Almost every online brokerage offers bond trading, but few specialize in them. However, Zions Direct, affiliated with western banking chain Zions First National Bank, does just that, with a selection of over 30,000 fixed-income securities. The firm also provides most asset classes and investment vehicles, though it caters primarily to long-term investors.
What really sets Zions apart, aside from its bond selection, is its unique, auction-style platform for both bonds and CDs. The layout and is clean and user-friendly, and members rave about it. By comparison, the brokerage’s platform for equities and other trades is nothing special. Though lacking in third-party research, the firm provides users – and non-users – access to a somewhat-active blog. Its education resources are fairly basic, and only apply to bonds and retirement accounts.
Not surprisingly, Zions’ commissions for bonds not purchased at auction – at $9.95 – are much cheaper, especially in small volumes, than many competitors. Mutual funds are about average, at $19.95; broker-assists are similarly average at $25 plus standard commission. Its charges for other asset classes are less competitive, and penny stocks incur a large base fee of $29.95, plus an additional $ .01 per share. The firm’s caveat-ridden list of fees can be difficult to parse, but users can save a lot of trouble at Zions by electing not to receive paper statements. Simply opting for e-statements waives the annual account fee, saving investors $60 each year. There’s also a $100 fee for inactive accounts, though members can avoid this by making even one trade.
Zions’ customer service reps are available between 6 AM and 10 PM MT each weekday, and during shorter hours on Saturdays. The firm doesn’t offer live chat, just phone and email support. Users can also find in-person help at one of the firm’s nearly 500 financial centers, or could open an account at Zions First National Bank for easy account-linking.
For bond traders, or current Zions Bank customers, Zions Direct is a great place to start or continue trading. Others could probably find a more sophisticated platform and more relevant educational resources at another brokerage.
Pros & Cons