What was life like before the Internet -- particularly in regards to investing?
Calling a broker, following stocks in a newspaper, actually leaving your home to open a brokerage account, they are all relics by today's standards.
Online brokerages democratized investing and gave everyone the tools they need to invest like a pro, or very nearly. All that convenience comes at a price though, in some cases: Getting a live human on the phone can be frustrating if you have a problem, and the accounts can be laden with unadvertised fees.
Sure, trades may be cheap, but they can be the tip of the fee iceberg. A recent survey, the American Customer Satisfaction Index's annual e-commerce report, found that fees are the issue most likely to rankle customers of online brokerages, but great customer service and easy-to-use online interfaces make up for the cost.
The ACSI scored some of the bigger Internet brokerages according to customer satisfaction. Charles Schwab topped the list, followed by Fidelity Investments. E-Trade got the lowest score on customer satisfaction, but its performance in the yearly survey has improved over time.
According to the ACSI's executive summary, "E-Trade has seemed to have found its niche among newer investors. Our research shows that E-Trade's customers tend to be younger than the other firms included in the study. This demographic is more likely to interact with the firm through newer media like Facebook and mobile apps."
Do you use an online broker? What do you think of yours?