Published by Blain Reinkensmeyer. Friday, May 12th, Our data is used by executive teams and our ratings are referenced on earnings calls, national tv commercials, US senate hearings, and throughout the web.
In total, we spend over one thousand hours testing online brokerage accounts each year. Every trader has a different investment style of stock trading and options trading that can help determine which online broker may be the best fit.
The goal of this guide is to introduce online trading and feature unique factors, whether it be research, great customer service, or a highly rated trade platform, that are most useful to stock traders.
As the head of research here at StockBrokers. To conduct my testing, I have a funded brokerage account with over a dozen different brokers. TD Ameritrade - Best Overall Exclusive Offer: It also boasts Best in Class ratings for numerous other categories including Offering of Investments, Education, Research, and Customer Service, among others.
They also took home 1 for Order Execution, Research, and Ease of Use. Take advantage of their investment advisor services at over retail locations. Extensive research access along with consistent customer service, ample tools, and industry leading market reports makes for a great full-service brokerage. ETRADE Mobile is rated a best in class mobile trading app and the broker offers well-rounded access to quality research, trade tools, education, and more. For options trading, OptionsHouse's platform was awarded 1 Web Based Platform and provides industry leading options tools.
TradeStation - Platform Technology Current Offer: Low Fees and Free Market Data. TradeStation's advanced trading platform has been awarded "Best Platform Technology" the past four years. For active traders, TradeStation comes packed full of tools and functionality. Like Merrill Edge and Capital One Investing, customers can easily manage their banking and brokerage accounts under one login. Capital One Investing - Automated Investing Current Offer: Interactive Brokers - Professional Trading Current Offer: Trade on over market centers in 24 countries.
When looking for any new online broker it is important to make sure to meet your most important needs as an investor. Are low cost trade commissions most important?
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What about customer service, the trade platform, mobile trading, active trading, or a community to trade alongside? With many brokers specializing in different areas comparing all the possibilities is key.
Based on 58 different variables, here is a summary of the top five brokers for stock trading tools and trade platforms. To trade online successfully, some investors rely purely on their trading tools. Advanced charting, options tools, screeners, hot keys, virtual trading, watch lists, ladders, Level II quotes and back-testing are just a sampling of the functionality brokers make available to their clients.
After spending hundreds of hours on both desktop platforms, we give thinkorswim the edge, thanks to its modern feel and stand out trader tools; however, both platforms execute so well that it truly comes down to personal preference.
Die-hard fans exist for both and either one is a great choice for seasoned active traders. Active Trader Pro and StreetSmart Edge have one distinct advantage over thinkorswim and TradeStation, and that is ease of use. While these platforms do not offer the same depth of trading tools, historical data, chart studies, etc. In some respects, their balance of power and design make them a better fit for certain traders.
Unfortunately, not all active trader platforms are free to use or available to all clients.How to Buy a Stock Without a Broker?
Platform fees and minimums are set in place to keep costs under control, and while these serve simply as examples, investors should be aware of them if they are considering an online broker based solely on its platform. For investors who prefer a web-focused experience, there are many great browser-based platforms to consider. Our top pick again this year, OptionsHouse, combines the best of both worlds: Best Brokers for Options Trading.
Ultimately, TD Ameritrade takes the overall No. Trade Architect browser appeals to newer and intermediate investors while thinkorswim desktop is built solely for seasoned active traders.
The icing on the cake? Both platforms require no minimums or fees for access and use. All clients have access. When selecting a broker based on its platforms and tools, take the time to read our online broker reviews , narrow your search to two or three brokers, compare them side by side and then make a decision. Start with questions like: What specific trader tools must I have to trade successfully? Will I reach the minimums to maintain fee-less, consistent access throughout the year?
Do I prefer a more user-friendly browser-based platform or a more advanced trader-focused desktop platform? It is not surprising that the largest, most publicly known online brokers excel and all vie for the top spot for research.
With larger client bases and higher commission costs, high-quality research is expected. In fact, our top five picks this year yielded scores painstakingly close to one another. Out of the 51 total variables we assessed during our research, our No. Comparing apples with apples, all five brokers are fairly similar. They all use Morningstar as their primary provider for ETF and mutual fund research, all of them offer a slew of data and graphs for researching stocks, all offer fixed-income research, etc.
Slight differences only begin to show when assessing specifics such as total third-party research reports available for equities, for example Apple AAPL. In that category, the title goes to Fidelity with 12 total reports offered, followed by Charles Schwab with eight, and TD Ameritrade with seven. Fidelity, which earned our No. Fidelity also distributes high-quality market analysis and personal finance education through its Fidelity Viewpoints weekly distribution.
What excites us most about Fidelity is its fully responsive mobile friendly , carefully laid out research area. Content flow and personalization are at the heart of the experience, which is unlike any other broker in the industry. Charles Schwab, on the other hand, offers clients its own proprietary A — F ratings, called Schwab Equity Ratings, for some 3, US stocks. Even more impressive, Schwab boasts a full lineup of 26 in-house experts who provide numerous articles, known as Schwab Insights, on a variety of market topics throughout each week.
Some experts, such as Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders, can often be seen on TV discussing the market. Schwab also provides the best video experience out of all the brokers thanks to its market updates and Schwab LIVE events.
Not to be outdone, TD Ameritrade leads the industry with its new earnings analysis tool through platform thinkorswim which launched in In , TD Ameritrade revealed its new Social Signals analysis for individual equities. Using proprietary algorithms, the Sentiment Score shows what percent of tweets are positive and displays other relevant metrics.
Also in the social realm, TD Ameritrade analyzes data from its six million retail clients to create what it calls the Investor Movement Index IMX. All in all, when it comes to researching stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and fixed income, any top five broker is going to provide an excellent experience for investors.
Based on 40 different variables, here is a summary of the top five brokers for investment products:. Investing covers a worldwide spectrum, from investing in international equities to trading forex to purchasing US treasury bonds.
To understand the true range of offerings, StockBrokers. In the process, we compare 40 different variables. Starting with the US, services such as complex options trading, fixed income, and direct market routing are all very common.
Other services, such as commission-free ETFs, are still growing in adoption by the industry. Firstrade and Capital One Investing. As far as order types go, it is an industry standard to support market orders, limit orders, stop orders, and after-hours trading.
Even more advanced order types such as trailing stops, OCO, OTO, OTOCO, and multi-contingent are all supported by well over half the industry. The least common order type was algo, offered by less than half the industry. The leader overall is Interactive Brokers, which offers clients an arsenal of 63 different order types, some of which are exclusively designed for institutional investors.
Looking at international trading, Fidelity and Interactive Brokers are, by a wide margin, the two stand-out choices. Fidelity offers its clients access to trading equities in 25 countries. Both brokers also make it a seamless trading experience, allowing clients to trade from their primary account. Charles Schwab 12 countries of equities access requires a separate account to be opened to place trades and ETRADE shut down its Global Trading service in There are plenty of options available for futures trading, while forex trading is scarcely supported.
Just two brokers, TD Ameritrade and Tradeking, offers forex trading to US clients, and just over half the industry offers futures trading. If investing outside of the United States, Interactive Brokers is your best bet. Based on 12 different variables, here is a summary of the top five brokers for online banking services:. For full-service brokers, the client experience goes beyond just trading. Clients of Merrill Edge, Capital One Investing, Charles Schwab, and Scottrade all fall under this category, meaning banking services are also offered.
To determine which broker is the best for banking, we dived in head first and explored all the potential services: We then looked at specialty offerings such as mobile check deposit, debit card ATM fee reimbursement, and no-fee banking.
Lastly, total number of branch offices was factored in, as access to local branch offices is just as important as managing an account online.
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It should be no surprise that our 1 choice is Merrill Edge, whose parent company is Bank of America. With a FSA Financial Solutions Advisor located in some 2, locations, Bank of America has, by far, the largest network. Bank of America really shines with its rewards program, Preferred Rewards, which offer clients with certain account thresholds a slew of benefits.
Benefits include boosts to money-market savings, credit card cash back bonuses, free trades with Merrill Edge, and more. Next to Bank of America, Capital One is the only other bank to offer every service type: Capital One is best known for its credit cards, and like Bank of America, its clients enjoy the benefits of universal login for easy access to all their accounts. Together with our ranking, we present highlights from the rest of the full-service brokers.
Scottrade offers retail locations, followed by Charles Schwab with Of the remaining brokers, Charles Schwab is the only one to offer home mortgages. The list goes on and on. When it comes to banking and brokers, the great news is that investors have multiple options from which to choose. Full-service brokerages generally do a very good job of catering to the specific needs of their clients and provide a well-rounded offering.
This is especially true for clients who already do their banking with Bank of America or Capital One; the move to add investing as an additional service is just a few clicks away. When assessing customer service, one phone call or live chat conversation is not enough.
To really gauge the quality of support, multiple tests across every channel must be conducted. If a broker did not offer live chat, then quality phone and email support became that much more important.
To ensure the highest quality testing data, we partner with professional private shopping group Confero to handle all phone tests. With clients like Coca Cola and Shell, Confero understands how to read between the lines and identify truly superior customer service. This year, TD Ameritrade was able to beat out Merrill Edge for the No. Merrill Edge has been an extremely consistent performer, finishing second in , first in , and second again in both and Fidelity placed first for email, with ETRADE ranking first for live chat.
Only four brokers had a single hold time beyond five minutes: Capital One Investing, ETRADE, Fidelity, Scottrade. Of all phone tests, only six 3. In the end, TD Ameritrade came out on top, followed by Merrill Edge and Scottrade. In the email department, Fidelity took the crown for the quickest response times with every test receiving a reply in only 36 minutes, on average.
Three different brokers received one perfect test score; Fidelity received four. As far as live chat goes, experiences were mostly positive. Comparing this year to last year, there were five brokers who received at least one perfect score. Last year seven brokers achieved the same feat. With the number of live chat support sessions on the rise and given the communication preferences of younger generations, we were pleased to see brokers delivering consistent, high-quality interactive experiences.
When it comes to personalized service, no one does it better than Scottrade. Scottrade leverages its network of retail locations, redirecting all customer phone calls during weekday office hours directly to its local branch offices. There is something special about the experience of knowing you are one of several million clients, yet when you call, you get the feeling your broker lives right next door.
Scottrade is the only online broker to do this, and therefore earns the award again this year for Best Overall Client Experience. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply. Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses.
Options trading privileges subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options. Offer is not valid on tax-exempt trusts, k accounts, Keogh plans, Profit Sharing Plan, or Money Purchase Plan. Offer is not transferable and not valid with internal transfers, accounts managed by TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC, TD Ameritrade Institutional accounts, and current TD Ameritrade accounts or with other offers.
Qualified commission-free Internet equity, ETF or options orders will be limited to a maximum of and must execute within 90 calendar days of account funding. Contract, exercise, and assignment fees still apply. Limit one offer per client. Account value of the qualifying account must remain equal to, or greater than, the value after the net deposit was made minus any losses due to trading or market volatility or margin debit balances for 12 months, or TD Ameritrade may charge the account for the cost of the offer at its sole discretion.
TD Ameritrade reserves the right to restrict or revoke this offer at any time. This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business. Please allow business days for any cash deposits to post to account.
Taxes related to TD Ameritrade offers are your responsibility. Please consult a legal or tax advisor for the most recent changes to the U. Offer Code TD Ameritrade Inc.
TD Ameritrade is a trademark jointly owned by TD Ameritrade IP Company, Inc. It is our organization's primary mission to provide reviews, commentary, and analysis that are unbiased and objective. Operating as an online business, this site may be compensated through third party advertisers. Our receipt of such compensation shall not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation by StockBrokers.
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