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Broker Reviews

ShareBuilder

Published by
On Friday, April 24th, 2015 .

Overview

ShareBuilder is a great fit for investors seeking automatic investment plans, and clients of Capital One 360. It also offers casual investors an easy way to research and trade.

Dislikes

No trade platform; limited offering of trade tools; automatic investment plan trades made only on Tuesdays.

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ShareBuilder Review

ShareBuilder started out with the goal of making investing affordable and easy. Its automatic investments, pleasant customer service, and clean site design have succeeded in accomplishing its goal of attracting the portfolios of many investors over time.

Today, ShareBuilder is part of the Capital One family, and the online broker continues to thrive, executing in key areas that matter most to its clients.

Commissions & Fees

ShareBuilder is the only broker to offer its clients a separate rate to take advantage of discounted automatic investments.

Under the broker’s base commission structure, regular stock trades cost $6.95, options trades run at $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract (complex, multi-legged options are not supported), and automatic investments are $3.95 each.

Compared to the big-name brokers such as TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Scottrade, Fidelity Investments, and Charles Schwab, ShareBuilder is less expensive. However, compared to other discount brokers such as OptionsHouse, TradeKing, MB Trading, and the like, ShareBuilder is more expensive.

ShareBuilderETRADETD AmeritradeScottradeOptionsHouse
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$6.95$9.99$9.99$7.00$4.95
Options Base Fee$6.95$9.99$9.99$7.00$4.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.75$0.75$1.25$0.50
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$19.95$19.99$49.99$17.00$20.00
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$19.95$25.00$44.99$32.00$25.00
Commissions & Fees

Where ShareBuilder comes out on top in a big way is with its automatic investments, giving clients the ability to automatically buy shares of stocks, ETFs, or select mutual funds each month (all automatic investments take place on Tuesdays). It is this simplicity that makes ShareBuilder so attractive for investors who want to "set it and forget it" with their IRAs.

Customer Service

ShareBuilder's phone customer service is consistently an enjoyable experience, and we were impressed. Reps were always enthusiastic, professional, and helpful. We were never on hold for more than one minute and the reps were clearly well trained, always asking us if we had further questions before ending the call and concluding all calls on a warm closing note. For phone support, ShareBuilder finished No. 2.

Phone aside, however, there is room for improvement. Email support was a very inconsistent experience. In one test, a rep responded within 24 hours and delivered a good email. After asking several follow up questions, however, we never heard back from ShareBuilder support at all.

Lastly, in past years, live chat support used to be ShareBuilder’s greatest strength; however, when testing for our 2015 Review, we found it to be good, but not great. Connection times averaged 1-2 minutes, compared to less than one minute last year. Once connected, support reps were professional and courteous; however, they did not leave us awed like our phone tests.

Ease of Use

The shining star in ShareBuilder’s arsenal is the website's ease of use. Everything, from navigation to placing trades and performing research, is an effortless experience. The website boasts a very clean design, and it is clear ShareBuilder takes its time before launching anything new to ensure top-notch user experience.

If there is one recommendation we would make for ShareBuilder in 2015, it would be to create a customizable dashboard for clients to replace the current boring My Accounts overview page.

Research

For research, we found ShareBuilder's coverage of equities, ETFs, and mutual funds to be very strong, thanks to their use of Morningstar as their primary provider. Although the broker purposely supports little more than 1,000 mutual funds for trading (focus on quality over quantity), we were impressed by the depth of research provided.

After pulling up Apple (AAPL) in the research area, we were pleased to see four third-party research reports available for us to read. To dig deeper into research, clients have ability to build custom side-by-side stock comparisons and compare fundamental data.

ShareBuilder stock comparisons

ShareBuilder’s research offering extends beyond vetting potential trades – it also includes client portfolios. The Portfolio Allocation and Total Return tools allow clients to assess their portfolio allocation, returns, and even break down their real equity exposure by fund. Full transparency into the client’s portfolio is something few other brokers provide.

Other Notes

ShareBuilder does not offer a formal desktop or web-based trading platform; instead, it relies on its website. Put simply, there isn’t anything for advanced traders to be excited about because active traders are not ShareBuilder's target market.

That said, ShareBuilder does have its fair share of innovative tools for regular investors. Our favorite is the new PortfolioBuilder tool launched in 2014. Using PortfolioBuilder, clients can create their own diversified portfolio with up to eight ETFs, aligning their investment style and long-term goals. Once a new portfolio is cooked up, it can be purchased for a single flat rate of $18.95. Only one other broker in the industry has a tool similar to Portfolio Builder, which is cost effective and a terrific asset for long-term investors.

ShareBuilder Portfolio Builder

Tools aside, as far as investments go, ShareBuilder has a mixed offering. Complex options are not supported, nor are after-hours trades or shorting. However, ShareBuilder, through Capital One, is the only company (alongside Bank of America Merrill Edge) to offer credit and debit cards, checking and savings accounts, as well as home mortgages. The company also supports universal login for clients for easy account management.

Closing Thoughts

ShareBuilder shines in ease of use; it performs very well in research and customer service, but suffers in its efforts to appease the tool-hungry active trader.

As a part of Capital One, ShareBuilder should only continue to thrive in doing what it does best, offering a great solution for casual investors and those seeking automatic investments alongside giving current Capital One 360 clients an easy way to access the markets.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by

Blain has been involved in the markets for over 12 years, heading StockBrokers.com equity broker research and reviews. His personal blog, StockTradingToGo.com, provides to-the-point daily market recaps to over 17,000 subscribers.

Commission Notes

ShareBuilder offers one set of primary commission rates along with a special rate for discounted automatic investing. Full commissions schedule breakdown below.

First, it should be noted that the Advantage program officially concluded in April 2014 and is no longer available to new clients. Previously, clients who frequently used the automatic investing could pay $12 per month for ShareBuilder Advantage pricing, in which 12 automatic investments were included each month, and each thereafter costed just $1. Clients who were already enrolled into the Advantage program prior to April 2014 were grandfathered in.

Stock Trades
Automatic investments - Automatic investments are $3.95 per trade. It should be noted that all automatic trades are made on Tuesdays.

Non-automatic investments - For non-automatic trades, all regular stock trades are $6.95 each. For stocks priced under $1.00, add $.007 per share with a minimum $6.95 commission, maximum of the lesser of either 15% of the principal amount or $500.

Phone orders are available for $19.95 per trade and ShareBuilder does not currently support the ability to short stocks.

Costco Member Exclusive Pricing - $5.95 basic online trade cost with $2.00 automatic trades.

Trade Commissions Breakdown

$6.95 Stock Trade Fee (flat)*
N/A Stock Trade Fee (per share)*
$6.95 Options Base Fee*
$0.75 Options Per Contract Fee*
$20.00 Options Exercise Fee
$20.00 Options Assignment Fee
$19.95 Mutual Fund Trade Fee
$19.95 Broker Assisted Trades Fee
$0.00 Minimum Deposit

Margin Rates

7.70% Under $24,999.99
7.25% $25,000.00 to 49,999.99
6.70% $50,000.00 to $99,999.99
6.50% $100,000.00 to $249,999.99
5.25% $250,000.00 to $499,999.99
4.90% $500,000.00 to $999,999.99
4.70% Above $1,000,000.00

Miscellaneous Fees

$0.00 Bond Trade Fee
$0.00 Treasury Trade Fee
$0.00 CD Trade Fee
$0.00 IVR Trade Fee
$0.00 IRA Annual Fee
$75.00 IRA Closure FEe
$0.00 Forced Margin Sellout Fee
$5.00 Returned ACH Fee
$5.00 Returned Wire Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Processing Fee
$0.00 Stock Certificate Delivery Fee
$5.00 Paper Statement Fee
$5.00 Paper Confirmation Fee
$30.00 Domestic Wire Fee
$30.00 International Wire Fee

ShareBuilder Ratings

Overall
Commissions & Fees
Customer Service
Platforms & Tools
Research
Ease of Use
Offering of Investments
Education
Mobile Trading
Banking

ShareBuilder Awards

2015

ShareBuilder was awarded Best in Class for New Investors and Banking. They also received #1 Portfolio Builder, a new award for this year's review. Read the 2015 Online Broker Review.

2014

ShareBuilder was awarded Best in Class for Customer Service and New Investors. They also received #1 for Online Banking Services. Read the 2014 Online Broker Review.

2013

ShareBuilder was awarded Best Online Banking Services and rated 4 stars for Customer Service. Read the 2013 Broker Review.

2012

ShareBuilder was Best in Class for Ease-of-Use. Read the 2012 Broker Review.

Offering of Investments

CDs
Pershing Clearing Firm
0 Commission Free ETFs
Corporate Bonds
Direct Market Routing - Stocks
Yes DRIPs
0 # of Easy to Borrow Stocks
Forex Trading
Futures Trading
Yes No Fee IRAs
Yes Mini Options
Municipal Bonds
Yes Mutual Funds
0 Mutual Funds (Load)
1289 Mutual Funds (No Load)
576 Mutual Funds (NTF)
1289 Mutual Funds (Total)
Yes No Inactivity Fees
Yes No Minimum Deposit
Yes Options Trading
Order Type - After Hours
Order Type - Algo
Yes Order Type - Broker Assisted
Yes OTCBB / Pink Sheets
9 Retail Locations
Yes Stock Trading
US Treasury Bonds
Yes Weekly Options

Customer Service

Yes Phone Support
Yes Email Support
Live Chat (prospect clients)
Yes Live Chat (current clients)
24/7 Support

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform
Mac Platform
Web Platform
NA Active Trading Platform
Auto Investing
Ladder Trading
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks
Yes Option Chains - Basic View
Option Chains - Strategy View
Option Analysis - P&L Charts
Streaming Time & Sales
Streaming TV
Trade Hot Keys
Virtual Trading

Research

Yes Research - ETFs
Yes Research - Mutual Funds
Yes Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB
Research - Fixed Income
Misc - Global Market Overview
Yes Equity Research - News
Yes Equity Research - Chart
Yes Equity Research - Option Chains
Yes Equity Research - Balance Sheet
Yes Equity Research - Cash Flows
Equity Research - SEC Filings
Equity Research - Insider Analysis
4 Equity Research - Research Reports
Yes ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes ETF Research - Research Reports
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Performance Chart
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes Screener - Stocks
Yes Screener - ETFs
Yes Screener - Mutual Funds
Screener - Options
Screener - Bonds

Education

Yes Has Education - Stocks
Has Education - ETFs
Has Education - Options
Has Education - Mutual Funds
Has Education - Bonds
Has Education - Retirement
Yes Investor Dictionary
Client Webinars
Yes Live Seminars
Yes Retirement Calculator
Community Forums

Mobile Trading

Yes iPhone App
Yes iPad App
Yes Android App
Android Tablet App
Mobile Site
Yes Company Data
Yes Company News
Yes Watch List Syncing
Options Chains Viewable
Yes Market Movers (Top Gainers)
Barcode Lookup
Yes Charting - Multiple Time Frames
Yes Charting - Can Turn Horizontally
Charting - Portfolio Perf vs Indices
Charting - Stock Comparisons
Yes Trading - Stocks
Yes Trading - Simple Options
Yes Withdrawal Balance Available

Banking

Yes Checking Accounts
Yes Savings Accounts
Yes Debit Cards
Yes Credit Cards
Yes Mortgage Loans
Yes Mobile Check Deposit
ATM Fee Reimbursement
Yes No Fee Banking

Active Trading

Internalizes Trades
Receives Payment for Order Flow
Client Liquidity Rebates

Best in Class

Best in Class - Offering of Investments
Best in Class - Commissions & Fees
Best in Class - Platforms & Tools
Best in Class - Research
Yes Best in Class - Customer Service
Best in Class - Ease of Use
Best in Class - Investor Education
Best in Class - Mobile Trading
Best in Class - Active Trading
Best in Class - Options Trading
Yes Best in Class - New Investors

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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 11/01/2014 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the top of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.

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