TradeKing may be a deep-discount broker — indeed, it’s one of our top low-cost options — but its robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools puts it in line with some of its more well-known (and higher-priced) active trading competition.
January 29, 2016
- Commissions: $4.95
- Account minimum: $0
- $100 to $1,000 in free trade commissions for new clients, depending on account balance
TradeKing is best for:
- Active traders
- Fee-conscious traders
- Options traders
- Free data analysis software
- User-friendly tools
|Overall||Winner of NerdWallet's award for best low-cost broker|
|Stock trading costs||$4.95|
|Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)||$50 annual inactivity fee for customers who don’t place at least one trade per year or maintain a balance of $2,500; $50 outgoing transfer or IRA closing fee|
|Trading platform||Browser-based platform with free screening tools, customizable charting, research and real-time data|
|Research and data||Free|
|Tradable securities||• Stocks
• Mutual funds
Where TradeKing shines
Commissions: Only a few online brokers can beat TradeKing’s low stock and ETF trade commission of $4.95, and the fact that the company’s pricing is so clear-cut is an added bonus. Options contracts are similarly low, at $4.95 plus 65 cents per contract, and multi-leg options orders are priced the same as single leg, with only one base charge.
Account minimum: TradeKing makes it easy for investors to get started, with no account minimum. However, there’s no free lunch: Avoiding the $50 annual inactivity fee requires minimum activity (at least one commission-charged trade per year) and a $2,500 account balance.
Trading platform: TradeKing’s browser-based platform — called TradeKing LIVE — offers quick trading capabilities, real-time streaming quotes and data, a customizable dashboard, and access to all of the tools the broker offers. Customers who frequently trade from various computers — home and work, for example — will appreciate this Web-based platform, which doesn’t require any downloads. TradeKing LIVE has also advanced the ability for customers to trade via mobile devices with the company’s mobile apps, or use a smartphone to simply access the web-based platform. (See our in-depth review of TradeKing LIVE for more details.)
Research and tools: TradeKing offers a suite of tools that exceed expectations for a discount broker, including above-average charting capabilities, technical analysis powered by Recognia, and a range of calculators (e.g., an options pricing calculator to compare current bid/ask prices to forecast theoretical values; a calculator for a trade’s profit and loss potential; and a probability calculator that uses implied volatility to determine how likely it is you’ll hit your targets).
It also has an online trader network, a sort of social media for traders, where users can get insight from others, share strategies and exchange trading notes. Finally, real-time streaming quotes and customizable data is free to investors who trade at least 10 times per month.
Where TradeKing falls short
Commission-free ETFs: TradeKing has none, which isn’t terribly uncommon among discount brokers, but it makes the company a poor option for an investor who wants to dollar-cost average into exchange-traded funds (ETFs) each month, as the $4.95 charge for doing so will add up quickly.
Mutual funds: Again, the company doesn’t offer any transaction-fee-free mutual funds, which can be costly to account holders who want to invest a little bit at a time on a regular basis. On the plus side, mutual fund trades are priced at just $9.95, which is low when compared to close competitor OptionsHouse, which charges $20 per mutual fund trade. Mutual fund investors would still be better off at an online broker who offers a large selection of transaction-fee-free funds.
Inactivity fee: As we mentioned earlier, customers who don’t place at least one trade per year or maintain a balance of $2,500 will be charged a $50 inactivity fee. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a dealbreaker for most users; still, it’s worth pointing out because it’s an asterisk next to TradeKing’s $0 account minimum.
The bottom line
For active investors seeking low-cost trades (plus no hidden fees) and above-average trading tools, TradeKing provides the kind of service you’d expect from a much pricier, high-minimum platform. Options traders in particular will appreciate its strong selection of options and its inexpensive (and easy-to-calculate) flat-fee commission schedule. Cost-conscious active traders may be surprised at how much they can get for so little at TradeKing.
This article updated March 1, 2016. It originally published Feb. 1, 2016.