I had a little extra time today, so I decided to start looking into alternate on-line brokers, since Discover/MSDW has decided to up their price. This will be a long post, so be forewarned. By the way, Discover will charge $50 bucks to transfer your IRA account, if that's what you have (as I do).I went to the Kiplinger, Smart Money and Gomez on-line sites. Each of these sites have recent ratings of on-line brokers. I complied all the brokers listed in each of their top 20, weeded out the duplicates, and then took out any broker whose basic on-line trades cost over $15. That left 17 brokers (I ended up weeding out a couple more, which I'll explain later)I created an excel spreadsheet into which I inserted and compared information which was of interest to me about each broker. Included in this was cost, minimum requirements, after hours trading, IRA fees, etc. I then called each broker's toll free number to try and determine their level of customer service (which I realize can vary greatly from being a prospect to a customer), plus ask additional questions.It was an intersting and fun (somewhat) exercise. One thing I did find is that there tends to be a lot of disparity between the rankings (Gomez ranks Seibert 19th in customer service while Smart Money has them first).Below I've given a synopsis on what I found (in no particular order). Please use as a guide at your discretion. I didn't include any information on the broker's web site, as I think that has a lot to do with personal taste, and everyone should pull it up and check it out before making a decision anyway. Also, I know there is a lot of complaints on this board about many of the brokers listed (especially Datek). This post does not include any information from those sources - it is strictly from the three sites mentioned, the broker's website, and my speaking with a broker representative.Good luck on everyone's search.Ken (Lynch-I'm-Leaving-Discover)Note: Kiplinger's star ratings are out of five, so 1 would mean a 1 out of 5.Seibert (seibertnet.com - 800-872-0711)Cost: $14.95 up to 1000 sharesRankings: Gomez - 14th, Kip - 2nd, SM - 1stReal time quotes: unlimitedSM's Web Reliability Score - 1stAnnual IRA Fee - $30, Close IRA - $50Customer Service Rating: Kip 5 stars, SM - 1st, Gomez - 19th. Personal - very good, a live person answered the phone, and could answer all my questions.Waterhouse (waterhouse.com - 800-934-4410)Cost: $12.00Rankings: Gomez - 10th, Kip - 8th, SM - 2ndReal time quotes: unlimitedSM's Reliability score - 12thCustomer Service Rating: Kip - 1 star, SM - 14th, Gomez - 1st. Personal - very poor, couldn't get a live person without an account number.Quick and Reilly (quickandreilly.com)Cost: $14.95Rankings: Gomez - 13th, SM - 3rdSM's web reliability score - 14thNo more informaation. How this company got SM #3 ranking I can't figure out. I had a hard time getting information and never was able to get anyone on the phone. Plus the webiste stinks (my only comment on a website)Bidwell (bidwell.com - 800-547-6337)Cost - $12.00Rankings: Gomez - 16th, SM - 4thReal time quotes - 100 initial, additional 100 for each tradeSM reliability score - 8th$25 annual IRA feeCustomer Service Rankings: Gomez - 14th, SM - 4th. Personal - good, I spoke with someone after a minimum wait.NDB (ndb.com - 88-302-7764)Cost: $14,75Rankings: Gomez - 4th, SM - 6th, Kip - 19thReal time quotes - unlimitedSM Reliability score - 5th$35 IRA fee if under $10k, $85 IRA closing feeCustomer Service Rankings: Kip - 1 star, SM - 5th, Gomez - 5th. Personal: Good, minimum wait to talk to live person, very knowledgableAmeritrade (ameritrade.com - 800-454-9272)Cost: $8Rankings: SM - 9th, Kip - 9thReal time quotes - 100 for opening, 100 per tradeSM Web Reliability Score - 9th$25 close IRA feeCustomer service rankings: Kip - 4 stars, SM - 13th, Gomez - 11th. Personal: Good - Live person answered phone, but had to put me on hold several times to check answers to my questions.E-Trade (etrade.com - 800-786-2575)Cost: $14.95Rankings: Gomez - 1st, Kip - 15th, SM - 17thReal time quote - unlimitedSM Web reliability ranking - 20thCustomer service rankings: Kip - 1 star, SM - 20th, Gomez - 9th. Personal: Poor, automated voice mail hell, never got a live person.Brown & Co. (brownco.com - 800-822-2021)Cost: $5Rankings: Kip - 6th, SM 18thReal time quotes: 100 for opening, 100 for each tradeSM Web Reliability ranking: 1st (tied with Seibert)$15,000 minimum to open accountCustomer service ranking: Kip - 4 stars, SM 11th. Personal: Very Good - spoke with someone almost immeidately, very knowledgable.Scottrade (scottrade.com - 800-619-7283)Cost: $7Rankings: Kip - 17th, SM - 19thReal time quotes: 100 for opening, 100 for each tradeSM Web reliability ranking - 16th$60 fee to close IRA, $25 to transferCustomer Service Rankings: Kip - 3 stars, SM - 6th, Gomez - 6th. Personal: Very Good - live person answered the phone.Datek (datek.com - 800-823-2835)Cost: $9.99Rankings: Kip - 7th, Gomez - 9th, SM - 21stReal time quotes: unlimitedSM Web reliability score - 21st (lowest ranking)Customer service ranking: Kip - 3 stars, SM - 8th, Gomez - 12th. Personal - Good, was able to speak with a live person after a small wait.Mr Stock - (mrstock.com, 800-470-1896)Cost: $14.95Rankings - Kip 3rdReal time quotes - 100 for opening, 100 for each trade$40 IRA fee if under $10kComplete new website planned for early 2000Customer Service ranking: Kip - 5 stars. Personal: Good, short wait, friendly staffMy Discount Broker (mydiscountbroker.com - 888-882-5600)Cost: $12Rankings: Gomez - 8th, Kip - 4thReal time quotes: unlimited$25 close IRA feeCustomer service ranking: Kip - 4 stars. Personal - very good, the best of the brokers I called. Live person answered the phone, could anwer all my questsion, was familiar with the latest rankings of brokers, even offered additional information and resources.AB Watley (abwatley.com - 888-WATLEY)Cost: $9.95Rankings: Gomez - 7th, Kip - 10thReal time quotes - unlimited$30 annual IRA fee, $50 close IRA fee, $25 transfer feeCustomer Service rankings: Gomez - 10th, Kip - 2 stars. Personal: rang into automated attendant, but was picked up after a short wait.WebStreet Securities (webstreet.com, 800-932-8723)Cost: $14,95Rankings: Gomez - 15th, Kip - 12thReal time quote - unlimited$50 close IRA feeCustomer service ranking - Kip - 2 stars. Personal - OK, rang to automated attendant, brief wait for live person.Firsttrade and Suretrade were originally part of the list, but I had difficulty getting information off their website and could not locate a toll free number, so I ended up dropping them from my study.
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