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Best Trading Platforms: Overall Picks for May 2024

The best trading platforms offer advanced features, fast execution, a large selection of research, low costs and a robust mobile app for day trading on the go. Below, our picks for the best day trading platforms in a variety of categories.

Arielle O'Shea
Alana Benson
By Alana Benson and  Arielle O'Shea 
Edited by Pamela de la Fuente

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.

The best trading platforms feature low — or no — commissions and fees, free access to premium research, fast trade execution, innovative strategy tools and comprehensive trading features.

In recent years, online brokers have nearly all brought their stock trading commissions down to $0 and reduced or eliminated other fees, including inactivity charges, platform access fees and research and data subscriptions. Those changes make comparing core features like trading platforms more important than ever — trading platforms can be a true differentiator for many brokers, including the ones on this list. Brokers have rushed to roll out a variety of different platforms to meet the needs of different types of investors, including advanced day traders and those who are just getting started. Between mobile apps, website platforms and downloadable desktop platforms, many brokers offer four or more different options for placing trades.

So how do all of those online trading and day trading platforms stack up? Below, our testers have narrowed down the options to create a curated list of the seven brokers that offer the best online trading platforms, so you can choose one for your day trading based on your priorities. We've also categorized our picks so you can quickly choose the platform that's a good fit for you and your trading style.

How we test online trading platforms

The star ratings below represent the broker's overall score. Our reviewers — who are writers and editors on NerdWallet’s content team — send detailed questionnaires to every broker, digging into details about their platforms and capabilities. We ask questions about execution quality, the number and quality of third-party research providers and whether the broker takes payment for order flow. (PFOF involves routing orders to certain market makers — this can drive down trading costs, but it can also negatively affect execution prices for traders.)

Then we hands-on test every trading platform to understand the capabilities and features as a user. We fund accounts, place trades and test the platform's analysis and research tools. This allows us to report on every aspect of the user experience.

Both the trading platform capabilities offered and the actual user experience of trading on the platform are factored into our analysis. This means a broker can offer an advanced day trading platform, but if it is clunky to use or the process of opening an account is unnecessarily arduous, that will be reflected in their score.

Our deep, independent analysis cuts through the details to find and evaluate the information investors want when choosing an investing account.

  • Over 60 investment account providers reviewed and rated by our expert Nerds.

  • More than 50 years of combined experience writing about finance and investing.

  • Hands-on testing of the account funding process, provider websites and day trading platforms.

  • Dozens of objective ratings rubrics and strict guidelines to maintain editorial integrity.

To see our full methodology and learn more about our process, read our criteria for evaluating brokers and for evaluating robo-advisors.

Note: The star ratings on this page are for the broker overall, inclusive of all the services and features they offer. Some brokerages with lower overall ratings are included here because their trading platforms are where they excel.

Best Trading Platforms: Overall Picks

Our pick for

large variety of user-friendly platforms

Charles Schwab recently acquired TD Ameritrade and with it, the well-regarded thinkorswim platform. This adds to Schwab's already-impressive roster of platforms: Schwab.com, Schwab Mobile and StreetSmart Edge. Our tester also found that Schwab excelled at user experience — many trades are available before a transfer has settled into your account, and a "SnapTicket" feature allows you to quickly place trades while you're navigating research and other features on Schwab's platform.

NerdWallet rating 

4.9

/5
Charles Schwab
Learn more

on Charles Schwab's website

Fees

$0

per online equity trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Our pick for

overall trading platform

Fidelity is known as a well-rounded broker, and its trading platforms are similarly versatile: Our tester found the platform's shortcuts and user experience very intuitive, and the customization options impressive. Fidelity is one of the only brokers on this list that scored five stars for its platform, user experience and execution quality.

Best App for Investing 2024

NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
Fidelity
Learn more

on Fidelity's website

Fees

$0

per trade for online U.S. stocks and ETFs

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Our pick for

advanced traders

Interactive Brokers offers access to seven different trading platforms, including three apps, two web-based platforms and two desktop platforms. The brokerage is known for its professional-level desktop platform, Trader Workstation. Its newest offering, IBKR Desktop, combines features of that platform with new features driven by client demand.

NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro
Learn more

on Interactive Brokers' website

Fees

$0.005

per share; as low as $0.0005 with volume discounts

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Exclusive!

U.S. residents who open a new IBKR Pro account will receive a 0.25% rate reduction on margin loans. Terms apply.

Our pick for

new or intermediate traders

Webull stands out for its ability to combine a minimalist, easy-to-navigate look and feel with the capabilities of advanced trading platforms, meaning it's an ideal fit for new or intermediate traders. It isn't intimidating to get started, but Webull's trading platforms are flexible enough to grow alongside you as your trading skills advance.

NerdWallet rating 

5.0

/5
Webull
Learn more

on Webull's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Get up to 75 free fractional shares (valued up to $3,000)

when you open and fund an account with Webull.

Our pick for

extended trading hours

E*TRADE and Interactive Brokers are the only trading platforms on this list to score five stars for extended trading hours and market access. E*TRADE offers ETF trading 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, and extended market trading hours from 7am ET to 8pm ET. The broker also offers several strong trading platforms — a mobile app, its website and Power E*TRADE.

NerdWallet rating 

4.4

/5
E*TRADE
Learn more

on E*TRADE's website

Fees

$0

per trade. Other fees apply.

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

Get up to $1,000

when you open and fund an E*TRADE account

Our pick for

over-the-counter access

ZacksTrade is an introducing broker to Interactive Brokers, which means ZacksTrade customers have access to a rebranded version of Interactive Brokers' trading platforms — a good thing for day traders, since Interactive Brokers is known for its powerful, pro-level platforms. ZacksTrade overall comes with higher fees, but stands out when it comes to OTC stock trading.

NerdWallet rating 

3.5

/5
Zacks Trade
Learn more

on Zacks Trade's website

Fees

$0.01

per share

Account minimum

$2,500

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

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

What platform is best for day trading?

All of the trading platforms on this list impressed our editorial team of testers enough to be featured here — but the three that scored the highest for their trading platforms, order execution, user experience and access were Fidelity, Interactive Brokers and Charles Schwab. (Charles Schwab recently took on TD Ameritrade's widely respected thinkorswim platform following its acquisition of that broker.)

Does that mean they are the best for you? That depends on your specific needs and priorities. But these platforms, and the others on this list, will help you narrow down your search.

What are the best day trading apps?

All of the brokers on this list also have strong trading apps — in fact, each brokers' app is factored into our testing process. However, if you want to specifically dig into stock trading apps, we have a roundup of our picks here.

What should you look for in a trading platform?

A few things are nonnegotiable in trading platforms for day trading: First, you need low or no commissions. You might’ve gathered by now that day traders place a lot of trades. Pay close attention to a broker or day-trading platform’s fees and commissions. Many brokers will offer no commissions or volume pricing.

Then research and strategy tools are key. Day traders use data to make decisions: You want not only the latest market data, but you also need a trading platform that lets you quickly create charts, identify price trends and analyze potential trade opportunities.

Finally, prioritize speed. Time is literally money with day trading, so you want a broker and online trading system that is reliable and offers the fastest order execution. Many platforms will publish information about their execution speeds and how they route orders; we've included these details in our analysis and ratings as well.

Another feature we’d recommend is a broker or trading platform that offers paper, or virtual, trading, so you can practice with simulated trades before the real thing.

What's the best trading platform for beginner or new investors?

We've chosen Webull as the best fit for beginner or intermediate investors. We also have a separate list of best brokers for beginners, which includes our analysis of not just the brokerage firm's trading platform, but also how well they score on other factors that appeal to beginners, such as educational resources about how to use those platform. But you'll notice there is some overlap between the two lists — that's because we heavily test how user-friendly a trading platform is, so most of the brokers on this list are also approachable choices for new investors, too.

What is pattern day trading?

Pattern day trader is a designation under FINRA rules that is defined as someone who day trades four or more times within 5 business days. Those day trades must also account for more than 6% of the trader's total trades within the same period. Your brokerage can help you determine if you're a pattern day trader. If you are, you're subject to additional regulations, including the requirement to have at least $25,000 in equity in your margin account.

What stocks are good for day trading?

No one can predict individual stock performance to answer this question accurately, but there are a few things that make a stock at least a good candidate for a day trader to consider. Generally, those are stocks that are highly liquid, with large trade volume; relatively volatile, so you can buy low and sell high; and known to you (an understanding of the stock’s price history, and how it reacts to various events — earnings reports, economic shifts — is key). Here’s some detailed guidance on how to research stocks.

You can use your online broker or trading platform’s stock screener to look for stocks that seem ripe for day trading. We also have a list of the best stocks right now, based on performance.

What is trading platform margin?

Margin is essentially a loan from your broker. When you open a brokerage account, you’ll be asked if you want a cash account or a margin account.

A margin account allows you to place trades on borrowed money. Often called leverage, trading on margin can magnify your gains — and, in the worst-case scenario, your losses. To read more about margin, how to use it and the risks involved, read our guide to margin trading.

How much money do you need to use these trading platforms?

This is a loaded question. The trading platforms on our list don't have minimum account requirements, but as noted above, you're required to maintain a minimum of $25,000 in equity to engage in pattern day trading. That equity can be in cash and eligible securities. That’s the minimum amount you need to maintain in your account; on top of that, you also need the money you’ll use to day trade.

But just as important is setting a limit for how much money you dedicate to day trading. Those dipping into this kind of active trading may want to risk only a small portion of their account balance — 5% to 10% of your investable assets, at most.

Is it risky to use a trading platform?

Using a trading platform isn't risky — many investors invest through trading platforms. But day trading can be risky. In short: You could lose money, potentially lots of it. Day trading is exactly what it sounds like: Buying and selling — trading — a stock, or many stocks, inside of a day. It’s all about making predictions and timing the market, with the goal of making a small profit on each trade. In an ideal world, those small profits add up to a big return.

But research has shown that only 1% of day traders consistently earn money; many, many lose it. It’s essentially a full-time job, because you need to constantly be watching — and timing — the market, waiting for your next move. It isn’t for beginner, or casual, investors.

To limit the risks, you can keep the majority of your investment portfolio in long-term, diversified investments like low-cost index funds, and day trade with a small portion.

Last updated on May 23, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers and robo-advisors. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

We collect data directly from providers through detailed questionnaires, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. The questionnaire answers, combined with demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). For more details about the categories considered when rating providers and our processes, read our full broker ratings methodology and our full robo-advisor ratings methodology.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Trading Platforms: Overall Picks for May 2024