SogoTrade previously stood out as a low-cost brokerage, but an industry-wide shift to commission-free trading has weakened its pricing edge. The company offers $0 commissions on limit orders, and it introduced a new program in 2020 called GP2T (Get Paid to Trade), where equity traders earn $1.00 per 1,000 shares traded on qualifying limit orders. In 2021, the company added a single ETF–the ETFMG Treatments, Testing, and Advancements ETF (GERM)–to its GP2T program, with a payout of $3.00 per 1,000 shares traded. At that level, you would need to trade a lot of volume to see any meaningful rebates from the program.

Overall, while SogoTrade still has some distinctive features such as customer support and trading technology in Chinese, its weaknesses are more apparent without the pricing advantage it once had. We’ll take a deeper look at SogoTrade and help you decide whether it is the right fit for your portfolio

Key Takeaways

  • SogoTrade's tools are spread across multiple platforms, which can make navigation frustrating and time-consuming.
  • While many brokers have shifted to commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs, SogoTrade still charges for market and odd lot orders.
  • Customers can trade equities, ETFs, and options, plus cryptocurrencies (BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC) through a collaboration with Apex Crypto.
  • SogoTrade's equity trading platforms are basic and lacking some features that traders may require.

Who SogoTrade Is For

SogoTrade is marketed to young investors looking for a no-frills trading experience with cost savings. Now that more brokers offer low-cost or commission-free trading, SogoTrade's pricing structure has become less competitive. That said, SogoTrade has made efforts to broaden its appeal with its new GP2T program, which allows traders to earn a small rebate on qualified limit orders. 

Low-volume traders may earn a few bucks (the rebate is just $1.00 per 1,000 shares traded) and frequent and high-volume traders might receive an occasional (small) bonus. Unfortunately, active traders who stand to earn the most from the GP2T program may find the SogoTrade platform lacking essential features. For instance, there's no trading from charts, no conditional orders, and rudimentary charting compared to other platforms.

The platform is best suited for casual investors and traders who don't mind a no-frills trading platform as well as those who want to focus solely on options trading. SogoTrade may also be a good choice for traders who prefer to trade and communicate in Chinese. With a click of a button, traders can translate the SogoTrade platform into simplified or traditional Chinese, and customer support is available in several Chinese dialects.

Pros
  • GP2T program offers small rebates

  • Good selection of free research tools

  • Support and technology are available in Chinese

  • Telephone support is prompt

Cons
  • Basic trading platforms

  • Limited lineup of trading products

  • Market orders trigger a commission

  • Multiple platforms are frustrating to navigate

Pros Explained

  • SogoTrade’s GP2T (Get Paid to Trade) program offers small rebates: Traders can earn $1.00 per 1,000 equity shares traded on qualified limit orders. The rebate is $3.00 per 1,000 shares traded on the GERM ETF.   
  • SogoTrade offers a good selection of free research tools. Customers get free access to ValuEngine, which utilizes advanced quantitative techniques and analysis to provide some 5,300 U.S. stock rating and forecast reports (including ADRs), 140 industry reports, and 16 sector reports. There's also free access to SogoPlay–an options trading tool–and the Morning Call newsletter, which offers institutional-grade equity research on eight spotlight stocks and ETFs.
  • Support and technology with SogoTrade are available in Chinese. Traders can translate the SogoTrade platform into simplified or traditional Chinese with a button click. Customer support is available in several Chinese dialects.
  • SogoTrade’s telephone support is prompt. Customers who call the support line have quick access to human assistance in either English or Chinese. The company reports an average wait time of 10 seconds for customer service.

Cons Explained

  • SogoTrade’s basic platforms may be sufficient for casual investors, but they lack some of the functionality that traders would expect, such as chart trading, conditional orders, and advanced charting. One exception is SogoOptions, which offers a decent, versatile toolkit for options traders.
  • SogoTrade offers a limited lineup of trading products. Customer can trade stocks, ETFs, and options, plus four cryptocurrencies through Apex Crypto. SogoTrade doesn't support commodities, futures, futures options, or forex trading.
  • Market orders on SogoTrade trigger a commission. While qualifying limit orders are commission-free (must be at least 100 shares), customers pay $2.88 to place market orders for stocks, ETFs, penny stocks, and non-qualified odd lot orders. Penny stocks priced under $1 may incur additional fees.
  • SogoTrade has five trading platforms, making it difficult to find what you need and trade what you want. There's no seamless way to move between platforms, and it's easy to get logged out when making a switch.

Usability

SogoTrade has three web-based trading platforms, a mobile browser, and apps for Android and iOS. Each of these platforms offers different functionality, as well as access to different products. For example, you can trade stocks on SogoTrade but you will find stocks and basic options on SogoOnline. To trade crypto, you need a separate Apex Crypto account. As of early 2021, the company no longer offers the SogoElite trading platform.  

While it's easy to open and fund an account online, it's confusing to figure out which platform to use and where you can find the available tools once you log in. You might have to click through numerous tabs to find what you're looking for–and doing so can inadvertently log you out of your account. You can quickly check your balances and open positions on any platform. While all platforms have real-time data, the functionality is basic compared to what many other brokers offer, and there are few customization options.

When you log into the mobile app, you must type in your four- to six-digit pin (there's no fingerprint scan or facial recognition option). The first screen is Quotes, which has pricing and a basic chart for each stock on your watchlist. Watchlists are the same across all the platforms, so if you set one up on SogoTrade, it will appear in the app. While SogoTrade doesn't offer any advanced order types, you can use the same order types across all platforms.

Trade Experience

It's challenging to evaluate SogoTrade's trade experience. There are tools to help you go from research to trade, but the multiple platforms make it a bit of a scavenger hunt to find what you're looking for. More importantly, there are few customization options in terms of platform layout, colors, trade defaults, hotkeys, and the like, so you may never be 100% comfortable with the workflow.

Still, you'll find real-time data across all platforms, and you can view real-time quotes on multiple platforms simultaneously–an important feature that's not available from every broker. Unfortunately, you won't find the chart trading, price ladders, and other valuable features that most brokers now offer. Overall, the order entry process is basic and intuitive, but it can be slow–especially for limit orders because you must enter the price manually (which also makes it easier to make a mistake).

While you can use trailing stops on all platforms, SogoTrade doesn't allow you to stage orders for later entry or enter multiple orders simultaneously.

Mobile Trade Experience

SogoTrade's mobile app is basic but pleasantly intuitive. It's easy to access the quotes, positions, orders, price alerts, and account screens by clicking the appropriate tab at the bottom of any screen. To place an order, click on any symbol in your watchlist and tap the Trade button at the top of the screen.

Range of Offerings

SogoTrade has a limited range of offerings that includes stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies (via clearing firm Apex Crypto). The broker offers an average number of easy-to-borrow stocks for short sellers and it supports complex options. On the downside, you have to call a broker to buy and sell fixed income and you can't trade fractional shares, commodities, futures, futures options, or forex.

  • Stocks long and short (2,100+ stocks on the easy-to-borrow list for short sales)
  • OTCBB (penny stocks)
  • Mutual funds (6,600; zero no-load, no transaction fee funds)
  • Bonds (corporate, municipal, treasury, CD, international) via live broker only
  • Simple and multi-leg options (four via self-direction; five via broker assist)
  • Robo-advisory via SogoTrade Asset Management
  • Cryptocurrency through Apex Crypto (BTC, BCH, ETH, and LTC; according to SogoTrade, more cryptocurrencies are in the works)

Order Types

SogoTrade customers can place market, limit, stop limit, trailing stop, and trailing stop limit orders. The broker doesn't support any advanced order types (i.e., conditional orders, such as order-sends-order (OSO) and one-cancels-other (OCO) orders) on any of its platforms. It's easy to close a position, but you can't select a tax lot to determine your cost basis when doing so–all trades default to average cost.

Trading Technology

SogoTrade's orders are routed via a smart order routing system that selects trading venues based on the order request details and avoids venues that don't trade the particular security type, instrument class, order type, or special handling codes. The smart order router is built to react to market conditions, and it will reroute orders to alternate venues if there are any technical issues.

SogoTrade's router doesn't go through dark pools or break up orders. The order router is primarily sequential and balances speed and price improvement; however, the broker doesn't make any execution quality statistics available.

SogoTrade doesn't support any backtesting or automated trading capabilities.

Costs

Many brokers have shifted to commission-free trading stock and ETF trading. SogoTrade has, too–sort of. It offers free trading on most limit orders, but it charges $2.88 for market and odd lot orders. Options trades are commission-free and $0.50 per contract no matter how many legs you trade. Margin fees are on the higher end of the industry average.

  •  Stock and ETF orders are $0 for limit orders and $2.88 per trade for market orders of up to 100,000 shares. You must place larger orders through the Trade Desk, which incurs a $25 surcharge. 
  • OTCBB commissions are also $0 for limit orders and $2.88 per trade for market orders. There is a minimum investment of $100 for stocks priced under $1; otherwise, a surcharge applies.
  • Options base commission is $0.
  • Options per contract fee is $0.50.
  • Broker-assisted options trades are $25.00 + $0.50 per contract.
  • An options order for 50 contracts is $25, regardless of the number of legs.
  • Mutual fund trades incur a $25.00 broker-assisted commission.
  • Margin interest is 9.25% on a $10,000 balance and 6.0% on a $100,000 balance.
  • Account closure fee is $0.
  • Account transfer fee for a full or partial transfer is $75.
  • Exercise and assignment fee is $15.
  • Voluntary reorganization is $50.
  • Sending a wire is $30 for domestic, $50 for international.
  • Sending a paper check is $5.
  • Paper trade confirmations are $5 each.
  • Paper statements are $10 per month.
  • Live broker fee is $25 plus online commissions.

How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You

With fewer brokerages charging commissions these days, it's less obvious how they stay in business. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes ways SogoTrade makes money from you.

  •  Interest paid on cash: Like most brokers, SogoTrade generates interest income from the difference between what you are paid on your idle cash and what they earn on your cash balances. Some brokers share this interest with their customers; SogoTrade does not.
  • Payment for order flow: Some brokers earn money by accepting payments from market makers for directing equity and options orders to them–a practice called payment for order flow (PFOF). SogoTrade reports that its per-share PFOF for equity trades is $0.00006 from Apex, $0.00324 from CBOE, $0.0015 from Coda, and $0.0012 from Virtu. For options trades, it receives $0.321 from Apex, $0.35657 from Citi, and $0.37912 from Wolverine.
  • Price improvement: SogoTrade does not disclose its price improvement practices.
  • Stock loan programs: These programs generate revenue for brokers when stocks held in customers' accounts are loaned to other traders or hedge funds, usually for short sales. SogoTrade does not offer a stock loan program.
  • Portfolio margining: Portfolio margining computes real-time margin for stock and options trades based on risk instead of using fixed percentages. SogoTrade does not offer portfolio margining.

Account and Research Amenities

SogoTrade's research offerings include screeners, calculators, a newsletter, and a stock valuation and forecasting service.

Stock and ETF Screener

SogoTrade offers a basic screener for stocks and ETFs on its website and you can click through to it from the trading platform. You can screen using up to 10 filters, including quote data, fundamentals, technical, profile (e.g., sector), opinion, and index group–but you can't turn the results into a watchlist. If you'd like to use the screener again, you have the option to enter a name for your screener and hit save. The screener has 30 pre-built screens to get you started.

Options Screener

The SogoOptions platform doesn't have an options screener. However, customers have access to the separate SogoPlay application, which is essentially the OptionsPlay toolset with a SogoTrade wrapper. The tool highlights potential options trade ideas and strategies and is a valuable addition to an options trader's toolkit. 

Mutual Fund Screener 

SogoTrade does not offer a mutual fund screener.

Fixed Income Screener

SogoTrade does not offer a fixed-income screener.

Tools and Calculators 

The SogoOptions platform has a few options-specific calculators, including the P/L calculator, probability calculator, option pricing calculator, and a risk charting tool. Otherwise, it lacks some of the basic tools–such as retirement calculators and portfolio management tools–that casual investors might expect from a brokerage. 

Trading Idea Generator 

There is a dedicated Strategies section on the SogoOptions platform that features strategy descriptions, a graphic display of each strategy, a one-click lookup, and order entry. Also, on the "Chain" page, you can view the market price of a specific options strategy. The SogoPlay application provides technical and fundamental analysis to produce options trade scores

News 

Streaming news is available on all platforms. SogoTrade recently introduced the SogoTrade Morning Call newsletter, which provides institutional-grade equity research on eight featured securities.

Third-Party Research

SogoTrade customers have free access to ValuEngine, which utilizes advanced quantitative techniques and analysis to provide some 5,300 U.S. stock rating and forecast reports (including ADRs), 140 industry reports, and 16 sector reports.

Charting

SogoTrade's charting is extremely basic compared to other platforms. There are few customization options, just two types of charts (line and candlestick), and only time-based intervals–there are no tick or other data-based charts. And even then, the platform is missing some of the popular timeframes. For example, SogoTrade doesn’t provide a five-minute chart. Except for SogoOptions, the platforms have no technical indicators or drawing tools. For some traders and investors, these shortcomings will limit the usefulness of the SogoTrade platform.

Dividend Reinvestment Program

SogoTrade customers can specify dividend reinvestment for dividend-paying stocks.

Cash Management

SogoTrade doesn’t provide a cash sweep program and there is no interest paid on idle cash balances.

SRI/ESG Research Amenities

SogoTrade doesn’t offer any socially responsible investing (SRI) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research capabilities.

Portfolio Analysis

SogoTrade's portfolio analysis tools are limited. Reports are available in real-time, but the company doesn't offer any tools or calculators to help you make decisions regarding asset allocation and long-term financial goals. Still, SogoTrade Asset Management offers financial advisory services to assist you in setting goals, creating a financial plan, and building a portfolio with an advisor. There is also no trading journal on the platform, but you can attach notes to trades in the SogoOptions platform.

With SogoTrade, your margin, buying power, and account balances are all reported in real-time. Beyond that, your internal rate of return (IRR) and time-weighted ROR are not provided. SogoTrade is also limited in terms of tax management. You can't calculate the tax impact of future trades. Capital gains tax reports are available overnight via SogoTrade's Account Access Portal. You can import a consolidated 1099 directly into TurboTax. Quicken is also compatible with the system. You can also export trades to Excel to complete the Schedule D and 8949 Forms.

Education

SogoTrade's educational content is sparse, especially compared to larger rivals. The company's education center provides the bare-bones basics of investing in stocks, ETFs, and options (all as brief articles), along with a glossary. SogoTrade doesn't offer any webinars or live events, but it posts educational videos on its YouTube channel. The SogoPlay platform features a decent amount of information on options strategies, including how to use and analyze them. SogoTrade does not offer free demo accounts or any type of paper (simulated) trading.

Customer Service

  • Telephone support available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (excluding stock exchange holidays). There is a separate phone line for Chinese-speaking customers.
  • Live chat available on the website for current and prospective clients.
  • Live brokers are available while phone lines are open.
  • Non-U.S. customers in non-restricted countries can open accounts. SogoTrade currently has customers from 149 countries.

Security and Reliability

  • Two-factor authentication is not available.
  • Mobile app users can't log in with biometric (face or fingerprint) recognition.
  • SogoTrade does not offer a security guarantee.
  • SogoTrade's login protocol allows users to set a unique account phrase and image. Customers can create a PIN, which is entered through an encrypted on-screen keypad to protect against keyloggers.
  • SogoTrade's clearing firm, Apex Clearing, provides excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage from Lloyd's of London up to an aggregate of $150 million, subject to limits of $37.5 million for any one customer's securities and $900,000 for any one customer's cash.
  • SogoTrade did not report any serious platform outages in 2020, nor did it report any data breaches within the last four years (the period examined).
  • No significant breaches during 2020 were reported by the Identity Theft Research Center.

Transparency

While SogoTrade's pricing structure is a bit complicated, the details are readily available on its pricing, margin & fees webpage (click “Commission and Fees” from the footer menu to find it). The page includes pricing for stocks/ETFs, options, mutual funds, and fixed income trades, as well as miscellaneous service fees. You'll also find details on margin rates and terms, plus margin call descriptions.

Our Verdict

At one point, SogoTrade's customers may have willingly overlooked some of its shortcomings in exchange for the cheap costs. However, that may no longer be the case now that the company has no pricing advantage. To attract more customers, the company launched the Get Paid to Trade Program, but the tiny rebates (unless you're a very active trader) may do little to sway traders and investors.

To improve, SogoTrade needs to enhance its platforms by making them easier to use (with less scavenger hunting) and more robust. That means adding functionality that is standard on many platforms today–features like chart trading, price ladders, data-based chart intervals, advanced order types, and technical analysis tools. Additionally, SogoTrade is behind the curve when it comes to security practices, such as biometric logins for mobile apps and two-factor authentication when logging in from a new browser.

SogoTrade may be a good option for traders and investors who prefer to communicate and trade in Chinese, as the company makes it very easy to do both. SogoTrade recently announced a partnership with KGI, a major brokerage in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which will allow further access to some Asian markets. Also, some options traders may find the SogoOptions and SogoPlay toolkits to be more than adequate. Otherwise, traders and investors may find better pricing, better features, and a more organized trading experience somewhere else.  

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Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.

In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out an extensive survey about all aspects of its platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of its platforms at our offices.

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