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Cat Alford, TJ Porter, and Jeff Proctor: the team that led our research for finding the best online brokers for buying and selling stocks.

For investors looking to buy and sell stocks, there are many online brokers to choose from. Depending on what your specific needs are, a broker that’s a great fit for someone else might not be the best choice for you.

The DollarSprout team has spent dozens of hours compiling research on all of the top brokers. We’ve sifted through each company’s pricing models, functionalites, online reviews, and more, and came up with a list of what we feel are the best online brokerages for stock trading.

Below are the highlights of our findings, along with links to more in-depth reviews and additional resources.

Comparing the Best Online Brokers

Editorial Disclaimer: Please note that, although we regularly update this page, you should research a broker’s website to get the most up to date information available (including pricing and promotional info). Some of the links from this page are from paid partners of DollarSprout. Here’s how we make money.

At a glance:

  • Charles Schwab – Best overall broker
  • Fidelity – Best overall broker
  • Trade Station – Ideal for advanced level traders
  • TD Ameritrade – Suitable for traders & long term investors
  • Ally Invest – Great for new traders who want to be more active
  • Vanguard – Great for low cost, low maintenance index fund investing
  • Etrade 250+ commission free ETFs and an excellent mobile app
  • FirsTrade – Ideal for international investors
  • Motif InvestingBest for socially responsible investing
  • M1 Finance – $0 per trade, hands off investing
  • Merrill Edge – Great for existing Bank of America customers
  • Interactive Brokers – Frequent trading, advanced trading
$4.95 Cost per trade Schwab branded ETFs are free to trade.
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Founded in 1971, Charles Schwab is a full service investment firm. They offer a suite of investment options as well as several different types of accounts. They are a trusted name in the brokerage industry with fees and pricing now competitive with Vanguard, Fidelity, and other low cost brokerage firms. Their customer service can't be beat.

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Pros:

  • Long reputation of excellence
  • No account minimums
  • Many high performing Schwab ETF funds available that are free to trade
  • Excellent customer service available 24 hours a day including live chat

Cons:

  • If your fund does have a transaction fee, it could be high
  • No current promotions to open account at this time

Best For:

Anyone who is looking for a low cost brokerage with great customer service.

$4.95 Cost per trade Also has "Fidelity Zero" index funds with no expense ratio and no minimum.
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Fidelity is a well known, multinational financial services company that offers a variety of different types of financial products from credit cards to taxable investment accounts to retirement accounts. They are competitive with other low cost brokers like Charles Schwab and Vanguard.

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Pros:

  • Did away with almost all account fees
  • First broker to have mutual funds with no expense ratios
  • Has significant research available to customers to learn from
  • Great customer service and online tools

Cons:

  • Fees are higher if you need the help of a broker to make a trade
  • Some tools/products are only for active traders or people with large amounts invested

Best For:

People who want to invest for retirement and active investors as well. Also good for people looking for low cost funds.

$5 Cost per stock trade
$500 Account minimum Higher minimum for options and futures trading
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Trade Station offers professional level trading for experienced investors, brokers, and day traders. They have a robust online platform with significant research and education available to their users.

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Pros:

  • 35+ years of experience, with numerous awards
  • Advanced level education and charting
  • Comprehensive research available

Cons:

  • Not designed for beginners
  • Does not offer commission free ETFs
  • Be wary of service charges and other fees

Best For:

Very experienced traders and investors.

$6.95 Cost per trade No transaction fees on mutual funds
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

TD Ameritrade is a large brokerage firm that offers many different types of accounts, stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and more. They recently acquired Scottrade in 2017. They have brick and mortar offices but also many different online tools and educational resources. They are a well known brokerage firm with a wide array of offerings and generally have a positive reputation.

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Pros:

  • Wide range of offerings
  • Diverse trading platforms
  • Lots of trading tools and education and access to research
  • There are no maintenance fees

Cons:

  • Trades are more expensive than some other competitors
  • They do have some short term trading fees, so pay attention to the fine print when selling

Best For:

People looking for a robust array of offerings, trading tools and education. Not for those who want the cheapest option.

Read DollarSprout's Full TD Ameritrade Brokerage Review
$4.95 Cost per trade
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Ally Invest is the investing portion of Ally Bank, an online only bank with no brick and mortar locations. Ally acquired Trade King in 2017 and now offers a suite of investment options. This platform is great for active day traders, but it's also easy for a beginner to get started. Ally is well regarded in the financial space, and they have a good reputation.

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Pros:

  • Commission free ETFs
  • No account minimums
  • Lots of investing tools, calculators, etc. for investors to utilize

Cons:

  • They do have transaction fees for their mutual funds.
  • No automatic investing or rebalancing

Best For:

Ally Invest is best for active traders, forex traders, day traders, and options traders.

$2-20 Cost per trade Vanguard branded ETFs are free to trade
$0 Account minimum Fund minimums start at $1,000
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Vanguard is one of the longest standing brokerage firms. Created by Jack Bogle in 1975, Vanguard has always been known for its low cost investing options and has served as a model for other low cost brokerage firms.

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Pros:

  • Great selection of funds
  • Low costs & good customer service
  • Long time positive reputation in the industry

Cons:

  • Geared more towards mutual funds, and you need anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for a fund minimum
  • No checking or savings account offered

Best For:

All types of investors who are looking for a low cost brokerage firm with a variety of account options.

$6.95 Cost per trade
$500 Account minimum $0 for IRAs
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Etrade is a brokerage firm with three different trading platforms, so there is something for beginning investors all the way to active investors. They were among the first online brokers and also have significant data available to their customers. Note: If you make more than 30 trades per quarter as an active investor, the cost per trade drops to $4.95.

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Pros:

  • Good mobile apps
  • More than 4,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • Over 250 commission-free ETFs
  • 3 trading platforms

Cons:

  • Not the lowest cost per trade
  • Website can be hard to navigate

Best For:

Beginning investors and active traders who prefer commission free ETFs and access to research and data.

$0 Cost per trade Includes stocks, ETFs, and options
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Firstrade is a discount online brokerage firm that offers completely free trades with no account minimums. They have a powerful trading platform with no hidden fees. In addition to offering low cost investment options, they also offer educational resources, calculators, and more to their customers.

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Pros:

  • Stocks, options, and mutual funds are all free to trade
  • More than 700 ETF options
  • Training tools
  • No minimum deposits
  • International accounts allowed

Cons:

  • Customers report customer service could use improvement
  • No managed portfolios available

Best For:

Investors who want free trades and prefer a hands-off approach. International investors.

$0-$9.95 Cost per trade Intraday trading costs more than orders placed at market open.
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Motif Investing is a very unique hybrid investment company that is part brokerage firm and part robo-advisor. It usus an interesting platform idea where you can purchase "motifs" or thematic based investment packages. The motifs feature 20-30 stocks or ETFs around a certain theme like "online gaming" or "biotech" which allows investors to be creative and learn more about the process.

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Pros:

  • Unique idea with a sophisticated platform
  • Powerful data and analytics
  • Easy to use and free to trade if you wait until the market opens
  • Low trade cost when buying a motif portfolio. $9.95 could purchase 20-30 stocks in a portfolio.

Cons:

  • Real time trade costs are high if you are buying single stocks
  • Annual fees on Motif portfolios can be high; 0.25-0.50%

Best For:

Any investor looking for a more unique investing experience or who wants to dabble in different types of investments.

Read DollarSprout's Full Motif Investing Review
$0 Cost per trade
$100 Account minimum $500 minimum for IRAs
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

M1 Finance is a combination online brokerage and robo advisor. It's very highly rated across the personal finance community for it's interface, fund availability, and low costs. They offer investment portfolio templates you can choose from, and you can invest completely free.

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Pros:

  • Free to trade
  • Offers fractional investing and no hidden fees
  • You can borrow against your portfolio in some instances
  • Automates investing and rebalancing

Cons:

  • They do not offer tax loss harvesting
  • They only offer stocks and ETFs; no mutual funds

Best For:

Hands off investors who want the benefit of a robo-advisor with $0 per trade. Also, it’s best for people who want to invest in stocks and ETFs, not mutual funds.

Read DollarSprout's Full M1 Finance Review
$6.95 Cost per trade
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Merrill Edge is a brokerage firm and a subsidiary of Bank of America, so it's helpful to people who are Bank of America customers who want to keep their accounts with the same bank. They do offer up to 100 free trades per month if you meet certain qualifications such as having a Merrill Edge balance of $25,000 or more or a BoA balance of $25,000 or more.

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Pros:

  • Integrates with Bank of America and many online investing tools
  • First 100 trades free if you meet certain account minimum requirements

Cons:

  • High margin fees
  • Slow trading time
  • it’s $29.95 to get a representative to assist you with a trade

Best For:

Current Bank of America customers and customers who plan on having at least $25,000 in their account (to access up to 100 free trades.)

$1.00-1% Cost per trade
$0 Account minimum
DollarSprout Rating

Summary:

Interactive Brokers is a sophisticated trading platform which benefits those who are active traders. They offer lower commissions than other top brokerage firms, but their fee structures truly benefit those who are advanced traders.

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Pros:

  • For high volume traders, the fees are low
  • Good mobile app with solid education offerings
  • Sophisticated trading platform

Cons:

  • Limited account type offerings
  • Too many fees for less active traders
  • Difficult to navigate for a new investor

Best For:

Very frequent traders, advanced traders.

What should you look for in an online broker?

Here are some questions you should always ask before deciding on an online brokerage for investing:

What are the account minimums?

Most brokers will allow you to start small, but be sure to check the account minimums to ensure you qualify.

Do the tools fit my needs?

If you need access to high-end tools for research and active trading, a platform designed for beginners won’t be right for you.

How much do trades cost?

This is especially important for smaller accounts and for people who trade often. Fees will always eat into your returns, so this is an important consideration.

How is the customer service?

Helpful customer service will never go out of style.

Author

Hi! I'm Jeff. A personal finance nerd and entrepreneur at heart, I'm here to bring you all the latest cool ways to make and save extra money. I've been quoted in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Student Loan Hero, Business.com, Credit Karma, The Simple Dollar, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Moneyish, Zumper, IdeaMensch, Discover Bank, PrimeRates, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, Club Thrifty, Guru Focus, Rent Track, Fit Small Business, Coupon Chief, and more.