In our current Web-based culture, people can do everything they used to do by phone, mail or in-person by Internet instead. Investing is no exception. Using online brokerage firms to buy, sell and trade stocks, mutual funds, and commodities has become the norm rather than the exception. There are many advantages to using an online brokerage firm, but there are also so many firms to choose from that it can be hard to know the company that give you the best value. Learning about the five features your online brokerage firm should offer you will help you make the right choice before you invest with them.

Information

There are three different levels of information you need to make the most of your online brokerage account.

  • Investing 101. If you are new to investing your own funds, there is much you need to learn to make your money grow. Your online brokerage firm should offer you an array of resources to help you learn the art and science of investing. They should also offer reporting services to help you monitor and track each investment you make.
  • Account transparency. You need to know what you will be charged for and when as well as how much. With account transparency, you can make trades with confidence and maximize the value and profitability of each trade without incurring unnecessary fees.
  • Real-time investment updates. You should be able to access data in real-time about how investments are performing. This way, you can capitalize on price changes as they occur.

Availability

Before selecting the best online stock broker for your investing needs, you need to know the website can handle peak traffic without delays or downtime. Experts suggest you visit the firm’s website several times per day for several days prior to opening an account. Visit during the busiest trading hours to see how quickly the site loads and how well it functions when there are numerous users logged in.

Investment Options

Your online brokerage firm should give you as much variety in investment options as you would get using a traditional broker. First, check to be sure any stocks, funds or commodities you are interested in are available for purchase. Next, check the different investment types. See if they offer a range of options including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, metal certificates, CDs, futures and commodities. If the variety of investing options meets your needs, check that the firm includes a full range of risk grades in each option from low to high. You should also check to see if the firm offers brokerage services like checking accounts, credit cards, IRAs or other funds management options.

Customer Service

Due to the number of online brokerage firms competing for your business, you should be sure the firm you choose offers blue-chip customer service. Particularly in the financial and investment arena, any firm that is not responsive to customer questions, needs and requests can expect to lose business. So be sure that the customer service for your chosen firm meets your expectations and needs. Also, even though the firm may operate online, this does not mean you should not be able to make a phone call to get support or place a trade. Your firm should offer customer support options by phone and email as well.

Frequent Trader Perks

If you make more trades, you should be rewarded for it. While different online brokerage firms reward loyal customers in different ways, you should receive some incentives for choosing a particular firm and actively managing your online portfolio. For instance, some online firms offer discounts for frequent trading while others offer free trades after a certain number have been made. Be sure you are getting great value for using the service.

If you locate an online brokerage firm that provides these five features, you can feel confident in selecting that firm and starting to build your portfolio with it.

About the Author: Stan Froch began his career as a traditional broker. He then transitioned to open his own online brokerage firm. He recommends learning more about Bell Direct if you are considering an online brokerage firm.

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