Investing in the stock market has never been more accessible than it is today. Thanks to a wide array of online brokers, you can now trade stocks, ETFs, and other securities right from the comfort of your own home or even on the go. But with so many options available, how do you choose the right one?
We’ve broken down the top online brokers for stock trading, considering factors such as cost, user interface, customer service, and the range of available investments.
Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a beginner just looking to dip your toes into the financial markets, our guide will help you navigate this essential decision. Let’s get started!
7 Best Online Brokers
Check out our list of 2023‘s best stock trading platforms. You’ll find all the details you need in this accessible guide so you can get right to the good part: starting your trades.
Robinhood is a trading app that provides commission-free options, ETF, and cryptocurrency trades. For a long time, the company stood out as one of the few online stockbrokers offering commission-free trades, but it has become more common in the past year.
Fidelity may require a rather hefty minimum deposit of $2,500 but makes up for it with its attractive commissions.
Owned by parent company Bank of America, you can actually access all of your accounts from the same login if you’re a B of A customer.
You will need at least $500 to open up an E-Trade account, but many traders agree that the volume discounts and easy-to-use platforms are well worth it.
Known for their great customer service that’s available 24/7, Ally Invest is one of the best online brokers providing low barriers to entry in the trading game.
Beginners beware: Interactive Brokers is an advanced online broker with a high account minimum to the tune of $10,000, so don’t jump into this one until you’re ready.
Best Online Stock Trading Platforms FAQ
How much do online brokerage firms charge?
For active traders who want to minimize costs, an online stockbroker can save you a lot compared to a traditional brokerage. When you go with a full-service brokerage, you’re usually charged a percentage of the trade amount. With a discount brokerage account, you pay a low commission on every trade.
But with an online brokerage account, you typically get charged a flat fee for each trade, which can save you a lot over the long run. Depending on the type of transaction, you can expect to pay anywhere between $5 and $20 per trade.
What is the best stockbroker for beginners?
Most beginner traders incur losses because of several factors, including choosing an unsuitable online broker. Consequently, it is advisable to start with a platform designed to make trading easier. Some factors to consider when choosing an ideal platform for beginners may include:
- Dedicated advisers to help you make better decisions through comprehensive analysis and one-on-one guidance.
- A demo account with which you can practice as you learn and prepare for real-life trading.
- A dedicated customer support desk to help you overcome complications with the platform or the markets.
- Learning materials to familiarize you with the platform and the markets (fortunately, most offer updated learning materials).
- A diverse range of trading options.
- An easy-to-use trading interface.
- Affordable fees and account minimums.
This guide includes excellent online brokers for beginners, such as Robinhood and Charles Schwab. However, don’t be afraid to cast your net further as you look for the ideal platform for your needs.
Which online trading platform is best?
All online trading platforms advertise themselves as the best. However, some offer better trading options and overall superior quality of services than others. Additionally, you will find that some platforms suit your investment needs and preferences better than others.
Consequently, it is advisable to consider what each platform offers based on your needs. Some questions to ponder when choosing an ideal online brokerage platform may include:
- What do I know about online trading?
- Will I need someone to guide me through some (or all) of my trades?
- How much money do I need to invest?
- Can I trust the platform with my money?
For example, you will need a beginner-friendly online broker if you are new to trading. Additionally, a platform that requires a high account minimum may not be right for you if you don’t have a lot of money to start with. You will also benefit from our guide on choosing a suitable online broker as you continue reading.
What is the most profitable trading platform?
It is true that some trading platforms offer better investment options and terms than others. However, it is a common misconception that some platforms can make you more money than others. While some platforms can save you money, but they will not automatically make you more money.
How much money you make on any trading platform depends on your overall trading strategy and accuracy. Online brokers don’t influence market directions—the markets do!
Here are some tips on how to develop a winning and profitable trading strategy:
- Take classes about stock trading (and investment in general) before diving in with the sharks. You want to continue to learn throughout your trading career.
- Always have a trading plan, including comprehensive money management criteria for every trade. It is also a general rule of thumb never to trade more than you can afford to lose.
- Leave emotions out of trading and treat it like a business (one that can change your life if managed well).
- Take advantage of trading tools and other technologies to improve your accuracy and timing.
- Know when to stop trading and always use a stop loss.
This FAQ includes a comprehensive guide on choosing an ideal online trading platform. Fortunately, there are hundreds of high-quality online brokerage platforms.
Which online broker has the lowest fees?
Some online brokers charge exorbitant fees, while others charge pennies. To this end, you can save thousands of dollars per year by choosing an online broker that offers affordable fees.
With such variation, it is critical to identify your broker’s fees for different services and do the math. Most people focus on commissions. However, it’s also important to consider charges such as margin rates, finance rates, spreads, and conversion fees.
Traders looking to work with online brokers charging minimum fees may be interested in discount brokers. This is because a discount broker executes orders at a fraction of what other stockbrokers charge. As a result, discount brokers are wildly popular and constitute a considerable portion of the fintech industry.
However, it is worth noting that discount brokers don’t offer a full range of services. Most notably, they don’t provide investment advice, unlike full-service brokers. Consequently, the cost savings may not be worth it unless you are an excellent trader with a winning strategy.
What does a stockbroker do?
A stockbroker executes orders in the stock market on behalf of clients like yourself. Stockbrokers also offer their clients sound financial advice, but they are obligated to follow their clients’ directions. They are also commonly called investment advisors or registered representatives.
You must be fully qualified and licensed to work as a stockbroker. Additionally, you must be a member of a stock exchange (such as the New York Stock Exchange) to buy or sell on their platforms. Consequently, not everyone can buy or sell directly from the platform. Stockbrokers function as the go-between as their license automatically qualifies them as members.
Interestingly, many stockbrokers today mainly specialize in financial advisory and planning, thanks mostly to the rise of online stockbrokerage platforms. These platforms have eased access to the stock markets. Essentially, anyone with access to the internet and genuine interest in the markets (and some capital) can start trading in minutes.
Should I hire a stockbroker?
Trading stocks and other securities has never been easier, thanks mainly to the rise of online brokerage platforms. To this end, it is common for many people to view stockbrokers as redundant. However, they are not. Even experienced traders ensure that they always have a stockbroker on speed dial.
So, why should you hire a stockbroker? Here is an overview of three irrefutable reasons why a stockbroker could be invaluable:
- First, stockbrokers can read the markets with accuracy. They can also give you tips on profitable trades before the rest of the market can dilute the trend.
- Second, stockbrokers can manage all of your investments if you don’t have the time to do it yourself. This allows you to facilitate a passive investing strategy and potentially lucrative passive income.
- Finally, stockbrokers can give you deep financial advice that extends beyond investing. This can help you better manage your personal and business finances.
Ultimately, a stockbroker’s services pay their fees several times over if you put their advice to good use. However, it is prudent to pick a competent and intelligent stockbroker to ensure that you get sound investment and financial advice.
How do I choose an online brokerage?
Online brokerage platforms make it easy and affordable for anyone to trade stocks and other securities. There are hundreds of online brokers, and some offer better terms and services than others. Hence, it is advisable to choose your online brokerage platform wisely. Here is an overview of three factors to consider when choosing one:
Account Fees & Minimums
All online brokers charge fees to use their platforms, just like you would pay a stockbroker. Additionally, many online brokerage firms require their clients to maintain a minimum amount of money in their accounts. Therefore, it is advisable to ensure that the amounts in both cases are low and affordable.
It is always advisable to diversify your investments across multiple securities and other investment options to spread (and minimize) risks. Consequently, it is vital to ensure that your chosen online broker provides access to as many securities as you need. Some of the main investment options include stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and cryptocurrencies.
Trading stocks can prove complicated, and most people find themselves wishing that they had a professional to guide them. Fortunately, many online stockbrokers offer access to individual stockbrokers for one-on-one investment and financial advice.
Stock Trading Fees Explained
You have to pay to play in the stock market, metaphorically speaking. You pay for the services provided by online brokers or brokerage platforms when you trade stocks. Stock trading fees come in varying types, and some of the most notable ones include:
Most brokerage platforms charge a commission for every trade, which is usually a dismal fraction of the trade’s cost. The commission can be charged as a flat fee or based on the volume of your trades. However, it is worth noting that more and more online brokers are eliminating commissions.
The spread is the difference between the bid and ask prices. Ideally, you would incur a loss if you bought and sold a trade simultaneously. This loss depends on the difference between the sell and buy prices.
A finance rate refers to the cost incurred when you hold a leveraged position for longer than 24 hours. A leveraged position essentially is borrowed money, and your broker will charge you interest for this loan in the form of a finance rate.
Trading on margin entails trading using money borrowed from the broker. The broker will also charge interest on this money in the form of a margin rate.
Do you need to convert your money to another currency to start trading? The broker will charge you a small conversion fee every time you convert currency for deposits or withdrawals.
How much money do you need to start investing?
It is easier than ever for folks to start investing, and often you can start with as little as $500. Some online stock brokers don’t require any account minimums at all. Where they do, the minimum investment amount will depend on your broker and the type of investment.
For example, most mutual funds have minimum investments of around $1,000, so if mutual fund trades are a priority for you, keep that in mind.
Is Stock Trading Safe?
While it is generally safe to trade stocks, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved. The best trading platforms will work hard to keep you informed and minimize those risks.
As an online trader, it is also your responsibility to practice good security habits. Use the same security steps with a brokerage account that you would with your bank account. Additionally, always use common sense when trading.
What Are the Risks of Online Trading Platforms?
By virtue of being an online activity, there are several risks involved when you trade with online stock brokers. Let’s take a look at the most common risks:
- Identity theft: As is the case for any online account you use, it is possible for your brokerage account to be hacked by scammers who obtain your personal identifying information. This is why it’s always vital to keep your passwords secure. You should also use two-factor authentication wherever possible to protect your accounts.
- Computer viruses and malware: It’s important to ensure that the computer you use to access your brokerage account is always clean, secure, and free of malware. Hackers can use spyware to gain access to your passwords and personal information. So, protecting yourself means using a quality anti-virus program and performing routine checks.
- Data breaches: Data breaches are a major risk for companies and customers alike, and unfortunately, they seem to be on the increase. As a customer, the most critical step you can take to protect yourself here is to only do business with reputable companies. Ideally, you want to choose one that has never had a previous data leak.
- Phishing schemes: This often comes in the form of an email or text message which claims to be from your brokerage firm, but is actually an elaborate scam. Always pay close attention to the details in any communication you receive from your online stock broker. Never click on any links until you are certain the sender is legitimate.
Your online stock broker is your gateway to investing, so it’s not a decision to take lightly. When searching for an online stock broker, it’s important to consider your unique investment needs.
You’ll need to compare costs, available investment options, account types, and how well the stock broker works for your investment style. Any of the online stock brokers above could be a great fit for your investing and trading goals.
In your search for online brokers for stock trading, make sure you take the time to figure out your priorities. Then, you can find a brokerage account that truly serves you. There are a lot of great online stock brokers out there, but being clear about your goals will make it easier to choose.