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Founded in 1999, PennTrade caters to retail traders looking for a fast, easy, and secure way to invest through an online brokerage firm. The firm was originally a division of Pennaluna & Company, one of the oldest, independently owned stock brokerage firms in the United States. Today, PennTrade trades US stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, among other investment choices. Among its many services, the company prides itself on its good old-fashioned customer service. The company has dedicated employees who use their years of experience in the brokerage industry to help customers with their investment related inquiries. The brokerage firm's mission is to ensure its employees deliver empathetic conversations to generate the best online investing experiences for their clients.

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The Good

  • Experience
  • Trading platform
  • Trading tools
PennTrade offers great perks and benefits for its clients to take advantage of. The firm provides quotes for all US listed stocks and for Canadian stocks. These quotes include detailed data like bid prices, ask prices, 52-week highs and lows prices, and much more including:

Experience

The fact that the company used to be a division of the oldest brokerage firm in the United States means it has years of experience to offer its clients. This experience truly shows in the firm's customer support services. The firm's representatives who can be reached via phone are always prompt, respectful, and knowledgeable. When we spoke with one of the representatives, the conversation was dare we say it, enjoyable. It felt like we were dealing with a human being who genuinely wanted to engage in conversation with us. The company's mission to provide good old-fashioned customer service definitely rang true when the representative at the end of the line patiently answered all of our questions.

Trading Platform

PennTrade also boasts a customizable web-based platform, Trading Desk. The trading platform allows its users to move units around the page so as to customize their own dashboard. They can see what they want to when the want to, and where they'd like to view it on the screen. This customization feature can prove useful for traders who have little time to place trades and need to quickly view specific information on their dashboard to inform their trading practices. The trading platform is fairly standard in its features. It allows users to place trades, limit orders and cancel orders. It lets traders see their investment performances in terms of their transactions, positions, and dividends. Customers can even sign up for unlimited email alerts, through the platform, that will let them know when their trigger prices have been reached.

Trading Tools

In addition to these features, Trading Desk offers charting tools to further help in providing a visual for clients' stock performances. The symbol lookup tool, also on the platform, is ideal for people who have trouble looking up stocks. This tool aids traders in accurately locating stock symbols. Lastly, Trading Desk offers its investors watch-lists so they can keep track of securities that they might be interested in, in the future, when certain variables change.
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The Bad

  • Rates and fees
  • Mobile app
While there are a number of tools and services that cultivate a positive trading environment within the PennTrade platform, there are drawbacks to the service as well. Prospective clients should be aware of the following:

Rates and Fees

PennTrade's commission rates are very expensive compared to the industry average for brokerage firms. The firm charges $19.95 for US stocks and $26.95 for Canadian stocks. When you compare these fees to discount brokerage firms that charge less than half of these rates for similar stocks and services, it can be pretty difficult to justify the increase in cost. It can be even more difficult to justify when these other brokerage firms offer more investment choices, like bonds and options. Additionally, while some discount brokerage firms allow users to open accounts with $0 in them, PennTrade requires that its investors have at least $500 in their account. This $1,500 can be a cash deposit or be the equivalent amount in securities, or a combination of the two. Either way, this minimum account balance means that users who generally like to test out a brokerage firm before committing to one, won't get the chance to do so since they must deposit funds in order to use the firm's services. Potential investors looking for a company to place trades with should also be wary of the brokerage firm's additional fees. For instance, PennTrade charges its customers both inactivity and research fees. PennTrade charges $35 per account per year if traders lose their active status. When it comes to research, the company charges $20 per hour, with 1 hour being the minimum amount of time investors have to spend on research. This serves as a severe disadvantage of using the firm since other brokerage firms tend to offer free research tools for its users. As far as statements go, investors should always elect to receive online statements, as they tend to be free. Paper statements for trade confirmations and account information are $1 and $2 respectively. These fees could add up depending on the number of statements an investor elects to receive.

Mobile App

Another major downside to using PennTrade is the firm's lack of a mobile app as an alternative to its site's, web-based platform. For the 21st century investor who trades on the go, this can be a significant drawback to the brokerage firm's services. This lack of mobile trading can debilitate the brokerage firm as it's competing in an industry where newer and faster approaches to investing are coveted.
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The Bottom Line

PennTrade offers outstanding, old-fashioned customer service in an industry where people don't associate great conversation with online investing. For investors who require attentive, polite, and knowledgeable representatives who are available whenever they require assistance, this firm is ideal in meeting this requirement. Furthermore, the firm's web-based platform offers users extensive customization options to help traders personalize their investing experiences. Lastly, for traders interested in both US and Canadian securities, the company might be the right brokerage firm to go with. However, PennTrade's incredibly steep commission rates are very difficult to justify especially when there are so many discount brokerage firms that charge affordable commission rates and allow its users to invest in a variety of investment options. These brokerage firms also offer more services like extensive research tools, educational materials, and 24-hour customer support, to name a few. Thus, in the sea of brokerage firms, PennTrade's fees and services tend to pale in comparison to the fees and services investors can find elsewhere.
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