While I’ve made it a mission to orient myself with great online brokers around the web, I’ve come to know quite a few of them well enough to favor some over others. As far as Zecco is concerned, I look upon this company as a popular entity in the online broker world: they’re well-known and recognizable, and have some great features to offer. I’ve written a little bit about them before, in my Zecco vs TradeKing showdown post and when I wrote about free stock trades.
But let’s get into a little bit more detail today, and find out what it is that makes Zecco tick, and investigate whether they’re the right discount broker for you.
A Comprehensive Look At Zecco: Our Review
Pricing: Online Trading At Ultra Low Commissions
Do you know where Zecco got it’s name? It stands for “zero commission cost”. For quite a while, Zecco was known for their “free stock trades” mantra but has since changed the way they’re promoting their services. They’re now focusing more on providing rich features and enhancements at low cost as well as superior customer support and free tools. It’s unfortunate that they’ve done away with free trades, as there are still quite a number of discount brokers that are able to boast these types of offers. Needless to say, if Zecco returns with free trades, it would be on an occasional basis, as a special promotion. Zecco’s regular commission reflects a charge of $4.95 for each trade (for stock and options trades).
Take note that the $4.95 per online trade graduates to $19.99 for broker-assisted transactions. Other brokers — like TradeKing ($4.95 flat) and OptionsHouse ($3.95 flat for equity trades) — charge a simple flat fee for all types of trades, whether online or broker-assisted. In general, I prefer and appreciate the simplicity of having one basic flat price since it makes it easy for me to determine how much my transactions will cost me.
Other pricing details: Zecco has no account minimum or inactivity fees. For no load funds, they do charge $10 for online vs $19.99 for broker-assisted transactions. For options trading, they charge $4.95 per leg and $0.65 per contract. However, while they’ve got free tools, you’ll have to pay to use some of their more advanced tools. Some of these premium tools include GainsKeeper for tax planning and Zecco Streamer (the “Full” version) for investment tracking.
Note that you can open a regular account or IRA account through this broker, as well as custodial, trusts and corporate accounts.
Zecco Trading Center User Experience and User Interface
This brokerage has undergone some positive changes in recent years. As a Zecco customer, you’ll probably spend most of your time in the Zecco Trading Center, an intuitive interface that displays your entire Zecco trading account in one page.
To start with, Zecco provides an All In One dashboard where you’ll get a Summary of your real time account balance that includes your account equity, cash balance and cash available amounts, as well as your buying power (margin and non-margin). You’ll also see your trading activity. You can easily drill down when you select the specific tabs for Balances, Positions and Order Status.
The Positions area will show your holdings plus your investment performance. This area shows all the stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and options that you own. Here, you’ll be able to perform transactions against any position by using the Action menu. You can buy, sell or trade options, as well as view your trade history for that particular holding. You can also quickly access research information and integrated stock charts for a particular investment. Once you select an Action, a Trade Ticket will be filled in for you at the top of the Positions page.
This area is also where you can proceed with more advanced trading strategies, including options trading. There is strong support here for trading options — the process is made straightforward by Zecco’s Options Trade Ticket feature, which presents predefined options strategies and which automatically configures and fills all the legs of your options order. You can select and build from a variety of strategy types (e.g. Call or Put, Butterfly, Calendar Spread, Collar, Covered, Straddle and more). In addition, the Options Strategy Analyzer provides profit and loss information graphically.
Personally, I prefer to stick to basic orders but in case you’d like to get fancy with your transactions, Zecco’s Advanced Orders features can help you set up conditional orders (One Cancels Others, One Triggers Others, etc) and other advanced order types such as Market On Close (MOC), Limit On Open (LOO) and Fill or Kill. Your Order Status shows your open and executed transactions, which are also summarized in the Summary page.
Information on specific investments and stocks is highly accessible from any page and is presented via charts, training videos and live chat with a Zecco representative. I particularly like the Help Overlay feature that puts you in “Help mode” by providing you more visuals, information, descriptions and guidance as you conduct your way through the application.
To Zecco’s credit, they’ve got a community feature that you won’t see in most other broker sites. Their community is called ZeccoShare, and it’s a place where you can interact with other investors and traders, and where you can get questions answered. It’s a place to compare portfolios and trades, and to share your ideas on investing with others. Here, you can create your own profile, visit forums and blogs, and create or join investing groups. They also allow for members to track and view how other community members are investing, but it is up to each account holder to make their activities viewable by the public. They also used to have a virtual trading environment under their community section, called the Zecco Zimulator, where you could practice trading without risk and where you were able to see how other “virtual traders” were faring, but unfortunately, that feature doesn’t seem to be available any longer.
Trading Foreign Currencies Through Zecco ForexTrader
Besides being able to trade stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds, you can also trade foreign currencies. Zecco also offers Forex trading (that’s foreign currency trading) through Zecco Forex programs.
Depending on which package you fall under (Forex Plus or Forex Pro), you may benefit from better and more competitive pricing on tight spreads. And as far as their trading platforms go, the Zecco ForexTrader platforms are available in Desktop, Online (Web) and Mobile forms. These platforms also offer new traders a free $50,000 online Forex trading practice account upon sign up. This helps when you’re just learning how to trade foreign currencies, knowing that your own money is not on the line. If you want to test things out first, you’ll get $50,000 in virtual funds as well as charting features, educational resources, real time quotes and phone or live chat support.
Zecco also affords the new customer some flexibility with regards to leverage and trade size with a Mini Account that comes with a $500 minimum deposit and smaller contract sizes (10,000), or a Standard Account for more experienced traders, which supports a contract size of 100,000 and a minimum balance of $2,500. And finally, Zecco Forex licenses the MetaTrader 4 software trading platform which may be more suitable for advanced traders and the more speculative crowd. Just like with Zecco Forex, you can open a MetaTrader 4 virtual trading account to help you practice and learn the ropes on this platform by using $50,000 of play money.
Sure, it sounds like a lot, but these virtual trading platforms have become common fare (and are expected) at sites that provide higher risk services such as options trading and Forex trading.
Tools and Research
Like many other broker sites, Zecco has a Quotes and Research section where you can monitor markets, rates, industry sectors, and financial and economic events worldwide. Their trading and research tools include standard stock/ETF/mutual fund screeners, quote streamers, free alerts, analyzers and mobile apps. For use of more advanced tools such as their Quotestream II (a market data and technical analysis tool) and their GainsKeeper Performance and Tax Planning software, you’ll have to pay extra. And like all other brokers I know, they’ve got their own online “library” which provides users with educational material, videos and webinars. For additional learning materials, you can check the Education segment that’s available (for stocks, options and retirement planning), as well as ZeccoPulse, which covers fresh news on the markets (at pulse.zecco.com).
As you can see, there’s a wealth of features here that Zecco has developed for all investors and traders alike. I believe that this is a broker that will especially benefit the more experienced traders.
Created July 24, 2009. Updated March 15, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.