I signed up with Charles Schwab in 2008 for my first investment account outside of an employer sponsored 401(k). I have been thrilled with the experience and only plan to expand my relationship with Schwab in the future. Charles Schwab was founded in 1971 by its namesake chairman, Charles R. Schwab. The full service investment firm is headquartered in San Francisco, California. Schwab manages $1.36 trillion in investments for 7.9 million clients (according to Wikipedia). It has 300 locations in the United States where you can meet with an advisor face to face or you can easily reach your designated consultant by phone or email.
Basic Investment Accounts
As a Schwab customer, you are also given free access to a variety of investment analysis tools. I can take a deep dive look at the fundamentals, or technical analysis of any major investment. I am also given access to investment reports from several other institutions such as Credit Suisse, Reuters, Ned Davis, Standard and Poor’s, and Market Edge.
|Stocks and ETFs||$8.95|
|Schwab ETFs||No fee|
|One Source Mutual Funds (Schwab partners)||No fee|
|Other Mutual Funds||$49.95|
|Options||$8.95 plus $0.75 per contract|
|Fixed Income Investments||Varies – generally $10 minimum|
All automated phone trades have a $5 additional fee. Live broker assisted trades have a $25 fee.
Charles Schwab 401k – Retirement Accounts
I have both a Rollover IRA, and a Roth IRA with Charles Schwab. The accounts work just like a standard brokerage account outside of the tax implications of contributions and withdrawals.
Rolling my old 401(k) into the new IRA was an easy process. I just called up Schwab when I opened the new account, and their customer service representative took care of everything. Checks were mailed to me. All I had to do was mail them, or drop them off at my nearest Charles Schwab branch.
In addition to standard online trading tools, Schwab customers can get access to StreetSmart.com and StreetSmart Edge. These professional trading platforms give live market data and the ability to enter more complex trades. This is free for customers that meet a minimum account balance.
StreetSmart allows for customized views, technical trader graphs, live option and bid ask data, and trading in one location. Many active traders use StreetSmart constantly during trading hours. The application also gives you pop up messages when trades conditions are met or alert conditions are met.
Android, iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry users get an added perk for free. You can view account balances, transfer funds, contact customer service, enter trades, and deposit checks using the mobile application. I have found that I do not use it very often, but it makes life easy when I need it. If you are an active trader, their mobile apps will make your life much easier as you can research, and enter trades on the go rather than being tethered to your computer.
Charles Schwab Bank
A major benefit of using Schwab as a brokerage is Schwab Bank. Schwab Bank is an online only bank that operates similar to ING Direct or Ally Bank. The accounts have a much higher interest rate than standard brick and mortar banks. With Charles Schwab checking, you can write checks to pay your monthly bills.
The biggest perks of Schwab Bank:
- Other bank’s ATM fees are automatically refunded, so you can get cash virtually anywhere, including internationally, at no cost
- You get a check book and can write real checks (all checks are free)
- You can make deposits by mail with pre-paid envelopes or the Schwab mobile app
- Your checking and savings are linked to your brokerage accounts for instant transfers
Where Schwab Really Wins – Customer Service
I have only had positive experiences with Schwab customer service. My personal consultant, named Melanie, promptly answers any questions I have about my account. When I opened my new retirement accounts, she helped me find mutual funds and ETFs that I could buy with no fee. When I needed to update information in my portfolio, she pointed me to the right people. She is a great asset and is familiar with my portfolio and position. And, because it is Schwab, her advising and help is all free.
My Schwab Bank and rollover services were just as professional. Everyone has been friendly, helpful, and courteous. I do not have a horror story to tell you. I have never had a fee that I did not expect. I never had to argue. Everything was done right the first time.
Disadvantages of Schwab
Honestly, I have not had any real downsides in my experiences with Schwab. I do not have a brick and mortar location that I can use for banking, but I expected that when I signed up for Schwab Bank.
Some specialized departments, such as the cost basis analysis group, you have a wait time for customer service requests. I have never had an urgent request with a small group, however, so it has never been a problem for me.
A place Schwab could improve is the main website at Schwab.com. Everything is there and easy to find, but the interface could be modernized a bit to make finding information a bit faster.
I highly recommend Charles Schwab as a full service institution. I only have good things to say about every interaction I have had with the company and its staff. They are the Nordstrom of the investment world, and customers virtually always leave happy.
This guest post has been brought to you by Eric of Narrow Bridge Finance.