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Charles Schwab Review

Charles Schwab Review

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Description

Looking for a new online investment company? Our unbiased Charles Schwab review will help you decide whether they're the right broker for you.

Charles Schwab Review

Introduction

Charles Schwab is a full-service investment company that caters to every kind of investor.

Beginners needing in-depth investing information and guidance, as well as more experienced, active traders all stand to benefit from the firm's offering of sophisticated online resources. These include full banking capabilities and a wide range of robust trading platforms to choose from.

In fact, Charles Schwab has won a number of accolades. J.D. Power has voted the company Highest in Investor Satisfaction with Full Service Brokerage Firms three years in a row (2016-2018).

Investor's Business Daily ranked Charles Schwab first-place in their Best Online Brokers survey, as well as for Customer Service, Low Cost/Free ETF Trading, and Trade Reliability. Fortune also places them as one of the Top 50 World's Most Admired Companies, with Charles Schwab at second-place for Securities and Asset Management.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

So if Charles Schwab has caught your eye and you're wondering whether they're the investment company for you, you've come to the right place. Our review will help you make an informed decision.

Quick Facts

Charles Schwab is Best For

The following types of investors will get the most out of Charles Schwab's services:

  • First-time and novice investors
  • Intermediate and advanced active traders
  • Those looking for commission-free ETFs
  • Those looking for no-minimum index funds
  • Those who rely on extensive, premium research

Pros

Taking a hard look at what Charles Schwab has to offer, it's easy to see why they've won so many accolades. Let's go a little more in-depth:

+Commissions & Funds Fees

At only $4.95, Charles Schwab offers one of the lowest-cost trade commissions fees in the online brokerage market.

As an added bonus, as of March 1, 2019, traders will pay no commission whatsoever on more than 500 EFTs, with the lineup having been nearly doubled from 260. More than 4,000 mutual funds, forming part of the firm's OneSource services, will also enjoy zero transaction fees and no loads (the initial sales charges).

Thanks to their propriety list of EFTs and index funds, Charles Schwab is now able to boast some of the lowest expense ratios on the market.

+All-inclusive Investment Selection

Making it ever-more affordable for investors to diversify their portfolio, Charles Schwab offers one of the most robust trading platforms for mutual funds free of transactions fees, as well as commission-free ETFs.

This selection is truly impressive, as well as easily navigable. Their ETF Select List® streamlines the selection process by featuring picks according to funds in selected categories. You can also opt to reorganize the list according to the features you're most interested in, such as benchmark index, Morningstar category, and gross expense ratio.

The Personalized Portfolio Builder tool is another major bonus in Charles Schwab's investment selection capabilities. Designed to help investors develop a more diversified portfolio, the tool takes your risk tolerance, timeline, and financial goals into consideration.

Another major benefit is that the firm ceaselessly competes with other brokerages to offer the best cost-value. Regardless of the amount you invest, you'll pay the same expense ratios for their mutual funds, which carry no minimum deposit.

Charles Schwab's ETF expense ratios either match or beat those offered by two of the firm's biggest competitors, BlackRock and Vanguard.

+Customer Service

Charles Schwab offers 24/7 phone support, which is becoming something of a standard for online brokerage firms. They also have an online chat support feature via their website, where customers can get any questions answered quickly and easily – around-the-clock and on a one-to-one basis.

Alternatively, there are more than 350 branches hosting complimentary workshops. You can also attend one of their daily or quarterly live stream virtual events, or search for consultants by location to book an appointment for in-person meetings. Just bear in mind that the firm doesn't have a brick-and-mortar presence in all 50 states: use their branch locator to find the nearest one to you.

If you want complete management, they also offer automated robo-advisory services through the Schwab Intelligent Portfolios® and Schwab Intelligent Advisory™.

+Research Capabilities

As mentioned in our introduction, Charles Schwab offers extensive research resources for investing beginners and more advanced traders alike. In fact, the firm's offerings in this regard are possibly the best available, beating those of most (if not all) their competitors.

On the other hand, Charles Schwab doesn't only use their own equity ratings to provide these research resources. They also include reports from Credit Suisse, Market Edge® (via StreetSmart Edge®, Charles Schwab's customizable trading software), Morningstar, the Ned Davis Research Group, and several others. These resources by Charles Schwab also include earnings reports and real-time news updates, research reports, and market commentary by in-house experts.

Additionally, you can access their quarterly magazine, OnInvesting®, online for free. The company also hosts two podcasts, Choiceology® with Katy Milkman and Financial Decoder™ with Mark Riepe (head of the Schwab Center for Financial Research).

Charles Schwab's investment screeners, such as Select Lists (including the ETF Select List® we mentioned earlier), are also incredibly user-friendly. These are all professionally compiled by in-house experts and published quarterly, giving investors access to pre-screened selections of ETFs and mutual funds.

As previously mentioned, you can also reorganize the data categorization. If you're only interested in viewing the firm's recommendations for large-cap stock mutual funds, for example, you can elect to have them displayed prominently instead of having to scroll through the list. You can even save your personalized screens for easier future reference.

Finally, if you use Amazon Alexa, the virtual assistant now features the Schwab Skill. Here, you can quickly and easily access watch list updates, securities price quotes, market updates, and more.

+Account & Investment Minimums

Charles Schwab lowered their account minimums from $1,000 to $0 in late 2018. It's worth noting that this excludes the Schwab Charitable™ and Investment Management portfolios (which continue to have account minimums of $5,000 to $500,000).

However, this still means that the firm is now more affordable than Fidelity, BlackRock, and Vanguard, and operates in direct competition with other no-minimum online brokers, such as TD Ameritrade.

The most notable benefit for investors – and especially beginners with limited funds available – is that the firm's index funds carry no account minimums. This means that even with limited financial resources, if you can only afford to make small, regular investments, you can still diversify your portfolio with one of these funds.

+Robust Trading Platforms

The online brokerage offers two highly robust trading platforms in addition to their basic trading capabilities.

StreetSmart Edge®, the firm's premier offering, is a customizable trading platform that comes with your choice of cloud-based online technology or downloadable software. Schwab Trading Services™ (called Trade Source) not only includes access to the StreetSmart Edge® trading platform, but also the Schwab Trading Community and – if you have a brokerage account with the firm – their trading specialists.

Charles Schwab also hosts StreetSmart Central™, a suite of programs for options trading. (Reminder that the firm only charges $4.95 plus $0.65 per options contract.) You can also use the Schwab Mobile app for iOS and Android, or their StreetSmart Mobile app (Also available for iOS and Android), for mobile trading.

Trade Source and StreetSmart are available to customers who have opted into Charles Schwab's trade services, with no additional fees or trade minimums. Both platforms provide access to the broker's robust selection of tools and research features that cater to every kind of trader. These platforms offer more sophisticated features than their website, where you're largely limited to basic trades.

+StreetSmart Edge® Features

Designed with efficiency and easy navigation in mind, StreetSmart Edge® boasts customizable features to help you personalize the platform according to your trading style. You'll also have access to Charles Schwab's exclusive, robust charting tools, market exposure monitoring tools, multiple security tradings in the same window, and commercial-free CNBC live streaming.

The Balances Bar, one of the customizable features, not only gives customers quick account and buying power overviews, but also the freedom to create and edit multiple trading layouts.

You'll also be able to view streaming market data, easily research symbols, and enter orders.

+Trade Source Features

While somewhat less impressive than SmartStreet Edge®, Trade Source still allows traders to monitor their portfolio as well as markets. You'll also be able to view technical data and access research tools.

One unique feature of Trade Source is its intuitive stock trade tickets, ETF, and options orders. These incorporate all the most relevant current market information.

Cons

Unfortunately, no online brokerage is perfect. Here are two points of contention we have with Charles Schwab.

-Funds Transaction-Fees

While Charles Schwab has a long list of no-transaction-fee funds available, there are some funds that aren't included in that list. If you want to buy (or sell) one of these funds, you're going to pay a transaction fee of $49.95.

Even though the transaction fee was recently reduced (from $76), it remains comparatively high.

The good news is, the no-transaction-fee funds really is an extensive list, so you could easily avoid having to opt for one of these. But for some traders, the most attractive options are going to carry the $49.95 price-tag.

-Website Usability & Customer Experience

There's no faulting Charles Schwab's wealth of information freely available on their website. However, the drawback is that it can be difficult to find the information you're looking for.

Customers have also complained that while the firm offers 24/7 assistance via phone and online chat, there's a long wait time for issues that require a specialist's insight and assistance. Some also add that the apps have slow loading times, issues with the fingerprint login, and/or push notifications that are more distracting than useful.

Charles Schwab does offer some recourse, however. If you're dissatisfied with their services, you can open a dispute. The firm will investigate, and if your dispute meets certain criteria, they'll refund fees and/or commissions.

Is Charles Schwab Right For You?

Trade fees and commissions play a massive role in making or breaking investment opportunities, so Charles Schwab is certainly one of the most attractive firms on the market. Add to that their extensive research resources and tools, and you have a clear winner.

As we already mentioned, it's really no wonder the online broker has won so much acclaim. There really are only two cons to the company, and both are largely offset by their many pros. In fact, even though it can be difficult to immediately find the information you're looking for, their website features a search function to help overcome this difficulty.

At the end of the day, however, it's up to you to decide whether Charles Schwab is the right investment broker for you. While we certainly do recommend them, your unique financial standing and goals are going to influence your decision.

What we can recommend is making use of their online chat feature before committing as a client. When opening a chat, you'll be asked for your name and email address, and be given an opportunity to list any questions you'd like answered. This will give you an opportunity to better decide whether or not Charles Schwab is your best option.

Conclusion

Thanks to their low commissions, commission-free ETFs, no-minimum funds, extensive high-quality research resources, online tools, and strong trading platforms, Charles Schwab is certainly one of our favorite brokers.

Whether you're a complete novice or have some (or even a lot) of experience as an investor and trader, you're sure to enjoy what the firm has to offer.

Related:  Fidelity Review

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