Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading 2017

Brokers, Investing

NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions. The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent.

We spent over 300 hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. And to help you find the one that’s best for you, we’ve highlighted their pros, cons and current offers.

There is no single best online broker for stock trading. But among the dozens of financial firms vying for your investing dollars will be one that’s best for you.

Are you just starting out and looking for a friendly place to learn the ropes? Really into trading options and futures? Seeking access to sophisticated investing research? A cost-conscious frequent trader?

Below are the brokers that earned NerdWallet’s highest marks based on the breadth and quality of their offerings in the areas that matter most to individual investors. To find a suitable online broker, read on for highlights (and links to our in-depth reviews on each).

NerdWallet’s top online brokers

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low commissions and fees. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions and fees.
  • 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

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

TD Ameritrade makes up for higher-than-average trading commissions with better-than-average service, research and trading tools that will make everyone from beginner investors to active traders happy.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Large investment selection.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commission.
  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Discounts availablebased on trade volume

The bottom line

Ally Invest may be a deep-discount broker, but its robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools puts it in line with some of its more well-known — and higher-priced — competition.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions.
  • No account minimum.
  • Strong web-based platform.
  • Robust research and tools.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.
  • No no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$500
Promotion
60days of commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

E-Trade has long been one of the most popular online brokers, largely because of its easy-to-use tools. They offer a tiered commission structure that favors frequent traders but can add up to high costs for casual investors.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.
  • Large investment selection.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Access to extensive research.
  • Advanced mobile app.
  • Reduced commissions for frequent traders.

Cons

  • Higher commissions for low-volume traders.
  • Minimum balance requirement for active trading platform.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$1K
Promotion
$100cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Charles Schwab has earned its strong reputation: The broker offers high-quality customer service, two robust trading platforms and a wide selection of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No inactivity fees.
  • Two platforms with no minimum or fees.
  • Above-average mobile app.
  • Extensive research.
  • Strong customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commissions.
  • Higher account minimum.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$2.5K
Promotion
300commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Fidelity may be known for its retirement accounts, but active traders shouldn’t overlook the brokerage’s low trade commissions, wide investment selection, large scope of research and strong trading platform. It’s a well-rounded broker suitable for nearly all investors.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions
  • Large selection of research providers
  • Strong customer service

Cons

  • High account minimum
  • Trade minimum for active trading platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$0.005
per share
Account minimum
$10K
Promotion
None available

The bottom line

Interactive Brokers is a strong option for advanced, frequent traders: The broker offers international trade capabilities, low commissions and a quality trading platform. New traders might be turned off by inactivity fees, high balance requirements and a lack of educational resources.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions
  • Quality trading platform
  • Advanced tools
  • Low margin rates
  • Wide investment selection

Cons

  • Inactivity fees
  • High minimum balance requirement
  • Complex pricing
  • Minimal educational resources
Read full review

More guidance to help you pick the right broker

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

Do I have enough money to get started investing? You don’t need much to get started. Note that many of the brokers above have no account minimums. One easy way build a diversified portfolio for little money is to invest in exchange-traded funds. ETFs are essentially bite-sized mutual funds that trade like stocks: Like a mutual fund, ETFs contain a basket of similar assets (e.g., stocks in the S&P 500 index or shares of companies that operate in the technology sector). But instead of having to qualify for a mutual fund investment minimum, investors can buy and sell individual shares of ETFs just like individual stocks.

Is the money in brokerage accounts insured? Are there different kinds of accounts? What paperwork do I need to open a stock trading account? For answers to all these questions and more, read the what is a brokerage account and how do I open one guide.

How do I determine if a broker is right for me before I open an account? Some key criteria to consider are how much money you have, what type of assets you intend to buy, 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 to arrange and rank your priorities.


Summary: Best online brokerages

Online Broker
Best for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge
Research
Breadth of research from other providers and own offering
$6.95
per trade
$100-$600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0

TD Ameritrade

Overall
+
Beginners
Top research; two powerful trade platforms; educational content
$6.95
per trade
$100 bonus ($25,000+ deposit)
up to $600 ($250,000+ deposit)
$0

Ally Invest

Ally
Low cost
Impressive platform and research depth; low commissions
$4.95
per trade; volume discounts
$100 cash bonus or up to $500 in free trades with a qualifying deposit
$0

E*Trade

E*Trade
Investment selection
Large selection; reasonable commissions and fees
$6.95
per trade; volume discounts
60 days of commission-free trades ($10,000+ deposit)
$500

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab
Overall
+
Beginners +
Investment selection
Among largest selections of commission-free ETFs
$4.95
per trade
$100 referral award for first-time clients
$1,000

Fidelity

Fidelity Investments
Research
Leads on research - reports from 20+ firms
$4.95
per trade
300 commission-free trades ($50,000+ deposit)
$2,500
($0 for IRAs)

Interactive Brokers

Low cost
Discounts for frequent traders; among best platforms
$0.005
per share;
min. $1, max. 0.5% of trade value
Special terms for clients 25 and younger
$10,000
($5,000 for IRAs)

Dayana Yochim is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website: Email: dyochim@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @DayanaYochim.

Updated June 30, 2017.