10 Best Online Brokerages With Strong Trading Capabilities

Take your pick of the best online brokerage from this list.
10 Best Online Brokerages With Strong Trading Capabilities

Everyone wants to invest with the best broker, but how do you decide which brokers qualify for that title? In its Best Brokers of 2019-2020 rankings, GOBankingRates identified the Best Online Brokerages to help you choose the right online broker for you.

Best Online Brokerages of 2019-2020 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 2019-2020
BrokerageCommissionAccount
Minimum
Promotions
E-TradeStock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.99$500
  • $200-$600 cash credit for depositing $25,000-$499,999
TD AmeritradeTD AmeritradeStock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.99$0
  • To receive $100 bonus, account must be funded with $25,000-$99,999
  • To receive $300 bonus, account must be funded with $100,000-$249,999
  • To receive $600 bonus, account must be funded with $250,000 or more
FidelityStock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.95$0
  • Up to $30 off TaxAct or up to $20 off H&R Block or TurboTax software
Interactive BrokersStock: $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 $1,000 in commission credits
charles schwab logoCharles SchwabStock: $0; Mutual Fund: $0-$49.95$0
  • None currently
Merrill EdgeStock: $2.95; Mutual Fund: $0-$29.95$0
  • Up to $600 when you invest in a new Merrill Edge self-directed account
  • Free trades with a qualifying minimum combined balance through the Preferred Rewards program
  • Up to $15 off federal versions of TurboTax products
Firstrade$0$0
  • Up to $200 in transfer fee rebates when you switch to Firstrade from another broker
  • $25 wire transfer fee rebate when you wire funds from your bank
  • One free stock for each friend you refer to Firstrade
TradeStationStock: $5; Mutual Fund: $14.95$500
  • Earn cash rewards by transferring at least $25,000 into your TradeStation account
  • Free and discounted Online Trading Academy scholarships for active and retired military
  • Earn interest on your account balance with a qualifying account minimum
  • Earn interest on long stock positions via TradeStation’s Fully Paid Stock Program
Wells Fargo logo 2017Wells FargoStock: $5.95; Mutual Fund: $0-$35$0
  • Discounted rate of $2.95 per online trade when you link your Wells Fargo Advisors WellsTrade brokerage account to your Portfolio by Wells Fargo program
SogoTradeStock: $2.88-$4.88; Mutual Fund: $25$0
  • $100 automated customer account transfer fee rebate with qualified account transfer
  • 100 free trades with new account

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Tips To Help You Start: How To Find a Broker and Start Investing

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 an account but charges $0 per equity trade.

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 an account

Promotions:

  • $200-$600 cash credit for depositing $25,000-$499,999

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: $500

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

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TD Ameritrade: Best for Diversity

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

TD AmeritradeWhy It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Commissions for online stock trades are at $0 and there are no account minimums or trade minimums. One of the key advantages the firm provides is access to more than 550 exchange-traded funds on a commission-free trading basis. 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:

  • Commission-free ETFs
  • 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:

  • $100 bonus when you fund your account with $25,000-$99,999
  • $300 bonus when you fund your account with $100,000-$249,999
  • $600 bonus when you fund your account with $250,000-$999,999

Costs and Fees: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: None

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:

  • $20-$30 off various tax preparation programs, such as TurboTax and TaxAct

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 isn’t just a stock trading platform, either — it also has its own roster of commission-free ETFs from varying fund families.

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:

  • Try simulated sports betting for a chance to win up to $1,000 in commission credits
  • Free trial offer with access to all platforms, market data and trading tools

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.

charles schwab logoWhy It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Charles Schwab tops the field if you’re looking for a Roth IRA. The firm has no minimums, no maintenance fees and offers six investment options. 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 and over 500 commission-free ETFs.

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: None currently

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.

Why It’s a Best Online Brokerage: Although its fees aren’t the cheapest of the online brokers, there is no account minimum. The firm’s Merrill Edge account offers a top-rated robo-advisor platform, which charges low fees and has excellent customer service. All clients using Merrill Edge have access to extensive financial education programs, both online and via a financial advisor if desired.

Pros:

  • Backing of two of America’s most prestigious financial firms — Merrill Lynch and Bank of America
  • Top-rated robo-advisor
  • Cash sign-up bonus
  • Up to 100 commission-free trades per month with Preferred Rewards

Cons:

  • No commission-free ETFs

Promotions:

  • Up to a $600 bonus for new Merrill Edge customers; $20,000 deposit qualifies for a $100 bonus
  • Get free trades with a qualifying minimum combined balance through the Preferred Rewards program
  • Save up to $15 on federal versions of TurboTax products

Costs and Fees: $2.95 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: Best for Overall Low Fees

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. Plus, unlike some of the larger, better-known brokers, there are no stock commissions, either. 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: Earn a bonus of up to $200 for an account transfer 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 $500 minimum to open an account, and trades cost $5 each to execute. However, you might find that TradeStation’s trading tools and market research are well worth the cost. 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 promo
  • Free market research and insights

Cons:

  • No commission-free mutual fund or ETF trading

Promotions:

  • Earn cash rewards by transferring at least $25,000 into your TradeStation account
  • Free and discounted Online Trading Academy scholarships for active and retired military
  • Earn interest on your account balance with a qualifying account minimum
  • Earn interest on long stock positions via TradeStation’s Fully Paid Stock Program

Costs and Fees: $5 per trade

Account Minimum: $500

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.

wells fargo logoWhy It’s a Best Online Brokerage: There are no minimums at Wells Fargo’s online brokerage division, although individual stock commissions are $5.95. 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:

  • Can be expensive for frequent traders

Promotions: $2.95 per online trade when Wells Fargo Advisors WellsTrade brokerage account is linked to your Portfolio by Wells Fargo program

Costs and Fees: $5.95 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 $2.88 per trade, although you’ll have to deposit or transfer in $10,000 and make at least 150 trades per quarter to qualify for 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

Cons:

  • Can be more complicated for newer traders
  • No commission-free ETFs

Promotions:

  • $100 automated customer account transfer fee rebate with qualified account transfer
  • 100 free trades with new account

Costs and Fees: From $2.88 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 Best Brokers of 2019-2020

John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry for 18 years as a registered investment adviser and certified financial planner, first for a major Wall Street firm and then as the owner-operator of a boutique investment firm. He now serves as an investment writer for various major publications.

Andrew DePietro contributed to the reporting for this article. He is the lead researcher for GOBankingRates and a finance writer with years of experience covering investing, taxation, Social Security, entrepreneurship, real estate and housing markets.

Methodology: To determine the Best Brokers of 2019-2020, GOBankingRates analyzed 47 active U.S. brokerages and investment companies across eight categories: (1) Best Online Brokerages, (2) Best Online Stockbrokers for Beginners, (3) Best Robo-Advisors, (4) Best Investment Apps, (5) Best IRA Providers, (6) Best Roth IRA Providers, (7) Best Brokers for Day Traders, (8) Best 401(k) Companies.

Data for Best Brokers was compiled from and verified against the individual institutions’ websites between July 1, 2019, and Aug. 2, 2019. That data has been updated in this article as of Nov. 1, 2019, but the rankings are based on the original data. Costs, terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of the individual financial institutions. Some information might reflect short-term or promotional offers only, and it is possible additional terms and conditions must be met in order to obtain any benefits mentioned. Availability might vary by region, minimum investment amounts and other factors. Please verify terms and conditions before opening an account. 

GOBankingRates is a personal finance website owned by ConsumerTrack Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions and other financial services organizations. Some brokerages mentioned in Best Brokers are clients of ConsumerTrack Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. For more information, see the complete methodology for the rankings

About the Author

John Csiszar is a freelance writer and article curator. He served as a registered investment advisor for 18 years before becoming a writing and editing contractor for private clients. In addition to writing thousands of articles for various online publications, he has published two educational books for young adults.