Updated March 29, 2020 4:07 PM PT

Ally Invest Review: Pros and Cons

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Ally Invest (formerly TradeKing) offers free trades for stocks and ETFs, but is it good? Read this review to learn the pros and cons and see comparisons with other online brokers.

Ally Invest Promotion
Get Up to $3,500 Cash Bonus

Overall Score

4.4

Stock Trading

5.0

Options Trading

5.0

Banking

5.0

Mobile App

3.5

Commissions and Fees

5.0

Ease of Use

4.0

Online Community

5.0

Research

3.5

Trading Platform

4.0
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • Low commission for stock trades
  • No account minimums
  • Ally platform
  • No physical locations

Bottom Line

Good low-price discount stock broker for savvy investors

Though not as well-known as competitors (such as E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade), Ally Invest can certainly hold its own against the big boys. It consistently ranks near the top of customer satisfaction ratings and in most Ally Invest reviews.

And best of all, its trade fees are among the lowest of any online brokerage around.

But there are some drawbacks you'll want to know before opening an account. Read on to find out:

About Ally Invest

Ally's long history goes back to 1919, when it was founded as GMAC (the financial sector of General Motors). It slowly expanded its financial services and was rebranded as Ally Bank in 2009, offering online banking with high interest rates and minimal fees.

In 2016, Ally Financial acquired TradeKing, which became Ally Invest. New name, new site, and new mobile app. But the same low prices and same trading features.

Commission and Fees: Ally Invest regular stock and ETF trades are $0. Options cost $0.50 per contract. There is no minimum to open. Fees for options, mutual funds, and bonds are lower than the most discount brokers.

  • Self-directed or managed options
  • Investments offered: Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, fixed income securities, penny stocks, Forex.
  • Account types: Individual taxable, joint, custodial, IRAs, Coverdell, and entity accounts.

Who Ally Invest Works Best For

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Ally Invest is a good choice for:

  • Casual traders who want a simple online brokerage account and have a basic understanding of markets and security types.

  • Active traders who can take advantage of the $0 commissions.

  • Advanced traders who wish to invest in Forex and/or options.

  • Beginner investors who want completely hands-off easy investing with Ally Invest Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios.

If any of the above sound like you, Ally Invest is a great, low-cost alternative to some of the more popular and widely advertised online brokers like E-Trade and TD Ameritrade.

Is Ally Invest good for beginners? With low fees, no account minimum and a user-friendly platform, Ally Invest is ideal for beginners. But it does not have a practice trading platform or extensive educational material so it may not be good for true novice investors. To help you decide, read about the pros and cons below.

Pros & Cons

PROS:

  • $0 online stock and ETF trades
  • No account minimum to open
  • Wide variety of investment options
  • Strong Forex platform
  • Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios option for no advisory fees
  • Customer support by phone and live chat
  • Thorough FAQ and education section
  • Also has full online banking services, so you can invest and bank at the same place
  • Check out Ally Invest here >>

CONS:

  • Purely an online broker with no physical locations
  • No practice trading platform (not good for beginners)
  • No transaction-fee-free mutual funds
  • Research and tools not as extensive as other brokerages
  • Fee for transferring or closing IRAs

We'll explain more below. But first, let's highlight the current Ally Invest promotions.

Ally Invest Promotional Codes 2020

OPENING AN ACCOUNT

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To open an Ally Invest account, you must be a US citizen or legal permanent resident, and have a US address. You can get started two ways:

  1. A self-directed account.
    If you're comfortable investing on your own, you can manage your own investment portfolio.

    There is no no account minimum to open a self-directed account. And there are no annual fee, no maintenance, and no inactivity fee.

    If you have a margin account (which is governed by federal regulation), you must maintain a minimum of $2,000, regardless of the brokerage you choose.

  2. A managed account.
    If you're a beginner or don't have the time to self manage, the automated Cash-Enhanced managed portfolio offers an easy solution. This is a robo-advisor that will automatically invest and manage your portfolio for you based on your goals.

    You need an account minimum of $100 to open. There are no advisory fees for Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio.

You can fund your account via electronic transfer from your bank, wire transfer, or by mailing in a check.

Wire transfer will be the fastest method, while an electronic bank transfer can take 3 business days.

How to login: Sign in to your Ally Invest account on ally.com.

Once you're into your account, the platform is pretty simple to use. You'll see menu options across the top of the page. The Dashboard is an overview of your activities and links to other parts of the platform.

You'll do all your buying and selling in the Trading tab. The Research tab is where you'll find Ally's news and research for markets, stocks, and options.

TYPES OF ACCOUNTS

Ally Invest supports the following accounts for self-directed trading:

  • Individual taxable
  • Joint
  • Custodial
  • IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Rollover, SEP, SIMPLE)
  • Coverdell

Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios support:

  • Individual and joint taxable
  • IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Rollover)
  • Custodial

Ally Invest Fees & Commissions

Ally Invest always had one of the lowest fees on the market. And in October 2019, it announced that there will no longer be any commission fees on U.S. listed stocks, ETFs, and options trades.

  • Stock and ETFs: $0 per trade
  • Options: $0 per trade plus $0.50 per contract
  • Mutual funds: $9.95 to buy or sell no-load mutual funds
  • Penny stocks: Additional $0.01 per share for stocks under $2
  • Bonds: $1 per bond (minimum $10)
  • Forex: No commission
  • Broker assisted trades: $20 + regular commission

All new accounts (no matter your opening amount) will get commission-free stock trading. But note that option trades still cost 50 cents per contract. This is lower than the standard 65 cents that most other online brokers charge.

Ally Invest also offers a bonus up to $3,500 to new users.

INVESTMENT OFFERINGS

Ally Invest offers a wide assortment of investment options:

  • Stocks

  • Mutual Funds: Ally offers thousands of choices, but it doesn't have any no-transaction-fee funds.

  • ETFs: Ally offers 500+ commission-free exchange traded funds from Vanguard, GlobalX, WisdomTree, iShares and more.

  • Fixed Income Securities: Corporate, agency, treasuries, municipals, strips & zeros, CDs, and new issues.

  • Options (equity & index): Ally's platform offers very strong tools for options traders, such as options chains and profit/loss calculator.

  • Penny Stocks: Also known as pink sheets or over-the-counter bulletin board. These are very high-risk if you don't know what you're doing.

  • Binary Return Derivatives

  • Forex (Foreign Exchange): Ally offers a robust Forex trading platform for investors, plus a practice account. You need a minimum deposit of $250. Read more about it in detail below.

Does Ally Invest have virtual trading? No, Ally Invest does not offer a trading simulator. If you're a beginner and want some trading practice before committing your own money, ZacksTrade offers a demo account pre-loaded with $1 million in paper trading funds for 90 days.

PLATFORM AND TOOLS

Ally's investment platform - called Ally LIVE - is available for free for anyone who opens an account.

It offers trading tools such as:

  • Customizable dashboard. You can drag/remove modules however you want.
  • Streaming charts. 8 chart types (such as candlestick, bar, mountain, and line) with 117 chart studies and 36 drawing tools.
  • Alerts. Add alerts to your charts
  • Watchlists. Create customized watchlists.
  • Research data. See market stats, charts, company quotes, high/low prices, and peer performance comparisons.
  • Free tools by Recognia.

Ally Invest offers robust tools for options. Options traders will especially find that the platform is well-developed to help you make informed decisions for these risky trades. Options tools include:

  • Profit/loss graph: Understand a trade's potential before placing it.
  • Probability calculator: Uses implied volatility to help you estimate the likelihood of hitting your targets.
  • Options chains: Easily see what's available and place trades.

If you're an active options trader and want truly free options trades, look into Robinhood. This trading app allows you to invest in stocks, options and cryptocurrency completely commission-free. However, it lacks research, tools, and account options.

Here are some screenshots:

Markets Overview

Options Chains and Probability Calculator

Ally's platform is obviously looking to bat with the big brokers. But it's still lacking in some trading tools, such as heatmaps.

It's constantly listening to feedback and making improvements based on customer needs, so hopefully even more tools will come in the future.

Note: The Ally LIVE Platform works only for Windows. Mac users will have to use the web platform, which is not as advanced as the Windows platform.

Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio

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If you're a beginner or just wants to be hands-off, Ally Invest offers a robo-advisor called Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio.

Ally will automatically build a portfolio for you based on your goals and risk tolerance. Your portfolio will be professionally managed so you don't have to worry about maintaining it.

Some features include:

  • Diversified portfolio of ETFs
  • Automatic rebalancing
  • 4 portfolio options: core, income, tax-optimized, and socially responsible

You just need to invest a minimum of $100 to start. Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio is free of advisory fees.This is lower than other robo-advisors like Betterment. However, the catch is that 30% of your portfolio will be held in cash. Read more about it in our detailed review.

Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio lacks tax loss harvesting, which is a feature offered by many other robo-advisors.

Robo-advisors are ideal for investors who:

  • Are new to investing and don't feel confident to make choices
  • Want completely easy hands-off investing
  • Don't have time to invest and manage their own portfolios

ALLY INVEST FOREX

For Forex traders, you must sign up for an entirely separate platform and mobile app. Ally Invest Forex is a separate, but affiliated, company from Ally Invest.

Forex is the most popular traded market in the world. In a nutshell, Forex is traded in pairs: you're buying one currency while selling another. There's a fair amount of risk involved.

The platform features include:

  • Customized layout. You can choose from pre-set layouts or create your own to your preferences.

  • Advanced charting. Includes more than 80 technical indicators, drawing tools, and integrated order management features. You can overlay technical studies and flip between charts and trade setups. You can even track, trade and modify orders directly on the charts.

  • Automation. You can create a custom trading strategy and automate it for real-time buy and sell signals.

  • Research. Stay on top of the market with streaming updates, forecasted results, and potential impacts.

  • Practice platform. You get a $50,000 virtual practice account with full access to the platforms and tools for 30 days. This practice account is free, and you'll have over 50 pairs of currency to choose from.

You need at least $250 to open an Ally Forex account. But it's recommended to start with at least $2,500 so you have more flexibility and better risk management.

MOBILE APP

Ally Invest offers trading on-the-go with its iPhone and Android apps - Ally Mobile. It's the same app as the Ally online banking. So if you use the banking services as well, you can bank and invest under one roof. Ally Mobile app has a average 4.8 star rating on the App Store. It provides investors with single access to your banking and investing life. The reviews tend to highlight the ease of use.

The app offers a simplified version of the desktop platform. The functions are limited, but they have most of the core abilities, such as:

  • Buy and sell stocks and options from your phone
  • Get real time streaming quotes, chart positions, and current news
  • Use charting tools
  • View your watch lists
  • Monitor your investments and check balances

Is Ally Safe?

Ally Invest is a member of SIPC and FINRA. SIPC, created under federal law, protects your securities (up to $500,000) and cash (up to $250,000) if your brokerage firm fails. FINRA ensures compliance with industry regulations. Additionally, Ally has a track-record going back to 1919.

While SIPC protects against the loss of cash and securities (such as stocks and bonds) in the case that Ally Invest fails, it does not protect against investment losses from the market. Forex accounts are not protected by the SIPC.

Ally Invest's clearing firm, Apex Clearing, also has an additional insurance policy through London Underwriters to supplement SIPC protection. This additional insurance policy covers you if the SIPC limits are exhausted, for up to $150 million.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Besides low fees, Ally Invest has high user satisfaction ratings. It offers good customer support with a human. You can reach Ally Invest by:

  • Phone: 1-855-880-2559
  • Live chat online
  • Email: support@invest.ally.com

How It Compares to Other Online Brokers

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No review of Ally Invest is complete without a look at how Ally Invest compares with industry heavyweights Fidelity, E*TRADE, and TD Ameritrade. Here are the side-by-side comparisons to see how the brokers compare.

Ally Invest vs E*TRADE

E*TRADE also made the move to commission-free trades. But it offers a large selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, which Ally Invest does not have. The better one for you depends on what you want to invest in.

E*TRADE's investment platform is top notch when it comes to research and trading tools. Investors with more experience may find more value in E*TRADE.

E*TRADE also offers checking account benefits and 30 physical locations across the country.

 

Ally Invest

E*TRADE

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$0 per trade
$0 per trade
Options Trading
$0 base + $0.50 per contract
$0 per trade + $0.65 per contract
$0 per trade + $0.50 per contract if you make 30+ trades a quarter
Minimum Deposit
$0
$500 for brokerage accounts
No account minimum for retirement accounts
Mutual Fund Trading$0 to buy/sell load mutual funds
$9.95 to buy/sell no load mutual funds
$0 for no-load, no-transaction-fee funds
$19.99 for transaction-fee funds
Commission Free ETFs
500+
250+
Penny Stocks$0.01 per share on the entire order for stocks priced less than $2.00.
Broker Assisted Trades
$20 + Regular Commission
$25 + Regular Commission
Customer Service
(855) 880-2559
800-387-2331
Inactivity Fee 
$0
Maintenance Fee 
$0
BankingIntegrated with banking on ally.com. Manage your Ally banking and investment accounts in one place.Checking account offers no minimum balance requirements, free online bill pay, and unlimited debit card and check transactions.
Mobile App
Desktop App E*TRADE Pro (requires you execute at least 30 trades during a calendar quarter or maintain brokerage account balance of at least $250,000)
Forex Trading
 
Futures Trading $1.50 per contract, per side + fees (excluding bitcoin futures)
Locations 
30
Online Community ETrade Community lets you exchange trading and investing ideas with other ETrade customers.
Seminars Live events and educational seminars at local branches.
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Banking
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Online Community
Research
Trading Platform

Blank fields may indicate the information is not available, not applicable, or not known to CreditDonkey. Please visit the product website for details.

Ally Invest: Pricing information from published website as of 07/18/2019.

E*TRADE: Pricing information from published website as of 03/29/2020.

Ally Invest vs Fidelity

Fidelity also offers commission-free stocks, ETFs, and options trades. However, Fidelity's mutual funds trading price is significantly higher. But it does offer a huge selection of no-fee funds such as zero minimum investment Fidelity Mutual Funds.

A downside is that Fidelity's trading platforms require users to make a certain amount of trades before they're granted access. The lowest is 36 trades per 12 months, but more advanced tools require 120 trades per 12 months.

Fidelity has than 180 branch locations, so it's also good if you want in-person advice.

 

Ally Invest

Fidelity

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$0 per trade
$0 per trade
Options Trading
$0 base + $0.50 per contract
$0 per online trade, plus $0.65 per contract
Minimum Deposit
$0
$0
Mutual Fund Trading$0 to buy/sell load mutual funds
$9.95 to buy/sell no load mutual funds
$0 transaction fee for Fidelity funds
$0 on purchase for NTF (no transaction fee) non-Fidelity funds. ($49.95 on redemption if held less than 60 days)
$49.95 on purchase for non-Fidelity funds; $0 on redemption. (Certain funds may have a $75 transaction fee).
Commission Free ETFs
500+
357 including 28 Fidelity factor, sector, stock, and bond ETFs and 329 iShares® ETFs
Penny Stocks$0.01 per share on the entire order for stocks priced less than $2.00. 
Broker Assisted Trades
$20 + Regular Commission
$32.95 per trade for representative-assisted trades.
Customer Service
(855) 880-2559
(800) 343-3548
Inactivity Fee 
$0
Maintenance Fee 
$0 account service fee
BankingIntegrated with banking on ally.com. Manage your Ally banking and investment accounts in one place.Fidelity Cash Management Account includes reimbursed ATM fees, no monthly fee, no minimum balance requirement, FDIC insurance, mobile check deposit, free billpay and free checkwriting.
Mobile App
Desktop App Active Trader Pro (requires you trade 36 times or more in a rolling 12 month period)
Forex Trading
 
Locations 
More than 180
Virtual Trading 
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Banking
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Online Community
Research
Trading Platform
Mutual Fund Trading

Blank fields may indicate the information is not available, not applicable, or not known to CreditDonkey. Please visit the product website for details.

Ally Invest: Pricing information from published website as of 07/18/2019.

Fidelity: Pricing information from published website as of 03/29/2020.

Ally Invest vs TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade now also offers $0 commissions on online stock, ETF, and options trades. Its trading platforms are among the most advanced out of all online brokers. You get free access to all elite tools. Plus, there a virtual platform where you can make practice trades before committing real money.

It also offers a cash management account, which includes a debit card, free ATM withdrawals, free check writing, and free bill pay.

TD Ameritrade investors have access to 100 locations in 34 states. Charles Schwab recently announced their plans to acquire TD Ameritrade.

OTHER SERVICES

Ally Invest is part of Ally Financial, which also includes a full-service online bank. Ally Bank gets very high satisfaction ratings for its competitive savings rates, user-friendly website, and good customer support.

Services include:

  • Online savings account with 1.50% APY
  • Interest checking with no monthly fees
  • A variety of CDs with no minimum deposits
  • Home loans
  • Car loans

If you like having all your personal finance in one place, Ally is definitely worth looking into. You use one single log-in for both Ally Invest and Ally Bank, so it's convenient to manage everything under one roof.

BOTTOM LINE: IS ALLY INVEST GOOD?

Even though Ally is an budget broker with no physical locations, it's worth considering.

It's hard to beat Ally Invest's low cost of $0 per stock trade. But website is more basic, so true beginners may feel lost. It also doesn't have as extensive research and trading tools as other brokers, but it can definitely hold its own.

Ally is worth considering for budget investors or active traders. It's also good if you want to invest in options or Forex, as those have strong platforms.

Cynthia Cohen is a retail analyst at CreditDonkey, a stock broker comparison and reviews website. Write to Cynthia Cohen at cynthia@creditdonkey.com

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

TD Ameritrade has not influenced the content of CreditDonkey. CreditDonkey may earn compensation for accounts opened at TD Ameritrade.

More from CreditDonkey:


Ally Invest Fees


Ally Managed Portfolio Review


Ally Bank Review

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Ally Invest Roth IRA

Ally Invest's Roth IRA account has no annual fee and low trade commissions. Is it right for your retirement funds? Read on to learn how Ally Invest Roth IRA accounts work.

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