From active traders to passive investors, Ally Invest is the low-cost solution with premium research for online investing
Ally Invest, previously TradeKing before the Ally Bank merger, offers something for most types of investors. The active investor will find the industry-low $3.95 trade fees a solid compliment to trading tools through the mobile app and other resources. Passive investors will also like the low-cost fees and easy platform.
I’ve been investing on Ally Invest since it was TradeKing and have been happy with the experience. I don’t use the account to trade or use much of the research available. My Ally account is my long-term, hands-off portfolio while I use other online investing sites for trading and research.
Beyond a good investing platform, Ally Bank offers full-service online banking with loan rates that are lower than traditional competitors. The bank can offer higher savings rates and lower loan rates because it saves on the costs of having a physical branch location.
There are some cons for Ally Invest users so you’ll want to check those out below and see for yourself with a trial account. There are no commission-free ETFs, which isn’t as bad as it sounds, and the deep stock research is a little lacking.
For passive investors focused on cost and for active traders with their own research, Ally Invest is definitely an online platform to check out.
Pros of Ally Invest
Ally Invest offers competitive rates for most passive and active investors along with:
- $3.95 trades for volume traders
- Regular $4.95 stock and ETF trades below industry average
- Competitive management fees for automated portfolios
- Extensive charting tools
- Functional mobile app
- Zero annual fees or inactivity fees
Cons of Ally Invest
Because Ally Invest is a discount brokerage, active investors might not find as much stock research compared to other online investing sites:
- No commission-free ETFs or mutual funds
- Lack of access to personal financial advisor
- No physical branches
Investing Accounts Available on Ally Invest
Ally Invest offers all the usual investing accounts including retirement and regular investing. I have my self-employed (SEP) retirement account on the platform.
- Taxable brokerage accounts
- Traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
Ally Invest offers a free transfer service for existing investing accounts on other sites. You’ll either receive free investing credits or cash back to cover any expenses for moving your account.
Regardless of which account(s) you open, you can trade the following investment products on Ally:
- Certificates of Deposit
Most investors will only regularly use stocks, bonds, ETFs and options but it’s always nice to have the other options if you need them. Understand that futures and forex trading comes with different risks and don’t usually fit with a long-term investing plan.
Review of Ally Invest Investor Fees
There are no annual account fees or inactivity fees with Ally Invest; you only pay a fee when you make a trade. There’s also no minimum on accounts so you can open one just to try out the platform.
Discount brokerages continue to slash fees to attract new clients, yet Ally Invest manages to stay ahead of the pack with $3.95 trades for the most active clients.
You qualify for the $3.95 trades and 50 cents per options contract if you meet one of these criteria:
- Make 30 or more trades per quarter
- Have daily account balance of $100,000
Each stock, option, and ETF trade costs $4.95 until you become an active investor. Even if you don’t qualify for the active investor fee, the $4.95 per trade fee is still below most other online sites. I pay $5.99 on ETrade and $9.99 on Schwab – which is why I don’t use those accounts much other than for research.
Stocks and options are the “bread and butter” of Ally Invest, but they offer other investment products:
- ETFs ($3.95 or $4.95 per trade)
- Mutual Funds ($9.95 to buy and sell)
- Bonds ($1 per bond–$10 minimum commission)
Even the low $4.95 trade commission can add up if you’re buying individual stocks and ETFs every month. I recommend making monthly deposits into your investing account, to get into the habit of saving, but then waiting to invest your money every six months. You won’t miss out on any ‘big market moves’ and you’ll save hundreds in commissions.
Ally Invest Managed Portfolios
Self-directed investors will benefit the most from Ally Invest, but novice investors and time-strapped investors can also benefit from the automated investing in curated ETF portfolios with these benefits:
- $2,500 minimum balance
- 30% annual management fee
- All-ETF portfolio with instant diversification
- Automatic portfolio rebalancing
You won’t pay the $4.95 trade commissions, but your estimated monthly fee on a $50,000 balance is $12.50—the equivalent of three trade commissions. The other large brokerages also offer managed portfolios, but their minimum initial balance requirement is $5,000 with similar management fees.
I’ve heard some investors complain that Ally Invest doesn’t offer commission-free ETFs. The problem is that all the commission-free ETFs on other sites charge management fees that make the trading fee seem low in comparison.
For example, the average expense charged on commission-free ETFs I can buy on Etrade is 0.35% annually or a fee of $35 for every $10,000 invested. I can buy a Vanguard fund on Ally Invest for just $4.95 plus an annual management fee around 0.10% or $10 for every $10,000 invested. It’s something most investors don’t consider when they’re looking at ETFs but don’t get fooled by ‘free’.
How is the Trading Platform on Ally Invest?
Ally Invest has a robust web-based trading platform with real-time quotes and fast execution. Day traders that need Level 2 stock quotes won’t be a good fit, but anybody that makes at least ten trades each month will have everything they need.
Because the trading platform is web-based, you can access your Ally account from any computer, tablet, or smartphone and not miss a beat.
Ally’s platform also includes these features:
- Customizable dashboard
- Mobile app trading
- Quick trading capabilities
Ally Invest Mobile App
The Ally Invest mobile app has the following capabilities:
- Single and advanced order types (market, stop, limit, contingent orders)
- Real-time news and commentary
- Charting tools
- Price alerts
Some brokerage apps only let you view your account balance and execute basic market trades. The Ally Invest mobile app isn’t as robust as some, but it’s still in the front of the pack.
Research Tools on Ally Invest
Discount brokerages in 2018 aren’t the same discount brokerages from 1998 that only let you buy and sell stocks and barebones quote details. Today, Ally Invest offers the following charting and research tools:
- Six chart types with 90 studies and drawing tools
- Probability Calculator (Measure implied volatility before making a trade)
- Profit/Loss Calculator
- Maxit Tax Calculator (Project tax implications of each trade)
- Option chains
- Market and company snapshots
While you won’t get access to analyst reports from the various research firms, charting can be everything you need to exercise due diligence and make non-emotional trades.
Ally’s predecessor, TradeKing, had a positive reputation for the robust research tools for stocks and option. That’s still the case even though TradeKing is now Ally Invest.
Ally Invest Customer Service
Another hesitation to go with a discount online broker is inferior customer service. Once again, Ally Invest shines when you need help. Their award-winning customer service team offers 24/7 online chat support.
You can also reach Ally by phone during from 8 am to 11 pm Eastern, Monday-Friday. And, they also have a plethora of knowledge base articles and community forum for beginners and advanced investors too.
The team might not offer investment advice as a financial advisor, but they should be able to answer your basic investing questions. Remember, Ally keeps costs down by catering to self-directed investors that want top-notch charting and investment research without exorbitant trade fees to subsidize additional amenities they rarely use.
Ally Invest does try to cater to “hands-off” investors with their managed portfolios, but if you are still willing to conduct your own research, you can often invest in the same ETFs and skip the management fee. By trading commission-free ETFs, you can even avoid the $4.95+ trade commission that brokerages charge for fund families they do not partner with.
I like Ally Invest and have used it regularly for my SEP account. Passive investors will appreciate how easy it is to use the platform as well as its low-cost. Active investors will like Ally Invest for its even lower cost and solid trading platform. With no account minimum and no inactivity fees, it’s easy to test the site to see if it works for your needs.