Are you shopping for an excellent online broker, one that offers all the special features, functions, and markets that make trading and investing an exciting, safe activity? If so, it’s important to begin by making a list of the essential things you’re looking for in an online brokerage firm. Why? First, it’s possible to take your investing and trading to the next level by connecting with a service provider who caters to new and experienced account-holders. It’s also imperative to locate a company that offers the kinds of services, news feeds, and asset classes that interest you the most.
What are the most relevant suggestions and tips for locating the best company based on your particular criteria? In addition to markets and services, consider regulation, reputation, and reviews. After that, explore customer service quality, minimum opening balances, and how easy it is to transfer funds to and from the account. Finally, aim for a provider that offers top-notch educational resources, low fees, reasonable commissions, and the trading platforms you need to succeed. Here’s more about each of the tips that can supercharge your online activity and connect you with a brokerage firm that checks all the boxes.
Services and Markets
Before anything else, double-check all the websites on your shortlist to be certain that they offer the services and markets you need and want. Most of the top brokers’ sites are designed in a user-friendly way. Along the top or left side of the page, in most cases, you’ll see the main categories of services, like auto-trading, margin accounts, special kinds of charting, and indicators. The same is true for instruments and market coverage. If you only trade forex, automatically eliminate firms that don’t offer the asset class.
In a similar way, you can eliminate companies that don’t have demo accounts if you feel like you need to practice order placement skills before putting your own capital at risk. Most companies that are licensed as online brokers tend to specialize in a group of markets and services. However, there are several industry leaders who offer just about everything a new customer could want. The point is to spend time on each website and make a few notes about features that interest you. Later, you can revisit the shortlist before making a final decision.
It’s wise to only work with companies that are under one or more sets of national and regional regulations. Those who deal in foreign currencies know this rule well and tend to stick with firms that meet the regulated forex broker criteria in the nations where they reside. Note that some companies operate offshore or in unregulated zones and thus don’t offer the security of regulated brokerage companies.
The concept of reputation is hard to define, but it’s possible to get a feel for any company’s reputation by doing a bit of research. Look for news stories about the firms on your list and see whether any of them are involved in major legal disputes or have been disciplined by regulatory agencies. The top-ranking entities rarely encounter those kinds of problems, but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick search engine screening.
Verifiable Online Reviews
Another iffy area of investigation is online reviews. There are hundreds of affiliate marketers out there who set up fake review websites solely to generate sales of products and services. Aim to find the non-affiliate, major review collections that list credible comments from current and former customers. Don’t expect universally positive comments. That’s because any large organization inevitably has a few unhappy customers. So, be willing to accept a positive review percentage in the nineties or above. Read a few critical comments and make notes about what the people say. Then, when you call customer service departments, ask about the points you noted.
Customer Service Response Time
Write down any questions you have about the company and add them to the notes you made when reading online reviews and comments. Then, call the broker’s customer service number to see how responsive they are. If there is no phone listed, email the support address. The single most effective way to evaluate a customer service department is to do a test run like this. Not only does it give you an authentic feel for how good of a job they do, but you also get some of your actual questions answered at the same time.
Account Minimums and Money Transfer
In the financial services world, some service providers have high opening account requirements. Note that many websites do not list this information up front, and you might not run into it until you begin filling out an application form. One of the best questions you can ask a rep when you call is what are the opening balance requirements, and how can you transfer funds into the account? There are no industry standards in this area, so be ready to encounter lots of variations in minimums, transfer methods, and clearance times. Don’t forget to ask reps how withdrawals work and how long it takes to receive funds after making a request.
Platforms and Educational Resources
Are you a fan of MetaTrader 4 or 5 or one of the other specialty trading arrays that many use every day? If so, be sure that your new broker offers it on their site or allows you to download and place orders through it. Most of the top service providers include additional features in this category, like web-based trading platforms and mobile-friendly placement of orders.
Fees and Commissions
Here’s another category where the raw data is not always available on page one of a website. Beware of no-fee promises that are thinly disguised ways of covering for other charges. Always check the fine print of legal documents, where almost all the charges, fees, and commissions are spelled out in minute detail. Fortunately, reputable, top-ranked firms are pretty good at explaining these kinds of details in a clear, honest manner. Avoid companies that are not upfront about what it costs to do business with them.