If the gift card recipient wants to transfer their stock to a low-cost brokerage firm, where they could diversify their holdings and build a long-term investing strategy, Stockpile will charge them a hefty $75 fee to do so.
For that reason, Stockpile should best be considered an additional way to invest in stocks alongside a more traditional investment portfolio through a brokerage firm, IRA or 401(k).
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