When you want to invest your money in a brokerage or retirement account, you’ll have your choice of brokers to choose from — but not all brokers are equal. Before deciding which broker to trust with your money, it’s important to look at several factors, including the number of investment options they provide and the customer service available.
1. A Number of Investment Options
Diversification is a strong investment strategy, so you’ll want to spread your investments out across different types of investments. Investment options include:
- Mutual funds
Futures are not available through every single broker. If you know futures will be a part of your investment strategy, look for a broker that meets your needs. Otherwise, a general mix of common investment options will suit most investors.
2. Low Cost To Trade
Whether you plan on being an active trader or a more passive one, it’s important to keep the cost to trade the different types of investment products in mind, because these seemingly small fees can really add up. With the exception of no-fee mutual funds, expect to pay trading fees on the following investment trades:
- Futures contracts
- Mutual funds
Among the brokers surveyed by GOBankingRates, the cost to trade ranged from $1 for a bond to $76 for a mutual fund. Compare trading costs for the type of investment vehicle you plan to invest in the most across brokers to find out which will be the most cost-effective for your needs. The best brokers will have low costs.
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3. Many Account Types Offered
Some brokers can be your one-stop shop for all your investment accounts, while others might not provide all the account types you will want to invest in. Keep this in mind when choosing your broker. The account types you might want include:
- Traditional IRA
- Roth IRA
- 529 plan for college savings
4. Low Opening Investment Requirement
Many — but not all — brokers will require a minimum investment to open an account. Depending on your financial situation or your investing goals, you might not want to commit thousands of dollars to begin investing. Ally Invest, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade all have no minimum requirement to open an account, so these could be the best option for new investors or those without enough disposable income to open accounts with a high minimum. Note that some brokers won’t require a minimum amount to open an account, however, some investments might. Do your research before you commit to any one broker.
5. Accessible Customer Service
Investing can be a complicated process, depending on how advanced you want to get. And when you need assistance, you want to make sure you’ll be able to get it easily. Look for a broker that gives you access to financial advisors, 24/7 customer service and live chat service, so that you can get answers as soon as you need them. If you’re someone who likes to be able to check your accounts and make trades on the go, opt for a broker that has a mobile app.
6. Advanced Research and Educational Tools
No matter if you’re a beginner or an advanced investor, it’s important to have access to tools that will help you learn the basics of investing as well as keep you up to date with the latest news and trends. Some brokers provide no or limited research and educational tools, which can be a detriment to your investing abilities and knowledge. Others provide basic tools, like mutual fund screeners, while the best brokers provide advanced tools, which can include multiple platforms and entire suites of technology that allow you to make knowledgeable investment decisions.
7. Promotional or Introductory Offers
Although the best promotional offer doesn’t always equate to the best broker, it definitely can be an added bonus for a broker that already checks off all of your other boxes. Promotions can range from cash bonuses to free trades. There are certain requirements you’ll have to meet to get these promotions so be sure to read the small print before committing to any broker.
Depending on the type of investment account you wish to open, there are other factors you should take into consideration.
- Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs: When looking for the best Roth IRA or the best traditional IRA, you will want to take into consideration service fees, commission fees, monthly maintenance fees, early withdrawal fees and closeout fees.
- 401(k) companies: If you’re choosing a 401(k) company for your small business — or just want to see where your current 401(k) provider stands — examine participant fees, withdrawal fees and asset-based fees that you and/or your employees might have to pay depending on the broker. The best 401(k) companies will have low or no fees and plenty of investment options.
- Robo-advisors: Depending on the broker, you might or might not have to pay a service fee. Some of the best robo-advisors do not charge a service fee.
- Online stock brokers for beginners: The best online stock broker for beginners will provide easy access to financial advisors to help you make wise investment decisions and learn more about the best investing strategies.
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