When you're shopping for a new brokerage, there are lots of factors to consider. Our Broker Center can help, with its handy comparison table and other useful resources. As you shop around, you'll most likely look at a brokerage's fees and its selection of funds -- but have you thought about its efficiency?

The faster your trade is processed, the greater the likelihood that you can buy or sell your chosen security at the price you want. A sluggish, inefficient website can be mildly annoying, even if you place only a few trades per year. And if you trade frequently, inefficiency can drive you batty.

Gomez.com, which monitors the Internet performance of various companies, reported on the efficiency of 14 brokerages evaluated in SmartMoney magazine's 2006 broker survey. Gomez measured the time elapsed while downloading each Web page in a specified process. The brokerages with the fastest response times are below; the average score was 12.6 seconds.





TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD)




Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)






Muriel Siebert


Among other brokerages of interest, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) rated below average for response time and availability, a category measuring the percentage of completed transactions. However, Wells Fargo scored above average in consistency. Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCH) earned a top-rated perfect mark for availability, but lagged the average in response time and consistency.

What to do
As you evaluate contenders for your brokerage business, consider how much you'll likely enjoy using their websites. Spend some time navigating each candidate to form an opinion of its user-friendliness.

Switching brokerages isn't as much of a hassle as you might expect it to be. Typically, you just contact your old brokerage and your would-be new one, and fill out an account transfer form, which you can usually download from the new brokerage's website. The two firms will then transfer all your designated holdings for you.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.