A full-service broker provides a range of advisory services, like portfolio management, tax planning and retirement planning — a package that only makes sense for people with very large or complicated investment portfolios. For the average investor, discount brokers are the way to go.
Nowadays, investors are much more likely to save their money and go the self-directed route. To meet that demand, there’s a host of brokers that have streamlined operations by moving online and offering their basic services at minimal cost. Discount brokers allow you to build your nest egg without having to pay excessive fees.
But finding the right discount broker for you is essential. You certainly want low commissions, but it’s also important to find a platform that features the right tools and resources you’ll need to succeed, which is sometimes important enough to be worth spending a little extra on commissions and fees.
So, here’s a look at the top discount brokers, what they charge and who they’re most likely to be right for. Find the best broker for you.
Best Discount Brokers
These brokers feature relatively low commissions, helping you keep more of your money in your investments.
|Ally Invest||$4.95 per trade||$0|
|TradeStation||$5 per trade||$500-$2,000|
|Rates accurate as of Oct. 10, 2019.|
Key Feature: Free tradingPros: No commissions or fees to trade stocks or ETFsCons: No research, tools or educational contentBest For: Self-directed investors who know what they want
Robinhood could be one of the first members of a new generation of discount brokers that offer completely free trading by giving customers a direct line to the markets just like major financial institutions. So if you know what you want to buy and why, there’s really no reason to pay a commission elsewhere.
But if you aren’t sure how you want to invest, Robinhood is not going to help you work that out — it doesn’t offer the tools and resources that many other discount brokers do. Still, with so much investing advice and educational content available for free, Robinhood gives you the option to do your own legwork and avoid paying any commissions and fees.
Key Feature: Expert advice paired with low costsPros: No account minimum, low commissions, range of advisory servicesCons: Basic tools and platformBest For: Beginners, self-directed investors interested in more advisory services
Fidelity is firmly among the cheapest options for discount brokers, but it doesn’t skimp on services that can help make it a good place to start for the novice investor. In addition to access to financial advisors and other educational services, there’s no minimum to start investing and commissions are just $0 a trade.
Low Trading Costs and No Minimum to Open: Fidelity Trading Review
Key Feature: Discounts for high-volume tradersPros: Discount to $3.95 per-trade commissions for active traders, no account minimumsCons: Limited tools and researchBest For: Active traders
Ally Invest is right in line with the rest of the industry with its $4.95 per-trade commission, but if you make 30 or more trades a quarter, that falls to $3.95 a trade. You can also get the volume discount for maintaining a balance of $100,000 or more. Read a complete review of Ally Invest’s features.
With those lower costs comes a platform that lacks a lot of the research and educational tools found on other broker sites, so unless you’re an active trader who already has a good idea of what you’re doing, this might not be the broker for you.
Key Feature: Advanced platform and tools paired with low commissionsPros: $0 commission, robust research and education toolsCons: $1,000 minimum to open accountBest For: Beginners
With Charles Schwab, though, you’ll get access to financial advisors, 24/7 phone customer service and live chat, an advanced platform with a variety of tools and research products and strong educational tools as well.
But the minimum to open an account is $1,000, making it harder for beginning investors looking to start small. You can waive that minimum, though, by committing to a monthly direct deposit of $100 or more.
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Key Feature: Advanced trading toolsPros: $5 per-trade commission, access to advanced market data and toolsCons: Additional fees for some data, $500 account minimum ($2,000 for margin trading)Best For: Experienced day traders
TradeStation is geared toward professional — or at least very experienced — traders who want access to advanced data and the tools they need to take advantage. If you want to day trade, the $5 per-trade fee is right in line with what you would expect for access to an advanced trading platform.
Although there is a $500 minimum to open an account, it’s likely that the sort of traders most interested in a platform like TradeStation won’t find that a difficult hurdle to clear.
See Where TradeStation Ranks: Best Brokers for Day Trading
Key Feature: Access to research tools and supportPros: Commission-free trading on over 300 ETFsCons: $0 per-trade commissionsBest For: Retirement investors, passive investors
TD Ameritrade’s $0 per-trade commissions is a great choice for those looking for free trading. When you consider that you can trade over 300 ETFs — the ideal low-fee vehicle for passive, retirement investors — without paying commissions, it’s possible that many investors could trade on the platform for years without ever needing to cough up commission once.
If you expect to primarily invest in ETFs, TD Ameritrade might be the perfect combination of robust research and educational tools and no-cost trading enough of the time to make it worthwhile. Just be sure to examine the list of commission-free ETFs to ensure that the funds you want are on it.
More on Investing
- It’s Time to Ditch Your Stock Broker and Invest Through a Credit Union
- Investing 101
- Best CD Rates From Vanguard, Fidelity and Other Brokerages
- E-Trade Bank Review: Great for Brokerage Customers
GOBankingRates is a personal finance and consumer interest rate website owned by ConsumerTrack, Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations. Some companies mentioned in this article might be clients of ConsumerTrack, Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings and roundups are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the companies included in the article.