A few years ago, I moved a Traditional and Roth IRA account from ETrade to Ally Invest (formerly known as “TradeKing” at the time, prior to being acquired by Ally Bank). I had long been a fan of TradeKing as a great online broker option for a number of reasons, and with the change, I wanted to share my first impressions and give a first-look Ally Invest review after my account migration. Was the acquisition and transition a good move for former TradeKing customers and new investors? Read on to find the answer…
Having held discount broker accounts with ETrade, Vanguard, Fidelity, Ally Invest, Scottrade, Fidelity, Schwab, and a few others, I have a little more experience in this area than I’d probably like to, so hopefully this review provides some useful discount broker comparisons and commentary.
What is Ally Invest?
Ally Invest is the online discount brokerage arm of Ally Bank (the 20th largest bank in the U.S., with over $160 billion in assets). Ally Invest was formerly TradeKing, prior to Ally purchasing (in 2016) and re-launching it (in 2017).
In summary, Ally Invest has a low fee trading structure, no maintenance/inactivity fees, and strong customer service with 24/7 support.
You can trade stocks, bonds, funds, options and other equities through Ally Invest. I’ll get into what types of accounts you may want to consider opening or moving to Ally Invest in a bit.
Let’s cut right to what most of us care about the most when it comes to investing online with a discount broker – the fees. Here are Ally Invest’s fees:
- Stocks: $4.95 ($3.95 per equity trade for users who make 30 or more trades in the prior calendar quarter and/or maintain an average daily balance of more than $100,000 in the prior calendar quarter).
- Bonds: $1 per bond (minimum $10)
- Mutual Funds: $9.95 Purchases/Sales
- Options: +$0.65 per contract (+$4.95 base trade). Price decreases to $0.50 per contract for users who make 30 or more trades in the prior calendar quarter and/or maintain an average daily balance of more than $100,000 in the prior calendar quarter.
You’ll notice that the base fee structure is identical to TradeKing’s old structure, however, the high volume discount is a new wrinkle (but if you’re passively investing, as I preach, that probably won’t benefit you). Aside from purchasing house brand mutual funds or ETF’s (i.e. buying Schwab ETF’s from Schwab), these fees are among the lowest in the industry.
The $9.95 to initially buy into mutual funds it is lower than many I have seen (and significantly lower than E-Trade at $19.99 and Vanguard at $35). If you prefer ETF’s over funds, that’s not really an issue – but you can more cheaply trade Schwab, and Vanguard branded ETF’s (and mutual funds) directly with those brokers, if that is your objective.
Here is a complete list of Ally Invest fees.
Ally Invest excels in this area, much like Ally Bank. Whereas some discount brokers try to nickel and dime you with hidden account maintenance or inactivity fees and IRA custodial fees, Ally Invest does not. There are no monthly or annual maintenance or account fees for both taxable accounts and IRA’s (former TradeKing customers will note that in order to avoid inactivity fees, you needed to have over $2,500 in an account balance or make 1 trade over 12 months – so this is another improvement).
Ally Invest has no minimum balance requirement for their self-directed accounts. This is a key factor for someone just getting into investing for the first time, who might not have a lot of money to put into an account right from the get go. You will need at least $2,500 to start investing in an “Ally Invest Managed Portfolio”.
What About Ally Invest Features?
Ally’s user interface, at this time, is virtually identical to TradeKing’s, with a few minor cosmetic changes (different colors and branding, primarily). If you’re not familiar with those features, the breadth and depth has always been great – far exceeding any other brokers I’ve used. They include:
- ETF, mutual fund, and stock screeners and navigators
- Portfolio back testing (very cool!)
- Social network (over 200,000 members discuss investing)
- Profit and loss calculators
- Tax manager tool
- Educational resources, including multiple live webinars every month
- Technical analysis and charts
- Ally invest LIVE
- iPhone & Android apps for mobile investing
How is Ally Invest’s Customer Service?
TradeKing’s customer service was top notch. Barron’s rated it as 4/4 stars from 2007 through 2016 – the best of any online broker.
I want to confirm, but I would imagine that most, if not all, of TradeKing’s customer service staff was retained in the transition to Ally. One big upgrade is that Ally Invest offers 24/7 customer support (TradeKing was formerly 8 AM – 6 PM EST). I am not aware of any other brokers that offer 24/7 support. Most of them operate M-F and have skeleton support on the weekends (typically when people actually have time to call in for help), if at all.
Bonus: Ally Banking Services
One nice thing about being an Ally customer is that they offer a full suite of banking services in addition to their new investment platform. This includes home loans, auto loans, debit/credit cards, checking accounts, online savings accounts, money market accounts, CD’s, and other bank related services. Kiplinger Magazine recently rated Ally Bank as the “best bank for millennials” and the “best internet bank”.
The 4 biggest changes from the purchase and re-brand of TradeKing to Ally Invest that I have noticed thus far are:
- No more maintenance fee for a low balance or inactivity
- Expanded customer service hours to 24/7 support
- Discounted stock/options pricing for high volume or high account balances
- Added banking features from Ally Bank
All positives. As a former TradeKing and current Ally Invest customer, I’m very pleased with the transition thus far.
Ally Invest is one of the few discount brokers I continue to use at the moment, so obviously, I like them. Great service, account security, low trading fees, and no hidden “gotcha” fees to screw you over. I’d recommend using them for both a regular post-tax investment account and a retirement account for everything but broker-branded (i.e. Vanguard, Schwab) ETF’s and mutual funds. Disclosure: Ally Invest happens to have an affiliate program, so some of the links in this post are affiliate links, but this is not a paid or sponsored post, and I am an actual Ally Invest customer who recommends them based on my experience with their service.