Founded in 2010, TradingBlock is a relatively new discount broker that offers trading on US-based exchanges. While trading fees are relatively high and only a limited number of markets are on offer, the broker offers powerful third-party trading platforms and discounted fees for traders who meet certain capital requirements.
Traders have a variety of research tools at disposal, including the Portfolio Hedger and customized stock filters to screen the market.
In this broker comparison, we covered all you need to know about TradingBlock to decide whether this is the best ETF broker for your needs.
- Powerful third-party trading platforms
- Discounted fees for higher accounts
- All major asset-classes covered
- Member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC
- 1. ETF Trading Offer: US-Based and OTC Markets with Tools For Longer-Term Investing
- 2. Exchanges and Trading Centres: US-Listed and OTC Equities, Options, Fixed-Income & More
- 3. Trading Conditions - $0.01 per Share with a $5.00 Minimum Fee per Order
- 4. Trading Platform – TradingBlock Offers Trading Platforms for Casual and Advanced Traders
- 5. Usability of the Website – Easy-to-Navigate Website
- 6. Customer Support – Only Telephone and E-Mail Supported, No Live Chat
- 7. Methods of Payment: TradingBlock Accepts Check Deposits and Wire Transfers
- 8. Additional Offers: Auto-Trade Execution Service, Discounted Rates and Basic Education
- 9. Regulation & Deposit Protection: Member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC
- 10. Awards – 17th Place out of 19 in Barron’s 2018 Best Online Brokers Review
- 11. Conclusion: TradingBlock is a Fairly Expensive Discount Broker with a Limited Number of Market Centres
Trader Rating Total
Chicago, USA (SIPC)
1.) ETF Trading Offer: US-Based and OTC Markets with Tools For Longer-Term Investing
TradingBlock is a discount brokerage with fees slightly above industry-standards and only a limited number of markets on offer. Founded in 2010, TradingBlock is still a relatively young broker in the industry and caters more to casual traders and investors than to professionals. The broker offers trading on major US-based exchanges and the OTC market, covering major asset classes such as stocks, bonds, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds and Forex. While foreign markets are not supported, clients are still able to trade on some foreign securities if they’re traded on the US over-the-counter market.
TradingBlock offers individual trading accounts and IRAs, with a minimum deposit requirement of $2,000 ($500 for IRAs). The account opening process is similar to other discount brokers – after you fill out the registration form and fund your account, your trading account will be activated in around 48 hours, depending on the account funding method.
TradingBlock is focused on longer-term growth and investors, featuring innovative trading tools, risk assessment tools and educational resources that should help you in your investment-making process. However, much of the educational material is focused on options trading, with only a smaller portion dedicated to stock and futures traders.
- TradingBlock offers trading on US-listed and OTC securities
- Trading tools for longer-term investing available
- Fees at the upper bound of industry standards
2.) Exchanges and Trading Centres: US-Listed and OTC Equities, Options, Fixed-Income & More
As this broker comparison shows, TradingBlock offers trading on all major asset classes, including stocks, futures, options, currencies, ETFs and Mutual Funds, but it seems that the broker caters most to options traders according to its educational resources and range of trading platforms. Market centres that are supported are only those located in the United States and the OTC market, which means that traders will lack most of the benefits of international diversification. However, foreign securities that are traded on the US over-the-counter market can be traded with TradingBlock.
Equities on offer include listed- and OTC-securities, ETFs, preferred stocks, and ADRs. Regarding options, the broker offers covered calls, spreads, straddles and collars, to name a few. And on the fixed-income front, clients can trade on US treasuries, corporate bonds, Unit Investment Trusts, Certificates of Deposit, municipal bonds and more.
Independent advisors can also use TradingBlock’s services for their own client through the broker’s MoneyBlock service.
The broker features some welcoming tools to sort securities using a number of filters. There are over 20 pre-built scans available to clients, which scan stocks and ETFs on high and low prices, growth, volume activity and more. Clients can also choose to sort securities using custom filters, including market cap, sector, primary exchange and more.
- TradingBlock offers trading on equities, Mutual Funds, options, futures, FX and bonds
- The number of offered securities is quite low
- Custom sorting filters available
3.) Trading Conditions - $0.01 per Share with a $5.00 Minimum Fee per Order
According to our ETF broker comparison, TradingBlock’s fees are at the upper side of the range compared to other discount brokers. Fees on stock trading start at $0.01 per share, with a minimum fee of $5.00 per order. Option trading is charged $0.50 per contract + $5.00 per ticket. Fees on fixed-income trades are $1.00 per bond with a minimum fee of $50.00 per order. Mutual funds trades and UITs are charged at $30.
In addition to the fees listed above, there is also a debit interest rate for margin trades in the amount of 7.45%. Inactivity fees are also quite high, as account that are inactive for 12 months are charged $30. Exchanges can also charge fees on certain ETF and index options, ranging from $0.18 to $0.44 on a per-contract basis. The complete list of securities with exchange fees can be found on this link.
Active traders who trade a high volume per month are eligible for a discounted rate, but clients need to call the broker’s customer support to apply for it.
Fees for an IRA termination and outgoing account transfers are $75, paper statements are charged $5 per month and archived copies of statements that are 2 years and older are $25 for 1-3 months, and $100 for a full year.
- Fees start at $0.01 per share (min. $5.00 per order)
- Discounts available for active traders
- Relatively high inactivity fee of $30/yr
4.) Trading Platform – TradingBlock Offers Trading Platforms for Casual and Advanced Traders
TradingBlock offers advanced third-party trading platforms, including Sterling Trader Pro, Silexx, ReatTick and Instinet with web-based order entry platforms and access to multiple order books. While the broker’s standard trading platform offers all necessary features for the casual trader, such as charting tools, multiple order types and trading alerts, traders who are more experienced would benefit more from the broker’s third-party platforms.
Sterling Trader Pro is a fully-customizable trading platform with advanced order entry and risk management tools. The platform supports direct market access, advanced charting tools, real-time news and fundamental analysis, linkable option chains and depth of market order entry for both option and stock traders.
Silexx is a multi-asset trading platform that features advanced trading analytics, including firm-wide risk profiles, and a graphical interface that is completely customizable to a user’s needs. This includes customizable layouts, hotkeys, single-click trading, multi-asset class order tickets, multi-monitor support and more.
As our broker comparison shows, in order to get access to TradingBlock’s third-party trading platforms, clients need to contact the broker’s pro trading desk via e-mail or telephone, and meet certain requirements such as a minimum trading account size and minimum monthly trading fees.
- Advanced third-party trading platforms on offer
- Fully customizable and powerful tools
- Minimum trading account and minimum monthly trading fees requirement
5.) Usability of the Website – Easy-to-Navigate Website
TradingBlock’s website is divided into four main categories, depending on what you’re looking for:
- TradingBlock – this is the broker’s main website with links for opening an account, fees and commissions and contact information
- TradingBlockPro – this links leads to the broker’s products and services for advanced and professional traders, including a detailed description of trading platforms on offer
- TradingBlockFutures – As its name suggests, futures traders will find all important information on this link
- MoneyBlock – this link should be used by investment professionals who have their own clients, but want to use some of TradingBlock’s services and technologies
On the TradingBlock link, which is the most interesting for prospective clients, traders will find a well-round and easy-to-navigate homepage with seven main tabs: Welcome, Find, Analyze, Trade, Manage, Learn and Help. However, most of the tabs are functional only for existing clients (Find, Analyze & Manage). The Welcome and Help tabs might be the most useful for prospective clients, as they host the commissions and fees structure of the broker, margin policies, promotions, and a FAQ section.
Legal information and terms of business can be easily found at the bottom of the homepage under the “About TradingBlock” link, which contains everything from the Board of Directors and Advisors to Board, over to management and company news.
- Website divided into four main categories
- TradingBlock link contains all information for prospective clients
- FAQ section could contain more questions
6.) Customer Support – Only Telephone and E-Mail Supported, No Live Chat
While trading fees and commissions are the upper side of the range compared to other discount brokers, it seems that TradingBlock’s customer support is at the lower side of the range.
TradingBlock offers customer support through e-mail and via a telephone line, which can be accessed Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Central Time. This means that you can contact their customer service only during the day. If you have any problems or questions outside these hours or late at night, you’ll have to wait for the next day to contact the broker. There are separate telephone lines for customer service, the trade desk and for international clients.
A mailing address is provided in case you need to contact the broker via post or if you’re funding your account with bank checks.
Unfortunately, there is no live chat option which is already a standard option with other discount brokers – even with those offering lower fees than TradingBlock. The broker’s Frequently Asked Questions section also has only a limited number of questions compared to other discount brokers.
The good news is that TradingBlock’s customer support is attentive and helpful with any questions you might have about the broker’s services.
- TradingBlock offers telephone and e-mail support
- No live chat option
- No support after 4:30 PM CT
7.) Methods of Payment: TradingBlock Accepts Check Deposits and Wire Transfers
After you open an account with TradingBlock, there are only two ways to fund your account: (1) using check deposits, and (2) through wire transfers. As our ETF broker comparison shows, other discount brokers offer far more options to fund your account.
Checks must be payable in US dollars and through a US bank, and must match the account owner’s name. The following checks are not accepted by TradingBlock: coin or currency, cashier’s check, money orders, foreign instruments, thrift withdrawal orders, domestic drafts, double-endorsed checks, third-party checks, checks dated over six month old and credit card checks. Check deposits require 24-48 hours to be credited to your trading account.
While TradingBlock doesn’t impose any fees on incoming wire transfers, your financial institution may charge fees for the transfer. Outgoing domestic wire transfers are charged $25 per transfer, while outgoing international wire transfers are charged $50 per transfer. It takes up to 24 hours for a wire transfer to be credited to your account.
Clients can also transfer their accounts from other brokers to TradingBlock. In this case, it takes up to 7-10 business days for your funds to be ready to trade, and TradingBlock will credit your account up to $100 for any transfer fees imposed by your previous broker.
- Check deposits and wire transfers accepted
- $25 fee per outgoing domestic wire transfer ($50 for international)
- $100 credit on account transfer fees from another broker
8.) Additional Offers: Auto-Trade Execution Service, Discounted Rates and Basic Education
TradingBlock offers an auto-trade execution service, which allows you to automate your trading by letting TradingBlock execute your trades. To use auto-trade, you need first to subscribe to one of the supported financial newsletters which send out trade recommendations. Currently supported newsletter publishers are Schaeffer’s Investment Research, Monthly Cash Thru Options, Tradespoon, Go Trade Signals and Booking Alpha, but you can also ask the broker to add another publisher that you follow. The auto-trade execution service is free for TradingBlock clients.
Traders who open one equities and one futures account and fund them with a minimum of $5,000 earn special commission discounts below the broker’s regular rates. The lowered fees are as follows:
- Stocks & ETFs:
$0.001 per share; $3.50 minimum
- Stock Options:
$3.50 + $0.50 per contract
$1.99 per contract (20% off)
- Options on Futures:
$1.99 per contract (20% off)
TradingBlock’s training offer is rather simple and offers only the most basic educational material. However, there is a list of live and archived webcasts presented by Joseph Cusick, who explains some important trading issues and covers basic and advanced trading strategies on the broker’s YouTube channel. However, the last posted webinar was from February 2016.
- Auto-trade execution service to trade on auto-pilot
- Discounted rates for active traders
- Training offer is basic and out-dated
9.) Regulation & Deposit Protection: Member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC
TradingBlock is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the National Futures Association (NFA) and the Securities Investor Protection Organisation (SIPC). As a member of the SIPC, clients of TradingBlock are protected up to $500,000, with a cash sub-limit of $250,000. In addition, TradingBlock’s clearing firm (APEX) holds an additional insurance policy that covers up $37.5 million per customer, with a $900,000 cash sub-limit.
TradingBlock doesn’t except checks from minors for account funding purposes, and you need to be of legal age to open a trading account with the broker. Also, TradingBlock typically doesn’t accept third-party account deposits. If someone else funds your account, TradingBlock will request a confirmation of ownership and the relationship, and such wire transfer will be subject to review and may eventually be returned.
The broker’s website uses a secure https:// protocol which encrypts all data sent through the website.
According to FINRA’s BrokerCheck, TradingBlock was established in Illinois in 2003, with Trading Block Holdings INC. being the 100% owner. On the Federal level, TradingBlock is also registered with the SEC.
- Member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC
- Client securities protected up to $37.5 million ($900,000 cash sub-limit)
- Third-party wire transfers usually not accepted
10.) Awards – 17th Place out of 19 in Barron’s 2018 Best Online Brokers Review
TradingBlock was poorly ranked by Barron’s in the 2018 Best Online Brokers Review. In a competition of 19 brokerages, TradingBlock was placed at the 17th spot with 18.3 points (for comparison purposes, the best ETF broker on the list received 36.8 points). Barron’s reviewed 19 brokerages across eight categories: Trading Experience & Technology, Usability, Mobile, Range of Offerings, Research Amenities, Portfolio Analysis and Reports, Customer Service – Education – Security, and Costs.
In a similar review, Barron’s noted that TradingBlock has a powerful Portfolio Hedger that can protect, or even generate, income from your existing positions. However, the broker has occasional issues with the quote engine and no mobile functionality.
According to Credio, TradingBlock has “fairly expensive pricing on stock trades” and “basic offering of investment options”. Credio also noted that the broker may be great for beginner traders, as it provides independent investment research, account alerts and powerful charting tools.
The main drawbacks of the broker which prevented more awards and a higher ranking on Barron’s list are the relatively high trading fees and commissions, a limited number of market centres on offer and the absence of mobile trading apps.
- Poorly ranked on Barron’s 2018 Best Online Brokers list
- Expensive stock trades and basic offering of investment options (Credio)
- No mobile trading apps
Conclusion: TradingBlock is a Fairly Expensive Discount Broker with a Limited Number of Market Centres
TradingBlock is discount broker with fees on the upper side of the range compared to market competitors. The broker has only a limited number of market centres on offer and trading accounts that are inactive for 12 months are charges a rather expensive $30 inactivity fee.
The good news is that TradingBlock offers powerful third-party trading platforms, which cater to both the casual and professional trader. Traders that are active and meet a certain account size requirement are eligible for discounted fees, and the broker will also cover up to $100 of fees imposed by other brokers on account transfers.
Overall, TradingBlock may be a good broker for beginner traders who want to get their feet wet on investing and trading. Experienced traders may find better offerings from other discount brokers, such as more market centres to trade on and lower trading fees.
- Powerful third-party trading platforms
- Lower fees for traders with accounts above $10,000
- Portfolio Hedger
- Customized stock filters
- Relatively high fees
- No mobile trading apps
- Limited number of market centres