Charles Schwab Review

FT Contributor  | 

Charles Schwab has a sterling reputation as one of the country’s top financial services companies, but it’s facing a rising tide of competition from newcomers like Stash, Robinhood, and Betterment. Schwab manages to hold its own when it comes to self-directed investing, thanks to no-commission trades, robust research tools, and a user-friendly mobile app.

There is something for everyone — Charles Schwab is a great option for beginner investors as well as advanced traders looking to build and balance an investment portfolio. Take a closer look at what the brokerage has to offer.

What Is Charles Schwab?

Schwab is a full-service brokerage for anyone who wants to build a stock portfolio. The company seeks to provide the advantages of a stockbroker at minimal cost to people who are skeptical about whether they need a stockbroker to buy stocks. The brokerage may provide the most well-rounded product for people interested in DIY investing, with a solid mobile app, two trading platforms, plenty of securities to trade, and low fees.

Who Is Best Suited for Charles Schwab?

Schwab is capable of meeting the needs of every type of investor or trader interested in buying stocks for their portfolio. The variety of equity types make diversifying your investments possible in one place.

The brokerage provides a wealth of features that are accessible for novices and advanced traders — it’s not limited to beginners like Stash would be. As you gain more experience and confidence in investing, you’ll be pleased to know you won’t outgrow the brokerage. You can start with the basic offerings of products and services, knowing that as you grow in experience, more advanced tools and options are available and waiting.

What Are Charles Schwab’s Offerings?

Take a closer look at what makes Charles Schwab strong for all levels of investors and traders.

Research

Charles Schwab excels at research. In fact, the brokerage’s research selection is not only expansive but also unique. Besides giving customers access to data about earnings news as well as market analysis and commentary from Morningstar, Reuters, Market Edge, Ned Davis, and Credit Suisse, Schwab also provides its own signature equity ratings. Research is available online, through the Schwab app, or through a free quarterly customer magazine.

In addition, Schwab releases screeners for select equities. They include the ETF Screener and ETF Select List, providing a directory of Schwab top choices. The Schwab BondSource screener features bond analysis, complete with financial ratings from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

Platforms and Apps

Schwab provides customers of all experience levels the following free apps and platforms:

  • Schwab mobile;
  • Schwab.com;
  • StreetSmart Edge;
  • StreetSmart Central;
  • StreetSmart Mobile.

Securities

Customers can invest and trade the following securities offerings:

Promotion

If you’re shopping around for the best brokerage firm, you have many options. It’s hard to make a choice but a brokerage promotion may help. Schwab occasionally runs promotions that pay new customers a cash bonus for opening an account with a certain amount of money. One promotion available year-round is the firm’s referral promotion. If you know someone who’s a current Schwab account holder, ask them for a referral code.

All your friend needs to do is log in to their account, get a referral code, and send it to you by text or email. If you open a new account, you’ll earn a bonus. The amount of your bonus depends on the amount of the opening deposit:

  • $1,000 to $24,999: $100;
  • $25,000 to $49,999: $200;
  • $50,000 to $99,999: $300;
  • $100,000 or higher: $500.

Banking

The financial services company also offers banking products, such as checking and savings accounts. The Schwab checking account is popular among frequent travelers who may need to make cash withdrawals away from home and want to avoid the associated charges. All ATM withdrawal fees are refunded, even for international withdrawals.

Besides checking and savings accounts, Schwab provides a range of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), including traditional, Roth, and rollover IRAs, as well as custodial IRAs if your child earns income you’d like to save for their retirement.

Customer Service and Support

Charles Schwab tops the J.D. Power Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Survey for DIY investing, beating out Vanguard, Fidelity, and all its competitors. Schwab provides customers with answers and help 24 hours per day, seven days per week through phone support, email, or live chat. You’ll also have access to over 300 physical branches.  

What Are Charles Schwab’s Fees?

Charles Schwabs’ fees are relatively low. Here’s a more detailed look at what investing with Schwab will cost you:

  • Online trades on stocks, options, Schwab and Schwab OneSource mutual funds, and ETFs: No commission or fees;
  • Options contracts: $0.65 per contract;
  • Futures and futures options: $1.50 per contract for online and broker-assisted trades;
  • Automated phone service trades on stocks and ETFs: $5;
  • Schwab and Schwab OneSource mutual funds: No service charge;
  • Automated phone service trades on non-Schwab and non-Schwab OneSource mutual funds: Up to $49.95;
  • Broker-assisted trades on all securities: $25 service charge;
  • Assets transfers: $25 for a partial transfer and $50 for a full transfer;
  • Outgoing wire transfers: $25.

Pros and Cons of Charles Schwab

Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of investing with Charles Schwab.

Pros

  • First-rate research;
  • Low-to-no commissions and fees;
  • Schwab app;
  • Platform functionality;
  • Street Smart Edge trading platform;
  • ETF-screening capabilities;
  • 24/7 customer service;
  • Large funds selection for investment diversification.

Cons

  • Transfer fees;
  • Uninvested cash automatically lands in a low-interest-earning account.

Is Charles Schwab the Best Brokerage for You?

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to investing and brokerages. Charles Schwab may be the rare exception. Charles Schwab stands apart from other long-standing competitors, such as E*TRADE and Fidelity, thanks to the amount of free research the firm provides clients. Beginning investors have a lot of information available to learn about trading.

Besides research, Schwab offers two trading platforms, compared to Fidelity’s single, restricted one. For individuals interested in self-directed investing, Charles Schwab is a great place to start — and grow.


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