Charles Schwab® Review 2019

James Royal is a reporter covering investing and wealth management. Before joining Bankrate, he worked as a writer for NerdWallet and a stock analyst for The Motley Fool. He holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Florida.

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Charles Schwab Logo

Best For

  • Overall experience
  • Research
  • Fee-free funds

 

Charles Schwab is that straight-A student who can do it all well, and this broker delivers with a high-quality experience that can meet the needs of most investors. Schwab provides extensive research, a solid educational experience, low fees, and a great overall experience for beginning and advanced investors. It does all this at a competitive trading commission and throws in highly accessible customer support into the bargain and an investor-friendly attitude, too.

Charles Schwab offers the do-anything fully-featured experience of a full-service online broker.

Charles Schwab at a glance

Star Rating

4.5
  • Affordability: 5 of 5
  • Usability: 5 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 5 of 5
  • Mobile: 4 of 5
  • Scalability: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $4.95
  • Cost per options trade:
    $4.95+$0.65 per contract
  • Promotion:
    500 stock and options free trades with $100k deposit
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    500+ commission-free ETFs
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    4000+ NTF mutual funds
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, futures
  • Customer service:
    24/7 phone support, online chat support and in-person service at 300 branches nationwide
  • Account fees:
    $50 transfer fee
  • Mobile app:
    Schwab offers the “Schwab Mobile” app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Features you’ll love

High quality trading platforms

Schwab offers a pair of trading platforms as well as mobile apps, so you’ll have a means to trade wherever you are.

Schwab.com web trader: The broker’s entry-level platform does plenty. In addition to all the basic features, the platform keeps tabs on major indexes and watch lists, can pull up a company’s financials and trading data, access options chains and analyze trends. If you need even more, you can step up to StreetSmart Edge.

StreetSmart Edge: This is Schwab’s flagship trading platform, and it shows. The interface is highly customizable, so you can set up the interface to optimize your trading process. You can trawl screeners for trading ideas, while news feeds and live CNBC coverage roll on the platform. The platform also offers advanced charting, and you’ll be able to place complex, multi-leg orders on the all-in-one trade ticket. You can access the platform in both web and desktop versions.

Integration with Amazon Alexa

If you have Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, then you can load the new Schwab skill. With the skill, you’ll be able to request market updates, quotes on stocks and funds, as well as organize a watchlist. It’s hard not to see this evolving in the future so that you’d be able to trade and conduct other account tasks via Alexa, too.

Where Charles Schwab rocks

Research: Schwab is great at providing investors what they need to know, both in terms of research and all the tools that the broker offers.

Clients receive earnings news from Reuters, Briefing.com and others, while Schwab also provides market commentary from Morningstar, Credit Suisse, Ned Davis and more. Those investors looking for research on specific stocks will find Schwab’s in-house analytical work, including Schwab Equity Ratings for evaluating a stock’s performance, as well as other third-party reports.

Fund investors can access the Morningstar rating for each mutual fund, while ETF traders can trawl through the offerings efficiently with Schwab’s ETF Screener and ETF Select List (a guide to the broker’s top picks). It’s a quick way to sift the fund universe for what you really want, and the screener helps you find no-fee funds quickly.

Fixed-income traders can pore through more than 30,000 offerings with Schwab BondSource, a screener that includes ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Trading fees: Schwab charges just $4.95 for stock and ETF trades and a base commission of $4.95 plus $0.65 per contract for options. You could find cheaper if you wanted to skimp on some other key features such as research, customer support or fee-free funds. But Schwab’s price is competitive and more than reasonable for all the value you’re getting. Plus, there’s no account minimum, so it’s incredibly easy to get started.

Fee-free funds: Schwab offers a robust lineup of commission-free ETFs. Early in 2019, the broker doubled the number of its fee-free ETFs to more than 500. So you’ll have a wide selection to choose from, and you won’t have to pay to buy and sell them.

Mutual fund investors should also be happy with Schwab’s offerings – with more than 7,400 available without a sales load. Investors in mutual funds should generally be looking to avoid sales loads, since they’re a dead loss, and Schwab gives you plenty of solid fund choices. But it goes one better, offering more than 4,300 funds with no load and no transaction fee, meaning you’ll buy and sell without a commission. It’s another way that Schwab is so investor-friendly.

Customer support: It might be a dark and stormy night, but Schwab’s customer support team is going to be open to take your call. Not only does the Schwab team take calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s also available for live online chats around the clock, too.

You can always send an email, or you can stop by one of the more than 300 Schwab branches if you need more personal assistance. This physical presence is an advantage that Schwab has over online-only brokers such as Robinhood or Interactive Brokers.

 

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
Charles Schwab logo
$4.95 5 of 5
TD Ameritrade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$6.95 5 of 5
Fidelity® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$4.95 4 of 5
E*Trade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$6.95* 4 of 5

Where Charles Schwab could improve

New account bonus: With all the positives offered by Schwab, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker if the broker requires one of the highest qualifying deposits – $100,000 – to receive a sign-up bonus. That bonus is 500 free stock and options trades over the next two years, a period that’s longer than what many brokers offer. But if you’re looking for a cash bonus, which many brokers offer at much lower thresholds, you’re not going to find it here. Also, that kind of initial deposit would earn you free trades indefinitely at Merrill Edge.

However, there’s a way to receive a sign-on bonus if you can get a current Schwab customer to refer you. In that case, you’ll score $100 in cash.

Bottom line

Charles Schwab is great for investors who want a full-service broker who can do it all at a high level:

  • The research and education packages get investors up to speed quickly and keep them informed.
  • Investor-friendly practices such as low fees and round-the-clock customer support make the broker easy to use.
  • Schwab charges a competitive trading commission for the entire package.

Investors who are interested in research and education should also have a look at Merrill Edge and Fidelity Investments. Both offer extensive free research on stocks as well as market commentary, and are solid overall picks. Investors who want a more extensive investment selection, including foreign stocks, may find TD Ameritrade interesting, while those seeking an attractive sign-up promotion — including cash bonuses and free trades — should check out Ally Invest.

 

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