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SogoTrade is an online discount brokerage that charges $4.88 base commissions and supports Chinese-speaking customers. Unfortunately, in a world where $0 trades are the baseline, despite offering five trading platforms for stocks and options, SogoTrade struggles to stand out.
Top Takeaways for 2020
After spending six months testing 15 online brokers for our ninth annual stock broker review, here are our top findings on SogoTrade:
- With base pricing for stock trades starting at $4.88 per trade, SogoTrade is far behind the times. For $0 per trade, investors can get far more value at full-service behemoths like TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE, or Charles Schwab.
- In our testing, we found that SogoTrade struggles to compete with industry leaders in key areas, including Trading Platforms, Research, Mobile Trading, and Ease of Use.
- If there is one small bright spot, it is that SogoTrade does support Chinese-speaking customers (although Firstrade does too, while offering $0 trades).
|Commissions & Fees||4 Stars|
|Offering of Investments||3 Stars|
|Platforms & Tools||3 Stars|
|Mobile Trading||3.5 Stars|
|Customer Service||4 Stars|
|Ease of Use||3.5 Stars|
Commissions & Fees
SogoTrade charges $4.88 for all equity trades. For customers seeking further discounts, this base commission rate can be reduced in several ways. For customers who make over 149 trades per quarter, the rate is reduced to $2.88 a trade. Alternatively, SogoTrade allows its customers to prepay for trades at a discounted rate of $3.88 per trade (minimum 20 trades purchased; trades expire after one year). Prepay for 50 trades and the rate is further discounted to $2.88 per trade.
SogoTrade pricing summary:
|Stock Trade Fee (per trade)||$4.88|
|ETF Trade Fee||$4.88|
|Options Base Fee||$4.88|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.50|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$25.00|
|Broker Assisted Trades Fee||$25.00|
Platforms & Tools
When it comes to trading platforms and tools, despite offering five different platforms, SogoTrade underwhelms when compared to industry leaders.
Good stuff: Once you get past the names and confusion of which platform is which, the good news is that you can quickly identify which platform is right for you. SogoOnline and SogoTrader are built for basic to intermediate investors, while SogoOptions and SogoElite ($100,000 minimum portfolio balance) will make advanced options and equity traders feel right at home. Finally, the SogoPlay platform simplifies options trade ideation and offers good value to customers.
Considerations: Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, I appreciate SogoTrader’s simplicity and ease of use; however, the charting is way too basic, even for new investors. SogoOptions does a good job providing casual and advanced options traders the tools they need to succeed: streaming options chains with all the greeks viewable, basic and advanced probability analysis, and clean profit-and-loss charts. The downside to SogoOptions is its outdated interface.
SogoTrade offers its customers little to no fundamental research, and falls far behind similarly priced brokers. Beyond basic stock and ETFs research, SogoTrade offers no research for investments such as mutual funds or fixed income. Also, while SogoTrade offers its customers one third-party research report, for nearly $5 less per stock trade, Fidelity and Charles Schwab offer customers 12 and eight, respectively.
To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2020 Broker Review, 280 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.
- Average Connection Time: th (14 brokers)
SogoTrade’s mobile trading experience has its high points and low points. Overall, it meets the industry standard. Streaming real-time quotes are provided throughout the app, and there is Apple Watch support. Drawbacks include that customers can place only simple stock and single-leg options trades. Also, there is no alerts functionality, and charting features are limited as no technical studies can be added.
Offering of Investments
Beyond a basic offering of stock and options trading, SogoTrade has little to offer everyday investors. Mutual funds trading supported only by phoning in orders, no fixed-income trading is provided, and there are no commission-free ETFs. Also, while SogoTrade does provide a Chinese version of its website and Chinese customer service, among other features, Firstrade delivers a similar experience with free trades.
SogoTrade presents itself as a deep discount broker with great tools that will satisfy active traders and casual investors. While SogoTrade does offer customers a diversity of platforms and low commission rates, there are noticeable holes throughout its offering, especially in a $0 trading world.
Established in 1986, SogoTrade is an online broker whose goal is to provide discounted commissions for its customers, while still offering competitive industry tools.
2020 Review Methodology
For the StockBrokers.com tenth annual best online brokers review published in January 2020, a total of 3,540 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.
About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.
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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/20/2020 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.
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A confusing array of platforms and non-competitive commissions
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- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0 for limit orders, $2.88 for market orders
SogoTrade established itself as a low-cost brokerage for active traders who were willing to give up some bells and whistles for a better price. As with many smaller brokerages in this space, the shift to no fees has squeezed SogoTrade’s niche. While SogoTrade still has some unique offerings in that it supports Chinese-speaking customers with the click of a button and enables cryptocurrency trading, some of its weaknesses are more evident without a general pricing advantage compensating for them. We’ll look at how SogoTrade stacks up in this new online brokerage environment and help you decide whether it is the right fit for your portfolio
- SogoTrade’s offerings have tools that are spread across multiple platforms, which causes navigation difficulties.
- SogoTrade has a link to cryptocurrency trading by Apex Crypto. SogoTrade clients can quickly move money from their account to the cryptocurrency trading account. Cryptocurrency trading is not technically offered by SogoTrade but this link makes it a little easier to engage in the cryptocurrency market.
- Options traders will feel comfortable with the SogoPlay platform, which is essentially the OptionsPlay tool set with a SogoTrade wrapper.
Who SogoTrade Is For
SogoTrade is still marketed to active traders looking for cost savings. As this space has grown smaller due to industry-wide pricing changes, SogoTrade has made some efforts to broaden its appeal. While SogoTrade has said it is focusing on attracting younger investors, the bulk of its recent development efforts appear to be in its partnership with KGI, a Taiwan-based online broker. The platform allows Chinese-speaking investors to click a button and translate the platforms into their preferred language. The focus on Chinese language support suggests SogoTrade has found a new niche as its no-frills active trader segment is being chewed into by larger (and now cheaper) rivals.
Customer service for those who call in is prompt
The options platform, SogoOptions, is tightly integrated with the OptionsPlay tool set
Chinese language support is available for customers who want it
Fully paid stock lending program can help generate additional income
SogoTrade still charges commissions for equity trades
You cannot choose a tax lot when closing a position
Switching from one web-based platform to another requires several clumsy steps
No interest is paid on idle cash
- Customers who call the support line have quick access to human assistance, both in English and Chinese.
- The options platform, SogoOptions, offers streaming quotes, analysis and risk management with fast execution, and has the OptionsPlay tool set built-in.
- There is a Chinese language translation button customers can click on if they want the entire platform converted.
- Customers can opt into SogoTrade’s fully paid stock lending program, which pays interest on stocks that are borrowed from you by short-sellers. This program can help generate additional income for your portfolio.
- SogoTrade still charges $2.88 for equity trades and also a per-ticket fee for options trades. There are plans to change this, and company spokespeople have said that few of their customers actually pay equity commissions currently, but the fees are still listed on their website.
- Average cost is assumed for calculating the cost basis of a trade. There is no way to change to a more favorable calculation when closing a position.
- If you’re on the SogoOnline platform and want to use the SogoOptions site, you have to click in quite a few places to back out of one site and switch to another. It would be better if there was a unified platform available.
- No interest is paid on idle cash and there is no money market sweep option available to investors.
SogoTrade’s usability comes with an upfront caveat in terms of our review. SogoTrade offers four desktop platforms, Android and iOS mobile apps, and a mobile browser. We looked at SogoTrader, SogoOptions, and the iOS mobile app for this review. We did not look in-depth at the SogoOnline or SogoElite platforms. It’s confusing to have to switch platforms to trade options when few other brokers require such gymnastics from their customers.
SogoTrade allows you to open and fund an account online. Unfortunately, once you get up and running, the process of finding and using the available tools is confusing at best. Certain features, such as streaming data, are on SogoTrader while others are on SogoOnline. Searching for features on SogoOnline generates multiple tabs and requires a fair bit of clicking around to find what you’re looking for. Customers will likely end up mainly using one of the SogoTrade platforms to avoid the confusion even if that platform doesn’t have all the features that are needed.
Your account snapshot is the first screen you’ll see after logging into SogoOnline. This page shows balances, open positions, and your account’s current applicable commission rate.
When logging in on the SogoTrade mobile app, you must type in a four-digit pin because there is no fingerprint scan or facial recognition option. The first screen you see is Quotes, which has pricing and a summary chart for each stock on your watchlist. Watchlists are the same across all the platforms, so if you set one up on SogoTrader, you can find it on the matching mobile app. All available order types can similarly be entered on all platforms.
SogoTrade’s trade experience is difficult to fairly evaluate. Taken as a whole, the workflows are functional and the necessary tools are there. However, the experience isn’t integrated across platforms and you may find yourself losing time looking for a particular tool or simply cutting out of your workflow because of the annoyance of jumping to another platform to use it.
As tools are spread across multiple platforms, it is a plus that you can open a trade ticket from any spot. Trading defaults can only be set for market vs. limit orders. SogoTrader, the streaming platform, displays a chart and key stock statistics when you’re looking at a quote. You have choices when it comes to picking the limit order price when entering an order. You can choose «passive,» which buys at the bid and sells at the ask, or «aggressive,» which enters a buy at the ask and a sell at the bid. «Semi-aggressive» calculates the midpoint between bid and ask. This is an interesting feature and it’s too bad it’s not available on other SogoTrade platforms.
Although it is annoying that the mobile app uses a pin system rather than biometric authentication, the SogoTrade app is clean and simple for use as a trading platform while on the go. To place a trade, click on any stock or watchlist item, and you’ll see a Trade button at the very top. Tapping on it opens a simple trade ticket where you can make use of all the order types SogoTrade offers.
Range of Offerings
SogoTrade has a limited range of offerings with some interesting additions. The broker offers an average number of easy-to-borrow stocks for short sellers, and allows complex options of up to four legs online. On the downside, you have to call a broker to trade fixed income and there is no futures or forex trading. However, you can trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies via clearing firm Apex Crypto. This cryptocurrency trading is linked, but not actually built into the Sogo platforms.
- Stocks long and short (approximately 2,000 on the easy-to-borrow list for short sales)
- OTCBB (penny stocks)
- Mutual funds (
3,400 are no-load, no transaction fee)
SogoTrade clients can place market, limit, stop limit, trailing stops, and trailing stop limit orders. There are no conditional orders (one triggers another, one cancels another, etc.) available, and executives say that their clients have not asked for that capability. You can easily close a selected position from your portfolio listing, though it defaults to market order. You cannot select a tax lot to determine your costs basis when closing a position—all trades default to average cost.
SogoTrade’s order routing system selects trading venues based on the order request details, avoiding venues that don’t support that particular order. The smart order router is built to react to market conditions and technical issues. SogoTrade’s router does not go through dark pools or break up orders. The order router is primarily sequential and balances speed and price improvement, though SogoTrade does not make any execution quality statistics available. SogoTrade’s platforms do not have any backtesting or automated trading capabilities.
SogoTrade executives say that most customers are trading for $0 but they have not yet formalized that pricing structure, so our ranking is based on the firm’s stated $2.88 per trade rate. Options trades are $0.50 per contract no matter how many legs are traded. Margin fees are on the higher end of the industry average.
- Equity orders are $0 for limit orders and $2.88 per trade for market orders of up to 100,000 shares. Larger orders must be placed through the Trade Desk, which incurs a $25 surcharge.
- OTCBB commissions are also $0 for limit orders and $2.88 per trade for market orders. There is a minimum investment of $100 for stocks priced under $1.
- Options base commission is $0.
- Options per contract fee is $0.50.
- An options order for 50 contracts is $25, regardless of the number of legs.
- Covered call trade for a limit order of 500 shares plus 5 contracts is $2.50, and $5.33 for a market order.
- Mutual fund fees are $15 per fund.
- Margin interest at $10,000 balance is 9.25% and $100,000 balance is 7%.
- There is no account maintenance fee, but there is a $50 low equity fee for any account that has under $100 in equity and has not executed a single transaction in the last year.
- Account closure fee is $0.
- Account transfer fee for a full or partial transfer is $75.
- Exercise and assignment fee is $15.
- Voluntary reorganization is $50.
- Sending a wire is $25 for domestic, $50 for international.
- Sending a paper check is $5.
- Paper trade confirmations are $5 each.
- Paper statements are $10 per month.
- Live broker fee is $25 plus online commissions.
How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You
The pressure of zero fees has changed the business model for most online brokers, though SogoTrade has not yet gone public with its fee changes beyond dropping the $4.88 rate. In lieu of fees, the way brokers make money from you is less obvious – as are some of the subtle ways they make money for you.
- Interest on cash: SogoTrade earns interest using the idle cash in your account, and has no cash sweep option. This means any interest the company makes is not shared with you.
- Stock loans: SogoTrade can also earn revenue loaning stocks in your account for short sales—with your permission, of course. SogoTrade shares the revenue from loaning stocks with you. We did not receive an estimate of what a customer might expect to earn on their Fully Paid Stock Loan program.
- Payment for order flow: SogoTrade’s orders are routed to generate payment for order flow (PFOF). This is the practice where a broker accepts payment from a market maker for letting that market maker execute the order. The concern with PFOF is that you are sacrificing better execution on your order so that your broker can make a few more cents on the transaction.
- Price improvement: SogoTrade was unable to tell us their price improvement practices.
- Portfolio margining: SogoTrade does not offer portfolio margining, which can lower the amount of margin needed based on the overall risk calculated. Typically, portfolio margining works best for customers who trade derivatives that offset the risk inherent in their equity positions. If you trade derivatives and make heavy use of margin, you should consider a different broker.
- SogoTrade does not offer portfolio margining
- SogoTrade has a stock loan program
- No interest is paid on idle cash balances
- There is no cash sweep program
- SogoTrade clients can enroll dividend-paying stocks in a DRIP program
All of SogoTrade’s platforms have useful tools built-in, but they don’t communicate with one another. This leads to a muddled research experience even for the most patient investors. There also is no mutual fund or bond screener offered by SogoTrade.
Stock and ETF Screener
On the SogoOnline website, the stock screener is extremely basic and is not customizable (or particularly useful). The screener does let you look for optionable stocks though. Unfortunately, you cannot save the screen for future use or export the results to a watchlist.
The SogoOptions platform features in-depth strategy descriptions, a graphic display of each strategy, lookup, and order entry. The SogoPlay feature has a way to look for an options strategy once you have chosen the underlying stock and entered your market outlook. As with many of the other research features, the tools are spread out over several different platforms and are hard to find.
Tools and Calculators
In SogoOptions, there are a number of options-specific tools such as a profit and loss calculator and probability calculator.
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Trading Idea Generator
There isn’t a trading idea tool, but clients can view the SogoPlay Daily Trading Idea and the SogoTrade Morning Call newsletter. Again, this requires accessing different platforms.
Company news is provided by Comtex and Streaming Market. Most of the news is displayed only in the SogoTrader platform, and usually spawns a new browser tab.
Analyst ratings are provided by ValuEngine on an individual stock basis on the SogoTrader platform. You have to type in a ticker symbol to read the report; there is no analyst overview available.
The charting is extremely basic and clumsy on the SogoOnline and SogoTrader platform, though the latter has streaming data. There is better charting on the premium SogoElite platform, but that platform was not a core part of this review.
SogoTrade’s market focus used to be active traders, so a well-developed education center wasn’t a priority. Despite an apparent shift in focus, the educational content is sparse, especially compared to larger rivals who are now SogoTrade’s direct competitors for new investors. SogoTrade’s education center provides the bare-bones basics of investing in stocks, ETFs, and options. The SogoPlay platform does feature a good amount of information on options strategies, how they should be used, and how to analyze them. Like the tools spread across platforms, the educational content can be hard to find and challenging to navigate once you are there.
- Phone line available Monday-Friday, 7 am to 8 pm Eastern time. Phones are answered very quickly. There is a separate phone line for Chinese-speaking customers.
- Live chat available on the website for current and prospective clients.
- Live broker available while phone lines are open.
- Non-U.S. customers in non-restricted countries can open accounts. SogoTrade has customers from 149 countries, currently.
SogoTrade’s security is lagging the industry in a few important ways:
- Two-factor authentication is not available.
- Biometric entry is not available.
- SogoTrade’s login protocol allows users to set a unique account phrase and image. Customers can create a PIN, which is entered through an encrypted on-screen keypad to protect against keyloggers.
- SogoTrade’s clearing firm, Apex Clearing, provides excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage from Lloyd’s of London up to an aggregate of $150 million, subject to limits of $37.5 million for any one customer’s securities and $900,000 for any one customer’s cash.
- No significant breaches during 2020 were reported by the Identity Theft Research Center.
SogoTrade is searching for a new niche in a price competitive landscape where large, integrated, and full-featured online brokerages are reaching out to all investors and traders. While many of its shortcomings can be traced back to a no-frills, low-cost approach designed to attract active traders, that is no longer enough in today’s market. It remains to be seen whether or not the inroads SogoTrade is making with Chinese language support will create a new niche for the company. The firm has announced a partnership with KGI, a major brokerage in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which will allow further access to some Asian markets.
To improve, SogoTrade needs to put some work into organizing its platform(s). SogoTrade’s trading tools are fragmented across several programs. Simply consolidating these tools and tweaking the user experience would significantly improve its usability. Again, it is not that the tools are missing—they just aren’t there when you want them depending on which platform you are using. SogoTrade is also a latecomer to security practices that are becoming standard, such as biometric logins for mobile apps and two-factor authentication when logging into the website from a new browser. The cryptocurrency trading partnership with Apex Crypto is a helpful feature for those who want to get into trading cryptocurrency, but here again, there are other options.
Overall, it is difficult to recommend SogoTrade to the average investor or even active traders. Now more than ever, both these groups are spoiled for choice—and almost all of those choices come at an excellent price point with all the features and a more organized trading experience.
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SogoTrade Review – How Does This Stock Broker Compare?
As a brokerage firm that caters to the Chinese-speaking community, SogoTrade offers both customer service and trading technology in the language. Through our review, we found that it offers a viable solution for day traders who place many trades in a quarterly or 12-month period.
Coast Investments Associates was founded in 1986. The company purchased SogoTrade in 2020, and the new enterprise was renamed SogoTrade, Inc. in 2020. Today, the brokerage firm caters to the Chinese-speaking community, offering both customer service and trading technology in the language. SogoTrade also allows non-US citizens to open an international securities account. Find out more in this SogoTrade Review.
Equity trades cost $4.88 at SogoTrade. Customers who place more than 150 trades per quarter get a $2 discount. There is no limit to the number of shares that can be traded at either commission level. Using a live rep over the phone to complete a trade costs $25.
Prepaid Commission Packages
SogoTrade has a unique commission schedule where clients can purchase trades up front before actually buying or selling any securities. There are two packages available. The first costs $77.60 and includes 20 trades. That boils down to $3.88 per trade. The second package is a 50-trade bundle that costs $144. This one translates into $2.88 per trade. The trades expire after 12 months.
Derivatives cost an extra 50¢ at SogoTrade. Exercises and assignments are a rather expensive $15 each.
An investment account at SogoTrade can be opened with zero deposit. The broker-dealer does have a $50 annual low-balance fee that is charged anytime an account goes below $100 in total assets. Placing one trade per year will waive the annual fee.
Because SogoTrade strives to be an ultra-low-cost firm, there are no software fees.
I was disappointed with the lack of sophisticated tools on the broker’s website when going through the SogoTrade Review. SogoTrade does offer more advanced platforms, as we shall see shortly. There is a very simple trading ticket on the SogoTrade site. It offers trading in stocks, ETF’s, and options.
Stock orders have several order types available, including limit, market, stop, and trailing orders. Duration can be set to day, GTC, and extended hours. Next to the order ticket is a data section that shows bid-ask spread and volume. This information can be refreshed.
Account balances are shown, including margin balance and overnight buying power. Another window displays orders, both current and filled. A positions tab shows current holdings.
Traders who don’t want to use the rudimentary website can move up to an entry-level platform called SogoTrader. It is customizable and comes with interactive charting, which the website lacks. Comparisons and volume can be displayed, and a graph can be shown out to ten years.
Real-time streaming quotes are available, along with market news, positions, and multiple watch lists. Orders are shown, including cancelled orders.
I was impressed with the number of tools SogoTrade offers option investors. A discrete platform designed for derivative trading has four tabs at the top. They are trade, chain, strategies, and tools.
The chain tab offers puts and calls plus several strategies, including straddles and diagonals. Under tools, there is a profit/loss calculator. The trade tab includes a user-friendly order ticket, and pending orders are shown in a helpful table.
For accounts above $100,000, SogoTrade offers its most advanced desktop trading system, aptly entitled SogoElite. It includes tools for backtesting and tick-by-tick data from various exchanges. The software also features option chains and streaming charts with technical indicators, as found in our SogoTrade Review.
While SogoElite is a strong platform, brokers like TradeStation do not have as steep requirements for their software packages.
A web-based trading platform for mobile devices is at m.sogotrade.com. I was disappointed by the lack of options trading here as I was going through the SogoTrade Review. Stocks and ETF’s can be traded, however. Account balances are shown, and a small chart can be displayed.
The trading ticket is similar to the others already discussed. Available actions include sell short and buy to cover. There are several order types and duration choices. An order status button shows all orders—pending, filled, and cancelled.
Besides this platform, the broker-dealer also has an app for Android and Apple devices. A chart can be rotated horizontally, and a variety of time frames can be chosen. The order ticket allows shorting, and it shows recently updated information on an entered ticker symbol.
As mentioned, SogoTrade’s mobile platform is quite weak, and struggles to compete with something like TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim mobile app.
SogoTrade also has an Application Programming Interface, a rare feature among brokerage firms. It allows its customers to build their own trading software and access necessary market and account data to place trades.
SogoTrade Customer Service
A SogoTrade associate can be reached over the phone Monday through Friday, 7:00 am until 8:00 pm, EST. Unfortunately, the broker doesn’t offer weekend or nighttime hours, which other firms like Merrill Edge do offer. The SogoTrade website has a helpful on-line chat function during service hours, and there is a dedicated phone line for Chinese speakers.
Executions and Routes
There are no routing choices at SogoTrade. The broker promises “ultra-low latency” on SogoElite, and presumably this platform would have the fastest executions.
Shorting equities is permissible at SogoTrade. Stocks that trade for more than $17 per share have a 30% initial margin requirement. Equities under $17 have a $5 per share requirement.
SogoTrade uses Apex Clearing as its clearing firm. If Apex doesn’t have shares of a thinly-traded stock in its inventory, it will charge a hard-to-borrow fee for a short position on the stock. SogoTrade does not charge any markups on the fee.
Type of Trader SogoTrade is Best For
Investors who place many trades in a quarterly or 12-month period will benefit from SogoTrade’s commission schedule. Because of the great option tools that are available, derivative traders will also have good resources here, in addition to the great commission schedule. And as already mentioned, Chinese speakers have support here that other firms don’t provide.
- A portfolio management service is available that costs 0.75% annually. It charges no commissions.
- Customers receive Morning Call, the broker’s daily newsletter, which includes security research.
- Assuming an account balance of at least $100, SogoTrade is cheaper than Fidelity, E*Trade, Schwab, and Ally Invest.
- IRA’s are available, but they have an annual fee of $35.
- Statements and trade confirmations in paper format aren’t free.
SogoTrade has good resources for active day traders. The broker will rightfully attract some interest from investors at other firms that charge more, as we discovered in the SogoTrade Review.
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