Stock Trading Platforms Comparison

I’ve tried using several different online and offline platforms and I always end up feeling like I’m getting screwed. If you’re like me, then you love the idea of making money but hate the idea of losing it to dishonest or shady brokers. So do you need a trading platform comparison? If you want to avoid the shady brokers and use a reputable trading platform, then you’ll probably benefit from reading this article.

This article contain an extensive comparative summary of stock trading tools or platforms like: TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Interactive brokers IBKR Lite, E*TRADE , Tradestation and More…

TD Ameritrade

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Why we like it

TD Ameritrade meets the needs of both active traders and beginner investors with quality trading platforms; $0 commissions on online stock, options and ETF trades; and a large selection of mutual funds.

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.
  • Large investment selection.

Cons

  • No fractional shares.

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Fidelity

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Why we like it

Fidelity offers $0 trading commissions, a selection of more than 3,700 no-transaction-fee mutual funds and top-notch research tools and trading platform. Its zero-fee index funds and strong customer service reputation are just icing on the cake.

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Large selection of research providers.
  • Strong customer service.
  • Expense-ratio-free index funds.
  • Highly rated mobile app.

Cons

  • Relatively high broker-assisted trade fee.

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Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite

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Why we like it

Interactive Brokers’ IBKR Lite is a strong option for frequent traders: The broker offers international trade capabilities, no stock-trading commission and a quality trading platform.

Pros

  • Large investment selection.
  • Strong research and tools.
  • Over 7,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • NerdWallet users who sign up for IBKR Pro get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.

Cons

  • Website is difficult to navigate.

E*TRADE

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Why we like it

E*TRADE has long been one of the most popular online brokers. The company’s $0 commissions and strong trading platforms appeal to active traders, while beginner investors benefit from a large library of educational resources.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.
  • Large investment selection.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Access to extensive research.
  • Advanced mobile app.
  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate.

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TradeStation

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Why we like it

TradeStation is a strong choice for active stock, options and futures investors who rely on the broker’s high-octane trading platform, reams of research and sophisticated analytical tools. Trades of up to 10,000 shares are commission-free.

Pros

  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • Comprehensive research.
  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Advanced tools.
  • Active trader community.

Cons

  • Free trading on advanced platform requires TS Select.
  • No transaction-fee-free mutual funds.
  • Plans and pricing can be confusing.

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Overall Rating

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Overall5554.54
Commissions & Fees4.554.54.54.5
Offering of Investments54.5554.5
Platforms & Tools54.54.545
Mobile Trading554.554
Research5554.52
Education55443
Ease of Use55454.5
TD Ameritrade ReviewFidelity ReviewInteractive Brokers ReviewE*TRADE ReviewTradeStation Review
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Trading Fees

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Minimum Deposit$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
ETF Trade Fee$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$74.95$49.95$14.95$19.99$14.95
Options (Base Fee)$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65$0.65$0.65$0.65$0.60
Futures (Per Contract)$2.25N/A$0.85$1.50$1.50
Broker Assisted Trade Fee$25.00$32.95$30.00$25.00$0.00

Account Fees

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
IRA Annual Fee$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$35.00
IRA Closure Fee$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$50.00
Account Transfer Out (Partial)$0.00$0.00$0.00$25.00$125.00
Account Transfer Out (Full)$75.00$0.00$0.00$75.00$125.00

Investment Options

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Stock TradingYesYesYesYesYes
Fractional SharesNoYesYesNoNo
OTCBB / Pink SheetsYesYesYesYesYes
Options TradingYesYesYesYesYes
Complex Options Max Legs44644
Futures TradingYesNoYesYesYes
Forex TradingYesNoNoNoNo
Crypto TradingNoNoYesNoYes
Crypto Trading – Total Coins44
Mutual Funds (No Load)46065768108826486887
Mutual Funds (Total)887896151116072424357
Bonds (US Treasury)YesYesYesYesYes
Bonds (Corporate)YesYesYesYesYes
Bonds (Municipal)YesYesYesYesYes
Advisor ServicesYesYesNoYesNo
International TradingYesYesYesNoNo

Order Types

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Order Type – MarketYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – LimitYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – After-HoursYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – StopYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – Trailing StopYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – OCOYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – OTOYesYesYesYesYes
Order Type – Broker AssistedYesYesYesYesYes

Beginners

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Education (Stocks)YesYesYesYesYes
Education (ETFs)YesYesYesYesNo
Education (Options)YesYesYesYesYes
Education (Mutual Funds)YesYesNoYesNo
Education (Bonds)YesYesYesYesNo
Education (Retirement)YesYesYesYesNo
Retirement CalculatorYesYesNoYesNo
Investor DictionaryYesYesYesYesNo
Paper TradingYesNoYesYesYes
VideosYesYesYesYesYes
Webinars (Monthly Avg)500115203010
Webinars (Archived)YesYesYesYesNo
Progress TrackingYesYesYesNoNo
Interactive Learning – QuizzesYesYesYesYesNo

Stock Trading Apps

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
iPhone AppYesYesYesYesYes
Android AppYesYesYesYesYes
Apple Watch AppYesYesYesYesNo
Trading – StocksYesYesYesYesYes
Trading – After-HoursYesYesYesYesYes
Trading – Simple OptionsYesYesYesYesYes
Trading – Complex OptionsYesYesYesYesYes
Order Ticket RT QuotesYesYesYesYesYes
Order Ticket SRT QuotesYesYesYesYesYes

Options Trading

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Option Chains – Basic ViewYesYesYesYesYes
Option Chains – Strategy ViewYesYesYesYesYes
Option Chains – StreamingYesYesYesYesYes
Option Chains – Total Columns3526373132
Option Chains – Greeks55455
Option Positions – Greeks StreamingYesYesYesYesYes
Option Chains – Quick AnalysisYesYesYesYesYes
Option Analysis – P&L ChartsYesYesYesYesYes
Option Probability AnalysisYesYesYesYesYes
Option Probability Analysis AdvYesYesYesYesYes
Option Positions – GreeksYesYesYesYesYes
Option Positions – Adv AnalysisYesYesYesYesYes
Option Positions – RollingYesYesYesYesYes
Option Positions – GroupingYesYesYesYesYes

Banking

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Bank (Member FDIC)NoNoYesYesNo
Checking AccountsYesYesYesYesNo
Savings AccountsNoYesNoYesNo
Credit CardsYesYesNoYesNo
Debit CardsYesYesYesYesNo
Mortgage LoansNoNoNoYesNo

Customer Service

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Phone Support (Prospect Customers)YesYesYesYesNo
Phone Support (Current Customers)YesYesYesYesNo
Email SupportYesYesYesYesYes
Live Chat (Prospect Customers)YesYesNoYesNo
Live Chat (Current Customers)YesYesYesYesYes
24/7 SupportYesYesNoYesNo

Overall

FeatureTD AmeritradeFidelityInteractive BrokersE*TRADETradeStation
Overall5554.54
Commissions & Fees4.554.54.54.5
Offering of Investments54.5554.5
Platforms & Tools54.54.545
Mobile Trading554.554
Research5554.52
Education55443
Ease of Use55454.5
TD Ameritrade ReviewFidelity ReviewInteractive Brokers ReviewE*TRADE ReviewTradeStation Review
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Honourable Mentions

Best online brokerage overall: Charles Schwab

Schwab account features

  • Account minimum: $0 ($5,000 for automated investing)
  • Fees: $0 ($30/month Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium)
  • Account types: Brokerage, automated, retirement, trust/estate, education savings, custodial
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Charles Schwab is a major discount brokerage and one of the largest investment management firms in the United States. Schwab offers a wide range of brokerage accounts and products that meet the needs of virtually any investor.

Why it stands out: In addition to offering excellent accounts with no minimum balance requirements and no recurring fees, Schwab is a leader in low-cost pricing for retail investors. In late 2019, Schwab was among the first of a big list of major brokerage firms to lower commissions on stock and ETF trades to zero.

Hands-on investors are best served by the basic Schwab brokerage account, which gives you access to a vast array of investment choices. If you want more help, you can sign up for a managed Schwab Intelligent Portfolios account, also known as a robo-adviser. This account also doesn’t charge any fees.

Schwab also offers both fractional shares (with a $5 minimum) and its own family of mutual funds and ETFs. Trades of Schwab mutual funds require no commissions or trading fees inside of a Schwab account.

What to look out for: The biggest downside of Charles Schwab is how it treats cash in your account. While some competing brokerages automatically invest cash balances to get interest rates on par with savings accounts, Schwab’s rates for cash balances are pretty low (only 0.01%).

There are also high costs for phone and broker-assisted trades. While online trades are commission-free for stocks and ETFs, you’ll pay $5 extra for automated phone trades and $25 extra for broker-assisted trades.

Best online brokerage for beginners: SoFi Invest

SoFi Invest account features

  • Account minimum: $1
  • Fees: $0 (1.25% cryptocurrency transactions)
  • Account types: Brokerage, automated, retirement

SoFi Invest doesn’t have the same storied history as some brokerages in the United States, but it comes with innovative features and a technology-forward experience that makes SoFi Invest ideal for newer investors.

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Why it stands out: SoFi started as a student lender and grew to include banking, investing, insurance, and other financial products. It charges almost no fees for its investment accounts, which include self-directed investing and automated investing (managed portfolios) with no recurring fees and a very low $1 minimum to get started.

The self-directed “Active Investing” account has no fees to trade stocks, ETFs, and even cryptocurrencies. You can buy fractional shares of stocks, which SoFi calls “Stock Bits.” SoFi also has a few of its own exchange-traded funds that could be a fit for your portfolio.

The app also offers a very easy-to-navigate dashboard, collections of stocks and other investments to browse, and integrated links to education pages within the SoFi website and mobile app.

One SoFi login also gets you access to banking and lending services. Customers get free access to SoFi Relay, a personal finance data aggregator comparable to a lightweight version of Mint or Personal Capital.

Customers also get free access to career coaching and financial planning sessions.

What to look out for: SoFi doesn’t offer investments like mutual funds or bonds. Also, look out for the fees on SoFi ETFs. While two of them have no expense ratio for the first year, the long-run cost is above many other ETFs.

SoFi’s account selection is also fairly limited compared to larger brokers that offer any type of retirement or business investment account under the sun.

Learn more about SoFi Invest »

Best online brokerage for mobile: Public

Public account features

  • Account minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0 commissions
  • Account types: Brokerage

Public is a newer investment app that uses a mobile-first experience. The result is a mobile investment experience that’s somewhat unique but still easy to navigate for both beginner and experienced investors.

Why it stands out: As the name suggests, trades at Public allow you to connect with other investors on the app. You can follow others and chat about investment ideas. You can even join a group chat for live interaction with other investors. In some ways, it’s like a built-in social network for investors.

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Another useful feature for newer investors is the ability to view various themes. These group stocks by industry or other major categories to help you zero in on companies that make sense for your investment strategy.

Public uses a commission-free pricing model. Most users won’t pay any fees at all. It also offers fractional shares. These two features make Public great for people who are new to investing and want to start with a small amount of money. Fractional investing is supported for more than 2,800 stocks and ETFs.

What to look out for: Only a limited set of investments are available. You can invest in stocks and ETFs with Public, but not the full investment landscape. Public offers access to most US publicly traded stocks and ETFs, but not the entire market.

Public has a somewhat basic trading platform that may not be suitable for expert investors and very active traders.

Best online brokerage for kids and teens: Stockpile

Stockpile account features

  • Account minimum: $0 ($5 for fractional shares)
  • Fees: $0/trade
  • Account types: Brokerage, custodial 

Stockpile is a newer and smaller brokerage than some others on this list, but it’s perfect for kids. Stockpile offers accounts with no recurring fees, no minimums, and no gift card or funding fees. Trades are also free, and fractional shares are available starting with a $5 investment.

Why it stands out: Stockpile is great for kids and teens for a few reasons. The simple and easy-to-navigate platform shows kids the logos and companies they are familiar with in their portfolios. You can fund the account through a bank account or with stock gift cards. Because fractional shares are supported for the 1,000+ stocks and ETFs on the platform, gifts and trades can be made in round dollar amounts.

Parents or other family members can get gift cards redeemable for stock in Stockpile accounts. Plus, you’ll pay no fees to buy an e-gift, redeem a gift card, or switch to another stock.

Parents and kids will enjoy the built-in education resources. Stockpile’s “mini-lessons” teach stock market basics that prepare anyone for a more successful future in the stock market.

What to look out for: Users only have access to the most popular stocks and ETFs, but many stocks are not included and other types of investments are not supported.

Bonus

  • EtradeEtrade is the original online brokerage. It offers a good experience for active traders with competitive pricing. Etrade was recently acquired by Wall Street powerhouse Morgan Stanley. It is a large discount brokerage that supports most investment types and a wide range of accounts. For experienced investors, Etrade is a good choice for its platforms and range of investments, but the trading experience is not quite as good as thinkorswim at TD Ameritrade.
  • WeBullWeBull is a newer brokerage that uses a no-commissions model. It uses a high-tech web platform ideal for more active traders. WeBull offers personal and retirement accounts and a more limited set of investment options. WeBull is a top choice for free brokerage accounts. However, it doesn’t offer the full range of available investments and can be tricky to navigate for beginner investors.
  • TradeStationTradeStation was a close runner-up for the best brokerage for active traders, but its pricing isn’t quite as good as the winner. It gives traders access to a set of powerful tools on par with what’s used by professional and institutional traders. 
  • Ally InvestAlly Invest is a very low-cost brokerage that pairs well with Ally’s best-in-class checking and savings accounts. It is a great platform for beginner stock and ETF traders. It has trading platforms that are fairly straightforward but don’t offer the same depth of features as some of the best platforms for active trading.
  • Merrill EdgeMerrill Edge gets its name from legendary brokerage Merrill Lynch. Now a division of Bank of America, it’s best for loyal Bank of America customers with high combined balances across Bank of America accounts, which include Merrill Edge. While Merrill Edge is great for loyal customers, its pricing and features are less exciting for those with smaller balances.
  • VanguardVanguard is known for pioneering the low-cost index fund industry. It also offers brokerage and managed portfolio products. It’s best for people who want to primarily invest in the Vanguard family of mutual funds. This titan of index funds is known for low fees, but customers with less than $10,000 will pay $20 per year in account service fees.
  • RobinhoodRobinhood is the original no-commission brokerage. It currently offers stocks, ETFs, and options with a mobile-first platform. Robinhood is a great choice for no-fee trading. However, it recently suffered several major outages that left people unable to buy or sell on some of the biggest market days in over a decade. In addition, the company recently restricted users from buying shares of Gamestop, AMC, and several other stocks that surged due to a market tactic used by several members of a Reddit forum known as r/WallStreetBets.
  • TastyworksTastyworks is best for options traders and active investors. It’s a somewhat unique platform that’s high-tech and integrates with the tastytrade content network. This active trading brokerage has competitive pricing and high-tech active trading platforms but isn’t ideal for less-experienced investors.

Conclusion

There are thousands of online trading platforms available today. Most of these platforms offer the same kinds of services and features, so why would you pick one over the other? This is a question that many first-time traders ask themselves. If you’re among them, you probably want to know more about what makes some trading platforms great, while others aren’t so great. To help you out, we’ve done some research for this purpose.

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