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How Fast Can You Reach Your Broker?

On days like this, nervous investors reach out to their brokers. With U.S. stocks falling in volatile trading Monday, Pay Dirt contacted some of the biggest brokerage firms by phone and email to see how fast they were in responding to our queries.


Our telephone response times are listed in order of speed:

E-trade: 40 seconds.

Trade King: 55 seconds.

Vanguard: 50 seconds.

Options Xpress: 1 minute.

Fidelity Investments: 3 minutes, 25 seconds.

Sharebuilder: 4 minutes.

Spokespeople for 5 of the 6 brokers said they experienced an unusually high volume of calls today and had hired extra telephone staff. Sharebuilder spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane says, “It’s all hands on deck. We’ve had one of the heaviest trading days since 2008.”

Fidelity spokesman Adam Banker says it received a “very high volume” of calls and managed the volume well given the circumstances. OptionsXpress is not making comment to the media about its business due to the takeover by Charles Schwab.

Alison Cahill, a spokeswoman for E-Trade says the company has invested in both technology and talent to improve customer service. TradeKing spokeswoman Kathy Wilson says Monday was one of the busiest days in its history and says it answered 80% of calls in 30 seconds or less.

Warning: it makes sense to call rather than email your broker questions. TradeKing says it aims to respond to every email within 2 hours. But Sharebuilder pledges to “craft a response” within 1-2 business days; the site adds, “In the meantime, we kindly ask you to sit tight.”

Pay Dirt readers, what kind of wait time do you think is appropriate on a day like today?

(This post was updated with response from the brokers.)


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.