Most retail investors – everyday consumers who contribute a few bucks per paycheck into employer-sponsored retirement plans and pad modest IRA balances when they can – don’t love investing. They invest because they have to, and they’re willing to outsource the legwork to financial advisors or semi-automated robo-advisor platforms.
Other investors are different. Some love hand-selecting every stock or bond they buy, poring over regulatory filings and analyst reports before settling on a decision. Some even use broker-assisted trades.
Others enjoy the thrill of calling a near-term bottom, loading up, and cashing in at the top. These investors and traders can tolerate far more risk than the typical retail investor. They expect big things from the market, and they demand an online broker trading platform that can keep up.
Zacks Trade is one such trading platform. It’s not the best-known discount online broker out there, nor the most user-friendly. And it lacks the sort of broad-based appeal that big-name platforms command.
But for serious traders and investors who’ve tried big-name discount brokers like Charles Schwab and found them lacking, Zacks Trade is a cut above. Indeed, the platform space with platforms like Interactive Brokers, the gold standard for serious traders. Here’s why.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from Zacks Trade.
Zacks Trade offers three main account types: traditional (taxable) brokerage accounts, traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs. Consult IRS guidance and your tax professional for information about IRA contribution limits, withdrawal restrictions, early withdrawal penalties, and other important things to know before opening a tax-advantaged retirement account.
Zacks Trade has three distinct platform options. All are included with membership and cost nothing extra to use.
- Zacks Trade Pro. Zacks Trade Pro is a powerful trading platform designed for active, sophisticated traders, including those who do day trading for a living. Unlike most modern online brokerage platforms, Zacks Trade Pro is not cloud-based – you need to download it to your primary computer’s hard drive, and it may not work behind a firewall. Otherwise, it’ll feel familiar, if inordinately feature-rich, to anyone versed in online equities trading. The endlessly customizable interface allows for as much or as little detail as you’d like, with visibility into your account and margin balances, filled and pending orders, market value, and other portfolio data at a glance. Use the alerts feature to set custom alerts based on share price, volume, margin, price, and time. Zacks Trade Pro provides direct access to 19 different national securities markets.
- Zacks Trader. Zacks Trader is a cleaner trading interface that incorporates many of the same powerful features as Zacks Trade Pro without the clutter and customization potential. It’s ideal for traders new to Zacks Trade and less-experienced traders in general. Because it’s browser-based, it’s ideal for use behind a firewall, though that’s not an endorsement for trading on the boss’s time.
- Client Portal. This is Zacks Trade’s account dashboard – the best place to get a high-level look at your entire account at a glance. Use it to access statements, tax documents, and account performance reports; to move money into or out of your Zacks Trade account; to update your account configuration or security settings; and to make simple trades with a few clicks. Because it lacks the robust real-time data and reporting capabilities of Zacks Trade Pro and Zacks Trader, you shouldn’t use Client Portal as your primary trading platform.
Zacks Trade also has handy smartphone- and tablet-friendly platforms that work on Android and iOS operating systems.
Available Investment Products and Trading Commissions
Zacks Trade offers competitive pricing on market-traded securities and bonds.
- Stocks, Options, and ETFs. Zacks Trade allows account holders to trade stocks in 19 different countries (covering about 90 distinct exchanges), plus hundreds of market-traded ETFs and options for thousands of publicly traded firms. On high-volume trades, U.S. stock and ETF trading commissions are generally on the low end of the discount brokerage range. On lower-volume trades, commissions are calculated as a percentage of total trade value, meaning small trades may incur outsize fees. Options trades are priced more reasonably relative to competing discount brokerages. For international equities trades, Zacks levies country-specific commissions that may exceed standard U.S. commissions, sometimes substantially. Non-dollar-denominated trades may incur flat currency conversion fees, as well.
- Mutual Funds. Zacks Trade has hundreds of mutual funds in its database. Relative to other discount brokerages, commissions are on the high side, but the difference isn’t egregious. Bear in mind that mutual fund trade orders placed during regular trading hours will settle after hours, so these instruments aren’t appropriate for short-term or high-frequency trading.
- Corporate Bonds. Zacks Trade offers access to investment-grade corporate bonds issued by hundreds of private corporations. There’s a low flat charge per bond purchase, plus a two-tiered percentage-based levy.
- Government Bonds. Zacks Trade account holders can buy and sell government-issued bonds, which may offer unique federal and state tax advantages. (Consult a tax professional for advice specific to your situation.) Government bond trades follow the corporate bonds’ pricing structure, but the percentage-based levy is even smaller.
Margin Trading and Rates
In a nod to speculative traders, Zacks Trade allows margin accounts – lines of credit against which account holders can borrow to fund trading activities rather than use their own funds. Margin trading is a high-risk, high-reward activity that’s appropriate only for sophisticated investors. Even more so than cash trading, margin trading carries a significant risk of principal loss.
Zacks Trade’s margin program has four pricing tiers, with interest charges falling as account size grows. The lowest tier (highest margin rates) covers accounts of up to $100,000. The highest (lowest margin rates) is reserved for accounts larger than $3 million.
Additional Fees and Minimums
Prospective Zacks Trade account holders should be aware of some other potential account fees and limitations.
For starters, the platform strongly recommends a $2,500 investment minimum. It’s possible to open and fund an account with less, but you won’t be able to trade on margin, and you may struggle to achieve your investing goals using Zacks Trade’s available features and tools.
Otherwise, Zacks Trade imposes a per-withdrawal fee after one complimentary withdrawal per month. The fee is higher for withdrawals made by paper check or wire transfer.
On the bright side, Zacks Trade waives fees for account activities or conditions for which other brokerages charge, including:
- Account inactivity
- Outgoing account transfers
- IRA custodianship
- Order cancellation
Zacks Trade makes a slew of powerful trading tools available to all account holders. The best place to learn about and utilize these tools is through your Zacks Trade Pro dashboard. Some highlights:
- Algos, algorithms that uncover unusual market patterns lesser-equipped traders might overlook (and that standard charting tools won’t catch)
- Basket Trader, a convenient way for high-volume traders to import and execute bulk trades
- Market Scanners, Zacks Trade’s proprietary stock screener software
- Labs covering advanced options strategies, options probability analysis, and market volatility analysis
- SpreadTrader, a framework for creating and placing complex spread orders quickly and accurately
- Rebalance Portfolio, an automated rebalancing tool that eliminates the need to place individual trades
Zacks Trade account holders enjoy complimentary access to about 20 market research subscriptions and 80 free trials, including top outlets like Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, and The Motley Fool. Bear in mind that “complementary” does not necessarily mean “free reign.” You may be required to pay for detailed reports or products from these services. And if you enroll in any free trials of premium products or services, you’re likely to be renewed as a paying customer when the trial ends unless you cancel ahead of time.
Zacks does have one powerful free research tool: its in-house shop, Zacks Investment Research. This Chicago-based outfit has been in business for more than 40 years and is renowned for producing insightful takes that too many market observers miss.
Global Market Access
Zacks Trade caters to U.S.-based investors and international traders alike. Those based outside the U.S. can access a single Zacks Trade platform from over 200 national markets, from Canada to Australia. Regardless of location, Zacks account holders can trade in about 90 markets in nearly 20 countries, though the platform’s customer service team is only available during extended North American business hours.
Here’s what Zacks Trade has going for it.
- Mostly Low Trading Commissions. By and large, Zacks Trade charges lower commissions than the competition. That’s excellent news for high-volume traders who’d like to pay as little as possible – and have the confidence to place and execute complex trades with minimal support. Bear in mind that commissions on non-U.S.-listed equities may be higher than those for U.S.-listed equities.
- Few Additional Account Fees. Zacks Trade’s non-commission fee schedule is reasonable. Other than excess withdrawal fees and currency conversion fees, you won’t encounter too many financial surprises here.
- Powerful Trading and Analytics Tools for Serious Investors. Zacks Trade account holders have access to a vast array of powerful trading and analytic tools, like watchlists and advanced market data, plus research insights from dozens of respected outlets and some niche shops too. That’s great for investors with the confidence and know-how to interpret professional-grade research reports. Having such broad-based access under the same digital roof sure is also nice.
- Three Trading Platforms to Choose From. Zacks Trade has three distinct trading platforms: Zacks Trade Pro, Zacks Trader, and Client Dashboard. The last isn’t really appropriate for complex trades, but it’s great for account management purposes. Between them, Zacks Trade Pro and Zacks Trader support pretty much any use case. Zacks Trader really comes in handy for on-the-go and behind-the-firewall trading.
- Truly Global Market Access. Zacks Trade is available to investors in over 200 countries around the world, all of whom have access to about 90 different exchanges in roughly 20 countries. It’s hard to do better in a single, consumer-facing trading platform.
Consider these drawbacks before committing to Zacks Trade.
- Caters to Sophisticated, Hands-On Traders. Zacks Trade is built for sophisticated, active traders who value access to vast quantities of research and powerful trading tools over hands-off convenience and ease of use. That’s not a knock on Zacks Trade – the platform knows its market – but it’s important for inexperienced investors intrigued by Zacks Trades’ low commissions to understand pricing isn’t everything. Low-cost platforms like Schwab are nearly as affordable and far more beginner-friendly.
- Relatively High Mutual Fund Commissions. The only exception to Zacks Trade’s generally low-cost commissions regime is its mutual funds vertical, where commissions are a bit higher than average for a discount brokerage. That’s in keeping with Zacks Trade’s focus on active traders, for whom mutual funds may be an afterthought.
- Zacks Trade Pro May Not Work Behind a Firewall. Zacks Trade Pro is a desktop program that may not work behind a corporate firewall. That’s bad news for prospective clients expecting to access the full power of Zacks Trade from a work computer. Zacks Trader stands in just fine for quick trades, but it’s not quite the same.
- Recommended Investing Minimum May Rule Out First-Timers. While it’s possible to open and fund an account with less, Zacks Trade strongly recommends bringing at least $2,500 to the table. This recommended minimum account balance may be too steep for novice investors.
- No Futures, Commodities, or Forex Trading. Zacks Trade doesn’t offer trading in futures, commodities, or forex (other than for currency exchange purposes). If you’re looking to make a market in any of those areas, whether by placing day trades or longer-term orders, you’re better off with another trading platform.
Unlike some better-known discount brokerages, Zacks Trade does not try to be all things to all investors. From top to bottom, this platform is built for serious, active investors who love diving deep into SEC filings and poring through book-length research reports. If you love the thrill that accompanies a winning trade, you’ll find your Zen place here at Zacks Trade.
And if you’re not a born day trader? You’re fortunate to have a bevy of other low-cost online brokerage options. Your hands-off, user-friendly match is out there.
That’s not to say you should write off Zacks Trade today and never look back. Like discount brokerage solutions, people can change. If you should find yourself seduced at some future date by the thrill of market execution, you’ll know where to find it.