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Charles Schwab Review

Blain Reinkensmeyer

February 16th, 2022

With nearly $8 trillion in client assets, Charles Schwab understands how to consistently deliver value to its customers. Highlights include $0 trades, excellent stock research, a diverse selection of trading tools, and an industry-leading offering of financial planning services.


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Top Takeaways for 2022

After spending three months testing 15 of the best online brokers for our 12th Annual Review, here are our top findings on Charles Schwab:

  1. As a full-service brokerage, Schwab has a diverse offering of investments that will satisfy any investor. In our nationwide testing, we also found Schwab's phone service to be terrific.
  2. Alongside retirement planning, where Schwab remains our top pick for IRA accounts, Schwab's shining star is its offering of stock market research.
  3. Schwab trading platforms and tools are robust and will satisfy most traders, making it a respectable choice for day trading and futures trading. That said, Schwab's stock trading app lacks real-time streaming quotes.

Overall summary

FeatureCharles Schwab
Overall 4.5 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars
Platforms & Tools 4.5 Stars
Research 5 Stars
Mobile Trading Apps 4 Stars
Offering of Investments 5 Stars
Education 4 Stars
Ease of Use 4.5 Stars

--> View Charles Schwab Features List

Offering of investments

Like other full-service brokers, Charles Schwab delivers a robust suite of products and services. Schwab offers everything from stocks (including fractional shares) and options trading to fixed income and retirement guidance. The only gaps in the offerings are cryptocurrencies and forex.

At Schwab, you can find every account type under the sun, including Individual, Joint, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, Inherited IRA, Custodial IRA, 529 plans, charitable accounts, and even estate and trust accounts.

Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin are not available to trade at Charles Schwab.

Retirement services: Schwab comes in as our repeat No. 1 pick for IRA accounts in 2022. Here, services go beyond self-directed investing when it comes to retirement planning. Customers can also elect to have their assets managed through Schwab's robo-advisor service, Intelligent Portfolios.

For personal advice, Intelligent Portfolios Premium offers clients unlimited one-on-one guidance from a certified financial planner for $30 per month and a $300 one-time planning fee. Schwab also offers a free tool for retirement planning, Schwab Plan.

Schwab offering summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Stock Trading Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets Yes
Options Trading Yes
Complex Options Max Legs4
Bonds (US Treasury) Yes
Futures Trading Yes
Forex Trading No
Mutual Funds (Total)10228
Advisor Services Yes
Crypto Trading No
Crypto Trading - Total Coins0

Commissions and fees

At Schwab, stock and ETF trades are $0, and options trades are just $0.65 per contract. Even better for investors, Schwab is the only broker alongside Fidelity to list the price improvement received on eligible orders, which is important transparency for order execution quality.

Penny stocks: Our research found no additional fees or charges for penny stock trading, which includes OTCBB companies and stocks priced under $1 per share.

Fractional shares: Called Schwab Stock Slices, customers can purchase fractional shares of any company in the S&P 500. The minimum purchase is $5.

Mutual funds: All transaction fee mutual funds cost $49.95 per trade. However, unlike most brokers, Charles Schwab only charges for the original purchase. There is no additional charge for selling. For investors seeking No Transaction Fee (NTF), No Load (NL) funds, Schwab offers over 150 OneSource Funds, selected using various quantitative and qualitative factors.

Schwab pricing summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Penny Stock Fees (OTCCB)$6.95
ETF Trade Fee$0.00
Options (Base Fee)$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65
Futures (Per Contract)$2.25
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$49.95
Broker Assisted Trade Fee$25.00

Mobile trading apps

Charles Schwab provides a consistent and generally enjoyable experience for mobile trading, regardless of the device. That said, for active traders, Schwab's mobile apps lack core functionality in two key areas: alerts and quotes.

Market research: Alongside offering full support for trading everything from stocks to mutual funds and complex options, Schwab does a great job with market research, which is thorough. This includes the Schwab Market Update as well as a Market Volatility outlook, which is good for stock and option traders.

Active trading: The most significant area where Schwab stands to improve is with its use of market data. No stock price alerts can be set, stock quotes are in real time but require manual refreshing, and watch lists auto refresh once every 10 seconds. Schwab's competitors, by contrast, all offer real-time streaming quotes.

Options trading: When you trade from within the Schwab mobile app, the Options tab comes with over 20 predefined strategies, including multi-legged spreads and combinations.

Schwab Assistant: Schwab Assistant is an AI-powered tool that lets you use voice commands from within the Schwab mobile app to carry out basic operations, such as checking quotes or market news, and you can even ask to speak to a live representative. When I asked Schwab Assistant, "Tell me something interesting," it suggested I take a look at podcasts and videos with a link to the media center.

Schwab mobile app screenshots:

Schwab mobile summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
iPhone App Yes
Android App Yes
Apple Watch App Yes
Watch List Syncing Yes
Stock Alerts No
Charting - After-Hours No
Charting - Technical Studies32
Charting - Study Customizations Yes
Watch Lists - Streaming Yes
Watch Lists - Create & Manage Yes
Watch Lists - Column Customization No

Other trading platforms and tools

Alongside the Charles Schwab website, Schwab offers customers access to two primary platforms: StreetSmart Edge (desktop-based; active traders), and StreetSmart Central (web-based; futures trading). While each platform has its highlights and lowlights, all in all, Schwab will satisfy most traders.

StreetSmart Edge: Schwab's flagship downloadable trading platform, StreetSmart Edge, provides most of the bells and whistles options traders and day traders need to succeed. I find the platform easier to learn than TD Ameritrade and TradeStation, although the latter two provide a richer experience overall. For options traders, Schwab's All-in-One trade ticket, alongside the proprietary Walk Limit order type, are both excellent. Note that for Mac users, StreetSmart Edge is a cloud-based web application.

Trade Source: For casual investors seeking a simple tool that includes clean charting and streaming quotes and purposely excludes all the bells and whistles desired by active traders, Trade Source is my recommendation. Trade Source is available to Schwab customers through the website and is essentially a stand-alone platform in its own right.

Futures trading: While futures trading is offered, trading must be conducted on the StreetSmart Central platform specifically. This means you cannot use the main Schwab website, nor StreetSmart Edge, to place futures trades.

Schwab trading platform screenshots:

Schwab trading platform summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Desktop Trading Platform Yes
Web Trading Platform Yes
Paper Trading No
Trade Journal Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields130
Charting - Indicators / Studies41
Charting - Drawing Tools15
Charting - Study Customizations7
Charting - Save Profiles Yes
Trade Ideas - Technical Analysis Yes
Streaming Time & Sales Yes
Trade Ideas - Backtesting Yes

Research

Charles Schwab offers some of the highest quality research among the brokers we've tested here at StockBrokers.com.

Stock research: Beyond offering traditional third-party ratings, Charles Schwab's proprietary equity ratings add value to the research experience. Schwab's ratings can be found throughout the platform experience, such as when you view a watch list or stock screener.

ETFs and mutual funds research: If you’re looking to research ETFs and mutual funds, there’s a lot to like at Charles Schwab. Thanks to third-party providers like Morningstar, Schwab covers all the bases, including ratings, reports and in-depth screening. Also unique to Schwab: Using the new Research Beta experience, stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds can all be researched at the same time.

Market commentary: Schwab's in-house research is terrific, thanks to its staff of experts, including Liz Ann Sonders, Jeffrey Kleintop and Kathy Jones, among others. Additionally, market commentary found through the Schwab Insights portal is consistently fresh and engaging. As a cherry on top, Schwab delivers live daily broadcasting across multiple shows, a feat matched only by TD Ameritrade. Their podcasts are excellent, with Choiceology as a standout among broker podcasts.

Schwab market research screenshots:

Schwab research summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Research - Stocks Yes
Stock Research - ESG No
Stock Research - PDF Reports8
Screener - Stocks Yes
Research - ETFs Yes
Screener - ETFs Yes
Research - Mutual Funds Yes
Screener - Mutual Funds Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB Yes
Research - Bonds Yes
Research - Futures Yes
Research - Forex No

Education

Charles Schwab delivers a thorough educational experience that will satisfy beginners, with a mix of articles and webinars.

Learning center: The article library in Schwab's Knowledge Center covers all key investing topics, from stock trading to retirement. Additionally, at least 50 free webinars are offered each month to current customers, and PDFs of webinars are archived for reviewing on-demand. There is a lot to like in Schwab’s educational offerings.

That said, compared to education leader TD Ameritrade, the primary downside of Schwab's educational offering is a lack of enhanced learning functionality. Paper trading is not offered. There is no progress tracking available to track what educational content you've completed or where you last left off. Also, no interactive learning tools, such as quizzes, are on offer.

Schwab education screenshots:

Schwab education summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Education (Stocks) Yes
Education (ETFs) Yes
Education (Options) Yes
Education (Mutual Funds) Yes
Education (Bonds) Yes
Education (Retirement) Yes
Paper Trading No
Videos Yes
Progress Tracking No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes No

Customer service

To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research firm Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2022 Broker Review, 159 customer service tests were conducted over six weeks. Here are the results for Charles Schwab.

Results

  • Average Connection Time: <1 minute
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 9.1 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 8.2 / 10
  • Overall Score: 8.9 / 10
  • Ranking: 2nd of 13 brokers

Banking services

Among the bank and brokerage combinations in our annual review, Charles Schwab offers a full suite of services that competes with the best in the industry. With over 360 service locations, Charles Schwab is a registered member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures bank deposits up to $250,000.

Loyalty rewards: The downside to banking with Charles Schwab is that the online brokerage offers no loyalty rewards for using multiple products. Loyalty rewards are where Bank of America - Merrill Edge reigns supreme.

Schwab banking summary:

FeatureCharles Schwab
Bank (Member FDIC) Yes
Checking Accounts Yes
Savings Accounts Yes
Credit Cards Yes
Debit Cards Yes
Mortgage Loans Yes

Final thoughts

Charles Schwab clearly understands what self-directed investors require to navigate the market. While there are numerous highlights to Charles Schwab's offering, its bread and butter remains research.

Investors interested in life planning and making the most of retirement will also find Schwab a great fit. In 2022, Schwab's tagline still holds true: "Own Your Tomorrow."

Is Charles Schwab good for beginners?

Given its excellent research and support, Charles Schwab is a good choice for beginner investors. Beginner traders, especially those who are looking to trade on mobile or who are interested in cryptocurrencies, should take a look at Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.

Does Schwab have hidden fees?

Schwab offers $0 ETF and stock trades. They do make money from payment for order flow, or PFOF, as do almost all online brokers. Options trades are $0.65 per contract, which is the standard in the industry, while futures trades cost $2.25. The broker-assisted trade fee is $25. Finally, as with the other brokers we review, there is a fee to transfer your account out: $25 for a partial transfer and $50 for a full transfer.

Is Schwab trustworthy?

Charles Schwab has a great history of safety in the investment industry. Because it does offer banking services and is registered with the FDIC, there is an added layer of protection for bank deposits.

How much money do you need to open a Charles Schwab account?

Schwab does not have a minimum deposit requirement to open an account. It also offers Stock Slices, which allow you to buy a smaller dollar amount of shares, which makes Schwab a reasonable choice for smaller accounts.

Does StreetSmart Edge have a simulator?

StreetSmart Edge, Charles Schwab's flagship downloadable trading platform, does not have a simulator. It does have the ability to do basic backtests of ideas, but there is no paper trading.

About Charles Schwab

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Charles Schwab was founded in 1971 and is one of the largest brokerage firms in the United States with more than 32 million active brokerage accounts and nearly $8 trillion in total client assets. Charles Schwab is also a significant player in the retirement space. In October 2020, Schwab acquired fellow online broker TD Ameritrade, now a Schwab subsidiary. The two brokers currently continue to operate separately; the firm has said it will take up to three years to fully combine.

2022 Review Methodology

Our mission at StockBrokers.com is simple: provide thorough and unbiased reviews of online brokers, based on an extraordinary level of hands-on testing and data collection. Our ratings and awards are based on this data and our experts’ deep authority in the field; brokers cannot pay for preferential treatment. Here’s more about trustworthiness at StockBrokers.com.

For the StockBrokers.com 12th Annual Review published in January 2022, a total of 3,075 data points were collected over three months and used to score 15 top brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

As part of our annual review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones and complete an in-depth data profile, which we hand-checked for accuracy. Brokers also were offered the opportunity to provide executive time for an annual update meeting.

Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.



About the Author

Blain Reinkensmeyer

As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company, among others.








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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/10/2022 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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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