Note. Ally acquired TradeKing in June 2016.
The most important things that I look for in an online broker are the following:
(1) A proven history of success and expertise
(2) Competitive commission costs
(3) A simple but powerful trading platform
(4) Top-notch research & education
(5) Excellent customer service.
This is my review of the online broker Ally Invest (formerly known as TradeKing), wherein I evaluate what they’ve got to offer based on the 5 criteria that I stated above.
History and Expertise
TradeKing was founded in 2005 to cater to self-directed online investors. Since then they’ve been constantly rated as one of the best online brokerages by Barron’s, StockBrokers.com and Investor’s Business Daily. Those statements tell a lot about this broker, but I’m going to tell you whether they have merit or not in the sections below.
Ally Invest only charges $4.95 for stock and ETF trades, and $4.95 plus 65 cents per contract for options trades. Wow! That’s almost half of what Etrade charges their customers! That’s a big deal for me because I’m an active trader and I generate a lot of trades every month. You see, commissions from those trades can easily add up and can eat up a sizable chunk in your Profit and Loss. Needless to say, I’m very much impressed with their commission rates.
Ally Invest offers an easy to use web-based trading platform as well as a mobile app. It offers streaming quotes and real-time access to your portfolio, watch lists, and trade execution in an easy to understand and customizable layout. This platform is fast, reliable, straightforward, and packed with functionalities that traders would love. It’s also intuitive and easy on the eyes, so investors don’t need to spend so much time learning how to use it.
Research and Education
Aside from their (also) comprehensive library on investing education, Ally Invest also offers advanced analytical tools such as their Options Pricing Calculator, Probability Calculator, Options and Strategy Scanner, Stock, ETF+Mutual Fund Screener, and Maxit Tax Manager among others. I find these tools to be really useful especially for DIY investors, they’re a great resource that turns complex analysis into easily understandable numbers.
Ally Invest offers excellent customer support that can be reached via phone, email, and even live chat. What’s really great about their service is that customers get instant broker access, meaning highly trained and specialized brokers are on call to help you with your concerns- not generic customer service reps that can sometimes become stupefied by trading concerns. They also have an email policy that is probably unheard of in the industry. They respond to emails within 2
hours during normal business hours and 24 hours during the weekend. In my opinion, that’s what you call commitment and service that’s definitely worth the rating that they got from SmartMoney.
What’s unique about Ally Invest is their Trader Network. This is their online trading forum where investors can connect with each other, share strategies and investing ideas, and see what others are trading and how they are performing. This adds a “social” ingredient to investing, and can help DIY investors perform better by opening up the free exchange of ideas. If you’re just starting in stock market investing, I highly suggest you use Ally Invest. Their straightforward platform, lower commission costs, and excellent service will definitely make your investing process much easier and cost-effective.