10 best brokerage firms: top 6 to 10 ranked discount online stock trading websites

Fidelity Pricing

  • Stocks/ETFs: $4.95 per trade
  • Options: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract
  • Mutual Funds: $49.95 or $75 per buy transaction for no-load mutual funds; sell transactions are free if fund held over 60 days ($49.95 otherwise)

Fidelity Advantages

Of all brokerage firms, Fidelity is one of the best values. Offering stock and ETF trades for just $4.95 and options for just 65¢ per contract, investors not only get low commissions, but also 24/7 customer service. Clients who prefer in-person service won't be disappointed with the firm, either. Fidelity has more than 180 branch locations across the United States. These offer seminars that cover a wide range of topics, including global investing, annuities, and charitable giving. New investors will benefit from the broker's website, which has a wealth of financial education. These resources include videos, articles, self-guided courses, webinars, and infographics. They cover many important topics, ranging from ETF valuation to retirement accounts.

Mutual fund investors will find much to be pleased with at Fidelity. There are over 11,500 mutual funds available for purchase. Roughly 1,800 of these come with no load and no transaction fee. The broker's screener is able to narrow these choices down based on a variety of criteria. These include Morningstar rating, fund family, expense ratio, and return history. A screener's results can also be sorted based on any of the search criteria. For investors who prefer exchanged-traded funds, Fidelity maintains a selection that are free to trade. The broker's clients can buy and sell 84 ETF's without paying a dime in commissions.

Investors who would like some assistance in deciding what to invest in will be in good hands with Fidelity. Professional investment advice and portfolio management are available. Clients who need assistance with education savings or retirement planning also have good resources here. Several education accounts are available, including UGMA/UTMA accounts and the 529 plan. Retirement savers can open a wide variety of Individual Retirement Accounts. The firm also offers services for 401(k) plans. Life insurance and long-term care planning resources are also on the Fidelity website. Throw in an excellent cash management account, and this broker is a great all-around financial services company.

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Current Fidelity Promotion Offer

200 free trades for new and existing customers.

Charles Schwab Pricing

  • Stocks/ETFs: $4.95 per trade
  • Options: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract
  • Mutual funds: $76 to buy, $0 to sell for no-load mutual funds
  • CDs, Corporate Bonds, Municipal Bonds, Government Agencies, Zero-Coupon Treasuries, including STRIPS and Mortgage-Backed Securities: $1 per bond, $10 minimum, $250 maximum

Charles Schwab Advantages

One broker who offers a very large list of commission-free ETF's is Schwab. Investors can buy and sell over 200 exchange-traded funds without paying a commission. Many of these products have expense ratios below 0.50%. Schwab also offers a good selection of mutual funds. The broker's clients can choose from 5,100 mutual funds. Of these, over 3,100 come with no load and no transaction fee. The broker's selection of mutual and exchange-traded funds that are free to trade is one of the largest in the industry. Despite its emphasis on fund trading, the broker is also a good choice for equity traders. Stocks are $4.95 per transaction, and options are an additional 65¢ per contract.

Besides trading securities, customers can also do a lot of research and learning on the Schwab website. The broker offers many good educational resources, including articles, videos, and live webinars. There is also futures information from Schwab's subsidiary, optionsXpress, which provides trading in futures contracts. The Schwab website has a helpful community forum where clients can discuss trading issues and economic news. A Schwab representative is available to answer any account-related questions. Learning the broker's advanced desktop platform, StreetSmart Edge, is a breeze with the firm's educational videos and webinars. The trading system only requires a $1,000 account balance to use and is more user-friendly than TD Ameritrade's advanced system. Besides a desktop platform, the broker also offers a useful mobile app, a simple web-based platform, and an app for Apple Watch.

Schwab also has good customer service options. A representative is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The broker provides service over the phone and through an on-line chat system. Some representatives are able to speak Mandarin and Cantonese. For customers who need in-person service, there are over 325 Schwab branch locations throughout the United States. Customers can also open a retirement account or an FDIC-insured bank account with the broker, making Schwab a convenient one-stop financial solution.

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Current Charles Schwab Promotion Offer

Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.

OptionsHouse Pricing

  • Stocks/ETFs: $4.95 per trade
  • Options: $4.95 + $0.50 per contract
  • No-load mutual funds: $20 per transaction for no-load mutual funds
  • Futures: $1.50 per contract
  • Call customer support to buy U.S. treasury bonds and listed corporate bonds

OptionsHouse Advantages

OptionsHouse is now owned by Etrade and the brand will be discontinued soon. For this reason it makes sense to learn about Etrade (review) directly.

Frequent traders who are looking for good quality service with low commissions should consider opening an account at OptionsHouse. The brokerage firm has one of the lowest stock and ETF commissions in the industry at just $4.95. Derivative contracts are just 50¢ extra, another very low charge. Despite the low fees, the broker still has good options research and an advanced platform to trade the securities on. Chains and a strategy tester are good tools to help option traders find profit potential. The broker's desktop trading system is free for all clients. Besides option contracts, users can also trade stocks, ETF's, and mutual funds. Bonds are traded over the phone with a representative.

Investors who are new to the world of securities or haven't used the OptionsHouse platform before can try out the software without risking a dime of real money. The discount brokerage firm has incorporated paper trading into the platform, which allows users to trade $100,000 of fake money. All the great features of the platform are available on the practice system. This includes an economic calendar, a watch list, market news, and charting. The brokerage firm's mobile app also has paper trading. The app can be used on Android and Apple devices at no cost. Quotes, option chains, account information, and of course order entry are all available on the mobile platform. As with the desktop system, the mobile app is free of charge.

One of the nice benefits of OptionsHouse is that it offers futures trading. Most securities brokers do not. Investors can buy and sell futures contracts for just $2 per contract. Exchange fees are extra, which is the norm in the industry. The broker currently also has a special of just $1.50 per contract, which lasts until the end of September. Despite these low fees, OptionsHouse has good customer service, which includes an on-line chat system. And accounts come with no fees. The stock brokerage firm charges nothing for low balances or inactivity. This policy applies to regular securities accounts and retirement accounts.

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Current Etrade/OptionsHouse Promotion Offer


OptionsXpress Pricing

  • Stocks and ETFs: $4.95
  • Options: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract
  • Mutual funds: $9.95
  • Bonds: $5 per bond, $9.95 minimum
  • Spreads, Straddles & Combos: $14.95 for up to 10 contracts, $1.50 per contract for over 10 contracts

OptionsXpress Advantages

New investors who would like to practice trading before committing real money should check out optionsXpress's Virtual Trade. This is a paper trading platform that allows users to experiment with a wide variety of orders, such as trailing stop, one triggers other, and stop on quote. Equities can be sold short on the platform, and futures and options can also be traded. It's a great opportunity to try out different products and trading strategies. Even better, it's free all the broker's customers. The system starts with $25,000 of virtual currency, and the account balance details change as orders are completed. This allows the user to see the impact that certain trades have on brokerage account balances.

The broker's charting software is very sophisticated. It appears within the web browser. A chart can be detached and blown up full screen to show greater detail. There are many technical studies available, including linear regression trendline, acceleration bands, and time series forecast. Drawing tools are part of the chart's capabilities. These include channels, resistance lines, and pitchforks. A graph's duration can be shown anywhere from 1 day to 10 years. The time interval can be as fast as tick-by-tick. The software is fully customizable. A chart can be printed or saved. The price history of another security can be overlaid for comparison.

The optionsXpress website has some great search tools for options. For example, Idea Hub searches thousands of available options based on bullish or bearish sentiment and generates a probability graph. A trade button automatically fills an appropriate trade ticket. The Dragon tool scans through stocks and ETF's and returns results based on volume, volatility, or similar criteria. Futures research and educational resources are also available on the OX website. Useful educational videos help traders learn how to use all of these tools. Investors who would like to try out the broker's great features can get 50 free trade simply by opening a new account and depositing $5,000.

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Interactive Brokers Pricing

  • Stocks and ETF's: $0.005 per share ($1 minimum)
  • Options: $0.70 per contract
  • Bonds: $1.00 per $1,000 face value
  • Mutual Funds: $14.95 per transaction

Interactive Brokers Advantages

Interactive Brokers’ commission fees are incredibly low as long as one meets the minimum trading volume for each tier of their rate structure. For equity trades, rates start at .5 cents (USD) per share with a $1 minimum trade commission. If one trades over 300,000 shares in one month, that rate drops to only .2 cents per share and so forth for even larger volumes. Options fees are also based on a tiered structure, dropping down as the amount of trades increase. Those start at 70 cents per contract, and unlike equity trades, there are no minimums involved.

One thing to watch out for is that Interactive Brokers will slap on a $10 inactivity fee if one doesn’t rack up $10+ in trading commissions per month. For an advanced trader, this is expected and shouldn’t be a problem. However, this should be enough to let beginners know to look elsewhere.

Interactive Brokers has an incredible range of products all in one place so one won’t have to worry about logging in and out of multiple brokerage accounts to find what you need. It’s all here on Interactive Brokers for one’s convenience and peace of mind. Investors will find a thorough set of stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, futures, mutual funds. They offer a variety of precious metals in invest in, and one can even trade Forex directly through Interactive Broker’s trading platform. Perhaps most impressive of all is the wide variety of foreign stocks, futures, and bonds that you have access to as an investor.

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This article was updated on 6/21/2017

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