ShareBuilder started out with a goal to make investing affordable and easy. Its automatic investments, pleasant customer service, and clean site design succeeded in accomplishing its goal of earning the portfolios of many investors over time.
Today, ShareBuilder is a part of the Capital One family and the online broker continues to thrive, executing in the key areas that matters 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 brokers base commission structure, regular stock trades cost $6.95, options trades run $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract (complex multi-legged options are not supported), and automatic investments are $4 each.
Compared to the big-name brokers such as TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Scottrade, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, ShareBuilder is less expensive. However, when compared to other discount brokers such as OptionsHouse, TradeKing, MB Trading, and the like, ShareBuilder is more expensive.
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.
ShareBuilder's customer service is consistently an enjoyable experience, and we were impressed. Reps were always enthusiastic, professional, and helpful. ShareBuilders big standout is its live chat support. Not only did we connect to a rep in less than one minute each and every test, they also delivered answers to all of our questions and made us feel right at home.
There is room for improvement, however, when it comes to response times. Email support had us waiting more than two business days on average for a reply, which is below the industry average. With that said, once the replies did come in, the responses were well written and positive.
Less this small drawback, ShareBuilder's custom service was fantastic, earning the broker five stars in our 2014 Review.
Ease of Use, Research
The shining star in ShareBuilders 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 that ShareBuilder takes its time before launching anything new to ensure the user experience is A+.
If there is one recommendation we would make for ShareBuilder in 2014, it would be to create a customizable dashboard for clients to replace the current boring My Accounts overview page.
For research, we found ShareBuilder's coverage of equities, ETFs and mutual funds to be above average thanks to their use of Morningstar as their primary provider. Despite the broker purposely only supporting a little more than 1,000 mutual funds for trading, 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. One of the few pieces we saw missing from the broker's equities research? Insider analysis, and that is being picky.
ShareBuilder does not offer a formal desktop or web-based trade platform, and instead relies on its website. Put simply, there isn't much for advanced traders to be excited about because active traders are not ShareBuilder's target market.
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 to offer credit and debit cards, checking and savings accounts, as well as home mortgages. The company also supports universal log-in for clients for easy account management.
ShareBuilder shines in ease-of-use, performs very well in research and customer service, but suffers in its efforts to appease the tool-hungry investor.
As a part of Capital One, ShareBuilder should only continue to thrive in doing what it does best giving current Capital One 360 clients an easy way to access the markets and offering a great solution for casual investors and those seeking automatic investments.
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.