What do the online brokerage rankings mean? If I open an account at a brokerage firm ranked #1, do I have a better chance of making money?
Generally, these rankings indicate the level of customer service or satisfaction with the online brokerage. There are many groups that provide 'ranking' services, and investors should keep in mind that these are not regulated entities. Further, different ranking groups use varying criteria and update their data on different schedules. You do not have a better chance of making money at a firm ranked #1 because the rankings do not relate to the likelihood of investment success.
What are the risks of online trading?
There is risk of loss associated with investing in securities regardless of the method used. New investors need to understand the principles of investing, their own risk tolerance, and their investment goals before venturing into the market. In addition, online investors may want to consider these other risks. High Internet traffic may affect online investors' ability to access their account or transmit their orders. Online investors should be skeptical of stock advice and tips provided in chat rooms or bulletin boards. Investors should do their own research before acting on these tips. Also, for some online investors, there is a temptation to "overtrade" by trading too frequently or impulsively without considering their investment goals or risk tolerance. Overtrading can effect investment performance, raise trading costs, and complicate your tax situation.
What does it mean to 'trade on margin'?
If a customer chooses to borrow funds from a firm, the customer will open a margin account with that firm. The portion of the purchase price that the customer must deposit is called margin and is the customer's initial equity in the account. The loan from the firm is secured by the securities that are purchased by the customer. Customers generally use margin to leverage their investments and increase their purchasing power. At the same time, customers who trade securities on margin incur the potential for higher losses; therefore, customers should make sure they clearly understand this concept before opening a margin account and entering the investing arena. For more information, including a specific example, click here.