Experts say Charles Schwab has excellent investment tools, research and customer support -- all available online and in person at hundreds of branch locations. At about $9 per trade, costs are not the lowest around, though Schwab is a full-service brokerage.
Account minimum may be waived. Signing up with Charles Schwab is relatively easy, and the $1,000 minimum investment can be waived with regular deposits. The company's revamped and simplified website is much easier to use, reviewers say, and its StreetSmart Edge platform is "highly flexible," according to the expert at Reviews.com.
Among its benefits are customizable charts and tools, so you can see the information that's most important to you. Schwab also has outstanding research -- especially for mutual funds and ETFs, according to the American Association of Individual Investors -- all for free with an account. Mobile trading is available for Android, iPad and iPhone, and mobile deposits are offered.
Moderate costs, many investment options. Charles Schwab's costs are moderate (Est. $9 per online equity trade). Minimums aren't too high (Est. $1,000 for a variety of IRAs, brokerage accounts and even Education Savings Accounts) and can be waived. There are no account maintenance fees and broker-assisted fees aren't too high (Est. $25 plus the original trade fee). Many mutual funds are free to trade online, but transaction-fee funds (Est. $76) are on the high end. There are a wealth of investment options, including mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, options and stocks in 35 countries as well as 60 global exchanges. Futures trades can be made through the company's subsidiary, OptionsXpress.
24/7 phone support and retail brokerages. Charles Schwab offers superior customer service, including 24-hour phone support and 300 brokerage offices for face-to-face assistance. There is also email and live chat support, but no online community. The company's investment research (both in-house and third-party) is praised by experts and includes extensive information on global stocks and industries. StockBrokers.com rates Schwab first in research, in part due to its in-house ratings of 3,000 stocks. If your trading needs are simple, Scottrade (Est. $7 per trade) offers lower commissions and fees, and has more than 500 branch locations throughout the U.S.
1. J.D. Power & Associates
More than 3,600 investors who make all of their investment decisions without an investment adviser responded to J.D. Power and Associates' 2013 self-directed investor satisfaction survey. They rate firms' performance in six areas, including interaction, account information and trading charges and fees. Scottrade comes in first with 810 out of 1,000 points (and 5 out of 5 stars), but Charles Schwab (796) and Vanguard (795) follow close behind.
Review: 2013 U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, June 17, 2013
Investor's Business Daily's website, Investors.com, identifies the best online brokers based on a survey of 10,250 Investor.com readers. Charles Schwab is ranked second after USAA in overall customer experience and is first in research tools.
Review: Top 5 Online Brokers Ranked for Every Investor Type, Victor Reklaitis, Feb. 5, 2013
Charles Schwab gets 4 out of 5 stars from this expert reviewer, who praises its 24-hour customer service and "the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry." The reviewer is also pleased with Schwab's trading tools.
Review: Charles Schwab Review, Ed Carlson, June 7, 2013
4. AAII: The American Association of Individual Investors
Charles Schwab is a leading online broker in the American Association of Individual Investors' member survey. The association tests brokers and compliments Schwab's clean, simplified redesigned website and international market research.
Review: Online Discount Brokers, Joe Lan, Not Dated
StockBrokers.com reviews 17 online brokers. Charles Schwab is ranked third, with its highest score for research and low scores for commissions and fees. It gets 4 out of 5 stars, behind first pick TD Ameritrade and second pick E*Trade.
Review: Online Broker Review 2013, Blain Reinkensmeyer, Feb. 19, 2013