Table of Contents
Section 1: Web Site Functionality Rank
Until they change their business model, Zecco's survival is dependent on revenue generated from its social network. This fact is painfully obvious when you're on the site. Navigation is clunky and there is nowhere to hide from the gaudy and numerous advertisements and pitches to join the Zecco forums and blogs. The basic design could work, the dropdown navigation menus are actually pretty nice, but every click leads to another cluttered and amateurish looking page.
Zecco launched in late 2006. They were going to revolutionize the online trading world by offering free trading that would pay for itself via account fees, margin interest income and advertisement revenue generated from the social forum and blog communities. Apparently it's not working, there aren't as many constructive investment discussions in the forums as we had hoped and they have already given up on the free trade concept. Now you get 10 free trades per month and pay $4.50 per trade thereafter.
This is a wonderful concept, and we hope they can make it work, but Zecco will have to develop a fun, popular and cohesive community such as those created by MySpace or Facebook. They have a long way to go. The site needs a redesign badly. Any client moving from a traditional online brokerage will be frustrated with the clumsy navigation. It can even be tough to find something as basic as your account balance information or transaction confirmations.
This site is the least dependable of all the online trading sites we reviewed. There are many complaints about browser crashes, log-in lockouts and other issues, even on the Zecco forums.
Zecco offers very little in the way of account related customization features. There are quite a few social network customization options for your profile and for your blog but we didn't explore them in detail.
Zecco doesn't have a trade guarantee but we didn't find any evidence that there is a problem with inaccurate or slow trade executions.
Section 2: Trading Costs and Fees Rank
Intuitive Commission Structure?
Yes, but it changes frequently and we expect that it will continue to fluctuate as they experiment with their business model.
Minimum to Open an Account
No minimum required to open a new account.
As long as you have at least $2,500 in your account...
Internet Trades = 10 free trades per month, $4.50 for each additional trade.
Interactive Voice System = Not available.
Broker Assisted = $19.99
Internet Trades = $4.50 per trade + $0.50 per contract.
Interactive Voice System = Not available.
Broker Assisted = $19.99 per trade + $0.75 per contract.
No-Load No-Fee Funds = Not available
No-Load Funds = $10.00 transaction fee charged by Zecco (5000 available)
Load and Fee Funds = Not available.
Tip: Avoid any funds with loads or fees. With the vast selection of no-load no-fee funds offered by many of today's online brokerages, there's no reason to ever pay them!
Treasuries & Bonds
Treasuries, Bonds and CDs = Not available.
Rates & Fees
Margin Rate: $0-49,999 account balance = 7.2%, $50,000-$499,999 account balance = 6.7%, $500,000+ = 4.7%
Interest Paid on Cash (Sweep): 1.99% Money Market Sweep Vehicle available
Checking Available? Yes, $30 annual fee.
Research and Hardcopy Statements: $15
Electronic Statements: Free
Wires: $15 domestic, $55 foreign
Section 3: Customer Service Rank
Zecco customer service was the worst we experienced during any of our reviews. First, the contact info was hard to find, we had to go three pages deep just to get the phone number. It's (877) 700 7862 if you're having trouble finding it as well.
Reps are only available from 9AM to 6PM EST Mon-Fri and wait times can be long if you call when it's busy. If you have to call, call in the morning. It can be frustrating to call in the afternoon and wind up having to call back and start over again the next day because they couldn't resolve your issue by the 6PM close. None of the reps we talked to were registered brokers, and they were easily confounded by some of the simpler questions on our survey.
Zecco doesn't offer live chat support. The FAQs section isn't bad but Zecco is slow to answer emails. With poor phone and online support, customers get the impression that customer service just doesn't matter to Zecco. One workaround is to take your questions to the Zecco forums. There's no guarantee you'll get an accurate answer, but you might get a faster response.
Advanced Support (Options, Funds, Bonds, etc.)
Zecco doesn't have specialists on staff for advanced trading or planning assistance. This was a little disconcerting since they promote advanced option trades such as straddles, condors, and butterflies right on their home page.
We went to the options education section to see what was available since they don't offer specialists. The options education document was only three printed pages long and contained zero useful information for novice option traders. So how do we get started? Zecco encourages people to go to the forums and blogs for their investing education. However, beginners have no way to distinguishing between good and bad advice and none of the forum discussions are monitored or tagged for quality or accuracy. Sorry for the knock Zecco, but this seems irresponsible.
Section 4: Research Tools & Investing Information Rank
Zecco doesn't offer any useful market research. The news available to clients can be read at Yahoo, CNN or any of the other major news sites. They do point you to new forum threads and blog posts but it's hard to imagine making investment decisions based on chatter in a forum thread.
We were very curious about the ability to view people's strategies and portfolios, this is one of the concepts Zecco pushes hard. However, they only have 70,000 accounts so far and the forums and blogs are pretty dead. They haven't been able to make the investing network idea work yet, they need a much larger and more cohesive community.
Research & Analysis Tools
If Zecco had any noble intent with their "free trading" concept, we would applaud and encourage their efforts. However, they seem to be in it for the profit and their methods feel like a bait and switch. They do offer research tools but they charge exorbitant fees. Every other site offers most of these tools for free, we were surprised that they would try to charge for something as simple as stock charts and quotes.
Here are a few of the tools available and Zecco's fee:
QuoteStream for streaming quotes, charts, option chains, and news: $20 per month
Level II Quote Module $15.00 per month
Advanced Charting Module $5.00 per month
Stock Screener Module $5.00 per month
Quotegrid for watchlists and streaming quotes: $8.00 per month
Portfolio performance, cost basis and tax tracking: $49.98 per year
Level II Quotes & Streaming Data Zecco doesn't offer free streaming data or level II quotes
Section 5: Product Offerings
IRAs and Roth IRAs
529, Custodial, and Education Savings Accounts
Section 7: Security
Yes. SIPC protects securities in your account up to $500,000. Zecco also carries insurance over and above the SIPC protection.
Firewall Secured and Fraud Protection
Yes. All of the major sites have dependable security. They can't afford to make mistakes, they wouldn't survive a year if they gained a reputation for mishandling money or for lax security. Zecco has a lot of customer service and usability issues, but they have the same SIPC protection as everyone else plus accounts are protected up to $200,000,000 by Lloyd's of London.