The online broker that stood out among the rest as the best for discounted trading was SureTrader.com. SureTrader is a Bahamas-based company that clears through US-based clearing firms and this setup opens the doors to some VERY appealing features. The best feature about SureTrader is since they’re based offshore; their clients are not subject to the Pattern Day Trader Rule. This is an SEC rule that disallows people with under $25,000 from executing more than 3 day trades in any 5-day rolling period…aimed at protecting new traders/investors from blowing up, it unfortunately also SEVERELY impairs the growth potential for small accounts.
Other highly rated brokers in this category include Lightspeed, Interactive Brokers, TradeKing, MB Trading, Zecco, and SogoTrade. Lightspeed came in second with its tiered rate of $.00395 per share, but the broker also charges a minimum $1 per order for standard Web Trader clients, as well as a $.40 fee for any odd lots (i.e., 99 shares). The other alternative is paying a flat $4.50 per trade. Zecco offers $4.50 stock trades and up to 10 free trades per month for clients that have at least a $25,000 balance or make 25 trades each month.
Lightspeed Trading (www.lightspeed.com)
Pros: Aimed at very active traders and hedge funds, Lightspeed is expanding into international trading this year. For those who want to automate their trading strategies. The costs of trading are very low; it’s worth looking at if you are a high-frequency trader.
Cons: There is way too much firepower for the casual trader.
Interactive Brokers (www.interactivebrokers.com)
Interactive Brokers finishes third overall because of its range of offerings, trading technology and low costs. This firm caters to hedge funds and extremely active traders—you will not be happy here if you want a lot of hand-holding. IB has created a suite of 100 instructional videos that guide you through the intricacies of its platform, the Traders WorkStation; it isn’t an immediately intuitive interface and training is a must.
Once you’re familiar with the interface, though, you’ll find that it’s flexible enough to allow you to trade products from around the world. The Transaction Auditing Group, an independent firm that measures execution quality, found that IB’s execution engine brought customers quite a bit of price improvement. IB’s bond-trading customers can make their own bids and offers in the U.S. corporate market, including the ability to short certain bonds.
TradeKing has a platform aimed at active traders but suitable for anyone who wants streaming data. Called TradeKing LIVE, it gives you news, charts, options chains, account data, and a flexible trade ticket. Customer service is terrific at TradeKing and can be reached via phone or in the TradeKing community, where questions are typically answered in well under a minute.
Pros: Though options-centric, there are plenty of tools for bond, stock and mutual-fund traders as well.
Cons: No international offerings.
MB Trading (www.mbtrading.com)
MB Trading earns its strength of its proprietary platforms and quality of execution. You can trade a wide range of products at MB Trading from a single account. The firm is a boutique broker, so you’ll get personal attention if you need help. MB Trading’s current mission is to provide a suite of trading applications that offer solutions for beginners as well as advanced traders who want to take advantage of its excellent order-management system. MB Trading offers five platforms plus its suite of mobile tools. For relatively new active traders, MBT Lightwave brings a host of screeners and highly visual tools to your desktop. MBT Desktop and Desktop Pro are more sophisticated applications that you download as you progress.
Pros: Zecco’s ZapTrade is a browser add-on enabled on over 70 financial sites (such as Yahoo! Finance and MarketWatch), allowing you to do your research there and place an order in your Zecco account without leaving the site. Quotes and research are revamped and much cleaner.
Cons: Very little customizability or portfolio analysis. Free trades are gone though commissions are still on the low side overall.
Sogo Trading (www.sogotrading.com)
Having been established in November of 2006, SogoTradeis one of the newest online stock trading websites. They are, however, quickly becoming one of the most popular. With three different account levels to choose from at the time of this review including 90 days of $1 trades, it’s not hard to see why so many brokerage account aficionados are signing up at SogoTrade. This company takes pride in providing traders with a simple service with low costs.
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