TradingBlock is one of four brokerage offerings managed by the parent company, AOS, Inc. This version is aimed at retail investors and traders; their other offerings are for registered investment advisors, professional traders, and futures traders. The parent company brought on a new investor group in late 2018, and plan to deliver new mobile and web-based brokerage solutions over the next year. Their website is aimed at engaged stock investors and novice to intermediate level options traders. Customers can also use third-party direct access platforms including Sterling Trader Pro, Silexx, RealTick, LiquidPoint Blaze and others. We reviewed the web platform, which was developed in-house and connects to several third-party research and analysis tools.

Pros

  • Simple web platform with tools aimed at finding options trades and managing risk

  • Automated trade execution service is available for subscribers of participating newsletter publishers

  • Relatively low margin rates

Cons

  • The toolset has not been significantly upgraded in several years, and webinars and other education offerings date from 2016

  • Many of the tools run in Adobe Flash, which is being phased out by some browsers

  • No mobile app that we could find

Trading Experience

3.2

The website has a simple layout and is easy to navigate. You can generate a closing order for any of your open positions quickly. It has few customization options. The third-party software applications that can run on TradingBlock are much more customizable, and also offer the ability to select a venue for your order.

Trading Technology

3.6

You can opt for streaming real-time quotes, though they are only available from three exchanges. There is not much effort to seek out price improvement, though market orders are executed quickly.

Usability

3.7

The site is simple; moving from place to place involves clicking on a task center and then choosing the task. We would like to see more customization options on the website.

Mobile and Emerging Tech

2.8

Though the firm reports that it now offers a mobile app for the first time, we could not find it in the iOS App Store or in Google Play. There is a mobile app for clients of TradingBlock Futures, which requires a separate account.

Range of Offerings

3.9

You can trade multi-leg options and a wide array of mutual funds online. Trading futures and futures options require an account with TradingBlock Futures. Though the firm says they allow customers to place fixed income trades, we could not find any way to make those transactions on the website.

News and Research

2.7

Most of the research capabilities are focused on locating options strategies or portfolio hedging ideas. The charting capabilities include technical overlays. There is a stock and ETF screener that can be customized. Tradespoon’s analytics power the Probability Calculator for options trades.

Portfolio Analysis and Reports

2.1

Portfolio analysis is minimal and has no customization options. Margin requirements are updated in real time, as are balances and portfolio value.

Customer Service and Help

4.2

The online help is easily accessed and includes FACs – frequently addressed conundrums – rather than FAQs. There is some context-sensitive help on a few pages, including charting. Phones are answered fairly quickly. TradingBlock offers a stock loan program and portfolio margining.

Education

2.5

The list of webinars has not been updated since 2016. There is some basic trading education, but most of the content is provided by third parties. Part of the rating for this section includes security considerations, which TradingBlock fulfills.

Costs

2.7

Trading Block’s standard commissions are $0.001 per share with a $5 minimum. Options trades incur a single $5 base fee, regardless of the number of legs traded, plus $0.50 per contract. Margin fees are below average. Accounts with no activity in the prior 12 months are assessed a $30 inactivity fee. The firm charges $2-$5 for paper statements and confirmations.

What You Need to Know

TradingBlock, when it rolled out in its current incarnation a few years ago, looked like it would be a brokerage to watch. The easy-to-use tools for managing risk built into the platform are a good start, but little has been done in several years. We are hoping that the new investor group sparks new development and additional educational resources. It’s difficult to recommend a broker that still does not have a mobile app that is listed in an app store.

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Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.

In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.

Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.