TradingBlock Review (2020): Beginner Platform for Learning to Trade

TradingBlock Review

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TradingBlock - Reviews & Ratings

TradingBlock is ideal for beginners and casual investors looking for an easy to use trading platform. The firm offers competitive discounts along with great research and educational tools.

FAST FACTS:
• Account Minimum: $0 for an investment account
• Fees: High fees
• Best For: Beginners and casual traders
• Highlight: Educational tools & research

Investor Warning: Investing and trading may result in loss of capital. Options & Single Stock Futures involve substantial risk and are not suitable for all investors. Market volatility, volume and system availability may delay account access and trade execution. Day trading is a high risk, speculative trading strategy and is not suitable for all investors.

AOS, Inc started TradingBlock for beginner and casual investors and traders. It’s their simplest trading platform compared to their other three, which offer more capabilities for advisors, active traders, and futures trading.

As an online discount brokerage firm, TradingBlock offers the same discounts as other virtual brokers, but it really shines due to education tools and research.

TradingBlock is one of four brokerage platforms by AOS, Inc. There is also TradingBlock Pro and TradingBlock Futures, as well as Money Block.

The platform was acquired in 2017 and has spent the past few years trying to keep up with emerging stock trading mobile apps and new broker tools. However, their website and mobile app are not as developed as other virtual brokers.

However, with simple tools, investors are able to trade traditional stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, and bonds within the desktop TradingBlock platform. There are also customizable charts, screeners, scanners, and builders.

These intuitive tools like TradeBuilder allow you to test up to 40 different trading strategies.

Overview and Summary

  • Basic functionality and ordering interface is a good starting point for casual and novice investors.
  • TradingBlock relies on third-party apps like SILEXX OEMS, RealTick, and Sterling Trader Pro to stay viable. These are pretty sophisticated tools that are highly customizable.
  • Higher commission fees than most other brokerage firms as of December 2019.
  • Clunky interface and a missing mobile app make it difficult to access your portfolio on the go, unless you want to trade in futures using TradingBlock Futures. This requires a separate account.

How Does TradingBlock Work

The TradingBlock platform is their most popular offering for casual investors who want to set up stock and ETF trades. You can sign up online via their website. Unfortunately, the only mobile app available is for their futures trading app TradingBlock Futures.

TradingBlock Trade Strategies

All of their trading and research tools are available online via the website. It has a simple layout and offers simple navigation. It’s easy to make orders and close out positions quickly within the browser. You can also customize your experience through third-party APIs like Silexx, RealTick, LiquidPoint Blaze, and Sterling Trader Pro. You can select different venues to complete your order, for example.

There are a variety of chart types that use real-time quotes, and you can access portfolio analysis tools to track your trades in real-time or over a longer duration. You can link up multiple accounts on one login as well.

To manage your wealth more precisely and easily, TradingBlock offers multiple scanners and builders. You can use the Stock and ETF finder to scan products that would benefit your portfolio.

Using the tool TradeBuilder, you can create up to 40 different trading strategies, which are ranked based on their potential to generate a profit. Customers state that the tool is very useful and one of the best if you are a beginner or advanced trader looking for ideas.

There are quite a few research and charting tools. For example, the Trade Analyzer helps you identify risk with each and every trade. You can also access news, watch lists, and historical data.

TradingBlock Trade StrategiesWith Auto-Trade, you can execute trades automatically based on several different recommendation platforms like Booking Alpha, Schaeffer’s Investment Research, Go Trade Signals, or Tradespoon. It’s not as smooth or as efficient for the wise active trader, however.

The TradingBlock Experience

TradingBlock Web PlatformFor casual traders who want easy-to-use tools, TradingBlock’s website platform is the best way to go. You can navigate from one page to the next, easily accessing research, charting, or analysis tools.

There are a few ways to customize your trades using Auto-Trade, and if you are an advanced user, you can add third-party APIs to make it even more customized.

You can place and close market orders very quickly on the platform. However, real-time quotes are only available for three different exchanges. You won’t find as robust quotes or real-time analysis to improve rates like on TD Ameritrade or Fidelity.

While AOS, Inc claims to have a mobile app, it’s only for TradingBlock Futures and is not that robust as traders might like, and it requires a separate account.

Pros:

  • Simple desktop platform with many research and analysis tools to help with testing strategies and auto-trading
  • You can easily manage risk using the trade analyzer option
  • Automated trading available with third party tools.
  • Pretty low margin rates
  • No account minimum

Cons:

  • Commission fees on stocks are $0.001 per share with a $5 minimum
  • Exchange fees are charged additional per-contract on certain ETF option and index products
  • No mobile app for TradingBlock
  • Higher fees not suitable for most active traders

What Can You Trade with TradingBlock

There are a range of products available on TradingBlock, but sometimes AOS, Inc over-extends and makes it difficult to find where these products are located. In that way, it’s best to stick to stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds.

You can trade multi-leg options and over 2,000 mutual funds through their desktop platform. However, you’ll need a separate account to trade futures and futures options. These are available through TradingBlock Futures only.

TradingBlock lists fixed income trades as a product, but it’s not currently available on the website.

The website makes it easy to find new viable stocks and ETFs for your portfolio with the Stock Finder scanner. You can also use PortfolioHedger to create up to five different hedge strategies to protect your portfolio.

Opening an Account

You can open a new account via their home page. The process is pretty lengthy with multiple questions, so it can take some time to complete. You also have to submit verification documents to prove your residency and US citizenship.

Overall, it took a couple of days to set up the account and start using different features. The process seemed outdated compared to updated broker platforms like E*Trade.

Analysis, Charting, and Research Tools

TradingBlock Analysis and Research ToolTradingBlock truly excels for research, charting, and testing tools. You can analyze any set of data using third-party tools as well. You can see scalable stock prices, volatility chars, and historical data for up to five years.

The Trade Analyzer tool helps you identify risk and make changes to your portfolio based on different strategies. There are 17 different strategy types to set up with options chains as well. You can also set up watch lists, news feeds, and fundamental data displays within the website application.

A TradingBlock Pro subscription will be needed to access advanced features, however. You can subscribe to Sterling Trader Pro, TradeSpeed Options Professional, RealTick, and SILEXX OEMS through this platform. There are also more reporting, back office, and fee analysis tools for advanced trading.

Today’s Market is a great tool for a glimpse at the market overview by the day. You can also view in-depth pricing analysis, news, and fundamental data on all traditional stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and other indices.

Dynamic charting also follows stock pricing and volatility, so you can understand potentially risky stocks and find undervalued stocks.

Account and Investment Costs

There are a few different types of accounts available on TradingBlock including: individual, joint, entity, custodial, and retirement (traditional, IRAs, Roth, and Rollover).

There is no minimum to open an individual investment account, and you can fund it easily via check, ACH, or wire transfer.

Their current rates are not as discounted as other virtual brokers. While many decreased commission fees to $0 in October 2019, TradingBlock still has commision fees for stocks and ETFs as follows:

  •  $0.001 commision fee per share with a $5 minimum for stocks and ETFs
  •  Options are traded at $5.00 plus $0.50 per each contract
  •  Bonds are $1 per trade with a $50 minimum
  •  UITs and mutual funds are traded at $30 per
  •  You can trade futures on TradingBlock Futures with a minimum of $2,000, and the rate is $2.50 per side, per future contract

Margin rates are pretty low but fluctuate. There are also certain account requirements to apply for a margin loan.

Investor Education

The webinars won’t help most traders as they hark back to the tender year of 2016. While some basic trading education tools are available, most of the content is provided via third parties. You will receive tips on how to make trades and how to use different tools.

Their Frequently Address Conundrums page is a list of frequently asked questions, but it’s not going to help you much with setting up third-party applications or learning more about their pro features. It’s also pretty old, dating back to 2017 when AOS first acquired TradingBlock.

Ultimately, their education tools are not the best, and you will likely need to go elsewhere if you are trying to learn about different strategies, hedging, risk, and order types.

Automated Strategy Ideas

One thing that TradingBlock does differently is trading recommendations. You will receive four different strategies every day for trading stocks and ETFs. These are based on market analytics of the day.

You can also test strategies using TradeBuilder. This tool can aggregate up to 40 different stock and options strategies. These are optimized and ranked for profitability.

Trade Analysis

TradingBlock wants to make sure that investors feel good about their trades, which is why they have a tool called Trade Analyzer. This graphic program allows you to see a chart that shows your probable profit points and loss margins.

Users may customer these charts by prices, volatility, and dates. These charts use real-time market conditions to offer you the best view of future risk.

Account Minimums and Other Fees

While there is no minimum to open an investment account, you will need a $500 minimum for IRA and a minimum of $2,000 to open a margin loan. Futures accounts also require a $2,000 account minimum.

Accounts with no activity in 12 months also get charged a $30 inactivity fee, and you’ll receive a $2 to $5 charge for paper statements and confirmations.

Security

There are no reported breaches with TradingBlock, and it does provide some information about their account security on their website. They use encrypted identification and ID verification processes. They also have SIPC account protection for up to $500,000.

Funding, Payments, and Withdrawals

There are only two ways to deposit and withdrawal for your TradingBlock account. You can either use a check or wire transfer in USD. You can also use an account transfer from another brokerage account to TradingBlock, but it takes time to complete.

In fact, it takes 7 to 10 business days to post your funds to your bank account through wire transfers. There are also fees for wire transfers, including a $25 domestic fee and a $100 international fee. This is simply for outgoing, as you aren’t charged to fund the account.

Account transfers cost $75 for outgoing ACAT, partial or full.

Customer Support

Most of their support is done via email or phone. You can access their customer support via a toll-free number, and they are quick to answer within regular business operating hours or Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM eastern.

There aren’t any chat options, and the site seems rather old so it’s not clear whether you are able to speak to an advisor at any time with a regular TradingBlock account.

Tricks to Using TradingBlocks Like a Pro

  • Sign up for a TradingBlocks account to access robust charting and analysis tools on Sterling Trader Pro and SILEXX OEMS.
  • Use Tradebuilder to test out strategies and aggregate new trading ideas based on profitability.
  • Get advanced futures trading ideas and analysis through TradingBlock Futures, which also has a mobile app.
  • You can sign up for training to get more information about the platform and how to use more complex tools.

Latest News About TradingBlock

There haven’t been any significant news stories about TradingBlock since 2018, and it doesn’t look like they have updated much on their own app. However, they still receive the latest information from updated third party services.

What Rocks About Trading with TradingBlock

If you want to set up a simple investor account and access some advanced third party tools and test strategies, you can take advantage of TradingBlock’s simple and free platform.

For example, you can use tools from Sterling Trader Pro to get help with equities, options, and futures. Their robust, real-time quotes and charting features can be customized based on a variety of filters and data. You can also set up your own dashboard to get a quick overview of color-coded performance indicators.

In addition, TradingBlock offers access to SILEXX OEMS, which is one of the most sophisticated order entry, analysis, and stock recommendation engines. You can use SILEXX OEMS to set up automatic trading strategies, access risk controls, and look at pre-trade analytics to avoid risky trades.

There are also robust reports available to see your end of day gains and losses, as well as overall reports for different assets.

What TradingBlock Could Do Better

TradingBlock is more of a third-party integration platform. The desktop website hasn’t been updated since 2018, and many of the education features date back to 2016.

Basically, you can access a number of robust third-party services, but it’s not the best trading platform on its own. You’ll need to learn about each third party app to really master this platform, and there aren’t very many tutorials offered via the website.

By the looks of it, this brokerage platform does not intend to update its commission fees or trade costs either. While many other brokerage firms have dropped commission fees for stocks and ETFs, TradingBlock is still charging a $5 minimum with a $0.001 per share fee.

Conclusion: Should You Invest with TradingBlock?

Perhaps you need another charting platform or want to access savvy, sophisticated analysis and research tools. If you don’t already have access to tools like RealTick, TOP from Instinet, SILEXX OEMS, and Sterling Trader Pro, then a TradingBlock account can give you access to these tools.

Otherwise, the desktop website has not been updated in some time, and while you can automate and make sophisticated buys through third-party apps, it’s more work if you are an active trader. You would have an easier time using fully integrated brokerage firms like Interactive Broker or Fidelity.

However, there are some significant customization options for hotkeys, direct market access, and order entry that are unique to SILEXX OEMS and TOP that you may only get through TradingBlock.

It is honestly quite sad to see a native platform in this much disarray, as it may simply mean that this brokerage will not last in comparison to the bigger names. However, the third-party apps may keep it afloat, and that could be TradingBlock’s strategy to sustain for another 10 or more years.

Still, for a novice investor to have access to customization features and real-time charting tools with a zero account minimum, it’s fun to explore and test strategies.

About Author

Tim Fries Tim Fries is the cofounder of The Tokenist. He has a B. Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Tim is also the co-founder of Protective Technologies Capital (protechcap.com).