Charles Schwab is a consistent advocate of the individual investor, whether it's seasoned vets or beginners making their first trade. It has aggressively slashed fees on its mutual funds, removed common account fees, and eliminated its per-trade commissions, making it one of the most affordable places to open an account and trade stocks, ETFs, and funds. In the Charles Schwab review below, we’ll show you how the brokerage compares on commissions, fees, margin rates, trading platforms, and more.
$0 stock and ETF trades
This stock broker is a good fit for: Investors seeking a one-stop-shop brokerage solution. Schwab's commissions, investment options, and array of account offerings (investing and banking) make it a clear top pick to consider.
Offering $0 stock and ETF trades, Charles Schwab is one of the least expensive online discount brokers for basic stock and ETF trades. That said, most of the major discount brokers now offer commission-free trading.
Schwab recently eliminated account minimums on its retail brokerage accounts, making it one of the best stock brokers for beginners.
Beginner investors will find Schwab's Stock Slices valuable. All you need is $5 to begin investing in S&P 500 companies with share prices that are much higher.
If you’d like to trade stocks on foreign markets, Schwab can help. It offers trading in more than 30 global markets. Sign up for a Schwab Global Account to be able to trade stocks online in 12 of the top-traded foreign markets, each with real-time quotes during market hours.
One advantage of working with Charles Schwab is that it has a branch network of more than 340 locations across the country. It’s one of a handful of discount brokers that offer in-person help when you need it, which is a compelling advantage.
Schwab offers one of the largest marketplaces for low-cost ETF and index investing, including it's own line of branded ETFs that rival the lowest cost options in the market.
Similar to ETFs, Schwab has a diverse marketplace for mutual fund investors who are wanting to put their money into the mutual fund of their choosing. In addition to it's OneSource list of no load, no commission mutual funds, Schwab also offers its own low-cost mutual funds.
Schwab offers one of the widest array of account types in the market, from taxable brokerages to IRAs, custodial accounts, trusts, and more.
Schwab is truly a one-stop shop for you money needs and it offers banking products such as the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account, CDs, and credit cards.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio is among the best robo-advisors for passive investors. Further, Schwab offers managed portfolios and access to a network of financial advisors that rivals the biggest names in the market.
Customers valuing in-person investing and banking relationships will want to add Schwab to their shortlist.
Schwab's Stock Slices allows investors to buy fractional shares of any S&P 500 stock with as little as $5. This is a great feature for accountholders with lower balances.
Schwab's mobile app is among the best available from a big brokerage house. It has an iOS rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. While its Android rating of 3 out of 5 stars is lower than average, our research has found the ratings aren't aligned with the apps high quality overall. Many brokerage apps are slimmed down, less versatile versions of their online experiences. But Schwab's apps closely mirror its robust online experience, including for trading, account access and management, banking, and trading platforms.
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While Charles Schwab does have robust trading tools, it's margin rates for traders aren't the lowest in the market. Interactive Brokers takes that crown.
Schwab does not offer the ability to invest in cryptocurrencies.
If you want to invest in cryptocurrencies: Robinhood accountholders can buy and sell a deep lineup of cryptocurrencies via its high-coveted mobile app. On the downside, the investment offerings beyond options and stocks (which have a $0 commission) are limited, as are account types, such as IRAs.
If you want another full-featured stock broker to compare: Merrill Edge® goes to-to-toe with Schwab on many fronts. Simply put, the two brokers have a deep, and similar, lineup of perks. Where Merrill Edge® has an edge is with its Preferred Rewards program, which is the gold standard for banking relationship discounts.
Charles Schwab was the first big brokerage to eliminate commissions on online stock and ETF trades, and it sparked the commission-free revolution of late 2019. Nearly all of Charles Schwab's competitors followed suit, slashing commissions to zero.
Here are Charles Schwab’s trading fees based on the type of investment:
|Stocks and ETFs||Options||Mutual funds|
|$0||$0.65 per contract||$0 for OneSource mutual funds|
Notably, Schwab offers thousands of OneSource no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds (as well as commission-free ETFs), which allow investors to buy diversified funds without paying a fee to do so. Besides, the fee only applies to purchases, whereas other brokers with lower fees charge a fee to buy or sell a mutual fund.
Fund investors will find that Charles Schwab boasts a massive selection of mutual funds, including mutual funds that can be purchased without paying a load, transaction fee, or commission.
|Total mutual funds||More than 10,100|
|No-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds||More than 4,300|
This discount broker has several platforms aimed at different types of investors. In addition to a basic browser-based solution, Charles Schwab offers a streamlined web trading tool (Trade Source) plus a desktop platform (StreetSmart Edge) for advanced traders and sophisticated investors.
Trade Source: Think of Schwab’s Trade Source as a dressed-up browser-based trading tool. The key features include streaming quotes, clean charts, quick access to news on all of your portfolio holdings, plus the ability to quickly switch between ticker symbols thanks to its use of tabs. In addition, you can also link other financial accounts (even non-Schwab accounts) to Trade Source, allowing you to view your total financial picture from one screen, which makes it easier to see how all of your accounts (not just your Schwab accounts) are performing from day to day or month to month.
StreetSmart Edge: This is Schwab’s platform for active traders. As a desktop-based platform, it offers more functionality than you’d expect from a true trading platform: advanced stock charting, quick access to fundamental research, an all-in-one trade ticket (for placing conditional orders), and a customizable layout so you can modify your screen to show only what’s most important to you. Notably, the platform can also be fired up from the cloud, allowing you to open it through a browser if you’d prefer not to install another program on your desktop or laptop computer.
Mobile apps: Schwab offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices that give users streaming data and the ability to place complex trades (e.g., multi-leg options trades). The website also scales for smaller screens, so mobile users don’t have to install the app to check their balance or place a trade.
As long-term buy-and-hold investors, we don’t actively trade our accounts and therefore don’t need many of the bells and whistles. If a robust platform is especially important to you, we’d recommend using a demo account to try a broker’s platform out for yourself. Ultimately, whether a platform is "good" or "bad" comes down to personal preference more than anything else.
Here's a rundown of Charles Schwab's margin rates by margin balance:
Investors who use margin as a key part of their trading or investing strategy will find that Charles Schwab margin rates are toward the middle of the brokerage pack, although it’s one of only a handful of brokers whose rates start at less than 10% for smaller balances.
Discount brokers can offer cutthroat commission prices because they eliminate many of the expenses associated with traditional brokerages. But big brokers still provide all the customer service you might need, whether over the phone, online, or through a branch office.
Schwab offers 24/7 support over the phone, as many discount brokers do. But thanks to its vast brick-and-mortar branch network, customers can also get help in person at offices scattered across the U.S. It has more than 340 branches in 46 states, so the vast majority of Americans live within a short drive of one of its offices.
Whereas large wirehouse brokers have large research arms to supply their research internally, most discount brokers instead offer research from third-party services like Morningstar and S&P, for example. Below, we’ll run through a few notable research and screening tools available to Schwab brokerage customers.
Several equity research reports: Schwab has research from several major providers. Brokerage customers get access to Schwab ratings and research, plus access to research from Argus, Credit Suisse, Morningstar, MarketEdge, and Reuters, among others.
Daily market reports: Tap into a wealth of information by reading daily market reports, including Credit Suisse First Edition, Morningstar Morning Notes, Market Edge Daily Commentary, and more from your online account.
Screeners: Charles Schwab is no slouch when it comes to fundamental and technical screeners for stocks, ETFs, and funds. Notably, its screening tools are available on its website and through its SmartEdge desktop trading platform.
To be sure, most large discount brokers offer more research and screening tools than ever before. It’s fair to say that if you wanted to spend hours each day reading stock market research or tinkering with screeners, you wouldn’t run out of research to read or screeners to toy with, a statement that applies to virtually any of the household-name discount brokers.
We think Schwab has a product offering that will suit the needs of most investors. If any of the following statements apply to you, then Schwab may be a good fit for your portfolio:
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