Reviews

What’s The Best Online Stock Trading Company? A Database of Reviews

Whether you’re just starting out in the world of investments, or want to maximize your existing investments by switching to a better brokerage firm, there are lots of companies out there to serve your needs. You can get brokerage accounts or set up retirement funds, track your investments, make active changes to your portfolio and allocate your assets to get the most out of your money.

Here at StockHax, our goal is to make sure traders of all types and levels of experience have all the tools they need to succeed. In today’s economic climate, it’s important to find brokers and companies that have that perfect mix of features and fees to get your trading career started.

We’ve gone over each of the big online brokers – and a few intriguing startups – with a fine-toothed comb, to show you exactly what you’re getting when you sign up with them. From top-notch customer service to attractive incentives for active traders, we’re continually searching for the best deals for all kinds of traders.

Check out our breakdown of the top online stock trading companies of 2016, along with brief reviews and links to our more in-depth analysis.

Betterment

What You Should Know:

  • No minimum balance
  • Flat commission fees
  • RetireGuide investment planning

Betterment’s services are ideal for beginning investors, with its low maximums on the amount you can invest at a time and affordable .35% annual fees for low-balance investors. With their goal-based approach to investment, traders can find easy ways to accomplish what they want through Betterment’s services. Though it’s a bit newer to the scene, their lack of a minimum balance and flat fee structure offer good incentives for traders who want to get their portfolios off the ground easily.

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Scottrade

What You Should Know:

  • Flat $7 commission fee
  • Excellent customer service
  • $2,500 minimum balance

Scottrade’s been around for awhile, and is one of the best online brokers on the market. With a flat $7 fee structure for stocks and ETFs, which they’ve had since their inception, Scottrade provides traders with a steady, understandable metric for buying and selling stocks. While their trading platform ScottradeELITE requires a hefty $25,000 balance, its features and charting are enough to maybe make it worth your time. They’ve also got more than 14,000 mutual funds to work from, which is great for active investors who want to focus on those.

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OptionsHouse

What You Should Know:

  • Excellent online trading platform
  • Flat commission rates
  • No commission-free ETFs

Starting out as TradeMonster in 2008, OptionsHouse (an E-Trade company) offers easy trading solutions for traders, including its extremely low $4.95 commission rate for stocks and ETFs. This is great for budget traders who want to save just that much more money as they get started with their investment careers. Their online platform and mobile app are both fairly robust, letting you track investments at the push of a button. Add to that a zero minimum account balance, and OptionsHouse is pretty solid.

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E-Trade

What You Should Know:

  • Easy to use
  • Great customer service
  • High commission rates

There’s admittedly a lot to like about E-Trade’s online brokerage options, adding up to a pretty solid mid-range platform that’s advantageous for those getting into investing. They provide a decent level of variety for their traders, with options for both beginner and advanced traders, and more active traders are rewarded with more perks (including their reputable E-Trade PRO platform). However, this can leave more casual traders in the dust when they could get access to advanced platforms elsewhere.

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Interactive Brokers

What You Should Know:

  • Fantastic TWS platform
  • Deep discounts for active traders
  • High minimum account balance and fees

Interactive Brokers has a lot to offer high-balance, active traders, including an excellent online trading platform called the Trader Workstation (TWS). Their focus is more on crafting innovative and effective investment technology, so you can get access to some pretty advanced software when working with them. The trouble is that it pays to get access to this equipment, so you need to maintain a $10,000 minimum account balance to play, and the barrier to entry can be quite high for some.

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TD Ameritrade

What You Should Know:

  • $0 initial deposit
  • No trade limits
  • Reputable customer support and online education tools

TD Ameritrade’s trading experience is fairly robust and well-rounded, offering a good baseline of features for most traders. While it’s one of the pricier alternatives on this list, you get a lot for your money, particularly through desktop and mobile apps that provide top-notch market research and online education tools for the constantly-learning trader. Their Thinkorswim platform, in particular, is one of the best out there. With no minimum account deposit, they’re flexible too.

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optionsXpress

What You Should Know:

  • Free access to trading software
  • Free broker assistance
  • Complex fee structure, higher options minimums

As an online broker, optionsXpress’ main appeal is in being a basic, workhorse solution for traders who don’t need a lot of frills. When you work with them, you get a bare-bones trading platform you access for free, and its trading options deal chiefly with options, futures and stock trading. However, their free broker-assisted trading is a huge deal for traders who want a little more assistance in their trades. Overall, there are no fancy gimmicks, just solid, uncomplicated trading assistance.

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Wealthfront

What You Should Know:

  • Caps on maintenance fees
  • Direct indexing for high-balance accounts
  • Tax-loss harvesting options

Wealthfront, by all accounts, is a perfectly reasonable and well-rounded investment solution for a lot of different investors. What stands out, though, is their Portfolio Review tool, which scans your portfolio and discerns the best way to redistribute your investments to cut down on fees. This makes Wealthfront one of the best resources to have in terms of discovering your ideal asset allocation. Not only that, Wealthfront sports affordable management fees – if you have less than $10,000, you pay none.

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TradeKing

What You Should Know:

  • No minimum balance
  • $4.95 trade commissions
  • TradeKing LIVE trading platform

If you want some of the best savings for your brokerage solutions, look no further than TradeKing. Their $4.95 commission on stocks and ETFs are some of the lowest in the industry, making it a great solution for traders looking to save money. What’s more, you don’t even have to compromise on features – their TradeKing LIVE trading platform is incredibly robust for the price. Between their low rates and incredible features, TradeKing is almost too good to be true.

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Vanguard

What You Should Know:

  • Personal brokerage advisory service
  • No dedicated trading platform
  • High minimum balance for mutual funds

While most of the brokers on this list rely chiefly on automated systems and a robust online presence, Vanguard’s major appeal is its personal advisor service which is available to traders with a sufficiently high balance. With this, your account is maintained and supervised by teams of human advisors who will offer trade advice and monitor markets for opportunities to grow your accounts even further. Between this and their innovative selection of index funds, Vanguard is a force to be reckoned with.

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Fidelity Investments

What You Should Know:

  • Excellent research tools
  • Active Trader Services
  • Mid-range, reasonable fees and commissions

Fidelity Investments is one of the biggest names in the stock trader business, so you’ve already got a nice infrastructure and decent trading platforms to work with. With their commissions at $7.95 for stocks and ETFs, Fidelity is decently affordable, though far from the cheapest solution for most traders. What’s more, Fidelity asks for a rather high account balance minimum of $2,500, which many beginners can have trouble getting together. However, there are ways to get around it, and the platforms and research tools they offer make up for it.

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Acorns

What You Should Know:

  • Mobile-only app
  • Automatically deposits change into a brokerage account
  • Low fees

With the advent of mobile apps and smartphones, apps like Acorns are starting to replace traditional brokers as modern traders’ solutions for their investment. Rounding up your credit card purchases and depositing the change in a brokerage account allows you to slowly but surely accumulate a sizable investment portfolio, giving you a passive head start on your portfolio. It is by no means a full trading solution, but a nice way for millennials to get their trading careers started.

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Merrill Edge

What You Should Know:

  • $6.95 commissions on stock and ETF trades
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Robust education and research options

Bank of America’s trading solution, Merrill Edge, allows B of A customers who already have accounts to streamline their banking and investment solutions with a solid, if unremarkable, trading platform. Merrill Edge’s $6.95 trades are affordable but far from innovative, and their Merrill Edge MarketPro software offers a lot of functionality for the price. For B of A customers, this may be your ideal solution to start investing.

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Sharebuilder (Capital One Investing)

What You Should Know:

  • Low commissions for automatic investments
  • Portfolio Builder Tools
  • No desktop trading platform

Now known as Capital One Investing, Sharebuilder innovates by providing automatic investing plans, which are perfect for casual traders who just want to select some stocks to buy and hold onto. However, this comes at the expense of having no advanced trading platform, less than idea commission fees, and no commission-free ETFs. That being said, Capital One customers would benefit greatly from streamlining their banking services with Sharebuilder.

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USAA Mutual Funds

What You Should Know:

  • Military-centric trading solution for members and families
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Low account minimums

While USAA is usually known for providing banking and insurance for military members and their families, they have brokerage solutions for those customers as well. They’ve got award-winning mutual funds, which is a bonus for qualifying members, but they lack a robust advanced trading platform. That being said, USAA mutual funds are easily customizable by their members, giving them the choice of a number of different funds that can get their retirement savings started easily.

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Just2Trade

What You Should Know:

  • No minimum balance
  • Flat commission fees
  • RetireGuide investment planning

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eOption

What You Should Know:

  • Industry-low margin rates
  • Low commissions
  • High learning curve

If you’re a trader looking for nothing more than the absolute lowest fees available, eOption is the choice for you. With $3 commissions for stocks and ETFs, eOption has the lowest prices around, but that comes at a cost: their trading platform is quite basic, with few of the features you’d find elsewhere. What’s more, they have limited research and education tools, leaving most traders out in the lurch. Try eOption out only if you’re concerned with the lowest possible commissions.

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Wellstrade

What You Should Know:

  • No commission-free ETFs
  • No account minimums
  • Personal Advisory Group for high-balance traders

Wells Fargo’s online brokerage solutions are perfect for those traders who already have Wells Fargo accounts and want to integrate their banking solutions with their investments. Otherwise, however, there are far too few advantages for those who can’t benefit from that streamlining. They’ve got slightly higher fees than most other brokers, with lackluster features that make those prices less than ideal. Only consider Wellstrade if you already bank with Wells Fargo, and you want that ease of use by sticking with the same institution.

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Which Companies Are the Best?

When it comes to selecting the right trading company for your particular needs, you have to figure out a lot of different factors. First off, what are your investment goals? Some companies work better with retirement funds than general brokerage, or work faster for you in some areas than others. What’s more, the bets online brokers provide resources for asset allocation and savings that let you track your investment goals.

Some companies, like Wellstrade and USAA mutual funds, benefit customers greatly by integrating well with their banks. Usually, it’s best to find trading solutions that make it easy to transfer money to and from your banking without much fuss, as that will make the process that much more affordable. What’s more, those traders that provide high-quality trading platforms at low cost are usually the ones to go for.

How Do These Brokers Help Your Investments?

The best online brokers can help your investment careers by providing you with resources and access to high-quality assets with which you can invest. This usually happens through access to robust trading platforms and accurate research tools that give you the knowledge to find out what assets can net you the most money if you buy/sell them at certain times.

Education tools are also important, as newer traders especially need help learning the ropes of investing; the ideal brokerage firm provides ample resources for traders of all skill levels to improve their understanding of the markets and the best way to play them.

How Much Does It Usually Cost to Use Them?

Finding the right balance between features and fees is usually the key to finding your perfect investment broker. Every trade you make will cost a little extra in commissions and fees, so try to find one that has commissions you can live with.

The average commission rate for most top online brokers is about $5-6, so anything lower than that is ideal and anything higher needs to justify itself through other features you desire, like good trading platforms.

Account minimums and initial deposits are also considerations you must recognize in picking the right online broker. This is especially true if you just want to try them out, or dip your toe in the waters of trading without committing too much. Firms with $0 initial deposits are usually the best for these kinds of traders, as they don’t ask for a fee just to step up to the plate. Again, finding the right balance between up-front costs and recurring commissions and fees is the key to locating your ideal online brokerage firm.

Be sure to check out these reviews and more from StockHax to find out which of these online trading solutions works best for you.