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Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2018

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.

When you’re a beginner investor, the right brokerage account can be so much more than simply a platform for placing trades. It can help you build a solid investing foundation — functioning as a teacher, advisor and investment analyst — and serve as a lifelong portfolio co-pilot as your skills and strategy mature.

What is a stock broker?

A stock broker is a person or an institution licensed to buy and sell stocks and other securities via the market exchanges. Back in the day, the only way for individuals to invest directly in stocks was to hire a stock broker to place trades on their behalf. But what was once a clunky, costly transaction conducted via landline telephones now takes place online, in seconds, for a fraction of what full-service brokers used to charge for the service. (A little lost? Here’s some background on the stock market.)

NerdWallet’s top online brokers for beginners

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.
Reader favorite

Cons

  • Higher trade commission.
  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
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.
Reader favorite

Cons

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

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 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

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

Cons

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

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$200in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Ally Invest’s robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools make it a good choice for active traders. But it’s also appropriate for beginning investors who will appreciate that there is no account minimum and no annual fees.

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
$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

More resources for new investors


Best brokers for beginners: summary

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing
TD Ameritrade
Overall + Education + Mutual Funds & ETFs
Broad educational content;
no inactivity fees
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0

E*Trade

E*Trade
Education
Large selection; reasonable commissions and fees
$6.95
per trade; volume discounts
60 days of commission-free trades ($10,000+ deposit)
$500
Merrill Edge
Merrill Edge
No account minimum + Customer support
Breadth of research reports
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0

Ally Invest

Ally
Low costs
Low commissions, free tools and research
$4.95
per trade
$200 cash bonus or 90 days of free trades with a qualifying deposit
$0
Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab
Overall + Customer support + Mutual funds &
ETFs
Among largest selections of commission-free ETFs
$4.95
per trade
$100 cash bonus with a qualifying deposit
$1,000
Fidelity
Fidelity Investments
Low costs + No account minimum
24/7 live support; free investing seminars
$4.95
per trade
300 commission-free trades with deposit of $50,000 or more
$2,500
($0 for IRAs)

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

Updated Jan. 2, 2018.