Cash, Credit, Crudites?

Brokers want your business and a few are casting out some interesting bait. Consider E*Trade (NYSE: ET  ) , an advertiser on this site. The company offers a 50% rebate on 12b-1 fees for mutual fund investors.

That certainly got our attention, as did other deals such as price breaks for frequent traders, free cash (for example, HARRISDirect, another broker center sponsor, funds new customers' accounts with a crisp $100), and brokers doing away with the dastardly "account inactivity fee" that irks infrequent traders.

Perusing the special offers in our Broker Center reveals a host of e-schwag: Investors can day-trade for weeks for free at Ameritrade and TD Waterhouse (warning: frequent trading can be dangerous to your long-term wealth), try out dividend reinvesting at ShareBuilder, and learn about limit orders, margin, and stock options in Swedish Chef dialect. (Okay, that last one was our own attempt to attract reader attention.)

Still, all this talk about money can make an investor weary. Money isn't everything (yeah, even to those of us who write about it every day), and it shouldn't be your only consideration when shopping for a discount broker. Investment selection and services should be tops on your broker search list.

Writer/investor/musician/punster Rick Munarriz recently went shopping to report what 10 of the biggest brokerage firms had to offer. As you fish around, consider how you feel about the following services that don't get a lot of play in broker advertising:

  • Does the broker have all the investment vehicles you are looking for, such as mutual funds, bonds, etc.?
  • Does the broker have a local office? Is that important to you?
  • Does the broker offer banking services?
  • Does the broker provide research tools? Is that important to you?
  • Is there phone/email support? Is it 24-hour support?
  • Are the freebies or perks enticing?

Our discount broker comparison table (a side-by-side look of our broker sponsors) gives you an idea of the things that Fools find important. Shop around, compare special deals, and find your perfect match.

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