Finance

The 10 best online brokerages for January 2023

The 10 best online brokerages for January 2023

Whether you’re a seasoned investor or just hoping to get your feet wet, there are many online brokerages that can cater to your needs and help you buy, trade, and sell various asset types. 

The Fortune RecommendsTM editorial team reviewed more than 20 different online brokerages and came up with a list of our top 10 picks. To develop our ranking, we considered factors such as the minimum amount required to open an account, stock trading fees, educational resources, margin trading accounts, and customer service options.

  1. Interactive Brokers
  2. TradeStation
  3. TD Ameritrade
  4. Fidelity
  5. Charles Schwab 
  6. E*Trade
  7. Tastyworks
  8. Merrill Edge
  9. Firstrade
  10. Vanguard

The 10 best online brokerages 

Here is our list of the best online brokerages, according to Fortune Recommends editors. Note: Minimum deposit requirements, fees, and other numbers in our list are up to date as of Jan. 20, 2023, and are subject to change.

1. Interactive Brokers

About: Headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, Interactive Brokers has a 46-year history and offers customers a wide range of assets to invest in, including stocks, options, futures, mutual funds, fixed income, and more. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer support:

Customer service representatives are available to assist account holders 24/7 via phone, chat, email, or mail. 

Our verdict:

This brokerage is good for traders who want a wide range of assets to choose from. Interactive Brokers scored the top spot on our list for offering the most expansive list of products compared to other online brokerages we ranked and of course for its zero-dollar account minimum and stock trading fee. It also offers margin trading and several educational resources in the form of webinars, podcasts, learning labs, and more to help investors learn about trading and the financial markets. 

2. TradeStation

About: TradeStation first launched as a software product that gave customers trading alerts when their strategies’ conditions were met. It later transformed to an online securities brokerage in 2001. TradeStation offers a full suite of trading technology, online brokerage services, and trading education. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Representatives are available via telephone, email, and live chat, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET.

Our verdict:

We think this brokerage is good for traders who want to trade on margin at a low rate. Tradestation also took a top spot on our list thanks to its stellar customer service support in addition to its $0 account minimums and stock trading fees. Investors can choose from a wide range of assets, including stocks, ETFs, options, futures, futures options, cryptocurrency, mutual funds, and bonds. TradeStation also offers margin trading accounts with interest rates as low as 3.5% to give investors increased buying power by leveraging their account assets. 

3. TD Ameritrade 

About: TD Ameritrade first launched as Ameritrade in 1971 and later became TD Ameritrade in 2006 after being purchased by TD Waterhouse USA from TD Bank Financial Group. It offers self-directed brokerage accounts, professionally managed investment accounts, retirement accounts, education savings accounts, and more. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

TD offers 24/7 phone support and chat support via Facebook Messenger and Twitter Direct Message. 

Our verdict:

This pick is good for traders who need all of the customer support at all times. TD Ameritrade took third spot on our list for their list of product offerings which includes stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, forex, bonds, and CDs. TD Ameritrade also offers margin trading and educational demos, videos, quizzes, and more to help investors know what’s what in the trading world. 

4. Fidelity

About: First founded in 1946 and headquartered in Boston, Fidelity serves its customers through 12 regional sites across the globe and more than 200 Investor Centers. It prides itself on its low fees, quality customer service, and tools to help customers manage their everyday finances. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Representatives are available to answer any questions regarding your brokerage account via telephone 24/7, live chat  Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. ET, as well as Saturday and Sunday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET. 

Our verdict:

This brokerage is good for traders who may want to take a hands-off approach to investing. Fidelity made our list thanks to its affordable accounts and educational trading tools. Not to mention the various ways customers can get in touch with a service representative. This online brokerage’s offerings include stocks, mutual funds, crypto, fixed income assets, bonds, CDs, ETFs, and options. What’s more—it also made our list of top robo-advisors. 

5. Charles Schwab 

About: Schwab opened its first branch in Sacramento, California, in 1975 and first launched its online trading platform at the start of the internet boom in the late 1990s and now executes an average of over 5 million trades per day. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Schwab offers 24/7 phone and online chat support as well as in-person support at one of its more than 300 branches across the US. 

Why we chose it:

This brokerage is good for traders who don’t have a lot of money to invest. With $0 account minimums, maintenance fees, and stock trading fees, Schwab makes it affordable for everyday investors to trade stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and other financial products. Plus, Schwab customers have access to trading education for investors at every level to help them develop and apply a trading strategy. Schwab also offers margin lending that allows you to borrow against the securities you already hold in your brokerage account. 

6. E*Trade  

About: E*Trade first began in the 1980s and is now part of Morgan Stanley which is best known for its wealth management, investment advisory services, research, and market insights.

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Representatives are available via telephone, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. 

Our verdict:

This brokerage is good for traders who want a nice bonus when they open their brokerage account. E*Trade made our list for its $0 fees and account minimums, as well as their product offerings, which currently include stocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds, crypto, bonds, and CDs. Similar to other brokerages on our list, E*Trade does offer margin trading, as well as educational resources to help customers become more savvy investors. Plus, their brokerage account comes with a lucrative bonus—for a limited time you can get up to $600 or more when you open and fund a new account. 

7. Tastyworks 

About: Tastyworks is a newer brokerage compared to the other brokerages on our list. Based in Chicago, Illinois, it first launched in 2017 offering low-cost options for active day traders. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

For assistance, customers can reach a Tastyworks representative via telephone, Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. CST to 5:00 p.m. CST. The website also offers an automated chat support feature. 

Our verdict: 

We think this pick is good for traders looking to cut costs. Tastyworks is highly-regarded for its $0 account minimum and low commissions. This brokerage caps your commissions at $10 per leg on equity option trades and $10 per opening and closing cryptocurrency trades. There are no commission fees for stocks and ETFs. Tastyworks also offers competitive margin rates and in-app trading insights to help investors make more informed choices with their funds. Plus, new account holders can get up to $2,000 when they open and fund a new account. 

8. Merrill Edge  

About: Merrill Edge first launched in 2010 and is part of Bank of America’s retail banking division. It offers customers access, trading, brokerage, and banking services. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Customers are able to get phone and live chat support 24/7, as well as in-person support at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations. 

Our verdict:

Merrill Edge made our list thanks to its wide range of product offerings which include stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, options, and more. For traders on the hunt for a worthwhile sign-up bonus, Merrill Edge offers users up to $600 when they invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self‑Directed account. Merrill Edge also offers educational videos, webinars, articles, calculators, and courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced investors. Plus, those with at least $2,000 in their account are eligible to apply for margin loans. 

9. Firstrade  

About: Firstrade was founded in 1985 and offers online and mobile trading of stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, fixed income products and more. 

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

For assistance, customers can reach a Firstrade representative via email, fax, and telephone, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. 

Our verdict:

We think this platform is good for traders who value a high-tech platform. Firstrade stood out compared to the rest of the online brokerages on our list for its digital platforms, educational resources, and of course lack of fees for stock trades. Their desktop platform lets users build an account dashboard that lets them quickly view  market activity, a snapshot of their account, information about current market movers, indices and news. And, for a limited time, traders can get up to $4,000 in cash when they open and fund a Firstrade Brokerage account. 

10. Vanguard 

About: Vanguard has been serving investors since 1929 and has since introduced the first index mutual fund, adopted a commission-free distribution system, and more. The brokerage is headquartered in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, with regional offices in Charlotte, North Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Account minimum: $0

Trading fee: $0

Customer service:

Phone support is available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET as well as email support. 

Why we chose it:

We think this brokerage is good for short- and long-term investors. Vanguard made our list for its $0 stock trading fee, although it’s important to note that higher fees apply for trading other types of assets, which include mutual funds, ETFs, CDs, bonds, and money market accounts. This brokerage also offers margin accounts for users who maintain a certain amount of equity—the current value of your assets less the amount of the margin loan—in your account at all times. The brokerage also offers personal and digital advisor services, as well as educational tools and insights. 

What to know about online brokerages 

If you’re considering opening a brokerage account at an online brokerage, we’ll walk you through what you should know beforehand. 

What is an online brokerage? 

An online brokerage is an online trading platform that offers brokerage accounts where investors can deposit money and use those funds to buy and sell various types of assets. Online brokerages all have different requirements for opening accounts, fee structures, and educational resources available to customers, which can make choosing the right account a challenge. 

Brokerages can offer access to a number of different investments, including: 

  • Stocks 
  • Bonds 
  • Mutual funds
  • ETFs 
  • Commodities 
  • Options 
  • Cryptocurrency 

How do you choose an online brokerage?

When comparing your options, you’ll want to pay close attention to a few key points if you hope to narrow down your list of potential brokerages. 

  • Consider fee structures and account minimums: Many accounts will have a minimum amount required to open an account. For newbie investors, free accounts may be more appealing. Additionally, brokerages charge different fees for trading actions that will vary across asset classes. Take a look at the commission fees for the assets you plan to trade to determine if a brokerage is a good fit for you and your investment needs. 
  • Poke around mobile and online platforms. If you plan to do most of your trading via mobile app or desktop, it’s worth your while to look into the features that those platforms offer and what their capabilities are. Check out user reviews to spot any red flags that could make for a less-than-stellar trading experience.  
  • Keep an eye out for introductory bonuses. Introductory offers shouldn’t be the most important selling point, as you’ll want to select a brokerage account that meets your needs long-term. However, it doesn’t hurt to scope out what various brokerages are offering for opening an account with them and how that might help kick-start your investing journey. 
  • Determine if educational resources are important to you. For experienced investors, educational tools and webinars may seem unnecessary, but brushing up on your knowledge about what’s happening in the market and how to best use your brokerage account. Ask each brokerage what kinds of educational resources may be available to you should you have any questions or want to learn more about how to become a smarter investor. 

More frequently asked questions

What is an online brokerage? 

An online brokerage provides investment services and facilitates the trading and selling of various investment assets via mobile and/or digital platforms as opposed to a brick-and-mortar location. 

Are online brokerages safe? 

While online brokerages are not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), many are insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which protects investors in the event that a brokerage fails.

How should you choose an online brokerage?

When comparing online brokerages, it’s important to learn more about the various investment accounts offered, potential service or trading fees they charge, and the educational material and resources available to you to help you make more informed decisions about how to invest your money. You should also carefully review each brokerage’s online and mobile platforms for usability and inquire about customer service options should you need to speak with a representative regarding your account. 

Our methodology

The Fortune RecommendsTM team compared more than 20 online brokerages with a wide range of account minimums, product offerings, customer support avenues, and more. For our best online brokerages, we ranked each brokerage based on the following categories and weighted each category as set forth in the percentages below:

  • Account minimum (25%): In order to open a brokerage account at any financial institution, the institution will require that you deposit a minimum dollar amount. We rated brokerages with $0 or lower account minimums higher on our list. 
  • Fee per stock trade (25%): Many brokerages charge a commission fee for each executed stock trade. We favored online brokerages that charged a lower fee or no fee at all.
  • Product offerings (20%): We gave each brokerage a 1 point for each type of asset available to clients in addition to traditional stocks. This included fixed income and bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, cryptocurrency, fractional shares, IRAs, options, IPOs, annuities, forex, and futures. 
  • Available education (15%): Online brokerages that offered educational support for investors such as articles, videos, webinars, investment planning tools and calculators, and other resources ranked higher on our list compared to those that do not. 
  • Margin trading (10%): Margin trading or “buying on margin” allows investors to borrow from their brokerage to purchase stocks and other investments. We favored online brokerages that gave investors the option to boost their purchasing power. 
  • Customer service (5%): Top picks offer customers three ways to get in contact: chat support, by phone, or even email. Among the three options, we gave phone support the most weight. 

We think that the best online brokerages offer low account minimums and fees, a large number of product offerings, educational resources and tools, margin trading, and multiple customer service options. 

The fees, product offerings, and account minimums for each online brokerage are subject to fluctuation, which could impact how much you pay to open and maintain an account with each brokerage. Each of the brokerages on this list is a registered broker-dealer, backed by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) which protects customers if their brokerage firm fails.

Published at Mon, 23 Jan 2023 22:42:19 +0000

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