Finding a stock broker who understands your trading goals can seriously level up your potential profit. When you’re new to the market, however, you might be unsure of what to look for in a stock brokerage firm. The right stock market online broker combines the convenience of trading investments from the comfort of your home with the guidance you need from a seasoned trading mentor. These reviews highlight the benefits and drawbacks of some of the most popular options so you can begin to make a shortlist for further research.
What Is a Stock Broker?
The term stock broker refers to either an individual or a company with the license to trade securities such as stocks on various market exchanges. Depending on the type of broker, you can access diverse investments including but not limited to traditional stocks, commodities, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
While traders once had to call stock brokers on the phone and pay significant fees to arrange a trade, today’s technology allows access to the best self-service stock trading at a serious discount. However, using an online stock broker doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the service and features available at a traditional brokerage firm. Research which online trading site is best for your specific objectives using this comprehensive guide.
Fidelity often ranks as the best web-based trading platform because it combines good value for traders with tools and services that help beginners gain the experience they need to harness the advantages of investing in the stock market. While some global and U.S. online stock brokers have complicated fees and commissions, Fidelity has a reputation for competitive pricing and a simple, intuitive fee structure.
All customers receive Active Trader Pro, a customizable dashboard where you can arrange your tools, news, portfolio information, and resources so everything you need for a profitable day is literally at your fingertips. Fidelity earns rave reviews for its mobile app and is frequently lauded as the cheapest trading platform despite its generous resources and features.
Owned by Bank of America, the Merrill Edge platform ranks as one of the best stock trading platform 2018 and beyond because of its clear guidance that helps even newcomers to the market understand the advice given and take the appropriate actions. With simple yet robust research tools, an online platform that lets you access the information you need at the touch of a button, and the option to work one-on-one with an advisor or have a broker invest on your behalf, it’s no wonder Merrill Edge is many seasoned online investors’ top choice.
Traders also appreciate this online trading brokerage firm’s low fees. New members to the site can currently access 300 commission-free trades, free online trades after 90 days, and unlimited stock and ETF trades at a $6.95 flat fee. Bank of America customers will appreciate the easy integration of their existing accounts, as well.
Named as the best online broker in Kiplinger’s 2019 review, E*Trade offers a range of options, such as traditional brokerage accounts, automated investing for those with a portfolio of at least $500, and access to savings accounts, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and other retirement vehicles. This platform can be a one-stop-shop for all your financial needs. In fact, if you’re a more experienced trader, you can access a new option called Power E*Trade introduced this year. This is also one of the few platforms to offer streaming strategy options chains.
E*Trade also gets high marks for its long history. The site went public in 1996 but the company was actually the first to complete an online stock market trade way back in 1983. E*Trade was also named as the best “robo-advisor” for beginners by Investopedia and one of the best for mobile traders by Barron’s. However, some users note the high margin rate and the inability to integrate with your banking software.
This sophisticated platform is popular among experienced online investors but may prove to have a bit of a learning curve for those who are new to web-based trading (or trading in general). With limited access to resources such as research and data within the platform, this program is best suited for those who prefer to conduct independent analysis to drive their trades. Although some report that Vanguard has high commission fees, you can access a flat fee of $7 per transaction.
Vanguard customers can take advantage of the lack of an account minimum and the diverse selection of mutual funds and commission-free ETFs. This company also has a reputation for top-notch client service.
With sophisticated tools that appeal to long-term, experienced investors and simple tools that help new investors learn the ropes, Charles Schwab is considered one of the best online stockbrokers for a diverse array of traders. You’ll also enjoy trades with no transaction fees on specific platforms and no requirement to keep an account minimum. This firm boasts an extensive selection of funds that includes commission-free stock, options, and ETF trades.
Fans of this company also rave about the user-friendly mobile app, which lets you trade investments on the go from your smartphone. Also, it’s easy to switch back and forth between the online platform and the app since it offers the same features and functions. Charles Schwab is one of the few online brokerage firms offering a full satisfaction guarantee, which means you can get a refund if you are unsatisfied with any fee-based service for any reason.
This online platform is designed for newbies who want to get into the stock market game as affordably as possible. As a result, they provide accounts with no minimum balance, no trade fees, and no commissions. Although the interface is streamlined and basic, the site offers access to unique investment options such as cryptocurrency. However, you cannot trade mutual funds through Robinhood, and the site currently offers only one type of trading account. Customer support is also limited, which you might prefer if cost is your priority when seeking a stock broker.
Nerd Wallet named this online brokerage firm the best low-cost option in the industry for 2019. This site offers no minimum account balance and no transaction fees, and mutual funds trade for a flat fee of just $9.95. Despite the low costs, you’ll find extensive research tools and an intuitive, feature-rich online trading platform. Ally doesn’t have any in-person investment branches, so if you prefer to meet your broker face-to-face, it probably isn’t the best choice for your trading needs.
As one of the largest online stock broker firms, TD Ameritrade appeals to those who need lots of options. Members can choose from several platforms, including one designed specifically for active day traders. This year, the company’s online site received a major upgrade with extensive research tools and customizable news feeds. TD Ameritrade also recently acquired Scottrade.
Members of this firm can access traditional support channels along with social-media-based support through Facebook, Twitter, and other apps. If you prefer a more streamlined interface, this robust platform can feel a bit overwhelming. You might want to look for a broker that subscribes to the “less is more” philosophy. Keep in mind, however, that The Ascent named TD Ameritrade its best all-around online broker for 2019.
Designed to meet the needs of the most knowledgeable investors, this platform offers access to global electronic exchanges. If you want to trade futures, options, and traditional investments from all over the world, this platform allows you to do so 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Benefits include integrated detailed analysis tools, commission-free trades on U.S.-based equities, and available automated trading. However, you might be charged monthly fees if your account doesn’t meet a minimum activity threshold.
When you need more guidance than your online stock broker can provide, turn to the team at Raging Bull. Sign up today to access your free trading e-book and sign up for a webinar where you can learn the ins and outs of online trading from experienced stock market gurus.