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Charles Schwab Review: Top Branch Broker

Review Updated
Matt Frankel, CFP®
Cole Tretheway
By: Matt Frankel, CFP® and Cole Tretheway

Our Brokerages Experts

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Charles Schwab is a consistent advocate of the individual investor, whether it's seasoned vets or beginners making their first trade. It has aggressively slashed fees on its mutual funds, removed common account fees, and eliminated its per-trade commissions, making it one of the most affordable places to open an account and trade stocks, ETFs, and funds.

In the Charles Schwab review below, we'll show you how the brokerage compares on commissions, fees, margin rates, trading platforms, and more.

Ratings Methodology
Award Icon 2024 Award Winner

Our Rating:

Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Bottom Line

Charles Schwab pioneered the low-cost brokerage model decades ago, and that legacy continues with its lineup of no-commission-fee offerings. The robust lineup of account types, investment vehicles, and high quality app round out the stacked feature set.

Fees:

$0 stock, ETF, and Schwab Mutual Fund OneSource® trades. No fees to buy fractional shares.

Account Minimum:

$0, ($5 minimum per fractional share transaction)

Alternatives to Consider

We recommend comparing brokerage options to ensure the account you're selecting is the best fit for you. To make your search easier, here's a short list of our best trading platforms of 2024.

Account Fees Account Minimum
Logo for Robinhood
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
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$0 for stocks, ETFs, and options; $5 monthly for Robinhood Gold $0
Logo for SoFi Active Investing
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
$0 for stocks, $0 for options contracts $0
Logo for E*TRADE
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Commission-free; other fees apply $0

Full Charles Schwab review

My experience: I've been investing for more than 20 years, and became a Schwab user after the acquisition of TD Ameritrade, which I've used since college. I'm a particularly big fan of the thinkorswim trading platform, which Schwab thankfully retained after moving all TD Ameritrade accounts to its platform. I invest in stocks, ETFs, and occasionally use options strategies in my portfolio, and Schwab is a solid choice for all of them.

We tried it: Brooklyn's review

"I opened my Charles Schwab account as a brand-new investor who knew almost nothing about investing, and I've learned a lot through their educational resources. While the website isn't the most modern, it's easy to use. I've spent a good amount of time using their customer service support as well as a Schwab Financial Consultant and both have been tremendously helpful. I like the active trading experience but have also enjoyed using their robo-investing option, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios."

- The Ascent SEO Manager Brooklyn Sprunger

Investment offerings

When it comes to a variety of investment choices and account types, Charles Schwab is a clear standout. Here's a quick rundown of what is available

Investments

  • Annuities
  • Automated investing (robo-advisor)
  • Bonds
  • CDs
  • ETFs
  • Foreign currencies (Forex)
  • Futures
  • Options
  • Mutual funds
  • Stocks

Brokerage accounts

  • 529 savings plan
  • Business accounts
  • Coverdell ESA
  • Custodial accounts (UGMA, UTMA)
  • Individual (taxable)
  • Joint brokerage account
  • Rollover IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • SIMPLE IRA
  • Solo 401(k)
  • Traditional IRA

TIP

Other financial services

Schwab also offers several banking products and services beyond its brokerage platform:

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • CDs
  • Home loans
  • Credit cards (offered through American Express)

Commissions and fees

To be sure, Charles Schwab wasn't the first investment platform to offer commission-free stock trades, but it was the first big brokerage to eliminate commissions on online stock and ETF trades, and it certainly helped spark the commission-free revolution of late 2019. Nearly all of Charles Schwab's competitors followed suit, slashing commissions to zero.

Here are Charles Schwab's trading fees based on the type of investment:

Investment type or service Commission/fee
Stocks and ETFs $0
Options $0.65 per contract
Mutual Funds Up to $74.95 (thousands for free)
Futures $2.25 per contract
Cryptocurrencies Not available
Data source: Charles Schwab.

Margin rates

As of May 2024, here are Charles Schwab's effective margin rates by margin balance:

Margin balance Margin rate
Less than $25,000 13.575%
$25,000 - $49,999 13.075%
$50,000 to $99,999 12.125%
$100,000 to $249,999 12.075%
$250,000 to $499,999 11.825%
$500,000 or more Call 877-752-9749 for rate details
Data source: Charles Schwab.

Investors who use margin as a key part of their trading or investing strategy will find that Charles Schwab margin rates are toward the middle of the brokerage pack. It isn't a particularly cheap place to trade with margin, but the costs are in-line with most of its peers.

Charles Schwab promotions

Charles Schwab sometimes offers promotions that could save you money. Click below to go to our dedicated page covering current Charles Schwab promotions:

Research and education

Whereas large wirehouse brokers have large research arms to supply their research internally, most discount brokers instead offer research from third-party services like Morningstar and S&P, for example. Below, we'll run through a few notable research and screening tools available to Schwab brokerage customers.

  • Several equity research reports: Schwab has research from several major providers. Brokerage customers get access to Schwab ratings and research, plus access to research from Argus, Credit Suisse, Morningstar, MarketEdge, and Reuters, among others.
  • Daily market reports: Tap into a wealth of information by reading daily market reports, including Credit Suisse First Edition, Morningstar Morning Notes, Market Edge Daily Commentary, and more from your online account.
  • Screeners: Charles Schwab is no slouch when it comes to fundamental and technical screeners for stocks, ETFs, and funds. Notably, its screening tools are available on its website and through its SmartEdge desktop trading platform.

Most large discount brokers offer more research and screening tools than ever before. It's fair to say that if you wanted to spend hours each day reading stock market research or tinkering with screeners, you wouldn't run out of research to read or screeners to play with, a statement that applies to virtually any of the household-name discount brokers.

Schwab also offers an extensive library of educational resources. For example, if you want to learn the basics of options trading, or how to buy stocks that trade on international exchanges, Schwab has you covered.

Interface

This discount broker has several platforms aimed at different types of investors. Basic trading functionality is available through its web-based trading platform, and it also offers a mobile app that facilitates trading on the go.

In addition, Schwab offers the thinkorswim advanced trading and charting platform on both desktop and mobile. Schwab acquired this from TD Ameritrade in 2022 and has integrated it into the Charles Schwab platform. It's known for its charting, which helps traders make data-informed investing decisions, especially options trades.

As long-term buy-and-hold investors, we don't actively trade in our accounts and therefore don't need many of the bells and whistles. If a robust platform is especially important to you, we'd recommend using a demo account to try Schwab's platforms out for yourself.

App

Schwab's mobile app is among the best available from a big brokerage house. It has an iOS rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. While its Android rating of 2.3 out of 5 stars is lower than average, our research has found the ratings aren't aligned with the apps high quality overall. Many brokerage apps are slimmed down, less versatile versions of their online experiences. But Schwab's apps closely mirror its robust online experience, including for trading, account access and management, and banking.

Customer service

Discount brokers can offer cutthroat commission prices because they eliminate many of the expenses associated with traditional brokerages. But big brokers still provide all the customer service you might need, whether over the phone, online, or through a branch office.

Schwab offers 24/7 support over the phone, as many discount brokers do. But thanks to its vast brick-and-mortar branch network, customers can also get help in person at offices scattered across the U.S. It has more than 340 branches in 46 states, so the vast majority of Americans live within a short drive of one of its offices.

Here are the various ways you can contact Schwab's customer service:

  • Phone line open 24/7 to speak with an account specialist
  • Live text chat with a specialist is available when logged in to your account
  • In-person help at any of Schwab's 340 branches

Security

Schwab uses some of the most advanced methods in the industry to keep client accounts secure. While accounts are protected by SIPC insurance in the event of the firm's failure, just like any other brokerage account, Schwab takes things a step further and guarantees that the firm will cover any losses due to unauthorized activity in your account.

About

Charles Schwab (the person) started an investment newsletter in 1963 and formed a broker-dealer securities business in 1971.

The company's current form truly began in 1975, when the SEC de-regulated brokerage commissions. Schwab did the opposite of what most full-service brokerage firms were doing and decided to create the first discount brokerage. It has achieved several other industry firsts along the way, such as the first 24-hour quotation service and the first 24/7 order entry interface.

Schwab ended up being acquired by Bank of America in 1983, but management bought the company back in 1987 and completed an IPO the same year. The company's discount model grew rapidly in popularity, and today Schwab is one of the largest brokerage firms in the world, with $8.85 trillion in client assets.

Learn more about Charles Schwab

Keep reading about Charles Schwab on these pages:

Our brokerage rating methodology

At The Motley Fool Ascent, brokerages are rated on a scale of one to five stars. We primarily focus on fees, available assets, and account types; however, we also take into account features like research, education, tax-loss harvesting, and highly rated mobile apps. Our highest-rated brokerages generally include low fees, a diverse range of assets and account types, and useful platform features.

See our full methodology here: Ratings Methodology

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