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Choosing a (safe) broker


MCN
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I'm looking for a new, preferably online, broker. I'm not a trader, more of a buy and hold  type investor, slowly building a portfolio but my current broker is expensive- 1.75% every time  i pick up the phone!

 

The things i like about my current broker are that they offer a very wide international choice of stocks (Korean sml caps etc), they use Pershing (for custody, i believe) who i understand are rock solid and there are no other account fees.

 

So i was wondering what folks on here do to ensure that their account is safe yet can trade at a reasonable cost.

 

I suppose if you hold the stock certificates directly, then there is no broker related risk but if you hold under the brokers name there is. Also can anyone explain the difference between the safety of the broker and the custodian that the broker uses.

 

Anyway, can anyone recommend a broker with good international equity offerings, reasonable trading costs (fixed price per trade rather than a %), preferably no/low inactivty fees and offers rock solid safety?

 

Many thanks

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Noble tradeing is another discount broker that offers international trading. As scorpion mentioned interactive brokers is usually the best when it comes to international trading. Most discount brokers charge too much on international trades. Also I know tradeking will offer international trading one day but I am not sure when it will come out since they are working out the kinks, but I hope the prices will be cheap ;D.

 

About broker safety, I would assume most brokers would be safe since they wont overextend on the margin. Usually a lot of them will follow the requirements and rules to the T. Although the clearing houses can be wacky towards the brokers.

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For stocks and options use I use Interactive Brokers. I don't think there is anyone better. $1 trades and $0.75 options. Minimum charge per month is $10. It's really nice being able to average into a position slowly and not have to worry about racking up trading fees. I use Scottrade for mutual funds. Many funds have no transaction fee and the funds which charge a fee are $17. I use Scottrade for quotes because streaming quotes are expensive on IB. Also, IB's smartphone application is top notch.

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Guest Hester

Any online brokerage discussed here brokerage will be SIPC insured and you have nothing to worry about as far as safety, unless you have a giant portfolio that exceeds limits. If your under the limits then safety isn't an issue unless you fear the government goint under.

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I use Scottrade (after some horrible experiences with eTrade). They're customer service has been very good, but their website is horrendous at times. It seems like all their technology was developed as a 7th grade computer class project.

 

I don't know how this large of a company can have such poor technology (down to their mobile apps). I frequently have to enter my loggin credentials 4-5 times for it to even let me log onto their site. I'd kind of like to switch to a different broker, but it seems like it would be a mess for tax reporting.

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I use Scottrade (after some horrible experiences with eTrade). They're customer service has been very good, but their website is horrendous at times. It seems like all their technology was developed as a 7th grade computer class project.

 

I don't know how this large of a company can have such poor technology (down to their mobile apps). I frequently have to enter my loggin credentials 4-5 times for it to even let me log onto their site. I'd kind of like to switch to a different broker, but it seems like it would be a mess for tax reporting.

 

Make sure to check you are not entering your credential in some fake site and then getting redirected to actual site to enter your credentials again. Not that I like Scottrade interface much but just a thought.

 

On topic , I will suggest IB.

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I used Fidelity, execution seems fine, I've purchased stocks all over the world.  Some international markets require calling the brokerage desk and paying $32 to trade over the phone plus $50 for the non-DTC settled stock.  I've traded this way before and while the commission is high it ensures that I've actually done my research, I have a lot of conviction in the stock, and that I won't sell too quickly.

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Any online brokerage discussed here brokerage will be SIPC insured and you have nothing to worry about as far as safety, unless you have a giant portfolio that exceeds limits. If your under the limits then safety isn't an issue unless you fear the government goint under.

 

Yeah, I'm thinking more for small institutional accounts that aren't big enough for many mini-primes. 

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Interactive Brokers - unbeatable.

 

Yah, stop looking.  This is the best broker.  And your capital is totally safe, no matter what happens in the market.

 

Why do you think IB is so safe?

 

They have billions in excess capital and it's 85% owned by the CEO who is a super smart guy and does not take risks.  They don't invest the excess capital outside of day to day market making which has never brought big losses.   

 

But yah, SIPC will cover your account at any broker.

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Interactive Brokers - unbeatable.

 

Yah, stop looking.  This is the best broker.  And your capital is totally safe, no matter what happens in the market.

 

Why do you think IB is so safe?

 

They have billions in excess capital and it's 85% owned by the CEO who is a super smart guy and does not take risks.  They don't invest the excess capital outside of day to day market making which has never brought big losses.   

 

But yah, SIPC will cover your account at any broker.

 

I use Schwab but just like Liberty I generally don't do anything fancy.

I recently signed up for IB as I wanted to buy a foreign stock and IB offered the best fees, however I really didn't find their trading platform to be user friendly at all... It was so painful to use that I almost gave up on the trade. Maybe it was just due to the fact that it was a new environment for me.

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Interactive Brokers - unbeatable.

 

Yah, stop looking.  This is the best broker.  And your capital is totally safe, no matter what happens in the market.

 

Why do you think IB is so safe?

 

They have billions in excess capital and it's 85% owned by the CEO who is a super smart guy and does not take risks.  They don't invest the excess capital outside of day to day market making which has never brought big losses.   

 

But yah, SIPC will cover your account at any broker.

 

I use Schwab but just like Liberty I generally don't do anything fancy.

I recently signed up for IB as I wanted to buy a foreign stock and IB offered the best fees, however I really didn't find their trading platform to be user friendly at all... It was so painful to use that I almost gave up on the trade. Maybe it was just due to the fact that it was a new environment for me.

 

Yah, you get used to it.  It's definitely an adjustment. 

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The options market-making scares me.  I use them, don't get me wrong, but I'm not totally comfortable with an institutional account that my career depends upon (not even mentioning my equity in there) being intertwined with computerized market making.  Hopefully there are different subsidiaries for the market-making but corporate veils do get pierced!  Of course, the odds are low of something happening.  I don't really understand broker-dealer financials anyways which is probably most of the reason I'm not totally comfortable.  High insider ownership doesn't prevent algorithm craziness or rogue traders. 

 

They're levered 7 times.  I've had personal options trades cancelled by them because the implied volatility was too high - their computers messed up.

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Wells Fargo offers 100 free trades per account if you have more than 25k in total account balances. I use it and Thinkorswim....

 

Myth,

 

Is that 100 free trades per year?? And all you have to have is more than $25K in total account balances?? What's the catch??

I wonder how come I missed that... Being the exact opposite of a high frequency trader, 100 free trades is all I need. Thanks.

 

Ron

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Yep its a PMA account. You get a checkings and a brokerage or several brokerage accounts. As long as you have 25k in total assets you get 100 free trades per account. I use it for all common trading. I use TOS for Options. I have had it since 2007, works very well for common. Wouldnt use for Options or penny stocks. You can even buy pink sheet Canadian stocks for free...

 

Also starting a capital one account for free ATM withdrawals and a capital one savings for 1.10% APR.....

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The options market-making scares me.  I use them, don't get me wrong, but I'm not totally comfortable with an institutional account that my career depends upon (not even mentioning my equity in there) being intertwined with computerized market making.  Hopefully there are different subsidiaries for the market-making but corporate veils do get pierced!  Of course, the odds are low of something happening.  I don't really understand broker-dealer financials anyways which is probably most of the reason I'm not totally comfortable.  High insider ownership doesn't prevent algorithm craziness or rogue traders. 

 

They're levered 7 times.  I've had personal options trades cancelled by them because the implied volatility was too high - their computers messed up.

 

They are not levered 7 times.  Totally untrue.  They have tangible equity of 4+ billion.  They don't risk 21 billion for their options market making.  The balance sheet is messed up because trades don't settle for 3 days.  I have analyzed the company as an investment - there is no risk the options business blows up the brokerage business.  I think in the worst quarter they've lost like $50 million on the options side on a $4 billion base of capital.  Also, they are long gamma so in times of vol they make money.  In the case of a crash they'd make a lot of money.   

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