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Bonus Round

Mike Zaccardi

LAST AUGUST, I wrote about the retention bonuses I scored by simply initiating a transfer of assets from one brokerage firm to another. Back then, I said I’d wait six months and then try again to capture this free money.

This time around, one broker offered me a promotion simply to stay put, but two others wouldn’t. I did some quick Google searches and found offers elsewhere, so I initiated the transfers and collected those bonuses. The whole process was fast and simple. And because I don’t actively trade, I don’t much care how one broker’s offerings compare to another’s.

What’s the downside? I have more accounts to track and I have to pay small fees to close out old accounts, though the receiving brokerage firm often reimburses those fees. Come tax time, I’ll have a few extra 1099-DIVs. But most tax software packages can import those forms easy-peasy.

In all, I’ve scored $2,250 between retention bonuses and new account offers. That money is taxable, so I mentally shave 22%—my marginal tax rate—off that sum to get a true measure of my winnings.

Being an investment nerd, I find it fun to poke around on the new trading platforms to see what tools I can use for my analytical work and financial writing. I like Fidelity Investments’ exchange-traded fund (ETF) comparison tool. I find Charles Schwab’s mutual fund research helpful when I do work for advisors. TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim is great for charting. And most of these firms offer solid research reports on companies and ETFs. I can always keep a few bucks in old accounts if I want to continue accessing such features.

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