Ally Invest leads the industry in low-cost commissions structure for all kinds of investors, from high-net-worth individuals to beginning buy-and-hold traders. Its learning center is filled with educational videos, articles, and webinars to guide your through the basics. From there, you can stay up to date on investing news, reports, and commentary from their team of market analysts. Branch appointments are free to book, and online chat tools and hour hotline are there to guide you from anywhere in the world.
TD Ameritrade offers two best-in-class platforms, designed for two types of investors. Trade Architect is good for beginners, or anyone who prefers a simplified, educational interface that can walk them through the ordering process and explain potential strategies. Thinkorswim, on the other hand, is a powerhouse designed for advanced investors.
This platform regularly racks up praise and awards and offers superior tools and features — including research reports, real-time data, charts, and technical studies. Fidelity wins for its quantity and quality of trading and investing research — ideal for the DIY investor looking to unleash their potential.
And Fidelity shows no signs of slowing down. It still reserves some of its tools and features for high-volume, active traders, but looking forward, Fidelity is going to get harder and harder to beat. This is all to say there is no one best online stock broker, but each one has different strengths and weaknesses. Our mission is to spotlight those, and help you find the best one for your investing style.
We leveraged the expertise of two stock traders — a former day trader and a financial commentator who has been trading for over 20 years — to dig into 13 of the most popular online stock trading sites. Different investors are going to prioritize different things — a day trader, for example, requires speed and flexibility; whereas a beginning trader may value educational resources and customer support.
But one thing every trader should care about is cost, so we spent a lot of time balancing price with what each site offered. A few of the fees we analyzed include:. No matter what the price, though, transparency is key. We wanted to see affordable pricing structures that were locked in for the long haul.
We also took note of new customer promotions, where brokers give you a chunk of free trades, usually based on how much you deposit.
Promotions change regularly, but they can be a good indicator of the type of investor a broker is a good fit for. Another thing we compared: Charges for data, research, and tools: All the best online stock trading sites have quality market data like real-time quotes, educational resources, and stock-screening tools built right into their platforms. But some, like Fidelity and TD Ameritrade, stand out for also providing top-shelf resources, totally free of charge.
Some platforms do offer free education on sophisticated strategies like options and futures, but require an upgraded platform with an annual fee. There are plenty of additional fees that may crop up along the way we discuss some of the more common ones here , but for pretty much every investor, cheaper will always be better. Depending on your strategy — trading on margin, for example — increased fees might just be the cost of doing business, but we looked to mitigate these costs in our top picks.
Alongside cost, we also valued educational resources, reports and tools, and the usability of the platform itself. Our expert users took each broker for a test-drive and weighed in on standout features. Ally Invest Trade commission: Where some discount brokers focus on only one kind of trader — options, for example, or high-net-worth investors — Ally Invest provides an excellent experience for investors of all kinds.
A focus on discount costs can be a red flag for quality what is it skimping on? Ally Invest also offers a robust research library that incorporates visual slides and interactive media into its market data. That significant discount makes Ally Invest the cheapest platform for active investors. But in , there was a rash of price slashing from pretty much every top-tier discount broker, and the competition is getting stiffer. Much of their interface, low prices, and offerings have remained the same, but some promotions and discounts are no longer offered.
This review has been updated to reflect these changes. March 16th — Ally Bank acquired TradeKing. Ally Invest One of the most affordable platforms there is, with rock-bottom pricing and excellent tools. Even better — it's a discount broker that doesn't skimp on research or customer service. New investors need two things from their online stock trading platform: Their platform boasts a library of educational videos, articles, and webinars for each type of investor.
For new investors, we also liked TD Ameritrade's platform, Trade Architect, which walks you through the ordering process as you use the interface. But when it comes to commission fees, TD Ameritrade falls short.
TD Ameritrade Trade commission: TD Ameritrade has been a powerful player in the online stock trading ecosystem for years, and even though its pricing structure is more expensive than some of the other discount brokers, there are many traders who think its best-in-class trading platforms, Trade Architect and thinkorswim, are worth it.
Trade Architect is often in the shadow of thinkorswim, but the web-based platform is streamlined and easy to use, and particularly appealing to beginning investors.
It has a tab-based navigation that lets users flip between trading tools and their account overview, plus charts, stock screeners, heat maps, and more. Its Trade Finder feature is an excellent tool for novices, allowing investors to make some selections think direction, timing, allocation , and then walking them through the ordering process while spotlighting different strategies that map to their selected guidelines. All-up, Trade Architect achieves a good balance of key information without being overwhelming.
Thinkorswim, on the other hand, is designed for advanced investors. Customizable workspaces, extensive third-party research, and a thriving trader chat room where investors can share strategies and tips are also included.
Where Trade Architect keeps information overload in check, thinkorswim is a firehose. Its Strategy Roller feature lets investors create custom covered calls and then roll those positions from expiration to expiration.
The flipside to such robust platforms is cost. That means TD Ameritrade remains one of the more expensive options out there, even with over commission-free ETFs.
Since it acquired Scottrade , our favorite platform for beginners, in , we can predict it will continue getting better and better over the coming years. TD Ameritrade TD Ameritrade hosts Trade Architect and thinkorswim, two of the best-known platforms in the industry, and available to anyone with an account.
If you already have a firm handle on your investment strategy and want to maximize your profits, OptionsHouse is excellent. Even better, the low prices apply to futures and stock trades as well, giving you a cost-effective way to manage your entire portfolio. Who wants the hassle and cost of multiple brokers for multiple things? Along with competitive pricing, OptionsHouse has one of the most accessible platforms around: Trigger Alerts lets users set up their accounts to automatically purchase an order based on a particular scenario.
For example, you can set an alert to buy any number of shares of one stock if its direct competitor falls by a certain percentage. Tools like tradeLAB help dissect options spread, with green smiley faces for the statistical probability of making a profit, and red frowns for a loss.
Whether you prefer to trade via desktop, tablet, or mobile, its customizable interface seamlessly transitions between all three — though, admittedly, customers seem to love or hate the app. OptionsHouse An options-first broker that leads the competition in both price and platform. It stands out for having no minimum to join or to maintain an account. Its platform wins for user-friendly design, plus there are tons of educational resources for deeper research.
You can sort stocks by size, performance, and even criteria like sales growth or profit growth. Want to sort ETFs by the sectors they focus on, or their expenses?
When it comes to research, Fidelity is pretty much in a league of its own. The intellectually curious can dive into research from more than 20 providers, including Recognia, Ned Davis, and McLean Capital Management. TD Ameritrade stands out in contrast by offering its premium tools to anyone with an account. Fidelity Industry-leading research from over 20 providers make this the go-to broker for do-it-yourselfers who want to dig deep into the data.
Warren Buffett is the best example to hit this point home. Broker fees can have a big impact on your net returns — that is, your total investment profits after fees. Broker fees are typically where most costs add up, but your investing strategy can also be a big source of expenses and fees.
The capital gains tax rate favors long-term investments. An investor who buys and sells their stocks within a few months will face a higher capital gains tax rate 25 percent on their profits than an investor who buys and holds their stocks for a full year 15 percent. Mutual funds and ETFs come with their own set of fees too.
Instead, these fees show up in the price on the ticker tape. Also watch out for mutual funds that charge a front- or back-end load for each purchase or sale. These usually range from 0. Play with your own fake money. Give yourself a few thousand in fake money and play investor for a bit while you get the hang of it. Even with just a virtual portfolio.
Outside of actual trading sites, MarketWatch and Investopedia offer simulators to get you started. Buy what you know. Our experts suggest you begin by looking at your own life. There is literally no minimum to get started. You can buy one share of a company if you like. The best investors are in it for the long haul. Checking your account too often might make you react to the fluctuations in the market too quickly.
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