07 Dec

Amazon Prime Review – Is It Worth The $99?

amazon prime review

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to wait for the products that we found online? While buying your favorite items online can certainly save you money because of online deals that might not be available in stores, the downside is having to wait for your purchase.

Amazon Prime eliminates that problem with their free two-day shipping, along with a bundle of other can’t miss features that you’ll want to take advantage of.

What is Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime is an extension of Amazon’s services as a massive online retailer. The subscription renews once a year, for $99. In recent years, Amazon customers have been given the opportunity to pay for an Amazon Prime subscription on a monthly basis for a fee of $8.99 each month.

When you sign up for Amazon Prime, you’re eligible for Prime’s two-day shipping on a wide range of eligible products, you’re given access to the site’s video library which contains thousands of television shows and movies, and if you’re a reader, you have access to Amazon's free Kindle library.

How Much Does It Cost?

While Amazon is famous for advertising that you can get one year of Amazon Prime for only $99 on their website's banner, there are a few different ways that pricing works with the online retailer.

Try It For Free

For some of us, deciding whether or not to spend $99 on a service that we may not use immediately is a big decision. Amazon has kept that in mind, and they have a longstanding offer that old and new Amazon customers can experience the perks that come with an Amazon Prime subscription for 30 days.

If you don’t cancel it by the end of the 30 days, it will automatically charge the yearly fee of $99 to the main payment method that you have on file.

Standard Annual Fee

The perks that come with signing up for an Amazon Prime subscription is certainly enough to make you think twice about passing on the subscription service. However, an even bigger sell on it is that you will pay the same yearly fee of $99, regardless of how often you use the perks that you’re allowed because of your Amazon Prime subscription.

Discount for Students

Are you already worried about your student loans hanging over your head? Amazon Prime is always offering a student discount for college students. With the Student Amazon Prime membership, you'll receive a six month free trial of the service with all of its perks and a couple of bonuses like Twitch Prime.

Twitch Prime is great for gamers, and it allows you to stream gaming content and have free access to select games.  Additionally, you’ll be able to refer a friend that’s also enrolled in college, and receive $10 when they sign up for an Amazon Prime Student membership.

Shipping Benefits

One of the standout features of the Amazon Prime membership is that Amazon has revolutionized the way that we make online purchases. Amazon Prime members can enjoy the perks of two-day shipping, same-day and one-day shipping, and the premium features that come with Prime Now.

Two-Day Shipping

Frequent Amazon shoppers are used to seeing the Prime banner on purchases that are eligible for two-day shipping with your Prime membership. Amazon promises that you'll have your purchase, whether it's furniture, clothing, accessories, or books within two days if it is a Prime eligible product.

This feature is available to Amazon Prime subscribers that live in the continental U.S. with few exclusions.

Same Day & One-Day

For the lucky Amazon subscribers that fall under Amazon's list of eligible U.S. addresses, you can have your favorite products delivered to you the same day that you order them! There are a few qualifications to take advantage of this nifty perk, and they are:

  • You must meet the minimum order total of $35.
  • Double check that your zip code is eligible, using the online Amazon tool when you search for your favorite product.
  • Meet the cutoff. If you’d like to have your product by 9 PM the same day that you place your order, be sure to place your order before noon.

Prime Now

Prime Now is another Amazon Prime perk that allows customers to order some of their favorite household items and their other favorite products and to receive it within an hour. Amazon Prime takes it a step further by offering restaurant delivery deliveries from your favorite local stores, and online products that are available under Prime Now.

You can sit on your couch and wait for your burger delivery in these cities: Chicago, San Diego, Austin, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Tampa, Orlando, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Columbus, Las Vegas, Portland OR, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles and Orange County.

Rewards With No-Rush Shipping

If your big event isn't until a week from now, but you still have Amazon Prime, Amazon is offering you the option to forgo your two-day shipping perk in favor of accepting a free reward. You can use your rewards for purchasing e-books on your wish list, groceries and purchases from the Prime Pantry, and blockbuster movies on Amazon Instant Video.

Lightning Deals

Take advantage of huge discounts on select products. Lightning Deals are items available Amazon Prime Users for purchase for a select time. The only catch here is that you’ll need to complete your order fast, or you might miss out on the chance to purchase your product.

Prime Day & Other Exclusive Sales

An Amazon Prime membership can also grant you access to all of the exclusive deals offered on Prime Day. You can look forward to this big sale day in July each year.

Prime Instant Video – TV Shows and Movies

Amazon Prime Instant Video is Amazon's streaming service that will always be included in an Amazon Prime subscription. You can watch thousands of shows and movies, and you’re given exclusive access to Amazon’s original series.

Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is Amazon’s e-reader, which now comes in a variety of styles, colors, and models, including the new Kindle Oasis, their very first water-resistant e-reader. If you’re an Amazon customer, you don’t need the Kindle to still enjoy Kindle eBooks. Simply download the Kindle reading app on your IOS or Android device, and enjoy all of the affordable books available to you.

Free Kindle Books

There are some free kindle books available in the Kindle store; this is especially true for books that are the first couple in a successful series.

Kindle Lending Library

If you own a Kindle e-reader and you have an Amazon Prime Membership, you can take advantage of the Kindle Lending Library. The Kindle Lending Library gives you access to over

800,000 books and these titles include current and former best sellers.

Kindle First

The Kindle First Program is an addition that gives customers the opportunity to have the first look at a new book that's been selected by an editor about one month before it's official release date. This perk is free with an Amazon Prime membership, and you're allowed one free Kindle First book each month. There are six new editor picks available each month.

Prime Reading

Prime Reading is another extension of the Amazon Prime membership, with this perk, customers can read any book, magazine, or comic that they’d like to view. There are some books that even come with Audible narration, and unlike the Kindle Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can read their favorites on any device using the free Kindle reading app.

Prime Photos – Unlimited Storage

Prime allows it's members to store up to 5 GB worth of photos, videos, documents, and other files in their Family Vault. Anyone listed on your family account can upload photos and videos into the Vault.

Streaming With Prime Music & Exclusive Live Events

As of 2017, Amazon has begun hosting its own live music events. The tickets to these are exclusively offered to Amazon Prime members, who can stream the event from their homes after purchasing the tickets.

Prime Pantry & AmazonFresh

In select cities, AmazonFresh will deliver groceries to Prime Members for an additional monthly fee of $14.99. However, all orders under $50 will be charged an additional service fee of $9.99, and the service does not make trips to dorms.

Prime Pantry is an additional grocery service that will deliver single items such as cereal, toothpaste, snacks, for a flat fee of $5.99. Amazon promises that most of it's Prime Pantry deliveries will arrive within four days.

Amazon Family

Prime members will receive exclusive family-oriented coupons, offers, up to 20% off diaper and baby food subscriptions, if a 15% discount when your Baby Registry is completed. Amazon Family also offers age-based product recommendations for your child.

Twitch Prime

Amazon has partnered with Twitch, a social media platform designed to broadcast video games. With Twitch Prime, gamers are offered discount on pre-release box games, access to thousands of movies and tv shows, and commercial-free access to over a million free songs.

Prime Rewards

Amazon Prime subscribers are eligible for an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa signature card. This convenient card does not have an annual fee or foreign transaction fees. You can get a $70 Amazon gift card once your credit is approved. Here's how the cash back percentages work:

  • Customers can receive 5% cash back for any purchases made on Amazon.com with the Prime Rewards Visa.
  • Amazon Prime Visa cardholders can receive 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores.
  • You’ll also receive 1% cashback on all other purchases that do not fall under the categories listed above.

What’s Missing?

While the Amazon Prime membership has plenty of perks like access to free movies, shows, and books, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

For example, some prime customers might feel that they can’t utilize the full benefits of their membership because they don’t live in one of the densely populated areas that make same day deliveries or offer Prime Pantry services.

Additionally, there’s a drawback with the Kindle Lending Library, and you can only check out one book at a time, which is a problem if you have a large family that shares the Amazon Prime account.

How To Sign Up

If you think that you and your family could benefit from free, two-day shipping and deliveries from Prime Pantry and Prime Now, then you'll be excited to know that it's very easy to sign up.

If you already have an Amazon account, simply log in to your account and head on over to the Profile link, and select “Start your free trial.” After 30 days, the payment method that you have on file will be charged for the yearly fee of $99.

Amazon Prime vs. Netflix

In recent years, Amazon has been able to compete with the streaming service giant, Netflix. The Amazon Instant Video perk is a threat to its competitor, given that you can have the same access to your favorite shows and movies on top of other perks like free, two-day shipping and Prime Pantry deliveries.

However, Amazon does not carry some of your favorite Netflix original series like “Orange is The New Black,” “House of Cards” and a plethora of Netflix standup specials. Although Netflix offers those can't miss series, if you can't live without speedy shipping and access to free books, Amazon Prime could be the better value because of it's super affordable rate of $99 for a year.

Is It Worth The $99?

Ultimately, an Amazon Prime membership is an investment. The convenience that you're offered with some its perks like AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, same-day or two-day shipping, can't be beaten.

However, if you don’t find that you already purchase a lot of products on Amazon, then it may not be the best fit for your family. You can always find out whether or not Amazon Prime is right for you by heading over to their site and starting your free trial today.

07 Dec

How To Invest In Penny Stocks – Start Here First

how to invest in penny stocks

Wouldn't it be great if you could use your last $5 to invest in your future? Most people are intimidated by the idea of investing in the stock market. However, the low-risk aspect of paying $5 or less for penny stocks might appeal to those of us that want to maximize how much we're investing in the future, without disturbing the shaky financial foundation that we've spent years building.

What Are Penny Stocks?

It’s difficult to think about investing in stocks when you haven’t familiarized yourself with the terms. Unfortunately, penny stocks are not stocks that you can purchase for a penny. Penny stocks are low-priced, small-cap stocks. Penny stocks have earned their name because the Securities and Exchange Commissions classifies any stock that sells for less than $5 as a penny stock.  

Penny stocks have earned a reputation for being difficult when it comes to making a profit off of them. In fact, you're not likely to see shares of a penny stock for sale on a major exchange, and they are a lesser known trading option in comparison to other stocks that serious investors might buy.

Where To Find Penny Stocks

Investing in penny stocks might sound like it would be more difficult because you don't hear about them as often, and they're usually not hailed as a good way to turn a big profit from your investment. However, you can purchase penny stocks through your stockbroker. It's possible that the penny stock that you're interested in purchasing might not be listed on a major exchange.

You can find penny stocks that you can purchase on an over-the-counter Bulletin Board or an OTCBB (An over the counter bulletin board is an electronic trading service that the National Association of Securities Dealers provides to help traders stay in the loop regarding updated quotes, last-sale prices, and more.

Additionally, you can find penny stocks through pink sheets. pink sheets are daily publications that are assembled by the National Quotation Bureau. Pink sheets usually contain bid and ask prices of OTC stocks. The companies that are quoted using pink sheets don't have to file with the Securities Exchange Commission or need to meet the minimum requirements that you might find on a major stock exchange.

Choose A Broker

Investing in penny stocks is considered a bit of a risky practice because they do not have to meet any minimum requirements set by the Securities Exchange Commission and they are known to be more volatile than stocks that aren’t classified as penny stocks because the price could rapidly swing in a high or low direction.

If you’re interested in investing in penny stocks, you should give yourself the added advantage of consulting a stockbroker, so that they can help you navigate the unsure of waters of investing in penny stocks. Currently, the top four penny stockbrokers are TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and Interactive Brokers.

 

  • TD Ameritrade is an online stock broker that caters to traders of all experience levels. At $6.99 a trade, TD Ameritrade is more expensive than a lot of its competitors, but some might feel that the cost is more than made up for with all of the educational resources, mobile apps, multiple platforms, and attentive customer service.
  • Fidelity is a full-service broker that has over 17.9 million retail brokerage accounts. Fidelity strives to provide great customer service. Their per trade fee is lower than it's competitors (Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, ETRADE) at a rate of $4.95 and $.65 per contract. This broker is a good fit for investors that are looking for low-cost ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), but individuals that are looking for commission-free ETFs might fare better with Charles Schwab.
  • Charles Schwab is a full-service broker that's been around since 1973. Schwab has amassed $2.73 billion in assets, and they're known for their high quality service because of their customer service, trading, and usability. Charles Schwab has a $4.95 flat rate for stock trades, and it's still less expensive than other brokers like TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, and ETRADE. They offer 229 commission-free ETFs and cheaper option trades for a cost of $4.95 and $.65 per contract. However, their mutual funds are a bit pricey at $76 per trade which is currently the second highest rate in the stock market world.
  • Interactive Brokers caters to a more high-end level of clientele. They specialize in working with institutions and professional traders. Currently, they offer the lowest margin rates which can vary from $1.41% down to 1.91%. However, Interactive Brokers is pricey, and new or casual investors might want to consider a broker like Fidelity or TD Ameritrade, as they have some additional fees and minimums that could potentially slow down how often you trade.

 

Finding the Right Penny Stocks

Given that investing in penny stocks can be a complicated and unpredictable practice, you'll want to keep your eyes open for indicators that you should pursue a particular penny stock. Here are a few tips on how you can find the right penny stock.

Narrow Down the Candidates

You're investing your hard earned money, so you'll want to be sure that you don't want to put your dollar behind a lousy penny stock. Penny stocks that go for less than $0.009 per share are vulnerable to manipulation and volatility. When you begin your search for a penny stock, you'll want to look into penny stocks that sell from $0.05 to $2.00.

Be Wary of Dilution  

You'll want to work with your stockbroker to ensure that you're not purchasing penny stocks that are likely to be diluted. Share dilution is when shares of a company or stock are split up into more shares that can be bought, and the power that each original shareholder is diluted by however many new shares were added.

You don't want your potential earning power to be diluted, and you'll need to consult with your stockbroker and follow trends so that you put your money into the right penny stocks.

Choosing a Winner  

You might think that you've found the penny stock that you want to purchase, but you need to be sure that this stock is a winner before pouring in any money into it. You'll have to take a good look at the company to decide whether or not you're purchasing a winning stock, and then you'll need to ask a few questions.

Does the company rely on the selling of its shares to raise capital? Is the company profitable and will it profit it long term? How does it stand up to the competitors in its industry? Be careful to consider these before proceeding.

Trading Strategies

There are a few different ways to trade penny stocks, as there's no one way that's been proven to yield a hefty profit for traders. There are a few listed below:

 

  • Consider selling quickly. Penny stocks can jump in value by as much as 20% or 30%, it’s better to sell that particular stock when you see that an increase within that range, as holding onto it and waiting for a significantly larger increase in your potential profits could leave you wasting valuable time on stocks that ultimately won’t move as well as others.
  • Don’t dabble in shorting penny stocks if you’re new to the game.  Since penny stocks are so volatile, you could find yourself losing a lot on a trade if you aren't familiar with market fluctuations and the volatility of penny stocks. This is part of why it's important to work with a stockbroker when you want to trade penny stocks.  
  • Buy the penny stocks that earn the most. If you’re working with a broker, you’ll want to use screener tools to find out which penny stocks are earning the most and which ones have consistently earned the most before you make any decisions.
  • Be open to letting your penny stocks go. When you are new to the world of penny stocks, be open to the possibility of buying new stocks and selling the shares you've started with. This is especially true given that penny stocks are notorious for being unpredictable, and you won't want to be around to get burned if your penny stocks take a nosedive.

 

Ignore The Spam

After you begin investing in penny stocks, you might notice that you’re receiving emails that hail the merits of purchasing a particular penny stock.

These are stocks you'll want to avoid because the scammer that hopes to make money off of your purchase has bought most of the shares of the penny stock, so that it reflects a higher price, and seems more valuable.

The even bigger problem with this is that the scammer will have sold all of these stocks at a high priced, and you're stuck with an overpriced stock that you cannot sell. This scam isn't limited to emails; you might also notice this happening on blog posts or online message boards.

The Rewards

If you have the right guidance, you can reap the financial rewards of successfully trading penny stocks. Penny stocks are great for short-term potential gains, and they can quickly increase in value from when you buy them.

If you’re not seeking a long term investment when you begin purchasing penny stocks, you’ll find yourself reaping the benefits of buying and selling penny stocks before you know it.

The Risks

Penny stocks have earned a reputation for being volatile and being a loss for potential traders. You’re vulnerable to potentially losing a lot of money from your investments because of pump and dump schemes, mining scams, (where a company will claim to be worth more than they are because they own an excess of oil, gold, or diamonds.) and guru or expert scams.

It's essential to use a stockbroker so that you aren't taken advantage by individuals that claim to know the “secret” to being successful at trading in penny stocks. These scammers will offer you false information about the secret to earning big bucks with your penny stock trading in exchange for a fee.

Keep an eye out for scams like this so that you find yourself putting more money into your pocket because of your investments.  

Should You Invest in Penny Stocks?

If you’re more interested in finding a long term investment, then you may not want to dabble in purchasing penny stocks.

Penny stocks are a good fit for investors working with a stockbroker that aren't expecting to see a considerable return on their investments. Penny stocks could potentially help you earn a lot, but you have to be willing to gamble. If you buy low-cost shares in companies with a solid reputation and earnings, you'll have more success in trading penny stocks.

07 Dec

TD Ameritrade Review – Holds Up To The Competition

td ameritrade review

You might have heard mumblings of how your coworker lost or gained a fortune from trading stocks, but have you ever considered that you might be able to dip your toe into trading as well? Brokers like TD Ameritrade make it easy for you to start trading and learning more about the stock market using a comprehensive set of tools.

What Is TD Ameritrade?

TD Ameritrade is an Omaha based brokerage firm. The TD in TD Ameritrade stands for Toronto-Dominion Bank, which is the firm's largest shareholder. TD Ameritrade specializes in providing services for individuals and institutions that invest online.

Target Investors

The world of investing can be daunting for anyone that’s not well versed in how everything works. Fortunately, that’s where TD Ameritrade comes in. It’s a perfect fit for long term investors and active traders. The firm offers constant professional guidance through phone, email, online, and in person communication methods.

Additionally, you TD Ameritrade customers are given access to multiple tools, research insights, and educational videos and courses that can help with filling in any gaps in your investment knowledge.  

Account Minimum

TD Ameritrade does not require a minimum amount of money to open a new account with them. However, they do need a $2,000 deposit so that you can qualify for margin and options privileges, even if you're taking advantage of a promotional offer.

Commission Fees & Other Costs

TD Ameritrade has very reasonable commission fees so that you can trade through their firm. The commission fees are as follows:

  • For Internet trades: $6.95 and an additional $0.75 fee per contract.
  • Options exercised and assignments: $19.99
  • Interactive Voice Response Phone System: $34.99 and an additional $0.75
    fee per contract.
  • Broker-assisted trades: $44.99 and an additional $0.75 per contract.
  • A fee of $49.99 for no-load mutual funds.

There are other costs included in TD Ameritrade’s services including:

  • A $25 fee for bonds.
  • Futures trading carries a $2.25 fee per contract.
  • Certificate Withdrawal Delivery fee of $500.
  • An outbound full account transfer fee of $75.
  • A $25 fee for domestic and international wire transfers.

Trading Platforms and Usability

TD Ameritrade offers many different trading platforms for their customers to use.

Web Platforms

TD Ameritrade recommends this platform for investors of all skill levels. You can pull trading insights from Twitter using social signals, as well as track social sentiments. Additionally, in the customizable dock for TD Ameritrade’s web platform, you can learn valuable stock information that’s generated by Yahoo! Finance. Investors are also given access educational resources, planning tools, and third-party research.

Trade Architect

TD Ameritrade offers this trading platform for active traders who might like to utilize customizable, interactive charts made by as well as identify stock trends with options screeners and independent research.

The Trade Architect platform has an added perk of being able to stream live news from CNBC so that you can stay in the loop.

thinkorswim

This professional level trading platform is designed for serious traders. It comes equipped with technology that can monitor your potential risk/reward ratio, elite tools that perform analyses and test strategies and onboarding tools. The onboarding tools will be a great buy for any serious trader that wants to get started quickly, the thick Manual and Swim Lessons tools.

Mobile Trading

TD Ameritrade is putting maximum usability first, as there are plenty of mobile tools that a novice or expert trader can utilize. From one of TD Ameritrade’s optimized apps, traders can manage their current investments and seize new trading opportunities. TD Ameritrade has the added advantage of having the number one trading app in the app store.

General Tools

TD Ameritrade is equipped with additional tools to allow their traders, regardless of their skill level, to get the most out of their investment with the brokerage firm.

Heatmaps

TD Ameritrade has been careful to consider the wants of all types of investors. There are some investors that are attracted to the prospect of investing in semiconductors. Semiconductors are small but powerful building blocks that are used in the creation of automobiles, smartphones, computers, and industrial equipment.

In the thinkorswim platform, TD Ameritrade gives traders the option to use a heat map that will reflect a graphic of semiconductor companies. The size of the square used on the heat map will inform the trader of the company’s market cap, and the color will reflect the company’s price movement.

Integrated Watch Lists

If you use the web platform on TD Ameritrade's website, you can create a personal watch list. TD Ameritrade's advanced technology will be able to let you view real-time updates and stats about the trade option's that have piqued your interest. There's a bonus in the watch list feature; you can view earnings estimates, news, charts, and fundamental research on stocks that you've added to the list.

Live-Streaming CNBC

Want to be kept up to date on current stock trends? TD Ameritrade allows you to live stream CNBC through the thinkorswim platform. If you're a seasoned trader, you'll want to consider learning more about the platform. Traders with the thinkorswim tool will be able to keep up with breaking news regarding business news, stock market trends, and investment information.

myTrade Community

The myTrade Community tool is a valuable asset for traders that are new to investing. When a trader utilizes the myTrade Community tool, they’re able to get insight generation from professionals in the investment community, as well as share ideas with other traders that use TD Ameritrade for their investments.

Idea Generation

TD Ameritrade wants to help you find your next lead. The brokerage firm will provide tools that and valuable research that can help you narrow down what you might like your next investment opportunity to be.

Education & Research Tools  

TD Ameritrade is equipped with several education and research tools that will help traders of all skill levels with their investments.

Education

TD Ameritrade has an Education Center so that their customers will always be equipped with knowledge that can help them succeed in trading and investing.

The Education Center houses a few subcategories that will help traders select a learning curriculum that caters to their current interests and current investment knowledge. The learning curriculums are split into three categories like Rookie, Scholar, or Guru Essentials. However, you can always search TD Ameritrade’s videos and create your own curriculum to aid you in your trading.

TD Ameritrade allows you to take some of their educational videos for a test drive, head over to their website if you're interested in viewing their videos on investing basics, retirement planning, saving for college, a glossary of trading terms, and account types.

Third-Party Research

TD Ameritrade gives their traders the option to use third-party research to assist them throughout the trading process. TD Ameritrade believes that if their traders are armed with as much information as possible, that they will be more successful in the long run. You can obtain vital trading information from some of their third-party research tools like CFRA Columns, CFRA Portfolios, Market Edge, and reports from Research Team Company Reports.

Market Edge

Stay in the loop with Market Edge. You'll receive weekly and easy to read reports that detail analysis' of the stock market. The program also offers you thorough market commentary that can assist you with evaluating your trade strategies for the current and future market.

ETF Market Center

ETFs are exchange-traded funds. Exchange trade funds are baskets of securities that trade like the stocks that you would see on an exchange. In the ETF Market Center, you can narrow down your search for investments by industry, (healthcare, industrials, real estate, technology, utilities, energy, financial services, and more) invest in global and emerging markets, and identify ETFs with a specific stock.

Social Signals

Social signals is a trading tool that TD Ameritrade offers that will save you any time that you may have spent investigating product trends on social media. Social signals gather insights from Twitter to help you find new investment opportunities. The social signals tools then gather all of these in once place.

Stocks Overview

The stocks overview tool helps you locate stocks that might pique your interest. You can use this tool to see which stocks are high and low, what's moving, and it allows you to see what's trending on social media and keep up with stock related news.

Stocks Charts

Using customizable charts, you can set the parameters on the tool to help you find trends that and opportunities that suit your investment strategy.

Screeners

TD Ameritrade offers screeners that are filters to help you invest in or follow a trade. You can search for mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and options using filters like lifecycle, lowest expense ratio, highest alpha, strong buys, and more.

Premier List

You can identify the best mutual funds using the Premier List tool. The Premier List tool is an unbiased, third-party tool that allows you to search for no transaction fee funds that cover over 45 different categories. This list is redone on a quarterly basis and is created by trade experts at Morningstar Investment Management LLC.

CD Center

TD Ameritrade's CD center offers you some tools that can help you research the right CD for you, and view TD Ameritrade's brokered CDs, which offer many choices at very competitive rates.

Bond Wizard

The Bond Wizard can help you find bonds and CDs that can assist you in meeting your long term investment goals. The Bond Wizard works by asking you a few questions and generating a list of potential investment options based on your answer.

Market Java

You’ll be able to sit down with a cup of coffee and the most recent market updates with the daily morning-report. TD Ameritrade has made it so that you’ll be able to keep up with significant changes in the stock market, market conditions, and how the stock market has done internationally while you were sleeping.

Account Types

To best suit your needs and long term goals for investing, TD Ameritrade wants to help you find the right account type for your investments.

Standards

You can have a standard account that gives you access to objective research, comprehensive investment products, and trading platforms. You can have a joint standard account or an individual one, and TD Ameritrade gives you the option to upgrade for forex trading, futures, and options.

Retirements

Traders that are hoping to have a sizable retirement account have the options of choosing from a Rollover IRA, Traditional IRA, or Roth IRA. There are several tax advantages to this kind of account, and TD Ameritrade promises to work with you to find the right method to aid you in your retirement planning.

Specialty

If your financial needs are a bit broader, TD Ameritrade recommends a specialty account to help you address your plans for your financial future. Specialty accounts include pension plans, business partnerships, and individual trusts.

Managed Portfolios

TD Ameritrade offers a set of professionally managed portfolios that can help you save time and pursue your long term financial goals regardless of whether or not they change over the years.

Margin Trading

Traders can borrow money from TD Ameritrade with this account so that they can increase their securities' buying power up to 50%. If you're hoping to elevate your trading status, this is one way to get there.

Quality Of Their Customer Service

TD Ameritrade is making a strong effort to stress that they take your business and your investments very seriously. They’ve made it a point to be available to answer any questions that you may have whenever you need. You can call or email TD Ameritrade on a 24-hour basis, or you can visit a branch.

You can find a branch location near you by searching for one in your zip code on the TD Ameritrade website.

Shortcomings Of TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade offers a lot of perks to their customers, but they do fall short compared to the competition in some areas. For example, their flat fee of $6.99 per trade is more expensive compared to other online brokerages. Additionally, the $44.99 and the $49.99 fees on no-load mutual fund trades when you're assisted by one of their brokers are still more expensive than average.

Lastly, the full range of apps and tools can be overwhelming for new customers. Since TD Ameritrade tries to appeal to traders of all skill levels, the apps and extra research tool could leave customers confused as to where they fit in.

Is It The Right Choice?

Are you a seasoned investor? Or are you just hoping to get started with building your investments? If you're an experienced investor, TD Ameritrade is going to be a better fit for you because you'll have a better idea of how to properly utilize the additional research tools, analytical tools, and exclusive features.

New investors might have trouble navigating everything that comes with TD Ameritrade’s programs, as well paying for TD Ameritrade’s trade fees since they have yet to make any money from their investments.

07 Dec

LearnVest Review: Great Money Management Plan?

learnvest review

Planning your financial future can be a daunting and challenging task. Most of us don't even like to talk about money for too long, much less sit down and ponder how much or how little money we might have in the future.

Additionally, meeting with a financial planner can come with a hefty price tag, but this doesn't mean that you have to wait until you start earning six figures to meet with one. Nowadays, we have access to online financial planning that is more affordable than a traditional setup with a financial planner.

What Is LearnVest?

LearnVest is one of the online financial planning companies that promise to make planning for your financial future easier. LearnVest is still pretty young, as it's only been around since 2009. It offers budgeting tools and additional resources and the advice of an online financial planner for an additional fee. In 2015, it merged with NorthWestern mutual which helped it move away from its startup roots, and turn into an even larger company that was able to offer more to their customers.

Features Of LearnVest

LearnVest has a lot of features that to help you adequately plan for your financial future. Read on about some of these features below:

 

  • Paid or Unpaid. LearnVest maximizes its ability to offer you low-cost financial planning by providing a paid and a free version of the service. With the free version of the service, you'll get access to LearnVest's budgeting tool, and a dashboard will reflect how it can help you manage your budget.  
  • Knowledge Center. LearnVest has a Knowledge Center that includes hundreds of articles and videos that go over details about financial planning that you might need to know. It's a broad and general overview, and this is offered in both the paid and the free version.  
  • Personalized Financial Advice. You can receive financial advice unique to you. This is a premium LearnVest perk, and you'll receive guidance regarding your finances as well as access to the information in the Knowledge Center. LearnVest premium charges one time-setup fee of $299 with a monthly fee of $19 for the lifetime of your subscription. LearnVest keeps your finances in mind by giving you the option of paying this hefty start-up fee in three payments of $99 or two payments of $149.
  • Smart Profile. This is used when you first sign up for the service. You'll input information such as how much you earn each year, what your current goals are, and what your budget is at that time. Additionally, you'll link a savings account, credit card, retirement account, or checking account to your profile. You'll also input info like student loans if that applies to you. Following that, you'll be able to have a fifteen-minute phone call with your financial planner.
  • Active Financial Planners. Depending on what your goals are, your financial planner is going to go with you every step of the way to ensure that you're making the right moves. You'll be assigned budgeting homework and the financial planner will tell you whether or not you need to open new accounts to keep your finances separate. This is a premium feature.

 

There are many other long term features that come with setting up an account with LearnVest; the premium option will yield more of the benefits of having a personal financial planner.  

The Fees

While LearnVest is cheaper than a traditional financial planner, it still comes with a few hefty fees. For example, you still have to pay a large upfront fee of $299, and you'll be paying $19 each month after that. However, this is still a steal given that the average yearly price of a financial planner can go up to $1,9000. Of course, you can always stick with the free option, but you won't have access to phone calls and advice from your financial planner.

How To Sign-Up And Get Started

You might be curious as to how you might sign up for LearnVest. There aren't any requirements, and you can sign up and try out the free version, and you can move to the paid version whenever you'd like.

Here's how you'll get started (this is how to sign up works if you have the paid version if you have the free version, then the steps regarding a one on one with your financial planner won't apply to you):

  1. You’re going to fill out all of your financial information and tell your Planner a little a bit about yourself in the Smart Profile feature that was mentioned above.
  2. You and your planner will discuss your money goals and evaluate your current habits. This where you'll find out if you're on the right track or if you'll need more help from your financial planner to help you reach your goals over time.
  3. You'll get a customized program that LearnVest promises will give you a 360-degree view of your finances.
  4. From there, you’ll receive step by step instructions that will help you get on the right track to meeting your financial goals. Once you’re set up, you’ll be prompted to have a phone call with your financial planner.
  5. Over the following month(s), you'll receive tasks (example: opening another bank account, closing an old spending account, re-evaluating your credit cards) that will help you make the progress that you need to make to stay on track.

Pros And Cons

LearnVest is an excellent tool for those of us that have been dragging our feet when it comes down to looking at our finances. However, LearnVest isn't without its disadvantages, and there are certainly a few of those to go right beside the company's wins.

Pros

 

  • Tasks to help you stay on track with your financial goals. Your financial planner will review the state of your finances with you, and they'll be working on ways for you to improve your finances or move more steadily towards your goal. They will set up tasks for you to complete, and you'll receive an email when your new task is ready. The tasks can be anything from going on a spending diet for a few weeks to a month or just watching an educational video about finances.
  • Use it at home or on the go. Are you feeling unsure about buying that new piece of furniture for your sitting room? ThinkVest's mobile app can certainly help with curbing your impulse spending habit, especially since you can open the app at any time and you'll be able to see how your current finances are affecting your goals. You'll get a more detailed view from the desktop version of the website when you check in at home.
  • No meetings necessary. Your financial planner will make it their goal to get back with you as soon as possible. You may not go more than 24 hours without hearing back from them if you have a question. You can email your financial planner whenever you like.

 

Cons

 

  • You’ll have to wait for information on your Credit Score. LearnVest's competitors like Mint will show you how your budget, cards, and finances relate to your credit score. Unfortunately, you'll have to log on to credit score website to be able to keep track of this; it would be helpful to have it all in one place.
  • No face to face interaction. It's not unreasonable to want to have a face to face meeting with the individual that knows everything about your finances and will be guiding you for the foreseeable future. You'll never meet with your financial planner in person, or over web chat. However, you will communicate with a helpful and friendly financial planner via phone or email.
  • If you have multiple investments, LearnVest can’t help you manage them. If you’d like to see how your current investments relate to your financial goals, you’ll have to keep up with those through some other medium, or on your own. LearnVest is simply there to help you manage your finances regarding retirement accounts, saving accounts, credit card debt, student loan repayment, and saving for your long term goals.
  • Limited Features in the Mobile App. While the mobile app is an excellent idea for LearnVest to incorporate into their services, you’ll find that some LearnVest features are pretty limited on the app. You may not be able to catalog all of your purchases at once, but you can always log on to LearnVest’s website to view all of your information.

 

How It Compares

LearnVest certainly has the potential to knock it's competitors, like traditional financial planners, out of the water. It has low rates and is extremely accessible, whether you'd like to access it on your phone or the computer. LearnVest also puts itself ahead of its competitors by allowing you to connect with your financial planner via email whenever you need. However, you might want to know what the competition is offering before you invest.

YNAB

YNAB gets its name by using an acronym for “You Need A Budget,” and you probably do need their help if you're looking into the right budget app for you. YNAB believes that you can achieve financial success and security by following four simple rules. These rules are:

  • Every dollar you spend should have a purpose. So, all of your money is saved and divided into categories so that you never have an excess of extra cash that you might overspend with. Examples of those categories are the budget for your vacation savings, the budget for your clothes purchases or a budget for how much you eat out.
  • All expenses should be accounted into your budget, even if they don't happen frequently but they occur outside of a one-time purchase. For example, if you get your nails done every two months, that should still be counted in your budget, regardless of the fact that you're not going as often as once a week.
  • Flexibility will help you with managing your finances so that you can pull from other categories if you come up short in another one.
  • Your finances should be set up so that you'll always spend and live off of what you earned in the month before so that you can crush the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

YNAB offers live classes to help you manage your finances, and it only costs $5 each month, and it's free for a year for students. You will not get a personal planner the way that you would with LearnVest.

Inuit Mint

Mint is a good option for students that can't afford to pay for a monthly financial planning service. The Mint app helps you put all of your financial accounts in one place, it will remind you when bills are due, generate your credit score for free, and you can link it to your checking or savings account and have your information protected by their 256-bit encryption level.

One major advantage that Mint has over LearnVest is that you can see your credit score as well as your spending habits, savings account and more, but all in one place. To elaborate, LearnVest will handle all other aspects of planning your financial future, but you won't be able to see your credit score and how it relates to your finances on their app or from their website. However, Mint is not promising to have an actual person go over your finances and tell you where to make a few changes.

If you're comfortable with just keeping track of your finances, so that you know what causes your paycheck to dwindle each month, then an app like Mint might be a good fit. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, then LearnVest is the better choice because it's analyzing your spending habits as Mint does, and/ helping you plan for your financial future.

Is LearnVest Right For You?

LearnVest forces you to address your financial fears head-on and to address any crucial mistakes that you might be making so that they can help you fix them, one step at a time.

Additionally, LearnVest is a great alternative if you need an actual financial planner to guide you because the price is far less high than recurring, in-person meetings with a financial planner. If you don't think that you need a financial planner just yet, apps that only track your spending might be a better fit until you're ready to make a transition to a program like LearnVest.

07 Dec

Charles Schwab Review – Legit Investment Platform or Waste of Money?

charles schwab review

Managing your investment portfolio is a headache, and can come with a daunting amount of fees. Many people want to get their first taste of investing, but don’t know where to start. Everyone intends to plan for their future, but breaking into the investment game can be time-consuming and confusing.

The answer, for many, comes in the form of online investing with brokerage firms. Still, though, the options are plentiful, and it’s hard to determine the best choice. Ahead, we’ll take a look at Charles Schwab, and let you know if they’re worth considering for your investment future.

What is Charles Schwab?

Charles Schwab is a bank and brokerage firm with headquarters in San Francisco California. It’s been in business since the late 60’s and has been publically traded since 1987. Charles Schwab is widely recognized as a reputable organization in the investment community and has netted several awards and words of praise in the recent past. Some of the most notable mentions include “Highest in Investor Satisfaction” by J.D. Power in 2016 and 217, and one of Fortune’s “World Most Admired Companies.”

Schwab prides itself on their around-the-clock customer service to their investors. They seem like they want the investor to succeed above all, unlike other firms that offer little to no guidance. The information they provide is perfect for seasoned, savvy investors and their attention to detail will help new investors get started.

How Charles Schwab Works

Charles Schwab works like any online investment platform. You create an account, transfer any accounts from your old brokerage provider if you have them, add some money to your account, and then you’re ready to start investing. If you’re new to online investing, there are several resources available at the beginning. Schwab is one of the easiest platforms to grasp for new investors and doesn’t tend to intimidate as much as some.

The account minimum is around the average at $1,000, but that’s close to the industry standard. If you agree to transfer at least $100 a month, though, Schwab waives the account minimum.  On index funds, however, there is no longer a minimum balance. If you want to invest in these funds, you can do so with a small amount and watch it grow.

For a trading platform, Schwab uses StreetSmart and StreetSmart Edge. The former is a web platform, and the latter is a desktop platform that targets advanced investors. It’s relatively easy to navigate and intuitive for beginners. There, you’ll be able to monitor your portfolio, as well as receive relevant information from Schwab and independent sources.

If you want to use Charles Schwab as your primary form of banking as well, you have a few options at your disposal. Just like any bank, there are checking and savings accounts where you can access your earnings, but Schwab offers no ATM fees worldwide. People who travel tend to use banks like Schwab for their accounts so that they’ll always have international currency when they need it.

Commissions and Fees

Commission is one of the biggest selling points Charles Schwab has. Recently, they changed their commission structure from $8.95 to $4.95 for options trades, which puts them among the cheapest in the industry. On top of that, there are over 200 commission-free exchange traded funds (ETF) from which to choose

As far as fees, there are hardly any of which to speak. All the research is free, which is impressive when considering the quality of the advice. There are no fees or trade minimums on their platform. Schwab also offers over 3,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds, with no annual inactivity fee. Their fees and commissions are among the lowest in the industry, so this part shouldn’t scare you away.

Steps to Get Started

  1. Choose your account type.
  • Decide if you want kind of account works best for you and make your selection.
  • Keep your investment strategy in mind, or ask for assistance over the phone or online from a Schwab associate.
  1. Provide your information.
  • Use your Social Security number, address, and other necessary information to get your account started
  1. Create a login ID.
  • Make sure your ID and password are memorable to you or write them down so you won’t forget.
  1. Set your account features.
  • Decide what kind of investments you want to make.
  • Take a look at the available features, and see which ones are most important to you.
  1. Put money in your account.
  • The minimum balance is currently $1,000, but remember that they waive this fee if you transfer at least $100 per month.
  • If you’re moving an account from a previous brokerage provider, go to your account, select “Transfer Account,” and follow the steps listed.

Pros and Cons of Charles Schwab

Pros:

  • Low commissions overall
  • Commission-free ETFs
  • Free, top-notch research materials
  • Easy-to-use investing platform
  • Around-the-clock customer service

Cons:

  • Pricey transaction-fee funds
  • Some users reported problems with banking overseas

Public Perception

The public perception of Charles Schwab is generally positive. They are well respected in the investing community, and not without reason. Their research is solid, and new investors seem to be particularly fond of their platform. They’re available online or by phone at all times of the day, which goes a long way for a lot of users. As far as negatives go, many of the user reviews seem to focus on specific problems rather than overarching negatives that take away from the user experience.

Competition

There are several other online brokers that you should consider before making your decision. One of the most famous of the bunch is E-Trade. They are another option that’s ideal for beginners and experienced investors. They have a bit more on the commission side at $6.95, but if you exceed 30 trades per quarter, the commission matches Schwab’s. They have a $500 account minimum, and their online platform doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as Schwab’s.

Ally Invest is another online broker option that competes with Schwab. They have no account minimum, but also don’t offer and commission-free ETFs. Their platform is exceptional, but their fees can add up over time. They have the same commission as Schwab, but Ally Invest appears to cater itself towards more experienced investors rather than those who are new to online investing.

Should You Get Charles Schwab?

If you’re looking for a way to invest online, Charles Schwab is a reliable option. Their service and research are exceptional, and their platform is easy to use even if you’re new to investing. Their commission and fees are among the lowest in the industry, which will help you save money as you get an investment portfolio off the ground.

One of the places that Schwab excels is in their customer service. They are constantly trying to help their clients succeed. If you look for yourself, you’ll see quite a few reviews that cite customer service as one of the selling points of Schwab, and that’s no accident. There are other options in the space that provide favorable results, but Schwab is one of the better selections. Hopefully, this review helped you make a decision, and we wish you best of luck in your future investing!

07 Dec

Robinhood Review – Can You Really Trade For Free?

robinhood review

It's a well-known secret that trading in the stock market, whether you're brand-new to the system or old hat, can cost the trader up to $10 per transaction, or even higher. However, with modern technology, the actions that these fees cover are almost entirely automated these days, leading to stock market traders paying fees that are now completely unnecessary, though these fees still exist due to them being long established in the stock market field.

One app, called Robinhood, is taking out these fees entirely and opening up the world of the stock market to any players who might be interested, both young and old, for early investors and the moderately wealthy alike. While there are a large number of stock market brokers available to the public, on your phone or laptop, or even tablet, Robinhood is setting out to open the stock market industry to the younger generation, especially millennials.

We think it is important to get more than just a star review of an app when considering using it to improve your financial future. That's why we are bringing you detailed information on how the app works, how to get started in the program, and even some discussion on popular opinion and other similar options that exist on the market today.

What is Robinhood?

This app, which intends to let potential investors to buy and sell stock for $0 each trade, was first launched back in December of 2014, and started off with a waiting list of 500,000 people hoping to give the app a shot. It is geared towards opening up the start market to hopeful millennial investors, which had previously been entirely untapped for stock trades.

Today, Robinhood has been successful enough that it is beginning to expand internationally, allowing citizens of countries such as Australia to join in fee-free investing and trading. They are continuing their dedication to inspiring the next generation of financial investors and expanding their reach around the globe.

Most users find this service appealing for the simplest reason that Robinhood is completely free to use. You won't find yourself dealing with hidden fees or costs, and the give is that the app limits trading options to stocks and ETFs only.

In short, if keeping costs of trading stock low is your primary concern, and you're willing to do a little effort on your own for research and education, then Robinhood is the way to go.

How Robinhood Works

There is a reason Robinhood is able to work so successfully while offering its users trades for only $0. They focus their efforts on taxable accounts, and make sure to only offer stocks and ETF investments, or an exchange-traded fund, for the user.

They keep their overhead costs of running a business low, to ensure their thin margins of profit remain profitable. In this way, they are able to target new and millennial-aged users by offering popular mobile interfaces, $0 minimum for an investment, and even keeping the service as a whole entirely free.

Robinhood also offers several features that are highly desired by its users, such as scheduled deposits and advanced order support. In this way, users can plan ahead to deposit their money and even get assistance in how to use the system.

If you want to double your buying power, and access after-hours trading as well, you can pay a fee of $6 each month to access an upgraded account called Robinhood Gold, but even with this account, trading is still 100% free from commission fees. Users can also take advantage of Robinhood Instant, which is absolutely free, and allows the user to immediately access stock funds for reinvesting, as well as use as much as one thousand dollars of pending bank deposits.

Commissions and Fees

Most stock brokers on the market have fees, and are designed for high rollers who are individually wealthy and able to invest large amounts of money into the market. These brokers, such as Charles Schwab and E*Trade, levy fees onto the user to help pay for their expertise, while Robinhood seeks to offer something different altogether.

As mentioned, Robinhood can be used entirely free as an online stock broker, which makes it one of a kind. However, if the user desires some upgraded features, such as trading after hours, they can pay an extra monthly fee starting at $6 per month for a service called Robinhood Gold.

Steps to Get Started

Getting started with Robinhood is simple, provided you have your bank account information on hand.

  1. Download the app “Robinhood – Stock Trading”.
  2. Sign Up
    • Enter your email address
    • Create strong password
    • Enter your legal first and last name
    • Enter your phone number
  3. Input checking account information
  4. Watch the video on how to use Robinhood.
  5. Input initial investment amount from your bank into your account.
  6. Begin to buy and sell stock!

Pros and Cons of Robinhood

Pros

  • No trading commissions
  • $0 Account minimum investment
  • Mobile interface

 

Cons

  • Streamlined interface may lack details on the stock
  • No retirement accounts available
  • No available trading platform

Public Perception

 

This app gets amazingly positive reviews overall, and it features 4.5 stars on both the App Store for the iOS and Google Play. This is largely because it does its job by offering a gateway for newcomers who want to start investing in the stock market with no additional fees.

In short, this app is widely liked and well-regarded by beginners in trading and the stock market, but may not offer all the features that would be desired by more advanced traders who need different kinds of stock to trade other than ETFs.

Competition

The competitors to Robinhood almost universally cater to a wealthier and more advanced and experienced group of investors, leaving the market Robinhood is aiming for largely untouched. For mobile-based investors, other major options include Charles Schwab, Scottrade, and Ally Invest, among others.

Charles Schwab has fees to use the service, but they invest their fees in order to create an impressive stock trading product. The mobile app is available on practically every device, from iPads and Androids to the Kindle Fire. Their fees vary, and up to five fees can be placed on your trades depending on ETFs, commissions, managing portfolios, and more.

If you are already working with Scottrade for investment purposes, you will probably prefer their mobile app, which offers real-time and streaming quotes alongside amazingly detailed market research at your fingertips. However, due to low usability, it has only a 2 star rating on the App Store, and just over 3 stars on Google Play.

Ally is a bank that will also help you to invest your money with their mobile app. They offer the largest variety of options and packages for new and experienced stock traders, and their fees start as low as $4.95 per trade conducted.

Should You Get Robinhood?

At this point, if you are the target audience for Robinhood, you will know if this app is right for you. For any individuals who want to break into stock market trading, learn how it works with minimal risk, and of course do it all without spending any extra cash on fees, then Robinhood is the right choice for you.

07 Dec

Ally Invest (Formerly TradeKing) Review – Legit Online Stock Broker?

ally invest

Most people want to get their money to work for them by investing it in the right places. Nowadays, investors are turning to online stock brokers to get their investments in order. There are a ton of options out there, with one advertising nearly every time you turn on the television. Choosing the right broker is hard, though, because each one has their benefits and drawbacks.

Ally Invest (formerly TradeKing) one of the options you may not hear about too often. They don’t spend the same amount of money on their marketing budget as other popular brokers such as E-Trade, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. Ahead, we’ll take a look at the specifics of Ally Invest and let you know if it’s worth choosing as your online broker.

What is Ally Invest?

Ally Financial owns by Ally Invest, who got their start in the early 1900’s as part of General Motors. Over the years, they separated from the automotive company and branched into banking and corporate finance. They are still one of the leading auto bank lenders in the country.

In 2016, Ally Financial acquired TradeKing and rebranded them as Ally Invest. They kept most of what worked from TradeKing, with a few tweaks here and there. The broker markets itself as a discount firm, rather than one of the big-hitters. For an online broker, that isn’t too bad. Their commission is small, and they don’t require an account minimum. Ally works for those who are regular investors as well as those who just want to dabble.

How Ally Invest Works

Ally Invest has one of the lowest barriers to entry in any online stock broker because of their no account minimum. If you’re a bigger fish, though, you are rewarded with lower commission. Over 30 trades or an average daily balance of $100,000 or more will give you the “special rate,” so it’s cheap to be a fair-weather investor and even more inexpensive to be a regular player. Setting up an account is easy, just choose which kind you want and fill out your information.

Ally Invest provides all of the accounts, investment options, and research tools that other online stock brokers have. You can trade in stocks, exchange-traded funds, bonds, options, mutual funds, and more. For accounts, there are all the options you’d expect: IRA’s, taxable, joint, checking, savings, etc. These accounts and investing options will be about the same, no matter where you look. You will, however, have to pay attention to the commission and fees, as this is where Ally typically pulls ahead.

The trading platform Ally Invest uses is web-based which many people who trade on multiple platforms prefer. Serious investors often use desktop programs, but trading on multiple computers would mean you’d have to download the program multiple times. With Ally Invest, you can trade from anywhere if you have access to a WiFi signal.

Their research is decent, especially for a discount broker. The tools, though, is Ally has an edge on the competition. Their options pricing calculator is virtually unmatched in the industry, with the ability to compare current prices with projected future value, making sure you’re getting the most out of your investing dollar. Other free tools include a tax manager, probability calculator, and profit-and-loss calculator.

Commissions and Fees

Only a few competitors can compete with the commissions Ally Invest has. They have one of the lowest commission structures in the industry at $4.95, and give you the option of an even lower commission if you have a regular balance of $100,000 or make more than 30 transactions a quarter. If you meet these requirements, you’ll only be paying $3,95 in commission, and 50¢per option contract (as opposed to 65¢).

Unfortunately, unlike similar options, there aren’t any commission-free ETFs. A lot of other online brokers offer multiple commission-free ETF options, but Ally’s low commission structure may make up for this shortcoming. There aren’t any transaction-fee-free funds either, but the $9.95 commission on these funds is much less than the charges most other online discount brokers have.

Steps to Get Started

  1. Go to Ally.com and set up an account
  • Follow the steps on the website to enter your information and create an investing account.
  • Have your information on hand to make setup as easy as possible.
  1. Decide which account is best for you
  • While signing up, a short questionnaire will help you determine which account is best for your managed portfolio
  • Choose from several account options, including traditional, Roth, SEP, simple IRAs, Coverdell, and more
  1. Fund your account
  • Decide if you’re going to accept the $4.95 commission structure, or invest a larger sum to qualify for the $3.95 commission.
  1. Transfer an existing account from another broker if you have one
  • To transfer an existing account, you’ll need to submit an asset transfer request form to Ally Invest.
  • You will also need to send a recent statement from your previous account.
  1. Start trading
  • Log into your desired account and select “Quick Trade.”
  • From there you’ll be able to start trading.

Pros and Cons of Ally Invest

Pros:

  • Low Commissions
  • No Account Minimums
  • Web-Based Trading Platform
  • In-Depth Investment Tools and Calculators

Cons:

  • No Commission-Free ETFs
  • Transaction Fees on Mutual Funds
  • No Brick and Mortar Locations

Public Perception

The general opinion of Ally Invest is a good one. Users seem to appreciate the cheap commissions and low barrier of entry. The tools have received a lot of positive feedback, and their research is nothing about which to complain. The only place where consumers are down on Ally is the fact that there are no physical locations. It’s an online-only broker, which is fine for some, but others like to know they can go to a physical location rather than only rely on phone or online conversations to resolve their problems.

Competition

There are other, cheap, online brokers that you should consider before making your decision. Charles Schwab offers the best competition regarding commission. Theirs is $4.95, but don’t offer any discount for active traders. There are over 200 commission-free ETFs with Schwab as well. If you’re someone who wants the security of going to a physical location, you ought to look at Charles Schwab. They have several locations, and chances are there’s one close to you.

E-Trade is another attractive option in the online broker realm. Chances are you’ve seen one of their commercials on television. Their commission is higher at $6.95, and they require a minimum balance of $500. There are 30 local branches, but that’s far from a guarantee that there will be one close by. There are, however, over 100 commission-free ETFs if that’s important to you.

Should You Get Ally Invest?

Ally Invest is a quality company with a cheap commission structure when compared to the rest of the field. They may not be as recognizable as other brokers, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. Their research is helpful, and their tools are some of the best.

The biggest selling point, though, is Ally’s low commissions. Whether you’re an active investor or someone who wants to do a little bit of trading, you’ll be paying a lot less in commission than with other brokers. Overall, Ally Invest is a good choice for your investing future.

07 Dec

Citi Double Cash Card Review – Get Rewarded For Every Purchase

citi double cash card review

Picking the right credit card can be a confusing process. Every credit card company has their gimmick or benefit, and it’s often difficult to tell which card is the best decision for you. In this review, we take a look at the Citi Double Cash card, and whether or not it’s worth signing up. Read on and see what you think of the Citi Double Cash card and if this credit card is the right selection for you.

What is the Citi Double Cash Card?

The Citi Double Cash card is a cash back card that is directed towards those with a good to excellent credit score. If your credit score is down at the moment, you may want to apply for another card as it’s likely you won’t be approved. Although the standards are a bit high, they are far lower than some of the comparable cards that require excellent credit. If you have good credit, the Citi Double Cash card is a good way to earn cash back on purchases, both when you buy and when you pay.

This card isn’t as flashy as some others that change their reward system every month. Some find their stratagem better, though, as its rewards system is more dependable while it’s static. Instead of offering 5% or 6% for specific purchases, then changing every quarter, the Citi Double Cash card gives you 1% cash back on every purchase. You don’t have to use the card exclusively for gas or groceries to get the reward, meaning this option could be your primary purchasing credit card.

How the Citi Double Cash Card Works

The main feature that sets the Citi Double Cash card apart from the competition is the 1% cash back when you buy and 1% cash back when you pay. As stated above, this feature works on all purchases, so you won’t have to stay up to date with the quarterly offerings. The double cash back cited in the card’s name also offers a strong incentive to pay your credit card bill. The sooner you pay, the sooner you get the second half of the reward.

There are several other benefits to the Citi Double Cash card apart from the main cash-back feature. The card offers a late fee pass on your first missed payment. If paying for your monthly purchases slips your mind, you’ll be able to make them up one time without being penalized.

Another benefit the card offers what they call “Citi Price Rewind.” This program ensures that you get the lowest possible price on an item. If they find the same product at a lower rate in the next 60 days, you should receive the difference. By signing up, you’ll also be eligible for the Citi Private Pass, which offers exclusive presale tickets to concerts, sporting events, movie screenings, and more.

Fees

The standard variable APR of the Citi Double Cash card is 14.49% to 24.49% depending on your creditworthiness. On balance transfers, though, the Citi Double Cash card offers 0% APR for the first 18 months. After that, the fees will revert to the standard rate for any unpaid balance. There is no late fee for your first tardy payment, but after that, it will cost you up to $35. The same goes for a returned payment.

The annual fee for the Citi Double Cash card is $0, which is good for those who don’t want to pay attention to how much they need to spend to break even. This feature means you can use the card as much or as little as you like without losing money in the long run. Annual fees can be a pain to keep track of and require you to use their card to get your money back.

Steps to Get Started

  1. Check your credit score.
  • First, you’re going to want to check your credit score.
  • Unlike some competitors, the Citi Double Cash card accepts good credit and isn’t exclusive to excellent credit.
  • You’ll want to know if you’re in the range of credit before you apply
  1.  Look at the competition.
  • Take a look at some competing offers to see what works best
  • f you have excellent credit, you may want to get a card with a more personalized reward system
  1.  Decide what you’re using this card for.
  • If you’re only going to use the card for gas, you could choose one that rewards exclusively gas purchases.
  1. Apply on the Citicards.com website
  • Apply for the Citi Double Cash card if you think it’s the right selection for you.
  • Use their website to fill out your information, and see if you qualify.

Pros and Cons of the Citi Double Cash Card

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • Great rewards system
  • 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers
  • Accepts good credit, not just excellent credit

Cons:

  • No signup bonus
  • No 0% APR for purchases
  • Low credit limit

Public Perception (Other Citi Double Cash Card Reviews)

The general opinion of the Citi Double Cash card is that it works well for those who want a versatile card with a high cash back system. People who add the card for substantive purposes tend to be happy, but those who use it as their main card have run into some trouble. From user experiences, it would seem that the fraud detection can be a bit trigger-happy. Having a secure card isn’t the worst thing, but it can be annoying to have your card declined for possible fraud multiple times.

Another issue that users seem to have is the low monthly limit. It would appear that no matter your income, the Citi Double Cash card doesn’t offer too much in the way of monthly spending limits. This card is ideal for those who want to use it here and there, but not as good if you’re looking for a card that will take care of all of your expenses.

Alternatives

Consider the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express if you’re interested in the static rewards system of the Citi Double Cash card but want to take a look at other options. It comes with an annual fee of $95 but offers 6% cash back on groceries, 3% on gas, and 1% on everything else. It will require a similar credit score but is another option that doesn’t change its reward scheme.

If you won’t qualify for either of these cards, the QuicksilverOne card from Capital One is a reliable choice. It offers 1.5% cash back on everything, with a small annual fee of $39. There’s a higher APR with this card, but that you should expect if you’re searching for a card for a lower credit score.

Should You Apply for the Citi Double Cash Card?

The Citi Double Cash card is worth applying for in most circumstances. For no annual fee, it offers a total of 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit. It’s hard to match this reward system, especially when it’s combined with the other perks you’ll get with the card. There are some drawbacks, namely the spending limit, but these negatives can be mitigated if you have other cards at your disposal. Overall, the card is solid and is at least worth strong consideration if you’re looking for a new card.

07 Dec

Digit Review: Can Saving Really Be This Easy?

digit review

Saving money might cause you headaches and concern, but with technology that can be found on the market today, there is no reason to take advantage of apps that can help you save money without any effort at all on your part. Whether you want to save money but simply don't have the time to put it away, or if your brain simply shuts down at the mention of accounts and banks and money, then Digit might be the app you have been looking for.

Get more than just a black and white answer on if Digit is right for you and your bank account. Read our review to discover what Digit is, how it works, uncover both positives and negatives to using the service, and even get a step-by-step guide to using Digit if you are interested in saving money automatically.

What is Digit?

Digit is a small but growing company that was opened to citizens of the United States in February of 2015, and since then it has been helping adults—especially adults under thirty-five years of age—to actually save money for a rainy day. The company was formed as a response to many young adults being unable to save money, most of them reporting a savings rate of negative 2% annually in 2014, even several years after the recession.

Digit's solution is automatic savings, where the app can monitor your income and spending habits, and then make smart decisions on how much money to put away each month that, ideally, you won't even miss from your bank account. For people who find money stressful, or don't think they can save any money at all, this app can be the perfect solution to begin saving money for your next vacation or large purchase without any hassle at all.

How Digit Works

Today, big banks make their money from one of two financial groups. Either they earn income from the overdraft fees and other taxes placed on the very poor and even broke bank users, or they can receive a respectable interest from the very wealthy, which functions as a charge for managing their large amounts of wealth.

However, modern banks have almost no incentive to create innovation for the middle class, and as a result individuals who do not pay overdraft fees, but aren't massively wealthy either, typically have the very same banking experience as an individual using a bank over five hundred years ago. Digit is stepping in today to bring us some of that innovation that the industry is lacking.

To get setup, you sign up with the app, which is available on the iOS, Android, and even on browsers on a laptop. You will need your bank information handy during this process, but after that everything is simple and straightforward.

Digit will automatically check your spending habits on a daily basis, and it will move money out of your checking and into a separate savings account if you can afford the expense. This savings account is FDIC insured up to $250,000, and you can withdraw any amount of money, at any time.

The amount that is automatically withdrawn is influenced by four major factors: your total account balance, any upcoming income (paychecks or predicted income that is more irregular), upcoming bills that are noted, and traits of your recent spending history.

If you want to actively save money on occasion, putting money into your Digit account is as easy as sending a quick text message. If, over time, you find you are becoming an more active user of Digit, there are over 25 different commands you can use for the service via text message, from changing your nickname to pausing the service for a certain number of days.

What's more, Digit offers a 1% annual Savings Bonus of your total saved amount, input into your account every three months that you are a part of the service. In short, Digit will evaluate how you spend your money, and then make sure you are also saving money as well, in order to provide for your future.

Pricing

Digit offers 100 days free on their service, so you can start right away without any fees or costs up front. Take advantage of this free trial whether you want to get Digit or not, so you can be sure it is the right service for you in the long run.

Once the trial basis is up, Digit cost $2.99 each month. It is important to note that this is the only way that Digit earns revenue, and they will never sell your data, give you advertisements in the app, or otherwise push unnecessary products on you for supplemental income.

Steps to Get Started

If you want to give saving real money, without any stress or headache, a shot, then use the following steps to get started with Digit.

  1. Download the app.
  2. Create basic account information.
    • Type in your first name, last name, email address, and then choose a new password for your account.
    • Be sure to choose a safe and unique password for your Digit account.
  3. Input your phone number.
    • This app requires a good phone number because most of your communication with the app will be via text messaging for ease of use, no matter if you have internet or not.
  4. Input checking account information.
    • This should be the account from you wish to save, and it should also include most of your spending and income habits for the best decision making by Digit for how much to withdraw.
  5. Start saving automatically!

Pros and Cons of Digit

Of course, like any financial app, there are both pros and cons to choosing Digit. Be sure to consider both sides, so you can make the decision that is best for you.

Pros

  • Easy, automatic savings
  • FDIC insured savings account, from which you can withdraw money anytime.
  • Digit Savings Bonus every 3 months.
  • Text Messaging to manage money.

Cons

  • $2.99 monthly fee after initial 100-day free trial.

Public Perception (Other Digit Reviews)

This app is rated 4 stars on the App Store, and 4.3 stars on Google Play. Most users gave positive reviews on how easy it made saving money, though some found they were unable to connect to less widely-known banks.

Competition

Digit is not the only option out there to help with savings, so if that's your goal, you should also consider competitor apps such as Acorns and Stash Invest.

Unlike Digit, Acorns will simply round up every purchase you make to the next dollar, and move all the spare change into a savings account. This way you can be sure to save money with every card purchase, without making a dent in your spending habits.

Stash Invest works a little differently, and focuses instead on smartly investing your spare change so your money can grow. With this app, you can begin with as little as $5, and put money into industries and other things that you love and want to succeed.

Should You Get Digit?

Digit is a one-of-a-kind application that works overtime to help you save money without any extra effort from you. If this is something you are missing in your life, or if you find you have no savings account at all for a rainy day, then this is definitely the right app for you to sign up for.

07 Dec

WiseBanyan Review: Ideal Free Alternative To Paid Robo-Advisors?

wisebanyon review

Do you have money you want to invest or grow? Can you trust the company you currently let manage your accounts? WiseBanyan boasts being the world’s first free financial advisor. There are many robo-advisors (which is a class of online portfolio management with minimal human intervention because they use an algorithm) out there, so choosing the right one may seem difficult.

There is minimal human interaction, but your financial advice is based on efficient business and algorithms. With WiseBanyan, you get a free advisor without any investment, trading, or rebalancing fees.

According to Morningstar, the average expense ratio for an equity mutual fund is 1.2% for a managed fund, and the expense ratio is .9% for investment grade bond funds. WiseBanyan offers a fee-free service which rebalances your money regularly and invests your money in ETF index funds. Why not save the money on fees and services when there is a free option to use?  

What is WiseBanyan?

WiseBanyan is a free robo-advisor service with no fees or hidden charges. With a minimum investment of $1, users can transfer all of their various accounts into one investment portfolio. The company focuses on having no hidden fees or charges which is the backbone of the business.

WiseBanyan does not make money from fees; the brand has a long-term plan for revenue generation through clients with a higher net worth choosing to opt into paid investments. They promise to:

  • Never sell personal information
  • Give honest recommendations without kickbacks or commissions for specific recommendations
  • Make recommendations to maximize your money, not get more cash from fees
  • Calculate your risk score through an easy to understand questionnaire
  • Simple opening of accounts including Taxable Investment Account, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, Traditional IRA
  • Invest based on passively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs)

You have nothing to lose and some serious money to gain by transferring all of your funds to WiseBanyan. The company is built on an investment philosophy which covers four pillars including valuable diversification, keeping fees low, passively investing, and starting sooner rather than later.

You don’t need a high net worth to invest your money with WiseBanyan. Individuals with outside investment accounts like 401(k) and 403(b) accounts from other companies can be consolidated in one location. Invest in Roth IRAs, Traditional IRAs, and SEP-IRAs to achieve goals like saving for retirement, long-term investments, savings funds, and more.

How It Works

Choose WiseBanyan for access to an easy to understand interface and immediate investment with a simple questionnaire about your personal preferences. All you need to do as a new user is to sign up and get started. After signing up, just fill out a simple questionnaire to determine individual risk factors. Based on your risk factors, an investment recommendation is made for a percentage of stocks and bonds.

After filling out a risk profile, you include your personal information and then connect your other investments. It takes a few days for everything to transfer and the account to be fully operational. Fill out your information to set up goals for retirement, long-term investments, and financial goals. Some of their key features include:

  • Two-Factor Authentication: This verifies your account and keeps it safe.
  • Milestone Tracker: Watch your money grow with a milestone tracker to remind you of your progress.
  • Automatic Deposits: Set an amount you’d like to deposit on a certain day of the month or day of the week.
  • Innovation: The company is committed to rolling out new ideas on a regular basis.
  • Premium Packages: If you need extra services, add services on to your base account.
  • WiseHarvesting: This strategy turns small losses in your portfolio into tax deductions.

The Costs

There are no costs associated with WiseBanyan which is perhaps their most valuable value proposition to new users. There are no account minimums and no cost for working with this company. The only costs associated with account management come directly from the ETFs, which average at .12% to manage.

Steps to Get Started

Getting started is simple with WiseBanyan, just follow these steps:

  1. Click to ‘Become a Client’
  2. Give the company your email address
  3. Click your email to open a WiseBanyan account
  4. Complete the questionnaire to start building your financial plan, including your birthday, annual income, net worth, milestones you wish to implement, and more
  5. Answer the questionnaire to determine the right allocation to assist in achieving your targets
  6. Make an initial deposit of at least one dollar in your account
  7. Set an auto deposit plan to reach your long-term goal
  8. Enter your personal information
  9. Connect any accounts relevant to your investment portfolio
  10. Wait for an email confirmation once the account is fully approved

Pros and Cons of WiseBanyan

Just like any product, there are positives and negatives to switching your investment portfolio to WiseBanyan.

Pros

The advantages of selecting WiseBanyan are:

  • No service fees which translates to more money in your bank in the long term
  • No trading or rebalancing fees
  • Support of a useful algorithm for making investment decisions
  • An investment strategy mission which notes the value of diversification
  • Factoring length of time, risk aversion, and money saved
  • Get the highest level of return based on a set level of risk

Cons

The cons of choosing WiseBanyan include:

  • Working with a company that is newer to the robo-advisors space
  • Less interaction with an actual person for investment decisions
  • The company has not proven a revenue stream yet
  • Has fewer assets under management than other companies
  • Limit to the number of taxable accounts you can open, cannot open an account with a spouse

Public Perception (Other WiseBanyan Reviews)

Users of this service offering are pleased with the WiseBanyan services. In a recent customer review, a client says, “Very smooth! No sales pitch, nothing to aggravate me. Called customer service once just to see how I was treated. Excellent! I rate this a 10 for sure.”

A website review said, “It does seem like a good option for newer investors. Not only can you start investing with no account minimums, and no management fees – buy you can buy fractional shares with as little as $10 and get a highly-diversified portfolio that should match the market in the long-term.”

Competition

WiseBanyan falls in a class of what is named “robo-advisors.” Several other businesses make their money off of portfolio management or financial advice with minimal human intervention. The competition to WiseBanyan includes:

  • Charles Schwab: Offers a zero-management fee but has a $5,000 account minimum.
  • WealthFront: Focused on tax optimization by has an account minimum and a management fee 0.25%.
  • Betterment: This company has a $0 account minimum but requires a management fee up to half of a percent. Betterment does manage a significant amount of money successfully.
  • Acorns: Free for college students and with no minimum, this service is free, but once a balance exceeds $5,000 there is a fee of .25%.
  • FutureAdvisor: They are focused on a successful long-term portfolio for their clients and has a high success rate of returns. It is tough to understand if you are new to investing and they charge a fee for services.
  • Personal Capital: Makes use of an award-winning software to best read performance of investments, monitor cash going in, and manage cash leaving your accounts. The fee schedule for investing is higher with low investment amounts. The minimum investment is $25,000.

Should You Get WiseBanyan?

WiseBanyan is an excellent opportunity for those looking to make the most of their money with an investment strategy proportionate risk willing to be taken out. If you don’t want to put all of your money into WiseBanyan right away, try a small investment to watch your money group. Have your money managed for free with this service.