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Charles Schwab is one of the most trusted investment institutions in the U.S. Founded in 1971—by a man named Charles Schwab; nonetheless, the company now employs close to 20,000 people and is ranked as the thirteenth largest bank in the United States.
As a Schwab customer, you can invest in stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, annuities, and more. You can also invest in retirement plans (more on all of this later).
If you’re interested in learning more about Charles Schwab, you’re in luck. This post is going to provide a full review of the company’s investment products. I’ll also dive into the pros and cons of being a customer and answer the most frequently asked questions, too.
Let’s get started!
What is Charles Schwab?
Charles Schwab is a stock brokerage firm and investment bank headquartered in San Francisco. They offer online investing services as well as in-person assistance at its more than 300 physical branches located throughout the U.S.
When it comes to top investment and brokerage firms, Schwab is one of the best and biggest out there. The sheer volume of their numbers speaks for themselves.
Let’s take a look at some of their most impressive statistics:
- Charles Schwab has over $3.7 trillion in total client assets. That’s trillion with a “t”!
- Over 12 million people actively invest in Charles Schwab brokerage accounts.
- 1.7 million corporations trust Charles Schwab with employee retirement plans.
- Charles Schwab oversees over $450 billion of proprietary mutual funds (e.g., SCHD) and ETFs.
Charles Schwab Investment Features
Charles Schwab offers dozens of different investment options and services. What follows is a high-level overview of their most popular service offerings.
Brokerage and Trading Accounts
Schwab’s most popular offering appears to be their Brokerage and Trading Accounts. With a Schwab brokerage account, you can make commission-free online trades on stocks and ETFs. There’s no minimum account balance to get started.
If you ever need help, Schwab’s customer support line is open 24/7. The same can’t be said for many other investment banks.
Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
If you’re looking for a place to park your retirement savings, Schwab offers 3 types of IRAs: Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and Rollover IRAs.
If your IRA situation is slightly more complex, Schwab also offers Inherited IRAs and Custodial IRAs.
Learn more about the differences in IRAs.
Schwab Global Trading Account
If you’re interested in investing in foreign markets in the local currencies of those markets, you’ll want to look into a Schwab Global Account. At the time of this writing, Schwab supports the following foreign currencies within Global Trading Accounts:
- Australian dollar
- Canadian dollar
- Hong Kong dollar
- Japanese yen
- Norwegian krone
- British pound
Trust, Estate and Charitable Accounts
Schwab offers a variety of estate planning services and account options. You can open a trust account, estate account, or charitable account—all through the same convenient service.
If you own a business that has over $250,000 in liquid assets, you might consider opening a Schwab Organizational Account.
Due to the high buy-in threshold and complicated nature of this account, you’ll be paired with a personal financial advisor who can walk you through the process.
Personal Choice Retirement Accounts
Schwab’s Personal Choice Retirement Account (PCRA) gives you the investment flexibility of a brokerage account but within the confines of a retirement plan.
Keep in mind that to open a PCRA, your employer must have its 401k plan managed by Charles Schwab.
Automated and Personalized Investment Advice
Charles Schwab also offers robo-advising, personalized financial advising, and a blend between those two options.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio (Robo Advisor)
For those looking for a low-cost and hands-off investment approach, Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolio will automatically manage your funds with its robo-advisor —an AI-powered portfolio manager.
Keep in mind that you’ll need at least $5,000 to get started with this plan. While the price of entry might be a little steep for some, a huge bonus is that there are no additional fees or commissions associated with the Intelligent Portfolio plan.
Schwab Intelligent Portfolio Premium (Robo + Certified Financial Planner)
With a Schwab Intelligent Portfolio Premium Plan, you’ll enjoy the same hands-off optimization of a robo-advisor, but you’ll also have access to one-on-one support from a certified financial planner.
Investors will need at least $25,000 to qualify for the Intelligent Portfolio Premium Plan. There are also some fees attached. For example, you’ll pay a one-time setup fee of $300 to get the account started along with a $30 monthly service fee after that.
My guess is that Schwab charges these fees to cover their costs of matching you with a certified financial planner. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Schwab Private Client
If you happen to have at least $500,000 lying around, you might qualify to be a Schwab Private Client. As a private client, you’ll have access to a dedicated team of advisors who will work with you to build a plan that helps you achieve your financial goals.
Private clients pay an annual fee that starts at 0.80% and decreases at higher asset levels.
Schwab Advisor Network
High net-worth individuals with more complicated investment situations might consider leveraging Schwab’s Advisor Network.
You’ll need at least $500,000 to qualify, and the fees you’ll pay will vary depending on which advisor you’re matched with.
Charles Schwab Bank
Charles Schwab also offers banking services aside from their financial investment products. Let’s take a look at some of these products.
High-Yield Checking Account
Schwab’s High-Yield Investor checking account offers unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide and a 0.15% APR on account balances.
High-Yield Savings Account
If you’re looking for a place to store your emergency fund, Schwab’s High-Yield Investor Savings Account offers 0.18% APY, no monthly fees, and unlimited ATM fee rebates.
Charles Schwab can also help you get a home mortgage through its relationship with Quicken Loans. Schwab investors may qualify for interest rate deductions depending on the number of assets they’ve invested.
Not a bad deal, by any means. You just need to happen to have $250,000 to $5 million in investments lying around.
Charles Schwab Pricing
Here is a breakdown of the fees Schwab charges:
- Online trades for most standard stocks and ETFs are free
- Options contracts cost $0.65
- Automated phone trades cost $5
- Broker-assisted trades cost $25
- Foreign stock transactions cost $50
- Mutual funds that are not in the Schwab Funds group or Schwab’s Mutual OneSource service cost $49.95
For standard trading accounts, there are no service charges and no minimums to get started. However, for their more advanced accounts (e.g., the robo-advisor service), you will need $5,000 to get started.
Signing Up and Getting Started
Schwab makes it very easy to sign up for an account. In fact, they claim you can get started in as little as 10 minutes.
First, you’ll select the type of account you want to open.
Next, you’ll have to answer a series of questions and enter your personal information to open the account. Schwab’s online portal is very user-friendly.
But if at any point you get stuck or have questions, their customer support line is always open. Hooray!
Charles Schwab Security
As you might expect from an institution with trillions of dollars under management, Schwab takes security very seriously. In fact, the Schwab Security Guarantee promises to cover 100% of any losses you might incur as a result of fraudulent activity.
Schwab also uses several state-of-the-art security measures such as advanced encryption technology, multi-factor authentication, and the option to use voice ID for account access, among other things.
Once again, if you ever have concerns or questions about the security of your account, you can call Schwab at any time at 1-800-435-4000.
Customer Service and Support
As I mentioned earlier, Schwab is well known for providing outstanding customer support. Agents are available 24/7—which is almost unheard of in the financial industry.
The driving force behind Schwab’s customer service team is its philosophy of putting customers first. The company also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Charles Schwab FAQs
Does Charles Schwab offer financial planning?
Yes. Schwab offers financial planning. Customers can access customer support for basic financial and transactional advice.
They also offer trading support. If you’re looking for more personalized investment advice, you will want to look into Schwab’s Intelligent Portfolio Premium plan, which provides access to a certified financial planner. What’s more, as a Schwab Private Client, you’ll have access to a team of advisors.
What services does Charles Schwab offer?
Charles Schwab offers brokerage accounts, retirement accounts (IRAs), high-yield savings accounts (HYSAs), robo-advising, personal investment advising, institutional investment advising, trusts and estate planning, annuities, and a whole lot more.
How much money do you need to open a Charles Schwab account?
As of 2018, Schwab is a no-minimum broker, which means there’s no minimum deposit to open a standard brokerage account. For more advanced accounts, there are minimum deposits required.
For example, you’ll need $5,000 to open a robo-advisor account and $25,000 to open a robo-advisor account with access to a certified financial planner. Organizational accounts require $250,000 to open, and private client accounts have a $500,000 minimum.
Does Schwab have hidden fees?
No. Schwab does not have hidden fees. The company lists all of its fees on its website. If you’re worried about getting hit with fees, I recommend doing your homework on the specific fund that you’re interested in. If you’re still unsure of how the fees work, simply give the fine folks at Schwab a call.
Is Fidelity better than Charles Schwab?
This is a matter of personal opinion, and it would not be fair for me to say which company is better. I’ve used both companies in the past and have had solid experiences with each of them.
If you’re debating which of the two companies to use, I recommend reading my reviews and drawing your own conclusion. You can also put a small number of funds into both platforms to see which one you like best. At the same time, there’s no reason you can’t use both, either.
Is Schwab a good investment?
Yes. Schwab is a good place to make investments. As discussed above, they offer a wide range of investment services that fit almost any financial situation.
Pros and Cons of Charles Schwab
- Investment products for any situation
- Best-in-class customer support
- Top-notch security features
- Well-rated mobile apps
- The minimum deposit for robo-advising is higher than what some competitors require
- High transaction fee ($49.95) for trading certain mutual funds
- High-yield savings account annual percentage yield (APY) lower than the competition
Alternatives to Charles Schwab
There are quite a few online trading platforms on the market these days. Some of the main alternatives to Schwab include:
Should I put money in Charles Schwab?
With so many different investment services and banking options, Schwab caters to a wide range of customers. If you’re a new investor who would like a little professional guidance as you start your journey, you might appreciate Schwab’s always-accessible customer support.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop, you might be happy with the fact that you can have a high-yield checking account, brokerage account, and retirement account—all with the same institution.
The path to financial independence is not always easy to follow. In that light, many will appreciate the guidance that Schwab offers along the way.
Only you know whether it makes sense for you to open up a Schwab account. Do your due diligence, come up with a financial plan that works for you, and you’ll make the right decision. Here’s to happy investing!