Charles Schwab Review – Is This Broker Right For You?

Charles Schwab Review
  • Commissions
  • Mobile Platform
  • Desktop Platform
  • Executions
  • Research Tools
  • Customer Service
4.1

Summary

Charles Schwab is one of the most iconic brokerages in the country. With 229 commission-free ETFs and a flat fee of $4.95 per trade, along with trading technology such as StreetSmart Edge, Schwab appeals to all client types as a juggernaut of the industry. The Charles Schwab platform is a great option for day traders and investors but has a bit of a problem with a lag.

Charles Schwab is one of the most iconic brokerages in the country. In efforts to maintain their status, they’ve jumped right into the low-fee battleground in an attempt to attract new customers. With 229 commission-free ETFs and a flat fee of $4.95 per trade, along with trading technology such as StreetSmart Edge, Schwab continues to appeal to all client types as a juggernaut of the industry.

schwab platform

Requirements

Minimum to open: $1,000 for IRAs or brokerages, $5,000 for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios (robo advisor services)

Management fees: None

Ability to trade: ETFs, Mutual funds, Options, Futures, Stocks, Bonds

Cost per stock trade: $4.95

Options pricing: $0.65 per contract

Promotions: Deposit $100,000 receive 500 commission free online equity and options trades

Technology: Mobile app, StreetSmart Edge

Technology fees: Free

Tools

Schwab’s prized possession is its StreetSmart Edge desktop application, available on Mac OS X or Windows. The platform provides ample tools for traders to set up shop, including moving averages, alerts, level II real-time quotes, and customizable charts. The charts seem antiquated and unattractive, and the platform itself is a little slow. It’s likely users will be able to cope with that since almost every indicator you can think of is available.

Schwab StreetSmart Edge

The charts types can be set to line charts, candlesticks, or bar. Colors can be adjusted to your preference. Price scale can be altered between log and linear, and you can include pre-market and after hours in the charts. VWAP and all other popular moving averages are readily available and customizable. The level II includes market depth, with bid and offer sizes and real time trades.

The Schwab mobile app is very simple to use and has been renowned one of the best brokerage apps in the industry. With fingerprint touch ID for easy login, you can easily manage trades, scroll through stock quotes and charts, and manage your account. Unlike thinkorswim, they’re yet to provide futures prices or candlestick charts on their app.

StreetSmart Edge gives you access to Briefing.com’s news feed, including InPlay, which features live analysis, news, earnings coverage, and analyst upgrades/downgrades, including Briefing.com’s economic coverage and commentary.

The app also provides tools such as Watch Lists, Block Trade Indicators, and a variety of different filters for stocks that are on the move such as unusual volume, top percent gainers and losers, and more.

Charles Schwab Platform

Margin

Schwab permits margin for any accounts with $2,000 cash or marginable securities. The rate depends on your account balance, with the base rate being 6.75%. The marginal rate is structured all the way up to $500,000.

Customer Service

Schwab has a 24/7 hotline and a very convenient and easy to use live chat that’s available from 8 AM to 6 PM on weekdays. The live chat rarely has a wait time longer than 5 minutes, reliable for anyone unable or inconvenienced by speaking on the phone during the day. They’re also available via e-mail, and have over 300 branches if you’re looking to talk to a representative face to face.

Routes

Schwab routes orders for execution to unaffiliated broker-dealers, who may act as market maker or manage execution of the orders in other market venues. These include Virtu, UBS Securities, Citadel, G1X, and Two Sigma.

Locates

A hard-to-borrow indicator is located on every level II monitor and trade ticket. Unfortunately, stocks that are hard-to-borrow require that you call the Securities Lending desk in order to obtain a locate. For day traders, where every second counts, this could cause a major headache and ruin the trade itself.

Pros & Cons

Pros

The options chains are really in depth and easy to use. You can expand strikes by up to 100, or all, and they’re sorted by expiration. It’s increasingly difficult to find free real-time option data on the web, so this is a big plus for SSE. Your options positions are also shown on your charts and in the options chains.

Another feature that’s pretty lucrative for traders that use multiple computers is the ability to save your layout on the Schwab server. You can save up to five different layouts on the server, and as many as you want on your local drive.

The briefing.com ‘InPlay’ tab is almost worth the entire StreetSmart Edge platform. This is especially useful if you’re a trader that depends on real-time breaking news. The service costs $50 a month on briefing.com alone.

Cons

As mentioned earlier, the charts can really use a makeover. They’re flat out unattractive and outdated. Another unbelievably frustrating bug that Schwab has yet to fix is the case sensitivity in charts. For example, if you type ‘aapl’ as a symbol, Schwab will not recognize the ticker because it’s lowercase. The contrast between Schwab’s charts and TradingView.com could not be brighter.

StreetSmart Edge also lags, even on computers with up to date specs and solid RAM. This is pretty consequential in a game of seconds and milliseconds these days. This issue has been around for years, so it doesn’t look like they’re in a rush to get this resolved.

Users have also mentioned execution errors in after hours trading. Although this could be anecdotal, it’s important to include that there have been multiple reports of clients unable to get filled on orders in pre-market or post-market trading. Granted, after hours trading is very illiquid.

Conclusion

Charles Schwab is a great option for day traders and investors. The lag is a bit concerning, and can really be a recipe for disaster down the road if you’re a momentum or intraday trader. Aside from that, the pros still outweigh the cons here.

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