Ally Invest Review – Affordable Online Stock Trading Platform

If you’ve been thinking about moving your investments to a new broker, Ally Invest needs to be on your shortlist. Part of the Ally Bank family, it’s one of the top investment brokerages available, especially when you look at all the services they have for just about every area of your financial life.

About Ally Invest

Ally Bank, one of the most popular online banks offering some of the highest interest on savings anywhere, purchased TradeKing in 2016. The investment brokerage was renamed Ally Invest, retaining much of what’s good about TradeKing, while putting Ally Bank’s own winning spin on the new entity.

Ally Invest serves 250,000 customer accounts, with $4.7 billion in assets under management. Ally Bank has $70 billion in customer deposits, and is also one of the most important auto lenders in the country, serving more than 4 million customers. Ally Invest offers both self-directed investing and managed accounts.

On the self-directed side, they offer the full range of investment options, with one of the lowest commission fee structures in the industry.

Ally Invest Self-Directed Investing

Here’s a drill-down of what they have to offer self-directed investors.

Account types available: IRA accounts and joint taxable accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs; custodial and Coverdell accounts, and certain business accounts.

Investments offered: Stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), FOREX and futures. Checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts available through Ally Bank (see “Ally Bank” section below).

Minimum initial investment: None(!)

Trading fees: There’s no annual fee, inactivity fee or IRA fees. Trading fees are as follows:

  • Stocks and ETFs: $0
  • Mutual funds: $9.95 per trade on no-load funds only (No fee applies on load funds)
  • Options: $0 per trade + $0.50 per contract
  • Bonds: $1 per bond, subject to a $10 minimum/$250 maximum
  • US Treasuries: no charge

There are no commissions for Forex trade; Ally Invest earns revenue based on the buy/sell spread.

Customer service: Available 24/7 by phone, email, and live chat.

Account protection: Coverage through the Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) for the $500,000 in cash and securities, including $250,000 in cash. This is protection against broker failure, not against market losses. Additional coverage is available for up to $37.5 million, including $900,000 in cash. However, Forex and futures accounts are not covered by this insurance.

Mobile app: iOS and Android.

Checking and debit card access: Apex Capital is the clearing agent for Ally Invest. Checking and debit card access to your account through Apex is offered. Annual fees are $20 for checking and $35 for the debit card.

Ally Invest Self-Directed Investing Trading Tools

Ally Invest has one of the most comprehensive panels of trading tools. This is particularly true when it comes to options trading, not the least of which because it was a strong suit for TradeKing.

But it seems whatever TradeKing offered, Ally Invest improved on it, and added to the menu. Some of the trading tools offered by Ally Invest include:

Streaming Charts

Ally Invest provides six chart types, with more than 90 chart studies and drawing tools. These will help you analyze the performance of stocks, ETF’s and indices. You can also customize settings and utilize interactive charts for prices and studies.

Watchlists

Use this tool to follow groups of securities, tracking their market data.

Research and Market Data

You can get quotes, charts, high/low prices, dividend dates, news, historical quotes, and peer performance comparisons.

Probability Calculator

With this tool, you can use implied volatility to help you determine the likelihood of hitting your targets before making an investment.

Profit/Loss Graph

This tool will help you to get a complete understanding of an option trade’s profit and loss potential. You can review outcomes based on fluctuations in volatility and time.

Options Chains

Easily place options trades, even complex multi-leg spreads.

Ally Invest Forex and Futures

This investment option is less popular than individual securities or managed options. But the Forex is actually the most traded market in the world, with an average daily turnover of $3.2 trillion. It’s a specialized investment to be sure, but if you’re familiar with it, Ally Invest can provide you with a fully equipped platform.

Ally Invest enables you to trade more than 50 currency pairs, including gold and silver. What’s more, trades can be made in real-time. Ally Invest offers comprehensive research and analysis to help you be a better trader.

Forex and Futures customer service

The hours available are more restricted than for the general platform, but still more generous than many other platforms. Customer service works on a “24/5” basis – 24 hours a day, five days per week. It begins Sundays at 10:00 AM, and ends on Fridays at 5:00 PM – all times Eastern.

Forex and Futures minimum initial investment

You can open account with as little as $250, but Ally Invest recommends a minimum of $2,500 to begin trading. That’s minimum you will need to be able to take full advantage of the account.

Forex and Futures Mobile App

Trade Forex and futures on the go, using your iPhone or Android. The mobile app provides charting tools, price alerts, real-time news and commentary, and the basic features of the web app.

Forex and Futures Tools

Ally Invest offers several tools to help you up your Forex and futures trading game.

Forex and Futures Practice Account

Ally Invest doesn’t provide this service with the self-directed account, but it is available for Forex and futures. They provide you with a free $50,000 practice account. They give you full access to the trading platform and tools for up to 30 days. It’ll give you a chance to test your trading skills before going live with real money.

ForexTrader Web

This is the basic trading platform available for both Windows and Mac. It offers real-time position account information, as well as a fully integrated charting tool. It also offers a variety of single and contingent order types, such as If/then, If/then OCO and Trailing Stops.

Forex Premium Charting

This is a set of professional-grade tools that help you identify and decode Forex patterns and trends. For example, you can decode multiple indicators for advanced technical analysis, view auto trend line indicator continuation on charts, and customize charts to your own individual preferences.

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios

If you’d like to have at least part of your portfolio professionally managed – or even the whole thing – you can. Ally Invest Managed Portfolios is the Ally Invest robo-advisor, providing algorithm-based investment management, similar to what’s offered by other robo-advisors, like Betterment and Wealthfront.

The investment management methodology of Managed Portfolios is typical of Robo advisors. It’s based on modern portfolio theory, or MPT.

All aspects of investment management are handled for you, including periodic rebalancing. You begin the process by completing a questionnaire. This is used to determine your risk tolerance, investment goals and time horizon.

Your portfolio is built using several diversified, low-cost index funds (ETFs). Everything is handled for you from that point forward, and all you need to do is fund your account.

Here are some of the basics of Managed Portfolios:

  • Minimum initial investment: $100
  • No advisory fees for Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios; 0.3% for legacy Managed Portfolios
  • Type of accounts available: Individual and joint taxable accounts; traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs; and custodial accounts.

Ally Invest Portfolio Make-Up

Ally Invest offers six different portfolio options:

  1. Conservative
  2. Moderate
  3. Moderate Growth
  4. Growth
  5. Aggressive Growth
  6. NEW! Socially Responsible Investing

Which portfolio will be used for your account will be determined by your answers to the questionnaire in regard to your risk tolerance. One of the big advantages with Managed Portfolios is that you do have the option to change your risk profile from one portfolio to another.

For example, if you’re in a Moderate portfolio, you can switch to Conservative, Moderate Growth, Growth or Aggressive Growth. With some robo-advisors, once your risk tolerance is determined, you won’t have the ability to make the change yourself. Each portfolio is comprised of a mix of US stocks, international stocks, US bonds, international bonds, and cash.

Naturally, if you are determined to be a more aggressive investor, your portfolio will hold a higher allocation in stocks. If you are more conservative, you get a higher allocation in bonds and cash. In the example above, an aggressive growth portfolio consists of 93% stocks, 5% bonds, and 2% cash. A more detailed breakdown of the ETF composition looks like this:

  • US Large Cap Equities – iShares Core S&P500
  • US Mid Cap Equities – iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap
  • US Small Cap Equities – iShares Core S&P Small Cap
  • Developed Ex-US Equities – Vanguard FTSE Developed ETF
  • Emerging Market Equities – Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF
  • US Government Bonds – iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bonds
  • US High Quality Corp. Bonds – iShares Intermediate Credit Bonds
  • Global ex-US Bonds – Vanguard Total International Bonds

Ally Bank

The Ally Bank relationship is one of the benefits that makes Ally Invest really stand out. Not only can you invest through Ally Invest, but you can also do much of your banking through the Ally Bank platform as well. Ally Bank is well known for having some of the highest interest rates available on savings anywhere on the web.

They’re also one of the top banks when it comes to auto financing.

Checking

Ally Bank offers interest-bearing checking, that enables you to deposit checks remotely. And even though the Bank has no local branches, you will have ATM access at more than 43,000 ATMs around the country. Meanwhile, Ally Bank will reimburse you up to $10 per statement cycle for any fees charged by other banks’ ATMs.

Savings

Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account is a no-fee saving account paying some of the highest interest rates on savings available. This account also features the ability to deposit checks remotely.

Money Market

Ally Bank’s Money Market Account pays high rates of return and comes with no monthly maintenance fees. You can also get unlimited deposits and ATM withdrawals, as well as make remote deposits.

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

This is where Ally Bank really shines. They offer several attractive CDs, that provide some of the highest interest rates on the web.

Ally Bank Lending

Ally Bank has a mortgage lending operation that can meet all of your home financing needs. They also offer a cashback credit card, with unlimited rewards, including 2% back at gas stations and grocery stores, and 1% back on everything else. There is no annual fee, and the account can be added to either Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

Auto Financing

But probably the area where Ally Bank is strongest is with auto financing. They offer innovative programs to either buy or lease a vehicle. They even have speciality vehicle financing, that provides financing options to cover accessibility needs, like wheelchair lifts and right-hand drive capability.

Ally Pre-Owned SmartLease

This is the most interesting of their auto financing options. The SmartLease program enables you to lease used vehicles. They have just three requirements for the vehicle you’re leasing:

  • Have clean history reports
  • Are less than 4 model years old
  • Have fewer than 75,000 miles

With the SmartLease, you’ll also receive automatic Guaranteed Auto Protection and the ability to purchase maintenance coverage similar to what’s offered for new models. This is a perfect financing option for someone who would prefer to ease into car ownership by first leasing a used vehicle.

Ally also offers Ally Buyer’s Choice, which gives you the choice to sell or continue making payments at 48 or 60 months. With new Mitsubishi, GM, and Chrysler vehicles and some qualifying used vehicles 4 years old or newer, you can qualify for AllyBallon Advantage. With this loan, your monthly payments are lower and your end-of-contract payment is higher, with a fixed APR.

Pros and Cons of Ally Invest

The Pros

  • Low fees. Ally Invest’s fees are one of the lowest in the industry, at $0 per trade.
  • Ally Invest offers both self-directed trading and the Managed Portfolios. You can have some of your money professionally managed, while also trying your hand at trading on your own.
  • Customer service – Ally Invest representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Ally Bank tie in. Ally Bank offers some of the highest interest rates on savings and CDs available anywhere on the web. You can also take advantage of the Bank’s wide selection of auto financing options.
  • With Managed Portfolios, you have the option to change your risk tolerance, and therefore your portfolio type, from one classification to another. This can enable you to make your portfolio more conservative or more aggressive.

The Cons

  • No demo account provided. Some investment platforms offer a paper account to enable you to test your investment skills before going live with real money. Ally Invest doesn’t have this option, except with Forex and futures.
  • There are no local branches if you like face-to-face contact.
  • There are Robo-advisors that have lower management fees than Managed Portfolios, though the higher fee may be worth paying for the benefit of keeping your money with the same broker.

How does Ally Invest Compare?

How does Ally Invest compare to the other top trading platforms available? Check out the chart below where we compare Ally Invest, E*TRADE and M1 Finance.

Company Best For Fees Minimum Investment Requirement
Ally Invest Wide variety of investing options None for managed portfolios, self-directed stocks, ETFs, and some mutual funds $100 for managed accounts, none for self-directed
E*TRADE Active Traders None None for a regular brokerage account; $500 for automated investing
M1 Finance Stocks and ETFs None for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds $100

For more information, you can check out the individual reviews of E*TRADE and M1Finance.

Should YOU Invest with Ally Invest?

When TradeKing was around, it was one of the very best trading platforms available, offering some of the lowest commissions anywhere. Ally Invest has built on that reputation, by maintaining a robust self-directed investment platform. But they’ve taken it a step farther by introducing Managed Portfolios.

This is the perfect brokerage if you want to perhaps start out using the managed option, and then slowly work into self-directed investing. You may even decide that you want to balance the two going forward.

That said, if you’re unsure whether Ally Invest is right for you, check out our other brokerage reviews before making your final decision.

  • Motif Investing Review
  • Personal Capital Review
  • TD Ameritrade Review

Another of the major advantages with Ally is that you can open a self-directed account with no minimum initial deposit. This is made to order for new and small investors, who were just breaking into self-directed investing.

Meanwhile, the platform offers outstanding, round-the-clock customer service to help you along the way.

The connection with Ally Bank is another major plus. The bank provides some of the highest interest rates available on CDs and money markets, but they also offer an impressive menu of auto financing.

That’s not surprising since Ally Bank is descended from General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC). They maintain that business line and even improve on it with leasing arrangements for used cars.

You can search the investment universe, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better overall platform than what Ally Invest offers.

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