TradingBlock USA is an online discount brokerage based in Chicago, Illinois, that’s one of four brokerages managed by the parent company AOS, with the other three being TradingBlock Pro and TradingBlock Futures and Money Block.
In our TradingBlock review we’ll take a look at the brokerage’s tools, the platform itself and financial growth as well as the TradingBlock open account process to give our overall impression and rating. Ultimately, we’ll pass out TradingBlock opinions onto you and decide if we’d recommend the platform and to what type of customer.
Since TradingBlock is based in Chicago, this will be a TradingBlock review USA.
TradingBlock Pro and Con
- Good investment selection
- Efficient customer service
- Excellent educational tools
- Easy to use platform
- Fairly low margin rates
- Relatively high fees
- No mobile app
- Many of the tools run on Adobe Flash which is becoming outdated
- Few updates in recent years
- Lengthy TradingBlock open account process
When conducting our TradingBlock review, the first thing we did was check the interface and general usability of the website. In terms of aesthetics, the website is a bit simplistic and perhaps slightly dated, with a white grey and orange colour scheme that does little to capture the eye or imagination. However, if you can see past this, the TradingBlock USA website is easy to use and everything is pretty simple to find. We found the basic tools we tested when conducting this TradingBlock review to be easily accessible and straightforward to use, including their trade alerts and interactive charts. Overall, TradingBlock is a very decent platform for beginner and intermediate traders.
TradingBlock also offer a range of advanced trading platforms, however they are not easily nor instantly accessible. In order to gain access to one of their active trading platforms, including Sterling Trader and RealTick, you have to contact their pro trading desk via email. One pitfall is that many of their tools operate Adobe Flash, which is a bit dated and isn’t compatible with some browsers.
Overall, we found the usability in our TradingBlock USA review to be of a high standard that can rival their main competitors such as those in our Vanguard review and USAA review, however the lack of a mobile platform lets them down.
TradingBlock USA Accounts
In this section of our TradingBlock review we take a look at the different types of account available and the TradingBlock open account process. USA citizenship will need to be confirmed during the account opening process.
Types of TradingBlock account:
The TradingBlock open account process:
Finding the TradingBlock Open Account button on their homepage is easy, unfortunately, however, the quickness and simplicity stops there. While the TradingBlock open account process isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s extremely long and tedious, with a seemingly endless list of questions. New users also have to submit a number of documents to prove your US residency and citizenship , which can take a while to verify. When it’s all said and done, the TradingBlock open account process takes about two days. We found this to be a bit more dated than some other brokerages, as found in both our WealthFront review and WealthSimple review and ZacksTrade.
We touched upon it a little in our usability section, but this section of our TradingBlock review will focus more closely on the trading platforms available with TradingBlock USA.
The TradingBlock basic platform is good for what it is; a no frills, standard trading platform that’s easy to navigate and use. The basic platform has all of the tools that a trader needs to simply get by. Overall it’s a great first platform for complete beginners and can even serve traders and investors up to a casual intermediate level without making them feel too restricted. We conducted our TradingBlock review of this platform with new traders in mind, and rated it highly. Our review team also liked the simple and accessible platforms offered to newcomers such as found in our SoFi Invest review and our Stash review by way of a comparison.
For the more advanced traders, all of TradingBlock’s active trading platforms are 3rd party platforms that can only be accessed by getting a TradingBlock Pro subscription or by contacting customer service. All of the 3rd party active trading platforms are top notch platforms including Sterling Trader Pro, TradeSpeed Options Professional, RealTick, and SILEXX OEMS.
Once you’ve completed the lengthy TradingBlock account opening process, it’ll be time to make your first payment, which is what this section of our TradingBlock review will focus on.
It’s quite restrictive, and a little disappointing, but there are only two payment methods for making deposits and withdrawals with TradingBlock; check or wire transfer. With both methods, USD is the only accepted currency. For wire transfers there is a $25 domestic fee and a $100 international fee, which is relatively high compared with some other brokers. The processing times are also disappointingly long, as wire transfers can take 7-10 business days. Incoming and outgoing transactions are both limited to $50,000 per day.
We did find out that you can also transfer funds from another brokerage account to yoru TradingBlock account. Although we didn’t have time to test this ourselves our research suggested it to be a lengthy process.
On balance, we’d recommend wire transfers as the best payment method for first time users, however we’re sad to say it’s the best of a bad bunch.
As seems to be a bit of a running theme with TradingBlock, their offerings are a little dated here, as they only offer customer support via emails and phone line, meaning they lack a live chat or any form of guaranteed 24/7 support.
It’s not all negative though, as their customer service channels, however dated they may be, do work very well. Their phones are answered pretty quickly from our experience and their email response times were adequate. On top of this, they are concise and helpful in their answers.
Their phone support is contactable via a toll-free number and is available Mon-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time, which isn’t ideal for west coast customers, however as the head office is in Chicago this is to be expected.
As well as their customer service, TradingBlock has a number of help tools that are easy to find and access, including their FAC section (frequently addressed conundrums). The FAC is neatly compacted and laid out with drop down menus, and contains plenty of information specific to certain topics and contexts.
Regulation & Deposit Protection
TradingBlock USA is regulated by all of the regulatory bodies that we would expect of a top rated broker in the US.
TradingBlock USA is regulated by both the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the National Futures Association (NFA). These are the two US regulator bodies that truly hold the brokers they regulate to the highest possible standards, so in terms of transparency and regulations, this ticks all the boxes in our TradingBlock review here.
Should you choose to open up a TradingBlock account and start trading with them, you’ll automatically gain membership of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which is a massive advantage. Being a member of the SIPC means that your deposits are protected in case insolvency or fraud up to the value of $500,000.
To summarize, we’d confidently say that you can feel both safe and secure when trading with TradingBlock. This is definitely the highlight of our TradingBlock review so far.
During what we’ll call its prime years of operation (roughly 2014-2016), TradingBlock USA constantly offered account holders the chance to join educational presentations that lasted about 40 minutes each. Unfortunately, they have gone a bit dormant on this front, and haven’t created a new presentation since February 2016. Videos of all these tutorial presentations are still available on YouTube via the channel TradingBlock TV. They are, however, now a bit dated and we’d like to see them kick start these tutorials again.
What they currently provide instead are promotional email series, such as “Play of the Day”, which provides some expert tips and potential market moves from their in-house expert broker team. This is helpful, but is pittance in comparison to the high quality live and recorded video tutorials they used to offer. All we can hope for is they get taken over, restructured or get some new team members on board to help breathe some life into the company and revive this side of their brokerage offering.
To sum up our TradingBlock review, we’re a little bit frustrated, as this brokerage started off with so much promise back in 2010 and was well on its way to fulfilling its potential by 2016, when it seemed to lose its way a little. That being said it remains a very good, well regulated and secure platform that can serve any trader well, especially beginners. The negatives are of course the fees, the lengthy TradingBlock open account process and the lack of modernisation on many levels.
TradingBlock still has so much potential and we have the impression that with a new investor, or even just a shake up of their back office team, they could revitalise and become one of the best discount brokerages on the market. If we’re lucky, we might just see it happen.
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