TradeKing ReviewOpen an Account
Great community functionality via TradeKing Trader Network; quality educational resources; Zecco merger a big win for clients of both brokers.
TradeKing LIVE platform is easy to use lacks depth; no all-in-one trade ticket; website triple-level navigation frustrating.
Newer investors, alongside those looking to take advantage of TradeKing's community functionality and discounted trades, will find the broker to be a great fit.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2013 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
|5th||Commissions & Fees|
|N/R||Platforms & Tools|
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
TradeKing's goal when it launched in December 2005 was simple: to provide low-cost commissions, quality customer service, and build out a place where investors want to go each day to share ideas, discuss the market and, ultimately, place trades.
Today, TradeKing’s vision has evolved, thanks in part to its merger with Zecco in late 2012. Instead of its community, costs and service being in focus, the overall client experience is in focus. Zecco brought premium research alongside quality mobile trading to the table (among other things), which, combined with TradeKing’s core offerings, puts TradeKing in position to go big, real big, and take on the toughest of competition.
Whether or not TradeKing will succeed in its mission to become the ultimate value broker is for time to tell. This TradeKing Review will explore some of the highlights and lowlights of the overall offering.
Commissions & Fees
TradeKing's commissions structure is pretty much in line with its discount competitors. Offering flat-fee trades, regular stock trades are $4.95 with options trades costing $4.95, plus $.65 per contract. Penny stock traders will not find TradeKing's commissions structure ideal, however, as stocks less than $2 per share cost $4.95, plus $.01 per share (up to 5% of trade value).
|Mutual Funds ($)||$9.95||$9.95||$15.00||$17.00||$49.99|
When it comes to trading on the TradeKing website, the one thing that I did not like was the process of placing a trade. Instead of an all-in-one trade ticket, I found TradeKing has more than a dozen separate trade ticket pages, which makes it an inconvenience to place trades. For the average investor, this may not be a big deal, but for active traders, this is a reason to trade elsewhere. Out of all the discount brokers I've tested, the best trade ticket functionality as far as ease-of-use goes is at OptionsHouse and tradeMONSTER.
Despite the ease-of-use drawbacks, TradeKing’s commission structure is, ultimately, a far better deal compared to all of its big full-service broker competitors: TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments. When trading stocks for half the cost, tedious trade tickets are no big deal.
Traditionally speaking, TradeKing defines what quality customer service is supposed to be like for clients. During testing for the StockBrokers.com 2012 Broker Review, I found that no matter what route of support I tested, TradeKing had a high-quality experience waiting for me.
However, when testing TradeKing’s support for our 2013 Broker Review, we found that several competitors had caught up, and TradeKing, overall, had slipped from its once standout position. The broker finished ninth overall in Customer Service, with its highlight area being Email support, where the broker ranked fourth.
While our testing did not take place during the month of December 2012, when TradeKing’s merger with Zecco was in full force, it is worth noting that the merger may have had an impact. Perhaps TradeKing brought over customer support staff from Zecco that were not as qualified, or, perhaps, the preparation for the 250,000-plus new clients played a role. While we may never know for sure, based on previous years’ testing, we expect TradeKing to bounce back in next year’s review.
TradeKing's community, the Trader Network, is such an integral part of the TradeKing experience that it warrants its own section in this review. The Trader Network allows clients to share their real trades, notes for why they made them, and interact with the rest of the community via blogs, forums and groups. The forums always seemed to be active when I log in, having at least a dozen posts made in the last 24 hours.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the Trader Network is the fact that TradeKing's CEO Don Montanaro, known as "bigdog" within the community, runs his own blog, posting at least once per week. In fact, in early 2013, the CEO hit a milestone, passing 1,000 total posts. Alongside “bigdog,” another staff member, "optionsguy," also blogs frequently. TradeKing also has their "All Stars" blog, which is a mix of market gurus and even staff members.
The only other broker to lean on its staff of experts to deliver value to clients is Charles Schwab, whose 26 in-house experts provide numerous articles, on a variety of market topics, throughout each week.
Overall, the TradeKing community is a great place for clients to mingle and hone their skills. Newer investors especially will find the community to be helpful in getting questions answered and expanding their education. Like any forum, advice for strangers should be taken cautiously, however, the learning potential certainly outweighs any risks.
Thanks to Zecco, TradeKing’s research area has been significantly improved, propelling the broker to a sixth place finish in our 2013 Broker Review, Research category. Among discount brokers, TradeKing is truly king, and, overall, conducting research on the TradeKing website is a visually appealing, thorough and an enjoyable experience.
While TradeKing’s primary site navigation is a nightmare, the exact opposite is the case for the research area, which has its own navigation menu that appears once a stock quote is pulled up. Looking at a quote of Apple (AAPL), for example, investors can seamlessly navigate from the quote snapshot page to charting, news, options chains, earnings, fundamentals, financials or insider analysis.
Every research area needs quality charting, and while most discount brokers suffer in this area, TradeKing delivers. The charting area utilizes the full width of the screen with a clean layout that is flexible and easily adjusted on the fly. Each indicator or study that is added to the chart is displayed with a mini box and “x” for quick removal. Being able to display corporate events such as splits, dividends and earnings is also a nice addition.
While research is mostly a data-mining experience, TradeKing goes the extra mile to bring visual appeal to the data. Seeing graphs and having overlays to identify key points makes the experience far more insightful than staring at straight data. However, it seems like TradeKing goes too far with its visual eye candy, including annoying banner advertisements for different tools in the sidebar and footer areas.
Lastly, TradeKing only provides one third-party research report, which is from Standard & Poor's. Then again, almost all of the discount brokers do not provide full third-party reports because of the added cost. This is why, ultimately, when it comes to performing research, the large, full-service brokers such as TD Ameritrade, Etrade, Charles Schwab and Fidelity are almost always rated better because their higher trade costs allows more investment into areas such as research.
Platforms & Tools
TradeKing offers simple pop-up watch list functionality through the main site alongside its browser platform, TradeKing LIVE. With the watch list functionality built into TradeKing LIVE being far superior, I wouldn't even bother using the watch list included with the regular site.
As far as TradeKing LIVE goes, the platform is very sleek, clean, easy-to-use and well laid out, but is very limited. Besides the real-time watch list, clients can only see a detailed quote for a stock, their current holdings, current account balance, basic charting and view options chains.
The primary reason TradeKing LIVE is limited in depth is because it has been around for only one year. The foundation for growth and success is in place, however, until more tools are added, the platform is simply a glorified place for quotes, watching your favorite stocks and placing trades.
While TradeKing does have it drawbacks, the broker provides a great client experience at a discounted price. Furthermore, thanks to the Zecco merger, TradeKing has positioned itself for success, with improved research and mobile trading functionality. The broker still needs work to compete with the big full-service brokers, however, compared to other discount broker competitors such as OptionsHouse, tradeMONSTER, Firstrade and Just2Trade, TradeKing stands out for its high quality, all-around offering.
Compare TradeKing to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$4.95||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$4.95||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$9.95||Options Exercise Fee|
|$4.95||Options Assignment Fee|
|$9.95||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$20.00||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|$4.95||Bond Trade Fee|
|$24.95||Treasury Trade Fee|
|$24.95||Certificate of Deposit (CD) Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone Trade Fee|
|$0.00||IRA Annual Fee|
|$50.00||IRA Closure Fee|
|$20.00||Forced-Margin Sellout Fee|
|$30.00||Returned ACH Fee|
|$30.00||Returned Wire Transfer Fee|
|$200.00||Stock Certificate Processing Fee|
|$200.00||Stock Certificate Delivery Fee|
|$2.50||Paper Statement Fee|
|$1.00||Paper Confirmation Fee|
|$30.00||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$50.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
TradeKing is an online broker with a very straightforward commissions schedule. Full breakdown below.
Stock Trades - All stock trades (including broker assisted trades) are a flat $4.95 per trade. This is regardless of order type and size. For any stock under $2.00 per share, an additional $.01 per share is charged (max commission 5% of trade value). For OTCBB and Pink Sheet stocks a minimum of $100 worth of stock must be purchased at time of order.
Options Trades - Options trades are $4.95 + $.65 per contract. For multi-leg spreads, only one base commission is charged. Lastly, there is no commission charged for buying back short options valued at 5 cents or less.
NOTE: TradeKing changed its options commissions structure to "$4.95 + $.65 per contract for up to 8 contracts. If trading more than 8 contracts, the rate changes to $8.95 + $.15 per contract" on 3/10/11. They then reverted back to the original options commission structure on 3/25/12.
Mutual Funds - Mutual funds cost $9.95 for non Loaded funds and are $0 for Loaded funds. Note other charges apply for Loaded funds charged by the mutual fund itself.
2013 Review Results - TradeKing was awarded Most Innovative Broker and Best Trader Community, rated 4 stars for Commissions and Fees, and had several Top 10 Category finishes. Read the 2013 Broker Review.
2012 Review Results - TradeKing was 4 Stars overall and received Best in Class for Commissions & Fees, Customer Service, Investor Community, Investor Education, and Options Trading. Read the 2012 Broker Review.
Misc. Account Information
|Apex Clearing||Clearing Firm|
|0||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|0||No. of Retail Locations|
|7600||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|2200||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|2||No. of 3rd Party Research Report Providers|
|4||Max. No. of Legs (Complex Options)|
|No Minimum Deposit|
|No Maintenance Fees|
|Online Trader Community|
|Live Chat Support|
|24/7 Customer Support|
|Long Term Trading|
|Credit Card Accounts|
|Debit Card Accounts|
Trading Platform Features
|Web Browser Platform|
|Windows Desktop Platform|
|Mac Desktop Platform|
Active Trading Features
|Direct routing offered to clients|
|Broker receives payments for order flow|
|Broker internalizes trades|
|Clients receive rebates for adding liquidity|