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Ally Invest, the brokerage arm of Ally Financial, was founded pretty recently in 2005. However, Ally Financial has a much longer history. It was founded in 1919 and was originally called GMAC.
Today, Ally Financial is a leading financial services company that provides home loans, auto financing, banking and investing services to more than 1.9 million customers. It’s an online-only bank, so it doesn’t have any physical branches you can visit, but it’s headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.
Because Ally Invest doesn’t maintain physical branches, it can offer a very competitive fee structure, which makes it a good choice for price-conscious traders. This broker is also great for new investors because it has a huge library of educational resources and an intuitive, easy-to-use trading platform.
Ally Invest at a glance
|Broker||Account Minimum||Stocks and ETFs (per trade)||Bonds||Mutual Funds||Key Benefits|
|Ally Invest||$0||$0||$1 per bond, $10 minimum||$9.95||No account minimum and low fees|
What we like about Ally Invest
One of the things we appreciate about Ally Invest is that it offers low fees across the board. Stock and ETF trades are completely free, and bonds have a low mark-up of one dollar each. Options trades are equally reasonable and cost just $0.50 per contract.
In addition to low fees, Ally offers accounts with no minimums so you can start investing with very little cash. When you open up a new account, Ally will even give you a bonus of up to $3,500, depending on how much you deposit.
Ally also has an easy-to-use online trading platform and range of investing tools. You’ll have access to free streaming charts, watch lists, probability calculators, market data and options tools that will help you make the best trading decisions.
Another perk of going with Ally is that it offers forex (foreign exchange) trading. If you’ve never traded forex before, the company has resources to help you get started, including free practice accounts and educational content.
Things to consider
Unfortunately, Ally doesn’t offer any mutual funds without transaction fees, so you’ll have to pay $9.95 every time you place a trade. Although the fee is reasonable compared to what other brokers charge, it does add up. So if you don’t want fees cutting into your profits, you should consider other low-cost brokers that offer fee-free mutual funds, like E*TRADE and Merrill Edge.
Another thing worth noting is that Ally Invest doesn’t have any physical branches. If getting face-to-face customer service is important to you, then you may want to go with another broker that has branches throughout the country, such as Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.
Stock and ETF trading
Ally doesn’t charge any commissions or fees on stock or ETF trades. The company also offers a wide range of ETFs to help you diversify your portfolio. You’ll find ETFs from market leaders like Vanguard, WisdomTree and iShares on the online trading platform.
To help you sort through all of your options, Ally has created both ETF and stock screeners. The tools have detailed search criteria to help you narrow down the stocks and ETFs that will help you meet your financial goals.
If you’re interested in buying bonds, Ally is a great place to do it. The company offers super-low fees for bonds. Each bond is only marked up $1, and there’s a low $10 minimum.
In addition to low fees, Ally has resources and tools to help you hone your bond investment strategy. The ladder-building tool, for example, will teach you how to stagger bonds with different maturity dates to create a steady stream of income and minimize risk.
Options and futures trading
Ally offers options trading for just $0.50 per contract, which is lower than most major brokerages. It also has a pretty impressive suite of options trading tools. It has a strategy scanner that chooses options strategies for you and a pricing calculator that allows you to forecast theoretical values and compare them to current prices.
Ally discontinued futures trading but still allows you to trade forex, which almost makes up for it. The forex trading platform has features that active traders will love, including customizable layouts, automated trading tools and advanced charts that allow you to overlay technical indicators and even place trades.
Ally Invest has a completely web-based trading platform, which means you can access it on multiple devices without downloading anything. No matter what device you use it on, you’ll have access to all of the platform’s features, including advanced charting tools, a customizable dashboard and a bulk order function that allows you to place several trades at once. Overall, the platform is responsive and easy to use, so it gets high marks.
Although you can use the online trading platform on any device, Ally created a separate mobile app just for phones and tablets. It’s a simplified version of the online platform, but it still has all the features you need to make informed trading decisions, including watch lists, stock charts and research. If you bank with Ally, you’ll also be able to access your bank account from the app, which is pretty convenient.
The only drawback of the app is that it’s a little too basic. Some investors like to see more of the bells and whistles that other brokers offer on their apps, such as after-hours trading and real-time market data updates.
Research and resources
Ally Invest has plenty of research offerings and tools to guide your trading decisions. It offers two different stock screeners — one to help you choose stocks and another to test your investing strategy before you risk any real money. In addition to stock screeners, Ally has ETF and mutual fund screeners with detailed search criteria to help you choose the best ones for you. You’ll also have access to research from CFRA, one of the largest investment research firms, and real-time quotes and news from Benzinga.
If you’re a new investor and you need a little more guidance, Ally has educational resources to get you up to speed. The company has a personal finance and investing blog that’s updated regularly and a YouTube channel full of helpful videos.
The bottom line
Ally Invest has a simple, intuitive trading platform and very low fees, which makes it a good choice for new investors and anyone concerned about price. Overall, it’s one of the best discount brokerages, and is highly recommended. However, if you want in-person service or mutual funds trading without fees, you’ll need to look elsewhere.