Ally Invest

Pros & Cons

pros

  • Offers self-directed investing as well as a robo-advisor service and wealth management.
  • Fees charged for options trades and no-load mutual funds are below industry averages.
  • Ally Invest offers one of the most generous new account bonuses in the industry, at up to $3,000.
  • Customer service is available 24/7 by phone and live chat. Offers auto loans, mortgages and personal loans.

cons

  • Not available to non-US residents
  • The 0.30% annual advisory fee for the Market-Focused robo-advisor Portfolio is slightly above the industry average of 0.25%.
  • Ally Invest robo-advisor portfolios require a minimum of $100 to begin investing.
  • Does not offer fractional shares, which can negatively affect small investors.
  • Limited options for self-employed retirement plans.

Ally Invest Bonuses Promotions

As per Ally Invest review and our research, we can say that the promotion from Ally for creating and financing an account is a wonderful perk and its objective is to convince you to trade frequently. When you deposit funds into a new account, the broker frequently provides some of the largest promotional incentives. Once you’ve received the bonus, you must keep it in your account for at least 300 days, together with the qualifying deposit (minus any trading losses).

Ally also provides a less evident bonus. If you add at least $2,500 to your Ally Invest account, the broker will pay up to $150 for your shift from another royalty account for brokerages. That’s actual money that you won’t have to pay if you choose to relocate to Ally.

Ally Invest Loyalty Program

Top-performing dealers that maintain a high level of engagement across all lines of business and maintain a wholesale floorplan relationship with Ally are invited to join Ally’s exclusive Champions Club offering great benefits to their clients.

 Sign Up Now

Sign Up Now

Video

Is Ally Invest safe?

Given that Ally Invest also offers banking services, Ally Invest is a member of both FINRA and SIPC, offering protection on customer accounts in the event of a broker’s bankruptcy. It’s important to understand that, as with any broker, such insurance does not protect against market losses — investing is a risky endeavor.

Overall summary

FeatureAlly Invest
Overall 4 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars
Platforms & Tools 3 Stars
Research 3 Stars
Mobile Trading Apps 3.5 Stars
Offering of Investments 4.5 Stars
Education 3.5 Stars
Ease of Use 4.5 Stars

–> View Ally Invest Features List

Ally Invest features

Multiple investing methods

When you invest through the self-managed option with Ally, you can choose between a number of investments. If you open a managed portfolio, you have some agency in what you choose to invest in, but the actual companies are chosen by Ally. 

Here’s a little bit more about each of Ally’s investing options:

Stocks

Stocks are one of the most common investments as you surely know. When you own a stock, you own a piece of the company the stock is for. Ally offers thousands of stocks to choose from. So many thousands of stocks, you can truly pick and choose from here to the moon and back!

ETFs

ETFs are different in that they let you invest in an entire industry, rather than just specific companies. Another way to think of it is that ETFs are made up of securities like stocks and bonds.

Kudos to Ally – as they were VERY helpful when I researched ETFs – they even offer “the anatomy of an ETF.” 

You can view the complete list of ETFs Ally offers

You can view the complete list of ETFs Ally offers – so you can deliberate what you want to choose.

Options

Options trading can be tricky to understand, and they are really only used by advanced investors. In very simple terms, an option gives you (the buyer) the power to buy stocks (and other investments) at a fixed price for a fixed amount of time, no matter how the price fluctuates.

Again, options are not for beginner investors. In fact, Ally makes you read an options disclosure so you know the risks.

Bonds

A bond is essentially a loan to the government or a corporation, which earns you income through interest payments. I was really happy to see that Ally has decent pricing on bonds, at just $1 per bond, with a $10 minimum.

Sweet.

Mutual funds

Mutual funds are the perfect investments for less seasoned investors. They hold a variety of investments in one fund, so they diversify your portfolio and lower how much risk you carry as an investor.

Free investing for managed and self-directed accounts

This is obviously one of the BEST features of Ally Invest. They’re one of the few investing platforms that offer no commissions on self-directed trading AND no annual fee for their robo-advisor.

I’m gonna repeat myself again – this is CRAZY.

  1. Ally offers NO COMMISSIONS on self-directed trading
  2. Ally offers NO ANNUAL FEE for their robo-advisor

Other than the $100 minimum to invest, I didn’t have to pay anything to start investing.

And that was the kick I needed to explore a robo-advisor!

Cash buffer

When you invest through Ally’s managed portfolios, you can choose a cash-enhanced portfolio that sets aside 30% of your portfolio in an interest-earning cash buffer.

This is a good option for those who are severely risk-averse – which many of us – myself included are.

That way, in the event that all your other investments go south, you at least have that 30% buffer that has been growing over time.

Gulp – 30% is safe.

Ally’s low minimum investment for managed portfolios

I wasn’t upset at all that I had to pay $100 to get started investing with Ally.

I’ve used spare change investing apps like Stash, but after a while, the returns just don’t add up to as much as I’d like. Getting real returns on your investment takes time and money.

Plus, big-name companies like Vanguard and Fidelity have minimums in the thousands. Ally’s minimum is minuscule compared to theirs.

Usability

Ally Invest platforms work well, even though the technology is a bit dated and there may be more than one screen/platform required at the same time. The initial website logon always brings you to the primary Ally home screen, which shows all related accounts across the Ally Platform, so bank accounts, auto or home loans, individual accounts, managed accounts, etc. would all be shown on this page. You would then click on the individual investment account to move to the Ally Invest home web page for that account; you can toggle between managed and self-directed brokerage accounts from the Ally Invest page. 

The top of the Ally Invest homepage also has a link to launch the Ally Invest Live platform, which has streaming quotes and more modern website functionality. The primary website, even if a bit dated, still works well and is responsive, with very quick page refreshes. The menus at the top of the website page were very intuitive and easy to use, usually showing at least two levels of submenus for the topic chosen. There were, however, a few times when the top menu bar disappeared; although hitting the Ally logo on the top of the page brings you back to the account summary page, losing the primary menu was disorienting.

The Live platform has user customization options for the look and feel. As mentioned, the mobile app and Ally Invest Live are streaming and have a more modern and robust design. However, neither of these platforms had all functionality features in the primary website. Only the ETF screener is available on the Live platform, and none of the screeners are on the mobile app. Likewise, options trading and analysis tools for probabilities, profitability graphing, and pricing, as well as legacy tools from the TradeKing platform, are not available on Live or the mobile app. The charting is also better on the Live platform than the website or mobile platforms. 

This makes for a bit of a hodge-podge of different platforms for different things. All that being said, the menus and navigational functionality are intuitive and work well. It was very easy to bring up trading windows, news, charts, etc., for securities listed on a watch list or a result from one of the screeners. Speaking of watch lists, they remain consistent across the website and streaming platforms. For those trading foreign exchange, there is yet another platform to use for forex. It is, however, pretty standard for brokerage companies offering currency trading to use a dedicated platform-specific to that market.

How to Contact Ally Invest

Ally Invest customer service is available by Live Chat and by phone (1-855-880-2559), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The company can be contacted by email at support@invest.ally.com.

Trading Technology

Trading technology at Ally Invest is perfectly functional, but the website is somewhat dated and would benefit from the addition of features such as conditional orders and trailing stops. The platforms all support four-leg options strategies. The primary website does not provide streaming quotes, which seems standard on many platforms now. Order entry was basic, and there is no integration of positions or orders into charts. Moreover, there is no order automation or control over order routing at Ally Invest. 

The primary Ally Invest website serves as the link to Ally Bank, which most would utilize for the purpose of gaining interest on cash balances; and Ally Bank offers some of the best short-term rates available. Options trading is different on the different platforms, too, with the Ally Invest website required to use all the tools. This includes the ability to see probabilities for a market staying in or moving outside of a user-defined range and date, as well as profitability graphs for different dates to see the price graph of the option compared to the profit graph at maturity. While not the best of class, these tools are helpful and are not commonly offered by online brokerage platforms.

Ally Invest Customer Support

As per Ally Invest review and our research, we can say that customer service on the website is something Ally excels at. The brokerage firm offers search phone support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as an online chat facility that allows you to quickly access and interact with a representative. Brokers can also utilize more traditional techniques like email, but they will not be able to visit a physical website for cooperation.

This latter point, on the other hand, is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for investors. Ally has a comprehensive customer service system in place, which includes live chat and phone cooperation. The customer care line for investment advisors or Ally is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The screen shows current wait times, allowing you to plan your calls accordingly.

 Sign Up Now

Sign Up Now

Usability: How User-Friendly is Ally Invest?

Ally Invest has a very minimalistic interface that’s quite easy to use for even the most technically unsavvy individual. Whether you’re using the mobile app or browser, the signup process for Ally Invest is straightforward.

Remember that Ally Invest is online-only. At the time of writing, there are no physical branches. If you feel unnerved by not being able to walk into a physical branch to handle your affairs, you might prefer a different investment platform.

Their customer service, which is available via phone or email, is pretty top-notch. Overall, Ally Invest’s usability scores an 8 out of 10.

How to sign up for Ally Invest

You can sign up for Ally Invest either through its website or through Ally’s mobile app. When you sign up, you’ll need to provide your social security number, contact information, employment information, and general financial information to get approved for an account.

PRO TIP: When signing up for an Ally Invest account, always make sure you’re on the correct webpage by examining the URL in your browser’s address bar. It should say https://ally.com (that’s two Ls). You should also check for the padlock icon in your browser. Never provide any sensitive information to a webpage that you’re not sure is the official website.

Here’s how you can sign up for an Ally Invest account through the mobile app:

  1. Go to Apple’s App Store, or Google Play to download the Ally Invest app.
  2. Select the type of portfolio you’d like to create. For this one, we selected Investing & Retirement.
  3. Select the kind of accounts you’d be interested in: self-directed accounts or ones that are selected with automated advisors.
  4. Answer the questions that show up to make your investment goals clear.
  5. Provide the necessary information, including your social security number, income information, and other identifying data.
  6. Set up biometrics and multi-factor authentication.

And that’s it! Your account is now set up and ready to be used.

Software usability and options

Once your Ally Invest account has been approved, you’ll need to link your bank and fund the account. We’ve run through a few orders to give you an idea of the interface and ease of trading within the app.

The app is pretty straightforward. We were able to act on a couple of trades within a matter of minutes using their Quick Trade function.

It was relatively easy to set up an account and start trading using Ally Invest.

Risk-assessment

Because Ally Invest uses payment-for-order-flow, it makes more money if you place more orders on the platform. However, Ally hasn’t been known for predatory practices, unlike big names like Robinhood.

Instead, it offers an array of educational tools on its platform, as well as screeners, so you can carefully review your trades before you make one. On the Live platform, you can find the ETF screener. Importantly, options trading and analytical tools are available for graphing profitability. However, screeners, options trading, and other advanced options tools are not available in the mobile app. This means your experience will differ depending on the platform you choose.

However, given the range of educational resources available on the platform, we are confident that investors have adequate resources available before executing a trade.

Pricing and fees

Ally Invest doesn’t charge a fee for its self-directed accounts. However, there are some other fees you should know about:

  • Cost per stock trade: $0
  • OTCBB (and stocks below $2.00): $4.95 + $0.01 per share (maximum commission per order cannot exceed 5% of trade value)
  • Forex: no commission
  • Options: $0.5 per contract + $0.5 fee for low-value options positions
  • Robo-managed accounts: minimum $100 investment. Annual 0.30% management fee for robo-created portfolios.
  • Account closure: no fee
  • Domestic wire transfers: $30 for sending, none for receiving wire transfers
  • Checks: $5 to send a check
  • Maintenance or inactivity fee: none
  • Mutual funds: $9.95 per no-load trade
  • Broker-assisted trades: $20 per trade
  • Full outgoing transfer fee: $50

The rates for margin interest can be found below:

  • Under $25,000 at 7.75%
  • $50,000 at 7.5%
  • $100,000 at 6.75%
  • $250,000 at 5.50%
  • $500,000 at 4.50%
  • $1 million at 4%
  • Over $1 million at 3.25%

Customer service

For an online-only brokerage, we were hoping Ally Invest would have a live chat. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case at the time of writing, neither in the app nor on the website. However, Ally Invest does offer a 24/7 phone number that has proven to be excellent.

We tried inquiring about encryption protocols on the site and app, and a representative was able to give us a solid answer in well under five minutes.

Note that you will need to provide some personal data so customer service reps can confirm that they’re speaking with the account holder. We had to provide our full name, the last four digits of our social security number, and some other security questions only account holders would know.

WARNING: Be careful about giving information to customer service

If you’re communicating on the phone, make sure it was you who initiated contact. Make sure to call the designated number on the Ally Invest website or app. This way, you can be sure you’re talking to an official Ally Invest representative. There are countless Help Desk and other social engineering scams out there that seek to pry financial data from victims.

If a customer service representative calls you over the phone, never give them your personal information, even if they claim it’s an urgent matter.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios

With a minimum of $100, you can get a cash-enhanced portfolio with practically no fees – no advisory fees, no annual fees, and no rebalancing fees. They do this because they set 30% of your portfolio into cash, earning a rate of interest comparable to their online savings account. Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios operates this way too – no fee but you have to put a set percentage of your allocation into cash. The upside of the cash allocation at Ally is that it’s close to the prevailing rate you’d get with a savings account though you can’t get access it as easily as you would a savings account.

If you want to avoid the cash allocation, you can get a “market-focused” Robo Portfolio but it also comes with a 0.30% annual advisory fee, charged monthly. With market-focused, you still have cash (roughly 2% of your balance) but much much less of it. 0.30% is similar to what other robo-advisors charge – for example, Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Service charges 0.30% on assets up to $5 million.

With Robo Portfolios, you answer some questions about your goals, they’ll build a mix of ETFs that meet your goals, and then you can tweak it as you wish.

Additionally, you can pick from four portfolio options:

  • Core: “Highly diversified across domestic, international, and fixed-income assets. You can choose the amount of risk you are comfortable with, from conservative to aggressive. If you’re more of a hands-off investor, consider this portfolio type.”
  • Income: “This portfolio type offers higher dividend yields while maintaining a more conservative risk profile. Consider this portfolio type if you’re most focused on yield and income.”
  • Tax-Optimized: “If you make after-tax contributions to an investment account, this type of IRA may help maximize your investments. If you’re looking to invest using a diverse mix of tax-advantaged, low-cost Exchange Traded Funds, consider this portfolio type.”
  • Socially Responsible: “Shaped by companies with ethical track records, you’ll only invest in businesses that actively practice sustainability, energy efficiency, or other environmentally friendly initiatives. Consider this portfolio type if eco-friendly practices are important to you.”

Then, their systems (and people) monitor your portfolio and rebalance as needed. It’s similar to the robo-advisory services of other companies (in theory).

Learn more about Ally Invest Robo Portfolios

Pros: Where Ally Invest stands out

Low trading costs

Options traders will be pleased with Ally’s offering. Its normal commission structure is $0.50 per contract, among the best undiscounted prices for trades in the industry, where the standard is usually $0.65 per contract. If you want cheap options trades without having to trade in volume to achieve a discount, Ally is a great choice. Today, the only places cheaper are Robinhood and Webull, which offer a no-commission structure for all products. 

Ally charges $0 for stock and ETF trades, putting it inline with other major online brokers. Meanwhile, commissions on bond trades are $1 per bond, with a $10 minimum per trade. 

Integration with Ally

Ally Invest’s integration is a bonus for current Ally customers, and allows them to consolidate their financial accounts within one institution, as you can see with the mobile app. That can be great for transfers between accounts, reducing delays on cash moves between a bank and broker, for example. It can be convenient to simply have your accounts in one place when tax time arrives. Often, Ally Invest ends up feeling like just another tab on the dashboard of the entire Ally website.

Ally Invest Robo Portfolios is another option for those looking to take an automated approach to investing. For just a $100 minimum investment, Robo Portfolios will invest based on your goals and automatically rebalance your portfolio daily. 

Customer support

Ally really steps up in this category. The broker offers 24/7 phone support and an online chat function to quickly route you to a representative. There’s also more conventional means, such as email, though customers don’t have the option of going to a physical branch for assistance. But this latter point probably shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most investors.

Sign-on promotions

Ally’s promotion for opening and funding an account is a nice incentive. The broker often offers some of the highest promotional bonuses when you bring money to a new account. Once you’ve received the bonus, you’ll have to hold it and the qualifying deposit (minus any trading losses) in the account for at least 300 days.

Ally also offers another less obvious bonus, too. The broker will pay for your transfer out of another brokerage account up to $150, as long as you bring at least $2,500 to your Ally Invest account. That’s real cash that doesn’t come out of your pocket if you decide to move to Ally.

Who shouldnt use Ally Invest?

The only people who may not like Ally Invest are really truly advanced investors. Ally’s site can be a little clunky in spots, and they still don’t have as many tools or professional advisors as brokers like Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab.

Safety: Is Ally Invest Secure?

If you’re looking for a robust online trading app that takes user security seriously, Ally Invest makes the cut. It gets an 8.5 on 10 from us. Ally Financial, Ally Invest’s parent company has a solid “A” rating from independent cybersecurity reviewer UpGuard — scoring 817 out of 950.

Ally takes important cybersecurity steps needed to protect its online portal and platforms from outside hacks and attacks. It also provides users with the features needed to protect their accounts from unauthorized access.

Ally Invest security features

As an online-only brokerage, Ally Invest offers more than the average platform in regards to security. While this includes advanced security features, you’ll also have access to premium malware, protection, and other services when you sign up as an Ally Bank customer.

Here’s a rundown of what Ally Invest offers you security-wise:

  • Two-factor authentication: Using a code sent to your email, mobile phone, or authentication app, Ally Invest can offer an additional layer of security for logins or extra identity verification. You may also be prompted to answer a security question you set up during registration.
  • Biometric logins: For mobile logins, users can use fingerprint or facial recognition scans.
  • Robust firewalls and Secure Socket Layering (SSL) encryption: SSL encryption creates a secure connection between your browser and Ally Invest’s site or app platform. This means all of the data you transmit (passwords, transactions, and financial data) is secured and unreadable to outsiders. If the website determines your connection is suspicious for any reason (such as flagged unsecured public Wi-Fi connections) it may block access.
  • Automatic logouts: After extended periods of inactivity, Ally Invest automatically logs you out to keep any potential unauthorized users from accessing your account.
  • Failed logins: Ally Invest will automatically block access to your account after a certain number of failed attempts. You’ll have to contact customer support to get back in. This can protect you against brute force attacks and password-guessing software.
  • Antivirus and malware protection: In addition to secured firewalls, Ally Invest uses top-tier antivirus and antimalware protection. If you sign up for Ally Bank, it also provides users Webroot antivirus and malware protection for up to three devices.

Is your money safe with Ally Invest?

As far as cyberattacks and protection from unauthorized users go, your Ally Invest account will be safe. You’ll just need to make sure you use all of Ally Invest’s security features mentioned above. Ally Invest doesn’t have a blanket policy on unauthorized activity in customer accounts and typically handles them on a case-by-case basis.

We’re fans of Ally Bank’s Online & Mobile Security Guarantee. If you notice any fraudulent or unauthorized transactions online or via the app, you won’t be held liable as long as you report it by calling 1-877-247-2559 within 60 days from when the statement was made available.

In the case of Ally Financial or Ally Invest’s bankruptcy, your funds are protected by government-approved organizations and government agencies:

  • Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC): Any major brokerage should be covered by the SIPC. Your securities are protected up to $500,000 or $250,000 in cash. Ally Invest offers an “excess” of SIPC coverage through Lloyd’s of London, as well — up to $150 million after SIPC is exhausted.
  • SEC-regulated: Ally Invest is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC is a government agency that enforces United States financial laws, imposes penalties and takes other legal action against perpetrators, and regulates financial markets.
  • FINRA membership: Ally Invest is also a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is a government-approved nonprofit that works with the SEC and prevents investor losses, overseas brokers, and identifies fraud and other misconduct.

Has Ally had a data breach?

Ally Invest has enjoyed a solid track record in regard to cybersecurity. There have been no data breaches or significant attacks on its systems.

However, its sister company Ally Bank engaged in some poor cybersecurity measures in 2021. Since many Ally Bank users also use Ally Invest, this could be a cause for concern. In a June 2021 letter to customers, Ally Bank disclosed that it experienced a data breach that saw the usernames and passwords of many users exposed to third-party companies that Ally does business with. This wasn’t a cyberattack, but rather a programming error on Ally Bank’s behalf.

The situation is currently under investigation and Ally Bank is the subject of a class-action lawsuit.

Final Verdict

Ally Invest is a great all-around brokerage account because of its $0 minimum and commission-free trades on stocks, options, and ETFs. I’ve been using them for years and have never had any issues. With no minimum, association with a great bank in Ally Bank, it’s a good place for any investor looking to start investing.

I first fell in love with them because they offered inexpensive trades but now that so many brokerages are offering free trades, I’ve stayed for the ease and simplicity of the platform.

Ally Invest is best for beginner to intermediate investors who are comfortable managing a self-directed investment account. The low minimums and free trades make it very accessible to someone who doesn’t have a lot to invest but the tools and features of the account still support someone who needs more.

If you just want mutual funds, skip Ally Invest – go with the company offering the funds directly. If that’s Vanguard, open a Vanguard account. If it’s Fidelity, open a Fidelity account.

If you want a hands-off managed fund like a robo-advisor, Ally Invest offers a pretty good product but compare it with the leading robo-advisors currently available.

It’s not ideal for advanced investors, day traders, technical traders, or someone who needs a lot of market data (Level 2) to make decisions. If that describes you, there are other brokerages that will give you that level of detail into the market.

Tags