Best Online Brokerage Firms For Stock Trading (2017 Reviews)


What is actually the best online brokerage for you? If you’re not a financial expert, just choosing the brokerage that best suits your needs can be a difficult task. It all comes down to understanding what your needs are, and then selecting the brokerage that best fits those needs.

This detailed brokerage comparison tool helps you quickly choose the right brokerage that meets your requirements. It's as easy as entering a few simple pieces of information and we’ll sort through the top brokerages to let you know which one is best for you.



I have
$
and want to trade

at a brokerage with the following features


NameAccount MinimumTrade CommissionInstrumentsPromotion

Td ameritrade
TD Ameritrade

$0

$6.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures
Free trade for 90 days and up to $600 up for grabs.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Charles schwab
Charles Schwab

$1,000

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Futures
When you become a Schwab client, get up to $500.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Fidelity
Fidelity

$2,500

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Cash bonus up to $2,500 when you fund your new account within 60 days.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Ally invest
Ally Invest

$0

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures
Coming soonSign Up
Read Reviews

Motif investing
Motif Investing

$0

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Coming soonSign Up
Read Reviews

Optionshouse
OptionsHouse

$0

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Futures
Open an account and get 60 days of commission-free internet trading (with a minimum of $5,000).Sign Up
Read Reviews

Interactive brokers
Interactive Brokers

$10,000

$0.005
per share

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures
Coming soonSign Up
Read Reviews

Merrill edge
Merrill Edge

$0

$6.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Get 30 $0 online trades plus $600 with your new Merrill Edge account.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Scottrade
Scottrade

$2,500

$6.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Fund an account and qualify for free trades plus a cash bonus.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Lightspeed trading
Lightspeed Trading

$5,000

$4.50
per trade

Stocks
Options
Coming soonSign Up
Read Reviews

Capital one investing
Capital One Investing

$0

$6.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Get $50 after your first trade plus up to $600 when you open a new account.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Etrade
E*TRADE

$500

$6.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures
Get free trades for 60 days and receive up to $600.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Tradestation
TradeStation

$5,000

$5.00
per trade

Stocks
Options
Futures
Get up to $1,500 in commission rebates when you open an account.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Tradeking
TradeKing
(now
Ally Invest)

$0

$4.95
per trade

Stocks
Options
Forex
Futures
You'll get $1,000 in free trade commission when you open a new TradeKing account by February 24, 2017 with at least $5,000.Sign Up
Read Reviews

Fees

Although you can't control market performance, you absolutely can control fees. In fact, even a 1% difference in fees can make a HUGE impact on your investment returns. Therefore it absolutely pays to make sure you minimize these fees as much as possible. Unfortunately there are a wide variety of fees to consider:

  • Trade Commission - How much the brokerage charges either per trade or per share. Most brokerages charge per trade, regardless of how many shares you buy or sell. However, if you're an active trader then it may be worthwhile to look into brokerages that charge per share - these brokerages have fairly large volume requirements and minium monthly fees so it's not suitable for beginners but could be a good choice later on if you trade frequently with smallish share counts.
  • Broker Assisted Trade Fee - This only applies if you basically call the brokerage to have a human place an order for you. As long as you use their online platform or native apps to place your orders, you won't be charged.
  • Mutual Fund Trade Fee - Brokerages will charge extra to trade mutual funds. Be wary of "No Transaction Fee" funds (NTFs) as well though - they typically make their money on management fees that are baked into the fund.
  • IRA Annual Fee - Some brokerages charge an annual fee to maintain an IRA account.
  • IRA Account Closing Fee - Some brokerages charge an account closing fee if you want to shut down an IRA account.

NameTrade CommissionBroker Assisted TradeMutual Fund Trade FeeIRA Annual FeeIRA Account Closing Fee

Td ameritrade
TD Ameritrade

$6.95
per trade

$44.99

$49.99

$0

$0

View detailed fee info
for TD Ameritrade

Charles schwab
Charles Schwab

$4.95
per trade

$25.00

$76.00

$0

$50

View detailed fee info
for Charles Schwab

Fidelity
Fidelity

$4.95
per trade

$32.95

$49.95

$0

$50

View detailed fee info
for Fidelity

Ally invest
Ally Invest

$4.95
per trade

N/A

N/A

N/A

View detailed fee info
for Ally Invest

Motif investing
Motif Investing

$4.95
per trade

$45.00

$9.95

$0

$95

View detailed fee info
for Motif Investing

Optionshouse
OptionsHouse

$4.95
per trade

$25.00

$20.00

$0

$60

View detailed fee info
for OptionsHouse

Interactive brokers
Interactive Brokers

$0.005
per share

$30.00

$14.95

N/A

N/A

View detailed fee info
for Interactive Brokers

Merrill edge
Merrill Edge

$6.95
per trade

$29.95

$19.95

$0

$49.95

View detailed fee info
for Merrill Edge

Scottrade
Scottrade

$6.95
per trade

$32.00

$17.00

$0

$0

View detailed fee info
for Scottrade

Lightspeed trading
Lightspeed Trading

$4.50
per trade

$25.00

N/A

$35

$95

View detailed fee info
for Lightspeed Trading

Capital one investing
Capital One Investing

$6.95
per trade

$19.95

$19.95

$0

$75

View detailed fee info
for Capital One Investing

Etrade
E*TRADE

$6.95
per trade

$25.00

$19.99

$0

$60

View detailed fee info
for E*TRADE

Tradestation
TradeStation

$5.00
per trade

$20.00

$14.95

$35

$50

View detailed fee info
for TradeStation

Tradeking
TradeKing

$4.95
per trade

$20.00

$9.95

$9

$50

View detailed fee info
for TradeKing

Features

Not all brokerages have the same offerings!

  • 24/7 Support - It's often nice to just get a hold of support anytime to help you handle a problem. This is particularly important if you trade forex since those exchanges stay open around the clock.
  • Retail Locations - Sometimes you just want the ability to walk into a brick and mortar store and talk to a live human being.
  • Virtual Trading - For those just starting off, it's great to be able to start trading with fake money to better understand how things work and to test out trading strategies. Virtual trading allows you to practice on a live "sandbox" account without having to put actual money on the line.
  • Checking and Savings Accounts - Some people like the convenience of having their banking accounts at the same institution as their brokerage to make money transfer easier.
  • ATM Fee Reimbursement - If a brokerage offers checking accounts, sometimes they will allow you to use ATMs out of network and refund you the fee that the ATM charges.
  • Commission Free ETFs - ETFs are exchange traded funds which try to track a basket of assets close to their net value over the course of a trading day - they basically allow you to diversify without having to research and manage a bunch of different instruments. Various brokerages have their own ETFs that they offer without a trade commission since they make a slight profit in the management fee of the fund.
  • Clearing Company - These orgnizations make sure that a trade is settled accurately and in a timely manner, basically making sure that the shares you buy and sell are attributed properly. Some brokerages handle this themselves, others outsource it to another company.

Name24/7 SupportRetail LocationsVirtual TradingChecking AccountSavings AccountATM Fee ReimbursementCommission Free ETFsClearing Company

Td ameritrade
TD Ameritrade

105
101
Self clearing

Charles schwab
Charles Schwab

300
229
Self clearing

Fidelity
Fidelity

195
91
Self clearing

Ally invest
Ally Invest

0
0
Apex Clearing

Motif investing
Motif Investing

0
0
Pershing

Optionshouse
OptionsHouse

0
0
Apex Clearing

Interactive brokers
Interactive Brokers

0
39
Self clearing

Merrill edge
Merrill Edge

2161
0
Merrill Lynch and Pierce and Fenner & Smith

Scottrade
Scottrade

503
0
Self clearing

Lightspeed trading
Lightspeed Trading

0
0
Wedbush and ML Pro and Interactive Brokers

Capital one investing
Capital One Investing

10
0
Pershing

Etrade
E*TRADE

30
118
Self clearing

Tradestation
TradeStation

0
0
Self clearing

Tradeking
TradeKing

0
0
Apex Clearing

"Best Of" Awards

Each brokerage has their own specialty area where they excel - we've distilled their pros and cons into this handy awards page so you can dig deeper into the ones that offer what you're looking for.

Best Value

Lightspeed trading Lightspeed Trading

Best Research Tools

Charles schwab Charles Schwab

Best for New Investors

Td ameritrade TD Ameritrade

Best Education

Td ameritrade TD Ameritrade

Best Options Trading

Optionshouse OptionsHouse

Best Active Trading

Interactive brokers Interactive Brokers

Best International Trading

Fidelity Fidelity

Best Banking

Merrill edge Merrill Edge

Best Customer Service

Fidelity Fidelity

Best Platform

Td ameritrade TD Ameritrade

Best User Interface

Tradeking TradeKing


Learn More About Online Brokerages


Brokerage Accounts are Best For...

  • Retirement savings
  • Passive investing
  • Active trading
  • Estate planning
  • College savings

Pros and Cons

Brokerage accounts are used to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and other investments. You can open an account as an individual, a joint account with another person, as a trust, as a custodian for a minor, or one of several other options.

There are generally no major downsides to opening an investment account. However, it is important to understand that unlike a bank account, investment accounts can lose value. If you invest well, your investments can infinitely grow. However, a bad investment can quickly drop to zero value.

For example, investments in Google or Amazon performed well in recent years. Investments in the infamous company Enron became nearly worthless when the company’s accounting scandal broke into the news and the company declared bankruptcy in December, 2001.

Account Minimums

Most brokerage firms require a minimum balance to open a new account. For example, Charles Schwab requires a minimum $1,000 deposit to open a new account. This is waived, however, if you setup a recurring direct deposit of $100 per month or more. Competitor TradeKing has no minimum to open a new account.

Some firms also have a minimum balance to access special account types and features. TD Ameritrade does not have a minimum to open a new account, but requires a $2,000 balance to access advanced features like margin and options trading.

Fees and Commissions

Opening Fee - Most brokerage firms do not charge an account opening fee. You should not have to pay a brokerage to give them your money!

Closing Fee - Some brokerage firms do not charge a fee when transferring out an account, but it is not uncommon to see fees around $50-$75.

Maintenance Fee - Standard brokerage accounts do not charge any maintenance fees to keep the account open. Some brokerages charge a fee that is waived if you meet minimum balance or activity requirements.

Withdrawal / Transfer Fee - You should not have to pay any fees to withdraw cash from your account. Most firms do not charge a fee to transfer out specific assets. However, if you are transferring out all assets in the account, fees are not uncommon.

Trade Commission - Firms commonly charge around $10 per trade when buying and selling stocks. TradeKing is notably on the lower end with a $4.95 trade fee. Loyal3 offers fewer investment options than most firms, but allows you to buy and sell with no trade fee. Mutual fund fees vary widely. The biggest brokerage firms offer trades for a limited set of funds at no charge. For other funds, fees up to $50 are common.

Supported Account Types

Brokerages offer accounts that have different tax rules depending on how you set them up and plan to use them. A standard brokerage account allows buying and selling securities with capital gains taxes required on investment gains.

You can also open up retirement investment accounts. IRAs, Roth IRAs, and other retirement specific accounts offer tax advantages over a standard brokerage account.

How to Open An Account (Setup Process)

Most brokerage firms offer a simple, online account opening process. Expect to spend about ten minutes filling out the online forms. You can also request paper copies to send in by mail. Firms with physical branch locations typically offer the ability to open a new account in person as well.

To open a new account, you will be required to submit your contact information, social security number, and sometimes a photo ID to verify your identity. If you get stuck or have trouble along the way, you can get support by phone or online chat.

Once your new account is open, you will have to fund the account. The fastest method to fund a new account is a wire, but wires generally come with fees from your bank. The easiest and fastest method to fund an account is with an electronic funds transfer, sometimes called an EFT or ACH. Those generally take 2-3 days to clear. You can also send in a paper check or drop one off at a branch. Large deposits by check can be held for a short period until the funds clear from your bank account.

Trading Platform

Brokerage accounts offer a wide range of trading platforms. You can generally trade online or by phone, but expect to pay additional fees for trades by phone.

Orders generally fill instantly during regular trading hours. After hours trading is available at some investment firms. Those trades may not fill as quickly. Settlement after entering a trade generally takes three business days.

Margin trading is a type of trade where you borrow funds to buy and sell stocks from your brokerage. This takes special approval and is designed for experienced traders. Similarly, short selling typically requires approval as there is a potential for unlimited losses.

Available Mutual/Index Funds?

Before signing up for a new brokerage account, review the list of available mutual funds and any fee-free mutual fund options. For example, Charles Schwab offers its Select List of funds with no trade fees. Most large brokerages offer a similar options for their own funds and sometimes for select fund families.

Research and Tools

Each brokerage firms offers different levels of access to investment research and reports. Large firms often have their own research in addition to reports from major reporting firms like S&P, Morningstar, Zacks, Ned Davis Research, and others.

Advisory / Investor Education

Some brokerage companies offer limited or no support, while others offer access to professional investment advisors. Depending on your investing experience, this may or may not be important to you. Look into this before opening a new account.

Support and Customer Service

Nearly all brokerage firms offer support via phone, email, and sometimes through chat support. Savvy web users should be able to do nearly anything in their accounts without additional support, but it is good to know how to reach customer service should you need help in the future.

Security

Your financial security is incredibly important. In an age of regular security breaches, you are right to be concerned about security with an online brokerage. Brokerages use the highest levels of online security and encryption to ensure your data is safe.

Even with the best security, however, some breaches do occur from time to time. To protect yourself, ensure you use a unique, challenging password on each online account, particularly when they are tied to your money.

Uptime and Stability

Most online brokerage firms have nearly perfect uptime and stability. Downtime during trading hours can prevent your orders from executing. While some brokerage firms have experienced downtime in the past, it is not common for brokerage websites to go down.

Before signing up for a new account, a quick Google News search will tell you if your chosen firm has been plagued with downtime issues in recent years.

Ease of Use

Each online brokerage has its own unique experience. Virtually all of them offer screenshots or walkthroughs of their trading systems. Take a look at your top contenders and pick the one that you like best. After all, you are the one who is going to be using it so you should choose a service you will enjoy.