Charles Schwab Review
  • Commissions
  • Trading Platforms
  • Mobile Trading Platforms
  • Education and Research
  • Executions and Routes
  • Ease of Use
  • Customer Service
4.0

Summary

Charles Schwab is one of the original discount brokerages who paved the way for trading as we know it today. Schwab offers competitive commission pricing, modern trading platforms, and a variety of other benefits. Read this review to see if this is the right broker for you.

About Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is a United States discount brokerage in operations for over 40 years. While it’s brokerage operations started in 1975, it’s history goes back to 1963 when founder Charles R. Schwab launched investment newsletter Investment Indicator.

Over time, Schwab grew in the brokerage world, becoming one of the “big five” brokerage firms. As of 2015 the company had $2.5 trillion in net client assets under management.

Charles Schwab Broker Review

Type of Broker

Charles Schwab is a discount brokerage firm, with no true direct market access. It does, however, offer limited direct order routing with a very limited choice of ECNs. As you can see in their direct access documentation, the only routes offered are:

  • Schwab Pre-Market
  • SmartEx (Schwab owned)
  • Schwab Post-Market
  • NSDQ
  • ARCA

Account Minimums

The minimum deposit for a regular Schwab brokerage account is $1,000.

Commissions & Fees

Stock Trading

Stock Trades

$4.95

Schwab ETF OneSource (commission free ETFs from 16 providers)

$0.00

All other ETFs

$4.95

Options Trading

Options Trades

$4.95 + $0.65 per contract

Futures Trading

Futures Trades

$3.50 per contract

Futures Options Trades

$3.50 per contract

Software Fees

All of Schwab’s trading software options are free to all clients enrolled in the no-charge Schwab Trading Services program. The platforms include:

  • StreetSmart Edge
  • Schwab.com Web Trading
  • Charles Schwab Mobile

Account Fees

Money Transfers

Transfer Type

Fees to Transfer

Online between Schwab accounts

$0

Online between outside accounts and Schwab investment accounts via Schwab MoneyLink

$0

Schwab Mobile Deposit

$0

Check

$0

Wire (from Schwab account)

$25

Wire (into your Schwab account)

Depends on sending institution

Direct Deposit

$0

Automatic Investment Plan

$0

Schwab Bank Bill Pay

$0

Automated Investing & Financial Advice

Investing Plan

Minimums

Annual Fees

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

$5,000

No advisory fees

No commissions

No account service fees

Schwab Intelligent Advisory

$25,000

0.28% of assets under management

Schwab Private Client

$500,000

Starts at 0.90% for equities

Starts at 0.75% for fixed income

Schwab Advisor Network

$500,000

No charge for referrals

Platforms & Tools

Platform Options

Schwab offers three unique trading platforms, all with their own benefits and drawbacks. All three are free to all Schwab clients.

StreetSmart Edge

StreetSmart Edge is Schwab’s premier trading platform, it essentially their ThinkOrSwim competitor, an all-encompassing trading platform with a suite of advanced features for active traders, all while keeping a free price-tag.

Recently desktop only, Schwab recently added a cloud-based web version of StreetSmart Edge.

schwab streetsmart edge

Features

Stock and ETF Screeners

Search for stocks using descriptive measures like Volume, Price Change, Sector, Momentum, etc.

StreetSmart Screener

CNBC Live

24 hour, ad-free broadcast of CNBC

Real-time News Feed

Aggregated feed of stock market related news

News Feed

Advanced Charting

Real-time charting with multiple chart types available. From candlesticks to line charts, from monthly to tick charts, the charting package is robust enough for most traders

Fundamental Research

A condensed view of a company’s fundamentals including earnings, analyst ratings, short interest, list of executives, etc.

Fundamental Research

Alerts

Manage risk using StreetSmart Edge’s alert system, setting alerts for specific prices, or other technical signals.

Custom Layouts

Drag and drop layouts to different monitors while using a multi-monitor setup, or just set up your platform in the fashion you prefer.

Schwab Web Trader

Schwab has two web trading options: their run-of-the-mill web trading platform, and their cloud based version of StreetSmart Edge. Your average investor is unlikely to need more than the regular web trader, however, the active trader benefits greatly from StreetSmart Edge.

You can watch a video rundown of Schwab’s Web Trader here.

Schwab Web Trader

Schwab Mobile

Schwab’s mobile app, while practical, is pretty unremarkable. Its features are almost identical to the mobile apps of the rest of the “big five” brokerage firms, with TD Ameritrade’s ThinkOrSwim app far surpassing Schwab Mobile, feature wise.

The one standout feature of Schwab Mobile is their Deposit Check feature, allowing you to immediately scan a check and deposit into your brokerage account. This is a handy feature, offered by a few other brokers, like ETRADE.

Schwab Check Deposit

Margin/Leverage

Base Rate = 7.00%

Debit Balance

Margin Rate

Effective Rate

$ 0- $24,499.99

Base Rate + 1.825%

8.825%

$25,000 – $49,999.99

Base Rate + 1.325%

8.325%

$50,000 – $99,999.99

Base Rate + 0.375%

7.375%

$100,000 – $249,999.99

Base Rate + 0.325%

7.325%

$250,000 – $499,999.99

Base Rate + 0.075%

7.075%

Research Tools

Schwab offers a wealth of third-party research tools and sources, more than enough for even the most astute of traders/investors.

In addition to Schwab’s Proprietary Research, they supply multiple third-party research sources including:

  • Market Edge
  • Credit Suisse
  • Morningstar
  • Ned Davis Research
  • Briefing.com
  • Argus
  • Standard & Poor’s
  • Vickers
  • Reuters Research

Schwab was rated a “Best Online Broker” for research tools by Investor’s Business Daily in 2017.

Customer Service

While Charles Schwab has phone and live chat support, their customer service record is pretty bad.

In the last year, 38 ratings have been submitted to Consumer Affairs with an average rating of 1.2 stars out of 5.

What Type of Trader is Schwab Best For?

Schwab is ideal for the trader who also invests long term, and requires a wealth of research to aide said investing. With their robust trading platform StreetSmart Edge, their huge library of research, and competitive industry rates, it is hard to go wrong with Schwab unless you have very specific trading needs like direct market access.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Huge library of research
  • Advanced trading platform
  • Limited direct market access (better than many brokers that have none at all)
  • Diverse selection of trading opportunities. All types of securities are offered, as well as international securities
  • Piece of mind of a top five brokerage firm

Cons

  • Customer service has a bad reputation for not solving issues
  • The hyperactive trader might want more functionality out of their trading platform, and may opt for TD Ameritrade’s ThinkOrSwim