Ally Invest is a great choice for those interested in online banking with Ally and existing Ally Bank customers because they can easily see their full financial picture on one platform. Ally Invest has options for investors of all experience levels, including self-directed and managed accounts. Ally has focused more on millennial and women investors in recent years, but its products are also an excellent choice for both new and more active traders because of its competitive rates, robust and intuitive-to-use platform, educational support, helpful tools such as screeners, and good customer support. We’ve also reviewed the Ally Managed Portfolios robo-advisor service and will take a deeper look at Ally Invest to help you decide whether it is the right fit for your investing needs.
Ally Invest was founded in 2005 and is the brokerage side of Ally Bank, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a solid choice for traders and investors thanks to its low costs, low minimums, and solid trading platform.
New and Notables
On February 9, 2023, Ally Invest announced the elimination of its $9.95 fee for mutual fund trades in all self-directed accounts.
Pros & Cons
Easy-to-use and intuitive platforms
Low costs and fees
Financial consolidation available
Ability to earn interest on cash balance
Foreign exchange trading is available
Inconsistencies across platforms
App does not support all available trading products
Contingent and other orders are not supported
No cryptocurrency or futures trading
- Easy-to-use and intuitive platforms: Although the primary website is a non-streaming platform, it is well-designed, responsive, and has intuitive menus. While the primary website provides the most access to screeners, trading products, and education, there is also an easy-to-use interface on the streaming version of the website. Despite the different platforms, Ally Invest is easy to navigate overall.
- Low costs and fees: Ally Bank is competitive with its commissions, fees, and minimums. There is no commission for stock, ETF, mutual fund, or foreign exchange trading, and options trading costs of $0.50 per contract are lower than most brokers. There is no minimum for self-directed investment accounts, and only a $100 minimum for most robo-managed accounts, which are charged a 0.30% annual fee. Margin rates and commissions for bonds and low-cost stocks (OTC/pink sheet stocks trading for less than $2) are also competitive.
- Financial consolidation available: Ally Invest platforms for self-directed and managed accounts integrate well with other Ally products, such as Ally’s online banking, credit cards, CDs, and home and auto loan offerings. This provides Ally customers with an easy-to-see snapshot of their overall financial condition and their various financial products in one place.
- Ability to earn interest on cash balance: Ally Bank pays a comparatively high-interest rate of up to 2% on cash, and balances of up to $250,000 can be transferred between Ally's investment and bank accounts daily. The investor is responsible for moving cash between the investment and banking accounts to secure interest on cash balances, as well as for moving funds back to the investment account to fund a trade. This is a nice option considering many online brokers pay no or lower interest rates on cash balances.
- Foreign exchange trading is available: Ally offers commission-free foreign exchange trading in over 50 currency pairs via dedicated desktop and mobile trading applications.
- Inconsistencies across platforms: While the website, streaming, and mobile app platforms work well, there are some inconsistencies between them. Stock/ETF and options trading are available on all platforms, but fixed-income and mutual funds are not. The primary Ally Invest account page is older in design but contains features including some of the screeners and the options analysis tools that are unavailable on the mobile or streaming platforms.
- App does not support all available trading products: The mobile app only supports stock, ETF, and options trading. Similarly, screeners and advanced options tools are not available on the mobile app.
- Contingent and other orders are not supported: Ally Invest does not support trailing stops or contingent orders, such as attaching profit-taking and stop-loss levels to an initial limit order. This causes the trader to have to create a new order to set up stop-loss/profit-taking levels after a purchase order has been filled, and manually cancel one of these orders when the profit loss or stop is activated. Many traders like using trailing stops and contingent orders because they are very useful tools, so Ally Invest is behind other online brokers on this.
- No cryptocurrency or futures trading: Ally Invest does not support cryptocurrency or futures trading on its platforms.
Ally Invest platforms work well, even though the technology is a bit dated and there may be more than one screen/platform required at the same time. The initial website logon always brings you to the primary Ally home screen, which shows all related accounts across the Ally Platform. You would then click on the individual investment account to move to the Ally Invest home web page for that account; you can toggle between managed and self-directed brokerage accounts from the Ally Invest page.
The top of the Ally Invest homepage also has a link to launch the Ally Invest Live platform, which has streaming quotes and more modern website functionality. The primary website, even if a bit dated, still works well, is responsive, and shows at least two levels of submenus for the topic chosen. There were, however, a few times when the top menu bar disappeared during our testing; although hitting the Ally logo on the top of the page brings you back to the account summary page, losing the primary menu was disorienting.
The Live platform has user customization options for the look and feel. As mentioned, the mobile app and Ally Invest Live are streaming and have a more modern and robust design. However, neither of these platforms had all of the functionality features in the primary website. Only the ETF screener is available on the Live platform, and none of the screeners are on the mobile app. Likewise, options trading and analysis tools for probabilities, profitability graphing, and pricing, as well as legacy tools from the TradeKing platform, are not available on Live or the mobile app. The charting is also better on the Live platform than on the website or mobile platforms.
This makes for a bit of a hodgepodge of different platforms for different things. Still, the menus and navigational functionality are intuitive and work well. It was very easy to bring up trading windows, news, charts, etc. for securities listed on a watch list or a result from one of the screeners. Speaking of watch lists, they remain consistent across the website and streaming platforms. For those trading foreign exchange, there is yet another platform to use for forex. It is, however, pretty standard for brokerage companies offering currency trading to use a dedicated platform specific to that market.
The trading experience on Ally Invest is sufficient for most traders, but it has basic functionality for orders, with none of the platforms allowing you to enter contingent orders for stop losses and/or take profits, and no support for trailing stops either. Since you can’t sell a security short in a cash account, the trader needs to wait for a fill on a buy order before they can put in a stop. Newer platforms typically support these types of contingent orders.
Strong menus make it easy to navigate to trading in different types of securities, and you can select a strategy for options, such as a bull spread, straddle, including four-leg strategies, then work on the other trade components. There is no order routing or automated trading available on Ally Invest. It also can't create customized orders using criteria other than price (limit orders), such as volume or percentage moves. While you can open an order ticket from a chart page, it simply opens a ticket order with the symbol pre-populated, with nothing dynamic about the charting such as showing current orders on the chart or even drawing tools. The options analysis tools are on the Ally Invest website, but not on the Ally Invest Live platform, which is a bit awkward even though they are helpful tools. Open orders and order status are in line with other online brokerage platforms.
Mobile Trade Experience
Ally Invest’s mobile app works well but has less overall functionality. There is only trading in stocks, ETFs, and options available on the mobile app; fixed-income and mutual fund trades need to be done on the website. The functionality includes the ability to see recent activity and transfer assets between Ally platform accounts, such as between the Ally Invest account and an interest-bearing Ally Bank savings account. There are also key menu items at the bottom of the app screen for account holdings, trading, orders, research, and watchlists.
The trading area allows the investor to choose between stocks/ETFs and options. When you select a security from the watchlist or enter a symbol on the trading screen, you are asked if you want to place a stock trade or an options trade, and the appropriate menu comes up to enter buy or sell, order type, levels, and so on. With options, you select an option strategy and are then prompted to select the strikes desired; these strikes can also be changed easily. After entering the required data the order entry screen continues through an order review and confirmation process.
The mobile app also has a research page that has news headlines, recent quotes, major market indices and their performance for the current day, and a list of NYSE market movers. There were no screeners available on the mobile app, but selecting a security brought up helpful fundamental information, technical data, and news for that security. The mobile app will likely meet the needs of traders who know what they want to trade. Other than the limited charts and information provided when searching an individual security, research for finding investment ideas will likely take place on the website using all the screeners and other tools.
Range of Offerings
Ally Invest provides trading in U.S.-listed equities, ETFs, options, mutual funds, and fixed-income products including U.S. Treasuries, CDs, and corporate, municipal, and agency bonds. Ally Invest also provides foreign exchange trading in more than 50 currency pairs via a dedicated platform, but it does not offer futures, cryptocurrencies, fractional share trading, or international securities listed outside U.S.-based exchanges. Investors using Ally Invest can trade the following:
- Stocks long and short
- Listed options
- Mutual funds
- Fixed income: U.S. Treasury securities, corporates, municipals, U.S. agencies, certificates of deposit
- Foreign exchange (more than 50 currency pairs; via Ally Invest Forex application)
- Ally Bank accounts (interest-bearing, but the investor needs to proactively transfer funds to and from an investment account)
The basic order types, market, limit, stop, and stop-limit orders are available on all platforms, with the website also offering market on close. Neither the website nor the mobile app supports combining order types to create contingent orders, such as adding stops and/or profit-taking levels when entering a limit order. Trailing stops are not currently available on Ally Invest’s platforms, either. Options orders are available for four-leg options strategies on all the trading platforms. When selling, there is a dropdown list available in the symbol field showing current holdings. All or none was an option for orders on the website, but this wasn’t an option for Ally Invest Live or the app.
Trading technology at Ally Invest is perfectly functional, but the website is somewhat dated and would benefit from the addition of features such as conditional orders and trailing stops. The platforms all support four-leg options strategies. The primary website does not provide streaming quotes, which seems standard on many platforms now. Order entry was basic, and there is no integration of positions or orders into charts. Moreover, there is no order automation or control over order routing at Ally Invest.
The primary Ally Invest website serves as the link to Ally Bank, which most would utilize to gain interest on cash balances, and Ally Bank offers some of the best short-term rates available. Options trading is different on the different platforms, too, with the Ally Invest website required to use all the tools. This includes the ability to see probabilities for a market staying in or moving outside of a user-defined range and date, as well as profitability graphs for different dates to see the price graph of the option compared to the profit graph at maturity. While not the best of class, these tools are helpful and are not commonly offered by online brokerage platforms.
Trading costs at Ally Invest are competitive and include zero-commission trading for stocks and ETFs. Options trades are a flat $0.50 per contract.
- Stocks and ETFs: commission-free
- OTCBB (and stocks priced less than $2.00): $4.95 plus $0.01 per share; maximum commission per order not to exceed 5% of the trade value, with a minimum of $4.95 plus $0.01 per share. There is a minimum order purchase of $100.00 for OTCBB and Pink Sheet stocks.
- Options: $0.50 per contract; there is also a $0.50 fee to close low-value options positions
- Mutual funds: commission-free
- Fixed income: $1 per bond, with a $10 minimum and $250 maximum per transaction
- Robo-managed accounts: a minimum investment of $50. No management fee on cash-enhanced portfolios with 30% allocated to cash, and a 0.30% annual management fee annually for other algorithm-created portfolios.
- Margin rates are based on account size, by breakpoint: Under $25K—10%; $25K—9.75%; $50K—9%; $100K—7.75%; $250K—6.75%; $500K—6.25%; $1 million+—5.5%.
- Foreign exchange: commission-free
- Account closing: none (besides ACAT Fee)
- Transfer an account out: $50
- Live broker trading: Ally reserves the right to charge $20 for broker-assisted trades, but Ally informs us that this fee is rarely applied.
- Domestic wire transfers: $30 to send a wire transfer; no fee to receive a wire transfer
- Checks: $5 fee to send a check
- Voluntary reorganization fee (for corporate actions): $50
- Inactivity and maintenance fees: None
How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You
Ally Invest offers no commission stock and ETF trading. With fewer brokerages charging commissions these days, it's less obvious how they make money. Like some online brokers offering commission-free trading, Ally Invest receives payment for order flow. The brokerage also lacks fractional shares and any kind of portfolio margin. On the plus side, Ally Invest accounts can be linked with an Ally Bank account that allows investors to gain interest on cash balances. Here are some of the ways Ally Invest makes money for and from you:
- Price improvement: While Ally Invest customers can only route their orders by placing them through a live broker, Ally’s average net price improvement is $0.0103 per share for all SEC Rule 605 eligible marketable orders. On options, the net price improvement is $0.07 per contract.
- Payment for order flow: Ally Invest receives payment for order flow. Equity trades brought Ally Invest an average of $0.00214 per share, while the average order flow payment on option orders is $0.45 per contract. This puts it at the lower end of the average for brokers who receive PFOF.
- Interest on cash balances: Ally Invest offers competitive interest rates on cash balances transferred by the client from the investment account to a linked Ally Bank account (currently 2%). The client needs to make transfers to and from the bank account to realize interest on their cash balances. Transfers of up to $250,000 can be made daily to or from the Ally Invest account.
- Securities lending: Customers can make additional money at Ally Invest by offering shares held in an account for securities lending, but customers can’t choose specific stocks for lending.
- Payment for initial cash balance: Ally Invest will pay investors up if their initial account funding is above $10,000. There are seven payment ranges starting at $100 for a $10,000 balance and up to $3,000 for funding an account with $2 million or more. Accounts are reviewed after 60 days to determine the level. The account credit is not available for another 300 days, allowing Ally Invest to retain the account and prevent people from simply moving assets for a quick incentive payment.
Account and Research Amenities
Ally Invest provides many helpful tools and amenities for its customers, including the following:
Ally Invest has a stock screener available on the primary website, but not on Ally Invest Live or the mobile app. The screener works well and provides many criteria users might want, including fundamentals, sectors, exchanges, price performance, and valuation. There is also fundamental information such as accounting ratios, earnings per share (EPS), dividends, and consensus analyst ratings from FactSet. The stock screener also has technical information that includes some specific patterns.
There are convenient buy and sell links next to each result on a screen. A nice feature of the screener is how it shows matches across each of the criteria selected, not just a final number of matches for the entire search. This allows you to see where adjustments might show more or less information for a successful search. User-defined screens can be saved for later use and the data exported, but results from screeners can’t be turned into a watch list. There are also six predefined stock screens available: stable dividend, small-cap value, mid to mega-cap value, small-cap growth, mid to mega-cap growth, and top growth tech stocks.
ETF and Mutual Fund Screener
As mentioned, Ally Invest only provides an ETF screener on the Ally Invest Live website. The stock screener’s basic functionality is utilized for both the mutual fund and ETF screeners on the primary website, with some adjustments as appropriate for the different asset types. For example, the mutual fund screener includes the total expense ratio as part of the criteria.
The ETF and mutual fund screeners both have criteria for profile, performance, risk analysis, and portfolio. The risk analysis, which is not available on the stock screener, includes both beta and R-squared vs. the S&P 500, standard deviation, and the Sharpe Ratio. Unfortunately, no predefined screens were available for ETFs or mutual funds during our testing. It was also difficult to see which ETFs among those with similar objectives are more actively traded, so a search for a leveraged inverse equity ETF returned multiple results that required checking volume manually on each. As with the stock screener, users can save their customized screens for future use, but watchlists can’t be created from screen results.
Ally Invest has an Options Strategy Scanner that returns potential options strategies meeting trader-set criteria. The user enters an option strategy (up to two-leg strategies) and other criteria, such as the universe of stocks to search, market sentiment, options criteria such as time frame and strike preferences, risk/reward, and the Greeks. The tool will then look for options strategies that meet the set criteria. Ally Invest also has other options analysis tools to further assist option traders, including a probability calculator, profit/loss calculators, and graphing.
Fixed Income Screener
On the standard website, you can scan for bonds by clicking on "Trading" and then on "Fixed Income." Each bond type has a query definition page where you define the search, a query result page that lists the bonds that match your query definition, and a bond detail page where you can get more information about a bond on the list. This is a fairly basic screener, with few criteria from which to choose.
Ally Invest has charts on the mobile application, but they are limited. You can’t draw trend lines, there is no cursor to show the specific open/high/low/close prices, and once a chart is on the screen you can't resize it any way except by changing the time frame. The other studies available, such as moving averages and Bollinger Bands, are quite limited. The mobile app charting doesn’t provide a trading button or show open orders, such as a stop-loss, or positions on charts.
The web-based charting on the primary website is sufficient but unimpressive. While the primary website has links to buy and sell from a quote screen above the chart, positions and order information are not incorporated into the charting. The primary website’s charting allows for a customized timeframe and the ability to show a comparison symbol. This includes a nice drop-down for choosing common comparisons, such as equity indexes, currencies, or individual commodities, in addition to typing in a specific symbol. That said, during our testing we were unable to extend trendlines as far as we wanted to, and the drawn trendlines did not follow the chart when resized–they just floated in space in the same spot as where they were drawn. The studies available were adequate, but not extensive.
The Ally Invest Live website has better charting functionality that includes readjusting the chart with the mouse and scroll wheel, more studies, and better drawing tools, but there is still no ability to trade from the chart screen. Further, the comparison symbol function only allows for a symbol to be added, eliminating the primary website’s drop-down options. Using a combination of Ally Invest Live and the primary website can work for chart traders, but it is more of a headache than it needs to be.
Tools and Calculators
Ally Invest does not offer a wide range of tools and calculators. There is a profit/loss calculator and a bond yield calculator. There are also helpful calculators related to options trading available on the primary website, including a probability calculator to show the likelihood of prices being inside or outside of a user-defined range using historical or implied volatility and an options tool showing profitability graphs that can be adjusted to see how a strategy might perform over time based on user input for timing, strikes, and options strategy.
Trading Idea Generator
There is a Strategy Builder under the tool menu’s technical analysis section, which is in addition to the options scanning feature already described. The Strategy Builder functions very similarly to a screener but also includes backtesting. There are nine expertly created and backtested strategies including growth at a reasonable price and quality stocks at a reasonable price. The strategies are screens, however, as it is still up to the account holder to choose from among the individual securities that meet the search criteria.
In addition to these nine strategies, other screens can be used, such as top performers, top-rated, top dividends, value stocks, and more. These screens can be further edited and saved. The strategies can also be backtested, which is done by taking the top ten stocks in the scan results and then comparing them to the S&P, DJIA, or NASDAQ to provide a representative return for that search. Again, the trader still needs to make their own decisions on individual securities to trade.
The Strategy Builder is more of a helpful screener and is probably better placed in the screener area of the website. Many investors may overlook this tool because it is located in the technical analysis section under tools, rather than under the section for screeners.
Ally Invest has basic news headline information from MT Newswires, and news and fundamental information are available when a specific security on the platform is selected. This offering is generic and lacks filtering or search functionality, but is still likely to be sufficient for most investors. Additional helpful market information in this section includes market overviews and an events calendar showing macroeconomic releases, expected earnings, and dividend announcements.
As previously mentioned, Ally’s online platform has intuitive menus, which makes it easy to find this type of content, as there is a “News” page under the “Quotes and Research” option on the website’s primary top menu line. The primary menu items also show the sub-menus, so the “Markets” tab has sub-options including “US Markets,” “Global Markets,” “News,” “Events & Calendars,” “Commodities,” “Rates,” and “Sectors & Industries.”
Ally Invest Live has similar content, but it's organized differently. The mobile app has a news scroll with general headlines and recent headlines for individual stocks, but no events calendars.
Ally Invest does not offer third-party research, but there is Lipper information incorporated into various screeners and some Morningstar information on the site when looking at individual securities. There is also an algorithmic rating available on some screeners from Trading Central called “Quantamental Rating.” This is only available on the website screeners and not on the mobile app.
Ally Invest has also rolled out TipRanks as a third-party tool. TipRanks evaluates public stock recommendations made by financial analysts and financial bloggers and ranks experts based on their accuracy.
Fractional Dividend Reinvestment Program (DRIP)
Ally Invest has a dividend reinvestment program. There is an account-wide default on dividend investment, but you can also specify this at the time of the trade via phone or live help. Any amounts unable to purchase a full share will result in fractional shares rather than idle cash being returned to your account.
Ally Invest allows account owners to transfer free cash from their investment account into a deposit account at Ally Bank so they can earn interest. Ally has made this cash management a seamless process, but it still requires customers to make the transfers into and out of the investment account rather than through an automatic sweep. Ally Bank offers some of the most competitive rates on cash deposits at 2%.
SRI/ESG Research Amenities
Ally Invest cannot screen for socially responsible investing (SRI) or environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). While SRI/ESG investing is currently unavailable for self-directed accounts and there are no tools for this, SRI/ESG investing is available as a choice for managed accounts.
Ally Invest provides the basics for analyzing a portfolio. Ally Invest uses Maxit for its tax manager, where realized and unrealized capital gains can be viewed and tax strategy settings such as FIFO or LIFO-managed. There is no ability to see your account compared to major indexes. You can see account composition by investment type, and unrealized and realized gains and losses, but not much else.
The managed portfolio offering has a well-designed asset allocation display, but that feature does not extend to the self-directed investing account. For more on Ally Invest’s robo-advisory, which manages the portfolio in conjunction with investment professionals, check out our review of that specific feature.
The education section also has an intuitive drop-down menu providing options for learning by security type (stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, forex), experience level (rookies, veterans, all-stars), and market outlook (bullish, bearish, neutral, volatile). Unfortunately, these logical menus did not correspond to the content during our testing. Instead, virtually all of the links from this drop-down menu took the user to Ally’s community page.
There was plenty of helpful content on these pages, such as how to start investing in three simple steps and how to become a better investor, but the information was not organized. Different pieces of content were listed based on when each one was created. The content is solid and geared more toward newer investors and traders but it was not as specialized or as deep as the menu selections had indicated.
Ally Invest’s community page also has content areas for life, money, car, home, bank, investments, trends, and so on. This community page can be customized by the user under each of these content areas. Under money, for example, options are available to either include or filter out topics including budget, credit, estate planning, finance basics, savings, and taxes. There are also blogs, market updates, and the ability to connect with other Ally Invest traders.
Customer Service (For Investment Services)
- Phone line available 24/7
- Average hold time of 30 seconds
- Live chat available
- Assistance can be provided via social media
- Only U.S. residents can open accounts
Security and Reliability
- Ally Invest offers two-factor authentication for its platforms, and biometric login is available on the mobile platform.
- Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance on accounts is bolstered by a Lloyds of London policy purchased by Ally’s clearing firm, which provides Ally’s customers with coverage of $150 million for securities and cash if the SIPC lines are exhausted.
- Ally Invest has not had any data breaches in the past four years.
- Ally Invest did experience notable outages in 2021 around the GameStop frenzy—something that affected many brokerages. No outages have been reported since then.
Ally Invest clearly lists its commissions, fees, and non-existent or extremely low minimums on its website. Ally Invest’s competitive rates and fees are a key aspect of its marketing efforts. There is an overview of margin trading when navigating to margin rates from the “Client Services'' tab at the top of the page, and another page answering questions on margin trading. There is also an extensive disclosures page that includes content from FINRA.
Available Account Types
Ally Invest provides all the commonly used account types, including:
- Individual and joint taxable
- Traditional and Roth individual retirement accounts (IRA)
- Coverdell education savings accounts (ESA)
If you aren't specifically saving for retirement or college, then the IRA will suit the needs of more investors. Ally Invest has also launched Ally Invest Wealth Management, which is an advisory account for people with over $100,000 and has an advisory fee capped at 0.85% of assets under management.
Ally Invest is a solid choice because it has well-functioning and mostly intuitive investment and trading platforms and very competitive commissions, fees, and margin rates while providing plenty of support for investors to choose investments through various screeners and options analysis tools. There are no commissions for stocks/ETFs and options, at $0.50 per contract, are at the low end of the commission range.
While the website is a bit dated and there are some inconveniences and inconsistencies between the different platforms, recent improvements to the main menu, enhanced mutual fund order flow, updated support functionality, and a redesigned mobile app show that the company is dedicated to building a better customer experience. Further, Ally Invest’s helpful tools for options analysis are unavailable at many brokers. Ally Invest will appeal to active traders looking for low costs and margins, new investors, and Ally Bank’s online banking customers. More active traders may miss the functionality for trailing stops and conditional orders on Ally Invest’s platforms.
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