Exchange-traded funds may be the best products ever to come along for retail investors, but they still have at least one major drawback: they incur a trading commission every time you buy and sell them. If you’re a customer of one of the big bank’s discount brokerages, you pay as much as $29 per trade, a fee that makes monthly contributions and dollar-cost averaging prohibitively expensive.
Claymore took a big step toward improving this situation last year when it became the only ETF sponsor to offer pre-authorized cash contributions (PACCs): after making an initial purchase, you can arrange to make regular monthly, quarterly or annual contributions without additional fees. Unfortunately, not all brokerage houses have embraced this arrangement yet (I recently had problems setting up a Claymore PACC with Scotia McLeod), and it’s not as flexible as what you’d get from a portfolio of mutual funds.
But the game is beginning to change, at least south of the border. Beginning today, Fidelity Investments in the US will allow its customers to buy a lineup of 25 popular iShares ETFs with no trading commissions. The move follows a similar one by Charles Schwab,