Online Brokers Give Investors New Choice

For those looking to dive into the stock market, there are now several ways to go. The first of course is to go through a stockbroker. Another way is through no-load plans, whose numbers seem to grow by the hour.

A third and relatively new way of purchasing stock is by using an online service.

Online brokers offer their own range of special services. Each also has their own pricing structure, based on the type of purchase you make. Many may also require you to set up an account with their service, and may have minimum balance requirements.

Here is a brief look at some of the minimum prices and the maximum number of stock shares you can buy or sell from a selection of online brokerage services (begin all addresses with http://www.):

Ameritrade, which charges $8 for an unlimited number of shares. Address is

Datek Online, $9 for a trade of up to 5,000 shares. Address is

DLJdirect, $20 for trades of up to 1,000 shares. Address is

ESchwab, $29.95 for up to 1,000 shares. Address is

Etrade, $19.95 for up to 5,000 shares. Address is

SURETRADE, $7.95 for up to 5,000 shares. Address is

Card ledge tracks charges

With Thanksgiving just past, we enter the high-cost part of the year. Banks and credit-card issuers are full of advice on how to manage holiday spending, and most of it is pretty obvious - set a budget, shop for bargains.

But one trick is so obvious it’s easy to overlook: Keep a running tally of your credit-card charges. Not many people do this. But resolve to reform this year.

Citibank is again offering its free Credit Minder, a card-size ledger just like the stub book that comes with your checks. Call 800-669-2635.

Or just wrap a piece of paper around your card and record each purchase. Then the post-holiday bill won’t be such a nasty surprise.

Law safeguards credit

Have you ever applied for a charge card? A personal loan? An insurance policy? If so, odds are that the outfit to which you applied got a copy of your credit report and looked it over before making a decision.

There’s a revised federal law that’s supposed to promote accuracy in these reports and ensure that your privacy rights are protected. The Federal Trade Commission has published a new brochure on the subject, using plain language in a question-and-answer format.

“Fair Credit Reporting” explains your rights under the law, shows how you can get a copy of your credit report, what you can do if it contains incorrect, and what steps you may take if the credit reporting bureau or agency won’t fix the problem.

For your free copy, write: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

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