Experts say Charles Schwab has excellent investment tools, research and customer support -- and these are available in person at hundreds of branch locations. Costs are not the lowest around, though: investors pay $8.95 per online equity trade. The $1,000 account minimum is waived if you deposit at least $100 per month in your account. If your trading needs are simple, Scottrade (*Est. $7 per trade) offers lower commissions and fees, and it has more than 500 branch locations throughout the U.S.
The best reviews of Charles Schwab come from our top-ranked reviewers: SmartMoney magazine, Barron's and Kiplinger.com. J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 self-directed investor satisfaction survey also includes Schwab. TopTenReviews.com evaluates Charles Schwab as well.
This annual broker survey names the best and worst online brokers (out of 10) in six categories, and ranks them in a table that accompanies the article. Charles Schwab is ranked fifth overall, and for 2012 it's not named the best broker in any category, though it does accumulate 5-star ratings for banking services and research. According to a summary in the comparison table, Schwab offers a "wide assortment" of investment and banking options, however, some of its fees are on the high side.
Review: Best and Worst Brokers of 2012, J. Alex Tarquinio, May 16, 2012
Charles Schwab lands in 12th place in the 2012 ranking of 27 online brokers, but it is named one of the top brokers for long-term investing, for in-person service and for novices. Reviewer Theresa W. Carey writes that Schwab is updating its trading tools with a new streaming platform, but "the usual Web platform is looking tired."
Review: Cut the Cord, Theresa W. Carey, March 12, 2012
Charles Schwab is included in ConsumerReports.org's survey, in which subscribers were asked to rate their brokers. Brokers are rated on their customer service, website usability, phone service and financial advice. A chart showing brokers' rankings appears in the February 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
Review: Brokerage Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Feb. 2012
4. J.D. Power and Associates
More than 3,700 "self-directed" investors -- those who make all of their investment decisions without an investment adviser -- responded to J.D. Power and Associates' annual investor satisfaction survey in 2012. Out of 10 brokers, Charles Schwab is ranked first for overall investor satisfaction, with 801 total points. Three other brokers score nearly as highly, however, and earn similar 5- PowerCircle ratings.
Review: 2012 Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, June 14, 2012
Elizabeth Ody at Kiplinger.com evaluate 14 brokerages by scrutinizing costs, site features and research tools. Charles Schwab is ranked fifth of the 14. The reviewer notes that Schwab "offers the broadest list of funds with no loads or transaction fees," but that its overall ranking "was weighed down by a surprisingly poor showing on customer service this year."
Review: Best Online Brokers for 2011: Charles Schwab, Elizabeth Ody, Jan. 2011
Despite the name, 18 brokers are reviewed here, and data about them are summarized in a comparison chart. Charles Schwab is rated ninth out of the 18. The reviewer likes Charles Schwab's 24/7 customer service and recommends the firm for those who "are looking for the whole investment package."
Review: Charles Schwab Review, Editors of TopTenReviews.com