Choosing a broker can be challenging given the wide variety of options available.
The competition among brokers has caused many to offer their services free of charge for most common assets, but investors looking at these platforms will find significant differences in their usability, trading technology, account features, and other aspects of their functionality.
You may find it difficult to wade through all of the information, so we’ve done much heavy lifting for you.
To identify the Best Online Brokerage Accounts and Trading Platforms in the business, we conducted extensive assessment research and hand-on testing of these United States-based brokers.
Best Online Brokerage Accounts and Trading Platforms
Fidelity has consistently ranked as our best overall brokerage account for several years because of its client-centered approach.
We still rank Fidelity as the top choice for investors in general, but other brokerages are closing the gap.
Fidelity does not charge for order flow, maintains low costs, offers fantastic tools that make it easy for investors and traders to manage and evaluate their investments and continuously improves its platforms.
Fidelity has a cash sweep program that transfers unspent monies from customer accounts into money market funds, giving clients an alternative source of small returns in their portfolios.
The firm’s stock borrowing program generates revenue for its customers while also providing excellent order execution.
The benefits that Fidelity offers and its dedication to reducing costs for customers and maximizing returns are the reasons it has remained our top-ranked online broker.
Benefits Of Fidelity Investments
- Fidelity orders are completed at a lower price than the national best offer or bid in 86.17 percent of cases.
- Researchers and asset scanners who are thorough
- Money market funds are deposited continuously regularly.
- There are a variety of educational options available
Cons Of Fidelity Investments
- Fidelity’s web platform and Active Trader Pro may be needed for you to access the tools and information you require.
- A non-citizen or a non-resident of the United States cannot open an account.
TD Ameritrade: Best for Beginners
TDA is one of the most seamless methods for first-time investors to enter the stock market due to its knowledge of investor education.
TD Ameritrade offers resources and a broad range of offerings that will help beginning investors become better investors in the long run, whereas other brokers may be less expensive or less flashy.
The augmented learning paths offered by brokerage accounts, including everything from beginning to advanced trading, are among the most important factors to consider when selecting a brokerage account.
You can also make a paper trade on the platform without committing to anything.
TD Ameritrade is the brokerage account of choice for beginning investors due to its ability to be both comprehensive and robust without being overwhelming.
Pros of TD Ameritrade
- An education component that provides learning tracks that are specially designed for beginners.
- A dashboard on either the web or a mobile device allows clients to instantly access account information.
- Traders and investors of all types can access trading platforms and investment options on this website.
Cons of TD Ameritrade
- You might need to use various platforms to use your chosen tools.
- Many account types make choosing the most appropriate account type challenging.
- The interest rate you earn on excess cash is negligible unless you invest it in money market funds.
TD Ameritrade: Best Mobile App
TD Ameritrade offers two mobile apps; together, they form the strongest overall offering in mobile apps today.
Think or swim’s mobile application allows traders to easily maintain and establish new positions using the think or swim app.
When the mobile application is used as the primary trading platform, its workflow is simple enough to lure traders away from downloading the more complex software versions.
The basic TD Ameritrade app may not be as comprehensive as the complete website, but it may be preferable since it simplifies all features into a compact, mobile package while still allowing access to the full range of capabilities.
Pros of TD Ameritrade
- Mobile trading on TD Ameritrade is easier than the web-based version.
- You can trade from charts on either program on your mobile device.
- You can choose the best app that meets your needs with dual apps.
Cons of TD Ameritrade
- There are some tools available only on certain platforms.
- Many account types make choosing the most appropriate account type challenging.
- A fractional share will not be available.
Tastyworks: Best Broker for Options
Tastyworks is a fairly competitive provider when it comes to pricing options contracts.
Our top choice as the best broker for options traders is its customizable tools, instructional content, and easy-to-use platform.
The broker you choose once you are determined that options trading is all you want to do rather than the one you begin your options trading career with is Tastyworks. The Tastyworks platform is most suited for this purpose compared to other brokers.
The tools and research that options traders require will be accessible to them during trading sessions, and they can spend their downtime consuming more options-related content to prepare for future trading sessions.
Pros of Tastyworks
- You will have all the options and tools you need.
- Charting has been improved by adding options, allowing you to assess the risk profiles of combined positions.
- You can find a wide range of original content that focuses on options.
Cons of Tastyworks
- You have arrived at the wrong place if you are trying to trade anything other than options at tastyworks.
- The trading of fixed-income securities is not permitted (except through ETFs containing bonds).
- You can conduct additional portfolio analysis by setting up an account with the Quiet Foundation, also part of the tastytrade empire.
Fidelity Investments: Best Broker for Low Cost
We have re-evaluated what it means to be the top online brokerage in the industry over the past year. You will find certain internet brokers which are nearly free.
In the past, trading brokers of this type didn’t care about whether they offered a limited selection of assets, a poor trading platform, or a combination of all three, as long as they priced low enough.
We have revamped our scoring system to find low-priced products that deliver value for money.
Finally, Fidelity (our best overall broker) dominated. However, they were able to surpass nearby competitors due to their cash management services on idle cash and their portfolio analysis tools, through which they can consolidate outside accounts.
Fidelity offers the best value for your investment dollar if you don’t trade many options and don’t need to trade futures or cryptocurrencies.
Pros of Fidelity Investments
- Generally, the expenses are low, and there are no recurring fees.
- Money market funds can be accessed through a comprehensive account management program.
- Transparent and open pricing information
- Exercising exceptional quality
Cons of Fidelity Investments
- There will be no futures, commodities, or cryptocurrencies.
- Residents of the United States are the only ones who can participate.
- An extremely expensive cost ($32.95) is charged for live broker support.
Interactive Brokers: Best for Advanced Traders
The Interactive Brokers (IBKR) brand remains our top recommendation for advanced day traders, a trend that has persisted for several years.
Day traders in this category are assumed to be willing to bring third-party solutions for backtesting and automation to make up for any shortcomings in backtesting and automation in return for access to international exchanges, easy-to-borrow stocks, and extremely low margin rates from IBKR.
Advanced cryptocurrency-focused day traders will now have access to direct coin trading after being denied access for the first seven years of the program, and everyone else will find Interactive Brokers has all the assets, reach, and tools they need, along with very attractive margin rates, to participate.
It is an obvious choice for advanced traders to use Interactive Brokers since it is one of the world’s best trading platforms.
Pros of Interactive Brokers
- Execution of orders that is second to none
- There are contingent commands for every possible circumstance.
- The margin interest rate is at a historically low level.
- Cryptocurrency is the newest addition to a wide range of assets that can be traded.
Cons of Interactive Brokers
- Clients of IBKR Lite are not able to use the SmartRouter feature.
- You may need some time to become familiar with TWS.
- It will no longer be possible to backtest proprietary algorithmic trading or automated trading in the future.
Interactive Brokers: Best for International Trading
There is no threat to the position of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) as the top-ranked online broker for international trade.
Interactive Brokers dominates in this area because it has access to 150 markets and 33 countries from a single account, making it possible to access multiple markets from the same account.
Interactive Broker offers its customers the option of trading 23 different currencies in 115 distinct pairs and its powerful order selection and trading tools.
Trading positions across markets and asset classes are made possible by a combination of breadth and depth that any other broker has unmatched.
The Interactive Brokers website indicates that if you are interested in international trading, they have one of the best brokerage accounts for accessing worldwide markets.
Pros of Interactive Brokers
- Interactive Brokers offers a wide variety of assets and an unparalleled market reach.
- TWS (Trader Workstation) is a customizable tool that is robust
- Direct access to markets worldwide allows trading 24 hours a day
Cons of Interactive Brokers
- The Trading Window System (TWS) is an excellent tool for international trading on IBKR, but it can be scary for those not familiar with trading.
- Interactive Brokers’ fee-based pricing structure is tier-based and can be difficult to understand
Charles Schwab: Best for ETFs
We found Charles Schwab, a full-service investment firm that scored well in our grading areas.
Schwab consistently rates in the top three of our categories, only to be beaten out by more narrowly targeted offers. However, Schwab continues to be our top recommendation when it comes to ETFs.
Its popularity can be attributed largely to the quality of its ETF screener and the strength of its comprehensive offering, which consists of education on ETF investing portfolio analysis tools for ordinary investors, and other resources.
Schwab’s ETF investment process is simple, yet its research and multi-criteria screening provide investors valuable insight before investing.
Charles Schwab is one of the best brokerage accounts available to ETF investors when considering all these factors.
Pros of Charles Schwab
- You can select more than 150 screening parameters using the StreetSmart Edge ETF screener.
- StreetSmart Edge is an extremely reliable and very flexible platform.
- The entire Schwab product line goes far beyond its specialized ETF capabilities.
Cons of Charles Schwab
- Investing in ETFs requires StreetSmart Edge to obtain the finest ETF screener.
- If you’re planning to trade in assets other than ETFs, consider Schwab can be cost-prohibitive when it comes to options and futures.
Final Verdict on Best Online Brokerage Accounts and Trading Platforms
It is imperative to determine the best brokerage platform based on the investing style over time and the type of investor you hope to become shorter.
Our ratings can help you narrow down your choices when you’ve answered these key questions.
Those looking to trade options, for example, might find it more beneficial to check out our suggestions for options traders rather than reading about the best for beginners.
You may discover as you gain experience as an investor that your objectives and approach to the market have changed.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive platform, you may want to include additional assets and exchanges, or you may opt to simplify things and take a more passive approach.
The high level of competition in the industry ensures you have many options for meeting your specific needs, regardless of how those needs change over time.
What is the Best Way to Choose A Brokerage Account?
As an investor or trader, you should consider your immediate needs when choosing an online broker.
You may need the assistance of a broker with a wide variety of educational materials on the stock market and other financial markets if you are new to investment and trading.
For this reason, we recommend TD Ameritrade to new investors as our top recommendation.
You may also be able to practice paper trading before opening an account with a broker, allowing you to explore the platform, try out different assets, and gauge the experience without investing any real money.
How Does an Online Brokerage Account Work?
It is a type of financial account that functions similarly to your bank account. When you open a brokerage account, you can invest funds with a financial institution specializing in investing (the brokerage).
Normally, you can do this by transferring funds from your current bank account. You can put the money to work once it has been deposited into your brokerage account by using its trading software to place those funds into the market to earn a profit.
Your investment capital can be spent on whatever asset the brokerage offers, such as stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds, and even cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins and Ethereum.
A dashboard (your buying power) will show your holdings (assets you own) and cash balance (cash available for purchase).
It is possible to sell something you have invested in, and having the earnings put into your online brokerage account is appreciated.
It is then possible to make another trade and even deposit funds to your regular bank account for use in subsequent transactions. You can even earn income on non-invested funds in some brokerage accounts.
How Much Do You Need To Start Investing?
It is no longer required to start investing in the financial markets with a specific minimum amount.
Several brokers offer fractional shares and account with no minimum amounts required, making investing with any amount possible.
Even if you do not have a lot of money to invest, how you approach this fact will influence the market.
You can invest $1 in fractional shares of a stock, but investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) is better if you’re limited on resources.
A single business stock, for example, provides less diversification per dollar invested than an index-tracking exchange-traded fund (ETF).
ETF shares (and fractional shares) duplicate an index made up of many companies across many different industries.
Options trading can help you leverage your money to make a directional bet on the market or a specific stock; however, this method should be reserved for risk capital rather than the entirety of your restricted investing capital.
Small-dollar investments require consistency if you want to generate wealth. You will be shocked at how quickly the market begins to increase if you put a certain amount into the market regularly – even $10 a week.
The fact that you will be purchasing dips and peaks as the market fluctuates will also help level out the effects.
Is a Small Amount Money Enough to Invest?
Online brokers often allow consumers with limited financial resources to make deposits that are much smaller than their minimums.
We indicate account minimums (if applicable) at the very top of our assessments and selections of the best platforms for different categories of investors.
You may also be interested in our article about wise investing on a tight budget if you’re looking for more general advice on investing with limited resources.
What are mobile platforms available from brokers?
Many internet brokers offer a mobile application that offers nearly all of the capabilities of their desktop applications.
Tastyworks is a better option for options traders than the tastyworks desktop platform, for example, since it is a more streamlined version of tastyworks.
Suppose you are an active investor at TD Ameritrade. In that case, you may opt for the think or swim mobile software geared toward traders or use the regular TD Ameritrade mobile app tailored for less active investors. Each app’s features are designed to appeal to its target audience.
Are Brokerage Accounts Subject to Loss?
Yes, it is possible. A market is a place where profits do not come without some level of risk.
The risk of losing money can be incurred through making poor investment decisions, but it is also possible to lose money by making smart investment decisions at the wrong time.
If you are involved in the financial markets, there are virtually limitless opportunities to make and lose money.
Your brokerage account will likely suffer a financial loss if all its funds are sitting in uninvested cash.
As an alternative, a brokerage account with a large amount of cash that has not yet been invested does not necessarily pose a loss risk.
You can minimize the risk of losing money by using assets allocation and diversification, but it is impossible to eliminate it without also decreasing your chances of earning a reasonable return.
Do I need a broker to buy stocks?
Yes, it is possible to purchase stocks without the assistance of a broker, but this is not a popular practice these days.
A direct stock purchase plan, which allows you to purchase shares directly from the company, is still available from some companies.
Companies administer these plans according to their own internal rules, and some are only available to company employees.
Direct stock purchase plans are available from certain companies, and the terms and conditions associated with them should be established.
It used to be very popular to purchase stocks directly from companies so that investors would not have to pay brokerage fees.
The direct stock purchase has become somewhat of an orphan due to the development of discount brokers online with no commissions.
Trading vs. Investing
Investing in securities is different from trading in securities, another crucial distinction to keep in mind.
The term investing refers to purchasing and holding assets for a long period.
Investing is to accumulate wealth over time to achieve retirement goals.
While trading involves short-term methods that aim to maximize gains on a short-term basis, such as daily or monthly, it also involves long-term methods.
Trading is often perceived as riskier than investing.
All of these considerations should be considered when selecting an internet broker. Do you wish to trade or put money into an investment?