Best Online Stock Brokers

The Trading Desk May Be Virtual but the Deals Are Real

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If you want to manage your investments, the best way to do so today is with an online stock broker. There are a handful of excellent stock brokers to choose from, so knowing which is the best for your needs may be a challenge.

When choosing a brokerage, it’s important to consider fees, research availability, trading platforms, account types, available investments, and customer service. To help you quickly hone in on the best option for your unique needs, we reviewed some of the best online stock brokers on the market today. Here are our picks for the best online stock brokers.

Best Online Stock Brokers of 2020 

  • Fidelity: Best Overall
  • Charles Schwab: Runner-Up
  • SoFi: Best for Beginners
  • Webull: Best for Free Trades
  • TD Ameritrade: Best for Active Traders
  • Ally Invest: Best With Banking Products
  • Vanguard: Best for ETFs

Fidelity: Best Overall

Fidelity logo

 Fidelity Investments

Fidelity is our top choice for online stock brokers. This brokerage combines just about everything the typical investor would want in a brokerage. That includes accounts with no fees for regular activity, a wide range of account types and available investments, and excellent research and education resources.

Fidelity offers no-fee stock and ETF trading, and four of its own mutual funds with no expense ratio. Self-directed accounts don’t have any recurring fees. Just make sure you can handle your own trades online, as there are significant fees for phone and broker-assisted trades.

Fidelity features extensive resources to research specific investments and learn about how to invest. A highlight is the selection of tools and calculators to help you plan out your financial future, most notably retirement.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Other accounts: Supports college and health savings accounts
What We Like
  • No-fee, no-minimum accounts

  • Many low-fee mutual funds with no commission

  • Four no-fee mutual funds

  • In-depth education and research

What We Don't Like
  • High-cost phone and broker-assisted trades

  • $25,000 minimum for digital managed account

Charles Schwab: Runner-Up

Charles Schwab

Courtesy of Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is our runner-up thanks to low fees, high-tech trading tools, extensive investment options, a wide range of investment options, and great customer service. Schwab is a good choice for beginner and veteran investors alike.

Beginners will appreciate Schwab’s easy-to-use online investing platform and mobile apps, which give you the ability to buy and sell securities, enter transfers, manage your accounts or access research, ratings, and reports on a wide range of investments. It’s also a favorite for its low-fee Schwab Bank accounts.

Schwab was a leader in dropping trade commissions to $0 for stocks and ETFs in late 2019 and maintains its no-fee/low-fee advantage today.

Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Robo advisor fees: No recurring fees
What We Like
  • Low-fee accounts with no commission for stocks or ETFs

  • Easy-to-manage online investments

  • Checking account with no ATM fees, including international

What We Don't Like
  • High fees for mutual funds off of the no-transaction-fee list

  • $5,000 minimum for managed portfolios

  • Low interest rate on cash balances

SoFi: Best for Beginners

SoFi Logo

 SoFi

SoFi is our top online brokerage for new investors. SoFi features brokerage accounts with no recurring fees and no fees to trade stocks or ETFs. While it has a somewhat limited set of available investments (though it does offer crypto trading), it offers plenty to keep a beginner busy and covers the needs of most investors.

Beginners will enjoy commission-free trades and the ability to buy fractional shares, which SoFi calls “Stock Bits.” You can buy stocks and ETFs with as little as $1. When logged in, SoFi suggests groups of stock and ETFs that may be a good fit for your needs.

SoFi Invest is part of a suite of banking, lending, and investing products. Members have access to no-fee financial planning sessions and career coaching. Members also have access to SoFi Relay, a free tool to track your balances across all accounts, even outside of SoFi.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: $1
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Fractional share investing: Yes
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use stock and ETF trading platform

  • Fee-free managed portfolios

  • Many free resources and tools

What We Don't Like
  • Limited investment availability

  • No mutual funds

Webull: Best for Free Trades

Webull logo

Webull 

Webull is a newer investment platform ideal for active stock, ETF, and options traders. Webull is comparable to Robinhood, but after reliability issues and several major public snafus with Robinhood, Webull makes our list as the best choice for free trades.

Webull charges almost no fees at all, including monthly recurring fees and commissions. This high-tech brokerage offers the best experience through its web trading platform, though the mobile app is fairly powerful as well.

The account types and investment options are somewhat limited, but new features are added regularly and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s reasonable to expect more new products and accounts will be supported in the future.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Commissions: None on all trades
What We Like
  • Almost no fees for regular activity

  • Active trading tools and advanced charting

  • Paper trading simulates trading with no-risk, virtual currency

  • View global markets online or in the mobile app

What We Don't Like
  • Limited customer support

  • Limited educational resources

  • Limited account types and tradable assets

TD Ameritrade: Best for Active Traders

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade 

TD Ameritrade is a large brokerage that’s ideal for both beginner and expert traders. While beginners will find their needs met by the web and mobile trading platforms, advanced active traders will want to tap into the power of TD Ameritrade’s flagship platform thinkorswim.

thinkorswim comes in both desktop and mobile versions and gives you many of the tools used by professional Wall Street traders. It includes advanced charting, integrated news (including streaming CNBC TV), economic data, alerts, and more. This platform stands up to nearly any competing active trader platform, but you won’t pay any extra to use it.

Like others on this list, TD Ameritrade features no-fee stock, ETF, and options trades.

In November 2019, Charles Schwab announced that it is acquiring TD Ameritrade. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2020. Once closed, it’s likely that TD Ameritrade trading platforms and Charles Schwab trading platforms will be combined into one.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Trading apps: thinkorswim and TD Ameritrade
What We Like
  • Multiple platforms give you powerful trading tools on any device

  • Paper trading (virtual currency) allows you to test thinkorswim risk-free

  • Support for many account types and most tradable assets

  • Extensive research and education resources

What We Don't Like
  • Pending buyout by Charles Schwab could affect user experience

  • Advanced platforms may be overwhelming for newer investors

Ally: Best With Banking Products

ally invest
Courtesy of Ally

Ally offers simple, low-fee accounts that are easy to manage. That includes both its popular Ally Bank checking and savings accounts and Ally Invest brokerage accounts. Ally Invest offers both self-directed and managed investment accounts. Stock and ETF trades are commission-free, though the selection of ETFs is limited.

Ally is a popular online bank thanks to a combination of low-fees and competitive interest rates. When you have both bank and investment accounts from Ally, you manage them through the same login and mobile app.

The Ally Invest platform is best used on the web, though the mobile app works well when you’re on the go. Ally doesn’t offer any no-transaction-fee mutual funds, but the low $9.95 per trade is a bargain compared to the $40 to $50 you pay at other brokerage firms. It’s best for passive and active investors looking to primarily focus on the stock market.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: None
  • Other fees: Low cost of .50 cents per contract for options trades (no base trade fee)
  • Other accounts: Checking, savings, CDs, and more
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use bank and investment accounts

  • Instant transfers between Ally bank and investment accounts

  • No-fee managed portfolios with a low $100 minimum to start

What We Don't Like
  • Limited ETFs available

  • Zero no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Vanguard: Best for ETFs

Vanguard logo

 Vanguard

Vanguard is one of the largest fund managers in the world and pioneered the low-cost index funds we know today. While Vanguard was initially known for mutual funds with low expense ratios, that quickly grew into ETFs as they gained popularity thanks to fast, easy, low-cost trades.

Vanguard has over 70 ETFs of its own, with expense ratios ranging from 0.035% to 0.07%. While some other ETF providers have been racing Vanguard to the bottom on fees, investors come out ahead with lower costs.

This very traditional company still has some fund minimums and account fees that are higher than others on this list, but it’s one of the biggest asset managers in the world for a reason. Low costs and reliable performance make it a winner.

Key Features

  • Account minimum: None
  • Recurring fees: $20 per year for accounts with less than $10,000 in Vanguard funds
  • Other accounts: IRAs, SEPs, college savings, annuities
What We Like
  • Great low-fee ETFs and mutual funds

  • Excellent retirement account options

  • Low-cost service for hybrid human/robo investment advisor

  • Competitive rates on cash balances

What We Don't Like
  • High minimums for some mutual funds

  • High fees for non-Vanguard mutual funds

How Do I Use an Online Broker?

An online broker is a financial hub for your investments. Manage your stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, cash balances, and other investment needs with one login. All online stock brokers on this list give you the ability to manage your account on the web or with a convenient mobile app.

How Much Money Do I Need to Invest?

While you used to need thousands of dollars to get started, you can open an account with most stock brokers with no minimum opening deposit. With brokers like Fidelity and SoFi, fractional share investing allows you to buy stocks and ETFs for less than the listed share price, too.

Many brokers do not charge commissions for stock and ETF trades, so it’s cheaper than ever to get started investing.

What We Like
  • Manage your account anywhere

  • Stay in-tune with your portfolio with mobile alerts

  • Self-service means low costs and fast results

What We Don't Like
  • Possible to make mistakes managing your investments

  • Investment choices may be made without support

How Should I Choose an Online Broker?

To choose the best online stock broker for your needs, start by looking at your investment goals and style. If you prefer a hands-on approach, look for a brokerage with better tools and features for active investors. Those with a long-term focus may prefer a less hands-on approach with an account tailored toward long-term funds.

In either case always look at the costs, fees, account types, and available investments to make sure your basic needs are met.

How We Chose the Best Online Stock Brokers

We reviewed over 20 different online stock brokers to find the best in the market. The most important features for inclusion were low fees and a wide range of supported account types and tradable assets. Other features reviewed include research reports, investor tools, educational resource sections, and active trading tools.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. Charles Schwab. "In Conjunction With Chuck Schwab’s New Book “Invested,” Schwab Removes the Final Pricing Barrier to Investing Online by Eliminating U.S. Stock, ETF and Options Commissions." Accessed May 6, 2020.