Imagine if you could compare over 720 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 for 2021.
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 USA. 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 trading or investing styles in cornering 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.
The 5 Best Online Stock Brokers in the USA.
- Firstrade: Zero Commissions, 700+ Commission-Free ETF’s, Free Morningstar Research
- TC2000 Brokerage: Excellent Trading Platform, $4.95 Commissions, Very Low Margin Rates
- TD Ameritrade: Fast Execution & Free Stock Trading
- Interactive Brokers: $1 Commissions, Great Trading Platform, Direct Market Access, Lowest Margins
- Lightspeed: Fast Execution, Low Fees, Good Trading Platform
Firstrade Is The Best Overall Broker with a $0 Commission & an Excellent Trading Platform. TC2000 is the Best For Powerful Real-time Screening & Trading Stock & Options From Charts. TD Ameritrade is now offering Free Stock Trading on a Mature Platform. Interactive Brokers’ TWS platform, Global Exchange Coverage + $1 Trades Is Also Excellent.
Stock Broker Pros & Cons Comparison
1. Firstrade: Best Free Brokerage. $0 Stock, Options & ETF Trades
Recommended for mid to long-term investors seeking zero commissions on stocks and options and industry-leading 2,200 commission-free ETFs.
Full MorningStar access and 5-star customer satisfaction mean Firstrade is a good choice.
|★ $0 Zero Commissions
★ 2200+ Commission-Free ETF’s
★ Free MorningStar Research
★ Excellent Customer Satisfaction
|✘ Very Slow Customer Service|
There is really a lot to love about Firstrade.
Firstrade Securities has been in business for over 35 years and has gained prominence for being the first large broker to offer truly commission-free trading, located in New York in the U.S.A. Firstrade has received multiple awards for best value trading, customer service, and the “Clean Hands Kiplinger Award.”
What also stands out is the unique offering of over 2,200 commission-free Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) on offer. That is over four times as many as the next best competitor TD Ameritrade.
You also get completely cost-free access to the suite of Morning Star research; only three 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.
|Read the In-Depth Firstrade Review||Open a Commission Free Brokerage Account with Firstrade|
2. TC2000 Brokerage: Best Online Broker for Beginners
Recommended for investors buying stocks, options & ETFs directly from charts using the award-winning TC2000.
Also, take advantage of incredibly low margin rates. The only downside is that trade commissions are still at $4.95
|★ Excellent Trading Platform, Great for Beginners & Advanced Traders
★ 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 is that you get to trade directly from the charts with TC2000. TC2000 enables real-time fundamental and technical screening of the entire stock markets, including ETF’s, and enables you to create indicators from market conditions easily. Not only that, but the options trading in TC2000 is also arguably the best in the industry.
TC2000 Brokerage only offers to trade in Stocks, Options, and ETF’s. If 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|
3. TD Ameritrade: Free Stock Trading & Mature Platform
TD Ameritrade (TDA) is a mature broker that now offers free stock and ETF trades. There are still some costs associated with Options trades, but overall an excellent broker.
Best For Investors Seeking A Mature Product Including IRA’s DRIPS, Retirement Planners But Trades Are Expensive
|★ Excellent Trading Platform, Including ThinkorSwim for Advanced Traders
★ Free Stock Trading
★ Quick Account Setup & Funding
|✘ High Margin Rates
✘ Forex Trading
✘ Slow Customer Service
TDA is a leading mainstream brokerage house with excellent execution and low commissions, but did you know they also have great trading software.
Think or Swim has been around since the early 2000s when TDA acquired it. I full suite of trading tools and well respected in the industry with an avid following.
While TDA offers commission-free trading in stocks and a selection of ETFs, they still have some fees below the surface. As you can see in the table below, Option trades cost 65 cents per contract, and online Mutual Fund trades cost $49.99
|Commissions & Fees||Firstrade||TD Ameritrade|
|Online Stock Orders||$0||$0|
|Online Option Orders||$0||$0 + $0.65/Contract|
|Online Mutual Fund Trades||$0||$49.99|
|& Options Trades||(+$0.50/contract)||(+$0.65/contract)|
|Minimum Initial Deposit||$0||$0|
4. Interactive Brokers: Best Global Trading for Advanced Investors
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.
IB also has an amazing selection of auto-trading and portfolio management tools.
|★ 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 complete set of services, enabling you 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 industry’s 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, probably in the industry.
When it comes to the trading platform, there are 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|
5. Lightspeed: A Good Broker for Frequent Traders
Great for Active Day Traders seeking fast execution & very low commissions for higher volumes.
|★ 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 broker 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 the very respectable offering of RealTick Pro & LiveVol X Platform. It 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 great customer satisfaction ratings and fast execution at competitive commission rates.
|Read the In-Depth Lightspeed Review||Open an Account with Lightspeed|
6. SpeedTrader: Best Broker for Trading & Direct Market Access
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 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 a fixed cost per trade.
The per-share commissions’ structure comes in at $0.00044 per share, a significant cost saving for any trade under 10,000 shares.
When it comes to Options Trading fees, the offering of $1.99 + $0.40 per contract is 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.
SpeedTrader has a great promotion on now with $500 free trades if you open an account.
|Read the In-Depth Speedtrader Brokerage Review||Open an Account with Speedtrader|
7. Ally Invest: A Solid Retail Brokerage & Banking Service
Best match for investors seeking low commissions, good execution on stocks, options, ETF’s, futures, bonds & semi-automated portfolio management.
|★ 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. 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.
Online Brokerage Account Fees Comparison
Commissions are not the be-all and end-all, but low commissions help 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.
Commissions: Firstrade vs. TDA vs. E-Trade vs. Schwab vs. Fidelity
|Commissions & Fees||Firstrade||TD Ameritrade||E*Trade||Charles Schwab||Fidelity|
|Online Stock Orders||$0||$0||$0||$0||$4.95|
|Online Option Orders||$0||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract|
|Online Mutual Fund Trades||$0||$49.99||$49.99||$49.95||$49.95|
|& Options Trades||(+$0.50/contract)||(+$0.65/contract)||(+$0.65/contract)||(+$0.65/contract)||(+$0.65/contract)|
|Minimum Initial Deposit||$0||$0||$500||$0||$0|
Table 1: Firstrade Commissions vs. Competitors
You can see that Firstrade has a substantial focus on having the best commissions in the industry. Even though T.D. Ameritrade, E-Trade & Schwab have now been forced to join the $0 Zero commissions bandwagon; Firstrade still offers the best value across stocks, options, and mutual funds.
Options Fees: Firstrade vs. IB vs. Fidelity vs. TDA vs. E-Trade vs. Schwab
|Commissions||Firstrade||Interactive Brokers||Fidelity||TD Ameritrade||E*Trade||Charles Schwab|
|Online Stock Orders||$0||$0||$4.95||$0||$0||$0|
|Online Option Orders||$0||$1 + $0.50/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract||$0 + $0.65/Contract|
Table 2: Stock Trades & Options Trade Fees
Explicitly taking a look at broker fees for the six big players, Firstrade manages to maintain the lead even against Interactive Brokers (I.B.). Interactive Brokers also recently moved to $0 Zero fees for retail trades in North America but still maintains a fixed fee of $1 per trade and a blended rate of $0.50 per contract.
ETF Fund Fees: Firstrade vs. Fidelity vs. TDA vs. E-Trade
|Number of Commission-Free ETFs||2200+||300+||93||200+|
|Number of ETF providers||100||8||2||13|
Table 3: No Fee ETF Selection
Exchange-Traded Funds usually play a role in any well-balanced portfolio. This is what I also appreciate with Firstrade, the fact that all “loaded” and “no-load” funds are zero fees. With over 2,200 funds to choose from, the selection will meet most people’s needs.
Part of the package is the Morningstar investment research service, which will keep you up-to-date with developments in the funds and the fund performance.
Margin Commissions: Firstrade vs. TDA vs. Fidelity vs. E-Trade vs. IB.
Online Options orders have zero commission, while the major competitors still charge $0.65 per contract. Firstrade also has the largest selection of free to trade ETFs and Mutual Funds.
|Margin Balance||Firstrade||TD Ameritrade||Fidelity||E*Trade||Interactive Brokers|
|$500,000 ~ $999,999||5.60%||8.25%||5.25%||8.00%||4.35%|
|$250,000 ~ $499,999||7.50%||8.25%||7.58%||8.50%||4.35%|
|$100,000 ~ $249,999||7.75%||8.50%||7.83%||9.00%||4.35%|
|$50,000 ~ $99,999||8.25%||8.75%||7.88%||9.50%||4.35%|
|$25,000 ~ $49,999||8.75%||9.75%||8.83%||10.00%||4.35%|
|$10,000 ~ $24,999||9.00%||10.00%||9.33%||10.25%||4.35%|
|$0 ~ $9,999||9.25%||10.25%||9.33%||10.50%||4.35%|
Table 4: Firstrade Margin Rates vs. Competitors
Firstrade goes head to head with the major competitors on margin rates also. Firstrades financing rates are at least 1% to 2% lower on every tier of funding versus T.D. Ameritrade, Fidelity, or E-Trade. However, if the margin is absolutely critical to your trading, Interactive Brokers is still the industry leader with 4.35% across the board for an IBKR Lite account; if you open a PRO account, you will get on average 3.35% or less depending on your balance.
In summary, the Margin Commissions fees are higher than Interactive Brokers, but still a lot lower than T.D. Ameritrade and the other mainstream retail brokers.
Stock Broker Trading Platform Comparison
How do you find the in-play stocks, 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 a trading platform.
Trading Platform Winner TC2000 Brokerage
Worden Brothers continue their winning ways, with 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 US 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 US.
If you trade U.S. Stocks, ETF’s or Mutual Funds, then this is a great solution. Worden also provides regular live training seminars of very high quality and tour the US 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 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 the 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. Seventeen 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.
Trading Platform Winner Interactive Brokers
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 advanced add-on 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.
Recommended Firstrade Trading Platform
Firstrade has completely rebuilt its 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 several components. The web-based platform is available for all clients. 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 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 are on any given day.
Alternatively, you can utilize the sectors and industries 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 scanning and screening 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, 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 that 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 functionality to be released in the near term.
Highlight: Trading Platforms
Both SpeedTrader & SureTrader have white-labeled the suite of products developed by DAS Inc, 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 many expenses, 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 is you have to pay for the software on behalf of your client or pass the cost on to 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.
Broker Customer Service & Research Comparison
In this round, we compare:
- Customer Support – We want to see all three 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
Firstrade Winner Stock Research
Firstrade provides full email, chat, and telephone coverage; however, their customer service times are really slow. I logged a ticket for an issue I had, and it took them 10 days to respond. I also called the service line, and it had a 1 hour wait time. Very poor indeed. Strangely, they have 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 makes them a winner in this section is not the customer service response times; it is the 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 offers free trading, they certainly add value through these services.
TC2000 Winner Customer Support
TC2000 has an avid following; I know I am a member of their forum and long-term client. 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.
Interactive Brokers Research & Signals 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.
They are lower on the list of winners because they do not have a history of people raving about their services. Perhaps the more professional investors trading with IB are not focussing on praising them on Twitter but traders 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.
Brokerage Accounts Regulation Comparison
Is the company well established, well funded, and well regulated? This is the main object of this round of comparisons.
Any US-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 comply with the law and the Securities and Exchange Commission 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 US 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 US. Therefore, they cannot accept US clients, and they are not subject to US regulations and compulsory insurance. They are regulated by the SEC, where they are based in the Bahamas.
So the only real difference between the nine other brokers is the account minimums. Firstrade, SpeedTrader, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Merril allow you to open an account with $0. What use is a trading account with a $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.
How to Find the Best Broker for You?
I have used TD Ameritrade for over 20 years and find them a solid mainstream broker who has never let me down. But there is a lot of competition out there, and different brokers focus on different service offerings.
I find many of my students will have multiple brokers, one for long-term retirement planning and investing, and perhaps another for trading stocks and ETF’s. What should beginner investors look for when choosing an online broker, and why would any of the above brokers make a good fit?
Having reviewed over 50 different brokers, my advice to the beginner is to understand your goals.
- Are you planning to invest for the long-term and require investment retirement account (IRA) integration and good tax planning advice?
- Or are you planning to trade frequently in a non-taxable account?
If you want good retirement planning tools and hold investments for longer periods, TD Ameritrade or even Merrill are excellent choices. If you are frequently trading, brokers like Firstrade offer free, zero-commission trades that can seriously cut your slippage. Robinhood has a minimal toolset, whereas Firstrade has a full complement of trading tools and chart analysis software. Further reading.
Summary: The Best Online Stock Brokers in the USA.
- Firstrade ★ Zero Commissions ★ 700+ Commission-Free ETF’s ★ Free Morningstar Research
- TC2000 Brokerage ★ Excellent Trading Platform ★ Low Commissions ★ Very Low Margin Rates ★ Excellent Customer Satisfaction
- TD Ameritrade ★ Good Support For Retirement Planning ★ Think or Swim Platform
- Interactive Brokers ★ Industry Leading Low Commissions ★ Great Trading Platform ★ Direct Market Access ★ Lowest Margin Rates
- SpeedTrader ★ Direct Market Access ★ Fast Execution ★ Low Per Share Commissions
- Lightspeed ★ Fast Execution ★ Very Low Commissions ★ Good Customer Satisfaction ★ Good Trading Platform
- Ally Invest ★ Competitive Commissions ★ Full Suite of Investing Vehicles ★ Banking
Online Brokers Comparison Chart (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.
Related Article: ZACKS Trade Review 2022: Detailed Test & Comparison
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 were scanned back for one 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)
Over 2000 data points were collected during this review. Brokers change services, terms, and commissions regularly. If you represent a Brokerage House or are a client and spot an inaccuracy, please leave a comment or contact us here, and we will endeavor to correct it.