Ally began as an auto finance company in 1919. Initially a division of General Motors, it helped dealers finance their inventories and make car loans available to their customers. The company expanded throughout the 20th century, and early this century shifted to other financial services. In 2017, after acquiring TradeKing Group, Inc., it launched Ally Invest, a brokerage platform focused on wealth management.
Ally has a price point of $4.95 for stock and ETF trades. Option trades also have a $4.95 base. For traders with large daily balances and/or more than 30 trades per quarter, the prices are reduced to $3.95. The company offers both self-directed investing and managed portfolios. In the latter case, customers who invest at least $2,500 have a range of portfolio options from which to choose.
In this walkthrough, we'll explore the Ally Invest desktop platform and its many features. For more information about this broker, you can read our full Ally Invest Review.
Login - Ally Invest offers low fees and an easy-to-use platform. In this walkthrough of its desktop platform, we'll explain how to take advantage of its wide range of features, from opening an account for the first time to making trades, viewing research, and more.
Open an Account - If you're new to Ally Invest, the first thing you'll need to do is create an account. Two basic types of accounts are available. One is the Self-Directed Trading option (on the left in this screenshot). It has no minimum initial balance requirements and gives you a great degree of freedom in choosing your investments. There's also the Managed Portfolios option (on the right). It requires a $2,500 minimum investment and offers the convenience of a pre-determined portfolio that Ally will manage on your behalf.
Self-Directed Trading - Click on the Self-Directed Trading link for information about Ally's self-directed accounts. As mentioned, these accounts don't require a minimum asset level to open. Standard trades in stocks and ETFs cost $4.95, and trades for high-balance or high-volume users can be as little as $3.95 each. The self-directed trading portion of Ally's platform offers streaming news and timely updates on market activity, plus an interactive chart system to plot out performance and analyze trades. Click the Open Account button if you'd like to start the process of creating your self-directed trading account.
Managed Portfolios - The other basic type of Ally Invest account is Managed Portfolios. With a managed portfolio, Ally's professional advisors will recommend personalized investment portfolios to match your financial goals. There is a minimum investment of $2,500 and an annual advisory fee of 0.30%. One of the most helpful features of the managed portfolio option is that Ally will automatically rebalance your portfolio in keeping with your risk tolerance and wealth outlook.
Get Started - Once you've picked the basic type of Ally Invest account you'd like to open, you'll be taken to the Get Started page. On this page, the first of six you'll need to complete in order to get your account up and running, you'll be asked to input personal and financial information, including your name and contact info, and to answer some questions about yourself and your family, your investments, your employment status, income, and so forth.
Select an Account Type - The next step is to indicate whether this is an individual account, a joint account, or some other kind, such as a steward account or an IRA. Hover over any of the account types to see a pop-up with a brief overview of how it works. For the purposes of this walkthrough we'll be using an individual account.
Enter Information - Here you'll type in more of your personal information as you continue setting up an account. The site will walk you through this process step by step. If you have any questions or concerns, the screen has an FAQ section on the right side, along with contact information for a 24/7 customer service hotline in the upper right corner.
Submit Application - After you've supplied all of the required information, you'll arrive at this page, which asks you to verify that your information is correct and to certify that you've read and agree to the Ally Invest Customer Agreement, which you can read here or view as a PDF.
Verify Your Bank Account - In order to invest with your soon-to-be-activated account, you'll need to put some money into it. Bank transfers are a common way of doing that, but you can also transfer funds from another brokerage, via wire transfer, or by other means. If you want to set up a bank transfer, you'll need to submit photo ID and a voided check or copy of a bank statement. You can do this by fax or mail, or, once your account is set up, through the website itself.
Set Up Security Codes - Almost there! At this point, you've applied for an account and it's been approved (you'll know that's the case when you receive an email confirming your account status). Before you can access your account, however, Ally Invest suggests that you set up security codes to provide extra protection for your personal information and account assets. You can follow the instructions here before logging in for the first time.
Welcome to your Snapshot - When you first log into your Ally Invest account via the website platform, you'll arrive at the Snapshot page. The Snapshot provides a glimpse of what's going on in your account(s). The very first time you see this page, you'll be greeted by this explainer graphic. The Snapshot screen is a quick and easy way of monitoring your overall account balance as well as some other key details of your holdings.
Snapshot - Click through the opening explainer graphic to reach the Snapshot page itself. This is also the screen that you'll see when you log into your Ally Invest account on later occasions. The Snapshot provides a breakdown of each account you have, including account values, total securities values, and cash on hand. It also offers access to a feature called QuickTrade, if you're in a hurry to set up an order.
Holdings / Balances - Stocks and Options - If you see multiple accounts listed in the Snapshot view and would like details on one of them, click on the blue-linked account name on the left side of the screen. This will take you to the Individual Account Holdings/Balances page. At the top of the box, look for the name of the account, and further to the right, figures representing the account value, gains, losses, and more. Below that, you'll see a list of your recent trades under Stocks and Options.
Holdings / Balances - Cash & Balances - In the Individual Account Holdings/Balances window, you'll notice a second header in the middle of the box for Cash & Balances. Click on it if you want a quick overview of your total cash holdings, your securities, your account value, the values of your long and short stock and options holdings, and similar figures.
Home - Spaced out across the top portion of the Ally Invest account page are links to different sections of the platform. At the far left is the Home button. Click on it to go to a list of widgets that are fully customizable (just click on the gear icon in the lower left corner of each widget to edit it). There are widgets that show the recent performance levels of different indices and markets that allow you to make transfers or monitor your assets, and much more.
Index Widget - The upper left widget is for indices, including NASDAQ, SPX, Russell 2000, and Dow Jones. The current levels and recent change are updated continuously. Clicking on the gear icon in the lower left corner of the widget lets you specify which index is featured, and you can also select other indices you'd like to display. As with the other widgets described here, you can click Hide this Widget if you'd rather not see it. Clicking on the gear icon again will bring you back to the main widget view.
Global Index Widget - Much like the U.S. Index widget, the Global Index widget, which appears just to the right in the default home settings, shows the recent performance of global indices like Hang Seng, CAC 40, and Nikkei 225. The gear icon for this widget similarly allows you to specify which index is featured in the main home view, as well as the other indices that will show up in a continuously updated stream.
Accounts Widget - You can keep tabs on your various Ally Invest accounts all in one place with the Accounts widget. It tracks your total account value as well as your funds available to trade. Below that, look for a summary of the day's unrealized gains and losses.
Top Story Widget - Further down on the home screen, you'll see the Top Story widget. This widget automatically pulls up a news article that the Ally Invest team has picked as the current top story. You'll see the headline at the top of the widget, plus the beginning portion of the full text below.
Watchlist Widget - A watchlist is a helpful tool that allows you to monitor stocks that you're interested in. Though your watchlist is empty by default, you can add to it through the Watchlist widget. Just click on the plus-sign (+) icon in the lower left corner of the widget, then select the symbol you'd like to add. Configure the types of information displayed in the widget by clicking on the gear icon. The default setting is to sort by the symbols that have had the largest gains or losses.
Market Update Widget - Although it looks a lot like the Top Story widget, the Market Update widget has a somewhat different focus, offering a relevant news story on the current state of the markets. As with the Top Story widget, you'll see a headline across the top of the box and the first portion of the full text below that. If you want to read the full text, just click on the headline.
Gain / Loss Widget - The Gain/Loss widget is relatively straightforward, with two items of information to convey: your gains and losses for the year, and your unrealized gains and losses. Click on the gear icon in the lower left corner to change the time frame and the way that the information is displayed, or to remove the widget from your dashboard altogether.
Orders Widget - The Orders widget provides an at-a-glance summary of your orders. This widget doesn't give any details of the orders themselves but tells you the total number of orders that are open, canceled, pending, executed, expired, and rejected.
Market Events Widget - As the name suggests, the Market Events widget functions a bit like a calendar service, showing you the current day as well as any important events that might affect your assets. You can move between months, using the icons next to the month and year header or change the way the events are listed by clicking on the gear icon.
Documents Widget - The Documents widget gives you the option of viewing and uploading documents directly to the Ally Invest team. There are many situations in which uploading items directly via the website is the easiest course. For example, when you first set up your account, you'll need to submit documentation in order to link your bank account for transfers. You can send this via fax, by regular mail, or with the website. The website could be the fastest option in this case.
Quote Widget - The easiest way to see a quote for a stock or other security that you're interested in monitoring is through the Quote widget. Simply click on the search box (labeled SYM in the widget) and type in the symbol you're looking for. The widget will pull up the company information and the quote details, including current price and recent changes.
Transfer Funds Widget - If you need to put more money in your account, the Transfer Funds widget can come in handy. Clicking on this widget takes to you a page where you can initiate fund transfers from other brokerages, bank accounts, and more.
Time Widget - This clock widget shows you the current time as well as the time remaining until the markets close. You can click on the gear icon to change the way that the time is displayed.
Dark Theme - The default appearance of the Ally Invest platform is what its developers call the Light Theme. This means that the backgrounds for all of the various widgets and pages are typically white. If you'd prefer a different background, click on the gear icon next to Home at the top of the page, then on Switch to Dark Theme. You may want to try both backgrounds to see which you prefer.
Dashboard Overview - The next menu item to the right in the listing across the top of the screen is for the Dashboard page. That's where you'll probably conduct the bulk of your activity on the Ally Invest desktop platform. From the top of the screen, look for date and time information, the name and status of the account, and recent performance figures for top markets and indices. Below that, you'll see boxes corresponding to your watchlist, your holdings, and your orders, among other things. Click on any of these boxes to engage with those parts of the platform directly.
Dashboard - Performance and Charts - The main dashboard page has a wealth of resources. If you scroll down on the screen, you'll see even more boxes corresponding to other parts of the site. Look to the left side of the screen for details regarding options chains. On the right side of the screen are charts showing recent performance for stocks.
Trading Menu - At the top of the Ally Invest screen, look for the header titled Trading. Clicking on it will pull up a list of menu options you can use to initiate and monitor trades. Ally breaks down its trading according to asset type, with different categories for stocks and ETFs, options, mutual funds, and fixed income. The last item on the list is for the Order Status page, where you can track your previous trades and orders.
Stock Trades - Clicking on the Trading header takes you to a trading page. Just below the Trade Ticket header, there are categories for different types of assets or securities. The default is Stock. Below that is where you specify the quantity, type, duration, and other variables. On the left side of the screen, you can use the search menu to find the symbol you'd like to trade. The right side of the screen has a summary of the order that you can review before finalizing.
Options Trades - From the Trading screen, you can access options trades by clicking on the Options header in the middle of the page. This will change the settings below to allow you to input the details of the options trade you'd like to initiate. As with stock trading, the left side of the screen includes the company or stock symbol you're looking at, while the right side summarizes the order for your review.
Fixed Income Trades - Click on the Fixed Income menu item under the Trading header to initiate fixed-income buys and sells. The website provides instructions for selecting bonds. If there's a specific bond you're interested in trading, type it into the box below, then follow the remaining instructions to complete the trade.
Order Status - The last entry in the Trading menu is the Order Status page. As its name suggests, this page lists all of the orders you've filed through Ally Invest. If you have a large number of orders, you can search for specific ones using the search box in the middle of the page; just type in the symbol or company name you're looking for. The box to the right of Show will also help you to sort the orders, if you'd like. Each order listing includes information like quantity, action, bid, and status.
Investment Accounts - Next up in the menu along the top of the screen is the Investment Accounts header. Clicking on it will bring up a menu of links to overviews of your account. Using this menu, you can quickly navigate between listings of your total holdings and balances, your realized gains and losses, and your account records. You can also visit the Document Upload page to send documents like identification verification directly to the Ally Invest team.
Realized Gain/Loss - The Realized Gain/Loss link under the Investment Accounts header tracks all of the realized gains and losses for your Ally Invest accounts. On the left side of the screen, there are tools for sorting the records by time frame and the gain or loss category. On the right side of the page, look for short and long-term gains and losses information.
Records - Looking for past records associated with your Ally Invest account? Just click on the Records link under the Investment Accounts header at the top of the screen. You can sort your records by toggling between the Activity and Documents headers, both of which appear in the upper left corner of the Records box. Below that, you can narrow your search by specifying a time frame and/or symbols to search for. The results will appear in a list at the bottom of the box.
Document Upload - When you first set up your Ally Invest account, the website will prompt you to submit certain documents to verify your identity and to specify a bank account for money transfers. You can either submit these materials by fax or by regular mail at that point in the account set-up process. If you wait until your account has been confirmed, you can upload them via the Document Upload page. If there are any documents you need to submit to the Ally Invest team once your account is up and running, they can also be transmitted using this page.
Managed Portfolios - The Managed Portfolios menu appears under the corresponding header, which is just about in the center of the top menu. Click on Managed Portfolios to pull up a menu, with options to view performance, the portfolios themselves, a customized goal tracker, and a Manage Goal screen. Note that these items will only be available to you if opened a Managed Portfolios account.
Markets - Click on the Research header toward the right side of the menu at the top of the Ally Invest screen to pull up the menu for the platform's news and research. Ally Invest breaks down its research according to markets and stocks, and you can look to this menu for Option Tools, as well. Here, Ally Invest's Markets page within the Research category shows you recent performance and news from the different stock markets and indices. Look at top performers for NYSE, NASDAQ, and more, or check on the performance of indices like Dow Jones. Scroll down to see relevant news items pertaining to these markets, then click on any of the news headlines to see the full text.
Stocks - Perhaps the most in-depth information that Ally Invest offers on any particular stock is available through the Stocks page in the Research section of the platform. Look up any stock by symbol or company name, and the site will pull up a host of helpful data, including performance figures, visualizations and charts, recent high and low trading levels, and, on the right side of the screen, a button to initiate trades.
Options - The last listing on the Research menu is for options. Click on the Option Tools header to bring up that page. Once you've keyed in a particular symbol, the site will provide lots of information about that company and the potential for options investing. You can also set up a trade by clicking on QuickTrade in the top right corner of the screen.
Tools - The final item in the menu at the top of the Ally Invest page will take you to the Tools section. There you'll find a collection of additional tools you might find useful, such as charts, alerts, an email-like inbox for your account, and an Application Programming Interface or API, which lets you set up new applications in the Ally Invest platform.
Charts - Look to the Charts page for detailed visual representations of past performance for any number of different stocks or companies. You can control the way that the data are presented, changing the time frame, the symbol, the type of chart, and more. Look at individual symbols by typing the company name into the search bar at the top of the Charts box or use Compare to assess multiple stocks at the same time with the button to the right.
Alerts - To take advantage of Ally's automatic alerts, go to the Alerts page on the Tools menu. Here you specify when and how the platform should alert you to price changes in securities you're interested in. Specify the trigger, the condition, the target price, and, of course, the symbol you'd like to keep an eye on.
Inbox - Ally Invest has an Inbox feature you can also access via the Tools menu. This is not a fully functional email program, but it gives you an opportunity to be in touch with the website developers and other staff on the Ally team. Click on the gear icon next to Inbox in the center of the screen to configure the inbox settings, or keep tabs on your individual messages by clicking on them as they arrive in your inbox.
Manage Applications - For many investors, the Application Programming Interface, or API, section of the Ally Invest platform is likely to be a huge draw. By creating your own API applications, you can customize the way that Ally Invest works for you. For more about how to begin creating API applications, click the link for General Information on the right side of the screen. Otherwise, you can manage your existing applications with the list that is generated below.
Create a New Application - From within the Manage Applications screen, click on the Create a New Application button to go to the application creation screen. You can specify whether the application is for your personal use or for shared use, using the buttons on the left side of the page, and then work your way through the questions and choices that come up in the center of the screen.
QuickTrade - Say that you're browsing the Ally Invest platform and you have the idea to create a trade, but time is short. Just click on the QuickTrade button, found in the upper right portion of any main screen in the platform. This will pull up the QuickTrade menu, which appears on the right side of the page. Just input the basic information and confirm the trade using the buttons in the menu.
Community - Ally Invest is for both seasoned investors and relative beginners. If you fall into the latter category, you'll likely want to spend some time in the Community section of the website. You can access it by scrolling to the bottom of any main screen in the platform and looking for the link corresponding to the site's educational services. Browse to find a variety of topics and answers to your investing questions, all in one place.
Security Center - If you'd like to learn more about how Ally protects your privacy and your money, click on the Security link at the bottom of any main page within the website. This is also the place to go if you have any concerns about fraudulent activity within your account.
Contact - If you ever run into any difficulties with the Ally platform there's the “Contact” link in the upper right corner of the screen. Clicking on “Contact” pulls up a fuller list of customer service information, including details about the online chat function and a mailing address if you need to reach Ally via regular mail. So don't worry if you have questions about how the products work or about your account; on the Contact page you'll see a listing of telephone numbers and email addresses you can use to reach the Ally team.