The Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading

Looking for the best online brokerage accounts for trading stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and other investment vehicles? Different online brokerages vary widely in terms of the fees associated with each account, so NerdWallet scoured the internet to find the best online brokers by category, whether you’re looking for a deep discount broker, commission free ETF trading, or the best customer service.

 

NerdWallet’s Top Picks: The Best Overall Online Brokers

competitive pricing and usability along with top tier account features and premium services

 
  • Best deal for access to top tier research and powerful analytics
  • Commission Per Trade: $9.99
  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Promotion: Fund a new account with $2,000 to receive 60 days of free trades and up to $600
  • Learn more about TD Ameritrade 
  • The most affordable no-minimum-deposit account 
  • Commission Per Trade: $4.95
  • Account Minimum: None
  • Promotion: Refer a friend and both receive $50
  • Learn more about TradeKing

Commission-Free ETF Trading

 greatest quantity and variety of commission free-ETFs

  • Offers over 80 commission-free ETFs from 3 fund families, with no annual fee
  • Commission Per Trade for Stocks: $9.99
  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Promotion: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600 when you make an initial deposit of $10,000
  • Offers 100+ commission free ETFs independently selected by Morningstar
  • Commission Per Trade for Stocks: $9.99
  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Promotion: Fund a new account with $2,000 to receive 60 days of free trades and up to $600

Comprehensive Customer Service

24/7 customer service and broker assistance

  • Consistently ranked for the best customer service, USAA caters to military and veteran needs but is available to any American looking to sign up
  • Commission Per Trade: $8.95
  • Account Minimum: None
  • Promotion: Trade free up to 90 days (maximum 50 trades) when you open a new account
  • Offers 24/7 customer service, broker assisted market orders, phone trades
  • “Best in In-Person Service” ~Barron’s
  • Commission Per Trade: $9.99
  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Promotion: Fund a new account with $2,000 to receive 60 days of free trades and up to $600

Top Tier Research and Reports

highest quality research for the lowest price

  • Offers free basic research reports, trading software and tools, and real time data
  • Commission Per Trade: $7.00
  • Account Minimum: $2,000
  • Promotion: Transfer your existing brokerage account and get reimbursed up to $100 of transfer fees
  • Learn more about Scottrade
  • The highest quality and broadest range of offerings combined with a user-friendly interface and extensive research
  • Commission Per Trade: $9.99
  • Account Minimum: $500
  • Promotion: Fund a new account with $2,000 to receive 60 days of free trades and up to $600

Deep-Discount Brokers

if price is more important to you than speed

  • Research, data, and tools for half the price
  • Commission Per Trade: $4.95
  • Account Minimum: None
  • Promotion: Refer a friend and both receive $50
  • Great analytics tools at a great price
  • Commission Per Trade: $4.75
  • Account Minimum: $1,000
  • Promotion: When you fund a new account with $5,000, receive 100 free trades

Free Data Analysis Software

best data tools and stock analysis software for your money

  • Offers top tier free tools, trading software, and real time data
  • Commission Per Trade: $7.50
  • Account Minimum: $2,000
  • Promotion: Trade free up to 30 days when you open a new account
  • Best free research and analysis software option with no account minimum
  • Commission Per Trade: $4.95
  • Account Minimum: None
  • Promotion: Refer a friend and both receive $50


Learn More: How to Find the Right Broker For You

Don’t see what you’re looking for above?  If you need a very specific type of account, then the next step is to look carefully to see if you plan on using any of the following:

  • Real-time trades
  • Automated orders by phone
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Research reports
  • Data analysis software
  • Physical locations
  • Mobile access
  • Debit card

Using this checklist, you can compare and contrast pricing at all 74 online brokerages available to you using NerdWallet’s free brokerage comparison tool to make sure you’re really finding the best price and account for your needs.

For additional reviews and resources, please visit:

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  • http://brokerstance.com/ Jarryd Harden

    I would say TD Ameritrade is the best overall brokerage for the average investor. Unless you’re a serious trader, in which case give Interactive Brokers a look.

    • Glorin

      You were supposed to say that.

    • MM

      That’s spot on. Ameritrade for the average investor. Interactive brokers for the more advanced. IB is the least expensive for fees hands down. Their margin rates are practically nill.

  • P DC

    I see two flaws in this comparison: I trade around 4 times a year. How to measure that? And, since Charles Schwab’s attempt to charge closing fees when investors flew the markets in 2002 I started to pay attention to closing or transfer out fees, which I don’t see in this comparison.

    • Joanna Pratt

      For personalized results, our brokerage comparison tool lets you input how many times per year you trade and includes all fees. Check it out here: http://www.nerdwallet.com/investing/best-online-broker

    • RapidFireTraderJoe

      Schwab’s commission is really rough still, their Options-Express platform and Schwab’s regular website tried to charge me $12.95+ $.90 per contract. Schwab must think it’s 1983 when they were the only discount Brokerage in town, they are not a good place to trade (Price wise), thank’s P DC, thank you for sharing those nasty fees some Brokers try to sink in your back once you fill out those ACAT papers.

  • Juan Guerrero

    what would be a good brokerage firm for someone who wants to buy a certain amount of stocks and then sell them in couple of years (long term trade/invest)? In another words, which brokerage firm doesn’t charge monthly, only by trades? Im new at this, im 20 years old. Trying to get as much knowledge as possible.

    • Maxime Rieman

      We would suggest TradeKing for long term investors. They only charge $4.95 per trade, there are no annual fees for IRAs, and there are no account fees so long as you maintain an account balance of at least $2,500.

      If you have less than $2,500 in your brokerage account, then Sharebuilder is the better choice for you. The commission per trade is $6.95, but there are no annual fees or account minimums.

      • Jimmy Hendrix

        Do any of the brokerage accounts mentioned for active trading below 2500 balance have an auto-debit out of a checking account function. I would like to purchase monthly blocks of 150-200 until my cost basis reaches 5000. Any wisdom?

  • Tony Reynolds

    sharebuilder is a great broker no hidden fees and $6.95 a trade been with them for 5 years now

  • MichaelMillerTrade

    Check “Binary Options Academy” for specified broker reviews

  • Steven

    Don’t even consider USAA. The cost per trade detailed above is NOT for an unlimited number of shares. So trade costs climb significantly if you cross a fairly low threshold of shares. Besides, who does business with an online broker with the primary consideration being customer service. Everything is about COST…to you…when you place a trade. Great customer service, and a progressive cost to buy shares is an extremely poor combination. Bottomline: Any top online broker is a better option than USAA.

    • Maxime Rieman

      The full pricing for USAA is $8.95 per equity trade, plus $0.01 per share over 1,000 shares. If this share limit is a problem for you, chances are you’re an active trader with a larger account. If you trade over 25 times in a given 90 day period or have over $50,000 in assets in the account, commissions are only $5.95 per trade plus $0.005 per share over 1,000 shares.

      If you are only interested in the cost of a trade, we recommend that you use Interactive Brokers. They have the cheapest pricing and lower rates based on trading. However, they only cater to active traders; if you’re new to investing, are a long term investor, or have an account less than $10,000, you would do better to find a broker with more flexible customer support.

  • Pau

    Do you know of any broker for foreign accounts with use of a debit card?

  • Nikhil

    If I plan to buy some stock and sell it in few days/week, which brokerage would you suggest for such? Thanks!

    • Maxime Rieman

      We would suggest TradeKing for long term investors. They only charge $4.95 per trade, there are no annual fees for IRAs, and there are no account fees so long as you maintain an account balance of at least $2,500.

      • Nikhil

        thanks but what abt the short term investors and traders?

        • Maxime Rieman

          TradeKing’s prices are reasonable for most investors. Just make sure that, if your balance drops below $2,500, you make at least one trade per year.

          • Glorin

            He asked you twice and you answered your thing… twice

  • Paul

    How is this even judged? It seems like these are pulled out of thin air. I’ve got Fidelity, which is only $7.95 per trade, less than TD, E-trade, or Schwab. With 24 hour customer service, a great website, commission free ETFs and some of their accounts have no minimum either.

    I think that this is very superficial article. Like someone said before it doesn’t include closeout fees, or other fees for stop payments on checking, research fees, or duplicate statement fees.

  • sucker

    I was with scotiaiTrade and closed that account last year and just found out this week they didnt transfer my entire account as directed by my “all in kind” request, instead they saved some to dip into all year. I finally caught them this week and they replied with an apology, but no offer to repay the funds they stole and reverse the fees they charged me for not having a account with them….If you would like to see our email correspondence let me know??? Great company eh?

    • Maxime Rieman

      I’m sorry, that’s a difficult situation. My recommendation would be to start by reaching out to Scotiabank directly, as their customer service team is probably larger.
      If that doesn’t work, I’d suggest you reach out to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) or Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA). These are both agencies which provide regulation for investment service providers.

  • Just trying to help

    If you are a serious investor, look into Vanguard. A LOT of free ETFs and $2 trades with a reasonable account balance; I don’t see anything that comes close in the rankings above

    • Joanna Pratt

      You can only get $2 trades at Vanguard with an account of more than $500,000 (more on this in our article on free trading for high net worth investors – link below). Otherwise the cost is $7/trade and you’re better off going with one of the brokers above because you’ll get more access to research and analytics for the same price.

      http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/2013/free-stock-trading/

  • De

    I am looking to buy only index funds. Which of the online trading houses would I use?

    • Maxime Rieman

      Vanguard specializes in offering low-cost index funds, so if you’re happy with their selection, their brokerage account would be best since all Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs are commission free. Funds from other families have a commission between $0-$35, depending on your account size.
      If you’re looking for index funds from a variety of fund families, Scottrade offers the largest number of mutual funds (over 14,500) and has fairly low commissions ($0-$17).

    • yair

      schwab, and vanguard are the best companies to start investing. why? low fees and no transactions fees……

  • Maxime Rieman

    Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Etrade have several similarities. They’re all have comparable stock commissions ($7.95 at Fidelity, $9.95 at TD Ameritrade and Etrade), no account fees, high-quality research, and commission-free ETFs. None of them would be a bad choice for a longterm investor.

    We chose TD Ameritrade as the best overall broker because it offers a top-notch trading platform, ThinkOrSwim, to all investors without any trading requirements or fees. At Etrade, you would have to make 30 trades per quarter or pay $99.95. Fidelity’s advanced trading platform requires that you make 36 trades per year.

    So, while Fidelity might be the better choice for a beginner investor that wants great research and in-person advice (Fidelity has 183 investor centers), TD Ameritrade offers great tools, research and service for investors of all levels.

    • TJ

      Thank you for the response, and useful information.

  • RapidFireTraderJoe

    Good Article, well written but we need to let the Big Traders and modest traders know it’s a Investors Market, they are in control of price. I am a Scalper, my commission runs $3.50 (up to 100,000 shares) plus rebates using ECNs like ARCA, EDGX and INCA (NASD or SOLV). Think about the value of your account, if you are a serious trader your able to trade for free or a negative-commission to patient Traders. One example is to buy 30,000 shares of RAD at $5.80 for $3.50 in commission sitting on the Bid using EDGX and collecting $-.0027 back ($87 USD in rebates), your commission costed you $-83.50 dollars, how cool is that? That’s what I do most of the day unless a stock is moving wildly, trade for ECN rebates making $.01 to $.10 back and forth.

    What is Average Jane who makes 10 trades worth? You can trade for $2.50 on stocks and $2.50 plus $.50 per contract. One Option contract is going to cost you $2.50+$.50 or $3.00. Fidelity, Etrade, Merrill Lynch, Ameritrade is going to charge you $9.95 on average plus $.70 to $1.50 per contract. That’s 4 times the price you paying for a no frills decent little Brokerage with a free DRIP plan. For other Active Traders we can get our Options commissions down to $3 plus $.10 per contract. I traded 2000 contracts of Apple on Wed and Friday, with my low price brokerage my commission was $400 (2000*2*.10) vs $150 in tickets plus $4000 in Option Contract charges.

    Do you homework and read beyond all the websites to save you cash, my commission above with Ameritrade or Etrade or Schwab would be close to $4100 in commissions vs $400, which commission schedule would you rather pay? The author of this article did a great job giving you the basics and providing you with a idea of what to look for. It’s up to you to seek out the best Brokerage for the best price, Trade-station dropped their price to crush Interactive Brokerage, it’s a serious price cut, so always ask your Brokerage to drop their price, if they can’t, you can always move to another firm who values your business!

  • Noob Investor

    Can you comment on T. Rowe Price as well?

    • Noob Investor

      Specifically, I am looking to open a Roth IRA and see that all financial institutions offer brokerage and IRA accounts. Is it preferred to use separate firms for each service? Any insight into this would be really valuable.

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  • MAXX95

    I am hoping to begin trading, but it is all so complex. I want to buy specific stock in a company. I dont have lots of money to begin with, but I have to start somewhere. Who, how and where is the best place for me to start. Want to get started for The New Year.

    • Algorithmic

      Do your own research. Try and understand market dynamics, asset valuation, and risk. Only work with financial advisers and brokers that you trust.

    • Maxime Rieman

      Investing in a single stock can be quite risky. If you’re just getting started, we’d recommend looking at index-tracking mutual funds. Since these funds invest in a variety of different companies, it means you’re less likely to lose your money if a couple companies perform poorly.

      As for a broker, TradeKing has a lot of great resources with very low fees, just $4.95 per trade.

    • Cindy Sullivan

      I bought Jim Cramer’s Book, “Getting Back to Even” and I learned a lot about how to evaluate companies and trade.

  • fareor .

    Damned, I have to be US citizen to start a TradeKing account..
    I’m from europe ffs

  • Niku

    Algorithmic,
    That’s “PuTTs and calls”.

    • Algorithmic

      So it is. My mistake. :)

      • anony

        ‘Puts’ ….putts are for golf

        • Jonathan Karas

          haha….you corrected his correction

  • Joseph

    Sharebuilder is a great brokerage!

  • optim101

    Why Interactive Brokers is not the top pick in the category of price effectiveness? Is their service quality not good? I know that it has a minimum balance of 10000 but besides that are there any other limitations. Please advise as I’m going to open an account soon.

    • Maxime Rieman

      Interactive Brokers is a great choice for experienced, active investors. However, the company is quite upfront about its lack of resources for confused investors and beginners.

      • optim101

        Thanks for the reply! Does one has to be a US citizen to open an account with IB or similar brokerage firms? Current US residents living on a legal visa can open an account?

        • Maxime Rieman

          Each brokerage firm has different requirements, but if you give them a call, they’ll be happy to get you set up.

  • musicluva

    I have been with Sharebuilder for many years. Now that they have been bought out by Capitol One I am looking to switch.

    I went to make an online trade with through them the other day and was quite surprised at the commission they wanted to charge me!

    It’s a shame when you try to avoid doing business with a particular company only to find that they have come along and bought out the company you are doing business with.

    Anyway, no matter if you are investing on your own OR with a broker, if you cannot afford to loose it THEN don’t invest it. Period. Good companies more often than not will give you a good return over a long period of time, but you have to be willing and able to stomach the ups and downs of the market.

    I just watched the “Wolf of Wallstreet” Check it out before you start your investing journey. It’s a cautionary tale with lots of F-bombs throughout.

    Best of luck no matter what you decide. A little luck paired with a lot of knowledge goes a long way when it comes to investing!

    • Maxime Rieman

      Sharebuilder charges $6.95 for equity trades, if you think you’ve been charged an incorrect commission, you should probably give them a call.

      While risky investments should only be made with money you can afford to lose, you may want to look into low-cost index funds when investing for retirement.

      With regards to the Wolf of Wall Street, I agree that it’s certainly important to make sure not to fall prey to high pressure sales tactics from brokers. Always research investments on your own before putting down any money.

      • musicluva

        Thanks Max. Good advice.

  • AJS

    I’m new to investing. I’m interesting in buying and trading individual stocks, not funds, and want to start off slow and safe. I’m not interested in paying for advice from brokers; I’d like to kind of learn by experience and operate my account on my own. I’m looking to do more long-term investing, but with the occasional short-term trade and maybe more frequent stock trading the more comfortable I get with it. What broker would you suggest? Any recommendations gratefully accepted!

    • Maxime Rieman

      I would suggest TD Ameritrade based on the information you’ve provided. TD Ameritrade offers free access to research reports and analytic tools which can be helpful in determining which stocks you’d like to invest in. The $9.99 commission is very reasonable if you’re primarily investing for the long-term and not consulting with advisors.

  • Cosmojerry

    What about which is the safest most solid company to wrok with? I mean, which one the the one less likely to go bust?

    • Maxime Rieman

      TD Ameritrade, Etrade, Scottrade and USAA are very solid companies that have made a great name for themselves. TradeKing started more recently, but has been growing quickly because of their great services.

  • Feverishjoker

    You can’t just direct invest in companies. Many companies that do allow DI’s only allow this if you are carrying a substantial investment in the company stock.
    I also will point out that there is fees related in the purchase of stock directly from the firm offering these services. The next point is that most firms will set sale limits on shares too. So be very careful on some transaction.

  • Cowboy

    The problem with Tradeking is that you cant trust their numbers. Their phone app, for example, never shows the correct closing for any of the stocks I hold. Ever. As a result, my balance is never (ever) correct. And I’m talking about hours after the market is closed. Ive complained, and so have my friends, and although they give a sweet e-mail response saying that they’re looking into it, nothing has changed in 3-4 months. I’m looking for another broker myself. One that I can trust.

    • Maxime Rieman

      I’d like to help look into this issue. Do you have a specific example or screenshot that I could cite? Also, do you have this issue with the online platform? Please send any screenshots and information to maxime@nerdwallet.com

      • Quicktradersblogspot .

        I am with Tradeking: They do not allow Day Trading..3 day trades per week. It used to be Zecco which was much better.
        They have screwed up limit orders for market orders, their balances are off…even in normal account from pc. Very little research material.
        They will not allow to buy a Penny Stock…so if you know that a particular penny stock is going way up…you cannot make the trade.
        It’s Cheap and for those who like to hold stocks or make limited trading, it may be alright, but just as the previous poster said about balances…it’s off.
        I could go on and on. Yet I am still with them, but probably not for much longer…I keep telling myself that, I actually have to just take money just do it.
        Some of their software or platform messups are huge…they have lost my trust.

        • Maxime Rieman

          I spoke with TradeKing, and it turns out the 3 daytrade per week limit is associated with the FINRA daytrading rules. These rules are not specific to TradeKing. They actually exist at all brokerage firms and are specific only to Margin accounts.

          If you exceed 3 daytrades in a week, they are required per FINRA to code the account as a “daytrader”. Once the account has that designation the client can still trade however can only use the cash available in the account, and not the margin buying power.

          Here is a link to more information:
          http://content.tradeking.com/wiki/display/tkservice/Day+Trading+Disclosure

          TradeKing allows penny stock trading, but they charge an additional $0.01 per share for stocks under $2.

          Regarding the other mistakes you’re citing, I’d be happy to look into the situation if you could provide some additional details or screenshots to markets@nerdwallet.com

  • Craig

    Best place to trade penny stocks???

  • http://tinyurl.com/l8yhtxx

    Great article!

  • yair

    vanguard and schwab are thew best companies to start investing. you can start investing in schwab with only 1000 dollars.

  • Wall Street Kid

    I find Bank of America…Merrill Lynch the hands down winner in discount brokerage and I still use two others because insurance limits. Why? Simple….I get 30 FREE trades every month without expiration. NO ONE ELSE does that. I’ve had my BOFA/Merrill discount brokerage for 4 years now. Love it. NO trade fee’s ever! I can transfer dividends into my ATM instantly and get cash at more locations than any other bank. Incredible. No one else comes close. FREE TRADES and FREEDOM. Yeh baby! That’s what I’m talking about!

  • jammer

    What about inactivity fees? I plan to very rarely make trades, so will any of these companies penalize me for 2-3 years of inactivity?

    • Maxime Rieman

      TD Ameritrade, USAA, Etrade, and Scottrade have no account fees or inactivity fees.

  • Wall Street Kid

    Merrill Lynch discount brokerage at BOFA is the best. No one comes close. Merrill is the only one that offers 30 free trades a month – every month if you keep a minimum balance at Bofa (or any combination thereof). Nobody else comes close. The analysis here is way off base. I defy anyone to find a cheaper deal than 30 Free trades a month -and access to the money/dividends through the huge BOFA ATM network. NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD DOES THIS. (td ameritrade and Capital one could do this but, they haven’t yet. Wells Fargo is also set up for it – but, doesn’t match BOFA).

    • Maxime Rieman

      If you’re interested in trading for free, here are the brokerage firms that offer the service:
      http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/free-stock-trading/

      In order to qualify for 30 free trades from Merrill Edge, you must meet one of the following requirements:
      -Maintain total combined balances of $25,000 or more in your Bank of America, N.A. deposit accounts: checking, savings, FDIC-insured CDs or FDIC-insured IRAs
      -Maintain total combined balances of $25,000 or more in cash balances in your Merrill Edge® self-directed account(s): Bank Deposit Accounts sweep option with your Merrill Edge® Investment Account or Retirement Assets Savings Program (RASP) sweep with your IRA
      -Qualify for the Platinum Privileges® program, which requires that you have an active Bank of America personal checking account and maintain at least $50,000 as a combined balance in your Bank of America deposit accounts and/or your Merrill Edge brokerage accounts.3

      If you exceed the 30-trade limit during one calendar month or if you don’t qualify for $0 trades, your online commission per equity or ETF trade will be $6.95 per trade.

  • Cathy

    The best trading website and advice I’ve ever gotten has been from a small company, TA Today. I had invested my money with Ameritrade and lost almost half of it during the 2008 crash.
    The best advice I could give is to seek out independent, small trading companies where their profits are consistent and they don’t have large draw downs.
    Both my well-being and my wallet is happier now that I have found a service that truly cares for me rather than these big companies.

  • steve

    The worst brokerage house is Options house … I must say that customer service is so bad that I dont know why some one is going to open an account with them… CHeap but terrible not worth time and effort.

    They re so messed up that you call customer service and they behave like they are doing favour to you instead of helping you out and they are paid for it.

    I must say bunch of shit heads …

  • rjshap

    AutoShares Automatic Investing Services is another to take a look at.

    • Maxime Rieman

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

  • Maxime Rieman

    Note: Robert Shapiro (Gadget Guy) is an employee of AutoShares

  • traderjohn

    I tried this one I love it easy to work with I started right away
    happy trading :)

  • ty hardeway

    Im a young investor wanting to invest in promising stocks or mutual funds what is recommended to start and with who??

    • Maxime Rieman

      You’ll probably want to look at low-cost brokers like TradeKing or TD Ameritrade that have low account minimums and research available. In terms of investments, people generally suggest your portfolio should be mostly equities when you’re young:
      http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/2013/financial-planning-day-invest-age/

      Mutual funds and ETFs are a good way to diversify and lower your risk. You should make sure to find ones that aren’t too niche (there are a lot that track the overall market) and have low expense ratios (below 0.5%).

  • Vox Populi

    Can you add https://www.robinhood.com/ to the list? They say it’s a zero commission service but I would like to hear your opinion.

    • Maxime Rieman

      Robinhood provides zero-commission trades, but is not currently open for people to create accounts (you have to enter a waiting list of indefinite length). Also, you should know that any trading fees will be passed on to the investor. In terms of features, they have mobile access and real-time quotes, but few other services. You can invest in publicly traded stocks and ETFs, but have no access to mutual funds, options, bonds, or other asset classes. Research reports and advanced analytic software are also not available.

      If you’re simply interested in trading commission free, you should look into Merrill Edge or Kapitall.

  • a

    I am so glad I came across your advice. I’m going to use that direct approach. Thanks.

  • sperrdog

    I want to know where is the best websites or info on what stocks to buy. What they predict or whatever. I’m looking for stocks ten dollars and under I’m looking to get back into the market but it’s been a long time just don’t know what site to trust