Alpaca Trading is a trailblazer by allowing retail investors to use technology to create their own algorithms. Along with a host of more advanced features, for me, it stands out for the following reasons:
- It’s commission-free.
- It’s a solid API trading service.
- There’s no minimum deposit requirement.
Alpaca Trading has created space for investors who want to learn how to use an application programming interface (API). Alpaca’s focus is providing a toolkit to enable third parties to build custom trading platforms, powered by Alpaca’s financial transactions.
Separately, its brokerage service means that investors who only want to buy and sell stocks on US exchanges can benefit from Alpaca’s commission-free model. And without any sort of inactivity fee charged, investors stand to gain from reduced trading costs.
However, if you’re after some hand-holding, then you’re looking in the wrong place. Since Alpaca is suited more for experienced traders, customer support is limited. Alpaca mostly relies on GitHub, Slack and other community forums to support helpful discussion between users.
To understand how Alpaca Trading works, know that it is two services: a brokerage and an application programming interface (API).
As a brokerage service, Alpaca Trading acts as the intermediary between the buyer of a security and the seller. It buys and sells stocks and ETFs but only in the US. So it provides the backend of the financial system but doesn’t run the trading interface itself. This is where the API service comes in.
The API service is a toolkit for developers to create their own trading platform, which then communicates with the Alpaca Trading server. So while investors can design a custom interface and trading algorithm, Alpaca Trading handles the financial transactions.
How easy is it to use?
To open an account, verify your email address and whether you’re a US resident. Once approved, you can fund your account.
The web trading platform is designed to be user-friendly with straightforward navigation. Search by ticker symbol, once you find out the stock’s ticker on the web. Place orders through the platform and view your account activity at any time.
If smartphones are more your thing, Alpaca Trading also offers you a mobile trading platform to use. The app pairs with the API, so it includes helpful buttons if you use codes to automatically execute trades.
- Commission-free. Buy and sell commission-free stocks and ETFs.
- No minimum deposit. Open an account and try out the brokerage services without committing a large sum.
- Fractional investing. Purchase slices of stock for as little as $1.
- API trading service. Build algorithms to execute your orders.
- US only. Investments are limited to US stocks and ETFs, and you need to be a US resident to use the service.
- Complex process. Integrating third-party tools and understanding the API might be complicated for some users.
- Limited customer support. No live chat or phone support, only email or community forums.
- No IRAs. Alpaca Trading’s account options are limited to individual brokerage accounts.
Alpaca Trading’s stocks and ETFs are commission-free, and it doesn’t impose a minimum deposit amount. Although it’s designed for more experienced investors, Alpaca’s limited fees place it in competition with the likes of Robinhood and Public. It also has low nontrading fees, and deposits are free.
But watch out for its wire withdrawal fees. While ACH withdrawals are free, wire withdrawals will cost $25 for domestic and $50 for international transfers.
Alpaca Trading also charges a transaction fee on specific securities that are subject to fees assessed by self-regulatory organizations, securities exchanges and government agencies. As of March 2022, these are $5.10/per $1 million.
|Stock trade fee||$0|
|ETF trade fee||$0|
|ACH withdrawal fee||$0|
|Wire withdrawal fee||$25 for domestic, $50 for international|
Alpaca Trading was founded in 2015 and is located in San Mateo, California. It’s not an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) but is registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
It’s also a registered member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Balances are SIPC-insured for up to $500,000 if Alpaca Trading goes under.
However, Alpaca Trading doesn’t provide negative balance protection, and this matters because Alpaca provides margin trading. So if your investment falls, you could potentially end up owing more money than you initially invested.
Alpaca Trading isn’t featured on Better Business Bureau (BBB) and doesn’t have a Trustpilot page, so its popularity with investors is hard to determine. Reviews on Alpaca’s Forum, Google Play Store and Apple app store are mixed. But scarce online reviews make it difficult to form a solid opinion.
Some investors say the API works well for them, making participation feasible for smaller traders. Others report the app is especially glitchy and hard to use.
Complaints state the execution speed is slow, meaning users incur larger losses than expected when there’s a sudden downturn. There are also reports of orders not canceling when they were supposed to.
|BBB customer rating||N/A|
|Google Play app||2.7 / 5 stars based on 22 reviews|
|Apple app store||3.1 / 5 stars based on 17 reviews|
|Customer reviews verified as of||March 2022|
Connect with Alpaca Trading by:
- Email. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply from the team.
- Forums. Alpaca Trading has a community forum and uses Slack where users can help one another.
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