An online brokerage account that fits your needs may improve your success chances when investing. But with so many options to invest your money, it's essential to take your time to decide on one that matches your investment style, provides the education you need, offers the asset classes you'd like to buy, and suits your experience.
Speaking of options, we’re to help you narrow them down. So here are our picks for the best online brokerage accounts and who they’re right for.
- Best online brokerage accounts
- Best for small investments: Stash
- Best for low fees: Robinhood
- Best for hands-off investors: Betterment
- Best broker for fractional shares: SoFi
- Best for options trading: TD Ameritrade
- Best for ETFs: Merrill Edge
- Best for learning about investing: Fidelity
- Best for experienced traders: TradeStation
- Best for long-term investing: Vanguard
- Best for mutual funds: Charles Schwab
- Our methodology
- FAQs about online brokerages
Best online brokerage accounts
Whether you're learning how to invest money or you already have trading experience, using one of the best brokerage accounts may give you the tools you need to be successful and improve your personal finance. Here are our picks for the best online brokers that meet different needs.
Best for small investments: Stash 1
Stash may be a good choice if you want to make small investments because you can start investing in stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) 2 for as little as $1. You may set up automatic recurring investments 5 or even use the Stash roundup feature that tacks on a small money amount to purchases and invests it.
You may build a portfolio using suggestions from Stash or create your own portfolio from a selection of individual stocks and ETFs. Stash also offers bank accounts 3 and the Stock-Back® rewards card 6 . This debit card rewards you with shares of stock when you use it for your purchases 4 . This may help you grow your portfolio in a way traditional cashback rewards can’t.
Sign up for Stash
… Read our Stash review
Best for low fees: Robinhood
Robinhood stands out for its fee-free online trading. You can trade as often as you want without paying transaction fees. This makes it one of the best brokerage accounts for active traders looking to avoid account fees that eat into their profits. Robinhood offers access to commission-free trades for individual U.S. stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies through its user-friendly interface.
While Robinhood is free, advanced traders may enjoy the benefits of subscribing to Robinhood Gold for $5 a month. This premium subscription gives you access to advanced stock market data and larger instant deposits. You may also qualify for a margin account after you subscribe to Robinhood Gold, which enables you to borrow money to get more purchase power.
… Read our Robinhood review
Best for hands-off investors: Betterment
Betterment tops our list of the best robo-advisors out there. It may be ideal for hands-off investors who don’t want the hassle of actively managing their portfolios.
Answer some questions about your risk tolerance and goals, and Betterment will construct an investment portfolio for you. Once you have your portfolio, Betterment occasionally rebalances it to keep it in line with your goals. The platform also manages your portfolio’s tax efficiency using tax-loss harvesting.
One downside is that you have limited customization as far as asset classes go. Betterment builds your portfolio from a selection of index-based ETFs and bonds, but the platform plans to add crypto portfolios soon. You can choose your portfolio’s focus, such as innovative tech or social impact.
Additionally, Betterment offers several trading account types, including taxable brokerage accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), savings accounts, and checking bank accounts, Plus, if you want some guidance, you can use the add-on for access to financial advisors.
Read our Betterment review
Best broker for fractional shares: SoFi
SoFi Invest makes it easy to buy a small amount of major stocks, like Amazon (AMZN) and Google’s parent company, Alphabet (GOOG), with its Stock Bits feature. This feature allows you to buy fractional shares of select stocks starting at $1. There are no trading fees with SoFi, so every dollar you invest into a fractional share goes toward buying stock.
SoFi Invest also offers the ability to choose between active investing or managed investing. Your SoFi membership provides access to other financial products, including bank accounts and loans. SoFi is known for student loans and student loan refinancing, and having a SoFi Invest account may get you a discount on your interest rate when you refinance your student loans.
Read our SoFi Invest review
Best for options trading: TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade offers stocks and bonds, but it stands out for offering options trading, a form of trading that uses contracts that give you the right to buy or sell an asset at a set price at a certain date. It also offers margin trading, which allows you to borrow money to expand your purchase power. The TD Ameritrade mobile app is advanced enough to allow you to utilize these options using your phone.
It’s also possible to use the platform to execute several types of orders in addition to traditional market orders. TD offers access to research and real-time market information.
Read our TD Ameritrade review
Best for ETFs: Merrill Edge
Merrill Edge is a subsidiary of Bank of America that offers access to a wide selection of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and options. You may use a self-directed account to build your own portfolio or use the managed trading option to have one built for you. There are no trading fees when you use your Merrill Edge brokerage account for stocks, mutual funds, and ETF trades. The managed investing account charges a 0.45% annual fee for management.
Not only does Merrill Edge offer investment access to a variety of products, but you also get access to Bank of America banking products. You may also get help when you need it from financial advisors, as well as access to a wide library of investment research tools and insights.
Read our Merrill Edge review
Best for learning about investing: Fidelity
Fidelity is a well-known full-service brokerage and retirement account management and remains one of the best brokers out there. You can access a variety of features with Fidelity, including its stock screener tool that makes it easier for new investors to research stocks. In addition to offering traditional brokerage services, Fidelity is also the provider of Fidelity Go, a robo-advisor that has a $0 account minimum and low fees — in fact, it’s free for accounts under $10,000.
Fidelity provides an extensive learning library with information about almost every investing topic imaginable. If you want to learn the investing basics before diving in, Fidelity may offer what you need, from beginning topics to advanced concepts.
Read our Fidelity review
Best for experienced traders: TradeStation
TradeStation offers several asset classes, including stocks, bonds, cryptocurrencies, futures, and options. It has a lot to offer advanced investors, including advanced charting and trading tools, access to real-time stock trading data, and a high-end stock online trading platform. The platform allows you to place several order types, including market orders and stop-loss orders. It also offers simulated trading to help you practice your investment strategies without using real money.
TradeStation allows you to create your own trading system, which makes it attractive to many experienced traders, though beginner investors may face a steep learning curve. The advanced investing platform could be difficult to get used to if you’re not accustomed to advanced charting and technical analysis.
Read our TradeStation review
Best for long-term investing: Vanguard
Vanguard is an established name in the investment world for pioneering the movement of improving investing accessibility to more people. With Vanguard, you can put your money into one of its investment products, and you’re encouraged to leave it for a while. The goal isn’t necessarily to beat the market but to mirror its performance and potentially meet your long-term wealth-building goals.
Vanguard is famous for helping its users with saving for retirement. The broker gives you access to a wide variety of mutual funds and ETFs to build your portfolio. However, it can also manage your portfolio for you.
You usually need a $1,000 to $3,000 minimum deposit to invest in most mutual funds it offers. However, if you use some of its retirement products, you might be able to get in with a lower minimum, especially if you commit to a monthly contribution.
Best for mutual funds: Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab offers a wide variety of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, ETFs, futures, and options for investors. It also offers fractional stocks and IPO stock access. One of the perks of this broker is that it has a number of funds with no transaction fees. It also gives you suggestions, divides funds by goal, provides lists of stocks that fit certain themes, and even offers an all-in-one solution that makes managing your portfolio easier.
Schwab also offers its Intelligent Portfolios, a robo-advisor you may use with no minimums and low management fees. Schwab completes its financial product offering with its banking products that make it easy to use your liquid cash in conjunction with your investing account. You can also access research and insights from Schwab professionals, which may help you make better investment decisions or plan out your next money moves.
In determining our list of the best online brokerage accounts, we evaluated companies according to a set of criteria we consider critical to the consumer. We did not evaluate all companies in the category. We used editorial judgment to determine what use or user each account would be best for.
FinanceBuzz assessment criteria include:
- Fees: We considered a variety of fees, including management fees and trading commissions, in our assessment of the best online brokerages.
- Features: We looked at platform features, such as real-time quotes, watchlist options, and accessible customer support, as we determined our ranking for the best online brokerages.
- Educational resources: Many online brokers offer educational resources for investors, though some offer more in-depth financial planning and research tools than others. We considered this factor in our rankings.
- Investment options: Different online brokers offer different investment options, including ETFs, mutual funds, and more. We considered these options in our assessment.
- Consumer protections: All the brokerages on our list are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They also offer additional protections like Securities Investor Protection Corp. insurance up to a certain amount.
FAQs about online brokerages
What are the best online brokers for beginners?
The best online brokerages for new investors are those that make it easy to learn the ropes, as well as offer choices for low-cost investing. Discount brokers like Stash, Robinhood, SoFi Invest, and Betterment may all help you learn the basics of investing and allow you to quickly get started while you build your knowledge base.
Which online brokers charge the lowest fees?
Many of the best brokerage accounts have been reducing their fees in recent years. In fact, some trading apps such as Robinhood have long had no transaction fees. Other more traditional brokers are getting rid of trading fees, including Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity. Make sure to review the pricing structure before signing up with an online broker, as different brokerages may offer different pricing options.
What is the safest brokerage firm?
All investments carry a risk of loss. However, all of our best brokerage accounts offer insurance from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which protects your investment account balance of up to $500,000 in the event that a brokerage fails or faces theft. Although it will not protect you against losses due to market events, you may have some peace of mind when you stick with a broker that carries SIPC insurance.
What are the best large brokers?
The “big four brokerages” include Charles Schwab, Fidelity, E-Trade, and TD Ameritrade. The merger of Schwab and TD Ameritrade will combine two of these brokerages to create one with even more customers and managed assets.
What are the best small brokers?
Some of the best small brokers include Robinhood and robo-advisors such as Stash and Betterment. You may receive good customer service, access to investment accounts that meet your needs, and other perks to make the most of your money.