Top Online Stock Brokers

When you’re a beginner investor, the right brokerage account can be so much more than simply a platform for placing trades. It can help you build a solid investing foundation — functioning as a teacher, advisor and investment analyst — and serve as a lifelong portfolio co-pilot as your skills and strategy mature.

500 commission-free trades and up to $600 with a qualifying deposit

Min. account: $
Fees: $6.95 per upgrade

$50-$3,500 cash bonus + free trades depending on account size

Min. account: $
Fees: $4.95 per upgrade

$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size

Min. account: $
Fees: $6.95 per upgrade

300 commission-free trades with deposit of $50,000 or more

Min. account: $
Fees: $4.95 per upgrade

60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more

Min. account: $
Fees: $6.95 per upgrade
Broker Promotion Min. account Fees Ratings Visit
Ameritrade

500 commission-free trades and up to $600 with a qualifying deposit

$0.00
$6.95

per upgrade

evangelium
Ally Invest

$50-$3,500 cash bonus + free trades depending on account size

$0.00
$4.95

per upgrade

Open Account
Merril Edge

$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size

$0.00
$6.95

per upgrade

Open Account
Fidelity

300 commission-free trades with deposit of $50,000 or more

$2,500
$4.95

per upgrade

(484) 517-3476
Etrade

60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more

$500
$6.95

per upgrade

Open Account

What is a stock broker?

A stock broker is a person or an institution licensed to buy and sell stocks and other securities via the market exchanges. Back in the day, the only way for individuals to invest directly in stocks was to hire a stock broker to place trades on their behalf. But what was once a clunky, costly transaction conducted via landline telephones now takes place online in seconds, for a fraction of what full-service brokers used to charge for the service. Today, most investors place their trades through an online brokerage account.

How to choose a financial advisor

Consider three factors when choosing a personal financial advisor so you get the advice you want — and don’t pay too much or pay for things you don’t need:

1. SERVICES YOU WANT

If you want help choosing and managing investments, a robo-advisor is a streamlined, cost-efficient choice. It’s also good for those just starting out, because robos have low or no account minimums.

If you have a complicated financial situation or want holistic advice on topics like estate planning, insurance needs, etc., you might need a human advisor.

You can even have it both ways: Get started with a robo now, so you’re not missing out on stock market gains, and add a human advisor later for comprehensive planning.

2. COST

Robo-advisors’ annual fees start at 0.25% of the assets they manage for you, with many top providers charging 0.50% or less.

Human advisors also often charge a percentage of the amount managed, with a median fee of 1%, although it can range higher for small accounts and lower for large ones. Some require at least $250,000 in investable assets to get started.

Others may charge a flat fee, an hourly rate or a retainer. Understand their costs and fees before you commit to anyone.

What is a brokerage account?

A brokerage account is an investment account. Once you’ve deposited money into a brokerage account, you can use that money to buy investments like stocks, bonds and mutual funds. You can open a brokerage account at an online broker.

Is a brokerage account right for you?

YES, A BROKERAGE ACCOUNT IS A GOOD CHOICE IF …

  • You want to purchase and manage your own investments. To do so, you need a brokerage account. Here are our top picks for best online brokers.
  • You want to invest money for retirement (and you’re already contributing enough to earn a 401(k) match, if your employer offers one). In this case, you want a specific type of brokerage account called a Roth or traditional IRA. These have important tax benefits. Here are our picks for the best IRA providers.

OTHER ACCOUNTS MIGHT BE A BETTER FIT IF …

  • You’d rather have someone else do the day-to-day work of managing your retirement account or other investments. If this sounds appealing, consider opening your brokerage account at a robo-advisor, which is a low-cost alternative to a human investment manager. A robo-advisor will choose and manage your investments for you, based on your goals. Here are our top picks for robo-advisors.
  • You are saving for a goal you want to accomplish in the next five years. With that short time horizon, steer clear of the stock market and consider an online savings account or other short-term investments.