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When I first started investing way back in the late 1990’s, there weren’t many options for me to choose from when it came to brokers. The world of online brokers was still in its infancy. I had to resort to a brick-and-mortar discount broker that charged me about $30 to place a trade. We have come a very long way.
Now the internet is full of various online broker options for you to choose from.While having more choices looks good on the surface, it does make it harder for you to find exactly what you are looking for. Some might offer a few features you like and another broker offers you some other features. And now that the industry is beginning to consolidate, it is making your choice even more important.
The question becomes, which one do you pick? You have to find the right match for you long term so that you have the tools you need to be a successful investor.
Let’s start your analysis by looking at a review of Scottrade, one of the best online brokers you can choose to do business with.
Scottrade Review Summary
- Ease of Use
- Account Fees
- Account Types
- Customer Service
Scottrade is well known for their $7 trades. They are an excellent fit for all investors now that they are merging with TD AMeritrade. With all of the research, investment options and educational resources, Scottrade is near the top in most online broker reviews. Make sure you don't make the mistake of overlooking all they have to offer.
Table of Contents
My Scottrade Review
Scottrade History & Background
You are probably most familiar with Scottrade because of their interesting commercials and that their corporate color is purple. What you probably didn’t know though is that Scottrade began way back in 1980! Back then, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had just deregulated fixed trading fees for brokers.
Since the internet was still a pipe dream, Scottrade began building up a network of branch locations throughout the country. Then in 1998, they launched their website to trade online for an unheard of $7. The rest they say is history.
Scottrade now has over 500 branches throughout the country, still offers $7 trades, has its own bank and is still ahead of the game technology-wise.
In 2017, TD Ameritrade purchased Scottrade and has begun to combine the two brokers. By the end of February 2018, all customers will have their accounts at TD Ameritrade.
OK, now on to the features that makes Scottrade so great for investors. I’ll highlight these in bullet points and then go into more detail:
- $7 online trades (this includes market and limit orders) for stocks priced $1 or more.
- Streaming quotes are free for investors. Most other brokers give you free delayed quotes (they are delayed up to 15 minutes). If you want streaming quotes from these brokers, it will cost you.
- Tons of investment options for investors. Choose from stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds, mutual funds, options and CDs. You can invest in non-retirement, retirement and educational accounts as well.
- Scottrade Elite service for some investors. If you open an account with $25,000 or more, you have access to more tools and features for trading.
- Options First for those looking to trade options. The fee for option trading with Scottrade is $7.25 plus $1.25 per contract. The features of the Options First platform allow you to trade complex option strategies like spreads, straddles, strangles, collars and butterflies.
- Easy to use website. There is a lot to be said when you find a website that is easy to navigate and find what you are looking for. I found this to be the case with Scottrade. I had no issues finding what I was looking for.
Overall, Scottrade has positioned itself perfectly in the online broker world. They appeal to both types of investors, active and passive. (Learn more about these types here). You have tons of free trading tools and features for the active investor and many of the same for passive investors. In fact, Scottrade offers over 14,500 mutual funds to invest in and over 3,000 of them are no fee. (If you have no idea what fees you pay on mutual funds, check out Personal Capital.)
With the opening of their own bank, you can now simplify your accounts by dealing with just Scottrade if you like. You get free checks, free ATM transactions and a free debit card. This is great for those who don’t want the hassle of transferring money back and forth between banks.
Other benefits include:
Low account opening fee. You need $500 to open an account. This is a great thing for those looking to invest with a little bit of money. While I love Vanguard, it takes time to save up $3,000 to invest in one of their funds. With Scottrade, getting started investing is easy and they allow you to start investing now as opposed to later.
Low Fees. There is no inactivity fee, no fee if you don’t trade within a calendar year, etc. The only fees you will encounter are the typical fees that most places charge – wires, returned checks, etc.
Amazing Customer Service. You can email, call or chat with representatives or walk into one of their branches. They win the JD Power Award for customer service all of the time and is constantly recognized as one of the best online brokers. You can check out all of the awards and recognition they receive by visiting their website.
Downsides To Scottrade
There are a few downsides to Scottrade to list. Luckily, there are just three and in reality, for most investors, I feel that they are non-factors, meaning they won’t sway you one way or the other.
- Dividend Reinvestment Plan: up until 2013, there was no dividend reinvestment plan offered at Scottrade. Now there is, but it is still something that lacks. With most dividend reinvestment plans, when you get a dividend, you can take that money and use it to simply buy more shares of the stock or ETF. In most cases, this leads to owning fractional shares (4.3874 for example). Scottrade’s plan works differently. It “pools” all of your dividends into one place and you can then buy up to 5 securities at a time, but you cannot own fractional shares. The good news is that there is no fee for this. The bad news is that it isn’t a true dividend reinvestment plan.
- Zero No-Fee ETFs: Scottrade currently does not offer any ETFs without any trading fees. This means that when you buy ETFs, you are going to pay the $7 trading fee. This isn’t the end of the world, but many other online brokers are partnering up with ETF providers and offering commission fee ETF trades.
- Lack of Option Trading Abilities: If you plan on trading the complex option strategies I mentioned above, you are going to have to open up an Options First account. There is no fee for this, but it is separate from your standard Scottrade account.
Who Is Scottrade For?
So who is Scottrade for?Before TD Ameritrade bought Scottrade, they were excellent for active investors. You got tons of free tools and functions that most other online brokers charge for or don’t provide.
For long term, buy and hold investors, there were better options out there since Scottrade didn’t offer the same amount of no-fee mutual funds and zero no-fee ETFs.
But TD Ameritrade does offer a lot more then Scottrade did. So overall, TD Ameritrade is a great broker because it offers something for both active and passive investors.
But this doesn’t mean they are the best at either one of these as there are others who specialize in each belief.
Regardless of which online broker you do choose, you should check out my book, 7 Investing Steps That Will Make You Wealthy, to ensure you earn the highest return with the least risk possible.
Alternatives To Scottrade
So who might be a better fit for your investing dollars? It all depends on what type of investor you are.
Ally Invest: This might be a surprise to some investors but Ally Invest is secretly a powerhouse for active traders. They bought TradeKing a couple years ago and took all of the great features and tools they had to offer. It really is worth checking out if you are an active investor. You can get started with Ally Invest here.
Charles Schwab: This is another ‘one size fits all’ broker. They are the one I primarily use and couldn’t be happier. They offer low stock trade commissions and a mountain of no-fee ETFs and mutual funds. They are even giving Vanguard a run for their money when it comes to the lowest expense fees on these products too. You can get started with Schwab here.
Wealthsimple: For those interested in buy and hold investing, Wealthsimple is worth a look. They are relatively new to the robo-advising world, but they offer free investing on balances up to $5,000 and then a super low fee after that. You can get started with Wealthsimple here.
M1 Finance: Another new player to the broker world, M1 is changing the game. They offer free stock trading on all transactions. You can build a portfolio using stocks and ETFs, or one or the other. The choice is yours. They also have some pre-built portfolios to choose from as well. You can get started with M1 Finance here.
As I mentioned throughout this post, if you are an active trader, Scottrade is a great fit for you. And with the merger with TD Ameritrade, the features available to you should only increase.
For passive investors, the merger is a good thing too, offering many no-fee investments that were otherwise off the table.
But what they offer won’t be right for everyone. You still need to research and make sure they are offering you what you need to succeed as an investor.
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.