Low cost brokerage firms

Low Cost Brokerage Firms Investment Accounts


Low Cost Brokerage Firms Overview


Ally Invest, Firstrade, and TD Ameritrade are three very different brokers. They emphasize different investment services, and each one has unique strengths and weaknesses. The following article will compare the three low cost brokerage companies against each other and see if one can be considered the best value.


Low Cost Brokers Commissions


Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Firstrade $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Ally Invest $4.95 $9.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Customer Service


The three brokerage firms have representatives who can be reached over the phone. However, only TD Ameritrade offers this service 24 hours a day. Ally Invest provides phone service on the weekend, while Firstrade doesn't. Ally Invest also have on-line chat, which Firstrade and TD Ameritrade don't offer.

TD Ameritrade operates nationwide networks of branch locations. Currently, TD Ameritrade has 450+ locations. Ally Invest and Firstrade do not have any branch locations.

TD Ameritrade wins the category for its 24/7 phone service.


Low cost brokerage


Pricing


Ally Invest is charging just $4.95 for equity trades. Option contracts are just 65¢ extra. There is no minimum deposit to open an account. Clients making 30+ trades per quarter or with $100K account balance get $3.95 equity trades and 50¢ option contracts. A margin debit of $10,000 at Ally Invest currently costs 9.50%.

Firstrade is the lowest cost brokerage company in our survey. Broker's commission for stock and ETF trades is at $0. Derivative contracts are also $0. The broker has no minimum opening deposit for a securities account. A loan of $10,000 in a margin account costs 9.50% right now.

TD Ameritrade charges $6.95 for ETF and stock transactions. Option traders pay an extra 75¢ for derivative contracts. There is no minimum deposit requirement and there are no account fees. Presently, the broker charges 10.00% for a margin loan of $10,000.

The lowest cost brokerage account is, obviously, Firstrade.


Mutual Funds and ETF's


Ally Invest customers have access to over 8,500 mutual funds. Unfortunately, there are no funds here that have no load and no transaction fee. Funds with no load have a $9.95 charge, while funds with a load are free to buy and sell. The broker offers 115 ETF's commission-free. However, they don't have mutual fund short redemption fee that the two competitors charge.

Firstrade is offering about 10,000 mutual funds. Of these, there are 2,100 that carry no transaction fee and no load. All ETFs are free to buy and sell.

TD Ameritrade provides the most mutual funds at 11,900. Slightly more than 1,900 are no-load, no-transaction-fee products. The broker has 296 exchange-traded funds that carry no commissions.

Firstrade is victorious in this category due to the largest selection of free ETFs.


Promotions

TD Ameritrade: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.

Firstrade: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.



Trading Technology


Despite Ally Invest's low commissions, the broker's website is nicely designed and easy to navigate. At the bottom of the browser is a simple trade bar. It shows important data, such as volume and bid-ask spread. However, it is not able to show a chart. A web-based platform named Ally Invest LIVE operates within a browser window. It is free for all clients. There is also a sophisticated desktop system, but it comes with active trader requirements.

Firstrade recently updated its site, and the changes have improved its navigability. The website has good charting tools. Right in the bottom of the screen is a trading ticket. It is easily expanded so that orders can be entered. Firstrade does not offer an advanced trading platform at this time.


Low cost investment firms


TD Ameritrade has the best website and trading ticket of the three low cost investment firms. SnapTicket is a handy tool that appears at the bottom of the browsing window. It shows important trade information, is able to display a graph, and trades can be placed on it. The broker also offers Trade Architect, a Java-based platform that is launched from the website. A more sophisticated trading program, thinkorswim, is also available. The software has 400 technical studies. Both platforms are free for all traders.

TD Ameritrade wins this category.


Mobile Apps


Trading on the go is available with all three firms. TD Ameritrade's app offers live streaming of CNBC free of charge. One of broker's three mobile apps is a thinkorswim version with advanced charting. There is mobile check deposit and paper trading as well. TD Ameritrade is the lone broker of the three that offers a platform for Apple Watch. The Ally Invest app is the least advanced of the three. It doesn't offer any live streaming of financial news.


Low cost brokerage accounts


Once again, the victory goes to TD Ameritrade.


Low Cost Investment Firms Summary


TD Ameritrade won three categories, Firstrade took first place in very important Pricing and Funds categories, and Ally Invest failed to score. TD Ameritrade is the best overall choice. Firstrade is an excellent broker for mutual funds and frequent stock and ETF traders. Despite the results, Ally Invest is a great broker for beginners.


Broker Reviews

More detailed information about the best low cost investment companies in this comparison is available in our brokerage reviews:

TD Ameritrade brokerage review

Firstrade brokerage review

Ally Invest brokerage review.



Updated on 3/16/2018.