Imagine if you could compare over 600 Data Points across 10 of the very best Stock Brokers to meet your exact needs in a few minutes.
Well you can, Welcome to the Liberated Stock Trader Stock Broker Review & Comparison
This is an Incredibly Detailed [Yet Extremely Actionable] Comparison of the Best Brokers in the U.S.A. for Investors & Day Traders.
Commissions, Stocks, Options, ETF’s, Forex, Mutual Funds, Trading Platforms & Customer Satisfaction, we have it ALL Covered.
There are many high-quality Online Discount Brokerage firms in the U.S.A. but the key is to find a Broker that matches your investing style.
You may want to invest long-term, manage your IRA, or even plan for your retirement.
However, you may be the type of person who wants to trade more frequently or even day trade.
The Brokerage Houses usually tailor their specific services and offerings to specific types of trading or investing styles to be able to corner a niche in the market. Therefore the services, commissions & trading platforms actually differ tremendously between the providers.
Feel free to jump directly to the results – Quick Access Reviews Summary – Jump Straight to the Results + Likes & Dislikes Table or keep reading to assess your specific needs.
Alternatively, Find the Stock Broker with:
Or Review the Round by Round Comparisons
|The Lowest Trading Commissions||Round 1 – Commissions|
|The Biggest Selection of Commission-Free ETF’s||Round 2 – Trading Platform|
|Best Selection of Stocks, Options, Funds, Forex & Bonds||Round 3 – Customer Support & Research|
|Best Trading Platform for Stocks & Options||Round 4 – Broker Regulation & Account Minimums|
Did You Know? As a thank you for using our reviews and purchasing any of the services mentioned we would like to offer you a special gift of the highly rated Liberated Stock Trader “How to Avoid the Next Stock Market Crash” eBook and Video Course worth $29.-.
Simply contact us specifying which service you signed up for and we will send you your gift. See further details in the notes section at the bottom of the page.
U.S. Stock Brokers – Overall Results & Pro’s & Cons Table
For our 2018 review, we have overall 4 Review Winners and 2 Highly recommended Brokers. Overall 20 brokers were considered for the review and 10 brokers actually made the final list.
Firstrade: Recommended for Mid to Long Term Investors seeking Zero Commissions on stocks and options & an industry leading 700 commission Free ETF’s. Full MorningStar access and 5-star customer satisfaction mean Firstrade is a good choice.
|★ $0 Zero Commissions
★ 700+ Commission-Free ETF’s
★ Free MorningStar Research
★ Excellent Customer Satisfaction
|✘ Highish Margin Rates|
There is really a lot to love about Firstrade.
On August 23, 2018, Firstrade made the extremely bold move to move to complete Commission Free Trading. Firstrade were already our 2018 review winner and had amongst the lowest commissions in the industry, now they have officially the lowest in the industry with ZERO, yes ZERO commissions.
What also stands out is the unique offering of over 700 commission free Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’S) on offer. That is over twice as many as the next best competitor TD Ameritrade.
You also get completely cost-free access to the suite of Morning Star research, only 3 other brokers offer free research of this quality.
The Firsttrade Trading Platforms Firstrade Navigator, Options Wizards and Real-time Watchlists hold up well against the competition.
And finally a 5-Star Customer Satisfaction Rating rounds of the package, for an excellent Brokerage for mid to long-term investors.
Last but not least, Firstrade has a great promotion on where you can earn 500 free trades if you open and fund an account with $2,000.
|Read the In-Depth Firstrade Review||Open a Commission Free Brokerage Account with Firstrade|
TC2000 Brokerage: Recommended for Investors buying Stocks, Options & ETF’s directly from Charts using award-winning TC2000. Also, take advantage of incredibly low margin rates.
|★ Excellent Trading Platform
★ Low Commissions
★ Very Low Margin Rates
★ Excellent Customer Satisfaction
|✘ Lack of News & Research
✘ No Futures, Forex
TC2000 Brokerage is a relatively new offering from Worden Brothers Inc. This is a well-established company offering one of the best Stock Market Analysis Software Packages around. The logical step for Worden Brothers was to expand into the Brokerage side of the business.
And boy they did a good job. They offer Stock Trade commissions at $4.95, $2.- less than TD Ameritrade and Merrill Lynch and their options trade fare even better at $2.95 + $0.65 per contract.
They surprisingly lead the pack in Margin Interest Rates. When you buy a stock with margin, it enables you to leverage that stock with borrowed money. This is traditionally where brokerage firms make a lot of profit, through this lending.
However, TC2000 Brokerage does not take advantage of the client in this area and simply offers very low-interest rates of 3% to 4.2% on the margin loans.
The icing on the cake though is that you get to trade directly off the charts with TC2000. TC2000 enables real-time fundamental and technical screening of the entire stock markets, including ETF’s and enables you to easily create indicators from market conditions. Not only that the options trading in TC2000 is arguably the best in the industry.
TC2000 brokerage only offers trading in Stocks, Options and ETF’s, but is this is all you need then this is a first class operation that should meet your needs.
|Read the In-Depth TC2000 Brokerage Review||Open an Account with TC2000 Brokerage|
SpeedTrader: Recommended for Day Traders wanting Direct Market Access & Lightning Execution for very low-cost Stock & Options trading.
|★ Direct Market Access
★ Fast Execution
★ Low Per Share Commissions
★ Great Customer Service
|✘ Software Costs
✘ No Futures, Forex, ETF’s
SpeedTrader is the Broker in the review targeting specifically Day Traders with their services. So, what do day traders look for? Direct Market Access, Fast Execution, Low per Share Commissions Structures? Well, SpeedTrader has all of this.
The key service offering is Direct Market Access, meaning you do not go through a 3rd party market maker for your trades, you deal directly on the market itself, which means better visibility of prices and tighter spreads.
They also offer a very low “commissions per share” option as an alternative to fixed cost per trade.
The per share commissions structure comes in at $0.00044 per share, which is a significant cost saving for any trade under 10,000 shares.
Also when it comes to Options Trading Fees the offering of $1.99 + $0.40 per contract is the among the best of all 20 brokers reviewed.
Suffice to say, extremely competitive. So, if you are into Stocks and Options Day Trading this is a good place to be.
Also, SppedTrader have a great promotion on now with $500 free trades is you open an acocunt.
Interactive Brokers: Ideal for Active Investors and Day Traders, seeking the absolute lowest trading costs, direct market access for fast execution and best in class margin costs.
|★ Industry Leading Low Commissions
★ Great Trading Platform
★ Direct Market Access
★ All Markets & Vehicles
★ Lowest Margin Rates
|✘ Less than perfect Customer Satisfaction|
No review would be complete without the grandfather of online discount brokers. Not only is Interactive Brokers (IB) a long established company, it is also big. It has a very complete set of services, enabling your to trade practically anything on any market. Stocks, Options, ETF’s, Mutual Funds, Bonds, Foreign Exchange and even futures and commodities.
Usually, when a company is well established and large, it loses its competitive edge. Not so with Interactive Brokers.
The industries lowest commissions on Stock Trades at $1,- and great commissions on Options demonstrate competitiveness. They also have the lowest margin interest rate in the review, in fact probably in the industry.
When it comes to the trading platform there is no additional costs, Web Trader, and TWS are all free.
Interactive Brokers caters to the more professional investor, or at least those with a minimum account balance of $10,000. Also, you will need to have a balance of $100,000 to be able to trade Forex.
Another huge bonus is that IB manages to throw into the package Zacks and Morning Star research for free, including real-time news.
IB manages to span the divide between Day Traders and Long-Term investors and that is not easy. If you plan to span those worlds also IB is a natural choice.
|Read the In-Depth Interactive Brokers Review||Open an Interactive Brokers Account|
Ally Invest: Best match for Investors seeking low commissions, good execution on stocks, options, ETF’s, Futures, Bonds, Semi-Automated Portfolio Management + Banking & Credit Services with great customer service scores.
|★ Competitive Commissions
★ Full Suite of Investing Vehicles
★ Great Customer Service
|✘ Higher Margin Costs
✘ No News or Research Services
Ally is not just a broker, they are a financial institution offering banking, credit cards, home loans and auto finance and insurance. After the acquisition of TradeKing in 2016 they branched into trading & brokerage services.
This acquisition seems to have worked well as they have a very competitive suite of investing services and excellent customer satisfaction scores.
Stock trading commissions weigh in at $4.95 per trade and for larger volume traders there are discounts available.
If you have a trading balance of $100,000 and or make more than $30 trades per month, the cost drops to $3.95. Also, the Options trading costs drop from $4.95 +$0.65 per contract to $3.95 + $0.50 per contract, making them more competitive than TD Ameritrade, Fidelity & Merrill.
Ally also offers the full suite of vehicles such as Stocks, Options, Bonds, ETF’s, Forex and even Commodity Futures.
If you are looking for an institution to provide competitive rates across the full suite of investing and banking services the Ally could be a very good choice.
Lightspeed: Perfect for Active Day Traders seeking fast execution & very low commissions for higher volumes. A very good customer satisfaction score and a good suite of tools make this a good choice.
|★ Fast Execution
★ Very Low Commissions
★ Good Customer Satisfaction
★ Good Trading Platform
|✘ Lack of Real-time News
✘ No In-house Research
Lightspeed is a well-established division of Lime Brokerage. They are clearly targeting active traders with their service offerings, specifically in the commissions, execution speed and trading platform area.
You can choose a per trade commission which starts at $4.50 per trade for under 250 trades per month. But as you scale up your trading the costs go down to $2.50 per month. Alternatively, they offer a per share commission of $0.0045 per share scaling up to $0.0010. I am a big fan of having the choice of rates, and out of all the brokers reviews only Lightspeed, Interactive Brokers, SpeedTrader and SureTrader offer this.
Their trading platform is also a solid offering with in-house developed LightSpeed Mobile & Lightspeed Trader and also the very respectable offering of RealTick Pro & LiveVol X Platform. What is nice if there is no overt extra monthly cost for the tools, but there is a small transaction commission depending on the platform you use.
Lightspeed is targeting those who have larger trading volumes as the minimum account opening balance is $10,000. For that $10,000 you get a broker with a great customer satisfaction ratings and fast execution at competitive commission rates.
|Read the In-Depth Lightspeed Review||Open an Account with Lightspeed|
Round 1 – Stock Brokers Commissions Comparison
Commissions are not the be all and end all, but low commissions do help to reduce slippage especially if you are an active investor or trader.
Some Brokers offer a flat fee regardless of how many shares are traded. Some offer an optional “per share” commission structure, which can be beneficial for smaller traders.
Round 1 – Commissions – Winner
When it comes to the lowest trading costs then Interactive Brokers comes out on top. With a stock trading fee of $1 and even a per share trading fee of $0.005 you have flexibility and low slippage. The options fee of $1,- is also best in class for this review.
Interactive Brokers does offer commission-free ETF’s but only 28 of them. However, the commissions are all other ETF’s are so low it may not matter, as they charge only $1,- per trade.
Futures and Mutual Funds are also the lowest in the test at $0.85 and $1.- respectively. The margin account interest rates are also the very best at only 2.2% to 3%. This clearly makes IB the leader for commissions.
Round 1 – Commissions – Winner
Firstrade is also very competitive in the commissions’ area with a $2.95 flat fee per trade and $2.95 + $0.50 per options contract.
But what really separates Firstrade from the pack is the 700+ commission-free Exchange Traded Funds on offer. This is a huge selection and quite unique.
Round 1 – Commissions – Highlight
If you only want to trade stocks, options and ETF’s and would like to utilize leverage to increase your buying power the TC2000 Brokerage could be ideal for you as they offer an incredibly low 3% to 4.2% margin costs. These rates are available to those with smaller balances also.
Round 2- Stock Brokerage – Trading Platform Comparison
How do you find the stocks that are in-play, have high volatility and are in a strong trend? This is the job of the trading platform.
You need your trading platform to be fast, intuitive and powerful. In this section, we rate the brokers on their choice of trading platform.
Round 2 – Trading Platform Winner
Worden Brothers continue their winning ways, which very competitive pricing starting at only $10 per month for the silver package. I would recommend gold to start with as you get a more powerful alerts engine and unlock the huge power of the Technical & Fundamental Scanning and Filtering that TC2000 is famous for.
TC2000 is aimed squarely at those trading Stocks, ETF’s, Mutual Funds and Options only, specifically on the U.S.A and Canadian Markets.
The software is first class, runs on PC, Mac and Tablets SmartPhones, and requires Zero complex configuration.
Support is excellent both on the forums or via the phone where you get to speak immediately with skilled personnel in the U.S.
If you trade U.S. Stocks, ETF’s or Mutual Funds, then this is a great solution. Worden also provides regular live training seminars which are of a very high quality and also tour the U.S.A with free live training seminars for subscribers.
Worden Brothers make a clean sweep when it comes to trade management, with full Broker Integration (as long as you choose them as your broker).
TC2000 also offers fantastic Options trading and integration, you can scan and filter on hundreds of Options strategies and then execute and follow them directly from the charts.
Good Profit & Loss tracking & Analysis round off the package.
Industry Leading Options Trading Visualizations & Live Trading
Use the Strategies button in the lower left of a chart to open option strategy tickets directly on the chart. The menu divides strategies into bullish, bearish and volatility categories. Strategies include single-leg, multi-leg, and combinations of underlying stock.
Multi-leg strategies open as a single trading ticket on the chart.
Fundamental Scanning and Screening
Make no mistake about it, if you want fundamentals stock screeners in real-time layered with technical screens all integrated into live watch lists connected to your charts Telechart is a power player.
I selected TC2000 as my tool of choice back in the year 2000 because it offered back then, simply the best implementation of fundamental scanning, filtering and sorting available on the market. 17 years later, they are still a leader in this section.
They offer a huge selection of fundamentals to choose from, but what makes it unique is the fact you can, with a few clicks, create your own indicators based on the fundamentals.
You can then overlay the indicators directly on the charts, which opens up a whole new world and technical and fundamental analysis. 10 out of 10 for TC2000 again.
Round 2 – Trading Platform Winner
Interactive Brokers has a truly outstanding trading platform based on Trader Workstation (TWS). It is free to download and use as a client
and it is the single place to be able to trade any and every one of the vehicles on offer from IB. It caters to everything Stocks, Options, Futures, Forex, Bonds, Mutual Funds & ETF’s.
Not only that there are a huge number of add-on advanced tools that plug into TWS such as:
- ChartTrader – for trading directly from charts
- Continuous Futures – for commodity futures scanning and analysis
- DepthTrader – for deep analysis of market liquidity
- OptionTrader – deeper Options Analysis with specific Options strategies
- ProbabilityLab – to test the Probability Distribution of a particular trade
In total there are 27 different advanced trading tools to suit every possible approach to the market.
Round 2 – Trading Platform – Highly Recommended
Firstrade has completely rebuilt their trading platform from scratch, and the improvement is dramatic. Gone are clunky java programs, replaced by a fast HTML 5.0 platform. This platform is future proofed and highly scalable. The user experience is clean, intuitive and easy to learn.
Also, what we like is its price – Free
The trading platform has a number of components. The web-based platform is available for all clients and if you have an account balance over $10,000 you will have complimentary access to Firstrade Navigator a downloadable more powerful trading experience.
Web Trading Platform – Heatmap & Sector & Industries Tool
To be able to find a potential opportunity to trade, you can start with the big picture view of the market and drill down from there. The heatmap is designed for short-term traders who need to see where the price action and volatility is on any given day.
Alternatively, you can utilize the sectors and industries tool to evaluate past performance and select a sector to review in more depth.
Web Trading Platform – Advanced Screener, Fundamental Data & Event Calendar
No product set would be complete without the ability to scan and screen for stocks based on the fundamental data. Firstrade attempt at this is pretty good. It does not match the offerings from TradingView or TC2000, but it is adequate for most investors.
A new event calendar is also available, which is neatly broken into tabs for Earnings Announcements, Dividends, Ratings Changes, Economic Indicators, IPOs & Splits.
Web Trading – OptionsPlay
Firstrade put a lot of effort into the Options Trading Platform OptionsPlay. A first-class platform which focuses first on what kind of options strategy you want to implement.
You can drill down through industries and sectors and you instantly get a technical analysis for the stock, the bullish or bearish score.
Desktop Trading Platform – Firstrade Navigator
Firstrade Navigator is a very nicely designed and relatively powerful system. It is very customizable and also has a selection of widgets that you can embed into the dashboard. Studies and indicators are included. This is relatively newly developed and I expect more and more functionality to be released in the near term.
Round 2 – Highlight
Both SpeedTrader & SureTrader have white labeled the suite of products developed by DAS Inc, and why not, it is a highly rated set of tools designed for day traders to enable fast screening analysis and order execution.
Developing an in-house suite of trading apps is a huge job and incurs a lot of expense, so only the biggest companies can manage this. For the smaller brokers using a third party is quick and efficient. The only challenge is as a broker, you have to pay for the software on behalf of your client, or pass the cost onto the client directly by making the client pay.
This is exactly the situation with SpeedTrader and Sure Trader.
SureTrader offers the Active Web Product Free of charge to clients, the desktop Pro software for $49 per month and the Mobile App costs $35 per month.
SpeedTrader’s cost model means you will pay for the Active Web version $25 per month, for the desktop Pro version $104 per month, at least the mobile version is free if you have the desktop version.
I mention this because ultimately you will need to be making at least $80 per month in trading profit just to cover the cost of the software.
Round 3 – Stock Brokers – Customer Support & Research Comparison
In this round we compare:
- Customer Support – we want to see all 3 options of Email, Messaging, and Phone
- Customer Satisfaction Score – how many complaints or bad reviews within the last year on Twitter or TrustPilot (jump to methodology)
- Research & Ideas – what services are provided free of charge to help you research a particular stock or sector. Stand-alone research services can be costly, so free with an account is a big bonus.
- News – Is a real-time news service available for free or an additionally paid upgrade?
The table results are sorted in order of:
- Customer Satisfaction Rating: ★★★★★ People actively praising the broker & Zero Negative Reviews. ★★★★ 4 is Zero Negative Reviews
- Research & Trade Ideas: Quality of the integrated and Zero Cost Research Sources
Round 3 Winner – Customer Support
Firstrade does very well in this round. They provide a full email, chat and telephone coverage and are quick to answer. They have also had zero negative tweets or negative TrustPilot reviews in the last 12 months. Additionally, customers rave about the service which is unusual, this means a 5-star customer satisfaction rating.
What I also like is they throw into the mix free access to Zacks Research, Morningstar Research & Ratings, Breifing.com & Benzinga (although not the real-time Benzinga PRO version). These third-party services are quite valuable and considering Firstrade offer very low commissions they also add value through these services.
Round 3 Winner
TC2000 has an avid following, I know I am a member of the forum and long-term member. They receive a 5-star rating for customer satisfaction.
The support covers chat, phone, and email and I have been in contact with the support desk and they are skilled and effective operators who resolve issues immediately.
The only area in which they do not excel is in the research and news services included. You can pay an extra $8 per month to get integrated MT Newswire, but the selection does not compare to the offering from Firstrade or Interactive Brokers.
Round 3 Winner
Both LightSpeed and SpeedTrader are very similar, they both have a lot of positive tweets and good reviews. The users seem to be very happy with the overall services from these vendors. The full complement of email, chat and 24/7 phone support is implemented and effective.
LightSpeed needs to improve their offerings of News and Research, they do make a weak attempt to provide some blogging on market topics but it is not really good enough.
SpeedTrader has integrated some research possibilities at extra cost, and have not made the step to include any news services, so there is effectively very little to write home about on this front.
Round 3 Winner
Interactive Brokers offers by far the best free services in the area of research. Here is a snapshot of some of the services you will get for free.
- IB Market Signals
- IB Traders Insight
- Morningstar equity ownership
- Thomson Reuters (in 10 languages), stock reports, news, fundamentals
- Zacks Investment Research
- Real-time News Streaming
In terms of customer service, they offer the full package of telephone, chat & email contact so no issues there.
We could not find any evidence of negative tweets or reviews so IB has a very good customer satisfaction score, particularly since they have by far the largest twitter following of 233,000 people.
The only reason they are lower on the list of winners is that they do not have a history of people raving about there services. Perhaps the more professional investors trading with IB are not focussing on praising them on twitter but trader making profits in the markets.
In any case, IB is a very high-quality company with the very best research included for free in your account.
Round 4 – Brokerage Regulation & Account Minimum
Is the company well established, well funded and well regulated? This is the main object of this round of comparisons.
Any U.S. based Broker should be a member of the following institutions.
Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA) Membership.
FINRA is a nonprofit organization established to protect investors and ensure that the members are complying with the law and the Securities and Exchange commision rules. They audit all members regularly.
Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) Membership.
The SIPC is there to protect and hopefully recover any money lost if a Brokerage firm fails. Although Broker failure is rare, it can happen and SIPC membership ensures that your account is protected up to $500,000.
|Account & Company Details|
|Available for U.S. Citizens||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✘|
|SIPC Insurance - Assets||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✘|
|Regulated By||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC||SEC Bahamas|
As you can see, all Brokers based with offices actually in the U.S.A have full regulatory compliance, which means they are members of FINRA and have SIPC insurance.
In fact, the only outlier here is SureTrader, they are not based in the U.S., therefore, they cannot accept U.S: clients and they are not subject to the U.S. regulations and compulsory insurance. They are regulated by the SEC where they are based in the Bahamas.
So the only real difference between the 9 other brokers, is the account minimums. Firstrade, SpeedTrader, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Merril all allow you to open an account with $0. What use a trading account is with $0 balance I have no idea.
Ultimately the small beginner investor with less than $10,000 to invest will be locked out of Interactive Brokers and Lightspeed, as these Brokers are seeking those with more money, more ability to trade and potentially slightly more sophisticated investors.
Did you know that even if you are not based in the U.S. you can use a U.S.A. based discount broker and trade directly on the U.S. markets? You do not need to go through your overpriced local bank. Find out more about trading U.S.A markets and the benefits.
Who are the Best Online Stock Brokers in the U.S.A.?
- Firstrade – ★ Very Low Commissions ★ 700+ Commission-Free ETF’s ★ Free MorningStar Research ★Excellent Customer Satisfaction
- TC2000 Brokerage – ★ Excellent Trading Platform ★ Low Commissions ★ Very Low Margin Rates ★ Excellent Customer Satisfaction
- SpeedTrader – ★ Direct Market Access ★ Fast Execution ★ Low Per Share Commissions ★ Great Customer Service
- Interactive Brokers – ★ Industry Leading Low Commissions ★ Great Trading Platform ★ Direct Market Access ★ Lowest Margin Rates
- Lightspeed – ★ Fast Execution ★ Very Low Commissions ★ Good Customer Satisfaction ★ Good Trading Platform
- Ally Invest – ★ Competitive Commissions ★ Full Suite of Investing Vehicles ★ Banking ★ Great Customer Service
Online Discount Stock Broker Comparison Master Table (Searchable)
Here you can find the table containing all the data in one place. Use the search box to filter on a particular item you are looking to compare. For example type “forex” or “margin” and you will get only the relevant rows to compare.
Notes on the Review
Customer Satisfaction Score (Star Ratings)
The customer satisfaction score was compiled using the following methodology.
The Twitter Accounts of the Brokers was scanned back for the 1 year for any negative feedback from customers. Also, TrustPilot UK and USA were reviewed and any negative comments counted against the broker. These two sources of information were combined to provide the star rating you see below.
★★★★★ – No Complaints & Positive Recommendations (1 year)
★★★★ – No Complaints (1 year)
★★★ – < 10 Complaints (1 year)
★★ – 10 to 20 Complaints (1 year)
★ – > 20 Complaints (1 year)
Partnerships & Special Bonus
Liberated Stock Trader has partnerships with most of the service providers in this review. This means if you find the review useful and purchase any of the services mentioned we will receive a small payment which goes towards funding the research and work we do.As a thank you for using our reviews and purchasing any of the services mentioned we would like to offer you a special bonus of the highly rated Liberated Stock Trader "How to Avoid the Next Stock Market Crash" eBook and Video Course worth $29.-. Simply contact us specifying which service you signed up for and we will send you your gift.
Over 2000 data points were collected during this review. Brokers change services, terms, and commissions on a regular basis. If you represent a Brokerage House or are a client and you spot an inaccuracy, please leave a comment or contact us here and we will endeavor to correct it.