10-second breakdown:

With nearly $3 Trillion in client assets, Charles Schwab knows investing. Their tools and research capabilities are possibly the best of all online trading platforms and can help you chart a path to a secure financial situation.

The good:

All trading tools are available to all who hold an account. Both SmartSheet.com and SmartSheet Edge can be used by anyone who is approved to trade through Charles Schwab’s online brokerage. Many other premium services require a certain trade volume, account balance, or even a monthly fee to access.

The research that you can do (especially in “Edge”) is phenomenal. The bar is set pretty high for the other trading platforms to catch up to the in-depth versatility offered by Charles Schwab.

The ability to talk with a certified professional with certain accounts is a great asset when you feel like you need an assist.

The bad:

Not the platform for mutual funds, the fees are way larger than anywhere else you can purchase them.

Trade commissions aren’t the lowest, but are competitive amongst other flagship brokers.

How it works:

Schwab is a bonafide broker with offices all over the country, but their trading platform isn’t a second hand product by any means. Opening an online trading account is the standard form-filling procedure and requires the typical information you’d expect (e.g. social or ITIN). The account-opening minimum is the steepest around at $1000. While it’s not a ton of dough for those switching accounts or moving some of your savings, it could be too much for those who are looking to get started.

The fees you’ll see won’t knock your socks off either way. They aren’t the cheapest, but definitely fall a bit under other flagship trading platforms. This company is also known for running specials for new accounts that get you tons of commission-free trades during your first year. If not, keep an eye out and there should be a decent sign-on deal around the corner.

The research here is really the strongest selling point of Charles Schwab. Arguably one of the best platforms for all types of investors. Whether you are a buy and hold type, make trades often, or even day traders and options investors will find an immense amount of data in a easy to interpret format.

Pulling up basic company data looks much like you’d find anywhere, but where this broker stands out is the ability to customize the data that comes up for the companies you are researching. While other brands are giving you the same basic stock intel, there are over 30 different metrics that you can customize. These indicators are perfect to show you the points of interest that help you decide on equities.

There are two main platforms that make up the online trading of Charles Schwab — SmartSheet.com and SmartSheet Edge. This is where the experience of this company really stands out. For starters, both of these tools are available to every single investor that holds an account. To appeal to the largest amount of traders, each platform is made for a completely different type of investor.

Smartsheet.com is built more for the investor who wants something that is simple, highly-intuitive and useful with just a few minutes of acquaintance. It’s a web-based software that has some awesome functionality. Some of the features include a live-streaming watch list, advanced charting capabilities, and alerts.

Unfortunately, there are some setbacks to using this version of the Schwab trading software. It just won’t work on some browsers (Google Chrome for one). The coding language that was used to create it isn’t supported by a few browsers and may not be supported at all in the not-to-distant future. However, it is likely that the company will at least re-create the platform using a more up-to-date programming language.

SmartSheet Edge doesn’t have this limitation. It’s a desktop platform that was created for the advanced, serious investor who is looking for a program that can handle their style of trading. If you open it up for the first time, you may feel a bit of overwhelm. To be honest, there is a bit of a learning curve no matter how many platforms you’ve used in the past. Don’t let that scare you, just plan for an afternoon to get to know the software and you’ll feel right at home.

Part of your initial confusion will come from the shear number of customizations and options. Taking the time to set up everything will be the key to making sure you have lightning fast access to the numbers that matter down the road. After you get everything the way you want it, the main reason for this particular platform becomes clear. It’s for the hardcore, high-volume investors. Day and options and traders will love most of the features. All the tools are made for speed.

The charting alone is so clean and functional, it may be hard to see the normal charts on other sites (and even smartsheets.com). Streaming functionality is geared towards traders looking to take advantage of intraday momentum. Quick ordering is seamless and you’ll receive notifications when your orders are triggered.

Edge also helps options traders with analytical data to theorize a variety of trades and give you potential strategies. The advanced order fulfillment software can help you get the best price available, which for fast-moving trades could mean the difference between profit and loss.

For the app investor, Schwab is the strongest candidate for mobile-trading. There is an app on iOS, android and you can even have some functionality on smart watches.

Charles Schwab knows investments, but has also displayed their clear knowledge of the investor. It’s not a discount broker and investors who handle a large amounts of trades may want to save money with another option. However, the deep research and advanced tools may keep you despite a couple bucks more per trade.

For complete rankings of all online trading platforms, go here.

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