Robinhood versus Ally Invest brokerage firms comparison: IRA, fees, commissions, stocks/funds offerings, differences, pros and cons. Which broker to choose?

Overview

Although Robinhood and Ally Invest are two low-cost brokerage houses, they differ in a lot of areas. This comparison will expose those differences and help you choose the right one for your trading needs.

Range of Investments

Ally Invest furnishes its clientele with equities, option contracts, bonds, mutual funds, ETF’s, and closed-end funds. A separate account can be used to trade forex. At Robinhood, traders can buy and sell equities, closed-end and exchange-traded funds, options, and a few cryptocurrencies.

The first category is awarded to Ally Invest.

Website Trading

The Ally Invest website provides a trade bar that sits at the bottom of the computer monitor. Important trade information is displayed on it, such as volume and real-time bid and ask numbers. Stocks, ETF’s, closed-end funds, and even option contracts can be traded on it.

Besides the trade bar, the site has a lot of other useful parts, including a customer service section, a watchlist, alerts, advanced charting, and more. Finally, there is a browser platform called LIVE.


Ally Live


LIVE delivers the most advanced charting environment with roughly 100 technical studies, 8 display styles, roughly 30 drawing tools, and the ability to detach or save a graph. Equities, options, bonds, and mutual funds can be traded with the software.

Moving over to Robinhood, we lose the website altogether. But there is a browser platform that delivers some decent services. Robinhood’s software incorporates 2 chart styles, 4 technical studies, and no drawing tools.


Robin Hood vs Ally


Ally takes its second victory.

Promotions

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.

Robinhood: Open account and get one free $3-$6 value stock.


Mobile Apps

The Ally Invest mobile software has tools for ACH and Zelle transfers, bill pay, and check deposit. Options (but not bonds or mutual funds) can be traded. The platform’s charting program delivers more than 3 decades of price history (more than LIVE), a few technical indicators, and a horizontal mode.


Ally vs Betterment


Compared to its challenger, Robinhood struggles here. It doesn’t deliver a mobile check deposit tool, nor does it offer Zelle transfers or bill pay. As for charting, there is only 1 display option; and there are no tools. A graph also cannot be shown horizontally. Besides options, cryptocurrencies can be traded on the platform.


Robin Hood Chart


Overall, looks like Ally Invest is the better choice here.

Other Tools

Besides its regular mobile app, Ally also has a forex app. Compatible with both Apple and Android devices, it delivers a user-friendly trade ticket, a small chart, quotes, and dealing boxes.

For currency traders who aren’t so mobile, Ally Invest also offers a forex desktop platform. It can generate automated trading tactics. The charting program delivers more than 80 technical indicators and multiple drawing tools.

The third and final piece of software Ally Invest delivers is a security trading desktop system called Quotestream. It is the only program Ally has that offers Level II data. It also offers excellent charting.

Robinhood has an app for Apple Watch. It is capable of providing order confirmation, a watchlist, trade data (most recent price and the day’s change), and a small chart.

Ally is the better pick here.

Financial Education and Research

The Ally Invest website (and the Ally Bank site) has a lot of learning materials that cover a broad area of financial topics. During our examination, we found articles (and a few videos) on such issues as selling options, how to handle volatility, and the basics of socially-conscious investing. Equity profiles deliver lots of trade data; and perhaps best of all, stock reports from CFRA are available in pdf format free of charge.

Robinhood doesn’t have much of a website, so the amount of learning materials is rather small. Both its browser and mobile platforms provide analyst ratings (but not reports), trade data, earnings histories, and news articles.

Another defeat for Robinhood.

Options Trading

Ally Invest offers traditional option chains, which can be accessed by clicking on ‘Chain’ on the trade bar. Hovering over a bid or ask price produces buy and sell icons. Besides calls and puts, there are many complex strategies, such as collars, strangles, and diagonals. LIVE has several option tools, including a probability calculator and a profit-loss diagram.

At Robinhood, traditional chains have been eliminated. Instead, the broker’s software displays a list of strike prices with a drop-down menu for expiration date. The user clicks on cal or put and buy or sell, and then adds the appropriate contract to an order form. While it is possible to manually build an order with multiple legs, there are no pre-defined strategies.

We prefer Ally Invest’s method here.

ETF’s

Both brokers in our investigation offer exchange-traded funds. On the Ally Invest site, an ETF center displays a heat map of fund performance and a list of performance by sector. Regional ETF’s are shown by map. A list of roughly 100 commission-free funds is available. Perhaps the best highlight is free fund ratings from Lipper.

Robinhood comes to the plate with $0 trading on all ETF’s, dwarfing Ally’s list. The downside is that there are no analyst ratings, and the resources Robinhood does provide don’t quite measure up. There is no ETF center.

Overall, we’ll call it even here.

Other Services

Ally Invest provides a free dividend reinvestment service, something that Robinhood fails to offer. Same goes for IRA’s. Neither broker provides automatic investing for mutual funds.

Ally Invest takes another category.

Our Recommendations

If you’re new to the world of investing, definitely open an account at Ally Invest. The broker has better customer service and learning materials.

If you plan to save for retirement or for the long term, again we recommend Ally over Robinhood.

For mutual fund trading, we obviously propose Ally Invest for reasons already mentioned. For stock trading, it’s a little more difficult. While Robinhood undeniably has the better commission, Ally Invest has better resources, including better trading software. For trading on a shoestring budget, we have to suggest Robinhood.

Promotions

Ally Invest: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.

Robinhood: Open account and get one free $3-$6 value stock.


Ally Invest vs Robinhood: Results

Ally Invest outperformed Robinhood in the vast majority of areas. While Robinhood succeeds in the budget category, it doesn’t succeed anywhere else.


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