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How Ally, Fidelity and Schwab Compare

May 29, 2018
Brokers, Investing
ally-fidelity-schwab
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The competition among online brokers has become a game of inches among top-tier players like Ally Invest, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, all of which charge industry-low rates for stock trades.

But as always with investing, small moves can have a big impact on returns, as does finding the brokerage whose offers best mirror your investing habits. (Not sure how to start? Read our explainer on opening a brokerage account.)

At a glance

Broker

Highlights

Commissions

Account Minimum

Current Offers

Start Investing

Ally Invest

Ally Invest

Show Details

Impressive platform and research depth; low commissions

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

Starting at $50

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

on Ally Invest's secure website

Show Details

Fidelity

Fidelity

Show Details

Low commissions; free and robust research

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

300

commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

on Fidelity's secure website

Show Details

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab

Show Details

Large fund selection; premium research.

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

$100

cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

on Charles Schwab's secure website

Show Details

Ally Invest, Fidelity and Schwab are all 5-star category winners in our roundup for best online brokers for stock trading. But look more closely; there are some important pros and cons for each brokerage.

Ally Invest

Ally Invest earned our top ranking for low costs. In addition to sharing that industry-low $4.95 commission, Ally offers volume discounts, meaning that if you make 30 or more trades per quarter the commissions drop to $3.95. And while Fidelity and Schwab may have a four-figure account minimum to clear on certain investments, Ally lets you get started with a $0 minimum.

Ally Invest offers a suite of investing tools that surpass what you might expect to find from a discount broker, including a browser-based platform that offers quick trading capabilities, real-time streaming quotes and data, and a customizable dashboard. And advanced traders, take note: While Fidelity offers foreign-exchange trading and Charles Schwab offers futures trading, Ally is the only provider among these three that offers both.

Ally has more than 100 commission-free exchange-traded funds — a nice selling point for investors who want to build their portfolio gradually with ETFs. But none of the more than 12,000 mutual funds the broker offers are free of transaction fees (although the $9.95 cost per no-load mutual fund trade is far lower than other brokers). Ally’s online-only presence keeps costs down, but may be a turnoff to beginning investors who want to visit a branch office for help.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Ally Invest review

Fidelity Investments

Fidelity was rated one of our best overall brokers for its low commissions, deep pool of research resources and easy-to-use platform that can be customized for advanced traders.

Fidelity also earns strong marks for customer service and education; the company offers in-person help and free investor seminars at branch locations throughout the country. Customers who qualify for the company’s Active Trader Services get 24/7 access to dedicated trading specialists.

Fidelity touts a $0 minimum to open an account, but many mutual funds require a $2,500 initial investment. You can avoid that minimum with automatic investments of at least $200 a month. Access to some of Fidelity’s trading platforms and tools are restricted to high-volume traders; for example, the firm’s Active Trader Services require placing at least 120 trades in a rolling 12-month period and keeping a $25,000 minimum balance.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Fidelity review

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is another top overall broker, with options that will appeal to both beginning and experienced investors. Beginners will like Schwab’s customer service and educational support through its large network of branches, where you can attend complimentary workshops and meet with financial consultants by appointment.

Schwab offers a mix of sophisticated tools and a pair of trading platforms, which will appeal to active traders. It also has a great investment selection of nearly 250 commission-free ETFs and more than 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

One downside to Schwab is its $1,000 account minimum to get started, though you can avoid it with automatic monthly transfers of $100 into the account. Another is the cost to buy transaction-fee funds — $76, one of the highest charges among brokers. Still, with Schwab’s long list of no-transaction-fee funds, it’s easy to sidestep these.

» Read NerdWallet’s full Charles Schwab review

Broker

Highlights

Commissions

Account Minimum

Current Offers

Start Investing

Ally Invest

Ally Invest

Show Details

Impressive platform and research depth; low commissions

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

Starting at $50

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

on Ally Invest's secure website

Show Details

Fidelity

Fidelity

Show Details

Low commissions; free and robust research

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

300

commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

on Fidelity's secure website

Show Details

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab

Show Details

Large fund selection; premium research.

Commissions

$4.95

per trade

Current Offers

$100

cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

on Charles Schwab's secure website

Show Details

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