Monday, November 27, 2006

Ameritrade's Unimpressive Site Upgrade

I have written before that I have both an original Ameritrade account and an original Waterhouse account. Ameritrade recently upgraded their web site. This "upgrade" was delayed for about a week with no reason given. Thus far, I'm thoroughly unimpressed with the new site.

So, where's the upgrade? I was expecting things like better online statements, easier to use account history, PDF views for my trade confirmations, and so on. Instead, the changes to the Ameritrade website are mostly cosmetic in nature -- mostly rearranging the menus, and changing the site color to green. I can't see any real improvement in functionality. Some features are either not improved, or even worse than before.

Take for example, the new stock screener. Here is a stock screen that I might put together: find all large cap stocks that are within 10% of their 52-week low. I couldn't figure out how to run this simple screen in the Ameritrade stock screener. Another thing is that the screener is no better than the free stock screens available at Yahoo Finance or MSN Money.

I use Standard and Poors (S&P) stock reports extensively for my personal research. However, the usual S&P reports available at the new Ameritrade site have somehow shrunk from 8 pages to 5 pages. I think that they cut out the three pages that include S&P's Sub-Industry Outlook, Company News, and Analysts' Recommendations from the abbreviated reports. Again, there's no explanation for the change.

As a former Waterhouse customer, I would qualify for Ameritrade APEX twice over based on my Waterhouse account balance. But after talking with Ameritrade customer service representatives about this, they were unwilling to upgrade me to APEX unless I transfer my funds from my original Waterhouse account to a new Ameritrade account. Logically, this is like saying that TD Ameritrade is one company, but you have to transfer your funds from one TD Ameritrade to another TD Ameritrade in order to get APEX access. Huh, what gives?

As a Waterhouse customer, I'm concerned now that Ameritrade will downgrade my account to a lower standard when they finally finish straightening out the mess they made. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are features that I particularly like in my Waterhouse account. Mainly, these features are access to IPOs and the cost basis calculator available through Waterhouse. Ameritrade doesn't keep track of cost basis for you, and instead the refers you to Gainskeeper which costs extra.

Ameritrade SPAM: I know that I am not the first person to write about getting SPAM at my Ameritrade Email address, as it has been reported by other PF bloggers. Like many others, I use a unique Email address for my Ameritrade account. This is accomplished through Yahoo's "AddressGuard" feature. In other words, the only entity that knows my Ameritrade Email address is Ameritrade itself. However, I have been getting spam at this address. Whenever this happens, I change my Email address to a new one, and delete the old Email address. This has happened three times already, as it seems that my Ameritrade Email address has been repeatedly compromised. I think that it is a security issue at the Ameritrade end, and I now have to delete yet another Email address. By contrast, the Email addresses that I use for Waterhouse and E*TRADE have never been compromised.

Ameritrade has been touting such features as Trade Triggers, but I'll tell you that the E*TRADE site has them beat there. However, I think E*TRADE's customer service is worse than Ameritrade's. Nevertheless, I now have a wait-and-see attitude on Ameritrade. But based on what I am seeing, I predict that E*TRADE might end up with a lot more business out of me in the future.



Unknown said...

I have had the identical experience. I believe I am using the same spam protection mechanism. I provide a unique email address to every vendor with the vendor's name in the address. Should I get spammed, I can trash the address and it helps me identify who compromised the address. Today, I have received four "pump 'n' dump" spams at two separate addresses -- one associated with Waterhouse which has been around for several years and another associated with Ameritrade which is only a few weeks old. These are the only two addresses out of the hundreds of vendor email addresses which I've created to be spammed in the last couple of days. If a trojan horse had stolen email addresses from my emailbox, I would have been receiving similar spams at many other addresses as well. The probability that ONLY these two Ameritrade addresses would have been selected for spamming is minute. One two real possibilities exist, in my opinion. 1) The addresses were sold. 2) The addresses were stolen. I believe that #2 is far more likely and worrisome since who knows what other personal data might have been stolen as well. Even more worrisome is the refusal of their "Tech Department" to consider the possibility that they have a problem. I will be moving my money out of Ameritrade as a result.

pfstock said...

Thank you for your comments. I too have been receiving new spam at my Ameritrade and Waterhouse Email addresses. I have posted an update to alert my readers of this ongoing problem. I have also received a similar response from TD Ameritrade's customer service people.

Anonymous said...

Hi pfstock - although it's one year later, I just found your article through Google search. I'd love to hear what else can be improved. I'm currently working through a project of mine where I'm documenting ways of improving finance enthusiasts. My aim focus is on young investors that are relying on the internet to learn, invest, and communicate. Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail at steven[dot]lot[at]gmail. i would really appreciate it. - steve