Want free online trades?

Get some at Bank of America - requires $25,000 account balance or try you hand over at - I think the intial balance requirement is $2,500. Here's a news release from the New York Times about Bank of America:

Bank of America, seeking to attract new clients, said yesterday that it was offering free online stock trades to customers with accounts of at least $25,000, sending shares of discount brokers lower.

The bank said customers in New York, Boston and other cities in the Northeast would be allowed 30 free trades a month so long as they maintained the minimum balance in any combination of accounts. Such trades usually cost $5 to $10, meaning customers could save as much as $3,600 a year. Bank of America said the program, which is effective immediately, would be extended nationwide over the next few months.

Online brokers “will probably have to follow suit” with price cuts, said Thomas Kaylor, an analyst at the CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Conn. “By giving away free trades, it reduces some of the incentive customers have for moving assets over to online brokers.”

Bank of America’s move heightens competitive pressures that have already forced the Charles Schwab Corporation, TD Ameritrade Holding and ETrade Financial to cut commissions sharply. Bank of America expects to recover the cost of free trades by persuading customers to sign up for fee-paying products like mortgages and checking accounts, services that not all discount brokers can match.

The prospect of customer losses and lower profits sent shares of Schwab, the biggest discount broker, down 4.7 percent, to $17.22. Another large discount broker, TD Ameritrade, dropped 12 percent, to $16.82. ETrade, the No. 4 online broker, fell 8.8 percent, to $22.31. Shares of Bank of America fell 59 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $54.04.

ETrade, TD Ameritrade and Schwab said they did not currently plan to cut commissions, and ETrade’s chief operating officer, Jarrett Lilien, said that he did not expect to lose customers.

“It’s a nonevent, and all of this hoopla will disappear shortly,” Mr. Lilien said. “People distrust things that are free, and when they do the math, they’ll realize that when you pay nothing, you get nothing.”

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