Does the idea of choosing the wrong investment company make you nervous? If it does, that's good. You want to make sure that you're entrusting your hard-earned income to someone who will take care of it. Being nervous shows that you care about making the right choice for your future.
Hard Assets Alliance is a precious metals brokerage that allows people access to a wide market of items. But is the company everything it claims to be?
We've found that the alliance lacks transparency in a major way, which makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable when things go wrong. In addition, they charge high commissions despite outsourcing all of their work to third parties. You won't find anything here that you can't get elsewhere.
But it's worth looking at what exactly HAA offers and promises, along with what they fail to accomplish. That will give you a good sense of what to look for in a trustworthy precious metals vendor.
About the Company
The alliance has been around since 2012. According to their website, the founders are a group of financial and investment experts with decades of combined experience in the industry. Financial researchers teamed up with precious metals experts to create an investment opportunity that couldn't go unnoticed.
This origin story is all well and good, but it lacks a lot of detail. The company doesn't say anything about who the founder or current CEO is. They don't have individuals listed, or even explain how many people work on the project.
Instead, when you click on the "Members" list, you'll see a list of organizations and companies that are part of the alliance. These include financial advisers, precious metals dealers, and other economic experts. But there's no information about how much control each member has in the alliance.
According to one live chat, the alliance was recently sold to Gold Bullion International. But there's no reliable information or records to follow regarding this.
Products and Services
The alliance specializes in precious metals dealing. Precious metals are a popular investment choice because they offer stability and security against stock market fluctuations. In addition, they hedge against inflation.
You can invest in whatever precious metals you want for personal use. You can also store them wherever you want, though it's a good idea to open an account at a place with a secure vault.
Palladium, platinum, gold, and silver are all offered. The marketplace has bars and coins to choose from.
Precious metals are an alternative asset that can be used for self-directed IRA accounts. Once you set up your IRA, you use the funds to purchase whatever metals you want. They'll then be stored in an IRS-approved facility.
Unlike personal investments, retirement account investments must adhere to strict IRS guidelines. You'll need to make sure that the items you purchase are at the right purity level. Pure coins and bars are the only precious metals allowed.
The company has partnered with Millennium Trust as their IRA custodian. This custodian sets the fees for ongoing maintenance of your account. Unfortunately, they are one of the more expensive trusts. You can get the same level of service for a significantly lower price, most of the time.
People have also lodged complaints against Millennium Trust for having hidden fees and a non-transparent fee structure. What you see is not always what you get. By comparison, a lot of the competition will waive the first year of fees if your account threshold is high enough.
MetalStream is the company's automatic investing software. This optional feature allows you to purchase precious metals on a monthly basis. You don't have to worry about making a new manual transaction every month, and you still get the benefits that come from regular investment.
This feature works best for people who intend to keep converting a set amount of their income into precious metals. It's not the best for those who only invest when metals are at a low market price.
As with the company's other services, convenience is the big factor here. You can set the system up in just a few minutes. You'll choose how much to invest each month, choose what to invest in, and either pre-fund your account or connect your account to the bank.
From there, the system will buy up new precious metals for you every month. If you don't have enough to get a full bar or coin, the funds will be held over until you accumulate enough to add to your hoard. Once you do reach the threshold, your purchase will be transferred to your vault without any extra fee.
MetalStream doesn't have any contracts or obligations. You can opt out anytime you want. There also aren't any extra charges to partake. The minimum threshold for investment is just 25 dollars per month, though many people choose to invest more.
The company has a wide range of business services that they offer to small businesses, corporations, and on-paper LLCs. You can turn some of your company assets into precious metals. Once you open your business account, you can invest in metals as a major company asset.
Every type of business is welcome. It doesn't matter whether you're a big corporation or a smaller business. There is even support for sole proprietors who want to use the service.
Corporate accounts can be opened in the company's name. You'll invest as many assets as you want in precious metals. You can transfer funds whenever you need to.
With a corporate account, you'll be given monthly statements regarding your activity. You'll also get daily reports about the market value of your investments. If you have several people who take care of the company finances, you can set the account up to be accessed by multiple users.
You can use precious metals investments as part of your estate. There are multiple solutions to help you set up your estate so that you'll retain most of your assets postmortem. That's crucial, considering how high estate and gift taxes are.
When the beneficiary of an account needs to access your assets, it's easy to deliver or sell them.
Benefits of the Company
Despite the lack of transparency, there are a few marked benefits to the company. The biggest is the convenience. It is extremely easy to sign up for an account and access the online marketplace. The prices are also reasonable, though you should be aware that they aren't the lowest on the market.
The company's website is designed to be easy to navigate no matter what kind of device you're using. It makes precious metals much more accessible to people on the go.
The first step is to open your account. You'll just need to fill out an application with your personal information. The company will then verify your identity, something every US company is required to do by law.
You'll choose from one of three different accounts:
Personal accounts allow you to invest in precious metals for your current portfolio. Retirement accounts let you set up an IRS-compliant IRA and fund it with precious metals. Trust accounts hold precious metals in trust for someone instead of holding liquid currency.
The application process takes only a few minutes. Once you're approved, you can fund the account with money from your budget. Convenience is the name of the game here. You can choose between checks, wires, and electronic bank transfers.
The third step is to use the app to start selling and buying assets on the marketplace. You already know that all of the vendors have been vetted. In addition, you can access the listings at any time during any day of the week.
How the Market Works
Hard Assets Alliance is not technically a dealer. Dealers purchase precious metals and then resell them at a marked-up price. Instead of owning their own precious metals, HAA has created an online marketplace where dealers can compete.
By using this online marketplace, you can compare the offerings of many dealers at once. You can immediately see the lowest price on the marketplace. There's incentive to sell at low prices, since dealers are competing against each other for traffic.
However, the prices aren't the lowest in the industry. The lowest price on the HAA market might still be higher than one you'd find by looking at the competition. For this reason, we don't recommend using this market if you want to find the lowest industry deals.
The competitive aspect of the setup can be misleading. People may get the impression that this is the only precious metals marketplace that exists, when that isn't true. You only see the prices of the dealerships that have specifically joined the firm.
There's a significant lack of transparency with the company's hierarchy, structure, and executives. When you look at the website, there's no clear information given about who has contributed what to the program.
Third party reviews of the company continue this trend. It's difficult to find reputable information about their practices, and the few concrete details we have discovered are not encouraging. It seems like the involved entities are hiding behind the brand name.
There are several third party organizations and websites that keep track of consumer feedback. Many facilitate discussions between consumers and companies, allowing people to resolve complaints without needing to talk to a lawyer. This also lets the company show that they're committed to customer satisfaction and problem solving.
The first major problem starts with their BBB page. The Better Business Bureau has not accredited them, and they've given the company an F for their practices. That F used to be a C. When the company failed to respond to two complaints, it dropped.
There are two reviews on the BBB website, both of which give the company one star. One states that the company stalled for weeks and forced the person to call repeatedly before they'd approve a withdrawal. Then, after the withdrawal was approved, several more weeks went by. The customer logged in to find the transaction cancelled.
The other review says that the professional website is the only professional aspect about the company. The person had been waiting to be given account access for two weeks at the time of writing. They could not find anyone to contact to get their money back, since the firm doesn't publicize its executives.
On TrustPilot, the reviews are much better. But 21 percent of them still give the company just one star. That means that more than one out of every five reviewers was as unhappy as they could possibly be with the service. In addition, there are surprisingly few reviews for a company that's been around nearly a decade.
Some of the aspects of the company that are praised on TrustPilot include:
However, there are still one-star reviews that reiterate the poor business practices. Many people report struggling to make withdrawals, getting the wrong orders, and struggling to communicate with their customer service representatives.
HAA is much more active on TrustPilot than the BBB. They have made an effort to reach out and talk to the unhappy customers. But only about 50 percent of the reviews are five stars. When you're looking for a good investment company, you want one that has a much higher satisfaction rating.
Ripoff Report does not have any reported issues with the company, which is good. But that's not enough to absolve the other atrocious reviews.
Hard Assets Alliance is a firm made up of investment companies and economic experts. They help people invest in precious metals for their personal portfolios, retirement accounts, businesses, and estates.
The marketplace allows dealers to compete for consumer attention, which encourages low prices. But you won't find the lowest prices in the industry.
The biggest shadow over the company is the customer reviews. There are many poor customer reviews stating that they were purposefully stalled when making withdrawals, or that they were unfairly locked out of their accounts.
There's also a lack of transparency. Since you don't know who the CEO is, you don't know who to file a complaint with if you have trouble.