7 best online brokers in 2021

Originally posted by James Royal on Bankrate .com
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If you’re ready to invest and trying to find a brokerage account that works best for you, it’s important to have a comprehensive look at the top options — and that’s what Bankrate provides below.

We’ve examined the largest brokers based on characteristics that matter to individual investors, including trading fees, account minimums, free research and many other features. We’ve evaluated each broker on their pros and cons, and here’s how they stack up on the most important aspects for 2021.

Best online brokerage accounts in 2021

Charles Schwab

Schwab has been well-known for decades with its customer-first approach. Charles Schwab does it all well, from low fees to solid research to no account minimum – all at a reasonable trading commission. Beginners will like the zero commissions and thousands of no-transaction-fee funds, while more advanced traders will appreciate the highly customizable StreetSmart Edge trading platform.

On top of all of this, the broker offers great customer support, educating you on how to invest and giving you a fast response. 

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Fidelity Investments

With a reputation for being investor-friendly, Fidelity is a great overall pick for your next broker. Fidelity provides a wealth of research and is highly regarded for its snappy customer support, too. The broker offers commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs and throws in thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee, too.

The Boston-based broker is great about getting rid of unnecessary account fees even as it provides a top-quality experience.

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade is great if you want a broker that can go anywhere. Besides the usual stocks, bonds, ETFs and options, you’ll also get access to futures and forex. That’s on top of more than 4,000 mutual funds with no transaction fee.

With free research and the high-powered thinkorswim trading platform available to investors, it’s a winner. And of course, this leading broker charges no commissions on stock and ETF trades. 

(Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade, and will eventually integrate the two companies.)

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

E-Trade

If you want access to all types of investing, then E-Trade can give you that, with access to stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, mutual funds and futures. You’ll also be able to buy more than 4,500 mutual funds with no transaction fee.

You’ll get extensive customer support (think 24/7 access across email, phone and online chat), a high-quality mobile app in Power E-Trade and plenty of research and market commentary, if you’re looking for it.

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract, with a discount to $0.50 for 30 or more trades per quarter

Minimum: $0

Interactive Brokers

With its stripped-down trading interface, Interactive Brokers only looks like a no-frills broker. But this “broker to the pros” has put all its resources into creating a great experience for active traders. So it’s no surprise that it’s a top choice among advanced traders and those who value the finer points, such as swift trade execution. Volume-based discounts and a pro-level trading platform are enticing to many of these active traders.

You can stick with the broker’s Pro platform with $1 minimum commissions (or a half-cent per share above 200 shares) or get in the game for $0 commissions if you move to the broker’s Lite service tier. 

Commission: $0 (Lite service) or $1 minimum per trade (Pro service), with volume discounts available; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge’s strongest suit is the research it offers clients, which comes from the broker’s extensive in-house team of analysts. The package includes detailed analyst reports for companies that it covers, and Merrill also offers good educational material for beginning investors.

One of the best features is the broker’s integration with Bank of America, so you can move money quickly from bank to broker, and it all comes at a great price: free!

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Ally Invest

Ally Invest is a good add-on for customers of Ally Bank who need a fully functioning broker that can execute all kinds of trades – stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds and even forex, if you’re into that. You’ll get the industry standard commission on stock and ETF trades, and you can get an industry-beating commission on options contracts, at just $0.50.

While the broker doesn’t have any no-transaction-fee mutual funds, it does offer a low base price ($9.95) for such trades.

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.50 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Bottom line

Selecting a broker requires you to think about your needs, because the deciding factor is not always about price. If you’re a buy-and-hold ETF investor, you’ll probably need something different than if you’re an active trader.

While new investors might find choosing a broker to be daunting, you aren’t likely to go wrong with any of the names mentioned above. The bigger step is just getting started, so don’t delay. Once you’ve found a broker, you can begin plotting your way to a more secure financial future.

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