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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 ( - 800-872-0711)
Cost: $14.95 up to 1000 shares
Rankings: Gomez - 14th, Kip - 2nd, SM - 1st
Real time quotes: unlimited
SM's Web Reliability Score - 1st
Annual IRA Fee - $30, Close IRA - $50
Customer 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 ( - 800-934-4410)
Cost: $12.00
Rankings: Gomez - 10th, Kip - 8th, SM - 2nd
Real time quotes: unlimited
SM's Reliability score - 12th
Customer 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 (
Cost: $14.95
Rankings: Gomez - 13th, SM - 3rd
SM's web reliability score - 14th
No 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 ( - 800-547-6337)
Cost - $12.00
Rankings: Gomez - 16th, SM - 4th
Real time quotes - 100 initial, additional 100 for each trade
SM reliability score - 8th
$25 annual IRA fee
Customer Service Rankings: Gomez - 14th, SM - 4th. Personal - good, I spoke with someone after a minimum wait.

NDB ( - 88-302-7764)
Cost: $14,75
Rankings: Gomez - 4th, SM - 6th, Kip - 19th
Real time quotes - unlimited
SM Reliability score - 5th
$35 IRA fee if under $10k, $85 IRA closing fee
Customer Service Rankings: Kip - 1 star, SM - 5th, Gomez - 5th. Personal: Good, minimum wait to talk to live person, very knowledgable

Ameritrade ( - 800-454-9272)
Cost: $8
Rankings: SM - 9th, Kip - 9th
Real time quotes - 100 for opening, 100 per trade
SM Web Reliability Score - 9th
$25 close IRA fee
Customer 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 ( - 800-786-2575)
Cost: $14.95
Rankings: Gomez - 1st, Kip - 15th, SM - 17th
Real time quote - unlimited
SM Web reliability ranking - 20th
Customer service rankings: Kip - 1 star, SM - 20th, Gomez - 9th. Personal: Poor, automated voice mail hell, never got a live person.

Brown & Co. ( - 800-822-2021)
Cost: $5
Rankings: Kip - 6th, SM 18th
Real time quotes: 100 for opening, 100 for each trade
SM Web Reliability ranking: 1st (tied with Seibert)
$15,000 minimum to open account
Customer service ranking: Kip - 4 stars, SM 11th. Personal: Very Good - spoke with someone almost immeidately, very knowledgable.

Scottrade ( - 800-619-7283)
Cost: $7
Rankings: Kip - 17th, SM - 19th
Real time quotes: 100 for opening, 100 for each trade
SM Web reliability ranking - 16th
$60 fee to close IRA, $25 to transfer
Customer Service Rankings: Kip - 3 stars, SM - 6th, Gomez - 6th. Personal: Very Good - live person answered the phone.

Datek ( - 800-823-2835)
Cost: $9.99
Rankings: Kip - 7th, Gomez - 9th, SM - 21st
Real time quotes: unlimited
SM 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 - (, 800-470-1896)
Cost: $14.95
Rankings - Kip 3rd
Real time quotes - 100 for opening, 100 for each trade
$40 IRA fee if under $10k
Complete new website planned for early 2000
Customer Service ranking: Kip - 5 stars. Personal: Good, short wait, friendly staff

My Discount Broker ( - 888-882-5600)
Cost: $12
Rankings: Gomez - 8th, Kip - 4th
Real time quotes: unlimited
$25 close IRA fee
Customer 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 ( - 888-WATLEY)
Cost: $9.95
Rankings: Gomez - 7th, Kip - 10th
Real time quotes - unlimited
$30 annual IRA fee, $50 close IRA fee, $25 transfer fee
Customer Service rankings: Gomez - 10th, Kip - 2 stars. Personal: rang into automated attendant, but was picked up after a short wait.

WebStreet Securities (, 800-932-8723)
Cost: $14,95
Rankings: Gomez - 15th, Kip - 12th
Real time quote - unlimited
$50 close IRA fee
Customer 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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