Cheap Trades, Satisfying Services

Money isn't everything, and it shouldn't be your only consideration when shopping for a discount broker. Though you wouldn't guess it if you've paid any attention to their advertising campaigns.

A big part of how brokers compete is through price-per-trade. And while cost is a factor -- particularly for more frequent traders -- it should not be your only guidepost. Investment selection and services should be tops on your broker search list.

Even if all you want is bare-bones service, you want to make sure that a discount broker offers what you need and will use. There's no use in paying for banking privileges if you plan to never write checks from your account. And if it's face-to-face transactions you want, then make sure your broker has a walk-in branch nearby.

But enough about them. Let's talk about you. What do you want from your broker? Do a little soul-searching using the questions below.

Here's a cheat sheet of questions you should ponder when you have a spare moment:

  • 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 (such as 50 free trades or $100 account credit), and find your perfect match.

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