The Best Online Brokers for Day Trading and Trading Platforms

If you’re an active trader ready to beat the market, you need to find the lowest priced account that maximizes the premium features you’ll actually use so that fees don’t add up quickly over time.  Some active traders aren’t just in it for the lowest prices or fanciest data – they want the best trading technology can provide.

The Best Automated Trading Platforms

combine ease with good pricing and fast trade execution

Commission per trade: $9.99
Account Minimum: $500
Promotion: Fund an account with $10,000, receive 60 days of free trades and up to $500
Commission per trade: $9.99
Account Minimum: $5,000
Promotion: No platform fees if you trade over 60,000 shares a year or have over $1 million in the account
Why We Love Them
Etrade’s open XML-based API lets you trade automatically with your own custom solutions. You can also use ready-made apps from third party services. Learn More… With TradeStation’s Chart Analysis and RadarScreen, you can easily set your strategy or indicator to automate your trading thus reducing the delays that occur in discretionary manual market entry and exit. Learn More… 

NerdWallet’s Picks: Day Trading

least expensive prices coupled with the most powerful trading platforms

Commission per trade: $4.75
Annual Fee: $0
Promotion: 150 free trades within 90 days of funding your new account (with a minimum balance of $5,000, must use Promo Code: FREE150)
Commission per share: $0.0035
Annual Fee: $120
Promotion: No platform fees if you trade over 60,000 shares a year or have over $1 million in the account
Why We Love Them
Advanced trading platform with a flat commission for high-volume traders. Learn More… The most affordable trading platform for the most active traders. Learn More… 

NerdWallet’s Picks: Lowest Margin Rates

most competitive margin rates with the lowest account minimum requirements

Maximum Margin Rate: 3.50%
Account Minimum: $2,000
Annual Fee: None
Promotion: Trade free for 60 days when you open a new account
Maximum Margin Rate: 1.64%
Account Minimum: $10,000
Annual Fee: $120
Promotion: No platform fees if you trade over 60,000 shares a year or have over $1 million in the account
Why We Love Them
Best overall user experience and customer service. Learn More… The lowest margin rates for large trade volumes. Learn More… 

NerdWallet’s Picks: Best for Options Trading

best all around prices and features for options trading

Commission per contract: $0.60
Account Minimum: $10,000
Promotion: 30 days of unlimited free options trading when you open an account
Commission: Up to 5 contracts for $5 OR $8.50 + $0.15 per contract
Annual Fee: $0
Promotion: 60 days of free trades when you fund a new account
Why We Love Them
The most advanced, complex options trading platform. Learn More… Browser-based tools specifically designed with options traders in mind. Learn More…

Finding the Right Broker

If you’re an advanced trader and already know exactly what you need, you can plug your preferences into NerdWallet’s free brokerage comparison tool to compute your total trading costs and find the best priced account for you.  These brokerage accounts offer the best all around prices and features for options trading.

You can compare and contrast pricing at all online brokerages available to make sure you’ve found the best price available.

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  • A LITTLE HELP PLEASE?

    HELLO, AS AN IND. BEGINNING STOCK TRADER, I’M SEEKING A TOP RATED ONLINE BROKERAGE/ADVISOR, THAT MAINLY DISPLAYS CURRENT BEST BUY TARGETS. AS I’M WILLING TO RELY ON THEIR MUCH GREATER TRADING KNOWLEDGE. PLEASE REFER YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO ME AT WALTS2013@hotmail.com. THANK YOU VERY MUCH !

    • daddi

      read read read technical analysis, paper trade, know where it is coming from, know the news about it then buy the cheapest stick to pick it up or whack it

    • Steven

      Best info I have found is at Investopedia great resource for new traders chauck full of very useful info.

    • Derrick Jarvis

      Why are you yelling lol.

  • Trade Alerts

    TDAmeritrade is awesome, pricey but thinkorswim is pretty cool. cheers

    • Sam

      Have you tried to negotiate commissions with TDA? They do work with you. I get decent rates for options, stocks and futures.

    • Larry

      TDAmeritrade has a ton of features, all modifiable the way you want and their cust. serv. is 24/7 and friendly but knowledge is uneven. When I funded my account and bought my first simple, single leg put, I got a message that I was making an “ILLEGAL” trade. When I called to find out what was illegal about my option trade, I got two different answers from two different people. One said I could only trade covered calls & puts and would have to apply to trade basic calls & puts. Another said I had to wait three working days for my funds to clear. Also their ThinkorSwim platform resembles a Boeing 747, most of it overkill unless you like pushing buttons and drop down menus under more drop down menus and finding the basics of how to use everything is not easy. Lots of strategy ideas but not many basic explanations. They have live programs supposedly showing you how various platform features work, but much of it revolves around how great a certain moderator is and how fast he can talk. Did not like it when he was rambling on about strategies 90 MPH and came to “iron condor” and said, “Everybody knows what an Iron Condor is and if you don’t look it up on Google.” I have a general knowledge of I.C.’s but not enough to know when or how to place them, costs, risks, benefits etc.
      I’m trying out Options House which has a clean platform and very good options tools but no level II for stocks which I’ve been told might be coming soon through an acquisition. Won’t hold my breath on that one. Also it takes a while for them to answer the phone, but so far, it’s not that long a wait and they’ve been very helpful and don’t make me feel like an idiot even when I ask a basic question. But their big draw is the price. If you have a small account, $4.95 is a boon compared to $9.95 especially if you plan on “shave trading” or any active type of trading. For instance – if you trade for a $25 profit – at TDAmeritrade you end up with $5. With Optionshouse (and a few others) you end up with $15.

  • Mich

    >.< I don't see merrill edge… Must have picked a bad platform.

  • rjshap

    AutoShares offers a great selection of autotrading services and online trading accounts

    • Maxime Rieman

      Note: Robert Shapiro (rjshap) is an employee of AutoShares

      • netrider

        Nice save Maxime….

  • Jonathan

    Merrill Edge MANUALLY REVIEWS YOUR TRADES (did it to me again just now and that’s why I’m closing all my accounts with them and not bringing in my wife’s $). They have made me miss trades 2 times now, costing me $ and time. These guys are toaster salesmen compared to real brokers.

    • Chris

      I got away from ML because I had the chance to buy Google ipo and they kept telling me no and its a bad idea and such. Then later I wanted to do a diff situation and they told me its probably not a good idea as I have strong assets.

  • Jen

    Hi, what do you think of the program, Call and Put? Not sure if i should go ahead with this.

  • Jason

    Are these reccomendations still current? I see the comments on this page are 1 year old, so i’m assuming the reccomendations/promos are 1 year old or more also.

  • http://www.hybrid-solutions.com/ Clifford Stephens

    Before going to a day trading platform, one should focus on the commonly day-traded financial instruments like stocks, options, currencies, and a host of futures contracts such as equity index futures, interest rate futures, and commodity futures.

  • Mary

    I am experiencing 2 purchases of stock per month for my divided reinvesting with a full service company I feel they are riping me off. What do you think? Example ford will show on Oct. 25 4 shares purchased and then on Oct. 26 1 share will be purchased why not make 1 purchase?