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Best Online Stock Brokers

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Fueled by massive stock buybacks, growing earnings, and increasing consumer confidence, the market has been on a tear this past year and there are lots of reasons to expect stocks to continue their determined climb.

Whether you’re investing through an IRA, an individual trading account, or even trading the forex market, choose the best online trading brokerage and you’ll gain the edge you’ll need to grow your investments.

Best Online Stock Brokers:

Why Use an Online Stock Brokerage?

For decades, investors consulted financial advisors or personal brokers to manage their investments. Financial advisors continue to provide value but for many investors, modern online brokerages provide all the tools needed to invest successfully — and to learn to identify your own opportunities.

Whether it’s an individual trading account or a trading account aimed at retirement planning, you’re building toward a brighter future.

Utilizing the tools available through an online brokerage gives you control over the direction of your investments — and it makes you more nimble.

If the market changes suddenly, you have the ability to react quickly. With a financial advisor or a firm, which may have hundreds or even thousands of clients, you may not have the same flexibility. Costs are another strong consideration.

Many financial advisors or money managers take a small percentage of your portfolio as a fee. In years where your market gains are smaller, these fees can make it harder to build your nest egg. Make no mistake, online brokerages charge fees as well.

However, the fees for online brokerages tend to center around per-trade costs as opposed to a fixed management fee, making trading costs less of a concern for traders who don’t trade in and out frequently.

In general, you can expect to pay between $4 to $10 per trade if you’re trading common equities or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Discount trades are no longer the exclusive territory of no-frills online brokerages.

In the past two years, many top-tier names have lowered their trading fees considerably, bringing industry-leading research tools and cost-effective trading together. Add a few points to your gains (or more) by reducing your trading costs can add up to thousands over time. When it comes to investing in your future, no one has a greater vested interest than you.

First, Understand Your Stock Trading Goals

It’s important to know your goals and define your priorities before choosing a broker. If you’re a buy-and-hold investor and expect you’ll only have a few stocks or funds, research tools are probably a stronger consideration than saving a dollar per trade. An informed trading decision will have a larger impact on your investment account than an occasional dollar or two in trading fees.

However, if you trade frequently and follow financial news through multiple sources, you might place a higher priority on the cost of trading. A wide variety of investment options can be important as well. In general, you can expect to be able to trade all major stock and ETFs through any online broker.

Mutual funds are often available as well but the selection will vary from one broker to the next, particularly since some top brokers also sponsor their own portfolio of mutual funds. Saving for retirement, saving for education, or trading for the fun of it can steer your needs in different directions.

What to Look for in an Online Stock Broker

Depending on your experience level and how often you trade, you might have different priorities than others when choosing a broker. Technical traders may be less interested in whether a broker has a large selection of mutual funds than in how flexible the charting tools are, for example. Here are some of the common considerations:

  • Research tools and news
  • Trading tools and charts
  • Wide selection of securities or funds
  • Affordable fees and minimum investments
  • Banking services, including automatic investing
  • Positive customer reviews

What to Watch Out for in an Online Stock Broker

Unlike at the beach where a red flag warns of universal danger, some red flags for brokers might be a concern for some investors but not for others. Still, it’s always good to be aware of potential drawbacks before choosing an online broker.

  • Account or Investment Minimums: Some brokers or funds may require a minimum investment amount. Account minimums or investment minimums can obviously be a concern if you don’t have enough money to meet the minimum requirements but minimum requirements can also limit your flexibility if your intention was to scale into an investment slowly rather than invest a larger amount. In particular, be wary of brokers or funds that charge fees if your balance falls below a certain value.
  • Maintenance or Inactivity Fees: If you’re a buy-and-hold investor, imagine how frustrating it can be to see fees charged to your account for maintenance or due to inactivity. It pays to read the fine print. Maintenance or inactivity fees can become silent partners who take a percentage of your investment earnings without contributing value.
  • Premium Research Access and Premium Features: It can also be frustrating to learn that some features advertised by an online broker are locked behind a paywall. Competition has made many features — which previously had been premium features — free through many leading online brokerages. Unless the type of trading you do is highly specialized or you need a less commonly-used charting method to time your trades perfectly, there likely isn’t a need to pay for premium services.
  • Margin Fees: It should go without saying the traders who choose to trade on margin (credit) should understand the costs involved and the possible risks. High margin fees for some online brokers can create a headwind that may be difficult to overcome.

The Best Online Stock Brokers

All brokerages were carefully chosen based on the criteria above, meaning only the best of the best are listed below. Scroll down to compare our favorites.

Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Minimum
$0
Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders

1. Best Overall: TD Ameritrade

While TD Ameritrade isn’t the least expensive online brokerage, the platform has a lot to offer. Tools abound for seasoned investors and traders, with nearly 400 charting indicators and analysis tools, more than double the amount available through well-known competitors. Having more options is great but most investors will only utilize a handful of these tools.

TD Ameritrade thinkorswim

Originally an independent platform, thinkorswim was acquired by TD Ameritrade in 2009 and is now regarded as one of the best trading platforms in the business. Beginning investors may prefer TD Ameritrade’s simpler Trade Architect platform.

Trading demos, instructional videos, and online courses are available for all users. Unique to thinkorswim is a virtual trading environment that allows traders to test their trades and timing with paperMoney. Thinkorswim is available as a desktop or mobile app and “paperMoney” has a free trial if you’d like to test the platform before committing to an investment account.

Trading fees

As with most other online brokerages, TD Ameritrade went commission-free for stocks and ETFs in late-2019. Both active and passive investors alike can now enjoy high volume trading without paying commission fees.

InstrumentCommission
Stocks$0 per trade
ETFs$0 per trade
Options$0.65 per contract + $0 per trade
Futures$2.25 per contract 
Mutual FundsNo-load $49.99, Load $0, No Transaction Fee $0
BondsNet yield basis

Read Benzinga’s full TD Ameritrade Review

Commissions
$0
Account Minimum
$0

2. You Invest by J.P. Morgan

If you’re already a customer with Chase Bank, Chase You Invest by J.P. Morgan is a no-brainer. You can easily research, trade and manage your investments from your mobile device. You Invest provides online tools to search for investments, track companies and rollover your assets.

Only U.S. clients are able to open a You Invest account but it takes, on average, just a day to open and you’re able to apply fully online. Equipped with portfolio reports and pie charts, the mobile app is simple and user-friendly. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

With Chase You Invest you’ll have access to roughly 5,000 stock exchanges. There are plenty of research and educational tools provided on the app. Overall, we recommend the Chase You Invest platform for stock trading because it’s easy to open and fund an account. It’s also reliable thanks to its strong parent company, J.P. Morgan. 

Read Benzinga’s full You Invest by J.P. Morgan Review

Commissions
$0
Account Minimum
$0
Best For
  • Advanced traders
  • Options and futures traders
  • Active stock traders

3. Best for Usability and Education: TradeStation

TradeStation’s platform used to only be best for professional traders who needed a highly technical platform. Now, with TradeStation’s new TS GO account option, novice traders will have access to professional-grade stock screeners and extensive educational and development tools to help them develop as investors.

Another strength of TradeStation is the number of offerings available to trade. From stocks to ETFs to futures contracts to cryptocurrencies, TradeStation offers a wide variety of tradable assets. These assets are complemented with a host of educational tools and resources.

Furthermore, as is the case with other brokerages on this list. TradeStation offers $0 commissions on stocks and most ETFs.

Read Benzinga’s full TradeStation Review

Commissions
$0
Account Minimum
$0
Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers

4. Best for No-Transaction-Fee Mutual Funds: E*Trade

E-Trade is one of the best known online brokers — and with good reason. E-trade is competitive in most areas, including cost per trade and types of tradable securities, but E-Trade stands apart from the pack when it comes to its selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds. The brokerage boasts an estimated 4,400 mutual funds that are available without a transaction fee.

Powerful filters allow you to drill down to the types of funds that fit your investment goals. With so many options, there’s likely to be something to please everyone — unless you just don’t like mutual funds. If that’s the case, E-Trade has over 150 commission-free ETFs available for you, which tend to have much lower management costs than mutual funds. Online trading is available through E-Trade web, which offers all the basics and a few extras. E-Trade also offers a full-featured trading platform called E-Trade Pro.

However, the advanced platform is only available to accounts with over $250,000 or that have more than 30 stock or option trades per quarter.

Read Benzinga’s full E-Trade Review

Commissions
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available
Account Minimum
$0
Best For
  • Access to foreign markets
  • Detailed mobile app that makes trading simple
  • Wide range of available account types and tradable assets

5. Best for Advanced Traders: Interactive Brokers

Home to Trader Workstation (TWS), one of the best platforms in the entire industry, Interactive Brokers is perfect for serious traders with advanced knowledge. With both inactivity fees and an intricate pricing system, IB should only be used by investors who trade frequently.

Along TWS, Interactive Brokers lets investors trade from their Apple or Android device, as their mobile platform provides excellent quality, several news feeds, accounts, watch lists, trading options, notifications, and more.

If you’re serious about the trades your making, Interactive Brokers is everything you’re looking for in a broker. Their low margin rates, low commission on high-volume trades, high interest paid to idle cash in your trading account, and elite tools and platform offers a unique experience to the right type of investor.

Read Benzinga’s full Interactive Brokers Review

Commissions
$0 when you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds online
Account Minimum
$0
Best For
  • New traders looking for a simple platform layout
  • Native Chinese speakers seeking research and education tools in Chinese
  • Mobile traders who needs a secure and well-designed app

6. Best for Experienced Traders: FirsTrade

Firstrade is a solid choice amongst the dizzying array of brokerages in the market; all fees are set to mirror (or beat) robo-advisor pricing. In fact, Firstrade offers free trades on most of what it offers.

You can monitor your portfolio’s performance easily with the Firstrade mobile trading app, which offers a more dexterous option compared to a desktop. You’ll be exposed to a touch ID screen for iOS devices, equity ratings and fundamental data, advanced charts, comprehensive dashboard and improved research and trading interface.

Since the advent of Firstrade’s fairly recent Navigator, it’s possible to manage your account, place orders, get market updates and do research, all almost simultaneously. The single screen allows traders to immediately intuitively grasp Firstrade Navigator’s account dashboard. Take note, however, that a lot of the options available on Navigator are geared toward active traders.

Read Benzinga’s full Firstrade Review.

Compare the Best Online Stock Brokers

TD Ameritrade
Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade’s website
Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Min
$0
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.

Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders
Pros
  • World-class trading platforms
  • Detailed research reports and Education Center
  • Assets ranging from stocks and ETFs to derivatives like futures and options
Cons
  • Thinkorswim can be overwhelming to inexperienced traders
  • Derivatives trading more costly than some competitors
  • Expensive margin rates
JP Morgan Chase
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through JP Morgan Chase’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Chase You Invest is the retail brokerage arm of JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States. While most of the firm’s products are targeted toward wealthy clientele, You Invest gives novice investors a chance to learn about markets, select the best securities and plan for future goals like retirement. No futures, forex, or margin trading is available, so the only way for traders to find leverage is through options. 

Not all investors will appreciate the basic setup and simplistic trading suggestions, but plenty more want to learn about markets but just don’t know where to get started. Chase You Invest provides that starting point, even if most clients eventually grow out of it.

Best For
  • Investors using Chase banking products
  • Mobile traders
  • Retirement savers
Pros
  • Easy to navigate
  • Functional mobile app
  • Cash promotion for new accounts
Cons
  • No forex or futures trading
  • Limited account types
  • No margin offered
TradeStation
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through TradeStation’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

TradeStation is for advanced traders who need a comprehensive platform. The brokerage offers an impressive range of investable assets as frequent and professional traders appreciate its wide range of analysis tools. TradeStation’s app is also equally effective, offering full platform capabilities.

Best For
  • Advanced traders
  • Options and futures traders
  • Active stock traders
Pros
  • Comprehensive trading platform and professional-grade tools
  • Wide range of tradable securities
  • Fully-operational mobile app
Cons
  • Confusing pricing structure to leave new traders with a weak understanding of what they pay
  • Cluttered layout to make navigating TradeStation’s platform more difficult than it should be
Interactive Brokers
Commissions
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through Interactive Brokers’s website
Commissions
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Interactive Brokers is a comprehensive trading platform that gives you access to a massive range of securities at affordable prices. You can buy assets from all around the world from the comfort of your home or office with access to over 135 global markets. Options, futures, forex and fund trading are also available, and most traders won’t pay a commission on any purchase or sale.  

IBKR is geared primarily toward experienced traders and investors but now with the availability of free trades with IBKR Lite, casual traders can also acclimate to IBKR’s offerings.

Best For
  • Access to foreign markets
  • Detailed mobile app that makes trading simple
  • Wide range of available account types and tradable assets
Pros
  • Comprehensive, quick desktop platform
  • Mobile app mirrors full capabilities of desktop version
  • Access to massive range of tradable assets
  • Low margin rates
  • Easy-to-use and enhanced screening options are better than ever
Cons
  • Beginner investors might prefer a broker that offers a bit more hand-holding and educational resources
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Compare Brokers securely through eTrade’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

E*TRADE is an online discount trading house that offers brokerage and banking services to individuals and businesses. One of the first brokers to embrace online trading, E*TRADE not only survived both the dot-com bubble and Recession — it thrived. You can choose from two different platforms (one basic, one advanced). E*TRADE is a suitable broker for traders of most skill levels, whether you want to buy mutual funds and hold them for decades or dabble in options swing trading. E*TRADE offers a library of research and education materials to help you out.

Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers
Pros
  • Sophisticated trading platforms
  • Wide range of tradable assets
  • Exceptional customer service
Cons
  • Limited currency trading
  • Higher margin rates than competitors
  • No paper trading on its standard platform
Commissions
$0 when you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds online
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through Firstrade’s website
Commissions
$0 when you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds online
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Easy-to-use and quick to master, Firstrade offers new and veteran traders alike a simple way to start investing with rock-bottom pricing. Firstrade’s platform is simple and streamlined, and it extends this convenience to its mobile app. The company’s $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and even options make Firstrade especially appealing for frequent traders. Firstrade also offers margin trading, though rates are a bit more expensive than some competitors. Firstrade also currently doesn’t offer access to futures or forex trading, and some more advanced traders may dislike the broker’s simple platform.

Best For
  • New traders looking for a simple platform layout
  • Native Chinese speakers seeking research and education tools in Chinese
  • Mobile traders who needs a secure and well-designed app
Pros
  • Simple platform easy enough for even complete novices
  • Quick Bar tool for easy trading throughout the day
  • Free access to Morningstar trading reports and other news in both English and Chinese
  • Secure mobile app with enhanced security and trading features
Cons
  • Simple brokerage platform doesn’t include as many charting tools as competitors
  • No access to futures or forex markets

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