What Does Each Brokerage Firm Have To Offer?
Services: What kinds of investments can they help you with? Stocks (see Stocks: Buying, Selling & Researching, Bonds, Mutual Funds, Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs), U.S.Treasury Offerings, Certificate of Deposit (Cds) , Individual Retirement Account (IRA) etc. Can they provide help with mortgages or insurance? Do they provide financial planning? Do you have your own personal account advisor; a technical person on the phone, or none of the above? How easy is it to receive help? What service do you need? Do they provide checking, ATM or other basic banking services? Is that important to you?
Research & Research Tools: Are you the type of investor who requires a great deal of information before you invest? Do you want to have access to a data base, need someone to feed you information, or do you like to find it on your own? Is the research offered done "in-house" or is it provided by outside independent companies? What research tools do they provide (see Stocks: Buying, Selling & Researching )? Do they also offer graphs and charts? Is the research easy to use and understand?
Costs: What are the trading costs? Are they per trade/transaction or asset based fee (a percentage of all the assets you have in the brokerage account)? Are there maintenance fees? Do they impose inactivity or small balance fees?
Account Information: Is the statement easy to read? Can you figure out your profit and loss on a transaction? Are all the fees clearly stated? How often are your statements sent out or updated?
User Computer Interface: If you decide to invest online how easy is the site to navigate? Can you find the information you need quickly?