10 Best Online Brokerages With Strong Trading Capabilities

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Everyone wants to invest with the best broker, but how do you decide which brokers qualify for that title? GOBankingRates identified the Best Online Brokerages to help you choose the right online broker for you.

Best Online Brokerages of 2021 Guide

Best Online Brokerages at a Glance

Here’s a table so you can quickly compare the Best Online Brokerages’ fees, minimums and promotions:

Best Online Brokerages of 2021
Brokerage Commission Account
Minimum
Promotions
E-Trade Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.99
  • $0 for brokerage account
  • $500 for Core Portfolio automated investing
  • Receive $50 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $10,000-$19,999
  • Receive $100 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $20,000-$24,999
  • Receive $200 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $25,000-$99,999
  • Receive a $300 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $100,000-$199,999
  • Receive a $600 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $200,000-$499,999
  • Receive a $1,200 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $500,000-$999,999
  • Receive a $2,500 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $1,000,000-$1,499,999
  • Receive a $3,000 cash credit with a transfer or $1,500,000 or more
TD Ameritrade TD Ameritrade Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.99 $0
  • To receive $350 bonus, account must be funded with $250,000
  • To receive $700 bonus, account must be funded with $500,000
  • To receive $1,500 bonus, account must be funded with $ million
  • To receive the $2,500 bonus, account must be funded with $2 million
Fidelity Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.95 $0
  • Up to $20 off TurboTax software
Interactive Brokers Stock: $0 for IBKR Lite account; Mutual Fund: $0-lesser of 3% of trade value or $14.95 $0
  • Free trial offer with access to all platforms, market data and trading tools
  • Try simulated sports betting game for a chance to win $100 in commission credits
charles schwab logo Charles Schwab Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.95 $0
  • Bonus awards for referred clients of $100, $300 or $500 for deposits of $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000+, respectively
Merrill Edge Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$29.95 “$0
  • No current offers
Firstrade $0 $0
  • Get one free stock for opening an account
  • Get an additional free stock for depositing or transferring $100 within 30 days of account opening
  • $25 wire transfer fee rebate when you wire funds from your bank
  • Up to $200 in transfer fee rebates when you switch from another broker
TradeStation Stock: $0; Mutual Fund: $14.95
  • $0 for TS GO accounts
  • $2,000 for TS Select accounts
  • Earn a $50 cash reward with $5,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $200 cash reward with $25,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $300 cash reward with $100,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $600 cash reward with $200,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $1,200 cash reward with $500,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $2,500 cash reward with $1 million in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $3,500 cash reward with $2.5 million in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $5,000 cash reward with $5 million in qualifying assets
Wells Fargo logo 2017 Wells Fargo Stock: $0; Penny Stock (less than $1 per share): greater of $34.95 or 3.5% of principal; Mutual Fund: $0-$35 $0
  • Waive annual fees by signing up for electronic statement delivery, having $250,000 or more in household assets, linkage to Portfolio by Wells Fargo program, having a SEP-IRA account-only household, or with Wells Fargo Private Bank accounts
SogoTrade Stock: $0 for limit orders; $2.88 for market orders; Mutual Fund: $25 $0
  • $100 automated customer account transfer fee rebate with qualified account transfer
  • 100 free trades with new account
  • 25 free trades when a referred friend or family member opens a qualifying account
  • Earn $1 for every 1,000 trades executed as a limit order

Building Wealth

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Tips To Help You Start: What First-Time Investors Need To Know

In-Depth Look at the Best Online Brokerages

Overall, most of these firms have excellent trading capabilities, service and low costs. Many also run promotions offering free trades, cash bonuses or discounted products and services. Keep reading to learn details on each.

E-Trade

E-Trade was one of the pioneers of online trading, and it scores high across all reviewed categories, making it a top online broker for 2019-2020.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: At E-Trade, you can buy or sell stocks, bonds, options, futures, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds, and you can open regular brokerage, retirement, managed or college-oriented accounts. E-Trade requires $500 to open a Core Portfolios automated investing account, but there’s no minimum for brokerage accounts and equity trades are free.

Pros:

  • Extensive account options and trading capabilities
  • User-friendly online and mobile interfaces
  • Access to financial advisors and other products beyond online trading

Cons:

  • Requires $500 to open a Core Portfolios automated investing account

Promotions:

  • Receive a $50 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $10,000-$19,999
  • Receive a $100 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $20,000-$24,999
  • Receive a $200 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $25,000-$99,999
  • Receive a $300 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $100,000-$199,999
  • Receive a $600 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $200,000-$499,999
  • Receive a $1,200 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $500,000-$999,999
  • Receive a $2,500 cash credit with a transfer or deposit of $1,000,000-$1,499,999
  • Receive a $3,000 cash credit with a transfer or $1,500,000 or more
  • Funds must remain in account for 12 months

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum:

  • $0 for brokerage accounts
  • $500 for Core Portfolio automated investing accounts

To learn more about E-Trade, visit its website.

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TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online brokers, acquired rival broker Scottrade in 2017.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Commissions for online stock trades are at $0 and there are no account minimums or trade minimums. The firm also has multiple trading platforms customers can choose from based on their level of experience with trading. TD Ameritrade is also one of the few online brokers that provides access to cryptocurrency trading.

Pros:

  • Crypto trading available
  • Multiple trading platforms for varying levels of experience
  • No account minimums
  • Extensive network of branches across America

Cons:

  • There’s a $75 fee for an outbound full account transfer

Promotions:

  • $350 bonus with $250,000 deposit
  • $700 bonus with $500,000 deposit
  • $1,500 bonus with $ million deposit
  • $2,500 bonus with $2 million deposit

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

Building Wealth

To learn more about TD Ameritrade, visit its website.

Explore: What Is a Brokerage Account?

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Fidelity

Fidelity has been a household name for its line of mutual funds, but the firm is also one of the best overall online brokers in the business.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: One of Fidelity’s newest offerings is its zero-expense-ratio index mutual funds. The firm tops the charts for individual retirement account investors, as it offers those retirement accounts with no minimums or maintenance fees. Overall, Fidelity has low fees, as it doesn’t charge anything for transferring out your account or having insufficient funds. It also recently joined the ranks of discount brokers offering $0 standard equity trades.

Pros:

  • No account fees or minimums
  • Strong individual retirement account provider
  • Zero-expense-ratio index funds
  • Limited fees
  • No cost to buy Fidelity funds and hundreds of other additional funds

Cons:

  • Fees for add-on services, like account management, can get high

Promotions:

  • Up to $20 off TurboTax software

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Fidelity, visit its website.

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Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers has always been known for its advanced trading platform for experienced traders, but you don’t have to be an expert to use it.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Interactive Brokers’ commissions are as low as $0 with the IBKR Lite account. Interactive Brokers also offers an advanced IBKR Pro account and advanced charting and planning options.

Pros:

  • Advanced trading platform well-suited for experienced traders
  • Very low/no commission costs
  • Excellent research tools

Cons:

  • Inactivity fee for IBKR Pro customers

Promotions:

  • Free trial offer with access to all platforms, market data and trading tools
  • Try simulated sports betting game for a chance to win $100 in commission credits

Costs and Fees: $0 for IBKR Lite customers

Account minimum: $0

To learn more about Interactive Brokers, visit its website.

See: What Is a Money Market Mutual Fund?

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Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab offers many client-forward services, including self-directed online trading, an automated investing platform and access to financial advisors.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Charles Schwab tops the field if you’re looking for an IRA, as the firm has no minimums or maintenance fees. For all accounts, customers enjoy a $0 minimum balance requirement and a $0 trade commission. Customers also have access to no-load, no-transaction mutual funds.

Pros:

  • Top Roth IRA provider
  • Commission-free trading
  • Well-regarded automated investing platform

Cons:

  • Steep $5,000 minimum for automated investing with Schwab Intelligent Portfolios

Promotions:

  • Bonus awards for referred clients of $100, $300 or $500 for deposits of $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000+, respectively

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Charles Schwab, visit its website.

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Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge is the online brokerage side of venerable Merrill Lynch, now a Bank of America company.

Pros:

  • Backing of two of America’s most prestigious financial firms — Merrill Lynch and Bank of America
  • Top-rated robo-advisor

Cons:

  • No cryptocurrency or other advanced investment options, such as forex

Promotions:

  • No current offers

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Merrill Edge, visit its website.

Learn More: What Is a Brokerage Firm?

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Firstrade

Firstrade isn’t as large as some of the other firms on the list, but its top-notch features and benefits make it a solid contender for the Best Online Brokerages list.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: There are no account minimums at Firstrade, along with no commission on most trades. Featuring both a user-friendly website and a mobile app, Firstrade lets customers buy and sell stocks, options, fixed-income securities, ETFs and over 11,000 mutual funds for no charge. The firm also provides research from noted industry experts like Morningstar.

Pros:

  • Commission-free trading
  • Access to high-grade research
  • Slick mobile app interface

Cons:

  • No professional management or robo-advisor options

Promotions:

  • Get one free stock for opening an account
  • Get an additional free stock for depositing or transferring $100 within 30 days of account opening
  • $25 wire transfer fee rebate when you wire funds from your bank
  • Up to $200 in transfer fee rebates when you switch from another broker

Costs and Fees: None

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Firstrade, visit its website.

Also See: How To Buy Stocks Online

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TradeStation

TradeStation was originally designed for professional traders, but its platform is now open for novice investors as well.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: You’ll need $2,000 minimum to open a TS Select account, but there’s no minimum for TS GO accounts, and with either, trades are free. TradeStation’s trading tools and market research sweeten the deal. The online broker also provides many educational services with its TradeStation University. Whether you’re a rookie or advanced investor, the company provides content that can help you master your investing skills.

Pros:

  • Advanced mobile and online trading tools for active investors
  • Free trading
  • Free market research and insights

Cons:

  • No commission-free mutual fund trading

Promotions:

  • Earn a $50 cash reward with $5,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $200 cash reward with $25,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $300 cash reward with $100,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $600 cash reward with $200,000 in qualifying assets
  • Earn a $1,200 cash reward with $500,000 in qualifying assets

Costs and Fees: $0

Account Minimum:

  • $0 minimum for TS GO accounts
  • $2,000 minimum for TS Select accounts

To learn more about TradeStation, visit its website.

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Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is a well-known traditional bank, but it also offers online brokerage services at an outstanding caliber.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: There are no minimums at Wells Fargo’s online brokerage division. One of Wells Fargo’s main strengths is its comprehensive roster of products and services, befitting for one of the largest banks in the country. Educational tools include market commentary and insights, along with mutual fund screeners and other investor resources.

Pros:

  • Extensive research and financial information
  • No account minimums
  • Access to Wells Fargo financial advisors for additional assistance

Cons:

  • Trading penny stocks isn’t free

Promotions:

  • Waive annual fees by signing up for electronic statement delivery, having $250,000 or more in household assets, linkage to Portfolio by Wells Fargo program, having a SEP-IRA account-only household, or with Wells Fargo Private Bank accounts

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Wells Fargo, visit its website.

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SogoTrade

SogoTrade is one of the cheaper options on the Best Online Brokerages list.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Commissions start at just $0 per trade, although you’ll have to enter limit orders only to get that rate. SogoTrade also has no account minimums, and its various trading platforms can be customized based on your own personal trading skills and needs.

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive to trade
  • Free trading sign-up bonus
  • Advanced web and mobile platforms
  • Get paid to trade limit orders

Cons:

  • Can be more complicated for newer traders
  • Commission-free trading for limit orders only

Promotions:

  • $100 automated customer account transfer fee rebate with qualified account transfer
  • 100 free trades with new account
  • 25 free trades when a referred friend or family member opens a qualifying account
  • Earn $1 for every 1,000 trades executed as a limit order

Costs and Fees: From $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about SogoTrade, visit its website.

Also Consider: How To Invest In Stocks — A Beginner’s Guide

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How We Picked the Best Online Brokerages

GOBankingRates determined the Best Online Brokerages by analyzing 23 of the largest and up-and-coming online brokers, using the following criteria:

  • Cost to trade equities, such as stocks and ETFs
  • Cost to trade options
  • Number of account types available including basic brokerage account, retirement account, managed or guided account and college education investing account
  • Number of different investment vehicles available, including stocks, futures, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds and, if available, cryptocurrency, which was counted as an additional point rather than as a point against brokers
  • Opening minimum investment requirement
  • Available promotional offers
  • Access to a financial advisor
  • 24/7 phone customer service
  • Live chat with a human representative
  • Mobile app availability
  • Educational resources, such as webinars, blogs and courses that teach investing and trading
  • Research and tools, such as multiple trading platforms, in-depth market analysis, and screener tools for stocks, ETFs and bonds

Each broker was scored based on these individual categories, which were then summed up for a final score. Available promotional offers, 24/7 phone customer service, live chat and mobile availability were weighted by a quarter while all other categories were weighted in full.

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Tips for Choosing the Best Online Brokerage

Now that you have a list of the 10 Best Online Brokerages, you’re armed with information to choose the right one for you. The final step is to match your investment needs and experience with the services and capabilities of each individual broker. For example, frequent traders might gravitate toward a broker with extensive research capabilities, advanced trading programs and low or no commissions. But a novice investor might need an online broker that provides access to financial advisors and educational tools, excellent customer service and professional management capabilities.

Never assume that any broker — even one on the top 10 list — has all the features you’ll need. For example, some firms might allow cryptocurrency trades, whereas many do not. A firm might offer free IRAs, charge for those accounts or not even offer them. Do a thorough review of both the costs of using a particular broker and the benefits before making your choice.

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Online Broker FAQs

Learn more about online brokers so you can make the right choice for your needs.

What Is an Online Broker?

An online broker provides its services through either a web-based or mobile interface.

Related: What Is a Broker?

How Much Money Do You Need To Invest With an Online Broker?

Account minimums can vary from $0 to $10,000 or more.

Are Online Brokers Safe?

Legitimate online brokers are as safe as traditional firms, but confirm that yours is registered with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation before you deposit any money. All the brokers on this list are SIPC-registered.

Do Online Brokers Have Hidden Fees Due to Low Commissions?

Most online brokerages are low-cost, but some charge higher fees for additional services. For example, many firms charge fees for transferring out or closing an account — or for other banking services, such as sending wire transfers.

What Is a Robo-Advisor?

A robo-advisor is an automated portfolio management program that allocates your funds according to your chosen investment objectives and risk tolerance. Funds are typically spread across a number of broad segments of the market using ETFs and are rebalanced regularly.

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More From GOBankingRates

Andrew DePietro contributed to the reporting for this article.

Last updated: May 24, 2021

About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.

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