Online Broker Comparison Chart | Find The Best Online Broker For You
There are many online brokers out there. Off the top of my head I can name close to 20. As an investor, this can make investing overwhelming.
First you had to overcome your fears and decide to start investing. Now you have to deal with trying to weed through the many online brokers and try to figure out the best one for you.
Fortunately, I did the research for you. I’ve spent hours comparing the top brokers out there.
I’ve opened accounts and made notes of what sets each one apart.
The result is my online broker comparison chart.
The first section is what I consider to be the best brokers out there. They offer tons of services, great customer service, and a good web experience. And all at a good price.
The section below that are great brokers as well, but there are a few things that rank them lower on the list.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use them. There are great names on this list. But I found other brokers to offer more value to investors.
Once you find the right online broker for you, you can read my full review to learn more or you can open your account.
If you still have questions, check out my detailed online broker review guide. There I give examples of what the perfect investor is for the various brokers.
The Best Online Brokers | March 2020
Betterment | The Robo Advisor Leader
Betterment is one of the original robo-advisors out there. And they are still thriving thanks to their belief in always innovating. When you invest with Betterment, you know you are making a smart choice.
- best for
M1 Finance | The Best Choice For DIY Investors
M1 Finance broke the chains when it was the first to offer free stock trading. Even as other brokers come onto the scene, M1 Finance is one of the best choices for DIY investors looking to invest.
- best for
Acorns | The Best Choice For Small Investors
Acorns changed the game when they allowed you to start investing your spare change. With a simple to use app and effortless ways to invest, Acorns is a solid choice for many investors just starting out without a lot of money to invest.
- best for
Webull | The Active Investors Dream Come True
Webull is an active traders dream come true. Trade stocks for free and have access to mountains of free tools and research. Even the bigger players in the space don't compare to Webull.
- best for
Ally Invest | A Solid Option For Active Traders
Formerly TradeKing, Ally Invest is a strong broker for active traders. With some of the best tools and research out there, they cannot be overlooked. Add to the fact they also offer a robo-advisor service, they could be the complete broker out there.
- best for
Charles Schwab | The Best Big Broker Out There
The original discount broker, Charles Schwab is a leader, not a follower. They are continuously pushing the boundaries of investing and offer the most products for investors at the best prices. And their customer service is top notch as well.
- best for
Other Online Brokers To Consider
As I mentioned, there are many online brokers out there. As a result, I can't list them all. Here are good online brokers to consider if none of the above ones meet your needs.
Vanguard: A great option for investors with a decent amount of money to invest. Their mutual funds have low fees, but you need $3,000 to start investing.
Stash: Similar to Acorns, this broker is great for those with very little money to invest. I like Acorns more because you can invest your spare change and their Found Money feature.
Wealthsimple: A great online broker for Canadian investors. Perfect for beginning investors. You can even invest your spare change.
Motif Investing: Similar to M1 Finance, you can build your own custom portfolios or invest in pre-built portfolios. The downside is you cannot invest for free.
E*Trade: A good choice for active investors, E*Trade has a ton of tools for day traders. And with $0 tradings fees, it is one to consider.
Fidelity: Another big broker, Fidelity is worth a look if you are considering Charles Schwab. They offer many no fee ETFs and offer zero trading commissions as well.
Online Brokers | What You Need To Know
How I Rank The Best Online Brokers
As I mentioned above, I personally did the research to create this list. I’ve been investing since 1998 and have invested with many firms over the years.
This list includes:
- Charles Schwab
- TD Ameritrade
- M1 Finance
- Capital One Invest (formerly Sharebuilder)
- And many more
I’ve also worked in the financial services industry for over 15 years, dealing with many brokers.
Simply put, I have the experience to know what to look for. And I’ve used my personal experience investing with these firms play a role as well.
In the cases where I didn’t have a personal account, I created an account. This allowed me to understand everything there is to know about a broker.
The end result is a massive pile of research.
I then began ranking the various online brokers in different areas, including:
- Account services
- Account types
- Customer service
- Ease of use (both online and using a mobile device)
- And more!
From there I assigned a numerical score and ranked each broker independently.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose a broker?
You need to understand what it is you are looking for in a broker.
Do you want to trade stocks? Do you want investing to be automated? How frequently will you trade? Do you need someone to guide you along?
All these questions will guide you to finding the broker for you.
Once you answer these questions, then you can run through the online broker comparison chart above to find the one that best fits your needs.
Which online broker is best for beginners?
This depends on what you are looking for.
Do you want to DIY investing or do you want to automate it?
For those looking to DIY their investing, M1 Finance, Webull, Charles Schwab are great options.
If you want investing to be more hands off, then Betterment, M1 Finance, or Acorns are solutions for you.
Which online broker is best overall?
This is a loaded question and cannot be answered with a blanket reply.
The reason is because every investor is looking for different features out of a broker. Therefore the best broker for you will not be the same for someone else.
For example, if someone is car shopping, you cannot say the Honda Accord is best overall. Some people have families and need an SUV. Other people are looking for an eco-friendly vehicle.
This is why I created the online broker comparison.
It breaks down the top brokers so you can choose the best one for your needs.
Which is the cheapest online broker?
Years ago, I could easily say that a certain broker was the cheapest online broker.
But with competition, today many brokers have no trading fees. There is not one online broker with the lowest fees.
For example, you can trade with no fees at M1 Finance, Betterment, Wealthsimple, Charles Schwab, and many others.
Just know that it is important to not only focus on fees.
You need a broker that offers the securities you want to trade, has good customer service, etc.
Where can I buy stocks for free?
There are many online brokers that allow you to trade stocks for free.
Webull, M1 Finance, and Charles Schwab are just a few.
Important Investing Terms To Understand
When it comes to investing, there are some important terms you need to understand. By knowing these investing terms, you can be a more successful investor. Also, you will find it easier to pick the online broker that is perfect for you.
- Stocks: A share of stock represents ownership in a company. When you buy stock in a company, you become an owner in the company and share in the company’s profits.
- Bonds: A bond is debt in a company. By purchasing a company’s debt, you earn interest on your investment.
- Mutual funds: A mutual fund is a basket of stocks, bonds or a combination of both. When you buy a share of a mutual fund, you own a small piece of many companies. The benefit to mutual funds is you can invest with less money versus stocks and be diversified at the start.
- Exchange traded funds (ETFs): Exchange traded funds are similar to mutual funds. They are also a basket of stocks or bonds. The major difference is you can buy or sell ETFs throughout the day.
- Index funds: An index fund is a type of mutual fund or exchange traded fund that tracks an underlying financial index, like the S&P 500. The benefit of investing in index funds is lower fees and you earn close to what the market earns.
- Robo-Advisor: A robo-advisor is a broker that automates investing for you. They follow proven investment theories and invest your money for you. All you do is answer a few questions so they can build a customized portfolio for you. Then you set up a monthly transfer to invest and they take care of the rest for a small annual fee.
- Fractional shares: Fractional shares are partial shares of stocks, mutual funds, and exchange traded funds. For example, 0.45 shares is a fractional share. Fractional shares are common when investing in mutual funds and exchange traded funds. Not all brokers allow for fractional stock investing. This means if you want to buy a share of stock, you need to have the money for a whole share. For example, if you want to buy a share of ABC Company stock and it trades for $25 per share, you need $25 to buy it. If however a broker allows for fractional stock investing, you can buy the $25 stock even if you only have $10. The result here is you will own 0.40 shares of stock.
- Trading commission: Also known as a trading fee, this is the fee a broker charges you to place a trade. In most cases, this fee under $10 per trade and applies to stocks and exchange traded funds. There is not a trading commission on mutual funds. Recently, many online brokers now offer free trades on all trades.
- Expense ratio: An expense ratio is also known as a management fee. It is represented as a percentage and is typically 1.50% and lower. This is the annual fee mutual funds charge shareholders. The fee is used to pay the salary of the management team overseeing the fund. The most important thing is to find investments with the lowest expense ratio possible.
Here are some excellent posts that go into greater detail about investing and finding the right broker for you.
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About the Author
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market.
I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
My work has been featured in Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reader's Digest, Kiplinger's, US News, and more.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.
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