Running the Zecco Gauntlet

Like many of the readers that will probably come across this article, I too was intrigued by the notion of the free trades that Zecco offers. Can it be true? What am I sacrificing in exchange? Is the pain worth it? I did my fair share of research by sifting through numerous blog posts and found a wide variety of opinions and experiences. I have now had over three months of the Zecco experience with two different trading accounts and am ready to add my story to the pile.

Having read about many difficulties opening Zecco accounts, I made sure I gave myself plenty of time to open my Roth IRA account at Zecco in order to fund it for the 2007 tax year by April 15. Here’s my journey of running the Zecco Gauntlet.

January 5
I filled out the online forms at Zecco.com to start (and was hoping to end) the application process. It was simple enough. Quite straightforward and nothing really to complain about. At the time, I didn’t notice a way to print off my completed form nor did I think much about it. I should’ve known better. I immediately received an email that said:

Welcome to Zecco Trading! We’re processing your application. Look for an email with your account informatino or a request for more information shortly.
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ALL IRA APPLICANTS AND APPLICANTS WITHOUT US SSN:
We need signed application documents to approve and open your account:
1. MAIL ALL OF YOUR ORIGINAL SIGNED NEW ACCOUNT DOCUMENTS AND SIGNED SIGNATURE PAGE along with a photocopy of your Government issued photo I.D. to our offices at the address below:
Zecco Trading
P.O. Box 4328
Ontario, CA 91761

At this point, I didn’t have any application documents or a “signed signature page” and frankly didn’t know what they really were. Again, I hadn’t seen anywhere to print them off at the end of the application process and there were no links to go back and print them off from the Zecco website.

At the time, I was pretty busy with school and just hoped I would receive another email with my account documents or that I wouldn’t need them. I had read other blog posts stating that in their sign-up experience they didn’t need to mail anything in; however, they were probably referring to a regular trading account and not an IRA account.

January 15
I hadn’t received any other communication from Zecco so I thought I would inquire about my account status. I sent an email to the customer service address listed on the website. Here’s my email:

Hey there,
I signed up for an IRA account more than a week ago and haven’t heard anything back. Can you give me an update please? What kind of information do you need to check on that? My name is Aaron Hardy and my username is [username]. Thanks!
Aaron Hardy

January 16
I received the following email back from customer service:

Dear Aaron,
Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. After researching your
account information it appears we will need a signed customer agreement
application, Roth IRA simplifier, and a copy of your ID.
We hope this information has been helpful. If you have any additional
questions please contact us. We are here to help. We hope you have a
great day.
Best Regards,
Heather

I didn’t have a customer agreement application and I didn’t know what a Roth IRA Simplifier was so I immediately emailed them back requesting the customer agreement application and a Roth IRA Simplifier.

January 17
I received the following email from customer service:

Dear Valued Customer,
Thank you for contacting Zecco trading. We require all paperwork be
received prior to activating IRA accounts. If you did not save your
application to your hard drive, there will be no way to retrieve it. We
will have to send you a copy via mail per your request. You should have
completed an IRA Roth simplifier with you online application, I have
attached this form to this email.
I hope his has been helpful; we look forward to your business.
Sincerely,
Zecco Team Member
Meredith

January 20
I responded with the following:

Yes, please send me a copy of my application through the mail. Thank you. My address is as follows:
Aaron Hardy
[my address]

January 22
I received the following email from customer service:

Dear Aaron,
Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. We will be more than happy to
mail you a copy of your application. However, we still need your
reference number to access your account.
Hope this has been helpful. Should you have any further questions or
concerns, please feel free to contact us again.
Thank you for your interest in Zecco Trading.
Sincerely,
An T.

From what I knew, I didn’t have a reference number. I responded with the following:

I don’t have any reference number. What now?
Aaron

January 23
I received the following from customer service:

Aaron,
Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. Your reference number
is at the top right hand corner of your customer agreement application.
We hope this information has been helpful. If you have any additional
questions please contact us. We are here to help. We hope you have a
great day.
Best Regards,
Heather

What!? Isn’t the customer agreement application what I’m requesting in the first place? How can I get my reference number from my application so they can send me my application?

I responded with the following:

I don’t have a customer agreement application. I did everything online and didn’t print anything off. What now?
Aaron

January 24
I received the following from customer service:

Dear Valued Customer,
Thank you for contacting Zecco trading. If you did not save your
application to your hard drive, there will be no way to retrieve it. We
will have to send you a copy via mail per your request.
I hope his has been helpful; we look forward to your business.
Sincerely,
Zecco Team Member
Meredith

Okay, now they’re just messing with me. I responded with the following:

No crap shirlock. Are you serious? I requested you send me my application through the mail. You ask me for my reference number. I tell you I don’t have it. You tell me its on the top right-hand corner of the customer agreement application. I tell you I don’t have a customer agreement application. You tell me you’ll have to send me a copy of my application through the mail then. Are you just pulling my chain now? This has been going on for nine days now. I could’ve walked to California, filled out the forms, and wrote you a check by now.
Bottom line: I am requesting you send my my application through the mail. I have NO other information to give you.
Aaron Hardy

January 26
I received the following from customer service:

Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. Can you please confirm your
mailing address because the application that was submitted has a
different email and we must confirm that you are the same Aaron Hardy.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, please
don’t hesitate to contact customer service at 909.657.6655 or
customerservice@zeccotrading.com
Trung La

Fair enough. I used a more public email alias during my application process and had been communicating with customer service using a different one. I responded with the required information. As much as I was relieved something was actually getting does, this did make me wonder. Can other people get access to my application and some of my most personal information just by knowing my name and mailing address? So much for security.

January 28
I received the following from customer service:

Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. Your paperwork will be mailed
to you. Thanks.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, please
don’t hesitate to contact customer service at 909.657.6655 or
customerservice@zeccotrading.com
Trung La

Finally we’re getting some action.

February 14
I sent the signed application and other required documents through the mail.

February 25
I haven’t heard back from Zecco. I sent the following email to customer service:

I received the application, signed it, and returned it through the mail
on February 14. Could you please update me on the status of the
application? Thanks.
Aaron

February 27
I received the following from customer service:

Dear Aaron,
Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading.
We have forwarded your account to the appropriate department that will
activate it as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience and we value your business.
Please email or call us if you have any questions. Have a good day.
Sincerely,
Long (Tim) Ha

February 28
I receive an email stating that my trading account application has been approved. It also says the following:

You are just 4 easy steps away from free trading. It’s time to sign in.
1. SIGN IN TO MYZECCO
Go to www.zecco.com and click on the ZECCO TRADING tab. If you’re already signed in to myZecco, the Trading Key box appears at the right top of the page, where your Zecco Trading Account Number(s) is displayed. Not signed in yet? Sign in to myZecco first.
Please note that it may take a few moments (up to three hours) after account approval before you can access your Trading Account.

By the time I read the email, it had already been a few hours, so I clicked on the Zecco Trading tab and signed into myZecco. In case you’re not aware, Zecco has two levels of accounts. The first is a myZecco account, which anyone can have. The second is the trading account, which is the one I had yet to sign into. However, after signing into myZecco, I didn’t see a Trading Key box at the right top of the page, I just saw the usual welcome screen. I thought I’d give it another day to kick in.

February 29
Still no Trading Key box. I email the following to customer service:

Hello there,
It’s been almost a full day since I received the application approval email and I still can’t access my trading account. Can I get an update?
Aaron Hardy

I received the following back from customer service:

Dear Aaron,
Thank you for contacting Zecco Trading. To access your trading account,
you will have to have full access to your myZecco, please click on the
pink Trading button. On your next page, you will see the last 4 digits
of your account number and a trading key field. Please input your
trading key to log in. Your trading key is a combination of the first 3
digits of your social security number and the last 4 digits of your
account number. If you still have difficulties logging in, please
contact us again.
Should you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to
contact us again.
Thank you for your interest in Zecco Trading.
Sincerely,
An T.

Hmm….so either I’m seriously blind and can’t find the Trading Key box or I need to clarify the situation. In either case, I was starting to get really frustrated. I responded with the following:

That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t see the last four digits of my
account number and I don’t see a trading key field. Please, before you
assume that I can see a trading key field and my account number, look first. If you can’t get it resolved within the next email, just cancel my
account altogether. I’ve had so much trouble getting my account open and
customer service thinking I’m a stupid customer that I won’t be able to
bear it any longer.
Aaron

March 5
Still no email. At first I thought, well, at least they have the determination to fix the account before emailing back. After a few days, I gave up hope of receiving an email and figure I’d call Zecco’s customer support phone number. The guy on the phone called over to the tech team, came back, and said there was a mapping issue with my account that would be fixed shortly. He promised he would call me the next morning and give me an update.

March 10
No call. No trading key box. I call again. This time the guy on the phone put me on hold for a few minutes, came back, had me refresh my browser, and, wallah! “Mapping issue” solved. Finally, a long-awaited break in the clouds.

Since I could now log into my trading account, I started the bank verification process so I could fund my account. In Zecco-land, this is called “establishing an ACH relationship.” This is where they put two small deposits into your bank account so you can verify you’re the rightful owner of the account.

March 11
Hey! Surprisingly, I’ve already received my two small bank account deposits! I completed the verification process and initiated a fund transfer.

March 12
Transfer complete. Finally, two months and a week later, I’m ready to trade.

March 14
Yes, after everything I’ve already chronicled, I’m still cheap enough to open another account. Well, part of me is that cheap. The other part of me is just curious whether my second run through will be just as grueling. This time I decide to open a Roth IRA account for my wife.

I filled out the online form for my wife. In general, it’s still fairly similar to the form I had filled out a couple months earlier. This time, I see a large link at the end of the process for me to print off my application paperwork. I’ve learned my lesson. This time I print two copies. One to keep on file and one to send into Zecco.

March 15
Could this be!? Her account is approved. No printing and mailing necessary. No emails or phone calls to customer service. It’s done and done. I log into her myZecco account and her trading key box gleams in the top-right corner.

March 24
Due to my busy schedule, I didn’t really do anything with the account for a while, but now it’s time to get going. I log into her trading account and start the bank account verification process.

March 25
I’ve received the two small deposits into our bank account. I go back to my wife’s trading account to complete the verification process. What do you know! They’ve changed the crap ACH relationship screen to a new, nicely-designed page! But with my luck, my bank account (ACH relationship) is not listed on the newly-designed interface. I figure, well, rather than messing with customer service, I’ll just set up a new one. But no, I get this error: “Your request has already been initiated. Please check back again later.”

March 26
I call customer service about the missing ACH relationship. The service rep mentioned that others had called in with the same problem and that it had to do with the change to the new interface. What’s the solution? Snail-mail in a funds transfer form and a check. Nuh-uh. Not today sir. Not only had I reached a peak of frustration, but with my history I knew that sending something through the mail to Zecco would likely make the deposit too late to qualify for the 2007 tax year. Rather than get all hot and bothered I thought I’d let it go for a while. I crossed my fingers and waited.

Just a few hours later, I received an email “from the CEO” of Zecco notifying all customers of the interface change:

Dear Investor,
Great news! Thanks to the valuable feedback from many of our customers, we completely redesigned our electronic money movement (ACH) system. Now you can easily move money between your bank and Zecco Trading at no cost! And setting up the connection to your bank is now easy and intuitive.

Hmm…would he actually send an email with so many outstanding issues? Could it be? I logged into my wife’s account and the ACH relationship was back! I finished the bank verification process and initiated the funds transfer.

March 27
My wife’s account has been funded and we’re ready to go. To Zecco’s credit, the service rep I had talked to the day before gave me a courtesy call to notify me that my account had been fixed. This was quite unexpected and much appreciated.

Post-sign-up experience and lessons learned

The sign-up process aside, my Zecco experience has, in fact, been quite stellar! Free trades? Yes sir — just how I like them. I can’t image paying $5+/trade anymore. Sure, the resources may not be as beefy as E-trade or TD Ameritrade, but having been a customer of both of those brokerages as well, I know I personally don’t use them anyway. Give me Google and I can find my way from there as far as research goes. The Zecco trading screen is straightforward and all I need for my trading purposes. My general Zecco use is to log in, maybe get some real-time quotes, make a trade or two, at times modify or cancel a trade, and then I’m done. That’s all I really want and it works great for such a purpose.

It hasn’t been all peaches though. A couple times the website has been unavailable. In particular, I can say that on April 14 I received the error “The site is currently down for scheduled upgrades.” This was during trading hours. Shortly thereafter it changed to “Service Unavailable.” The site may have been down one or two times other than that, but nothing too crazy. The customer service, as already described, has much left to be desired. However, I do believe it’s improving and you can’t complain too much when the trades are free.

So, are you ready to run the Zecco gauntlet? That all depends on your patience and how much you value free trades. If you decide to run it, print off everything and give yourself plenty of sign-up time. You’ll find better support over the phone as the 24-hour email support isn’t so 24-hour at times and it usually takes a couple rounds before getting an adequate answer. When calling customer service, press 2–2–2–1–1–1 with a few seconds between. Hang up, and within a few minutes a customer service rep will call you. I should have been doing this the whole time.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.