Best Online Stock Brokers for Stock Trading 2018

July 23, 2018 — 6:00 PM EDT

Which Online Broker Should You Trade With?

Technology that enables traders and investors to place their own trades, rather than having to call a representative, has evolved considerably in the last 25 years. Data, research reports, and a great deal of advice are now easily available to anyone willing to open an account, not just to professionals who pay thousands of dollars monthly for access. Online brokers allow those interested in investing and trading to build wealth, whether it’s by making stock trades, analyzing investment opportunities, or consulting with a professional advisor—all from their own computer or mobile device.  

We analyzed the offerings of more than 20 brokers, considering their product offerings and fee structures as well as trading technology, special features, education, and customer service. The stock brokers below scored highest because of the value that each brokerage offers.

Investing involves making personal decisions, and different brokerages focus on different styles of investing.  All of the brokers we evaluated offer distinctive, unique features and platforms. Your task is to decide which criteria are most important to you and create your own personal list, but we want to help you narrow down those choices.

There is no single overall best online broker: one firm may beat the industry average on several metrics and still not be right for you.  You may have already opened an account with a broker and feel it no longer fits your style.  Though moving your account from one broker to another is a bit of a bother, it’s not difficult.

 

Investopedia’s Top Online Stock Brokers

 

See Full TD Ameritrade Review

  • Commission: $6.95 per Stock & ETF Trade
  • Account Minimum: $0

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Despite slightly higher than average fees among discount brokers, TD Ameritrade arrived at “Best Overall” because of the firm’s comprehensive trading technology and their education and product offerings. Users can take advantage of a standard web-based interface or the rich thinkorswim trading platform. We also found their special features, research, and mobile apps to be much better than the industry average.

✓  Pros

 

❌  Cons

•  High-quality, advanced trading platforms   •  Higher trading costs
•  Large investment selection   •  Higher margin rates
•  Messaging with Alexa, Facebook Messenger, Twitter   •  Assigning an asset to a particular tax lot may require the intervention of a live broker
•  Professional and automated (robo), low-cost investing solutions   •  A glut of features and platforms make it confusing for a new customer to find the necessary tools
•  Excellent mobile app    
•  No account minimum    

 

See Full Charles Schwab Review

  • Commission: $4.95 per Stock & ETF Trade
  • Account Minimum: $1,000
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One of the original discount brokers, Charles Schwab offers nearly all investment products, and its trading technology is well above average. Schwab received perfect scores in the Trust category for providing an enhanced security guarantee.

✓  Pros

 

❌  Cons

•  High-quality, advanced trading platforms   •  Certain mutual funds incur a $76 fee when purchasing
•  Zero-fee robo-advisory (Schwab Intelligent Portfolios)   •  No forex trading
•  Extensive research   •  Margin fees are higher than average
•  Waivable account minimum    

 

See Full Fidelity Investments Review

  • Commission: $4.95 per Stock & ETF Trade
  • Account Minimum: $2,500
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With over $2 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity is a giant of a broker with the ability to use scale to deliver excellent customer support, special features, and low trading costs. Their trade execution technology can save more than the commission charged for the transaction, especially when trading more than 200 shares at a time.

✓  Pros

 

❌  Cons

•  Extensive research   •  No futures trading
•  Good education resources   •  Site demo available for only 30 days after signing up for a Guest account
•  Commission-free ETFs and funds   •  Trade or account balance minimum for advanced active trading platform
•  Excellent customer support    

 

See Full E*Trade Review

  • Commission: $6.95 per Stock & ETF Trade
  • Account Minimum: $500
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E*TRADE’s higher than average costs are largely offset by robust trading and analysis software. Forex trading and annuities are missing, but E*TRADE’s advanced trading platform, which integrates the options trading and education tools via their acquisition of OptionsHouse, should provide a lot of value to stock and options traders.

✓  Pros

 

❌  Cons

•  Well-designed mobile app that includes streaming data   •  Higher trading costs
•  Options trading tools are top-notch   •  Higher margin rates
•  Above average, advanced trading platforms   •  No forex trading or any access to international markets
•  Lower commissions for frequent traders   •  Minimum balance requirement or trade activity requirement for advanced active trading platform
•  Above average, advanced trading platforms    
•  Lower commissions/volume discount for frequent traders    

 

See Full Merrill Edge Review

  • Commission: $6.95 per Stock & ETF Trade
  • Account Minimum: $0
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Recently launched features such as Portfolio Story and Stock Story give customers graphical representations of the markets. With approximately 50% of the firm’s clients accessing its services using mobile devices, Merrill Edge has updated their apps significantly, adding financial and retirement planning along with options analytics.

✓  Pros

 

❌  Cons

•  In-person service available at almost all Bank of America branches   •  Minimum balance requirement for advanced active trading platform
•  All clients can access Merrill’s proprietary research as well as curated third-party analysis   •  No forex or futures trading
•  Extensive educational resources, including Morningstar courses organized by complexity   •  Limited advanced/complex trades on trading platform
•  OptionsPlay suite of tools integrated into the MarketPro platform for frequent stock and options traders   •  International transactions must be made through a live broker
•  Eligible customers qualify for 30-100 free stock/ETF transactions per month    

 

How Investopedia Reviewed and Selected the Best Online Brokerage Accounts

At Investopedia, we started from scratch to build a better brokerage recommendation tool and objective reviews of self-directed brokerages. Our mission is to provide an unbiased and accurate analysis – so that you can make smarter investing decisions.

We want to help find you the best online stockbroker so we examined more than 100 variables, from pricing and fees to trading platforms to special features. No single online broker was the best in every category, so you should review the complete list to identify the firm that best matches your priorities.