Today’s guest post is from Susan Lyon, Financial Analyst with NerdWallet Investing. 


While there isn’t much savvy investors can do to protect themselves from the uncertainties surrounding the upcoming fiscal cliff come 2013, they can certainly protect their invested money in other ways.

The results were surprising.  For one, over 17 million investors with the 3 largest online brokers – Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and E-trade – are paying collectively at least $1.8 billion too much in fees for the same trade execution and services they could be getting elsewhere more affordably.

Next, NerdWallet researched all the most popular online brokers to see whether consumers are overpaying and if there’s really a difference between trading with a “name brand” brokerage versus a discount broker that you may not have heard of: not so much, it turns out.  NerdWallet investigated financial statements and disclosures to find 10 surprising pieces of information every investor should know before diving in and opening up a brokerage account with a particular company:

  1. “We Use the Exact Same Execution Service as the Cheap Guys.”
  1. “We’ll Charge You When You Trade – And Even When You Don’t.”
  1. “All Your Data Is 10 Minutes Old.”
  1. “You’re Paying for Our Advertising Instead of Better Service.”
  1. “Deep Discount Brokers Are Just As Reliable.”
  1. “You Can Trade For Free – Just Not With Us.”
  1. “Our Deals Don’t Apply to You.”
  1. “Our Fees Are Negotiable”
  1. “We’ll Give You Good Service, But You’ll Pay Up for It.”
  1. “Switching Brokers is Cheaper Than You Think.”

For more detail on each of these findings and how to navigate them, please read the full Top 10 List.

Don’t Forget to Shop Around
The number one thing you can do to become a better investor in 2013 is to do your research when it comes to picking the right online brokerage account.  Always be sure to research your options upfront and read the fine print.  NerdWallet’s free and easy to use brokerage comparison tool allows investors to easily sort through the hidden fees to compare all 74 online brokerage accounts and find the one that best meets their personal trading needs.

Additional NerdWallet Resources: 

About NerdWallet Investing: NerdWallet Investing seeks to empower investors by providing unbiased and transparent access to investment management and financial markets information.

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