Ally Invest (formerly TradeKing) Review

By Nathan Reiff  | Oct 15, 2017

Ally Invest is an online-only brokerage with powerful chart capabilities and low commissions for trades on stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, and more.

Overall Rating

4.1/
5.0
Products & Fees
4.2
Trust
5.0
Special Features
3.3
Desktop Experience
4.0
Mobile Experience
3.3
Customer Support
3.1
Research & Insights
4.7
Education
4.1
Banking
5.0

Ally (formerly TradeKing) Fast Facts

Although Ally Invest is a relatively new name in online brokerages, it is not a new service. Ally Financial, Inc., bought TradeKing in 2016, taking over its brokerage service, lowering costs, and making it competitive. The service includes $4.95 stock trades, with a discount available for high volumes. There are no account or inactivity fees, although some fees do apply for transfers and closing IRAs. The platform is a powerhouse, providing excellent screening capabilities and customized chart tools, useful research, and real-time quotes and data. Best of all, Ally offers trades in a wide variety of products, including stocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, futures, and forex.

pros

  • Competitive Fees
    Ally’s fees are lower than those of many comparable low-cost brokerages
  • Two Portfolio Classes
    Ally offers a self-directed portfolio with no minimum investment required and a fully managed portfolio that requires a $2,500 investment
  • Customizable Charts and Dashboards
    The customizable charts and dashboard features in the Ally desktop service give users control over what they see when they log in and how they see it
  • 24/7 Customer Support
    24/7 Phone and online support. Attention to customer service is excellent

cons

  • No Transaction-Fee-Free Mutual Funds
    Mutual fund products are limited compared to other brokerages
  • No Commission-Free ETFs
    ETF options are limited compared to other brokerages
  • No Brick-and-Mortar Branches
    Ally Invest is entirely online

Products & Fees

4.2

Ally Invest offers a competitive fee structure for both its self-directed and managed brokerage accounts. Customers can make stock/ETF, options, futures, and mutual fund trades for fees that are on par with industry standards. Margin rates are often somewhat lower than those at comparable brokerages, particularly at higher price points. Ally users also enjoy a high-volume discount, no monthly inactivity fee, and free extended-hours trading. No initial investment is required for a self-directed account, but a managed account requires an initial investment of $2,500. Investors will find a wide array of investment products across the categories of stocks, ETFs, options, fixed income, forex, futures, and more. While the brokerage offers other types of mutual funds, it does not offer no-transaction-fee mutual funds or commission-free ETFs. Still, users will benefit from Ally’s commissions, which tend to be lower than competitors’. Ally is a good, all-around brokerage for investors looking to make varied and balanced portfolio choices.

  • Stocks & ETFs*
    $4.95
  • Options**
    65¢ per contract + $4.95 base
  • Mutual Funds (load)
    $0 (subject to change from mutual fund)
  • Mutual Funds (no load)
    $9.95 purchases/$9.95 sales
  • Bonds
    $1.00 per bond ($10.00 minimum)
  • Treasuries
    Free
  • CDs
    $24.95 per transaction
  • Penny Stocks
    Fee + $0.01/share
  • International Trading
    Not Available

Trust

5.0

Ally Invest provides a high degree of account security. Thanks to encryption, multi-factor authentication, and other protective measures, users should feel safe using this service.

What you need to know

Trust, privacy, and security are major concerns for the Ally Invest team, and that is reflected in the way the brokerage is set up. Ally Invest’s parent company, Ally Financial, is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and the brokerage follows the SEC’s Customer Protection Rule to offer increased liability protection. Ally Financial also is a member of the National Business Coalition on E-Commerce and Privacy. Overall, Ally provides users with a wealth of reasons to trust the brokerage with their finances and investment decisions.

Special Features

3.3
 Ally invest special features

Ally offers two types of portfolio options to suit all types of investor needs. The self-directed portfolio gives users the flexibility to make their own investment decisions and requires no minimum balance or investment. The managed portfolio leaves the decisions to the Ally team and requires a $2,500 minimum initial investment. However, Ally does not provide VPN access for customers, advanced trading software tools and charting, or price execution improvement.

What you need to know

Ally Invest’s special features include a separate platform for managed portfolios. For investors looking to reduce some of the stress and work of managing all aspects of a portfolio, this can be a great solution; Ally’s team rebalances and manages finances. Ally also has a robust set of charts and visualization tools, giving users easy access to a wealth of information about individual stocks, markets, and more. These charts allow for easy tracking of past performance, so Ally investors can see the full view of a security before deciding to invest. On the minus side, users might wish to see some features added to Ally’s platform, including interactive learning, and advanced analysis, charting, and execution.

Desktop Experience

4.0
Desktop Platform Experience

When it comes to its web-based trading platform, Ally Invest is a mixed bag. There are many useful features, including customizable charting, indicators, studies, and watchlists. However, basic navigation can be somewhat difficult (this reviewer had to click the sidebar in a web browser to move up and down pages, for example). Functionality could be improved in many areas, such as adding hotkeys and macros for order entry, simulated trading, and a more robust set of trading options. Still, Ally provides a good deal of information within easy grasp, and it is laid out in a straightforward way.

Pros

Customizability is the name of the game with Ally Invest. The home page allows users to make various adjustments via widgets that can be added, removed, or modified at will. Viewing charts and other indicators is seamless, allowing quick adjustments along several variables. It’s helpful to have all the details of a particular stock, market, or product in one place and in an easy-to-view format.

Cons

There is some occasional clunkiness in navigating the desktop platform, and platform functionality could be improved. Adding hotkeys and macros could speed up order entry. Simulated trading is not available, but could prove useful for investors, particularly those new to the platform. It can initially be difficult to navigate to the area where trades are actually made, though that experience becomes much smoother once a user is familiar with the desktop platform.

Mobile Experience

3.3
Mobile Platform Experience

Ally Invest has a mobile app, available on Android and iOS, that lets clients access their accounts and make trades. The mobile app does not have the same range of functionality as the web-based platform, but it gives Ally customers a way to stay connected on the go or when access to the desktop platform is unavailable.

Pros

The Ally mobile app provides access to all Ally accounts in one place. For users with Ally Invest and banking accounts, this is an easy way to keep track of account balances, transfer funds, and more. Customers using only Ally Invest can conduct trades and perform other basic functions via the app, but the full range of options is available only on the desktop platform.

Cons

Currently, the biggest issue with the mobile app is that it doesn’t provide the same robust selection of actions that the desktop platform does. Although basic functions are available, access to screeners, indicators & studies, desktop widgets, and many other important items from Ally Invest are not yet supported by the app.

Customer Support

3.1

Ally Invest offers multiple lines of support for customers, including 24/7 access via phone and chat. On the downside, the brokerage has no retail branches. Additionally, accessibility services are lacking. Although the search help archive is extensive, it can be frustrating to have to sort through nonbrokerage-related answers to find those that are more useful to Ally Invest customers.

What you need to know

One of the most important considerations for any investor using a brokerage platform is the extent of its customer support services, and Ally Invest has a wide array. You can communicate with Ally team members via email, social media, online chat, or live phone support, or search the website’s extensive FAQ section and searchable help archive. Information tends to be easy to view, but Ally groups results for its Invest help searches with those for its other branches (Auto Services, for example), so you may have to sort through some irrelevant results.

Research & Insights

4.7

Ally provides real-time quotes and news stories on the general economy, markets around the world, and specific companies, but analysis from outside of these main areas of focus is minimal. When a user views a particular company or stock, the site pulls up relevant news stories and information, including company overviews, which help to provide useful context.

Streaming Charts
Six different types of charts for customers to use to analyze many investment products.
Watchlists
Customizable watchlists let users track select groups of securities.
Option Chains
Customers can use option chains to place trades simply.
Probability Calculator
An implied volatility tool helps to determine a user’s probability of reaching goals
Profit/Loss Calculator
Determines an option trade’s profit-and-loss potential based on fluctuations in volatility and time.
Peer Performance Comparisons
Charts that compare performance across similar companies allow for easy comparisons before making a purchase or sale.

Pros

Ally Invest offers powerful means of researching individual companies, stocks, and funds. This mostly takes the form of interactive charts, allowing for a large degree of user flexibility. Watchlists, option chains, and various calculators are also customizable and help investors make informed decisions. It’s easy to compare two or more companies against one another and across variables, including past performance, using the peer performance comparison tools. Market data is collected in one place, so users can view quotes, charts, dividend information, prices, summaries, and other features simultaneously.

Cons

The biggest downside to Ally’s research and insights section is the lack of social sentiment and discussions. Data is available through the platform, but investors must rely more on their own calculations and comparisons to draw conclusions. Don’t expect a lot of hand-holding. The same can be said for general market insight.

Education

4.1

Ally provides succinct articles on the basics of investing in many areas, including stocks, ETFs, bonds, and options. Users with little or no experience in these areas will likely find these resources helpful; the articles are easy to read and understand, and they are searchable. Two drawbacks: Ally has no videos, in-person classes, or seminars, and there is a lack of material on futures and fixed income. On the second point, users would be advised to seek help elsewhere or have a solid understanding of those areas before they begin investing through the Ally platform.

What you need to know

Compared with many other brokerages, Ally’s education platform is relatively sparse. The web platform does include links to articles that provide overviews of the basics of investing in stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, and options. However, information on futures and fixed-income areas seems to be lacking. Further, the education center is limited to articles and a glossary (as well as the FAQ and search functions, both of which also cover non-education questions). Currently, there are no educational videos, classes, or progress trackers.

Banking

5.0

In addition to its brokerage arm, Ally has a full range of banking services, including multiple types of accounts and retirement programs. All are available at competitive rates and are easily interfaced with the brokerage account and the mobile app. Transferring between bank accounts and brokerage accounts can be done easily and in one place. However, Ally does not yet have physical branches. Banking customers accustomed to conducting their business online are not likely to mind, but those wishing for the comfort and ease of an in-person experience should look elsewhere.

What you need to know

Given its banking services and its brokerage arm, Ally can be a useful one-stop financial services firm for many users. The company’s banking branch includes savings and checking accounts, money market accounts, CDs, IRAs, and more. As with the brokerage, Ally’s banking service prides itself on its 24/7 customer service, low rates, and intuitive web-based platform. In the absence of in-person branches, the bank makes all of these services available online.

Bottom Line

Ally Invest is a compelling low-cost brokerage for both experienced and new investors. With competitive rates, a wide array of investment products, and robust education and research tools, Ally can be a one-stop shop for investors looking to manage their assets without a lot of hassle. Users looking for certain niche investment areas and products, however, may find that Ally is not best suited to their needs. Information on various companies and securities is plentiful, but sometimes finding and processing it requires knowledge and patience. By integrating Ally banking and other services with the brokerage platform, Ally users can conduct a majority of their financial business through a single company with relative ease.

Nathan Reiff
Reviewed by Nathan Reiff

Nathan Reiff is a writer and musician based in the New York City area. He holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan. Nathan has previously worked for Orion Consultants and Partners in Performance and has written for Internet Brands on subjects ranging from money matters to personal and home development. His interests include technology, travel, and food.

About Our Broker Review Methodology
Investopedia's mission is to provide online investors with the most unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of self-directed brokers. Vetted by multiple industry experts – including a financial research firm with more than 20 years of experience in broker ratings – Investopedia’s Broker Ratings and Reviews embody industry best practices for research design.

Investopedia consulted independent researchers, and financial institutions, and conducted multiple tests, to design a system that rates brokers based on 10 categories and 149 carefully selected variables. Selection of ratings elements was a culmination of 5,498 survey responses, 100+ hours of industry research, and 100 hours of user feedback. Each category encapsulates the key elements needed for thorough evaluation. All have been tested for replicable results with a battery of evaluators. Every review goes through a rigorous verification process to maintain editorial separation and ensure an unbiased ratings result.

Ally Invest News