Consumer Reports just released the results of a survey aimed at identifying the best brokers in America. They surveyed over 9,000 readers, asking them about their experiences with various brokers between January 2008/January 2009. Topping their list were USAA Brokerage, Vanguard, and Edward Jones.
USAA has received high marks in the past for other financial offerings, including their online banking service and insurance offerings. It therefore comes as no surprise that their online brokerage service ranked so high. Commissions start at $11.95/trade, but come down from there depending on trade volume. Unfortunately, USAA is only available to current and former military personnel and their families. Update: I just received an e-mail from USAA clarifying that certain financial products, including their brokerage, are available to the general public.
CR’s second pick, Vanguard, offers a wide variety of low cost mutual funds as well as a regular brokerage service. I’m a huge fan of Vanguard’s mutual funds, but I’m not crazy about their brokerage service, primarily due to cost — their standard rate is $25/trade. Nonetheless, consumers rated them highly for above average phone service. I can actually vouch for this myself; whenever you call, you’re almost certain to get a competent, helpful phone rep.
I drive by an Edward Jones office on the way to work every day, but I must admit that I know very little about them. They are a “discount full service brokerage” that competes with the big boys in the investment world, but their online presence sucks (in my opinion). They ranked high for personal service but, based on their website, their commissions appear to be a trade secret, and it’s not even clear if you can trade online.
Best of the rest
Their list of the top ten best brokers was rounded out by:
- Charles Schwab
- TD Ameritrade
- T. Rowe Price
- A.G. Edwards
This list is a good start, but if price is an important consideration, then I suggest that you check out my list of the best online brokers. If you’re willing to look around a bit, you can easily push your commissions below $5/trade, and still maintain a good customer service experience. For example, TradeKing offers $4.95 and award winning customer service.