Scottrade Review: An Easy, Accessible, and Consistent Online Trading Platform

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So you’ve decided to take the leap into the world of online trading. Maybe you’ve never invested before and you don’t want to get burned. If you want a reliable system for your first time at bat, Scottrade may well be the way to go.

What are Scottrade’s Main Features?

Scottrade’s a long-running organization that has survived the growing pains of most newer platforms. Scottrade’s acclaim can be seen as recently as 2014, when J.D. Power named them on their list of Customer Champions for their respectable customer service.

Their main feature is their $7 trades, which is a flat fee they still have today, making beginner trading affordable and accessible. With this kind of rate, it becomes easy for traders to just dip their toe in the water and see if their initial stock pays dividends.

In addition to their $7 rate, their entire brand is built around providing an overall high quality of service to their customers at a great value. This includes not tacking on any fees for inactivity or making you pay just to maintain your account.

There are two major branches of Scottrade trading platforms, Scottrader Streaming Quotes and ScottradeELITE. The normal Scottrader account grants you access to their software, from which you can evaluate your risk management and perform multi-leg option trading.

Further, a Scottrade account offers free one-on-one portfolio reviews, in which you get advice on how best to invest. You also get an incredible level of flexibility in the extent of your involvement, whether you want to go solo with self-directed investing or seek out investment management.

A Scottrade account also gives you access to the SmartText platform, which helps digest information for you. If you have a big wish-list, for example, SmartText can distill all of the charts and data into plain English so you can make faster trading decisions.

The next level up, ScottradeELITE — which requires a $25,000 balance — is a more advanced platform that offers up-to-date changes to the market. This provides you with tremendous trading advantages, though by that point you may already be invested so much in the market you may already be able to do this on your own.

Additionally, even the ELITE software is not quite up to the standard of many other investment platforms you can find online, and could use an upgrade to maximize its user-friendliness.

For complex traders, ScottradePRO might be worth looking into, as well. ScottradePRO, built with Interactive Brokers’ software, taps into some serious intel and helps users execute complex options strategies.

The Ameritrade Purchase

In late 2016, TD Ameritrade acquired Scottrade, but Ameritrade’s purchase shouldn’t affect Scottrade users, at least not in the short term.

“In short, nothing’s changing from our end,” Scottrade President Peter deSilva said in October 2016. “Our experienced, professional Investment Consultants in nearly 500 branches around the country stand ready to help you in any way they can. We’re committed to working just as hard as we always have on your trading strategies, investing plans and retirement goals. Our platforms, tools and vast array of online support and education will remain in place.

“Scottrade will continue to do what it always has: Focus squarely on helping each of you overcome barriers to financial success.”

What are the Pros and Cons?

Pros

  • Just as when it launched, Scottrade’s $7 trades are still active, making for an easy and accessible way to start trading
  • Good customer service
  • Minimal transaction and per-trade fees
  • Beginner-friendly trading resources
  • Real-time streaming quotes
  • Diverse array of mutual funds available
  • Deposit instantly from qualified bank accounts

Cons

  • All ETFs require you to pay commissions to brokers
  • Relatively outdated software
  • No futures trading
  • No electronic withdrawals
  • $2,500 minimum balance for regular brokerage account
  • $25,000 balance in account for ScottradeELITE platform

How Do You Open a Scottrade Account, and What are the Requirements?

Opening a Scottrade account is comparatively easy, making the barrier to entry refreshingly low. All you have to do is go to the website and fill out the online form, which takes about 10 minutes.

Just put in the necessary info — your Social Security Number, the name and address of your employer, etc. — and you’re all set. (If you want to set up your IRA with Scottrade, you need to include the SSN, address, and date of birth for your beneficiary).

Once your account is set up, you can deposit money by electronic transfer, check deposit, stock certificate deposit, wire fund transfer, or external brokerage account transfer.

Scottrade requires a $2,500 minimum deposit to open a regular brokerage account, so make sure there is at least a certain amount of investment you wish to make in online trading before signing up.

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What Are the Rules for Trading on Scottrade?

After your account is set up and you have a balance, you can invest in stocks and ETFs for $7 a trade, with a 70-cent fee per contract.

You can also trade in any of the 14,000-plus mutual funds they have available, between No-Load, No-Transaction Fee funds, No-Load, Load and Listed Corporate Bonds, each with its own separate fee structure. NTF funds have no fees for buying or selling.

Scottrade has a number of possible accounts you can work from, whether individual or joint taxable brokerage accounts, traditional or Roth IRAs, or SEP and SIMPLE IRAs. You can also set up your 401(k) there, as well as a Coverdell ESA for your children’s college funds.

Scottrade’s depositing and withdrawal methods are worth mentioning, as well: While they allow instant deposits of funds from qualified bank accounts to load into your account, right now they don’t have an electronic way to withdraw funds from your balance.

This can make it a little less convenient to work with if you want to avoid relying on physical locations or ways of transferring funds; otherwise, Scottrade offers a great deal of flexibility.

What Kind of Trader is Scottrade Best For?

Among brokerages, Scottrade is a perfect trader for someone just starting out in the world of investing. To many, trading seems like such a major investment in time and money for something that they cannot control — the ebb and flow of the market is something they simply cannot trust.

There are others who want to get into trading, but who might need some help navigating the system or investing in their IRA.

For these people, Scottrade can be an ideal solution: Their $7 flat trades are a wonderful way to invest just a little bit of money — not much more than the cost of your morning Starbucks — and see how your money is treated on the market.

The lack of any huge extra fees, plus the better-than-average customer service, minimizes the risk even further, making Scottrade a decent way to invest.

To that point, Scottrade has managed to build one of the best customer service reputations in the online brokerages business. After all, StockBrokers.com has named them Best Overall Client Experience for four years in a row, as well as Best Online Broker for the last six years.

This kind of acclaim does not come lightly. You can expect a high level of customer service, no matter your investment, if you decide to go with Scottrade.

That said, their actual trading software feels a little behind the times. Scottrade’s mobile app, for instance, is relatively outdated compared to more innovative mobile solutions, which can disappoint those who want to do their trading from their phone.

However, if that is a low priority for you, their mobile app (and their other trading software) do a perfectly good job of offering market news and analysis to inform your trading.

Other Good Platforms

There are a few decent alternatives that could help you get started if you have problems with Scottrade’s high starting price and somewhat outdated software. Capital One Investing’s online tool is a more streamlined navigation system than Scottrade’s, if your major focus is easily understanding your investment portfolio.

If you’re looking for a similar set of features but lower fees, look into TradeKing. TradeKing charges less per trade, and it requires no minimum deposit. (TradeKing, however, does charge an inactivity fee.)

If you’re looking for a few more investment options at comparable fee structures and with comparable feature sets, look into E*Trade. E*Trade has hundreds more investment opportunities, including many commission-free ETFs.

If you want to just try out a small investment to see whether investing is right for you, and you want to be able to control everything from your phone, Stash Invest is another high-quality trading app.

Stash allows you to start trading on the market for stocks as low as a dollar, with little to no transaction cost. However, it focuses on pre-packaged diversified portfolios rather than specific stocks, so it lacks the kind of control you can get from something like Scottrade.

A Few Final Thoughts

For those just starting out as a trader, the simplicity and consistency of Scottrade is something to consider as a beginner’s option. Investments and trading can become a complicated process, with all manner of fees and technical requirements that can make your head spin if you’re not ready.

As such, you want an online broker that will make the process easy for you, with minimal fees and a reasonable starting investment. You don’t want to get lost on your first day on the market, after all.

Granted, there are aspects of Scottrade that could use improvement — the initial $2,500 deposit could be a bit pricey for new investors, and there are certainly other traders and outfits with more updated software.

Compared to other competitors, Scottrade is the old dog working to hold its own in a rapidly changing neighborhood. However, if you want to get a nice, simple start with consistent online trading, with great customer service to back you if you need help, you could do much worse than Scottrade.

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