For this review, we used our normal criteria for evaluating the quality, costs, functionality, and security of discount online brokers. As T. Rowe Price is primarily a wealth management firm with a focus on mutual funds, asset management, and life event planning, they did not score very well under our rubric.
However, for passive investors who are more interested in growth stock mutual funds, professional advice, and institutional‑level research and analysis, T. Rowe Price may be a good fit.
With deep roots in Baltimore, T. Rowe Price’s headquarters are still located there with another 22 locations around the globe. The firm was originally founded during the Great Depression by Thomas Rowe Price Jr. who was a proponent of growth stock investing. The company today still has a focus on active management and growth-oriented mutual funds. In addition, investors can find robo‑advisors, wealth planning tools, and some ability to trade individual stocks and options.
Professional advice and investment planning
Extensive research and analyst recommendations
Phone support is available during market hours and is helpful
Research tools, charting, and trading functions are rudimentary
No forex, crypto, or futures trading
Higher than average costs compared to other discount brokers
Account holders at T. Rowe Price can see real‑time data in the order ticket but other quotes in the platform are delayed. Because most account holders are likely to be more interested in T. Rowe Price’s mutual funds, the delayed quotes are a nonissue. Mutual funds are only quoted once a day at market close.
There is no advanced order routing functionality available at T. Rowe Price. The company uses Pershing LLC (owned by BNY Mellon) to carry their brokerage accounts. Pershing accepts payment for order flow for stock and options orders, which means market makers and other institutional investors will pay Pershing to send orders to them. This creates a conflict of interest for Pershing who is required to find the best price for their customers while also seeking profits from market participants going to pay for those orders.
Setting up an account with T. Rowe Price is slow. Approval for a brokerage account, in order to trade individual stocks and options, takes a day or more. The web pages dedicated to account management, advisory relationships, and brokerages are disconnected from each other do not have a uniform appearance or structure.
Order tickets for stocks and option trades require some patience to find. Navigating from one part of T. Rowe Price’s website to another is challenging because the menus change. Oddly, even the interface for buying mutual funds changes in appearance depending on where you are in the site. For example, there is an “add to shopping cart” feature for buying mutual funds during the account setup process while most of the rest of the site uses some form of “buy” and “sell” buttons.
Mobile and Emerging Tech
The T. Rowe Price mobile experience is broken up across two mobile applications and a mobile site. One of the T. Rowe Price apps is dedicated to research and analysis, which is targeted to institutional advisors, and is easy to use because it includes very limited functionality.
Watchlist and portfolio holdings are consistent between the T. Rowe Price website, the mobile website, and the account management app. The mobile apps do not include charting or other research tools.
Range of Offerings
As mentioned previously, T. Rowe Price’s focus is on wealth management and mutual funds. Therefore, there is a very wide selection of no transaction fee mutual funds and ETFs to choose from. Investors can also utilize a hybrid robo‑advisor that will construct a portfolio based on survey responses and can be used in conjunction with a human advisor.
Although T. Rowe Price account holders have the ability to trade stocks, options, and ETFs, there is no access to futures, Forex, or crypto trading. Investors can also trade bonds, including corporate and municipal bonds. Depending on the fixed income instrument, T. Rowe Price’s charges a markup and/or commission. Investors can only trade foreign stocks if they have an equivalent available on US OTC exchanges.
News and Research
Investors can find rudimentary stock screeners and charting features on the T. Rowe Price website. It is surprising that the mutual fund screeners aren’t more feature packed. An investor with some experience should be able to find the funds they are looking for, but for the most part, the “screening tools” seemed to mostly focus on marketing T. Rowe Price’s funds.
The analysis and strategy guidance available from T. Rowe Price’s internal experts and advisors is extensive and very good. Investors who are actively engaged in the market will find current market commentary and research that is well above average. Although much of the content includes marketing for T. Rowe Price’s wealth management and mutual funds, investors can easily adapt the strategic ideas to other investment instruments if they wish.
Portfolio Analysis and Reports
Because T. Rowe Price focuses on wealth management, their portfolio analysis tools are good at evaluating asset allocation and long‑term planning. Portfolio holdings and account history pages are easy to find and include real‑time balances. There are several calculators that can be used to plan for retirement or other investment goals.
The tax accounting features at T. Rowe Price are acceptable because it was easy to download account activity and related tax forms. However, very active traders will not find the kinds of tax features that would make their end of year reporting easier.
Customer Service and Online Help
T. Rowe Price offers phone support for brokerage and mutual fund customers from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern standard Time. In our tests, the response rate is very fast, but the initial customer service representative is almost always inexperienced and low‑level. However, our bad first impression of the first line of customer service representatives could be due to our focus on trading and functionality questions rather than mutual funds and wealth management, where the representatives were much more knowledgeable.
There are also extensive FAQs and help files scattered throughout T. Rowe Price’s website. However, some investors will become frustrated finding those files and sorting through the extensive footnotes at the bottom of many of those pages. Other than telephone support and FAQs, investors can also get help by email or written correspondence.
Education and Security
Like most companies in the wealth management business, T. Rowe Price does not have a lot of educational resources available. There are help pages for some of the brokerage’s features and a few articles in the “advice and planning” sections of the website about investing basics. Limited educational offerings makes sense in T. Rowe Price’s business where investors are more interested in professional advice than a “do it yourself” model.
There is a very large selection of market commentary and analysis available from internal experts and advisors, much of which, is easy to understand and could be considered educational for nonprofessionals. From a security standpoint, T. Rowe Price has recently improved by offering two‑factor authentication.
The commission structure at T. Rowe Price varies depending on what you are trading and what kind of account you have. For example, stock and ETF trading can cost $9.95 for accounts that trade more than 30 times a year or $19.95 for accounts that are less active or not included in the T. Rowe Price select client services program. There are no commissions for some ETFs included in the no transaction fee ETF program.
Depending on your account type, options trades are either $9.95 or $19.95 plus $1 per contract. Although there is no charge for buying no transaction fee (NTF) mutual funds, T. Rowe Price’s will charge a short‑term trading fee of $50‑$250 if you hold the position for less than six months. Overall, we found the trading costs at T. Rowe Price to be well above average. Similarly, margin rates are set a certain amount above the “Pershing base lending rate”, which is on the high‑end of average.
What You Need to Know
T. Rowe Price is not a platform for active traders or investors. However, it should have been clear through this review that the active stock, options, and futures trader is not T. Rowe Price’s target customer. However, even for investors looking for wealth management services and mutual funds, we found T. Rowe Price to be more expensive than average without many offsetting advantages.
Investors who are specifically interested in mutual funds from T. Rowe Price, have an account larger than $250,000, and need help planning for retirement or other life events will likely have the best customer experience and lowest costs. Investors who place a lot of value on original research, market commentary, and recommendations may also find some things to love about a T. Rowe Price account.
Compare T. Rowe Price
T. Rowe Price can be a great option for those interested in full-service wealth management. See how they compare against other online brokers we reviewed.
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