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Your question was about the actual acount, not the investments offered, correct? I doubt there's much difference in the actual account--you will be able to invest in all the same investments from any of these providers. The differentiator will be service and the tools available to you. For instance, I know Fidelity has won several awards recently for its Web site and the research tools made available therein. This was a determining factor in my reason to select them.
I never use Charles Schwab before, but when I was shopping for mine. I found this company that have a very good rate and low fee. You can check on this web site see if you like it. Nothing wrong with shopping around first.
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$0.01 a share commission up to 200 shares.
$1 to enter & $1 to exit.
Over 200 share trades get progressivly higher $5 for 500
Instant order fills.
Scott Trade charges $7 per trade - so that's $14 of commision for a round trip - in & out.
Get's expensive if you trade often.
They have slow order fills.
If you're day trading - this is very dangerous and can be costly.
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Charles Schwab is great for the new trader or the experianced trader looking for fundemental research.... New traders save $100's of dollars just because they can ask someone a question.... 24 hours a day... before they make a typical newbie mistake.
Scottrade is fine for the average trader with more than 3 years experiance. Not much in tools. Although some of their technical analysis is better than some. Nothing outstanding.... just simple pricing.
I've used both. For a new trader... I'd suggest Charles Schwab.... hands down.
I currently use;
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I took the series 7 a year ago. The first time I failed (60's), but the second I passed with a score in the 80's. When studying for this test, it is broken into several study parts (ie options, bonds, etc.) Some areas are easier than other parts. It is important I found to do all the practice exams, over and over. The area's that I scored lowest, I keep studying and took practice test just on those parts, until I felt I had a fairly good grasp of the material. I found that software programs help tremendously as it sped up my studying. Good Luck!