Pros: service, cost, and flexibility
Cons: $30.00 per trade is a bit high
I have accounts with Schwab, E-Trade, Putnam and Smith Barney and of all of these Schwab is far and away the best broker. The reasons are simple service, cost, and flexibility.
E-Trade does offer good (fair) telephone support and responds well to emails. Putnam?s telephone service line is poor at best and the fact that if you lock yourself out of their web site you must wait until a new PIN number is mailed is ludicrous. Smith Barney has a dedicated Rep for your account (or at least mine) but I pay for this dearly. If I buy or sell anything, it is like having my own personal assistant (and paying for it too). Schwab on the other hand seems to be the right mix of technology and humanity for me.
I can access their web site or broker by PCS phone and place trades for just under $30.00. Granted that is a little high since I am doing all the work. However, when their web site is busy or my PCS phone is out of range, I can call an 800 number from a pay phone and get a Customer Service Rep who can execute my trade while I hold for the same $30.00.
Schwab?s web site is fairly robust. It does not offer the user groups that E-Trade does, but the quotes are real time and I can access and work with multiple accounts from 1 screen. This is a huge plus for me. Putnam?s web site is poor and Smith Barney?s is also not very good. Of all the broker?s web sites E-Trade is probably the best, but that is their bread and butter.
One of the biggest pluses for me about Schwab is the fact that they have branch locations all over. I ca make a deposit or get a check in a day from any various locations all around the country. That is something that Putnam and E-trade can not do. It is nice to be able to site down with a broker face to face on occasion. Smith Barney has that option, but again you pay for it heavily.
Schwab averages about $30.00 per trade
E-Trade is around $20.00
Putnam and Smith Barney vary but the fees can be very high.
Both E-Trade and Schwab allow users to access their accounts by phone, Internet, or PCS web. Putnam and Smith Barney have web sites although I have never used them to trade because of the cost. I must say that Schwab has a better selection of no load mutual funds in its Schwab Select program.
I can?t say that any of these brokers are bad, they are just different. When choosing a broker you must really think about how much advice and assistance you need from a financial professional, how much access you need to your account and how much you want to pay per trade. If you take each of these three factors into consideration you will make the right choice I am sure.