War Eagle, We gather tonight at the Big House, and smoke Piece Pipe. Moon Full, River low, fish good!... "The first thing they teach you, is when there's doubt, there is no doubt. The second thing they teach you is 'I don't remember' ". (Quote from movie 'Ronin'). Riddle I speak, you say? Yohda, his own counsil he keep. Simply put, in reading your initial question, your decision to go with the local branch should not be the deciding factor, just because they were the first to provide services in your area. Your decision to be affiliated with a broker, in a pseudo professional stance (since you're not licensed, and probably will not persue such) should have far more basis to rest upon instead of just convenience. In a non professional stance, you're no different from using CyberX2 or any of the other sophisticated Direct Access retail broker services. Regarding affilitation with other brokers, one of the previous comments said it best: "you're a newbie". Their success is based indirectly on "collectively" your failure. Wisely think War Eagle, and never let your horse run ahead of you while you're chasing the fox.