Best Online Broker for Bonds
TradeKing is often used by stock and option traders for the firm's very good $4.95 commission. Less well known is the broker's excellent bond trading tools, including a reasonable price schedule. Let's take a detailed look at buying and selling fixed-income products with the firm.
Bond Research and Education
TradeKing has good educational materials on its website for investors interested in trading bonds. These include several articles on buying and selling fixed-income products. One article covers several topics, for example, including how to understand bond prices and the advantages of a bond ladder.
Investors at TradeKing can buy and sell U.S. Treasury bonds, corporate bonds (both new issues and secondary market debt), government agency debt, strips and zeroes, certificates of deposit, and municipal bonds (including new issues and secondary market trading). The broker has a good selection of research and educational tools for these products.
The website's main page for fixed-income investments displays current yields for U.S. Treasuries, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, and certificates of deposit. Users can select different maturities and ratings. A chart showing the yield of a certain bond, such as a 3-year Treasury, is shown. This chart can easily be changed by clicking on different maturities, which will display the appropriate graph for the relevant maturity.
Below the charts is a bond table with different types of bonds and ratings on the vertical axis and different maturities on the horizontal axis. For example, there are corporate bonds rated BBB, and munis rated AA. Clickable yields are displayed for a certain bond category with a certain maturity date. Clicking on the yield displays various bonds that fit the category. These will be from multiple issuers. As an example, corporate bonds rated A with a maturity range of 10-20 years have an average yield of 3.493. Clicking on this yield produces a list of available bonds from issuers such as Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Starbucks, and National Rural Utilities Cooperative.
TradeKing has good screeners for all fixed-income products. Some of the requirements users can specify in the screeners include maturity, rating, yield, interest payment frequency, and call status. Clicking on 'Find Bonds' produces a list of choices, sometimes in the thousands. These items can be sorted by issuer, rating, maturity, coupon, yield, or price.
Placing a Trade
Once you've decided on a particular bond to purchase, it's time to submit an order. On the screener's results, clicking on the 'Buy' button produces an order page with a variety of information that should be taken note of. These items include payment frequency, CUSIP, call schedule, payment months, yield to maturity, and price. The order quantity is the one field that is changeable. Type in the number of bonds you want to purchase (one bond has a face value of $1,000) and click on 'Calculate' to get an estimate of what the order is going to cost. If everything looks as expected, click on 'Preview Order'. This final review page will display any commission that TradeKing will charge. If everything looks okay, click on 'Submit Order'. Fixed-income orders may take longer than a typical stock or ETF order, sometimes up to 20 minutes to complete.
Fixed-income Fees and Commissions
TradeKing imposes a $1 charge per bond per trade, with a $10 minimum and $250 maximum. CD's are much more expensive at $25 per transaction. Treasury bonds carry no commission at all. However, TradeKing increases the purchase price and decreases the sale price in order to earn a commission from the sale. The markup and markdown are not shown explicitly, but are included in the price.
TradeKing can be reached by phone, fax, e-mail, snail mail, or on-line chat. Phone and chat representatives are available during the week from 8 am to 6 pm, EST. The broker promises a 2-hour response time to e-mails during business hours and a 24-hour response time during the weekend.
While OptionsHouse also is a low-cost broker offering bond trading, it doesn't have the same level of
fixed-income research and education on its site. TD Ameritrade offers new Treasury bonds at $25 a piece
rather than TradeKing's markup. Vanguard has a $10,000 minimum investment for municipal bonds, but TradeKing doesn't; although various bonds have a minimum order
at TradeKing, usually 5 or more. Scottrade has a good section on its fixed-income page devoted to preferred
securities, whereas TradeKing does not.
New customers who open a TradeKing account can receive a reimbursement of up to $150 in transfer fees that are charged by the old broker. Customers must fill out a
transfer form and a reimbursement form along with a statement from the old broker and proof of transfer charges. Promotion link:
Get $100 in free commissions. No hidden fees. No minimums.
Fixed-income traders have excellent resources at TradeKing along with low bond trading commissions. This company is rated Best Bond Brokerage in 2016 and is
worth checking out.
Updated on 6/15/2016.