SureTrader Review - Platform for Active Day Traders
Update July 2017: From July 1st to August 31st 2017, Suretrader is allowing new members to trade ETFs for free. Check out the offer in this post on their blog.
This is a trading platform which people either love or hate, and in this SureTrader review, we're going to find out why.
Known for its simple and lightning fast platform, but also facing complaints of lack luster customer support, SureTrader tends to generate a split decision when it's discussed online. Love it or hate it, as we said.
But what are the facts, aside from the inevitable fiction that crops up on the internet? In this review we'll break it down and present you with the information you need to make a sound decision about SureTrader.
Slick Bucks rating:
SureTrader is owned and operated by Swiss America Securities Ltd, a company located and regulated in the Bahamas. For this reason alone, it is worth noting that the IRS may have questions and concerns about it.
That said, Americans are legally allowed to open an account, and doing so is a pretty straightforward and easy process. Although SureTrader isn’t allowed to actually market itself in the US, getting started is just a case of opening a new account and filling in a W9 tax form.
SureTrader bypasses pattern day trading rules, meaning you can place whatever types of trade you want, whenever you want, and won’t have to worry about violating this rule (the rule states that a day trader using a margin account can’t place four or more round-trip trades in 5 consecutive days). If you trade every day, this can be frustrating.
Who Should Consider Using SureTrader
SureTrader is mainly great for:
- Active short-term traders. The no pattern day trading rule will be of great benefit to you if you fall into this category.
- New/small traders with less capital than the $25k needed to open many trading accounts. You can get started at SureTrader for as little as $500.
However, if you are looking small fees and you wouldn't like to risk with off-shore broker, SureTrader is might not be the choice for you.
Likes & Dislikes
As with all of the financial products and platforms we review, there are some things we like about SureTrader and some things we don’t.
- Customizable Hotkeys - Experienced traders will already know that every second counts when trading. These hotkeys can save valuable time by helping you execute/close trades more quickly.
- Super Quick Order Execution - Once the order is placed, it will be live almost instantly. Again, this can make a difference to how profitable a trade is.
- 6-1 Intraday and 2-1 Overnight Leverage - If you want to place leveraged trades for bigger profits then this is decent. Be careful, though, because the losses can be just as big and fees apply.
- No Pattern Day Trading (PDT) Rules - For those who are active day trades and want to use leverage, PDT rules can be frustrating. These are bypassed by the fact that SureTrader is regulated in the Bahamas.
- Open an Account with $500 - As we said earlier, the barriers to entry in terms of capital are very low at SureTrader.
- Penny Stock Shorting - There are more than 10,000 shortlists, including penny stocks. This means more trading opportunities.
- Free Demo Account - If you want to try SureTrader out you can get a demo account with $100k virtual money. This is a great way to test your trading skills without risk.
- May Not be Suitable for US Traders - While it’s technically possible for US players to open an account at SureTrader, it could be troublesome and there’s a reason why SureTrader isn’t allowed to market its services in the US. You will need to sign an unsolicited acknowledgment agreement.
- Lackluster Customer Support - The customer service might be low and not the best.
- Risk/Reward Calculation - Trading at a firm regulated in the Bahamas involves substantial risk. Trader’s who are thinking of doing so just to take advantage of no PDT rules should consider trading Forex instead.
- High Trading Fees - Just because you can get started with a lower amount of capital doesn’t mean the fees are low, too. SureTrader’s fees are actually on the high side. We will cover these in more detail in a later section.
- Trading Fines - If you leave a leveraged trading position open past 3:30 pm EST, you will be fined $55.
- No DRS or DRIP - You can’t reinvest those dividends fee free at SureTrader.
In terms of actual trading options, you are limited to three categories at SureTrader - equities, options, and ETFs. There’s no forex, commodities, or mutual funds trading at this time.
This is a limited range of options and won’t be suitable for those who want to trade Forex, commodities and more exotic securities.
The platform will be most suitable for beginner traders who want to dabble in stock and options trading, and will hold particular appeal to those who want to dabble in penny stock trading as it offers a huge list of these.
You can find a much broader range of assets to trade at many other platforms though.
As stated earlier, the fees at SureTrader are on the high side. Here’s a quick snapshot view of some of the fees you’ll encounter trading here:
These fees are a fair bit higher than average, but SureTrader justifies them on the basis that most of its clients are new or inexperienced, and hence higher risk.
In our view, a much better deal could be had elsewhere if you shop around. There are trading platforms suitable for beginners (see eToro if you are outside US) with much lower fees and no inactivity/platform use fees.
SureTrader will be particularly unsuitable for those who want to hold positions on margin overnight as a result of its fees.
The first thing to note is that there are actually three SureTrader platforms in total. The first is the web based platform called Activeweb, then there’s the SureTrader PRO platform and the mobile platform.
One point to note is that the free version (ActiveWeb) is web-based, meaning you are at the mercy of your internet connection. Should it drop when you have open trades, you will bear the losses if they occur.
You can avoid this by getting the PRO platform (on the picture below), which you download to your desktop.
All the platforms have real-time quote data, a profit/loss display, customizable watchlists, the ability to stream Bloomberg news network live, and various options chains.
All of these features are reasonably easy to use and first-time traders will be able to understand what’s what intuitively.
You can easily flick between these features using the main menu at the top of the screen. There’s nothing fancy about this, but it takes you where you need to go quickly.
Multiple windows allow you to use more than one feature at the same time.
On the whole, we found SureTrader ActiveWeb very easy to use and didn’t detect any bugs or problems in its functionality. It’s no-frills and simple, which is a good thing.
PRO platform might not the most visually attractive platform we have come across. It looks like it belongs in the archives with Windows 95, and this isn’t great for instilling confidence in the firm. On the plus side, it’s lite, and very fast as a result.
That said, the design is very simple and intuitively easy to understand. You’re unlikely to get lost and finding your way around is a breeze.
The Bloomberg News feature is neat, with Trademark orange against a black background. It’s also nice that when using this feature you can still see your watchlist and current open positions.
If you like sleek, modern designs, you will be disappointed in the PRO platform, but ActiveWeb platform won't cause you any troubles in the design department. If you don’t care what it looks like and just want a fast and no-nonsense platform, it’s definitely worth a closer look.
There are a couple of things you can customize within Activeweb to make it your own.
First of all there's watchlist - a standard across most platforms and isn’t particularly noteworthy. Still, it’s good to be able to keep an eye on the assets you are interested in trading.
What is noteworthy though is the hotkeys feature which is completely customizable. You can reprogram them to suit your own preferences.
One of SureTrader’s stronger points is its charting. There are a number of styles and filters available on SureTrader PRO meaning you can customize them to suit your trading strategy. Real-time charting is also available.
Another great function is the market alerts - you can customize the ‘quote list’ feature to keep an eye on the securities you’re interested in trading. This can be set to alert you when certain price/volume targets have been met.
These features are great, but they are made for the beginner to intermediate trader. While the charts are definitely a strong point there’s not much here to appeal to advanced traders, who can find much more advanced tools on some other platforms. On the other hand, if you value speed, then this is the place for you.
The mobile platform has many of the same features as the web-based ActiveWeb platform. You can:
You can also download the iSureTrader app for iPhones.
- Hotkeys - As previously mentioned, this is definitely a huge plus for SureTrader, saving time and money.
- Market Routing - On the PRO platform you can route your trades through your preferred exchanges.
- Breaking News - You can get the latest news on earnings reports, surprises, mergers & acquisitions, contract wins and losses, and other news from Bloomberg.
These are decent features and will definitely be a big help to beginner/intermediate traders.
Actually placing trades on SureTrader is remarkably easy, and thanks to the hot keys feature, can be done lightning fast.
Using hot keys isn’t your only option, but it’s definitely recommended as price movements and the opportunities that come with them occur and vanish rapidly.
First, you will want to search for securities to trade. You can do this through browsing lists, including your watchlist, or you can search for a security by its symbol. You will then click it, bringing up a real-time price chart. From here there are two options:
- 1. You can use the buy/sell buttons to the right side of the real-time chart.
- 2. You can use hotkeys. This is recommended as it is much faster.
The process of finding trades to make is very easy and simple, which is another reason SureTrader is most suitable for beginners. We love the hotkeys feature. It can’t be overemphasized how quickly small price changes happen, and how even microseconds can make a difference to your profits and losses when it’s all added up.
Actually placing orders can be done via the two methods above.
To fill order using the buy/sell buttons you will need to navigate the right of the real-time chart. You will clearly see a red sell button and a green buy button.
You will also be able to set limits/stop losses before you execute these trades and customize a few other features like market routing. These may not be of much use if you need to act quickly.
Alternatively, you can use your customized hotkeys to do everything from buying 10,000 shares to closing your entire position.
The charts are definitely a strong point for SureTrader, with multiple styles and types available with customizable options. You can see bar charts, candlesticks, and real-time price movements and can set various data points against them such as moving averages. You can also set the charts to various timeframes.
We give SureTrader a thumbs up for its charts. They offer more than enough for anyone to make informed decisions, right up to the professional level.
In terms of researching securities before trading them, you’re pretty much limited to charts and there are no fundamental reports available.
You can, however, see the latest news from Bloomberg and on the PRO platform, there’s a hot list, telling you in real-time what the biggest current movers are and how much they have moved by.
The ‘quote list’ also gives you 10 data points about the securities you’re watching including bid/ask prices, intraday highs and lows, price changes, trade volumes, and more.
There could definitely be more tools to help traders research securities more thoroughly, but the current capabilities are not too bad either.
You can contact the SureTrader customer support team by telephone, e-mail, and Skype. They are available between 8:30-5:30 EST from Monday to Thursday and 8:30-4:30 EST on a Saturday.
There have been complaints on review websites about the level of support given by SureTrader, from long waits to incompetent answers and a less than helpful attitude.
Although there is a large number of these complaints, it's also important to remember that disgruntled customers will shout much louder than satisfied ones. This means review sites can be misleading - you'll only hear complaints and never compliments, so it appears very one sided.
We suggest that you give SureTrader a call and find out for yourself. Ask a few questions and gauge the attentiveness and usefulness of your interactions with support staff - This really is the best way to decide if you'd be happy to deal with their support staff, before you sign up.
If you’re coming to SureTrader as a complete beginner hoping to learn, you can forget about it.
There’s basically nothing in the way of educational materials. There are no webinars and in-depth how-to guides like at many other brokers, and apart from the (very) brief knowledge centre on the site, you’ll be on your own.
Our Verdict on SureTrader
We can’t recommend signing up at SureTrader simply because it’s regulated by a jurisdiction that is known to be less than wholesome, and because the founder stands accused by the SEC of serious financial crimes.
The actual platform itself is reasonably good, albeit dated, and there are enough markets and securities available to make money, however, the fees are a fair bit higher than elsewhere and you will quickly find your profits gobbled up by them.
If you absolutely must avoid no pattern day trading regulations then SureTrader is an option, but we recommend you check out what else is on offer first.