Ally Invest Review

Minimum deposit
Year founded

Ally (aka Ally Financial) is an American online bank that exists since 2005. Over time, it’s become of the primary online banking resources in the West Hemisphere, and, some time after launch, they also started dabbling in trading. That’s how Ally Invest came to be.

Although an off-shot of a bank, Ally Invest isn’t considered a minor brokerage provider. In fact, they are amongst the popular investment advisors in the States, and it’s saying something. But, why choose them?

Well, they have many unique solutions and an interesting approach to investing as a whole. Plus, they are more legitimate than most pure brokers out there – thanks to the combination of financial expertise and, well, legality.

Trading conditions

Ally is known for its unique and irregular trading conditions. They don’t really have a usual account types system, where you get your set of privileges and bonuses based on the amount of money you invested (basically, the value of your account).

Here, however, account types are distinguished by the way you approach trading, as well as the way you manage the account itself. There are two main structures, as a result: possession type and operation type. Let’s see what they are, then.

Account types include: joint, individual, custodial and retirement. It’s standard for fully legal and established entities such as banks to distinguish account deals based on who controls it.

1. Possession types

Joint legally belongs to several people at once, Individual is the usual one-person account, Custodial is held in possession of a custodian (or guardian) before a minor owner becomes of age, Retirement has several divisions with various tax deals.

It might seem trivial, but the distinctions are semi-important. It’s not just a question of who gets to run your operations, but also a matter of tax exemptions, tax deferring and other legal problems. For instance, it might be beneficial for you to open up a Custodian account on your child’s behalf so you wouldn’t get taxed as much.

But yes, it’s pretty much trivialities.

2. Operation types

There are two ways you can approach trading on Ally Invest. One is Direct Trading – just the usual investment routine where you choose your tools, products, strategies and conduct research of your own. The other is Managed Portfolios – a semi-automated routine where specialists advise you and monitor your portfolio in your absence.

The array of products you can trade on Direct is rather small. It’s only ETFs, stock, mutual funds, bonds and options. It’s still a fairly good collection, but most of these categories are rather advanced. If you’re new to this industry, you’d better stick to stocks. In fact, if you’re new, you’d better stick to Direct Trading.

There is a section where you can trade Forex, and it has its own account and probably its own slightly different interface, but this feature is set apart and doesn’t obey the same rules as all of this.

From the pricing point of view, it doesn’t make too much difference. Direct Trading has its own fees policy, but they are largely very small. A lot of the products here either don’t cost anything or their commissions are as low as $0. For instance, US-listed ETFs and stocks are completely free.

Portfolio Management pricing is more complex. It depends on what ETFs you or your advisors chose for you, which you can view separately. Considering that portfolios are mostly built from low-cost or no-cost ETFs, it might be an economical solution. However, this sort of trading is only advised for more seasoned investors.

Portfolio Management approach also has a minimal limit of $100, while Direct Trading does not. That said, you are exempt from many various fees on PM, which adds to the economical soundness of this strategy.

Portfolio Management

While it’s easy to grasp how Direct Trading would work, it would be prudent to slow down and grasp the idea of Portfolio Management, as well.

If you choose to join the ranks of people who trade this way, you’ll have to agree to help from the specialists. You can somewhat influence their decisions by disagreeing or slightly customizing the portfolio, but the bulk of it will still be built by the specialists. When you join the ranks of PM users, you’ll receive one portfolio shortly thereafter.

As mentioned, you can make some amends and change some parts, but it’s better to not be too critical of Ally decisions, because listening to what experienced investors tell you is the whole point. You would choose the usual trading and manage your own portfolio there if you didn’t like the advice.

They won’t give you a random portfolio, either – you’ll first have to give them your purposes and goals. There are several main goal types you can choose, such as: income-oriented, environmentally friendly (companies), diversified, aggressive, conservative, and more.

After you’ve made your intentions clear, accepted the portfolio these people have prepared for you and made a deposit, the specialists will proceed to buy the ETFs and stocks they selected for you. From this point on, they’ll be observing your portfolio.

It would also be reasonable for you to do the same, because, experienced as they are, they probably don’t care for your well-being as much as you do and they certainly can make mistakes.

Trading platforms

Ally is not like the other brokers in one more aspect – they only have one trading platform, and it’s their own creation. Usually the big providers either meet their clients’ needs and give them some form of MetaTrader, or just pack the website full of their own software. Sometimes they do both.

Ally only has one Web platform. It’s attractive, full of interesting solutions and it looks good. That’s a good start. This is pretty much all you can use to access markets available on this broker.

Well, there is another option – an API developer kit. If you know how to use these, you can build your own interface. This won’t be terribly different, however, because its core will still be Ally Invest API, which in many ways is just their Web platform.

But let’s now see what their trading platform has to offer.

Ally Invest Web platform

You can boot this platform either on a mobile device or on your computer. Both are well suited for the interfaces and the functionality. There’s also an option for a mobile app, which can be downloaded off Google Play or App Store. On the latter, it works better, by all accounts.

Constructively, it’s an HTML interface well optimized for its purposes. Point is, it’s not going to lag or freeze too often – Ally servers are good and HTML is pretty much a rock, it won’t glitch.

Practically, it has tons of interesting tools and solutions to make your stay here meaningful. You can pick a charts design you prefer instead of the usual candlesticks and manipulate the charting by several dozens of drawing tools to make notes, and so forth.

If you want to be aware of what’s going on throughout the markets, you can personally pick your watchlist and easily access it at any given moment. Each asset there will have abridged market data, including the last recorded value, volume, bid/ask sizes, percentage and gross number difference from the previous positions and more.

If you want more details to conduct a full-on research, you can pick a specific asset to see its current position, how it changed (through several charts), as well as analytics from Ally.

There are also interesting tools, such as probability calculator, a graph of your efficiency, and some monitoring instruments for options, funds and more. The last few are a good choice if you’re aiming to build and trade some portfolios by yourself through Direct Trading.

Both Direct Trading and Portfolio Management can be done through this platform.

Comparison to other software

Although Ally provided a good number of interesting and effective tools, instruments and indicators, the software still somewhat lacks depth of how much info you can get through technical means. However, you should note that it’s by no means a piece of professional software.

Considering what products Ally even has to offer (mostly ETFs and stock), you could safely assume that they mean you to try yourself in portfolio management and not one-off trading and investments. It fits their nature, too.

Well, their Web platform gives you a lot of tools for research, analysis and monitoring – all within a quick grasp. You can’t boot pivot points or Fibonacci indicators (at least, it doesn’t seem to have them specifically), but you can still monitor how funds and shares are doing through market data.

You really won’t be able to ride a trend with a few quick orders, but what this platform is well-suited for is portfolio management.

Additional services

Although Ally Invest is suitably positioned for a good research hub where people could inspect certain funds and stock as potential candidates for a long-term investment, there is no such functionality outside of the platform. You can’t read articles, view videos, tutorials and webinars to deepen your knowledge about the market.

However, Ally is also a banking institution, and many of their features revolve around giving financial consultations, loans and keeping your money safe until you need them.

Because after you win money from trading, you need to keep it somewhere safe, these services sound pretty reasonable. A lot of their clients end up being double clients.

Another great additional service is Forex trading. It’s not considered within the boundaries of Ally Invest proper, because AI is centered on providing portfolio management tools rather than just accommodating speculators. If you want to use some of their resources simply to trade Forex, you can still do it.

You won’t be doing it as efficiently, because their Forex branch has its own rules and tools. And, really, going to Ally to trade currencies is like going to the bar to drink water. They won’t turn you down, but it’s not really their best product.

Final words

Ally is an American bank. However nasty banking establishments might be, they are still controlled by the government. That’s partially why Ally has several account types meant for earning retirement money. It’s just the same as most bank retirement plans, they understand how these things work.

Because of it, you can probably trust Ally Invest enough to give them your money. Most of the complaints people have online about them are about technical difficulties, which, for some reason, is a common bane amongst similar banking brokers.

There are lots of people who spent many years trading on Ally, which is a clear sign that they are at least not a malevolent organization. Still, being cautious around them wouldn’t be a waste. It’s actually the best advice anyone could give you about brokerage providers and trading industry in general.