Ally Invest® Review 2019

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Bottom line in a sentence

If you're not worried about funds and simply want a cheap and flexible platform for stocks and options, Ally has you covered with a low cost structure and great tools.

Ally Invest at a glance

Star Rating

4
  • Affordablity: 5 of 5
  • Usability: 4 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 4 of 5
  • Mobile: 3 of 5
  • Scalability: 4 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $4.95
  • Cost per options trade:
    $4.95 $0.65 per contract
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    None
  • Customer service:
    24/7 phone and online chat support.
  • Inactivity fee:
    Ally does not charge an inactivity fee.
  • Mobile app:
    Yes, the “Ally Mobile” app is available through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Annual fees:
    Ally does not charge an annual fee.
  • How long to withdraw:
    Withdrawal request are processed within two business days and users can receive their funds via check or eCheck.
  • SIPC insured:
    Yes, as a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), funds are available to meet customer claims up to a ceiling of $500,000, including a maximum of $250,000 for cash claims.
  • Best for:
    Self-directed investors who primarily care about stocks and options

What Ally Invest is

Online broker Ally got its starts roughly a century ago in the auto industry as General Motors Acceptance Corp., or GMAC. Offering car loans to Chevy buyers was only the start, though; by 2000, GMAC was deep into mortgage banking and other consumer-facing services.

Ally's cost structure can get even cheaper for active traders, though. Active investors qualify for a discounted rate of $3.95 per equity trade and $3.95 per options trade plus $0.50 a contract. Specifically, the threshold is 30 trades a quarter – or 10 a month – or a balance of $100,000 or more.

That's not exactly populist, but it is reasonably accessible for investors who are moderately serious but perhaps not a Wall Street fat cat making dozens of trades a week with a million-dollar portfolio.

If you're a buy-and-hold investor focused on funds then perhaps Ally isn't a great place for your money. But even rookie traders will like the low cost structure and the incentives that unlock once your portfolio and activity reaches a moderate level.

What Ally Invest costs

Ally's standard pricing for stock trades is $4.95, and options are $4.95 plus an additional $0.65 per contract. There are no commission-free ETFs, but this low pricing structure still makes it possible to invest in funds fairly effectively.

Ally's cost structure can get even cheaper for active traders, though. Active investors qualify for a discounted rate of $3.95 per equity trade and $3.95 per options trade plus $0.50 a contract. Specifically, the threshold is 30 trades a quarter – or 10 a month – or a balance of $100,000 or more.

That's not exactly populist, but it is reasonably accessible for investors who are moderately serious but perhaps not a Wall Street fat cat making dozens of trades a week with a million-dollar portfolio.

If you're a buy-and-hold investor focused on funds then perhaps Ally isn't a great place for your money. But even rookie traders will like the low cost structure and the incentives that unlock once your portfolio and activity reaches a moderate level.

What Ally Invest offers

Ally's platform was built largely on the acquisition of TradeKing – a discount offering that was growing fast thanks to great service, low costs and helpful tools.

Keeping the good parts of TradeKing is a big win. But Ally also invested in building an even more robust platform that truly can serve investors who are serious about stocks and options

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
ally-invest logo
$4.95 4 of 5
wellstrade logo Read Our Review
$5.95 3 of 5
charles-schwab logo Read Our Review
$4.95 5 of 5
td-ameritrade logo Read Our Review
$6.95 5 of 5

Some of these specific features worth noting include:

  • Best-in-class charts: The charting options provided by Ally include some terms and metrics that you won't find from other brokers. It's not just the library of options, either, but the intuitive interface and clean display coupled with flexible tools and customization ensures you can make exactly the chart you want. For serious traders, this is a huge deal and often drives them outside their investing platform to do charting in third-party software – but Ally is committed to a native experience, which is something few other brokers can claim. The fact that all charting features are also embedded in every quote page as well as in the dedicating charts tool is also a plus.
    Ally probability calculator dashboard screenshot
    "While not exactly mainstream concepts, crucial charting metrics like MACD and Bollinger bands are just a click away on Ally – as are dozens of other chart studies that most brokers don't bother to offer."
  • Elite options trading: Some brokers include options as just one more thing they can offer, and much of the data is difficult to read. But TradeKing made a name for itself among options traders by taking this segment of the market seriously. Ally kept this focus, and it shows with some of the easiest-to-read options chains. "In the money" and "near the money" contracts are easily identifiable, so you can trade with confidence. But perhaps even more compelling are tools like a Strategy Workbench for traders who want more than a single-leg options strategy, a probability calculator based on historical trends to show how likely it is you'll hit your target price and a profit/loss graph that offers a visual representation of when to book your profits – or when to cut your losses. For serious options traders, these are must-see tools.
    Ally trade dashboard screenshot
    "While some brokers are seemingly reluctant players in the options space, Ally puts a priority on this asset class with amazing tools and a top-notch experience – despite being at the bottom of the cost spectrum when it comes to commissions."
  • Quality digital-first banking options: Ally doesn't have any brick-and-mortar branches, so it's focused on things like its brokerage platform to build its business. But that's not all Ally has going on. Ally offers high-yield online savings accounts that are very competitive thanks to its lower overhead, and a cash-back credit card that pays you 2 percent back on basic expenses like gas and groceries and 1 percent on everything else. If you don't care for megabanks and prefer a digital-first place for your money, Ally offers not just an investing platform but plenty of other services.
  • Complete mobile tool set: It's impressive that many of these in-depth options also port over to a mobile device, too. Many traders may not have much interest in doing intense charting on the go, but the fact that Ally offers a high level of functionality even on a small screen is a positive.

What Ally Invest lacks

There's a lot for active traders to love about Ally, from its rock-bottom cost structure to its amazing options charting and research tools. However, if you're just a casual investor who has no intention of placing more than a few trades each year – or more importantly, if you're the buy-and-hold type who is biased toward mutual funds and ETFS – you may want to pass on Ally.

Ally offers zero commission-free ETFs or mutual funds. That's hard to fathom seeing as thousands of traditional mutual funds come standard on most platforms, and nearly every other broker has made a not to exchange traded funds in some way. However, remember that many of these folks come from the funds biz to begin with, and that simply isn't Ally's background or focus.

Another shortfall is the lack of third-party research that is easy to access on other platforms. Again, that's because many of these shops are doing investment research for internal use or they have been around long enough to get connected with the big guys. But Ally is just getting started in the space and seems to be committed to the do-it-yourself active investor instead of a traditional investor with a focus on funds and price targets from the big name firms.

Ally Invest is best for...

Ally is very much suited for the next generation of active investors who are native to digital banking and comfortable doing their own research. There are 21st-century spins on some of the more traditional offerings, including online savings offerings and even managed accounts. But this is not the core mission or the key value proposition of Ally.

A look at this online broker shows that it is fighting to win the hearts of active traders who are serious about stocks and options but don't want to pay the higher fees of traditional brokerages and don't care if they lose access to mutual funds in the process.

If you're at all comfortable managing your own money, Ally grows with you, too. That makes it worth funding an account for anyone who is serious about stocks and options.