Best International Brokerage Account
Led by Len Zacks, the same founder of the famous Zacks Investment Research, Zacks Trade is an online discount broker that provides a wide range of financial products plus access to global exchanges. In this 2020 Zacks Trade review we’re going to take an in-depth look under the hood and see how the brokerage firm stacks up against its competition.
ZacksTrade Pricing and Minimum Deposit
|Stocks and ETFs||$0.01 per share with $1 minimum|
|Stocks and ETFs (less than $1 per share)||1% of trade value with $1 minimum|
|Options||$1 for first contract + $0.75 per additional|
|Options exercise/assignment fee||free|
|Corporate and municipal bonds||0.1% * face value + $3 per bond if <= $10,000 face value; 0.025% * face value + $3 per bond if > $10,000 face value|
|Treasuries (bills, notes, bonds)||0.025% * face value + $3 per bond if <= $1,000,000 face value; 0.005% * face value + $3 per bond if > $1,000,000 face value|
|Investments||stocks, options, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds|
|ZacksTrade minimum deposit to open account||$2,500|
We contacted ZacksTrade to find out how many mutual funds the broker-dealer offers its clients. We couldn’t get an exact number. We were told they offer around 50-75 fund families. This is a very good figure, and it includes Fidelity and Vanguard. On the downside, every fund has a transaction fee at Zacks. The charge is $27.50. There is no surcharge for broker-assisted mutual fund trades, a very rare service in the industry.
ETF traders will be glad to know that ZacksTrade offers all exchange-traded funds in the US investment space. As we’ll see in another section, the brokerage firm also offers many foreign ETF’s. We weren’t able to find a lot of ETF resources, such as educational materials; Zacks customers do get free ETF research from Alta Vista and ETFguide. The broker’s desktop platform does offer a few ETF tools.
ZacksTrade Commissions, Fees, and Account Requirements
The broker starts off this section with zero account fees. There is no annual fee or any charge for a low balance or inactivity. The broker-dealer does require a $2,500 deposit to open a securities account.
Equity transactions cost 1¢ per share with a $1 minimum. The stock or ETF price must be at least $1 to qualify for this rate. Penny stocks cost 1% of trade value with the same $1 minimum. Amazingly, there is no additional charge for using a live broker to submit an order.
For options, ZacksTrade charges $1 for the first contract and 75¢ for each additional derivative. A great feature we really liked about ZacksTrade is that the broker charges absolutely nothing for option exercises and assignments.
Bonds are available at Zacks, and they cost 0.1% of face value plus $3 per individual bond. After reaching $10,000 of face value, the rate goes down to 0.025%. These prices are for corporate debt. U.S. Treasuries cost 0.025% of face value for the first million dollars; after reaching that level, the price drops to 0.005%. The same $3 per-bond charge is applied.
As already mentioned, ZacksTrade offers access to international markets. Trades can be placed on a range of national exchanges. For example, Canadian stocks cost $0.02 CAD per share with a $4.50 CAD minimum. Canadian penny stocks can be traded at 1% of trade value.
British stocks are 0.3% of trade value with a £12 minimum per order. Stocks on EU exchanges have the same pricing except that instead of pounds, you’ll be looking at euros.
Moving to Asia, the same 0.3% price remains. In Hong Kong, the minimum commission is $120 HKD; in Japan it is ¥1200; in Australia it’s $16 AUD; and in Singapore it is $20 SGD.
ZacksTrade doesn’t charge a dime for its software. However, the broker does charge for data, and we found the prices to be rather steep. For example, U.S. stock and futures data cost $10 per month. This charge will be waived if you trade at least $30 in commission per month. Data from NYSE and Nasdaq costs anywhere from $1 per month up to $25, depending on the specific package you need. Bond data is free. Data on foreign exchanges also comes with fees. Professional traders face steep prices on both domestic and foreign exchanges.
Sticking with its budget model, ZacksTrade has very low margin rates. At the high end of the scale, the APR is 3.55%, and at this rate, you can borrow up to $100,000. The rate goes down from there, reaching a bottom at 2.75%, although you have to borrow at least $3,000,000 to reach that point.
In exchange for its low fees, ZacksTrade has one obnoxious charge: every ACH after one in the month costs $1. Making a withdrawal by paper check or wire won’t circumvent the charge because these actions carry fees, too ($4 and $10).
Open ZacksTrade Account
Now we come to ZacksTrade’s software. Newly updated Client Portal now allows for simple trades.
When we opened ZacksTrade Pro, the company’s desktop platform, the first thing we noticed is that it has the same interface as Interactive Brokers’ platform Trader Workstation. In the upper-left sits the order ticket. Here, there is a variety of inputs, such as time-in-force, order type, and quantity. These all can be adjusted. The advanced tab allows for order routing.
In the upper-right of the trading ticket is a drop-down menu that presents more choices. One of these is Market Depth, which is pretty similar to Level II quotes. It presents bid and ask prices along with their sizes.
Another selection in this menu is option chains. Choosing this produces a discrete window where derivatives are shown along with a strategy builder at the bottom of the window. Clicking on a bid or ask price on a particular contract will send the security down to the strategy builder at the bottom. A small payoff chart shows the maximum profit and loss. The option order can then be submitted using many order types.
Underneath the order ticket appears a small chart. This can be expanded full screen for better analysis. Once we blew it up, we noticed two icons. These increase and decrease the width of the price candlesticks, a nice feature not found on most platforms.
A variety of technical indicators and drawing tools can be added to a chart. These include lines, arrows, volume oscillator, and Fibonacci tools. A crosshair can be turned on or off, and commentary can be added to a chart.
On the right-hand side of the desktop trading environment is a selection of US movers. Stocks are sorted by largest gainers and losers, which are coded in red and green. Below this section sits a list of Zacks reports, a nice benefit that’s free of charge.
For busy traders, ZacksTrade offers a mobile platform. The phone and tablet app has this annoying name—Handy Trader. The phone platform offers direct access routing, one of the few mobile platforms to do so. It also comes with charting. Quotes are delayed, live streaming quotes come with a fee. Besides options and equities, bonds and mutual funds can also be traded.
Price alerts can be set up; these come with e-mail notification. Watchlists are integrated. If the phone rings while using the app, you can answer the call, and then go back to the app without having to log back in.
TabletTrader has the same features as the phone platform, but with more room. There is also an app for Apple Watch.
Investment Education and Stock Research
The brokerage firm has a few resources for its trading platforms. It also has materials from a wide variety of investment companies. These of course include Zacks Investment Research. Other sources of information include Briefing.com, AcessWire, 24/7 Wall Street, Interactive Brokers, Morningstar, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, TipRanks, Thomson Reuters, and the Motley Fool. What we really liked about this list is that they are all free even for professional traders. There are some premium news services, such as Dow Jones, that do come with monthly fees.
On the desktop platform, there is a stock screener. It is not very user friendly and doesn’t have a lot of search criteria that can be implemented. We were much more impressed with the fixed-income screener, which has many search variables. Other useful tools include a market scanner, short interest data, and a dividend calendar. One research feature we really liked on the desktop platform was free Zacks reports. Bloomberg TV is also available.
International Brokerage Accounts
ZacksTrade offers a brokerage account to investors who aren’t permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. and don’t have a Social Security number or tax ID number. Residents of some countries are not eligible: Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan.