ChoiceTrade is an online brokerage designed for active traders. While it isn’t well-suited to folks looking for fully managed or robo-advisor options, ChoiceTrade’s free web-based account offers enough in the way of research and analysis tools to satisfy a more active trader. For those planning to make several trades per month, the flat $5 monthly fee option represents a huge savings over other online brokerages with per-trade commissions.
For advanced traders looking for a more robust suite of tools and resources, ChoiceTrade also offers three paid premium platforms designed for those who want fully streaming data, additional research tools, or access to Level II data and control over order execution.
Free stock and ETF trades with the $5 monthly subscription
Multiple platforms for traders of different levels
Full range of order types, including conditional orders
Customizable user interface
Real time, not streaming, data for free accounts
Trading function and in-depth charting not easily adjacent
No bonds, futures, forex, crypto or other assets available
Options pricing higher than industry average
ChoiceTrade has made some improvements to their free web platform in the past year, adding a RoboAnalyst feature (available as a paid add-on) and a robust stock screener. Still, the platform has the look and feel of older tech. While the platform offers a few great tools, the workflow isn’t exactly streamlined.
In-depth research tools like Java-enabled charts, and financial and fundamental data are found under the Research tab, but trades can only be executed under the Trader Home tab.
Each ticker quote provides at-a-glance charts and a comparison chart, which does allow plotting of other tickers, studies and indicators. However, for larger charts – or for trendlines and other charting capabilities – you’ll need to use a Java-enabled chart (and a browser other than Chrome), found under the Research tab.
Under the Manage Account tab, users can tailor settings such as default trade sizes, which tickers the Twitter feed tracks, and whether WatchPlus dynamically updates limits for staged orders based on price changes. The Dashboard (under Trader Home) is customizable, allowing users to select which data is displayed, move windows, and add tabs.
While quotes are in real time, they require manual refreshing. Other data is delayed by 15 minutes. Streaming data is included in all of the paid packages. For active traders who don’t need the more advanced platforms, a streaming data subscription likely makes the $14.95/month option worth the price.
The free platform does not allow users to control trade routing, but professional traders can do so with the Direct Pro platform ($135/month). ChoiceTrade offers no “best price” or “price improvement” guarantee, though the potential for price improvement is one factor considered when routing orders. ChoiceTrade does receive compensation from some venues in exchange for routing orders their way, but their order routing report is always easily accessible via a quick link at the bottom of each page.
ChoiceTrade’s customizable platform is good for active traders who want to have several windows of curated data visible at once. For new investors, however, it may take some time to get used to the partitioned set up of this platform.
Signing up for an account is more cumbersome and time-consuming. The user must answer several pages of questions about personal wealth, income sources, financial affiliations, trading experience and investment objectives, and they must read and sign four different agreements.
Mobile and Emerging Tech
ChoiceTrade rolled out a new mobile app in 2018, making it easier than ever for active users to keep tabs on market movements. Unfortunately, the app lacks some of the functionality found in the desktop platform.
While the app does have a watchlist feature, users cannot access their WatchPlus list or execute pre-staged trades via the app. In addition, streaming data is not available in the current iteration of the app, regardless of what data package you purchase for the desktop platform. ChoiceTrade expects future versions will have streaming data capability.
Range of Offerings
ChoiceTrade is focused on stock and options trading. As such, the current platforms do not offer futures, commodities, crypto, bonds, or mutual funds (except for closed-ended funds traded on the open market). However, OTC and Pink Sheet stocks are supported.
International stocks are available only via phone, and options orders are limited to four legs, with a maximum of 250 contracts per leg. Some advanced options trading strategies require a margin account.
Short-selling is supported on the free platform. However, ChoiceTrade provides no easy-to-borrow list. Users will receive an error message when trying to short an unavailable stock; alternatively, they can contact customer service to check on availability of a specific ticker before entering their trade.
ChoiceTrade requires an equity balance equal to at least 50% of the total position value for all short sales, and a minimum equity balance of $2,000 for all margin accounts, per U.S. regulation. The margin rate for all account balances is the fed funds rate plus 6 points. At the time of this review, this worked out to a flat rate of 8.5%.
News and Research
Under the Research tab, each ticker has its own news section featuring articles from a wide range of news sources. The Market section of Trader Home also features a news feed dedicated to broader markets news. Users can also select to view news items about a specific sector, exchange, corporate action, or global region.
A live Twitter feed appears to the right of the Trader Home landing page, which can be customized to prioritize tweets for any ticker symbol. Each quote screen also features a Twitter logo button which will pull up the most recent tweets about that specific ticker.
In terms of research, the new stock screener is a very useful tool. The free platform doesn’t offer an options scanner, though the ChoiceTrade Elite platform does ($29/month).
ChoiceTrade’s most anticipated 2018 addition, the RoboAnalyst, is available as a paid add-on to the free platform. This tool provides additional in-depth analysis of any ticker and offers trade suggestions each day. For end-of-day quotes, this subscription is $19.99. For delayed intraday quotes, you’ll pay $59.99
Portfolio Analysis and Reports
The ChoiceTrade platform isn’t built for investors who want a lot of hand holding or those who need someone else to tell them what they should be doing with their investments. Instead, the focus is on providing seasoned traders with the tools they need to effectively manage their own portfolios.
The platform also offers a trade journal and trading activity, positions, margin balances, and other basic portfolio data update in real time (with manual refresh unless you have the streaming quote package).
Customer Service and Help
While there is no online chat capability on the ChoiceTrade platform, email response to submitted requests is very quick. Dedicated phone numbers for general customer service, phone trades and account openings help users get the right assistance as quickly as possible.
A call to customer service requires navigating a single menu and calls are answered promptly (after as few as one ring). Support is available Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. ET.
Since ChoiceTrade’s goal is to provide functional tools for experienced investors, the platform doesn’t focus too much on education. If you search for specific keywords, you may pull up a short article, blog post, or even video on the topic, but there doesn’t seem to be any other way to locate specific content.
One of the primary attractions for active traders will be ChoiceTrade’s commission structure. ChoiceTrade divides their commission structure between stock and options, with two price packages available for each security.
Option A for stock trading has a $5 per month flat fee, with unlimited free trades. For those who are planning to place more than five trades a month, this works out to $1 or less per trade. One disadvantage of this option is that it only applies to that day’s market and limit orders. Any stop, stop limit, good-till-canceled, or extended hours trades are $5.
Option B requires no monthly fee but comes with a $5 per-trade commission. This option is more suitable for those who plan on making no more than one trade a month. If you’re a buy-and-hold investor looking to hold only a few different stocks, this will be your best bet.
What You Need to Know
While ChoiceTrade’s free platform may not have all the bells and whistles day traders look for, it’s got what the average self-directed investor needs to get the job done. This product isn’t flashy or focused on aesthetics, and the workflow takes some getting used to. That said, it does provide the research and analysis tools an advanced trader would need to pinpoint entries and exits (assuming they have the Java plugin). However, investors focusing on short-term swings will need to opt for the streaming data package if they don’t choose one of the premium platforms.
Due to the limited range of educational materials available and the steep learning curve, this platform is likely not the best fit for new investors. Likewise, those looking for managed portfolios or personalized advice will need to look elsewhere. For investors who already know their stuff and just need a functional platform with commission options that reward frequent trading and large orders, however, ChoiceTrade could be a contender.
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