9 Best Brokerage Firms to Help You Hit Your Investing Goals

best brokerage firms

Once you get some investing experience, you might be ready to branch out on your own. It’s great to use robo-advisors while you learn the ropes. But if you’re interested in charting your own path and picking your own investments, it’s time to sign up with a low-cost broker.

The best brokerage firms give you the chance to build your own portfolio using stocks and other assets you research yourself. You have more control when you invest this way. If you’re a hands-on investor, opening an account with an online broker is for you.

What to look for in an investment broker

The best brokerage firms balance low costs with plenty of research. These brokers should also provide easy-to-use trading platforms that allow you to execute trades simply, without too much fuss.

Here are some of the main things to look for when trying to decide among the best brokerage accounts.

Transaction fees

When you trade stocks regularly, transaction fees can add up fast. If you plan to buy and sell stocks or other assets, look for an account with low transaction fees.

If you prefer to trade ETFs or mutual funds, the best brokerage firms will offer no-transaction-fee funds. Some brokers offer a variety of ETFs that they will let you trade without paying a commission. On top of that, brokerages may have mutual funds that don’t come with transaction fees or loads.

Research

The best brokerage accounts offer a balance between transaction fees and available research. You can usually get access to company information, vital stats, and other helpful data with a broker that charges fees of between $4.95 and $6.95 per trade.

If you find a broker that charges less, be careful. They might not offer extensive research or other tools that can be helpful as you trade stocks.

Tools

Consider the tools offered by the broker as you make your decision. Resources like stock screeners, real-time quotes, and a mobile app can be helpful as you trade. Pay attention to the features that are most important to you.

A good stock screener can provide you with new ideas and help you find investments that fit your needs. Some brokers also offer you the ability to try different scenarios in your account. This can give you an idea of how to construct your portfolio, or allow you to run simulations about different market outcomes.

Available assets

Finally, check to see what assets are available to trade. If you want to trade options, make sure you sign up with a broker that allows that. The same is true of commodities and currencies. Most of the best brokerage firms offer the ability to trade stocks, bonds, and funds. If you want more exotic offerings, though, you might have to be pickier.

Additionally, double-check to see if your preferred accounts are offered. Not every brokerage offers tax-advantaged retirement accounts, for example, so make sure you can get what you need.

Top 9 investment brokers

1. TD Ameritrade

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Commission: $6.95 (different fees for options, forex, and mutual funds)
  • Bonuses offered for larger cash deposits
  • Integrated trading platform that includes live video and customized charting
  • Access to thinkorswim, a highly personalized trading platform designed to work with your strategy
  • Suite of calculators designed to help you plan for different investing goals and time horizons
  • Range of transaction-fee-free mutual funds and ETFs
  • Mobile trading
Open a TD Ameritrade Account

2. OptionsHouse

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Commission: $4.95 (additional fees for options and futures)
  • Specializes in trading options and futures
  • Competitive margin rates based on your account balance
  • Fully customizable trading platform that allows you to highlight exactly what you need
  • Step-by-step information about how to use the platform
  • Educational resources about trading options and futures
  • Mobile trading
Open an OptionsHouse Account

3. Charles Schwab

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint
  • Account minimum: $1,000, but can be waived for some accounts if you commit $100 per month
  • Commission: $4.95 (additional fees for options)
  • Extensive research on a variety of companies and funds
  • Advanced stock and ETF screeners that generate ideas based on your criteria
  • Customizable trading platform that integrates research and insights
  • More than 3,000 no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • Expert fund picks
  • Checking account you can connect to your brokerage account
  • Mobile trading
Open a Charles Schwab Account

4. E*TRADE

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual
  • Account minimum: $500 for brokerage, $0 for IRA
  • Commission: $6.95 ($4.95 for 30+ transactions a quarter)
  • Real-time strategy scanner so you see how your approach is playing out
  • Enhanced options analyzer
  • Account bonus for larger cash deposits
  • Wide selection of transaction-fee-free ETFs and mutual funds
  • Knowledge base of investment trends based on sector and economic news
  • Mobile trading
Open an E*TRADE Account

5. OptionsXpress

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Commission: $4.95 (extra fees for options and futures)
  • Known for access to options and futures
  • Access to free seminars at local Charles Schwab branches
  • Idea Hub allows you to test new strategies before putting them into action
  • Strategy Scan gives you the ability to find options strategies that fit your personal risk tolerance
  • Special calculator that identifies the risk level of options trades
  • Virtual Trade account for testing portfolios
  • Mobile trading
Open an OptionsXpress Account

6. Merrill Edge

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint, 529
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Commission: $6.95 (additional fees for options and other products)
  • Global research ranked No. 1 by Institutional Investor
  • Easy-to-use and fully customizable dashboard offers up-to-the-minute positions and balances
  • Real-time market analysis
  • Interactive charting designed to help you identify trends based on your investing
  • Account bonus for rolling over your IRA
  • Mobile trading
Open a Merrill Edge Account

7. Fidelity

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint, 529
  • Account minimum: $2,500 for brokerage, $0 for IRA
  • Commission: $4.95 (additional fee for some products)
  • Low margin rates based on your account balance
  • Provides a retirement score that can help you gauge whether or not you’ll meet your goals
  • Suite of calculators to help you try different scenarios for different investing goals and timelines
  • Extensive research and insights
  • Access to investments in IPOs
  • Ability to invest in precious metals
  • Interactive charting that allows you to test profit and loss scenarios
  • Mobile trading
Open a Fidelity Account

8. Interactive Brokers

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint
  • Account minimum: $10,000 for brokerage, $4,000 for IRA; special $3,000 account minimum for those 25 or younger
  • Commission: $0.005 per share with $1 minimum per trade and a maximum 0.50% of trade value
  • Pay a fee for premium features
  • Access to forex
  • Ability to trade on international markets
  • Access to no-transaction-fee mutual funds and ETFs
  • Investors marketplace that allows you to connect to others for business opportunities
  • Ability to connect your own platform through an API
  • Mobile trading
Open an Interactive Brokers Account

9. TradeKing

  • Accounts available: IRA, individual, joint
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Commission: $4.95 (additional fee for options)
  • Traders Network forum that allows you to connect with other traders for tips and ideas
  • Access to forex
  • Extended hours trading
  • Suite of calculators to help you check probability, risk, and manage options
  • Live streaming and charting on a customizable dashboard
  • Educational materials that offer learning options based on your experience level
  • Access to no-transaction-fee ETFs and mutual funds
  • Competitive margin rates based on account balance
  • Access to portfolios managed by industry experts
  • Mobile trading
Open a TradeKing Account

Is an investment broker right for you?

For the most part, investment brokers are meant for those who prefer a hands-on trading experience. If you have experience with investing and some knowledge of how trading works, it might make sense to open a brokerage account.

However, if you’re more interested in long-term, passive investing, you’re more likely to benefit from investment advisors and robo-advisors that help you come up with a strategy.

Active or even occasional trading is most likely to yield success when you have taken the time to learn what makes a good investment. It also works best when you have developed a strategy that you can stick to.

In the end, you can start investing with a relatively small amount of money. Many of the best brokerage firms offer education and research resources that you can use, no matter your skill level.

Want to get started investing?

Here are the top investing options for 2018!
NameCommissionAccount Minimum 
$4 to $79 a month$0Visit Blooom
0.5%$0Visit Future Advisor
0.15% - 0.35%$0Visit Betterment
0.49% - 0.89%$25,000Visit Personal Capital
0.25%$500Visit Wealthfront
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