Top 25 Broker-Dealer Firms as of October 2017

Lightspeed Trading is a good fit for sophisticated traders.

Best for education Charles Schwab: 

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Top 25 Broker-Dealers 

Ally Invest is a good choice for investors who want the best value in brokerage services. Despite the company's low fees, it delivers a well-designed website, award-winning customer service, effective trading technology, and .

I conducted research to compile a list of every online broker. I narrowed the list down to just under 50 brokers by eliminating those that did not allow U.

I individually researched each broker, visited their websites, and analyzed rankings and reviews across the web. I concluded that there were 15 online stock brokers worth digging into.

My next step was to come up with measurable data to compare these brokers. I had to be aware that comparing a full-service broker to a discount broker or options broker was going to be difficult.

These were my next steps: I came up with 10 important categories of features to measure each company. Some of these features included costs and fees, access to investment products, research, education, trading technology, and financial resources.

I compared each of the 15 online brokers across these features. Once this comparison was complete, I was left with four of the best online brokers that excelled in specific areas. These four online brokerage firms cover the spectrum for anyone who would sign up for an investment account. I knew I could recommend one of them to a specific group of investors or traders.

Here are the final steps I took: I tested out each of the top four brokers I actually tested several in the top 15 and simulated the trading experience. I analyzed the unmeasurable aspects of each broker that the data could not account for, like usability and functionality, and downloaded all the mobile apps.

I looked for additional features unique to each online broker that I also did not capture in the data. The company still exists today and trades under the ticker SCON. This was the time of the first technology boom from The stock eventually went up to nearly double that and then crashed with the rest of the tech market. Being 14 years old and thinking this stock was going to go up forever, I rode the wave up and all the way back down — down to nothing.

Check out the chart of SCON below and feel my pain. You can see that the stock took two major spikes up and crashes back down I was involved in the first one. I tell this story because I learned three great lessons about stock trading: Staying disciplined can keep you from losing money and ensure you lock in your gains. Everyone can find better options.

Mutual fund investors would do better at Ally Invest or Fidelity. Complaints from its customers regarding the website and customer service knock off 2 stars. A steep quarterly inactivity fee is another drawback. Marsco offers very low trading commissions. The firm's trading tools lack sophistication. Nowadays, there are better solid brokers on the market. Another 3-star rating goes to Sogotrade. However, this low-cost brokerage has a history of customer service complaints.

Its maximum rating at this time is only 3 stars. SpeedTrader is focusing on active traders. Advanced trading platforms are offered for high fees. No research is offered. Trading Block is one of the companies that participated in the Barron's survey. Unfortunately, its rankings are very low in most categories. The company finished next to last.

The well-known Vanguard comes in at just 3 stars. Unfortunately, Vanguard has annual fees on its IRAs and has poor trading tools. Small investors with low account balances would do better at TD Ameritrade or Firstrade.

WellsTrade offers a rather high commission, poor trading tools and some fees that are not charged by many other brokers. On the bright side, the brokerage offers good banking services.

Investrade offers an average trading commission and fairly good trading platforms. Its annual IRA fees are another drawback. There are companies with cheaper pricing on options for stocks. Rounding out the list, Just2trade and Low Trades are two affiliated firms controlled by the same parent, the Success Trade Securities, Inc. What can investors expect at the low end of the brokerage list? Recently, the self-regulatory securities organization FINRA issued a cease-and-desist order against Success Trade Securities, accusing the firm of fraudulent activities, which pretty much sum up the risks of doing business at the bottom of the heap.

Which brokerage is best is ultimately a subjective question. Firms with no minimum deposit requirement, such as Ally Invest and USAA Investments, would be a good choice for investors who have low capital to trade with. Investors who don't trade frequently should consider the higher ticket charges of TD Ameritrade or Etrade in exchange for their advanced tools.

The old adage to "know yourself" is the first step in choosing the right broker. There are some good ones out there, but stay away from the worst-ranked. Only the largest discount online stock brokers are included in our list of top 10 brokerages. Firms' star-ratings, trading commissions, and minimum initial deposits to open an account are also provided in the table. Brokers are rated based on a 5-star rating system, with the highest score being 5 stars, and the lowest score - 1 star.

We considered a variety of ranking factors, including broker's commissions, additional account fees annual, maintenance, and inactivity fees , customers reviews, investments offered, trading platforms, customer service, educational materials, and investment research.

We did not not include in this list full-service brokerage firms and wealth management companies. Please visit a list of top full-service brokerages for information about the traditional brokerage houses.

If you have experience positive or negative of investing with an online discount broker from the list above and you would like to share your opinion, please visit a company's review page to post your feedback, or leave your comment below. We do our best to maintain the most up-to-date information across all our pages.


Summary: Best online brokerages 

Finding the best stock trading account depends largely on your investing needs. NerdWallet's picks for the best online brokers are based on the breadth and quality of offerings that matter most to individual investors.

Further down the list, there are three big-name companies which are offering services of both a traditional full-service brokerage house and a discount broker. Rated four stars, these companies are Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab and Etrade. A stock broker is a person or an institution licensed to buy and sell stocks and other securities via the market exchanges. Back in the day, the only way for individuals to invest directly in stocks was to hire a stock broker to place trades on their behalf. 

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NerdWallet’s top online brokers for beginners 2018

To be included, firms had to offer online trading of stocks, ETFs, funds and individual bonds. Capital One, T. Rowe Price and USAA all declined to participate. We also excluded some brokers that focus primarily on active traders and lack a full suite of investment choices and services. Ally Invest is a good choice for investors who want the best value in brokerage services. Despite the company's low fees, it delivers a well-designed website, award-winning customer service, effective trading technology, and .

We checked out the mobile apps for each broker. The best apps are very close to the desktop versions, giving you the same tools to monitor securities and place trades. What Can I Invest In? Bonds are issued by governments or companies to raise money for various project. So by investing in a bond you in essence loan the organization money. A broker-dealer firm is one that processes orders for clients but also executes trades for its own benefit. In other words, it is a broker when .

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