Alpaca Trading Review 2022: Pros, Cons & Key Features

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Found in 2015, Alpaca is a commission-free API brokerage. It is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), two prestigious regulatory bodies that increase investor and trader protection.

Alpaca offers API access to historical, fundamental data and US stock markets. In addition, the creators of Alpaca are confident that their software enables regular traders to benefit from machine learning and automation, which historically have only been accessible to large investors. 

You can purchase and sell stocks with this brokerage on US exchanges. Since the broker doesn’t charge a commission when buying or selling stocks, it has grown in popularity. 

But is the platform a good fit for you to start your trading journey? Let’s find it out with our comprehensive review of the platform. Let’s get started.

Pros & Cons Of Alpaca Trading

Pros

  • Option to Invest in thousands of stocks and ETFs for zero commissions.
  • Proprietary trading platforms for web and mobile.
  • Great for algorithmic trading with FIX API.
  • Test your strategies on paper trading before deploying to production.
  • Paper trading and live trading both come with real-time market data.
  • No minimum deposit is required to start.

Cons

  • Currently, Alpaca only supports trading listed U.S. stocks and select cryptocurrencies.
  • Could improve trading tools for analyzing charts. Limited educational content for beginners.
  • Bank wire transfer funding only. No 24/7 customer support.

Alpaca Trading: At A Glance

Official website  https://alpaca.markets/
Headquarters  San Mateo, California, United States
Founded in 2015
Founded by Yoshi Yokokawa
Employees size 11-50 employees 
Platform fee Free
Customer support  24*5
Industry  Developer APIsFinancial servicesFintechTrading platform 
Supported countries  Globally 

Alpaca Trading: Company Overview

Investors who want to learn how to use an API now have a place to do so, thanks to Alpaca Trading (API). Alpaca’s main goal is to give other companies the tools they need to create unique trading platforms supported by Alpaca’s financial transactions.

Thanks to its brokerage service, Alpaca’s commission-free business model is advantageous to investors who only want to purchase and sell equities` on US markets. Investors also stand to gain from lower trading expenses since no inactivity fees are associated.

However, you’re looking in the wrong area if you’re seeking some hand-holding. Alpaca offers low customer service because it is best suited for seasoned traders. Alpaca mostly uses GitHub, Slack, and other community platforms to facilitate beneficial user discussion.

Alpaca Trading is a brokerage firm acting as a go-between for buyers and sellers of securities. Only in the US does it purchase and sell stocks and ETFs. As a result, it manages the financial system’s backend but not the trading interface. The API service steps in at this point.

Developers can use the API service as a toolkit to build their trading platform that interacts with the Alpaca Trading server. This way, Alpaca Trading manages the financial transactions while investors can create a unique interface and trading algorithm.

alpaca

Key Features Of Alpaca Trading

There are multiple aspects to Alpaca Trading that do it a reliable broking service. However, besides the multitude of features, some stand out. Here are some of the key features of trading over the Alpaca Trading platform to give you a better idea. Let’s check them out in the following section:

Access To Multitude Of Markets

You can manually trade on several markets with Alpaca Trading, including equities and exchange-traded funds, or through automated trading systems (ETFs). Due to the absence of many prominent asset classes like bonds, options, currency, commodities, and indices. Adding to its wide range of trading markets, the platform recently included cryptocurrencies in its forte.  

Besides, the platform offers a vast array of trading instruments from numerous asset classes in IG’s enormous product lineup. They also have some platforms at the forefront of the business where you may create and use your automated solutions. Nevertheless, Alpaca is one of the few brokers that provide fractional shares. You can invest in a fraction of a company’s shares rather than a total share, thanks to fractional shares.

One Of The Unique Brokers With Regulation

Regulation is one of the most crucial qualities users look for in a broker, and things are no different for Alpaca Trading. But unlike other brokers that are mostly unregulated, the Alpaca Trading platform is backed by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) oversees the transaction over the platform. 

This adds to the platform’s goodwill and is one of its major features. In addition, this is a good policy that gives me a lot of faith in users to conduct their operations without worrying about risking their funds.

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Access To Multiple Trading Platforms

You can access the markets with Alpaca Trading, thanks to their exclusive web-based platform. The Alpaca web trading platform works in tandem with the Alpaca API. So, although you may check on, cancel, or duplicate trades that you implement using code on the online platform, it is straightforward. 

Alpaca strongly emphasizes simplicity for its cutting-edge web platform, which is counterbalanced by the many intricate functions the API offers. In addition, the web trading platform is accessible in English and works seamlessly with most current web browsers.

It’s Loaded With Advanced Tools

Utilize some helpful trading tools, such as the FIX API, which is excellent for creating intricate automated systems based on your trading techniques. The OAuth platform offers a great selection of apps from Alpaca Trading. Numerous third-party service providers, including Algorum, Blueshift, AlgoBulls, Trellis, TradingView, Streak, Slack, and QuantRacket, among others, are also included over the platform, available for integration, 

With such trading possibilities, you may also integrate apps and APIs with a high degree of freedom. For example, with direct OAuth integration, you may create specialized trading apps, algo bots, or distinctive dashboards.

Access To Educational Tools

Given how challenging the API might be for some of you to understand, it’s encouraging to note that Alpaca offers a wide range of educational resources. These educational tools include tutorial videos, step-by-step instructions, comprehensive manuals, blogs, news, and they are beginner-friendly. 

Additionally, Alpaca has a thriving community on Slack, Discord, and a forum. By doing this, you may communicate with other traders and gain knowledge that will be useful to you throughout your trading career.

Additional Features Of The Platform

Those mentioned above were some of the core features of the platform! However, that’s not all we have on the Alpaca Trading platform. Here are other additional features that enhance your overall trading experience on the Alpaca Trading broker’s platform. 

  • Access to multiple types of trading accounts: There are two types of trading accounts offered by Alpaca Trading: individual and corporate. You can open a trading account at Alpaca regardless of your status as an individual or a company. A $30,000 account minimum is required to support US Corporations and LLCs that both US citizens and non-citizens form.

The individual accounts have no minimum deposit requirement, which is fantastic given that some brokers ask for deposits as high as thousands of dollars to begin trading. However, there are only a few different account kinds. Cryptocurrency margin trading and shorting are prohibited, and there are no fixed or zero spread accounts. You can choose from a good assortment of accounts on Forex.com as an alternative.

  • Seamless customer support: The broker has a helpful customer service team around the clock to answer any questions from registered and potential clients. Email and social media are two ways to get in touch with them.

While the cryptocurrency markets are open around-the-clock, the broker only offers service during business hours. On the other side, Plus500 offers automatic trading, cryptos and offers you round-the-clock customer support. They are also subject to numerous jurisdictional regulations.

  • Multiple funding opportunities: Traders can use bank transfers to deposit and withdraw money. However, they could considerably advance in this area if they offered other well-liked payment choices, such as credit/debit cards, e-wallets, and cryptocurrencies.

One of the safest approaches is this one. EasyMarkets offers a wide range of deposit and withdrawal options if you want faster access to your trading cash.

  • Present in numerous countries: The broker makes its services available to traders worldwide in jurisdictions where doing so would not violate local laws or regulations.

You can search for a different option in our broker ratings if you cannot an account with Alpaca Trading.

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Security Over The Platform

Finding out which regulatory body controls the broker’s operations is one of the benchmarks when choosing a broker to gauge safety and the protection of client funds. SEC and FINRA have complete control over, authorization, and regulation of alpaca trading.

The US Investor Protection Scheme, or SIPC, safeguards clients. For example, if the broker declares bankruptcy, is liquidated, or is otherwise unable to pay its debts, the plan protects against the loss of cash and securities. 

Negative balance protection is not available to Alpaca Trading’s customers, which is a disadvantage. If a trader’s account balance becomes negative, negative balance protection safeguards them.

In addition, when using margin trading, it is particularly crucial to have this kind of protection if the trader lose more money than is in their account. This way, the account may be liquidated, leaving them with no capital and obligated to pay the broker the remaining balance.

All of these features add to the safety of the Alpaca Trading broking platform. Therefore, if you’re a beginner who wants to start your trading journey, you can start with it.

Fees Structure

The fee structure over Alpaca Trading is one of the platform’s most unique aspects. Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned trader, Alpaca Trading’s no commission clause on trading ETFs and US stocks would be one of the major highlights for you. 

However, that’s not all; the platform operates on an overall competitive fee structure. To give you a better idea, let’s have a detailed walkthrough of the fee structure over the platform.

Trading fees

Fees for stocks and ETFs Like US stockbrokers moomoo and Webull, Alpaca Trading provides zero-commission stock and ETF trading. However, none of these brokers provide foreign stocks.

When you trade on margin, the margin rate is assessed. Essentially, this implies that you borrow funds or stocks from your broker to engage in trading. In addition, you are required to pay interest on this borrowed cash or equity. Therefore, it may make up a considerable amount of your trading expenses.

The margin rates at Alpaca Trading are given below.

Fees Alpaca trading
Account feeInactivity fee

 

Deposit fee

Withdrawal fee

NoNo

 

$0

$0

 

Non-trading fees

Alpaca Trading charges low trading fees. Inactivity fees, account maintenance fees, and deposit costs are all waived. In addition, while wire withdrawals are $50 for international transfers and $25 for domestic transfers, ACH withdrawals are free.

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Account Opening With Alpaca Trading

Opening an account with Alpaca Trading is simple and quick. Within one business day, the account will be confirmed. On the other hand, it can be difficult to set up numerous third-party tools. Therefore, the steps listed below must be completed to open an Alpaca account:

Step 1: Enter your chosen password and email address.

Step 2: Use the six-digit code provided by Alpaca to validate your email address.

Step 3: To indicate if you live in the US, click (providing access to the available accounts by residence).

Step 4: Once done, add further details like your social security number, mailing address, phone number, etc.

alpaca signup

Step 5: Now that your account has been established, you can fund it.

Customer Satisfaction

Alpaca Trading’s investor popularity cannot be determined because it is not listed on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or has a Trustpilot profile. Mixed comments have been made on the Alpaca’s Forum, Google Play Store, and Apple App Store. However, the shortage of online reviews makes it challenging to establish a firm conclusion.

According to several investors, the API works well for them and makes participation possible for smaller traders. However, others claim the software is particularly buggy and challenging to use. In addition, according to complaints, the execution pace is poor, causing consumers to suffer greater losses than anticipated in the event of a steep decline. There have also been instances of orders failing to cancel as expected.

But it is also a registered participant in the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (SIPC). If Alpaca Trading fails; balances are SIPC-insured for up to $500,000 in damages. Because Alpaca Trading offers margin trading, it is important to note that Alpaca Trading does not provide negative balance protection. Therefore, if your investment loses money, you might owe more than you initially paid.

Alpaca Trading Vs. Competition

Alpaca Trading is one of the most prominent brokers that we currently have in the market. Its unique features make it a go-to option for numerous users. However, similar to all the other broking platforms, the platform has certain limitations too. 

So if you think the platform is limiting in terms of its trading tools, you might want to compare Alpaca Trading with one of its major competitors Robinhood. So to give you a better idea, we’ve made a brief side-by-side comparison of the platforms in the following section. 

Alpaca Trading Vs. Robinhood

Alpaca Trading is recommended for traders interested in algorithmic stock trading. Robinhood is recommended for beginners and buy-and-hold investors focusing on the US stock market. But to help you understand better, here’s a detailed comparison: 

  1. Fees: There are several costs that Robinhood may impose, and each broker may have a dramatically different range for both the number and the quantity of these fees. These two factors may affect your overall experience as well as your returns. Alpaca Trading is one of the more affordable brokers, so if the price is a key factor, choose a comparable-priced Alpaca Trading substitute.
  2. Account creation: Some brokers need at least €50,000 to start an account, while others don’t have a minimum initial deposit requirement. Your account opening process could take a variety of times. This is not an issue at Alpaca Trading or Robinhood because you can have it ready the same day you enrolled.
  3. Deposit/Withdrawal: Having various options for adding money to or removing it from your account is essential. For instance, Robinhood might permit you to use your credit card to deposit, while Alpaca Trading might not allow it.
  4. Web Trading platform: While Robinhood is often available on several platforms, including smartphone apps, tablet apps, and desktop software, most users access the service through a web browser. The numerous resources available on Alpaca Trading’s user-friendly platform can considerably improve your trading comfort.

If you look at it, both Alpaca Trading and Robinhood are equal competitors. However, when running an in-depth comparison, Alpaca Trading takes the lead over Robinhood. 

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Final Verdict

Should You Consider Using Alpaca Trading?

  1. Web Trading Platform: The Alpaca web trading platform serves as the Alpaca API’s “side-kick.” Straightforward and simple to use, it is. You may simply check on, cancel, or duplicate trades that you implement using code on the online platform. Alpaca strongly emphasizes simplicity for its web platform, which is counterbalanced by the API’s extensive uses and sophisticated features. It is possible to use the web trading platform in English.
  2. Mobile trading platform: You can use Alpaca Trading’s own mobile trading platform, which works similarly to its web platform. Android and iOS devices can both use the app. We used iOS to test it out for this evaluation. In general, the app is built to work with the API. Users that utilize codes to execute trades automatically can benefit from emergency buttons, such as those that stop all deals.
  3. API (Application Programming Interface): Alpaca was one of the first to give retail traders access to the technology that institutional traders had used for years to build their algorithms. Python, Javascript, C#, Go, and Node are just a few programming languages that support the Alpaca API.
  4. Login and security: Alpaca Trading offers a secure login with two-factor authentication. It’s difficult to sign in because the app sends you to a mobile website where you must enter your username and password, which are not remembered by other logins. On the other hand, as long as you don’t actively sign out after signing in on your device, you stay logged in.

Shortcomings Of Alpaca Trading 

  1. Lacks basic customer support: Alpaca Trading’s major drawback is that you can only get in touch with them via email. You can also use Alpaca’s Slack or other online communities where people can readily support one another. There are prompt and satisfactory answers via email. 
  2. Limited deposit and withdrawal options: It provides limited withdrawal and deposit options for its users.

This brings us to the end of our comprehensive review on Alpaca Trading. Considering the platform’s different features and functionalities, it’s clear that a platform is a great option for users of every type. 

However, if you’re one such user who wants seamless customer support from their ideal platform, Alpaca Trading might not be the perfect option. So here, we suggest you look for a different platform. All the best!

FAQs

How are you protected over Alpaca Trading?

All customers at Alpaca Trading are supported by Alpaca Securities LLC and protected by SIPC, the US investor protection program. If the broker goes out of business, the SIPC investor protection system guards against losing money and assets. A $250,000 cash cap is included in the overall half million SIPC protection cap.

What is the minimum deposit required at Alpaca Trading?

For individual accounts, Alpaca Trading has no minimum deposit. This is excellent for people who wish to test out the broker before investing a significant amount of money. However, a minimum deposit of $30,000 is required for business trading accounts. Additionally, per US margin trading regulations, you must keep a balance of $2,000 if you want to trade on margin or short sell.

Is Alpaca Trading regulated? Is it safe?

Yes, it is overseen by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (FINRA). In 2015, Alpaca Trading was founded. We have more evidence that a broker has successfully weathered prior financial crises the longer the broker has been in business.

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