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Fidelity Review

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Apr 25, 2016

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Fidelity
Fees
Trading Platform
Research Tools
Investment Choices



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Here’s the deal with Fidelity- they are one of the big players in this arena, along with Scottrade, E*Trade & TD Ameritrade.

Fidelity is unequivocally a force to be reckoned with as their assets under management exceed a trillion dollars and they offer everything from banking, cash management & brokerage accounts to retirement & life insurance. In some variation or another, they provide it all, and in many cases more services than their competitors… and they do it at a cost below, or at least comparable with most direct, full-service firms.

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Fees

In the world of largest online brokerage firms, Fidelity’s stock trade fee of $7.95 is considered good, undercut only by Scottrade’s $7. Their mutual fund trade fees ($49.95) are about average for the full-service guys, and so are the broker-assisted fees @ $32.95.

While overall Fidelity’s trade fees are comparable (and in some cases below other big online brokers) it is the margin rates that give them a boost over many.

Fidelity zealously self proclaims its margin rates as low as $3.75% but a more realistic figure for the average investor with less than $100,000 in assets is between 7% & 9%.

Here are the margin rates for each account balance level:

  • 8.575% – $0 – $9,999
  • 8.057% – $10,000 – $24,999
  • 7.575% – $25,000 – $49,999
  • 7.075% – $50,000 – $99,999
  • 6.575% – $100,00 – $499,999
  • 3.750% – $500,000+

In addition, Fidelity offers 70+ commission free ETF’s and for the most part will not gouge you with hidden/miscellaneous fees & commissions.

Overall- priced fairly for the level of utility experienced.

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Trading Platform

Fortunately for Fidelity, and more importantly Fidelity users, their underwhelming website and its clunky functionality does not provide foresight into the user experience when it comes to their trading platforms. More simply stated, where Fidelity fails with their website, they succeed with both their mobile and web/desktop-based trading services.

Fidelity offers two (2) desktop-based platforms:

  • Active Trader Pro
  • Wealth-Lab Pro

Active Trader Pro is a fully customizable platform with streaming capabilities, enabling users to stay on top of changing market conditions. Active Trader Pro offers interactive charts, pattern & event recognition software, and access to analytics, probability/profit & loss calculators and research tools.

As previously stated, Fidelity does offer compelling market research capabilities, however, with the caveat that certain analytical tools such as Recognia are only unlocked beyond 120+ trades.

In addition to the basic functionality of Active Trader Pro, Fidelity raises the bar with some advanced trading features:

  • Trade Armor– test profit & loss scenarios and perform entry/exit strategies
  • Multi-Trade Tickets – enables up to 50 simultaneous equity or option orders
  • Day-trade Functionality
  • “Tab-based” Organizational Design

Fidelity Mobile ensures users have access to banking, current account positions & preferred securities while on the go. Users especially interested in Fidelity’s cash management and banking service will enjoy full transparency and functionality right on the app.

Fidelity Mobile offers applications for:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Android
  • Kindle Fire
  • Windows Phone 8

It is important that they offer quality applications and trading platforms mostly because their website begs the question of Fidelity’s market superiority.

Recent (2013) advances in basic website design, layout and functionality have left many bloggers and investors alike happy to see some improvements made. However, the general consensus provides an overwhelming basic disappointment with its usability (as read and researched through online blogs and reviews). These improvements, in my opinion, have still fallen short.

Retirement Plans

When considering your path to retirement, whether you are just beginning the journey or rapidly approaching, consideration should be given to Fidelity.

Fidelity offers a number of investment opportunities geared towards retirement. Couple that with Fidelity’s cash management and banking services and it really does become a one-stop shop for most investment needs.

Personal Retirement Plans

  • 401(k) Rollover to IRA
    • 401(k), 403(b) & governmental 457(b)
    • 10% early withdrawal penalty before age 59 ½
    • $0 opening or annual maintenance fees
    • Minimum Required Distribution (MRDs) beginning age 70 ½
  • Roth IRA
    • Tax free growth (Federal)
    • No Minimum Required Distribution (MRDs)
    • $0 opening or annual maintenance fees
    • Max. Contribution (2013, 2014) $5,500 ($6,500 50 or older)
  • Traditional IRA
    • Tax-deductible
    • 10% early withdrawal penalty before age 59 ½
    • Minimum Required Distribution (MRDs) beginning age 70 ½
    • $0 opening or annual maintenance fees

Small Business Retirement Plans

  • SEP IRA
    • Sole-proprietor or partnership
    • Contributions made by employer (0%-25%)
    • No annual or establishment fees
  • Investment-only Retirement Account
    • Small-business & self employed
    • $0 opening or annual maintenance fees
  • Simple IRA
    • Fewer than 100 employees
    • 3% mandatory matching contribution
    • Early withdrawal penalties
  • 401(k) for Small Business
    • Public & Private Companies
  • Self-Employed 401(k)

Banking Features

Not only does Fidelity offer a wide range of banking services, they actually excel while most online brokerage institutions fall short. It seems like the norm is for the banking services to take a back seat, after all isn’t the point to invest and not necessarily bank? Fidelity understands that this thought process could hinder investment opportunities, and realizes that without access to cash accounts, with what is one to invest?

Fidelity gets it.

Users of Fidelity have access to complete checking, savings and credit accounts. In addition, these accounts offer many more perks than just a place to leave un-invested cash.

Places for cash:

FCASH – Cash, unless otherwise specified, is defaulted to this interest-bearing account. However, interest in many regards is considered low.

Fidelity Government Money Market Fund (SPAXX) – Mutual fund positions (taxable) in U.S. Government Agency and Treasury Debt.

Fidelity Municipal Money Market Fund (FTEXX) – National municipal mutual fund (often avoids income tax on dividends).

Fidelity Tax-Free Money Market Fund (FMOXX) – Also, a National municipal mutual fund.

Fidelity State Municipal Money Market Fund – Applicable to certain states only.

Now, lets review the more basic/essential banking functions Fidelity offers specific to each account:

  • Fidelity Cash Account
    • Easily transfer money between investment and cash-holding accounts
    • Check writing
    • Debit ATM Cards w/ ATM Reimbursement
    • “Cash Manager” (alerts, overdraft protection)
    • Mobile banking
    • Billpay
    • Direct deposit
    • Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT)
  • Fidelity Rewards Credit Account
    • Fidelity Rewards American Express Card
      • 2% rewards deposited into Fidelity account
      • There are no limits on rewards & no annual fees
      • 24-hour customer service & zero fraud liability
    • Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card
      • 1.5% reward for every dollar spent (2% after $15,000 annually)
      • No limits & no annual fees

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Customer Service

Like all the top players in the online brokerage game, Fidelity offers a number of channels for service inquiries (live chat, phone, email & local branch offices).

  • 800-343-3548 – Account enrollment & general questions
  • 800-544-6666 – Personal Accounts (brokerage, IRA, etc.)
  • 800-835-5097 – Employer-sponsored benefit accounts

Bottom Line

I find Fidelity to be refreshingly complete. What I mean by that is Fidelity is an all-encompassing brokerage firm structured in a way to provide, at least at some basic level, solutions to all your investment needs. Fidelity really has grasped the concept of a “full-service” brokerage house and really is a one-stop shop.

Like the others, Fidelity has some room for continued improvement and advances, most notably their website.

For the investor looking to control cash savings, investments, retirement plans, life insurance & credit accounts in a single place, Fidelity may be the online brokerage firm you are looking for.

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Review Information

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Fidelity
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About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

1 Comment

  1. We have had increasing difficulty dealing with fidelity. They have one of the worse customer service departments I have ever dealt with. They failed to make a mandatory distribution and now refuse responsibility. My advice move your funds.

    Reply

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