The products channel of the Schwab site is a good starting point if you're looking for an overview of what Schwab offers, or for more information on a specific financial product. As you become more familiar with the site, you might find that you access many of the functions available through the product channel in a more direct manner. For instance, instead of going to the products channel, then selecting stocks and then looking at information on stock research, you might eventually find it easier to either go through the research channel or else simply enter the ticker of the stock you're interested in and access the research directly. However, when you're new to the Schwab site or if you are looking for information on a product you're not familiar with (for instance, if you often trade stocks through Schwab but are looking into insurance products for the first time) you might find the product channel useful.

Figure 2 - Products Homepage

The products channel is a particularly good source for non-investment products such as insurance, banking and charitable giving. For example, if you click on the life insurance tab under the products channel, you'll find a lot of information on different types of life insurance, which ones might be best for you, and what you should consider prior to purchasing. You can also get quotes on life insurance from various Schwab partners through an online form.

Banking products include traditional savings and checking accounts as well as home mortgages. The savings and checking accounts are offered directly through Schwab and work just like any other bank accounts you might find (they are FDIC insured, etc.). One of the benefits of having a bank account at Schwab is that (assuming you already invest through Schwab) you can consolidate your financial relationships and cut down on paperwork. On the other hand, one of the drawbacks is that Schwab doesn't have as wide of a branch system as say Citibank, and so you may have to do more of your banking either online or through the mail.

While checking and savings accounts come directly from Schwab, mortgages are offered through an affiliation with Quicken Loans. As with any other online loan provider, you can find a variety of types of loans such as ARMS, 30-year fixed-rate, 15-year fixed-rate, etc. Schwab's website also offers a variety of mortgage calculating tools to help you figure out how big of a mortgage you can afford, whether it is cheaper to own or rent, and whether it make sense to refinance your home. You'll also find a lot of information on what to expect from the process of purchasing a home, securing a mortgage, and financial considerations prior to embarking on the process.

For those with a charitable bent, Schwab also offers access to a variety of charitable giving tools through its product channel. These include guidance and assistance on setting up your own charitable foundation, as well as assuring that any donations that you make are tax-deductible.

Next: Beginner's Guide To Charles Schwab Online Brokerage - Research »

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