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How Ally, Fidelity and Schwab Compare

May 29, 2018
Brokers, Investing
ally-fidelity-schwab
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The competition among online brokers has become a game of inches among top-tier players like Ally Invest, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, all of which charge industry-low rates for stock trades.

But as always with investing, small moves can have a big impact on returns, as does finding the brokerage whose offers best mirror your investing habits. (Not sure how to start? Read our explainer on opening a brokerage account.)

At a glance

allysmall


Stock / options trading costs: $4.95 / $4.95 + $0.65 per contract; volume discount available.

Account minimum: $0.

Account fees: $0 inactivity/account fees; $50 full outgoing transfer fee and $50 IRA closing fee.

Tradable securities: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, futures, forex.

Commission-free ETFs: None.

Mutual funds: No transaction-fee-free mutual funds; $9.95 per trade.

Customer support options: 24-7 online chat, email and phone service and support; no branches.

Promotion: $50-$3,500 in cash bonus + free trades with a qualifying deposit.

fidelity


Stock / options trading costs: $4.95 / $4.95 + $0.65 per contract

Account minimum: $0, though mutual funds may require $2,500.

Account fees: No annual or inactivity fee; $50 account closing fee.

Tradable securities: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, forex.

Commission-free ETFs: More than 90 commission-free ETFs.

Mutual funds: More than 3,700 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Customer support options: Phone support 24/7; live chat and email support; more than 180 local branches.

Promotion: Fund an account with $50,000 and get 300 commission-free trades, plus access to Active Trader Pro platform. Fund an account with $100,000 and get 500 commission-free trades.

schwabsmall


Stock / options trading costs: $4.95 / $4.95 + $0.65 per contract

Account minimum: $1,000; often waived with automatic monthly transfers of $100 or more.

Account fees: No annual or inactivity fee; $50 account closing fee.

Tradable securities: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, futures.

Commission-free ETFs: More than 200 commission-free ETFs.

Mutual funds: More than 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Customer support options: 24/7 phone support; live chat and email support; more than 300 local branches.

Promotion: $100 referral award for first-time clients.

 
Stock trading costs
$4.95$4.95$4.95
Options trading costs
$4.95 + $0.65 per contract; volume discount available$4.95 + $0.65 per contract$4.95 + 65 cents per contract
Account minimum
$0 $0, though mutual funds may require $2,500.$1,000; often waived with automatic monthly transfers of $100 or more.
Account fees
No inactivity/account fees; $50 full outgoing transfer fee and $50 IRA closing fee.No annual or inactivity fee; $50 account closing fee.No annual or inactivity fee; up to $50 account closing or transfer fees.
Tradeable securities
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
• Forex
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Forex
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Mutual funds
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
Commission-free ETFs
More than 100 commission-free ETFs. More than 90 commission-free ETFs.More than 200 commission-free ETFs.
Mutual funds
No transaction-fee-free mutual funds; $9.95 per trade. More than 3,700 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.More than 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
Customer support options
24/7 online chat, email and phone service and support; no branches. Phone support 24/7; live chat and email support; more than 180 local branches.24/7 phone support; live chat and email support; more than 300 local branches.
Promotion
$50-$3,500 in cash bonus + free trades with a qualifying deposit.Fund an account with $50,000 and get 300 commission-free trades, plus access to Active Trader Pro platform. Fund an account with $100,000 and get 500 commission-free trades.$100 referral award for first-time clients.

Ally Invest, Fidelity and Schwab are all 5-star category winners in our roundup for best online brokers for stock trading. But look more closely; there are some important pros and cons for each brokerage.

Ally Invest

Ally Invest earned our top ranking for low costs. In addition to sharing that industry-low $4.95 commission, Ally offers volume discounts, meaning that if you make 30 or more trades per quarter the commissions drop to $3.95. And while Fidelity and Schwab may have a four-figure account minimum to clear on certain investments, Ally lets you get started with a $0 minimum.

Ally Invest offers a suite of investing tools that surpass what you might expect to find from a discount broker, including a browser-based platform that offers quick trading capabilities, real-time streaming quotes and data, and a customizable dashboard. And advanced traders, take note: While Fidelity offers foreign-exchange trading and Charles Schwab offers futures trading, Ally is the only provider among these three that offers both.


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QUICK FACTS

  • Commissions: $4.95
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Promotion: $50-$3,500 in cash bonus + free trades with a qualifying deposit
Get started on Ally Invest's secure site

Ally has more than 100 commission-free exchange-traded funds — a nice selling point for investors who want to build their portfolio gradually with ETFs. But none of the more than 12,000 mutual funds the broker offers are free of transaction fees (although the $9.95 cost per no-load mutual fund trade is far lower than other brokers). Ally’s online-only presence keeps costs down, but may be a turnoff to beginning investors who want to visit a branch office for help.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Ally Invest review

Fidelity Investments

Fidelity was rated one of our best overall brokers for its low commissions, deep pool of research resources and easy-to-use platform that can be customized for advanced traders.

Fidelity also earns strong marks for customer service and education; the company offers in-person help and free investor seminars at branch locations throughout the country. Customers who qualify for the company’s Active Trader Services get 24/7 access to dedicated trading specialists.


NerdWallet is a free tool to find you the best credit cards, cd rates, savings, checking accounts, scholarships, healthcare and airlines. Start here to maximize your rewards or minimize your interest rates. Kevin Voigt

QUICK FACTS

  • Commissions: $4.95 per trade
  • Account minimum: $0, though mutual funds may require $2,500
  • Promotion: 300 commission-free trades with qualifying deposit
Get started on Fidelity's secure site

 

 

Fidelity touts a $0 minimum to open an account, but many mutual funds require a $2,500 initial investment. You can avoid that minimum with automatic investments of at least $200 a month. Access to some of Fidelity’s trading platforms and tools are restricted to high-volume traders; for example, the firm’s Active Trader Services require placing at least 120 trades in a rolling 12-month period and keeping a $25,000 minimum balance.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Fidelity review

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is another top overall broker, with options that will appeal to both beginning and experienced investors. Beginners will like Schwab’s customer service and educational support through its large network of branches, where you can attend complimentary workshops and meet with financial consultants by appointment.

Schwab offers a mix of sophisticated tools and a pair of trading platforms, which will appeal to active traders. It also has a great investment selection of nearly 250 commission-free ETFs and more than 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.


NerdWallet is a free tool to find you the best credit cards, cd rates, savings, checking accounts, scholarships, healthcare and airlines. Start here to maximize your rewards or minimize your interest rates. Kevin Voigt

QUICK FACTS

  • Commissions: $4.95
  • Account minimum: $1,000
  • Promotion: $100 referral award for first-time clients
Get started on Schwab's secure site

One downside to Schwab is its $1,000 account minimum to get started, though you can avoid it with automatic monthly transfers of $100 into the account. Another is the cost to buy transaction-fee funds — $76, one of the highest charges among brokers. Still, with Schwab’s long list of no-transaction-fee funds, it’s easy to sidestep these.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Charles Schwab review

Final look

Selecting a brokerage to begin stock trading can feel like an onerous task, but each of these stockbrokers is a stellar choice for most investors. Narrowing down the choice means examining the costs, features and options that best match your investing needs.




Best for:
Low costs / Active traders / Forex and futures trading

Falls short:
No commission-free ETFs / No transaction-fee-free mutual funds / No branches



Best for:
Premium research / Choice of no-transaction-fee mutual funds / Investor education

Falls short:
No futures trading / Some tools restricted to active traders / $2500 minimum for most mutual funds




Best for:
Beginner and experience investors / Choice of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and commission-free ETFs / Customer service

Falls short:
No forex trading / High cost of transaction fee funds
 
Best for
  • Low costs
  • Active traders
  • Forex and futures trading
  • Premium research
  • Choice of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • Investor education
  • Beginner and experienced investors
  • Choice of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and commission-free ETFs
  • Customer service
Falls short
  • No transaction-fee-free mutual funds
  • No branches
  • No futures trading
  • Some tools restricted to active traders
  • $2,500 minimum for most mutual funds
  • No forex trading
  • High cost of transaction fee funds

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