Investors who trade individual stocks and advanced securities like options are looking for exposure to specific companies or trading strategies.
Mutual funds and ETFs are typically best suited to investing for long-term goals that are at least 5 years away, like retirement, a far-off home purchase or college.
Beginners and long term investors often look to get exposure to whole markets and don't have a preference on which type of securities to trade.
Some brokers have minimum deposit requirements, while others may require a minimum balance to access certain advanced features or trading platforms.
If a broker is offering a new account promotion, there may be a minimum initial deposit requirement to qualify.
If you're trading frequently — more than weekly — you'll want an advanced broker that has powerful platforms, innovative tools, high-quality research and low commissions.
Those who trade monthly or yearly will want a well-rounded broker with a user-friendly interface, helpful customer support and competitive pricing.
Robo-advisor services use algorithms to build and manage investor portfolios. For a very low fee, they'll create a portfolio of ETFs based on your investing goals and risk tolerance, then rebalance it as needed. Many also offer tax-loss harvesting for taxable accounts.
If that sounds too hands-off for you and you want to manage your own investments, choose a self-directed account at an online broker.
Low Cost: Mutual fund/ETF investors want access to funds without commissions or fees; stock or options traders want low commissions and no added fees for inactivity, tools or research.
Platform: If you plan to trade frequently, you likely know what kind of tools you'll use most and what you want out of a platform.
User interface: Tools should be intuitive and easy to navigate.
Premium research: Investing, particularly frequent trading, requires analysis. The broker should provide extensive information to help you select the investments for your portfolio.
Offers access to human advisors for additional fee.
Up to 1 year
of free management with a qualifying deposit
on Betterment's secure website
Professional-level trading platform and tool.
0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply
on Interactive Brokers's secure website
Free management of first $5,000 (for NerdWallet readers); advanced tax optimization strategies.
amount of assets managed for free
on Wealthfront's secure website