Fidelity Investments has shaken off a conservative reputation in recent decades, adding dozens of client services geared toward do-it-yourself investors and hyperactive position traders. As a result, their deep customer base now includes college grads building their first nest eggs, speculators looking to trade or sell short and high net worth individuals seeking to protect and grow income.
In contrast, T. Rowe Price remains narrowly focused on its long-standing reputation as a conservative asset management company, discouraging active trading while counseling clients to focus on long-term investment strategies. It now offers three main approaches in this regard: actively managed portfolios, retirement savings accounts and non-retirement brokerage accounts.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, Fidelity Investments received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Beginners, Best Stock Trading Apps, Best for ETFs, Best for Penny Stocks Best for Roth IRAs, Best for IRAs, Best for International Trading, and Best Web Trading Platforms.
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade
- Account Minimum: $2,500
- Fees: $19.95 per trade for accounts who have executed less than 30 trades
- Best for: Those looking for full-service wealth management
Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro includes many features found in high-end platforms, including streaming market data, customizable watch lists, and filters to identify short-term market movers. A custom option scan and advanced analytics assist in executing sophisticated market strategies while an advanced order entry interface supports complex and conditional orders. Advanced charting includes dozens of technical indicators and a pattern recognition tool.
According to marketing materials, T. Rowe Price offers a “robust website and trading platform,” but the trading interface is bare-bones compared to Fidelity, featuring simple order entry with no risk management capacity. Buying and selling mutual funds and ETFs can be executed directly from a comprehensive portfolio page that links to the trading center. The page includes detailed account information, filtered news, and an analytical breakout to measure performance.
- Easy to navigate
- Streamlined and intuitive
- Full featured for active traders
T. Rowe Price
- Access to their family of mutual funds
- Strong emphasis on asset management
- Some features require high account minimum
Mobile and Emerging Tech
T. Rowe Price iOS and Android apps provide limited feature sets, allowing remote but basic account management. They also offer an innovative Workplace Retirement mobile website, highlighting their commitment to this financial segment. The T. Rowe Price ActivePlus Portfolios robo-advisor builds a "diversified model portfolio" with human assistance for a $50,000 minimum investment. There are no advisory fees. Fidelity's wealth management starts with FidelityGo automated investment advice that provides a model portfolio for $0 commitment while charging a .35% annual advisory fee.
- Robust apps for iOS, iWatch, Android and Amazon
- No minimum robo-advisor
- Apple Touch-ID + Face ID support
T. Rowe Price
- Low-fee robo-advisor
- Basic iOS and Android apps
- Retirement-themed mobile site
News and Research
T. Rowe Price features comprehensive and up to date research with timely analysis by market professionals. Asset screeners and alerts keep investors squarely focused on new opportunities. Fidelity offers clients a broad variety of topical research and a comprehensive market section that includes charts, commentary and filtered news. Frequently updated research taps into an abundance of trading and investment ideas while sector analysis provides weightings and buy/sell recommendations.
- Strong research content
- Interactive charting and indicators
- Mutual fund screeners
T. Rowe Price
- Asset screeners
- Mutual fund research
- Alerts and watchlists
Education and Security
Fidelity's robust educational tools include financial and budget check-ups as well as tips for better budgeting. A "Play 5 Money Musts" game lets clients manage funds for a recent college grad, pointing out common investing mistakes. Content also includes retirement planning, money tips and debt management strategies. T. Rowe Price focuses on asset allocation, planning for retirement and college tuition planning. Users can track progress with retirement income and mutual fund research tools. However, many educational sections display brief outlines rather than comprehensive content, often directing users toward product offerings.
- Strong educational section
- In-person seminars
- Retirement planning
T. Rowe Price
- College and retirement planning
- Limited introductory resources
- Fingerprint authentication on mobile
In October 2019, all U.S. stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) no longer incur a commission at Fidelity, and the base per-leg charge for options trades has also been eliminated. Options trades are $0.65 per contract under Fidelity's new pricing.
T. Rowe Price's commission schedule is designed to discourage active trading, starting at $19.95 for new accounts, dropping to $9.95 for accounts with more than 30 trades in 12 months or accounts holding at least $250,000. Add $1.00 per contract for options trades. They also offer a broad variety of no-transaction fee mutual funds and ETFs.
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In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.
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