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2018 review of StockPile investing: brokerage fees and commissions, advantages and disadvantages, minimum requirements and promotion offer for opening a new online account with the discount stock broker.

StockPile Overview

There’s a new brokerage firm on the horizon trying to change the way people buy stock and even give gifts. Called Stockpile, the company allows investors to trade stocks in fractional shares and give fractional shares as gifts, too. Despite this attractive feature, Stockpile does have some weaknesses. Let’s take a look under the hood.

StockPile Commissions

InvestmentsCommissions
Buying e-gifts $2.99 for first stock + 99¢ for each additional stock + 3% credit/debit card fee
Stocks and ETFs $0.99
Options not offered
Mutual funds not offered
Treasury Bills, Notes, Municipal and Agency Bonds, Zeros & Strips not offered


StockPile Account Minimum and Promotion


StockPile Safety and Security

According to FINRA’s very important BrokerCheck, Stockpile registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2012. Its SEC ID number is 68772. There are currently zero disclosures on Stockpile’s FINRA’s information sheet, which is a very good sign.

Stockpile’s FINRA registration number is 156170. According to FINRA, Stockpile was established in 2010. Obviously, this brokerage house is a very new firm. As a result, it is too early to make a full judgment about its credibility. Nevertheless, Stockpile does meet all its regulatory requirements.

Stockpile is also a member of SIPC, which means Stockpile brokerage accounts are insured up to $500,000. Half this amount is available for cash balances.

Investing With StockPile

StockPile Investing Rating

Before founding Stockpile, Avi Lele, the now CEO of the company, wanted to give shares of stock as Christmas presents to his nephews and nieces. But the stocks he wanted to give were too expensive to buy in whole shares. So he started to figure out a way to give his relatives fractional shares as presents. This led to the creation of Stockpile.

Here’s how it works: you can buy gift cards of stocks in dollar amounts (such as $50 worth of Facebook or $300 worth of Chevron). The minimum face value is $1 and the maximum is $2,000. Because these are whole dollar amounts, a purchase will result in a fractional share.

Stockpile stock gift card review

Stockpile sells gift cards on its site. We also found them being sold on Amazon, Walmart, and Target just like any other fixed-dollar gift card. It’s possible to have a physical card shipped to you (this increases the cost) or you can print it at home. In addition to stocks, the broker also offers ETF and bitcoin gift cards.

StockPile Give Stocks

Besides physical cards, e-gift cards are also available. These can be purchased on the Stockpile website and e-mailed to a recipient immediately or at a later date.

Technically, the gift cards aren’t securities, but they can be redeemed on Stockpile’s website for securities. Every card, physical or electronic, has a redemption code. Cards never expire, and one feature that we really like is that they can be swapped for a different security or even a store gift card.

Stockpile review

For example, if you receive a $300 Netflix gift card but would rather have Tesla stock or a Home Depot card, you can trade it in for $300 of Tesla or $300 of Home Depot credit.

The redemption side has several caveats. First, redeemers must open a Stockpile brokerage account. Many recipients of Stockpile gift cards will be under 18, so a legal adult (typically the parent) must open a custodial account in the name of the recipient. Another caveat is that only U.S. citizens and legal residents can open a Stockpile account. Finally, the stock on the gift card is not actually purchased until the card is redeemed. The exact purchase of stock occurs as a market-on-close order.

Besides the original purpose of holiday presents, physical and electronic gift cards could be given to adults as birthday or anniversary presents. They could also be given as graduation gifts to presumably 18-year-olds, who could open a brokerage account on their own.

Besides its gift card business, Stockpile also offers traditional security trading within a Stockpile brokerage account. We’re disappointed in its range of offerings, though. Only stocks and ETF’s are available. There are no bonds, mutual funds, forex, futures, or options.

StockPile Fees

StockPile Fees Rating

While gift cards are a great idea, they come at a price. The redemption side has no fees. On the purchase side, the first stock in an e-gift transaction costs $2.99 plus a 3% credit/debit card fee. Each additional stock in a transaction costs $0.99. Physical cards cost $4.95, $6.95, or $7.95, depending on the face value of the card.

There is no charge to switch to a different stock (no stock has been purchased until a card has been redeemed), and opting to use the funds to get a retailer gift card is also free of charge.

Trading stocks and ETF’s inside a brokerage account costs just $0.99 per trade. This commission is applied to both the buy and sell sides. Stockpile offers dividend reinvestment services free of charge.

ACH transfers cost nothing at Stockpile. It is possible to fund an account with a debit card, although the broker charges 1.5% for this with a $0.75 minimum.

There is no charge to open an account, and there are no fees to maintain or close one. Electronic statements and trade confirmations are free of charge, although a paper copy costs a very steep $30. Transferring a Stockpile account to another broker carries a $75 charge.

Customer Service

StockPile Customer Rating

It took just a few minutes to fill out Stockpile’s online account application, and we were able to login immediately. An account does have to be approved first, however, before it can place trades. Stockpile claims that most accounts are approved in under 30 minutes. Our test account was not.

The broker provides a helpful FAQ on its website that answers a lot of common questions about the Stockpile way of investing. Because many customers will have questions about its gift cards, this is a good place to go for information.

There is a message icon in the lower-right corner of the Stockpile website. Unfortunately, it’s not a chat service. You can send an e-mail, and Stockpile says it “typically responds within a day.”

The broker also has a service e-mail. When we looked for the broker’s phone number, we couldn’t find it—definitely a bad sign. We have no idea what the company’s hours of operation are if we happened to find its phone number. There are no branch locations, and no foreign language service. Apparently, $0.99 commissions come at a cost.

Banking Features

StockPile Banking Rating

Due to its attempt to keep costs at a minimum, Stockpile does not offer checks or a debit card with an investment account. It is easy to connect an external bank account. Tiles of bank names and icons are displayed for quick linking. It’s also possible to set up auto deposits.

Stockpile review

IRAs and Investment Advice

StockPile IRA Rating

Portfolio management? Forget about it. Not here. The brokerage firm also does not offer any retirement accounts. Only individual and custodial accounts can be opened.

Desktop Software

StockPile Trading Rating

Although some low-cost brokers today don’t offer website trading, Stockpile has managed to offer this service. There isn’t a trade bar on the broker’s site, however. There are no platforms available, either, such as browser or desktop applications.

The process to purchase e-gift cards is fairly straightforward on the website. A top menu shows categories of equities, such as top gainers, most active, tech stocks, gaming, and fashion. Another category is stocks that children might be interested in. An icon is displayed that children might have knowledge of, such as Hannah Montana, next to the parent company’s name, such as Disney.

StockPile investing review

After clicking on a stock, a pop-up window is shown with a buy field where a specific dollar amount can be entered. A stock’s profile also displays various logos that the company owns, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, ESPN, and Spiderman for Disney.

A security’s graph on the website is shown in small size. It cannot be displayed full screen, and there are no chart tools, such as indicators, comparisons, multiple graph styles, or drawing tools. Obviously, the broker doesn’t have much emphasis on technical analysis of equities.

Mobile App

StockPile App Rating

In addition to the website, Stockpile also provides a mobile app. It’s compatible with Apple and Android devices. The Apple app is built around phone sizes.

During our testing, we found the platform to be user-friendly and easy to learn. As with the website, graphing is very simple with no analysis tools. A chart cannot be rotated horizontally, another disappointing feature.

StockPile investing review

Stocks can be added to a watchlist, which displays them in icon format, an unusual layout. News articles are presented on the front menu. A common source is Zolmax News, not the most well-known media outlet in the world.

One feature we liked was a simple stock screener that presented various categories, such as most active, popular this month, and biggest losers. Other useful features on the app include funds transfer, the ability to invite friends, and a gift card redemption tool.

E-cards can be purchased on the mobile app. It’s easy to search for equities using either a ticker symbol or the app’s pre-defined categories. After a dollar amount is entered in a stock’s purchase field, the app automatically calculates the number of estimated shares out to five decimal places.

StockPile trading review

Investment Education and Research

StockPile Research Rating

On the website, Stockpile provides brief information on equities and even briefer information on ETF’s. This information is shown in a pop-up window after clicking on a security’s title. The day’s price is shown with the percent change from the previous day’s close. Trade data, such as volume, P/E ratio, and dividend yield are also available.

In the same pop-up window, news articles are displayed. Some of the sources we found include Seeking Alpha and Zacks. A brief description of the company is shown along with the number of employees.

On the mobile app, a similar research experience for stocks can be found. One difference is in the display of the price, which shows a different font.

A unique feature the mobile app has is a learning center geared towards beginners. Because many Stockpile customers will be children who have received stocks as presents, the educational articles in this section are written at a very low level.

Stockpile Comparison

StockPile Comparison

It’s hard to compare Stockpile to other firms because of the broker’s gift card business. Some broker-dealers do offer DRIP service with fractional shares. These companies include Firstrade, Merrill Edge, and Schwab.

Most low-cost brokerage firms charge more than $0.99 for equity trades. These include many big names, such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*Trade.

Firstrade (read review) recently lowered its stock and ETF commission to $0, which beats Stockpile. Moreover, Firstrade customers have access to options, bonds, and mutual funds.

Other weaknesses Stockpile has include cash management tools, portfolio management, and retirement services. Vanguard offers all three, for example.

Recommendation

For obvious reasons, we don’t recommend Stockpile for option or mutual fund traders. We also don’t recommend it for traders who need advanced software. Its technology is rather simple.

Stockpile would be a decent place to trade stocks and ETF’s with its very low $0.99 commission. On the other hand, Robinhood and Firstrade are at $0.

We’re not sure that Stockpile’s gift card fees are a good deal. Let’s say you spend $100 on a physical card at a Target store. You’ll have to spend $7.95 on the card fee, which in this case is 7.95%. We view this as rather high. This is the steepest fee Stockpile charges, so a higher card balance will reduce the percentage.

While e-cards carry lower fees, they still produce a questionable value. For example, say you purchase a $50 McDonald’s e-card. This will set you back $2.99 plus $1.50 (the 3% fee). The total fee is $4.49, which is almost 10% of the stock purchased. If the stock is a gift, the cost is probably worth it.

StockPile Review Recap

Stockpile is a unique brokerage firm with a charming method of investing. Its educational and research sections suggest it is targeting adults who might purchase gift cards for their children. Fractional shares of stock could be purchased as gifts for anyone at any age of course, and for special circumstances, it could be an ideal broker. In other cases, Stockpile seems to fall flat.

StockPile Promotion For A New Account

Give a gift of stock.

Open StockPile Account


StockPile reviewed by TopRatedFirms.com on Rating: 3.5