Submitted by: Chris Johansen

Ten years ago, online stock trading was nearly impossible. To buy or sell stocks, one needed to work through a brick and mortar broker, who often charged hefty fees for the privilege. Today, there are a number of discount and on-line brokerage firms. E Trade led the way by offering a broker free, although still expensive way to manage the stock market on your own. Since the introduction of on-line brokerages, buying, selling, and trading stocks has become easier and less expensive for both the consumer and the on-line firm.

When considering which on-line brokerage firm to use, you ll want to take a look at the price, the level of customer service offered, and how fast your trade can be executed. Another factor to consider is whether he on-line brokerage firm has a technology platform that supports your smart phone or tablet. With more and more people using their smart phones and tablets, your brokerage firm should have an app or a technology platform that supports mobile trading.

The first factor many potential investors look at when selecting an online brokerage firm is price. On-line firms generally offer two separate price points, a lower fee for trades and a significantly higher fee for broker assisted trades. Fees for unassisted trades begin at about $3.00 per trade, and can run as high as $8.00. The fees for a broker assisted trade may go as high as $45.00.

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Another factor to consider is if the on-line brokerage firm requires a minimum balance, or charges more for accounts below a minimum balance. It s not uncommon for on-line forms to charge the investor a transfer fee, which may be as high as $100.00 and require a balance of $500.00 or more.

On-line brokerage firms also offer new customers a number of incentives in order to utilize their services. If you do some quick on-line research, you will find firms that offer reimbursement for transfer fees, a number of free trades per month, and other perks to get you to join and invest.

Be sure to explore the site s customer service. While brick and mortar brokerage services, banks, and Wall Street are open from 9-5 daily, many on-line investors need after hours support. Most sites offer 24/7 customer support, via phone, email, or instant chat. A benefit for some trading sites is access to its online community, which gives investors the opportunity to chat with, learn from, and ask questions of, other investors.

One of the challenges of on-line, do it yourself investing is finding the right stock or mutual fund in which you should invest. Many on-line trading sites provide fairly comprehensive research, formatted as tables, articles, videos, and even webinars for users and provide links to other on-line resources.

Trading stocks and investing without a broker on-line doesn t mean doing it alone. Good on-line investing and trading platforms provide the technical support, modified research, and customer service when you need it. On-line investing has made the stock market more accessible than ever.

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