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9 Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading of October 2019

Dayana YochimOctober 4, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Summary of 9 Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading of October 2019

BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge Logo

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

$6.95

per trade

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade Logo

E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Interactive Brokers Logo

Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

$0

per trade

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

on Interactive Brokers's website

TradeStation Logo

TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

$0

per trade

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$500

on TradeStation's website

BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge Logo

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

$6.95

per trade

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade Logo

E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Interactive Brokers Logo

Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

$0

per trade

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

on Interactive Brokers's website

TradeStation Logo

TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

$0

per trade

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$500

on TradeStation's website

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

on Merrill Edge's website

Fees

$6.95

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.
  • Ongoing promotions.
  • Integrated with Bank of America.
  • Free trades for eligible Bank of America customers.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.
  • Minimum balance requirement for active-trading platform.
Read full review
TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

on TD Ameritrade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.
  • Large investment selection.

Cons

  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review
E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

on E-Trade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.
  • Large investment selection.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Access to extensive research.
  • Advanced mobile app.
  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate.
Read full review
Interactive Brokers

on Interactive Brokers's website

on Interactive Brokers's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

No promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Free trades.
  • Wide investment selection.
  • Advanced tools on Pro tier.

Cons

  • Complex pricing on some investments.
  • Inactivity fees on Pro tier.
Read full review
TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

on TradeStation's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$500

Promotion

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Pros

  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • Comprehensive research.
  • Low commissions.
  • Advanced tools.
  • Active trader community.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.
  • Minimum balance requirement for active trading platform.
Read full review

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

More guidance to help you pick the right online broker

Here are more NerdWallet resources to answer your questions about online brokerage accounts.

How much money do I need to get started investing? Not much. Note that many of the brokers above have no account minimums for both taxable brokerage accounts and IRAs. Once you open an account, all it takes to get started is enough money to cover the cost of a single share of a stock and the trading commission. (See “How to Buy Stocks” for step-by-step instructions on placing that first trade.)

Shouldn’t I just choose the cheapest broker? Trading costs definitely matter to active and high-volume traders. If you’re a high-volume trader — buying bundles of 100 to 500 shares at a time, for example — Interactive Brokers and TradeStation are cost-effective options. Ally Invest offers $3.95 trades ($1 off full price) for investors who place more than 30 trades a quarter.  Commissions are less of a factor for buy-and-hold investors, a strategy we recommend for the majority of people. Most online brokers charge from $5 to $7 per trade. But other factors — access to a range of investments or training tools — may be more valuable than saving a few bucks when you purchase shares.

How can I build a diversified portfolio for little money? One easy way is to invest in exchange-traded funds. ETFs are essentially bite-sized mutual funds that are bought and sold just like individual stocks on a stock market exchange. Like mutual funds, each ETF contains a basket of stocks (sometimes hundreds) that adhere to particular criteria (e.g., shares of companies that are part of a stock market index like the S&P 500). Unlike mutual funds, which can have high investment minimums, investors can purchase as little as one share of an ETF at a time.

We like the low-cost, diversified nature of ETFs. And because they are such an essential portfolio-building tool, we rated brokers on their ETF offerings, specifically the number of commission-free ETFs they offer. Standouts include TD Ameritrade, which offers over 300, Charles Schwab (265) and E-Trade (250).

Is my money insured? What kind of account? How quickly can I start trading? The short answers are:

  • Your money is indeed insured, but only against the unlikely event a brokerage firm or investment company goes under. A broker’s SIPC coverage (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) doesn't cover any loss in value of your investments.
  • Your account choices boil down to taxable versus tax-favored (e.g., an IRA). Our guide to brokerage accounts goes into more detail about what’s involved in setting up a taxable account. Opening an IRA involves choosing which type, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA or SEP IRA. If you're new to this, we’ve got you covered in our guide to IRAs.
  • After you’ve opened the account, you’ll need to initiate a deposit or funds transfer to the brokerage firm, which can take anywhere from a few days to a week. Once that is complete, it’s off to the investing races! And by that we mean taking a thoughtful and disciplined approach to investing your money for the long-term.

How do I determine if a brokerage firm is right for me before I open an account? Some key criteria to consider when evaluating any investment company are how much money you have, what type of assets you intend to buy, your trading style and technical needs, how frequently you plan to transact and how much service you need. Our post about how to choose the best broker for you can help you sort through the features brokerage firms offer and rank your priorities.

Last updated on October 4, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's 9 Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading of October 2019