DRIP PORTFOLIO
How a Fool Can Invest in Drips

There are many different ways to enroll in a company's Drip plan. Usually, you need to own at least one share of the company's stock in order to enroll. You can get that share through a broker, or Drip service, or friend, and then easily enroll in the plan. Finally, for companies that don't offer free Drips or Drips at all (such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, American Online, Amgen, and Starbucks), consider new Drip-imitating investment services such as BuyandHold.com and ShareBuilder.

Format for Printing

Format for printing

Request Reprints

Reuse/Reprint

Drip Information

By Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)

In most cases, only investors who own at least one share of a company's stock can participate in its dividend reinvestment plan (Drip or DRP). To participate in Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO) plan, for example, you first need to own at least one share of its stock and you need to own it in your name (not in the broker's name).

This means you need to have the shares, in almost all cases, put into your name on the certificate. As you purchase at least one Coke share, in our example, and it's in your name, you should also call the company and ask for Drip enrollment information. Coca-Cola would send you information that would, in turn, direct you to the First Chicago Trust Company in New York and, through First Chicago, you would complete the necessary steps to enroll in Coca-Cola's Drip.

After enrolling, all of your account activity and record-keeping takes place through First Chicago Trust. Most companies operate Drips through a transfer agent such as First Chicago. Some run their own Drip plans (not many, though). Some plans, usually called direct stock plans (DSPs), don't require you to own a single share of stock to enroll. You enroll by buying your first shares through the plan! Most plans require you own at least one share first, though, for enrollment purposes.

If you don't own one share of stock yet, using a Drip enrollment service or inexpensive brokerage service (like those listed below) is convenient and can be very reasonable. Using an enrollment service, you needn't open a brokerage account.

If you do have a brokerage account, using a discount broker to buy one share of the stock for you and then getting the Drip enrollment forms for your company is another route to go. It does take more legwork on your part, and you should be sure to ask what it will cost to have the stock put in your name and mailed to you. Costs vary substantially, and some brokers -- even discount brokers -- charge too much for this service. You shouldn't pay over $20 for a certificate and trading commission.

There are many ways to enroll in Drips. We advise Fools to research, use the discussion boards (especially the Drip Basics board), get other opinions, and then finally to make their own decisions. Some information on getting started is below! It is not a complete list! If you have any questions, please ask them on the boards!

Information about Direct Investment Plans (both Dividend Reinvestment Plans and Direct Stock Plans)
1. The Moneypaper website lists all the more than 1,100 companies that offer Drips, information to get started, and forms to begin enrollment through its service.

2. The Motley Fool's Investing Without a Silver Spoon book offers a full 300-page list of all direct investment plans (Drips and DSPs), as well as educational information (from how to start, what to look for in an investment, taxes, and accounting for a portfolio) in 100 pages of text. The book, written by Drip Port cofounder Jeff Fischer, is available in FoolMart for a song.

3. NetstockDirect, a direct-investor website, offers a full list of companies with direct investment plans, updated daily. Netstock allows you to enroll online in several hundred companies offering direct stock plans. It also offers mutual fund (index fund) direct enrollment services.

4. The Direct Stock Purchase Plan Clearinghouse (800-774-4117) is a free service that allows investors to order up to five prospectuses from companies that offer DSPs. (This is for direct stock purchase companies only, not DRP-only companies.)

Some Ways of Getting Started!
1. NetstockDirect, as listed above, allows you to start directly online at its site in several hundred plans, while offering contact information on the other plans available from companies not offered directly on the site. Through Netstock's discount brokerage-type service, ShareBuilder, you can invest Drip-style for $4 per trade in 4,000 different companies (even those without Drips). Note that the ShareBuilder service is not an official Drip plan enrollment. It is a way to invest in Drip fashion (fractional shares, dollar cost averaging, and reinvest dividends) even in companies that don't offer Drips for a reasonable price.

2. The Moneypaper, at 1-800-388-9993, charges first-time subscribers $90 for a year's subscription to the Moneypaper monthly newsletter. Through Moneypaper's "Temper of the Times" service, however, anyone can buy initial shares of more than 1,100 companies in order to be enrolled in their Drips. The stock purchase fee is $20 for most companies for subscribers, and is $30 for non-subscribers. For this price, Temper buys your first necessary shares of stock and enrolls you in the company's Drip. From then on, you only need to deal with the company that you enrolled with.

3. The National Association of Investors Corp. is open to individual investors for a $39 annual membership. First single shares are available for about 2000 companies. Stock purchase fee: $7 per company. NAIC also offers other investment options worth investigating, especially for investment clubs.

4. First Share, at 1-800-683-0743, links members with investors willing to sell a single share in a company. Members pay sellers the share's market value plus $7.50. Membership is $18 a year, and First Share also charges $10 for each transaction. (So it isn't the cheapest option.) About 4,000 members hold shares in 350 companies. The program is meant for investors who want to enroll in at least three dividend reinvestment plans.

5. BUYandHOLD is similar to ShareBuilder. It is a way to invest in a few thousand different companies in a Drip fashion. BUYandHOLD, with its long-term focus, allows you to dollar cost average and buy fractional shares and reinvest dividends for free. As with ShareBuilder, this is a good way to build stakes in companies that don't offer Drips (many of the faster growing companies) or that have expensive fees in their Drip plans. BUYandHOLD charges $6.99 per month, and that includes two buys per month. Additional buys are $2.99 each. It allows unlimited monthly transactions for $14.99 a month. Or you can open the account as an IRA account and just pay $2.99 per trade.

6. At The Motley Fool's Discount Brokerage Center, you can find brokers that offer low commissions on your first necessary share purchases. Also check the certificate fee, which is listed for all brokers in the Fool's Brokerage center. Don't pay over $20 to a discount broker for the buy commission and certificate service when you only want to enroll the shares in a Drip.