Interactive brokers – traders reviews and trading platform overview

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Contents

Interactive brokers – an overview of the innovative trading platform

вњ… This Trading Platform is available in United States

Against the background of a huge number of trading platforms that offer access to financial assets for online trading, there are companies that have been providing their services for more than a decade. Most of them do not even raise doubts about the reliability and 100% fulfillment of their obligations. One of the leaders in this field of activity is Interactive brokers – a company that ideally combines the best traditions of brokers of the last century and the latest achievements in the field of online trading. On the Internet you can find a huge number of interesting reviews on this broker, most of which tell about the high quality of service, the huge amount of services provided and various technical innovations. Of course, a company whose capital exceeds 6 billion US dollars can afford a lot, but what do users get when they decide to register an account on a well-known trading platform? How much does the quality of service, conditions and work efficiency of Interactive brokers differ from the offers of other trading companies?

What are the performance indicators of Interactive brokers attract traders?

Considered financial company was founded in the 70s. last century, in the US states. Today she has offices in almost every developed country where online trading lovers live. The presented company belongs to the group of companies that were the first to provide services for trading in the global financial market via the Internet. The daily amount of transactions that pass through this broker exceeds $ 1 million.

Security

Users of the trading platform may ask the administration of the resource to provide statistical information or documents that confirm that the company has the right to engage in this activity. On the basis of these data, it is possible to draw conclusions about the financial condition of the company, make sure that all the necessary licenses are available, that the requirements of regulatory authorities are met, etc.

Developed for Interactive brokers, applications and trading platforms (TWS, IBKR Mobile, IBKR API, IBot) guarantee that all transactions will be completed on time and no unauthorized persons will have access to personal information or financial resources of clients. Programmers of the company recommend activating two-factor account protection: “Secure Login System”, enable and disable client’s access to trading, and also set restrictions by IP address.

In case of force majeure, you can contact the support service representatives. They will help solve financial or technical problems, as well as answer questions that arise during your work on the company’s official resource. To do this, provide: online chat, a special contact form on the site or telephone.

Broker activity regulators

Even the most distrustful trader / investor will not be afraid to register a login to Interactive brokers by examining the list of organizations that control the company’s activities.

в—Џ US Securities and Exchange Commission.

в—Џ US Commodity Futures Commission.

в—Џ NYSE, FINRA, SIPC.

в—Џ Investor Protection Fund (Canada).

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в—Џ Inspection to monitor the activities of financial institutions in the UK.

в—Џ The controlling organizations of India, Japan and Hong Kong.

Training

The broker’s website offers a wide range of training materials. For beginners, the administration of a web resource offers: a dictionary of financial terms, short video courses (which tells about trade, financial instruments, factors affecting the quotation of securities), webinars.

Experienced traders / investors will also not be hindered by new knowledge, analytical information or examples of various trading strategies with a detailed analysis of key points. The Academy of Trading is functioning on the site, which will help to understand the trading platforms used by the broker and explore their capabilities. After completing free training courses, it is much easier for users to choose a course of activity that will bring them maximum income.

Before proceeding to the conclusion of cash transactions, experts recommend checking your level of preparation, using a demo account set up on Interactive brokers. The trial version will help novice traders to create their own trading strategies, analyze them, find mistakes, etc.

What a trader should know to work at Interactive brokers

When planning to work for Interactive brokers, you should know that the broker does not provide any bonuses other than the reward for each new user (in the amount of $ 200). The positive aspects are the fact that the company has established one of the lowest commissions for its services, and interest is automatically calculated on the balance of funds in your account.

Trading Services

Studying online reviews of Interactive brokers, it can be concluded that users are most interested in the following factors:

в—Џ Minimum deposit: $ 2000.

в—Џ The minimum bid is 1.

в—Џ Leverage – 1:50.

в—Џ Risk management – provided.

в—Џ Affiliate program – there is.

в—Џ Account currency – US dollar.

Financial assets

Even without reading reviews from the Interactive brokers on the World Wide Web, it is not difficult to guess that this resource provides its users with the maximum amount of trading tools. These include:

в—Џ Currency pairs.

в—Џ Stock indexes.

в—Џ Valuable metals.

The company also provides its customers with access to other markets and financial instruments (including popular cryptocurrencies).

Deposit and withdrawal

The main disadvantage of the broker, in the opinion of our compatriots, is a limited number of methods for depositing / withdrawing funds: a credit card and a bank transfer.

Interactive Brokers Review

Sarah Horvath
Contributor, Benzinga

1 Minute Review

Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is a comprehensive trading platform that gives you access to a massive range of securities at affordable prices. With access to over 125 global markets, you can buy assets from all around the world from the comfort of your home or office. Options, futures, forex and fund trading are also available — and most traders won’t pay a commission on any purchase or sale. IBKR is geared primarily toward experienced investors. The platform offers limited assistance and can be a challenge for new users to become acclimated to. The broker’s tiered pricing strategy can also be frustrating for traders who focus on hourly or daily price movements.

Best For

  • Access to foreign markets
  • Comprehensive mobile app that makes trading simple
  • Wide range of available account types and tradable assets
  • Comprehensive, quick desktop platform
  • Mobile app mirrors full capabilities of desktop version
  • Access to massive range of tradable assets
  • Frustrating and confusing tiered pricing
  • Bloated website that makes finding information a challenge

Why Interactive Brokers Over Others?

What sets IBKR apart from other brokers? Let’s take a look at a few of the platform’s key features.

  • Access to a wide market range: Interactive Brokers allows you to buy and sell assets on over 125 unique markets. This makes it one of the easiest ways to buy and sell international stocks and funds.
  • Comprehensive mobile app: If you’re the type of trader who enjoys trading on a mobile format, you’ll appreciate Interactive Brokers’ full-optimized and responsive mobile platform.
  • Low margin rates: With an Interactive Brokers Pro account, you can access margin trading for as little as 1.39% APR. Even Interactive Brokers’ Lite account rate (a flat 3.59% no matter how much you borrow) is affordable.

Interactive Brokers Quick Summary

Tradable assets Stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, forex, options, futures, metals
Platform Comprehensive; widest range of tools available on IBKR Pro
Mobile app Fully operational, mirrors desktop web-trading platform
Account minimum $0
Available account types Taxable, traditional and Roth IRAs, additional options for business owners and corporate investors

Interactive Brokers Fees, Commissions, Margin Rates and Account Minimums (5 Stars)

IBKR offers 2 unique account types: IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro. As the names suggest, IBKR Lite is aimed at lower-level traders and offers the lowest fees. IBKR Pro accounts pay slightly higher commissions but have access to a wider range of analysis and research tools that professionals can use to inform their trades.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect to pay in commission when you use Interactive Brokers to trade.

Stocks and ETFs $0 for IBKR Lite accounts; $0.005 per shareFor IBKR Pro accounts with bulk discounts available
Options $0.15 to $0.65 per contract depending on your trading volume and IBKR account choice
Mutual funds Access to hundreds of free mutual funds; other funds $14.95 per trade or 3% of your purchase volume
Futures $0.15 to $0.85 depending on the asset you’re buying
Forex 0.08 to 0.20 base points plus trade value depending on your regular trading volume
Account minimum $0 for all accounts

IBKR also offers margin trading on both Lite and Pro accounts. Margin rates range from 1.39% APR to 3.59% APR depending on your trading volume and the type of account you have. Traders who use over $200 million of margin have access to the lowest margin rates. Any amount of money you borrow in margin accrues interest daily.

Interactive Brokers Usability (3.5 Stars)

IBKR has always been a top choice for professional brokers, but its new IBKR Lite accounts can appeal to new investors looking to test the waters of trading. However, IBKR still maintains its host of professional tools and charting software.

The Desktop Trader Workstation is now available to both Pro and Lite account holders. While Pro account holders will receive access to a wide range of indicators and software, Lite users also receive a full suite of trading tools. Quickly search for stocks, place orders and compare prices with only a few clicks. Price and trade information is updated quickly, and you can also customize your trade station to show you the stocks you trade most often or own the most of first.

While extensive and innovative, IBKR’s desktop trading platform can quickly become overwhelming for new traders.

Though IBKR’s desktop platform may be a dream to professional traders or those with market experience, there’s a steep learning curve for new traders to conquer. The platform includes very few in-app directions on how to operate it or use any of the wide range of charting tools. If you’re a new trader and you have the time to watch outside tutorials or play around with the system yourself, you may enjoy using IBKR as your first platform.

Interactive Brokers Education (4.5 Stars)

Outside of its trading platform, Interactive Brokers offers a wide range of educational tools and resources you can use to learn more about trading. Let’s take a look at a few of the free resources it offers to help you learn more about the markets.

  • Traders’ Academy: Traders’ Academy is IBKR’s fully online trading course. The course includes over 48 unique courses for traders of varying skill levels. Some course subjects include the U.S. municipal bond market, building a trading plan and understanding how to use leverage effectively. Each course is further broken down into a series of lessons, all of which you can access online 24-hours a day.
  • Webinars: Prefer to learn more about trading with a live format? Interactive Brokers also offers a selection of live webinars that you can follow along with online. If you can’t tune in while the webinar is going on, you can catch it later on IBKR’s “recorded lectures” section. Some examples of previous webinars the broker has held include “Volatility Strategies for a Volatile Market,” “TWS Option Chains” and “Russian Capital Markets – an Introduction.” As you can see, webinars do assume at least a basic understanding of the stock, options or forex markets — so you may want to begin your education with Traders’ Academy and move onto webinars once you feel comfortable.
  • Short videos: Looking for a quicker way to learn more about the technical aspects of your Interactive Brokers account? Flip over to the Short Videos tab, where you’ll have access to hundreds of step-by-step guides to using its desktop or mobile platform. Some video subjects include setting up a watchlist, using futures contracts effectively and entering the options market. Most videos range between 5–25 minutes long, so they’re a great resource if you’re short on time.

All of the educational resources are free, but you do need to be logged into your account to access them.

Interactive Brokers Customer Support (4 Stars)

IBKR offers clients a number of methods they can use to get in contact with customer service. Let’s take a look at them now.

  • By phone: U.S. traders should call 877-442-2757. Customer service is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
  • Online chat: To access chat, follow the instructions laid out here. Online chat assistance is available 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday for current and prospective clients.
  • Email: You can send an email request to IBKR by filling out an inquiry form here. Interactive Brokers aims to service all inquiries received by email within 24 hours.

At the time of publication, IBKR currently doesn’t offer a specific customer service line for those with hearing limitations.

Interactive Brokers Offerings (5 Stars)

One of Interactive Brokers’ biggest strengths is its massive range of affordable offerings. IBKR’s platform acts as a one-stop-shop for everything a trader could need to start investing in stocks, options, funds, forex, futures contracts and even precious metals.

Let’s take a closer look at the tradable assets currently available.

Interactive Brokers Stocks, ETFs and Mutual Funds (5 Stars)

Interactive Brokers offers trades full access to the U.S. stock market on both its Pro and Lite platforms. You can even access stocks listed on European and Asian stock exchanges to buy and sell foreign securities. Most traders will pay $0 on all of their commissions, but high-value Pro account holders may pay a fraction of 1 cent per share.

IBKR offers access to 98 commission-free ETFs for Pro traders, while Lite traders get to buy and sell ETFs completely commission-free. It also offers a respectable selection of over 4,000 commission-free mutual funds.

Interactive Brokers Forex (3 Stars)

IBKR offers U.S. traders who hold USD as their base currency the ability to trade 14 of the most commonly-held currencies. Like most forex brokers, IBKR charges a small percentage of your trade value in the form of a spread. This charge comes in addition to a small commission of 0.08 to 0.20 base points depending on the volume of currency you’re exchanging.

Interactive Brokers Options (5 Stars)

IBKR offers a massive range of options contracts for both the domestic and international markets. You’ll pay between $0.15 to $0.60 per contract depending on your account type and the value of the contract you’re making.

Interactive Brokers Futures (5 Stars)

Interactive Brokers offers futures contracts for the entire U.S. stock markets, as well as international options. You’ll pay just $0.15 to $0.85 depending on your account type and the volume of your purchase.

Interactive Brokers Mobile App (4.5 stars)

If you’re the type of trader who enjoys trading on-the-go, you’ll love IBKR’s comprehensive and responsive mobile app. The app mirrors the full functionality of the brokerage’s desktop trading site, allowing you to browse constantly-updating stock and market data and place buy and sell orders.

Let’s take a look at a few other unique factors that make this app a viable trading tool.

  • Mobile check deposit: Want to start trading with your check without waiting for your bank transfer? IBKR offers an instant mobile check deposit that allows you to deposit your paper checks directly to your brokerage account. Just snap a photo, enter the amount on your check, verify that you’re the one making the deposit by completing 2-factor authentication and IBKR will finish the deposit for you.
  • Integrated security features: Interactive Brokers’ IB Key feature allows you to access your device with a unique password and security key. If you prefer a deeper level of security, you can also enable 2-factor authentication, which requires a unique passcode every time you access your account.
  • Fit-to-mobile design: IBKR’s app is fully optimized for both Apple and Android platforms. If you rotate your screen, the design of the app flips to a more detailed horizontal design.

The Interactive Brokers app is downloadable for free.

How Interactive Brokers Compares (4 Stars)

Interactive Brokers is a comprehensive trading platform for intermediate and experienced traders. If you’re looking for the widest possible range of tradable assets, IBKR will be at the top of your list. With access to over 125 markets and a wide range of securities, it’s possible to build an incredibly diverse portfolio with just a few clicks. Affordable Pro accounts and a comprehensive mobile app make trading even simpler.

For new traders, IBKR’s platform can quickly become overwhelming. You’ll need a solid grasp of common trading tools before you open your platform if you want to trade effectively. Its website is also difficult to navigate — tons of information is available, but the clutter of the site can make finding the info you’re looking for a hassle. New and experienced traders may also be frustrated by its tiered pricing strategies, which make it difficult to quickly calculate what you’ll owe on a trade.

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The Best Online Stock Trading Sites

Best Platform for Cheap Trading

Best for Active Traders

Best Platform Design

Best Trading Platform for Beginners

Best Research & Tools

Best for Expert Traders

Best for Retirement Investors

Best for Low Commission Rates

How We Found the Best Online Stock Trading Sites

25 trading sites analyzed

3 financial experts consulted

The Best Online Stock Trading Sites

The best online stock trading sites should feature cutting-edge research tools and mobile apps to help first-time investors and expert traders handle their own “self-directed trading.” In a nutshell, they should be user-friendly, trustworthy, and packed with data visualizations. To find the best online stock trading sites of 2020, we analyzed 25 of the most popular platforms and tapped into the expertise of a former day trader, a stock analyst, and a financial commentator with more than two decades of trading experience. In short, there is no single best online stock broker, but each of our top picks has its own strengths for different types of investors. We’ll help you determine the best fit for your investment goals and experience.

Why trust us? Since 2020, Reviews.com has helped more than 1.4 million people find the best online stock trading site for their needs. After investigating 25 major brokers and consulting three third-party financial experts, we’ve continued updating this review every month over the last five years to ensure it stays fresh. The author of this review does not own stock in any of the brokerage firms mentioned here, or in any other financial service companies.

The 8 Best Online Stock Trading Sites of 2020

  • Ally Invest – Best for Cheap Trades
  • E*TRADE – Best for Active Traders
  • TD Ameritrade – Best Platform Design
  • Robinhood – Best for Beginners
  • Fidelity – Best Research and Tools
  • Charles Schwab – Best for Expert Traders
  • Vanguard – Best for Retirement Investors
  • Interactive Brokers – Best for Low Commission Rates

The Best Online Stock Trading Sites: Summed Up

Ally Invest E*TRADE TD Ameritrade Robinhood Fidelity Charles Schwab Vanguard Interactive Brokers
Our review Our review Our review Our review
Best for Cheap trades Active traders Platform design Beginners Research and tools Expert traders Retirement investors Low commission rates
Stocks and ETFs (per trade) $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0, $7, or $20 $0.005
Bonds $1 $1 On a net yield basis N/A $1 Varies $0 to $50 $0.005
Mutual funds (per trade) $9.95 $19.99 $49.99 N/A $0 Varies $0 (mostly) $0
Account minimum None None None None None None Varies None
Inactivity fees None None None None None None None None
Outgoing transfer fee $50 $75 $75 $75 None $25 None Varies
Barron’s rating 3/5 4/5 4/5 N/A 4.5/5 3.5/5 N/A 4.5/5

Data current as of 1/22/2020

Ally Invest – Best for Cheap Trades

Rock-bottom rates
Easy entry point
Stellar ratings

No futures trading

Why we chose it

Rock-bottom rates

With no inactivity charge and a $50 full outgoing transfer fee, Ally Invest’s fee structure is about as low as you’ll find. Ally keeps its edge with a zero account minimum and enticing discounts for active investors — equity trades drop to $3.95 for users with 30-plus trades each quarter or a balance of $100,000. In October 2020, Ally also followed in the footsteps of mobile platforms like Robinhood and announced totally commission-free stocks and ETFs. Lastly, Ally Invest’s platform and resources stand out with quality research and tools, including access to its online trader network.

Easy entry point

In addition to attractive pricing, Ally offers a quality platform that gives you access to the entire universe of stocks and ETFs. Where some discount brokers focus on only one kind of trader (for example, options traders or high-net-worth investors), Ally Invest provides an excellent experience for investors of all kinds. A focus on discounted costs can sometimes be a red flag for quality, but Ally truly delivers with sophisticated calculators, profit-loss estimators, and more. Ally also offers a robust research library that incorporates visual slides and interactive media into its market data.

Stellar ratings

We’re not the only ones who think Ally Invest is a remarkable service. Barron’s has given Ally Invest’s past self, TradeKing, at least four out of five stars for the past 10 years, and Ally continues to rack up kudos for its offerings and low commissions from both Barron’s and other rating sites like StockBrokers.com.

Points to consider

No futures trading

If you want to trade “futures” (agreements to buy or sell assets in the future), Ally Invest isn’t an option. That’s not unusual for an online stock broker — neither Robinhood, Vanguard, nor Fidelity offer futures trading — but you can do it with some of our other top picks, including E*TRADE, Charles Schwab, Interactive Brokers, and TD Ameritrade.

E*TRADE – Best for Active Traders

Helpful platform for beginners
Commission-free trades

Powerful platform for pros

Divided user experience

Why we chose it

No commission fees

Following the lead of financial disruptors like Robinhood, E*TRADE has eliminated retail commissions for online U.S.-listed stock, ETF, and options trades, effective October 7, 2020. This is a huge boon to active traders and beginner investors within the U.S. Previously, its commission fees started at $6.95 (discounted to $4.95 if investors made more than 30 trades per quarter), which was on the higher end of the spectrum compared to Ally Invest, Charles Schwab, and Fidelity.

Education-heavy platform

New investors need two things from their online stock trading platform: an easy learning curve and lots of room to grow. E*TRADE has both. Its platform boasts a library of educational videos, articles, and webinars for each type of investor. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, read up on market news, reports, and commentary from E*TRADE analysts. You can also take advantage of one-on-one assistance: Branch appointments are free to book, and online chat tools and 24-hour hotline are there to guide you from anywhere in the world.

No minimum account balance

As of December 2020, E*TRADE does not require an investment minimum for brokerage accounts. Previously, its required account balance was $500 – which was lower than traditional brokerages but still more than a novice would like to throw in.

TD Ameritrade – Best Platform Design

Helpful platform for beginners
Commission-free trades

Powerful platform for pros

Divided user experience

Why we chose it

Helpful platform for beginners

TD Ameritrade offers two platforms and mobile trading apps for various types of investors. Both platforms are free to use for any investor with a TD Ameritrade account. However, the web platform, though often in the shadow of thinkorswim, is streamlined and easy to use. It will appeal to beginning investors or anyone who prefers a simplified educational interface. Its tab-based navigation lets users flip between trading tools and account overview, plus charts, stock screeners, heat maps, and more.

Commission-free trades

TD Ameritrade has been historically one of the more expensive trading platforms, but over the years, they have gradually lowered their costs to compete with other online brokers. On October 2, 2020, TD Ameritrade eliminated commissions from all stock, options, and ETF trades – a move that was followed by other online stock trading sites like E*TRADE. Previously, TD Ameritrade charged a $6.95 commission on stock, options, and ETF trades.

Powerful platform for pros

Thinkorswim, on the other hand, is a powerhouse designed for the advanced. This desktop application regularly racks up awards for its superior tools and features, things any other broker would charge a premium for — research reports, real-time data, charts, technical studies. Also included: customizable workspaces, extensive third-party research, a thriving trader chat room, and a fully functional mobile app.

Thinkorswim is a particular standout in options trading, with options-trading tabs (just click “spread” if you want a spread and “single order” if you want one leg), plus links that explain the strategies on the order page. Its Strategy Roller feature lets investors create custom covered calls and then roll those positions from expiration to expiration.

Points to consider

Divided user experience

TD Ameritrade has been a mainstay in the market for its various trading tool options. Thinkorswim has brought both casual and serious traders to TD’s business and, with it, you have access to stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, and even forex. However, you may want to look elsewhere if you are trying to find an all-in-one solution for all (or at least most) of your trading needs, TD Ameritrade may not deliver in that regard.F

Robinhood – Best for Beginners

User-friendly trading platform
No commission fees

No bonds, mutual funds, futures, or short-selling

Why we chose it

User-friendly trading platform

The Silicon Valley startup Robinhood has been the most disruptive force in online stock trading since it was founded in 2020 by two Stanford alums. Their mission, reportedly inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests and alluded to in the company’s name, is to make investing more affordable and more accessible to millennials.

We found Robinhood’s trading interface — both via its mobile app and its website — the most user-friendly of all candidates, making it a perfect option for the first-time trader. The design is minimalist, interactive, and easy to navigate. “Robinhood is a good fit for new investors because it offers a slick, modern app that allows you to trade efficiently,” says James Royal, a stock analyst and investing and wealth management reporter at Bankrate. “And of course, it’s free, allowing you to invest money that would have otherwise gone into a broker’s pocket.”

No commission fees

Unlike most online stock trading platforms, Robinhood doesn’t charge a commission fee every time you buy or sell stocks, ETFs, or options. If you’re a high-volume trader, or a beginner without much cash to spare, that makes Robinhood an attractive alternative to the $5 to $7 fees per trade offered by competitors. However, Robinhood does rake in “payment for order flow” by rounding regulatory fees up to the nearest penny and pocketing the difference. “That means if you buy a stock for $100.00, Robinhood earns 2.6 cents from the market maker,” says co-founder and co-CEO Vlad Tenev, whereas “other brokerages earn rebates and charge you a per-trade commission fee.”

Points to consider

No bonds, mutual funds, futures, or short-selling

One drawback of Robinhood’s simplicity is that as of 2020, you can only trade stocks, ETFs, and options on the platform — not bonds, mutual funds, or futures, and you can’t short-sell. But Robinhood is our “Best for Beginners” pick, and most first-time investors will probably want to stick to the basics. If you’re interested in bonds and mutual funds, Ally Invest has the best rates of our top picks. If you want to try futures trading, E*TRADE and Charles Schwab are your best bets.

Fidelity – Best Research and Tools

Sleek and high-functioning platform
Best-in-class research

Not all tools are accessible to all users

Why we chose it

Sleek and high-functioning platform

Fidelity’s platform wins for user-friendly design, with tools to help take the guesswork out of finding funds and nosing out strategies. Fidelity’s platform lets you explore your options with a slick and intuitive design, complete with color-coded rankings and charts that call out what’s important. You can sort stocks by size, performance, and even criteria like sales growth or profit growth. Want to sort ETFs by the sectors they focus on or their expenses? Done. There’s even a box to check if you want to explore only Fidelity’s commission-free offerings. A few other discount brokers do offer screeners, but none match Fidelity’s depth and usability.

Best-in-class research

When it comes to research, Fidelity is in a league of its own. The intellectually curious can dive into research from more than 20 providers, including Recognia, Ned Davis, and McLean Capital Management. Fidelity’s Learning Center featured videos are organized by topic, but they don’t stop after explaining the concept; they also cover how to apply principles to your own Fidelity investments.

Points to consider

Not all tools are accessible to all users

Unfortunately, some of Fidelity’s advanced tools are only available to high-volume traders: Charting with Recognia requires a significant 120 trades per year to use, and its Active Trader Pro requires 36 trades per year.

Other Online Stock Trading Sites to Consider

Charles Schwab – Best for Expert Traders

Like Fidelity and Vanguard, Charles Schwab is one of the older brick-and-mortar investment brokers that successfully modernized its trading platform for the Internet Age. Of all our picks, Charles Schwab is the best option for advanced traders who want a full buffet of options (stocks, ETFs, options, bonds, mutual funds, futures) and an impressive suite of research tools. Best of all, even with all the perks Charles Schwab offers, it dropped commission on U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options.

Vanguard – Best for Retirement Investors

Target retirement fund
Low account fees

No workaround for initial deposit
High trading fees

Since Vanguard is the largest mutual fund provider in the world, it doesn’t charge a fee for most mutual fund trades. However, other kinds of trading are more expensive, with $7 per option and up to $20 per stock/ETF. For that reason, we don’t recommend Vanguard for beginning or low-volume traders. However, Vanguard is an excellent choice for retirement investors interested in long-term, high-volume earnings, or those looking for a place to take their IRA. In fact, Vanguard is one of our picks for the best IRA accounts.

Interactive Brokers – Best for Low Commission Rates

Rewards active trading
Exceptional platform
Protegés get perks

Trading tech learning curve
Futures trading violations

In terms of volume, Interactive Brokers is technically the largest online stock trading platform in the U.S. It also advertises itself as the “lowest cost broker,” and for good reason: It dropped commissions on stocks and ETFs, and only charges $0.70 per contract fee for options.

If you’re an active, high-volume trader who dabbles in all kinds of assets, Interactive Brokers is a great option, since you can trade just about anything without losing $5 to $7 on every transaction. The platform interface isn’t nearly as user-friendly as Robinhood’s, nor as intuitive as TD Ameritrade’s; however, if you’re the kind of investor who’d benefit the most from Interactive Brokers (i.e., an experienced one), you’ll know your way around a candlestick chart already.

How We Found the Best Online Stock Trading Sites

The 2020s have been a boom era for online stock brokers. According to Statista, between 10% and 15% of all U.S. adults used an online broker at least once in 2020. While some major brokerages have remained the same (Charles Schwab), others have gone through mergers and acquisitions (E*TRADE acquired OptionsHouse; TD Ameritrade and Scottrade merged; TradeKing is now Ally Invest), and a new generation of millennial-focused brokers (like Robinhood and Acorns) has kept the old guard on its toes by lowering commission rates and minimum deposits. After digging into 25 trading platforms, here are the factors that set our top picks apart from the crowd.

  • Ally Invest
  • Charles Schwab
  • E*TRADE
  • Fidelity
  • Interactive Brokers
  • Lightspeed
  • Merrill Edge
  • OptionsHouse
  • OptionsXpress
  • Robinhood
  • Scottrade
  • TD Ameritrade
  • TradeStation
  • AutoShares
  • Chase
  • eOption
  • Just2Trade
  • SoFi
  • SogoTrade
  • T. Rowe Price
  • tastyworks
  • TradingBlock
  • USAA
  • Vanguard
  • WellsTrade

Low overhead

Different investors are going to prioritize different things. A day trader, for example, requires speed and flexibility. A first-time trader may value educational resources and reliable customer support. But one thing every trader should care about is cost. Not paying attention to investment expenses is like revving your car engine while filling it with gas. That’s why we spent a lot of time balancing price with what each site offered.

Affordable pricing structures

Commissions are typically an investor’s largest expense. In 2020, an unassisted transaction fee averaged about $8. But now, since Robinhood came onto the scene with commission-free trades, many of the most competitive brokers including TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE have dropped commission on U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options.. Previously, many of these picks charged up to $7 per trade.

Low fees, as few as possible

We looked for brokers that go light on extra account fees, don’t charge extra to access data, research, and tools, and provide advice for a reasonable rate. Lots of brokers boast amenities like 24/7 financial experts, but most of those services come at a price.

Depending on your strategy, increased fees might just be the cost of doing business, but we aimed to mitigate these costs in our top picks. Seeing your nest egg shrink due to a tough market or bad strategy isn’t fun. It’s worse if you’re also getting dinged by unexpected fees, such as a minimum account balance fee.

Powerful platforms

We tested each brokerage’s platform and weighed in on its standout features, ease of navigation, intuitive controls, and learning resources. Whether you’re looking to make a series of complex trades or to carefully execute your first, intuitive organization and just-in-time pointers are key to a satisfying platform experience.

Strong ratings from investment publications

Like any financial institution, an investment brokerage worth its weight has a strong reputation. We took ratings from noted publications like Barron’s and Kiplinger into account when separating the best from the rest. Our five favorites consistently rank top in both sites’ yearly report, which marks brokerages on technology, usability, and cost.

Guide to Online Stock Trading Sites

Minimize costs

Warren Buffett is the best example to hit this point home. In 2008, he bet some hedge fund managers $1 million that they wouldn’t be able to make more money in a decade than a cheap, boring index fund. An index fund uses simple investing algorithms to track an index and doesn’t require active human management. Conversely, hedge funds stack management fees on top of trading fees to pay for the time and knowledge actual strategists are putting into your investments.

So what happened to the bet? Buffett won and donated the winnings to charity. He managed to beat his high-priced peers not because he scored bigger gains, but because he minimized costs.

Be aware of broker fees, but your strategy can also cost you

The capital gains tax rate favors long-term investments. An investor who buys and sells their stocks within a few months will face a higher capital gains tax rate (25%) on their profits than an investor who buys and holds their stocks for a full year (15%). The larger your investment, the bigger the difference. Granted, there’s a risk to holding an investment for longer, but if you’re close to that one-year cutoff, it might be worth it to sit tight for a few more weeks.

Avoid funds with a high expense ratio

Mutual funds and ETFs come with their own set of fees, too. As with broker fees, pay attention to the expense ratio — usually a percentage of any mutual funds or ETFs you purchase in your account — even if you’re buying them commission-free.

These extra fees are another big cost to investors, but they aren’t deducted from your account balance. Instead, these fees show up in the price on the ticker tape. That’s why the value per share of many high-priced mutual funds and ETFs doesn’t seem to change over time — any growth is offset by fees.

In addition, watch out for mutual funds that charge a front- or back-end load for each purchase or sale. These usually range from 0.5% to 1% and can add up quickly.

Play with your own fake money

Give yourself a few thousand in fake money and play investor for a bit while you get the hang of it. “Just start. Even with just a virtual portfolio. Start and then commit to building over time,” says Jane Barratt, CEO of investment education and advisory company GoldBean. “Don’t expect anything major to happen in a short time — build your money muscles by taking risks in a virtual portfolio.” To experiment with trading before getting your feet wet with real money, try TD Ameritrade’s paperMoney, a virtual trading platform.

Buy what you know

Our experts suggest you begin by looking at your own life. “Buy what you know, where you are. If you can, identify good companies locally,” says Randy Cameron, a portfolio manager and investment advisor with 35 years of experience. “Look for companies you and your friends are talking about, ones with plans to go national.” As for how much time and money you need, “start with what you have,” he says. There is literally no minimum to get started, and starting with just one share is better than putting things off.

Don’t check your account too often

The best investors are in it for the long haul. Checking your account too often might make you react to the fluctuations in the market too quickly. Personal finance expert Ramit Sethi has written that you should check your investments “probably every few months, with a major review every year.” On many sites, you can also set an alert if a stock dives. Other than that, just set up a quarterly recurring appointment to check in.

Stock Trading Glossary

Ally Invest E*TRADE TD Ameritrade Robinhood Fidelity
Best for Cheap trades Active traders Platform design Beginners Research and tools
Stocks ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔*
Bonds
ETFs ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔*
Options ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔* ✔*
Mutual funds ✔*
Futures
International
Forex

*Offers commission-free or transaction-free trading

  • Stocks: A portion of a company ownership. The more valuable the company, the more valuable its stock. Level: beginner
  • Bonds: A loan you make to a company or government in exchange for interest and the return of principle at some future date. If your city wants a new stadium, for example, it might issue a bond to pay for it. These investments are rated for safety by third-party companies, with AAA being the least risky. Level: beginner
  • ETFs: Short for exchange-traded fund. These are investment funds that trade like a stock on a stock exchange, but their performance tracks an underlying basket of stocks. They provide diversification within one investment product, so they present lower risk than individual stocks. Level: beginner
  • Options: A contract between a buyer and a seller to buy or sell something at a specified price at a specified time, often as a way to bet on the future price of an investment. Level: advanced
  • Futures: Short for futures contract. This is an agreement to buy or sell assets, such as commodities or shares, at a fixed price to be delivered and paid for at a later date. If you think you can predict next year’s gold price, this is for you. Level: advanced
  • Forex: Short for foreign exchange. This market is for trading currencies and speculating on what today’s yen, euro, etc. will cost tomorrow. Level: advanced

Online Stock Trading FAQ

While it can feel a little nerve-wracking to transfer your money over the internet, you can rest easy knowing that it’s just as secure as when it’s in the bank. Each of our top trading sites puts up a digital vault around your money with 128-bit, two-way data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and up-to-date firewalls.

We found the best stock trading website for beginners to be Robinhood because of its simple, user-friendly design, and lack of commission fees. Robinhood presented an environment that our reviewers, many of them newcomers, found much less intimidating than the more established platforms like Fidelity or TD Ameritrade. Robinhood does, however, lack some options for trading when it comes to bonds, mutual funds, etc. Ultimately, though, we found these omissions better simplified the world of online stock trading for any newcomer and made it easier for us to ease into it.

Most experts recommend starting with around $1,000. Any less, and it’ll be tough to see how your strategies are performing. That said, the sooner you can invest, the better, as you give your money more time to grow. And with no minimum investment requirements on most brokerage accounts, there’s no reason not to get started right away.

Robo-advisors like Wealthsimple, Wealthfront, and Betterment use algorithms to determine your investment strategy. You just plug in your time frame and risk tolerance and their computers do the rest. And because they’re targeted for a younger crowd, fees are rock bottom. Wealthsimple and Betterment both have no account minimum, while Wealthfront requires $500. Wealthsimple charges an annual 0.5% advising fee; Wealthfront and Betterment charge just 0.25%.

Our Other Finance Reviews

Online stock trading is just one piece of a healthy portfolio. We’ve been reviewing financial products and services for years, interviewing the experts and testing the platforms that will help you grow your wealth. Check out some of our favorite reviews below:

7 Best Free Stock Trading Platforms

Thanks to the rise of fintech, investors now have the option to buy and sell stocks online or through mobile apps – and often free of charge.

There are dozens of trading apps and platforms that allow investors to invest cash in a variety of securities with minimal to no fees. With the increase in choices, here are the best free stock-trading platforms and how they compare.

7 Best Free Stock Trading Platforms

Whether you’re a beginner investor or have been playing the market since before the last recession, free stock trading platforms and apps provide a great opportunity to maximize your returns and keep trading easy and simple.

These investment platforms are top-notch.

1. E*TRADE

Although E*TRADE (ETFC) – Get Report accounts aren’t always free, there are some promotions and accounts that allow investors to invest for free. Currently, E*TRADE is having a promotion when you open a new account. The promotion offers 60 days of commission-free trading for up to 500 trades with a minimum deposit of $10,000 or more.

The site offers 24/7 customer service, easy mobile trading, data and research information, and has trading vehicles that range from ETFs to options. And while E*TRADE’s commissions usually hit just under the $7 mark for normal (nonpromotional) trades, the site is still very popular for its ease of use and retirement services.

2. Robinhood

The free stock trading app has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years, accumulating 6 million users in 2020 – and with good reason. Robinhood seems to be the darling of commission-free trading – as a fintech startup founded by Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev in 2020 with their free stock trading model.

Although there has been some speculation over how Robinhood makes money (given their free trading model), the app is very popular for its easy, free trading and variety of investment vehicles – including options and even cryptocurrency.

To get started, you simply have to submit an application to Robinhood and meet a few basic requirements (although if you are planning to participate in options trading, additional requirements are necessary) – with no account minimum. As a bonus, there are no maintenance fees.

As somewhat of a drawback, Robinhood doesn’t currently allow fractional investing (you can only buy whole shares). But for its cost-efficiency and easily-accessible app format, Robinhood is clearly a crowd favorite for a reason.

3. Charles Schwab

Ideal for investors looking to get into ETFs, Charles Schwab (SCHW) – Get Report has an impressive array of 200 ETFs to choose from, all commission-free. And, as a bank and stockbroker all-in-one, the Schwab app is a great one-stop-shop for investors.

Schwab also has no-transaction-fee mutual funds, with around 4,000 available. Their regular trades will set you back around $5 apiece. There is no minimum balance requirement (although normal accounts typically come with a $1,000 minimum).

Because of their wide selection of the commission-free ETFs and mutual funds, Schwab is a strong contender for free stock trading.

4. Acorns

If you’re a beginner investor looking to make money in stocks, Acorns is the perfect introductory stock trading app.

Acorns specializes in micro-investing – that is, investing your spare change in stocks. There is no minimum to create an account, but there is a $5 minimum to start investing.

The app takes the spare change you’ve got from linked debit or credit cards to invest in commission-free ETFs. There are no fees for inactivity.

5. Vanguard

Boasting around 1,800 commission-free ETFs (just shy of Robinhood’s 2,000,) Vanguard offers a wide selection of free trading options. The platform offers over 3,000 transaction-free mutual funds to boot – including S&P 500 index funds.

The trading platform doesn’t have a minimum account requirement, but they do charge $20 a year for a service fee.

6. TD Ameritrade

Much like E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) – Get Report offers a free trading promotional if you open an account. You can get up to 60 days of commission-free trading for options, ETFs and other equities, as well as up to $600 if you deposit $3,000 or more.

And even when the 60 days runs out, trades average about $6.95 a trade – on par with several other competitors. But TD Ameritrade also offers over 300 commission-free ETFs, and hundreds of transaction-fee-free mutual funds to choose from.

As one of the biggest online trading platforms, TD Ameritrade offers a variety of top-notch services including research, data, and information on stocks as well as cash management, among others.

7. M1 Finance

M1 Finance does things a bit differently (think: customization.)

In addition to being completely commission-free and fee-free, M1 Finance allows investors to invest in fractional shares as small as one penny. And, what makes M1 Finance different is it allows users to create “pies” – that is, pie graphs that are comprised of a variety of ETFs, stocks, and bonds. The app also allows users to choose different kinds of pies based on their investment needs and risk tolerance.

Although there is a $100 minimum for investing, the app allows for total customization of your own portfolio, and offers different kinds of “pies” from moderate to “ultra-aggressive” or “Market Cap 100.”

For a completely free, zero-commission stock trading app, M1 Finance seems to offer a pretty good deal for the DIY investor.

The Bottom Line

So, which free stock trading platform is best for you?

While some platforms like TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE only offer short-term free stock trading services through promotions or new accounts, they do offer some industry-leading services that may be worth the extra cost you’ll incur when your trial run ends.

However, for the investor who wants a truly free stock trading experience, Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance offer a formidable range of services and offerings – even including cryptocurrency and options. And, as trading is increasingly becoming mobile, these app-focused companies are optimized to provide a solid, easy-to-use trading experience from the comfort of your iOS or Android-enabled device.

Still, as always, it is important to examine your personal investment goals and be realistic about how much you are willing to pay for extra services (if you do opt for one of the bigger brokerage names). But thanks to the surge of fintech companies in recent years, there are plenty of investment options that offer free stock trading services that can help grow your returns – all with the touch of a button.

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