Compare Online Brokers

If you’ve never traded stocks before, you might imagine trading to be like the old cliché: dozens of brokers in suits yelling at clients over the phone. It may be difficult to picture yourself in the chaos, especially if you’re a beginner.

Online stock trading removes you from the scene. You don’t have to deal with phone calls, broken promises, and mayhem. Instead, you can trade from the comfort of your own home or on-the-go.

Like many other industries, brokerages anticipated the need for great online experiences and delivered. Firms created desktop platforms and mobile experiences with built-in trading tools, education, and analytics at your fingertips.

Broker Best For Commissions Account Minimum Choose your platform
TD Ameritrade
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors who want portfolio-building advice.
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks $0
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade’s website
1 Minute Review

This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.

Pros
  • Superior technology
  • No account minimum balance
  • Excellent customer support
  • Premier data and news partnerships
Cons
  • Slightly higher commissions
  • Can be for more advanced users
Current Promotion

Trade commission–free for 90 days & get up to $2500

Charles Schwab
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors seeking commission-free etfs
$0 $0
Get started securely through Charles Schwab’s website
1 Minute Review

Charles Schwab is known for high quality competitive trading platforms, a large selection of commission-free exchange traded funds and no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Consistently winning awards with J.D Power, Fortune, and Inventors Business Daily, Charles Schwab is praised for its heritage of innovation, modern wealth management capabilities and customer service.

Pros
  • $4.95 standard trade commissions
  • Powerful research tools
  • Low cost index funds (no minimums)
  • Excellent customer service
Cons
  • $1,000 minimum balance
  • No Forex
Current Promotion

$100 referral award for first-time clients

eTrade
  • Mobile traders
  • Traders looking for research and data
  • Investors looking for retirement planning guidance
$0 $0
Get started securely through eTrade’s website
1 Minute Review

E-Trade is best known for its user-friendly browser, desktop and mobile trading platforms and its extensive research and educational information. E-Trade may not have the lowest commissions compared to discount online brokers, but customers certainly get their money’s worth from E-Trade’s comprehensive offerings.

Pros
  • Extensive resources
  • Full banking services
  • Easy-to-use platforms
Cons
  • Limited access to ETrade Pro
  • Higher commissions than discount brokers
Current Promotion

60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more

Discount Trading
  • High volume / High frequency futures day traders
  • Futures investors looking for the lowest futures margins
  • Traders ​needing ultra-low commission rates
  • Traders looking for great customer service and fast account opening
$0.19 – $0.49
Get started securely through Discount Trading’s website
1 Minute Review

Discount trading is a no thrills futures trading broker that offers a multitude of options available to start trading. Low commissions, no inactivity fees, and powerful platforms to start trading.

Pros
  • Ultra-low commission rates ($0.49 or less)
  • $500 (or less) Day Trading Margin on most markets
  • No monthly inactivity fee
  • Five different ​trade ​routing solutions
  • ​O​ver 20 of the most popular platforms in the industry
  • A completely free trading platform that includes free Level 1 Streaming Futures Quotes ● Support team that answers phone calls quickly
Cons
  • Tough to find the best platform for your needs, due to the sheer number of options available
  • Geared for traders with at least some experience trading the futures markets
Current Promotion

Webull
  • Active traders
  • Intermediate traders
  • Advanced traders
$0 $0
Get started securely through Webull’s website
1 Minute Review

Webull, founded in 2017, is a mobile app-based brokerage that features commission-free stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trading. It’s regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Webull offers active traders technical indicators, economic calendars, ratings from research agencies, margin trading and short-selling. Webull’s trading platform is designed for intermediate and experienced traders, although beginning traders can also benefit. Webull is widely considered one of the best Robinhood alternatives.

Pros
  • Commission-free trading in over 5,000 different stocks and ETFs
  • No account maintenance fees or software platform fees
  • No charges to open and maintain an account
  • Leverage of 4:1 on margin trades made the same day and leverage of 2:1 on trades held overnight
  • Intuitive trading platform with technical and fundamental analysis tools
Cons
  • Does not support trading in options, mutual funds, bonds or OTC stocks
Current Promotion

What is Online Stock Trading?

With online stock trading, you’re able to buy and sell securities over an online platform. It takes the place of the traditional method of making phone calls. There are three types of brokerages.

The first is a full-service brokerage, which provides comprehensive services, tips, and education. A beginner may want to choose this. The second is a discount brokerage.

They provide their services for a lower fee but do not provide advice or research. The last is robo advisors. Robo advisors collect client information and make trades based on algorithms. They’re usually inexpensive, but will lack the personalized service of other brokers. These brokerages provide services on the web and mobile applications.

Why Should I Trade Stocks Online?

Whether you’re just starting to trade or thinking of making the switch to an online brokerage, there are a few things you should know.

  • They normally have lower fees than brick-and-mortar brokerages. This is because online platforms save the brokerage both time and money. This savings is passed to onto the trader through low or no fees of commissions.
  • Access to the latest trading news and trends. So, you won’t have to pay for another news subscription service. Education can come in the form of live news alerts, weekly news roundups, and more intensive trading guides. Brokerage firms also integrate this information into their platforms, providing a seamless trading experience.
  • Because all of the trades happen online, they happen instantly instead of taking minutes. Over time, instant trades can make a huge impact on your portfolio, especially when trading volatile stocks.

But, if you have a great relationship with your current brokerage or are new to trading and want a more personal relationship with your broker, it may not be worth it to make the switch.

Who Trades Stocks Online?

Anyone from beginning traders to seasoned investors trades stocks online. With the recent improvements in online brokerage technology and lower fees, making the switch to online trading is easy. It can save money and time.

But online stock trading might not be right for everyone. While it’s true that you can make money trading online, you have to be willing to put in the work. It isn’t a get rich quick scheme; you have complete control of your success. If you’re not willing to put in the research, time, and money, you won’t see a return on your investments.

How to Start Trading Stocks Online

First, you’ll have to choose a brokerage. You’ll have to consider the following:

  • If you want your account self-managed or managed by an advisor. If you’re confident in trading, a self-managed account is worth the savings. If not, you’ll want an advisor. You will pay more in fees, but it may pay off if you have a great advisor.
  • What types of securities you’ll be trading. You can pick from stocks, mutual funds, options, forex, bonds, ETFs, and futures. If you’re new to stock trading, know the risks and rewards associated with each type of security before you commit.
  • Commissions and fees. How much are you willing to pay? Many online platforms will have low fees, but you’ll need to do the math before you start trading, especially if you can’t commit a lot of money to stock trading. Consider annual fees, discounts for balances, and fees per share.
  • Think about account minimums. Some brokerages offer $0 minimums. Others may have higher account minimums, but more perks. If the brokerage does have account minimums, make sure to look into any penalties.
  • How much market data will you need? Certain brokerages will offer platforms with market data fully integrated into their user experience. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced trader, this may be crucial to your success.
  • What platform you see yourself trading on. At the minimum, brokerages offer access to a desktop platform. Most offer a mobile application. Some platforms are designed better than others, though. Watch out for reviews of clunky, slow, and hard-to-use platforms.
  • Customer support. 24/7 live customer support is the gold standard. Look out for supports via email and live chat as well.

Once you choose a brokerage, you can usually sign up for an account online. You’ll need to collect a few things first.

  • Social Security Number or Individual
  • Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Foreign tax id, passport or visa number if you aren’t a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Proof of identity
  • W-9
  • Your employer’s information
  • Method of funding your account

Now, you’re ready to go. You should be able to sign up through the brokerage’s online portal. Depending on the brokerage, you may even be able to start trading on the same day.

Final Thoughts on Trading Stocks Online

Online stock trading makes investing accessible to the masses. Brokerages provide low-to-no fees, user-friendly platforms, and educational content to make trading simple – even for the beginning investor. But you still have to work hard, do your research, spend money, and be willing to put in the time to see a return on your investments.