If you’re an active investor, stocks comprise a significant portion of your financial portfolio. But the stock market is volatile. If you’re lucky, knowledgeable, or both, you can make a killing. If you’re not, you may be left with nothing. A reliable stock trading company can make all the difference.
Top-tier stock trading agencies cannot guarantee that you will always make money. But the best stock trading agencies do offer reliability, security, and a global presence. The stock trading companies here, listed in no particular order, offer user satisfaction, attractive features, global presence, safety, and reliability.
Best Online Stock Trading Companies in the USA
Scottrade ranked #1 in the 2014 Self-Directed Investor Firm Ratings conducted by J.D. Power. Scottrade offers an excellent user experience, reasonable trade fees, and a transparent fee schedule. The platform also features a wealth of free information to help investors feel confident about where they’re placing their money.
The respondents of the 2014 J.D. Power Self-Directed Investor Firm Ratings gave Charles Schwab high marks across the board. Schwab provides great value for the money, with services like virtual trading and account transfers offered free of charge. New investors receive a bonus of $100 just for opening an account with Schwab.
E*Trade Financial ranks highly in research and trading tools, and features reasonable pricing. It’s is also massive and globally prominent, with presence in Canada, Mexico, Asia, Europe, and South Africa. With more than 3,000 employees worldwide, E*Trade investors have access to live trader assistance.
Despite high marks across the board in the 2014 J.D. Power survey, Vanguard manages to fly under the radar for many investors. But don’t write them off. Vanguard is a heavy hitter, managing almost $3 trillion in assets. Vanguard also administers the world’s largest mutual fund, and features the research tools and educational materials you would expect from a top-notch operation.
Fidelity ranked especially high in customer service and research, two essential elements for enhancing investor confidence. It also offers good value for the money and a broad variety of product offerings. One area where Fidelity falls a bit short is in ease of use. Beginning investors may find it difficult to navigate Fidelity’s online platform.
Affiliated with Charles Schwab, Options Xpress offers a $100 bonus for new investors. It also offers virtual training, broker-assisted training and instructor-led investment courses free of charge. In addition, Options Xpress features outstanding customer service and investor research materials.
Don’t let the low $4.75 per trade price fool you. OptionsHouse is a first-rate operation. The platform features a user-friendly interface with rich data and research tools, available at no charge. Rated “Best for Options Trading” four years in a row by Barron’s, the only cut-rate aspect of OptionsHouse is the price.
TradeKing stock trading agency with low prices and high ratings. Stock trades cost a flat $4.95 each, and options are $4.95 plus 65 cents per contract. Broker-assisted trades cost a reasonable $20. And even with these low prices, new traders receive a generous $150 refund in transfer fees. The only (minor) knock is the lack of 24/7 support.
TD Ameritrade got high marks across the board on the 2014 J.D. Power survey. Stock Trades are $9.99, and options trades cost $9.99 plus 75 cents per contract — pricier than some competitors. But there is no minimum balance requirement, and the available information and trading tools provided by TD Ameritrade are second to none. New investors trade free for 90 days and can receive credits of up to $600.
ShareBuilder offers stock trades for $6.95 and options trades for $6.95 plus 75 cents per contract. New investors can receive a bonus of up to $600 when they fund their accounts. ShareBuilder is ideal for investors interested in automatic trades. Drawbacks include no broker-assisted trading and no international trading.
Firstrade offers 10,000 mutual funds, stocks, options, and no-fee IRAs, and requires no minimum account balance for investors. Self-executed trades cost $6.95 for stocks and $6.95 plus 75 cents per contract. Alongside its clean, easily navigated dashboard, these features make Firstrade a great choice for independent investors. But broker-assisted trades cost a pricey $26.95 each. Ouch.
If you are a high-level investor who values a professional platform and a broad variety of trading choices, Interactive Brokers is ideal. You have your choice of options, stocks, corporate and municipal bonds, Treasury instruments, Forex, and more. But Interactive Brokers also features a tedious sign-up process that involves waiting for verification codes by snail mail. And the minimum opening balance is an eye-popping $10,000.
While USAA insurance is available only to military personnel and their families, its banking and financial services products are available to the public. USAA has a two-tiered fee system. Platinum members (who execute 25 trades in 90 days and maintain a $50,000 account balance) pay $5.95 per month. Gold members (everyone else) pay $8.95 per month. USAA charges no surcharges for after-hours trading and few other fees. If you already hold a USAA’s bank account, a brokerage account is a logical addition.
Lightspeed Trading offers a variety of accounts, including Roth and traditional IRAs. New investors can practice on a free account, and Lightspeed’s online community offers encouragement and assistance. Lightspeed also offers automated trading and direct access to exchanges. What’s the catch? Users must maintain a minimum account balance of $5,000 to avoid a monthly $25 fee. Customer service is also not the best, and there are no mutual funds offered. Also, there is no mobile platform available.
The enrollment process at MB trading asks investors to jump through hoops that other trading platforms don’t require. And the platform charges a $30 annual fee for IRAs, as well as surcharges for after-hours trading. But MB Trading also treats its investors to a first-rate trading platform with excellent customer service. MB Trading also charges no annoying hidden fees for maintenance or inactivity.
Place Trade features rich investment advice and access to a worldwide market. Interactive brokers contribute to a powerful trading platform, and automatic investment adds to the convenience of PlaceTrade. But PlaceTrade also imposes a $20 fee for investors with accounts totaling less than $2,000 with less than $30 in total commissions each month. As such, it’s best for active investors.
The $99 monthly charge to use the downloadable TradeStation platform may be a deal breaker for casual investors. And the $5,000 minimum deposit will stop others cold. But for active traders who trade at least 5,000 shares or 50 options contracts per month, all fees are waived. Serious traders will also appreciate TradeStation’s the user interface, its knowledgeable online trader community, and its customizable software.
The Platinum Edge program allows investors with more than $50,000 in assets either with Bank of America or Merrill Edge to receive 30 free trades each month. Merrill Edge is also dramatically increasing the number of traders on staff, from 1,500 to 2,000. The online platform is fast and feature-packed, and its mobile app enables multi-leg options trading.
SpeedTrader is priced to correspond with the average costs for online trading. Point and click trading and visual alerts make the trading process easy. Virtual trading and a professional trading platform are also available. But SpeedTrader offers no research tools, and imposes a $30 fee for accounts that register fewer than 15 trades per quarter.
SureTrader allows you to trade stocks and options with up to a 6:1 leverage and a minimum deposit of only $500. If you’re looking for a low-cost brokerage, SureTrader is a great option.
Looking for more investment advice? Compare pros and cons of other investment platforms here, or read reviews of brokerages here. Or if you need more personalized guidance, consider an investment advisor.