TIAA brokerage rating

TIAA CREF Brokerage Review


2020 TIAA investment service rating and review. TIAA CREF brokerage complaints, minimum deposit, account fees, stock trading and mutual funds investing cost.



TIAA Brokerage Overview


Although TIAA was founded to help teachers with retirement, today it offers much more. You don’t need to work in education to open a securities account, and the broker provides several investment vehicles. If you don’t trust your own judgment, the company offers investment advice for an additional fee. Let’s check out this underrated brokerage house.


TIAA Brokerage Commissions and Minimum Deposit


InvestmentsCommissions
Stocks and ETFs online transactions $0
Stocks and ETFs Automated Telephone System (ATS) $35
Stocks and ETFs broker assisted $55
Stocks and ETFs foreign securities $75 for each order (not applicable to American Depositary Receipts) + commission
Options $0
U.S. Treasury Securities new issues (at auction) $50 per transaction
U.S. Treasury Securities existing issues $1 per $1,000 face amount, $50 minimum
Municipal bonds, government agency bonds, unlisted (over-the-counter, or OTC) corporate bonds and mortgage-backed securities $50 + $2 per bond
Mutual funds No-transaction-fee (NTF) funds Short-term redemptions fee: $50 minimum for shares held less than six months
Mutual funds transaction-fee (TF) funds $50

TIAA minimum deposit to open account $0 for cash account, and $2,000 for margin account
FeesTIAA fees


Bulls Point to...


- Good portfolio management options. Robo and human advisors are available.

- Good selection of mutual funds. No-load, no-transaction-fee funds are on tap.

- Annuities and fixed-income securities are available.


Bears Point to...


- Pricey commission schedule. TIAA did not respond to the recent broker price war.

- Poor trading tools. Software doesn’t offer very much.

- Customer service has weaknesses.


What Type of Trader Is TIAA Best For?


TIAA doesn’t offer a per-share commission schedule, so obviously it’s not a good choice for frequent traders. Infrequent traders will be best served by the company’s commission schedule.

TIAA also doesn’t have the best technology around, so active traders and day traders would be better off elsewhere.

TIAA does offer several investment advisory options; so if you’re looking for some guidance with your investments, TIAA may be a good choice.

Although TIAA offers fixed-income securities, the commissions are rather steep. So it’s somewhat of a tossup for bond traders.


Mutual and Exchange-Traded Funds


TIAA CREF Mutual Funds Rating

After logging into our test account, we used TIAA’s mutual fund screener to find 6,589 securities. Unfortunately, there is no method to find no-transaction-fee or no-load funds. We do know that TIAA offers these types of funds. The search tool is able to look for sectors, expense ratios, and fund families. Also available is Morningstar rating and total return.


TIAA Mutual Funds Review


A mutual fund’s profile page comes with some very helpful information, and it’s displayed in easy-to-digest formats. For example, a fund’s performance history is shown in bar chart format using different colors. A pie chart displays a fund’s sector weightings in different colored slices. If a fund comes with no transaction fee, an NTF logo will be displayed on its profile.

A fund can be added to a watchlist, a profile page can be printed, and alerts can be established for a fund. Alerts can be sent to an e-mail address or phone number.

TIAA manages its own list of funds, and these securities are prominently displayed on the broker’s site. A comparison tool puts TIAA funds side-by-side for easy evaluation.

ETF’s have similar resources, although TIAA doesn’t manage any of its own. An ETF center on the website categorizes funds into groups such as US government bond funds and international funds. The broker’s ETF screener offers a similar selection of search variables as the mutual fund scanner. ETF profile pages are also in a similar format, although volume, options data, and bid-ask spread are additions. Trade buttons are displayed on both mutual and exchange-traded profiles.

The biggest advantage of TIAA’s ETF lineup is a list of 200+ commission-free funds. Some of the fund families include Direxion, First Trust, and Invesco.


Customer Service


TIAA CREF Customer Rating

TIAA offers different phone numbers for different brokerage needs. We consider this a good thing, as it shows that the company has departments that specialize in different activities. The retirement hot line is staffed from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm, EST. These are weekday hours. There’s a Saturday session (no Sunday hours) from 9:00 until 6:00.

The company’s advisory desk can be reached the same hours, although it is a different phone number. The general brokerage line stays open until 7:00 pm, and there’s no Saturday session.

The TIAA website has several self-help features, including some helpful FAQ’s and an internal messaging system. We would like to see an online chat service added. The company’s mobile app is able to upload documents, a helpful feature.

TIAA has many offices around the country that are able to provide financial planning services, which, as we shall see later in this article, come with fees. These locations do not provide general customer service for self-directed accounts.


IRAs


TIAA CREF IRA Rating

TIAA clients can open a range of retirement accounts. The brokerage firm provides Roth, Traditional, SIMPLE, SEP, and Rollover IRA’s. Missing is a self-employed 401(k) plan.

Besides the accounts themselves, the TIAA website offers a lot of very helpful retirement tools. For example, we found a lifetime income calculator that estimates the amount you need to put into an annuity in order to receive a specific amount of money each month.


TIAA IRA Review


There are also articles on the broker’s site that explain differences between IRA types and how to move funds from an old employer plan. TIAA hosts information on its target-date funds, which are designed for retirement saving.


TIAA Fees, Account Minimums, and Commissions


TIAA Fees Rating

TIAA charges nothing for opening, maintaining, or closing a taxable account. Closing some IRA’s can cost $130. Transferring an account via the ACAT system costs $50. An account can be opened with zero deposit.

Stock and ETF trades are $0 each. Option trades carry a $0 per-contract charge on top of the base charge.

TIAA has an automated phone system that accepts orders. However, it costs a rather uncomfortable $35 to place a trade. Using a live representative costs even more: $55.

Moving to fixed-income securities, the picture looks no better. New issues of U.S. Treasuries are $50 per transaction. Secondary trades are $1 per $1,000 of face value, with a $50 minimum. Most other bond trades cost $2 per bond plus $50.

TIAA charges $50 for mutual fund sales when they occur less than 6 months after purchase. This policy is in addition to any short-term redemption fee the fund itself charges.

TIAA offers dollar-cost averaging for mutual funds, and there is no charge for the service.


Portfolio Management


TIAA CREF Portfolio Management Rating

TIAA offers various packages of investment advice. We start with a digital advisor that buys and sells exchange-traded funds. It requires a $5,000 deposit and charges just 30 basis points per year.

Traditionally-managed options are available for higher fees and balance requirements. The advantage is that other financial products (namely bonds, mutual funds, and stocks) are on tap. The minimums vary depending on what specific package you want, but some can require at least $750,000 in assets. Prices range from 0.75% to 1.15%.

A great strength TIAA offers in this category is a large nationwide network of brick-and-mortar locations staffed with licensed financial planners who can provide assistance on all sorts of financial issues.


TIAA Website/Trading Platform/Tools


TIAA CREF Trading Rating

Although TIAA does not emphasize active trading, it does have a decent website. Notice that we said website. There is no browser platform, and of course there is no desktop software.

The website does have a trade bar. After a ticker symbol is entered, the tool displays the security’s last price, the day’s change, the bid-ask spread, and current volume. Clicking on “Actions” and then choosing “Invest” produces the website’s browser-based order ticket.


TIAA Trade Ticket


Besides market and limit, we found stop and stop-limit orders. Time-in-force choices include good for the day, good for 90 days, fill or kill, and immediate or cancel. All or none is another option. To the right of the actual ticket is a real-time quote board for the entered ticker symbol. A small chart can be generated here.

A full-size chart can be found on a stock’s research profile. Although we say full size, we do not mean that a chart can be blown up the width of the monitor. It cannot. Nevertheless, we did find more than ten technical indicators, two company events, and five graph styles. The maximum timeframe of a graph is ten years.


TIAA Charts


The website itself has a nice and simple interface to it. A top menu aids in navigation, although sometimes it was difficult for us to find what we were looking for. A search feature at the top of the page didn’t always help.


Mobile Platform


TIAA CREF App Rating

While the TIAA website was rather basic, the mobile app is even simpler. The home page shows account value, and that’s about it. A “create goal” link produces a mobile-friendly web page from TIAA.


TIAA Investing App Review


There are no option chains on the app, and market indexes are not shown. We found the software’s trading ticket, and that’s about the only thing we did find. There are several steps to get to the final page. For example, you have to select an account, then on the next page you enter the ticker symbol, then another page, and so on. Seems like it would be simpler just to have everything on one page. The same order types on the website are available on the mobile app.

There is no charting on the app, no video financial news, no mobile check deposit, no funds transfer, and no bill pay.

One feature we did like was the mutual fund tracker. A list of funds is shown, and it’s possible to add more; although the platform requires you to go through an alphabetical list. Once you get to a fund’s profile page, Morningstar rating and a small graph are shown.


Education and Research


TIAA CREF Research Rating

The amount of information on mutual funds is fairly limited on the mobile app (and forget about other investments). The best place to do security research is on the broker’s website.

There are several stock profile page formats available, depending on where you start your research. The most comprehensive (found under Accounts > Quick Links > Research stocks) includes a stock rating from Reuters, option chains, financial statements, bar charts of estimated growth trends, and more. A stock can be added to a watchlist, and the profile can be printed.

The bond section on TIAA’s site has a lot of helpful information, including fixed-income indexes and current yield curves. We found the bond screener easy to use, although orders had to be phoned in.

Perhaps the best feature on the TIAA website is free stock reports from Argus in pdf format. The report offers in-depth analysis on the equity in question plus a trade recommendation.

General financial education is also available on the broker’s website under the “Resources” tab. We found brief articles on changing jobs, planning for retirement, and how to invest in bonds.


TIAA Investment Research


Recommendation


TIAA would be a decent broker for new investors. Its website has a good amount of learning materials, although it does fail in some customer service areas. A better suggestion might be Fidelity.

We definitely don’t recommend TIAA for day traders or other investors who need robust trading software.

We can suggest TIAA for small accounts due to the company’s $0 account minimum.

While mutual fund investors do have good resources here, we think USAA and Vanguard would be equally good choices.

It’s hard to suggest TIAA for IRA’s due to the fact that it still lists a $130 IRA closeout fee. Customer service has told us that not all accounts are charged, but as long as the fee is there, we will recommend Ally Invest instead.


TIAA Investments Review Summary


TIAA offers a wide range of financial services, but seems only to really stand out in the investment advisory category.