Choosing the best online brokerage can sometimes be so much more than the place where you buy stocks. It also functions as an advisor, teacher, and financial analyst that digs through all of the numbers and helps you make informed decisions. It can help you develop the financial education that will serve as the foundation for the rest of your investing career.
Even if retirement seems like a faraway place, we all hope to retire on our own terms someday. The most important thing is to get started on our journey or else we might never reach it.
Remember, even the largest trees in the world start out as little saplings. Our job is to plant the seed, water it, and give it time to grow.
So if you’re ready to invest in some of the biggest and best companies in the world, let’s dive into finding the best online brokerage to help you meet your goals and objectives.
Most online brokerage accounts can be set up in only a few minutes. In addition to your basic personal information such as your name, address, phone number, etc., you will also need the following:
No, your brokerage isn’t trying to steal your identity. They need your social security number to make sure that your tax information is set up correctly. Uncle Sam requires them to make sure that they properly report all of your gains and losses so he can get his cut at the end of the year.
In order to fund your new brokerage account, you will need your bank account number and routing number so have those handy.
Finally, you will likely need your driver’s license or a state-issued ID so that the company can verify that it’s you.
For more information on how to open your first brokerage account, check out this article from US News.
Remember when big screen TVs used to cost thousands of dollars? Now you can pick one up for $200-$300 at Walmart or Costco.
Similarly, fees for investing have come way down over the years. So much so that you can now buy and sell stocks with most of the best online brokerage companies for free!
A couple of years ago it was not uncommon for a trade to cost $20 to buy the stocks and another $20 when you were ready to sell. At $40 round-trip, this kept a lot of people out of the market. But now that most brokerages offer free online trades, you can invest as much or as little as you want each month, even one share at a time.
Now there is no excuse not to start investing.
Worrying about security should be low on your priority list as all of the best online brokerage companies are properly regulated, have your data stored in secure servers, and have their websites encrypted with SSL (secure sockets layer) to protect the information you send over the internet.
Some brokerages are even adding dual factor authentication to their login process for an extra layer of security. This includes features you might have seen such as sending a security code to your phone, using a random number authenticator, or face-ID on your phone.
The first step in choosing the best online brokerage account for you is to research the different options and choose one that offers the features you are likely to use most.
If you are new to investing, you would likely want to choose one that is simple to use or one that offers the best educational videos. If you have some investing experience under your belt, you will likely be better served in choosing a broker that offers advanced features.
At the end of the day, most brokerages do the exact same thing: they allow you to buy and sell stocks, options, and other securities. Since cost is no longer an issue with most brokerages not charging trading fees, focus more on features like the mobile app, research tools, the look and feel of the platform, investor education, and banking features.
While choosing the best online brokerage account is important, don’t let this decision hold you back as most online brokerages today offer similar features are likely to fit your needs.
Best Trading Platform
TD Ameritrade is one of the best all-around brokerages available today.
Its modern “thinkorswim” trading platform is one of the most popular out there, allowing you to set up custom alerts, watchlists, and quickly sort through the market on both a technical and fundamental basis. It offers free screeners that you can use to filter through stocks, options and mutual funds that meet your criteria.
TD Ameritrade is one of the best platforms for beginners as it offers over 200 instructional videos covering almost every investment topic imaginable. It even monitors your progress and offers quizzes at the end of each module, making your training feel like you’re playing a game. The tools available with TD Ameritrade will help you make informed investing decisions so that you can successfully put your money to work for you.
Best Mobile App
E*Trade is one of the most popular online brokerages and for good reason.
Its web platform, desktop platform and mobile app ensure that you are able to access your account on whatever device you are currently using. It offers advanced charting tools, market research, and even a Bloomberg TV feed built-in to the platform so that you are always in the know.
E*Trade is the best online brokerage for options trading, hand’s down. It offers seamless position management, excellent tools, and an easy-to-use interface that is ideal for both active and casual traders. If you’re new to trading options, there is no better place to learn. How many other tools out there translate your Risk/Reward with smiley faces?
E*Trade has enough features to satisfy advanced users and simple enough for beginners to quickly get the hang of it. Placing a trade is as easy as a few clicks away with the E*Trade platform, making it a top pick for the best online brokerage.
Best Online Brokerage for Customer Support
As part of the Bank of America family, Merrill Lynch offers its customers many features that you will not find with other online brokerages. In addition to 24/7 phone support, you can also visit any Bank of America branch where Merrill Edge advisors are on staff during normal business hours and talk to them about any issues or questions you might have related to your account. Since Bank of America is the nation’s second largest bank, there is likely to be an office near you where you can go for in-person support.
Additionally, this investing account functions as a hybrid checking account complete with a fee-free debit card, online bill pay capability, and free checks. It is truly a one-stop-shop where you can simultaneously watch your money grow, pay bills, and withdraw money at any Bank of America ATM without ever paying a fee.
Similar to all of the other best online brokerage accounts, Merrill Edge does not charge you a cent to buy or sell stocks.
You do not have to be an existing Bank of America customer to get started, but if you are, you can earn additional benefits as part of their Preferred Rewards program. Bank of America combines the amounts you have in all of your investing, savings, and checking accounts, and assigns you a rewards tier that automatically moves up as your balances grow. Benefits could include:
The rewards system is very intriguing if you plan on having different accounts with Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. Along with great customer support options and the flexibility of a hybrid checking/investing account, Merrill Edge definitely deserves a closer look.
Best for Research
If you have a 401k at work, there is a good chance that Fidelity is managing your money. Known for its retirement plans, Fidelity offers numerous mutual fund options that would work well in a retirement portfolio, but it also offers many of the top features you would expect from one of the best online brokerage accounts.
If you’re the type of investor who thoroughly investigates a company before investing, research is where Fidelity really shines. Fidelity offers research from 20 third-party providers, more than any other broker. Its easy-to-use advanced screeners are some of the best in the industry, allowing you to test strategies before putting your money to work.
While some of your cash is waiting on the sidelines for opportunities to call, Fidelity automatically sweeps free cash in your portfolio into a higher-yielding asset. You will earn interest on your uninvested cash at a much higher rate than most savings accounts (current interest rates vary).
In addition, Fidelity now offers zero expense ratio index funds. Many other brokerages, even those that claim to offer low cost funds, still charge a small management fee. For us buy and hold investors who hate paying fees year after year, these fee-free funds will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Best for Ease of Use
Robinhood is a newer online brokerage company that changed the investing industry forever by offering $0 stock trades. This allowed everyday investors to buy as many or as little shares as they wanted without ever paying a fee. Its user base grew exponentially and as a result, many of the bigger brokerages were eventually forced to offer free online trading in order to compete.
Since Robinhood is no longer the only player offering $0 stock trades anymore, they seem to have lost their main competitive advantage. However, their platform was originally built with simplicity in mind, and that aspect is still true today. Robinhood’s app is by far the easiest to use and navigate of all the brokerages I’ve tested. The drawback to this simplicity is that it lacks many of the advanced features that can be found in other platforms.
On a positive note, Robinhood is currently offering new users a free share of stock to help get your investing account off to a good start. Once you get the free stock, you are free to do whatever you want with it including selling it and keeping the proceeds.
If you are new to the investing world, Robinhood could be one of the best online brokerage accounts for you as you learn about the market.
Best New Online Brokerage
Established in 2017, Webull is one of the newer brokerages on our list. While the company may be young, it was one of the first to offer $0 stock trades, even before the likes of the major players like E*Trade, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab.
If you’ve never heard of them, you’re probably not alone. They are a legit company though, based out of New York and regulated by FINRA. Plus, your money is protected by SPIC insurance so you can sleep soundly at night.
Webull is often compared against Robinhood for its easy-to-use interface and no cost approach to stock investing which has since revolutionized the industry. However, unlike Robinhood, Webull has attempted to distance itself by offering a more robust and feature-packed platform. Webull users can take advantage of the additional tools, charts, and research capabilities that Robinhood simply does not offer.
Not to be outdone by Robinhood, Webull ups the ante by offering two free stocks to new users. Claim your first free stock just for signing up and then the second after you deposit $100. Once you claim your two free stocks you are free to do with them as you wish, even sell them and move the proceeds plus your $100 back to your checking account.
If you’re looking for a brokerage that offers more features than Robinhood, free stock trades, and even free shares of stock to get you started, there is a lot to like about Webull.
Have you found the perfect online brokerage account?
Or have you used one that did not live up to your expectations?
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