WellsTrade by Wells Fargo is an online investment firm. Obviously connected to its parent company, the Wells Fargo banking chain, it provides investors an Internet-based platform through which they can manage their investments. Because it is related to the bank, however, its structure is a bit different than other firms.
Online reviews state that the application process is particularly complicated and far from user friendly. You must print out numerous forms, sign them manually and mail them in. No online process exists. Additionally, the firm charges a $60 annual account maintenance fee up front. Drawn out and archaic, it isn’t the kind of application process you want for an online investment account.
WellsTrade requires a minimum account balance of $1,000. Once you have your account established you pay the following fees:
- Stocks and ETFs: $19.95 per trade
- Options: $9.95 +$1 per contract
- Broker Assisted Trades for Stocks or ETFs: $45
- Mutual Funds: $35
- 100 commission free trades, online, per year, when linked to a Wells Fargo PMA package. PMA package is free as long as the qualifying balance exceeds $25,000 at all times. Otherwise it is $30/month.
While WellsTrade offers good research and education tools its trading tools are barely adequate. The positions screen renews infrequently and slowly and the charts are far from comprehensive. It is difficult to keep a close eye on your investments and equally challenging to determine which new opportunities might be worth your while. If you have an independent set of tools this might still work for you.
The Word Online
With all the financial connections that WellsTrade has you would expect that it would do well online as well. Frankly, that is just not the case. Finding a positive review of this brokerage firm takes effort. Complaints of unprocessed trades, the company not honoring promotional offers, and “erroneous” trades are much easier to find. Former clients are lavish with their disgruntlement.
The Pros and Cons
WellsTrade does have a few advantages. It offers the possibility to trade for free, it is connected to a full bank and therefore has many local offices and a full range of bank services. It also provides plenty of reliable independent research for the investor to peruse. If you can afford to maintain a minimum balance of $25,000 you will save a lot of money on fees.
Unfortunately, some of the highest commissions in the industry, poor trading tools, high margin rates and annual fees that even extend to IRA accounts pull it down. Other problems include inadequate customer service and frequent episodes of misinformation or ‘misplaced’ trades. In addition, WellsTrade doesn’t always go by its name, making it hard to tell if you are actually connecting to your investment site.
To Sum It Up
While WellsTrade has the backing of a reasonably reliable bank behind it, it hasn’t quite managed to translate that benefit to its Internet investment branch. Poor communication seems to be one of the biggest issues, but having some of the highest fees around is another. For a big investor who doesn’t plan to move his money around much, it may be a viable option.