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Online Investing Companies List

Online Investing Companies List For 2018

Brokerage Firm Rating Stock & ETF Options Cost Per Contract Mutual Funds Min To
Open an Account
Broker Review
Ameritrade 4.5-star brokerage firm rating $6.95 $0.75 $49.49 $0 Review
Ally Invest Ally Invest rating $4.95* $0.65* $9.95 $0 Review
Firstrade Firstrade rating $0 $0 $0 $0 Review
Fidelity Fidelity Investments rating $4.95 $0.65 $49.95 $2,500 Review
Schwab Charles Schwab rating $4.95 $0.65 $76 $1,000 Review
ZacksTrade ZacksTrade rating $3.00+ $0.75 $27.95 $2,500 Review
TastyWorks TastyWorks rating $5 to buy, $0 to sell $1, $10 max, $0 to close n/a $0 Review
Etrade Etrade brokerage firm rating $6.95 $0.75 $19.99 $500 Review
TradeStation TradeStation rating $5 $0.50 $14.95 $5,000 Review
StockPile $0.99 n/a n/a $0 Review
Lightspeed 3-star brokerage firm rating $4.50 $0.60 n/a $5,000 Review
Vanguard Vanguard brokerage company rating $7-$20 $1 $35 $1,000 Review
Motif Motif Investing rating $4.95 n/a n/a $0 Review
Merrill Edge 3.5-star brokerage firm rating $6.95 $0.75 $19.95 $0 Review
Wellstrade WellsTrade brokerage firm rating $5.95 $5.95 + $0.75 per contract $35 $1,000 Review
Capital One $6.95 $0.75 $19.95 $0 Review
Sogotrade 3-star brokerage firm rating $5 $0.50 $15 $0 Review
USAA USAA Investments rating $8.95 $0.75 $45 $0 Review
ChoiceTrade ChoiceTrade Review $5 $0.15** $25 $0 Review
Speedtrader 2-star brokerage firm rating $6.95 $1 n/a $0 Review
Trading Block 3-star brokerage firm rating $7.50 $0.75 $20 $2,000 Review
Investrade Investrade brokerage firm rating $6.95 $0.50 $15 $500 Review

* - Ally Invest offers special pricing of $3.95 per equity trade and 50 cents per options contract for users who make 30 or more trades in the prior calendar quarter and/or maintain an average daily balance of more than $100,000 in the prior calendar quarter.

Overview of Online Investing Companies

When grading online investing companies there are several important variables that should be considered. Which issues are chosen could affect the outcome of the analysis significantly because some brokers differ widely from other firms only on certain issues.

Customer Service

One of the most important characteristics that must be analyzed when looking at online investing firms is customer service. This issue cannot be underestimated because investors oftentimes need assistance from their broker. Levels of service vary widely from one brokerage house to another. For example, some firms provide 24/7 service, while others take a break at night, while still more skip the weekend, and some, like Robinhood, only provide customer support during market hours.

Besides phone support, brokers differ in this category in other ways. For instance, some broker-dealers have on-line chat support, which many traders like. But not all companies have this feature. Still other brokers have brick-and-mortar locations for in-person service. Besides the traditional firms like Raymond James and Edward Jones, some online discount firms also have branch locations—companies like Fidelity and E*Trade.

Trading Technology

For self-directed accounts, trading technology is an important issue to consider, and it's even more important for stock and ETF traders. Because mutual funds trade intra-day, trading tools will be less important here; although some brokers don't have mobile apps that can trade mutual funds, while others do.

Some brokers, like TradeStation, have advanced desktop programs that are capable of some very sophisticated tasks, including research, backtesting, and charting. Other firms have no desktop platform at all. Building a software program that functions well can be expensive, so brokerage houses often have account minimums or trading requirements to use their platforms. Requirements can vary, so looking at what a broker requires and comparing it to its competitors is a good idea.

Fund Availability

When comparing broker-dealers, another category to pay close attention to is the funds that can be traded. A lot of variation exists here. Some brokers will advertise all their no-load, no-transaction-fee funds, but what they don't tell you is that they don't have a lot of total funds. Other brokers have small selections in both categories, and yet still, some firms don't offer mutual funds at all.

Hidden charges exist with mutual fund trading. Some brokers will charge a short-term redemption fee for selling an NTF fund in less than a certain amount of time, such as 30 or 90 days. This fee can vary significantly from one firm to another, from $0 to $49.99 or even higher.

Transaction fees for mutual funds can also vary widely. Some brokers may charge just $10, while other firms can be as high as $76 on the buy side.

Research and Educational Materials

This is an often overlooked area, but very important for beginners; and research tools can also be vital even for seasoned pros. Brokers like E*Trade provide many learning materials in multiple formats that novices can use to learn the ropes. Other brokers, such as Ally Invest, provide fewer resources to teach new traders.

Researching securities to buy can be a different experience, depending on which broker you're using. Fidelity, for instance, provides many stock reports from several independent analysts. All of these are free of charge. Other online investing companies may provide just one stock report from one analyst or no reports at all.

Costs

Here we come to the all-important category: how much does it cost to trade at a particular firm? Like the other categories, this one varies widely as well, especially when looking at multiple securities and account types. Some brokers charge an annual account fee, while others do not. Some firms charge IRA fees, including annual or closeout fees, while other broker-dealers have eliminated them. The difference can be significant, with fees ranging between $0 up to $100 or even more.

Commissions on trades must also be considered. Active traders especially need to take this issue into account when analyzing brokers. A small difference can really add up at the end of the year. Stock and ETF trades can range from $0 to $6.95 nowadays in the discount industry. Traditional firms can be as high as $20.

Alternative Investments

Not all brokers offer a wide selection of assets for trading. Robinhood, for example, only provides stocks and ETF's. Option contracts are not available, nor are bonds or mutual funds. Capital One Investing, while it's owned by a well-known financial institution, does not offer bonds.

A few securities firms provide access to the forex and futures markets, but most do not. Knowing what products you want to trade before opening an account can be very helpful. Brokers usually act as dealers for many bond traders, meaning that they trade with their clients. Large firms will have bigger selections of debt than small brokers.

Financial Advice

More brokers today are offering investment advice and portfolio management, but the level and quality vary quite a bit. Some online brokerage companies provide only traditional human management—these are firms like Merrill Lynch. Other companies, such as Wealthfront, have only a robo advisor; while others, like Fidelity, provide both. Robo advisors only buy and sell securities, usually just low-cost ETF's; while human advisors can do much more.

Fees for portfolio management definitely need to be taken into account because they can vary substantially. Schwab, for example, charges nothing for its robo service, while brick-and-mortar firms may charge over 2% of assets for its traditional management. Of course, the level of service provided typically is very minimal at the bottom price range.

Online Investing Companies Summary

Grading online investing companies isn't overly complex, but it's important to have all the facts before issuing a rating. Wide variation exists in pretty much all categories, so a comparative analysis can help separate the winners from the losers.