Best Brokerage Firms

When it comes to trading in the stock market, there are as many products and styles as there are traders. Whether you are looking to trade in high volumes or only conduct one or two transactions a year, you must have a broker who can fill your request. Each brokerage has its strengths and weaknesses and choosing the right one for you depends on your particular trading style and goals. Review and compare the recommended brokers below.



open account
  • Rated #1 in Customer Service by SmartMoney magazine in 2010. Rated #1 Online Broker by SmartMoney magazine in 2006 and 2007 and Kiplinger’s in 2008.
  • Low flat rate pricing structure including $4.95 online and broker assisted trades and $0.65 options contracts.
  • One of a kind access to thousands of active traders giving you valuable insight into the world of investing.
  • Access to Barron’s four star rated suite of online tools, including thousands of fundamental analysis reports, free technical analysis tools, customizable charts, tax management tools, and much more.
  • Exclusive access to the Options Playbook with the ins and outs of options trading, including real life strategies and execution plans.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$4.95 $4.95 $0.65 $0.00 $4.95 $14.95 (no load)


open account
  • $7.00 flat rate pricing on online trades. Options contracts are only $1.25 more.
  • One of the lowest minimum deposit requirements, $0 inactivity fees, and $0 account maintenance fees.
  • Full suite of investment product offerings including stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds, options, international stocks, IRAs, CDs, and Coverdell ESA.
  • Access to hundreds of physical branch locations and a suite of interactive online educational modules across the United States to make it easy to open an account and to learn how to trade.
  • Up to date, real time stock quotes and state of the art charts are available to help you make the most informed decisions about your trades.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$7.00 $7.00 $1.25 $500.00 $27.00 $0.00 - $17.00


open account
  • Rated 4.5 stars in Barron's 2011 Annual Broker Review.
  • Made it to #1 for providing outstanding support for long term investors.
  • Rated #1 as a platform for Options Traders as well, with the Thinkorswim platform.
  • Rated #1 in Kiplingers 2011 broker study.
  • Backed by the financial institution behind TD Bank, TD Waterhouse and Thinkorswim Group Inc.
  • Keep at least $100,000 in your account or trade actively for a minimum of 5 trades on average per month and become a preferred client by becoming eligible for the Apex program. Under the Apex program, get free access to reports and tools and pay NO service fees (but commission fees are still in place).
  • Solid support for all brokerage services ranging from stock and fund trading to options, forex and futures trading.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$9.99 $9.99 $0.75 $2,500 $44.99 $0.00 - $49.99


open account
  • Rated “Best for Options Traders” by Kiplinger’s for two years running (2009 and 2010).
  • Free One Year Subscription to the Wall Street Journal with $1,000 minimum deposit for cash accounts, $2,000 minimum deposit for margin accounts.
  • Free 90 day Subscription to Morningstar with $1,000 minimum deposit for cash accounts, $2,000 minimum deposit for margin accounts.
  • Founded by one of the largest options trading firms in the U.S., PEAK6 Investments, LP.
  • Low flat rate pricing, including $3.50 online stock trades and $8.50 plus $0.15 per contract for options trades.
  • Full suite of professionally developed online trading tools, including an options hot list, volatility charts and probability calculators that help you make the best investment decisions possible.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$3.95 $8.50 $0.15 $0.00 $3.95 $9.95


open account
  • is a top discount broker that has affordable pricing.
  • Enjoy access to a wide range of mutual fund and investment offerings.
  • There's great support here for international accounts and foreign investors.
  • Firstrade offers many special deals for new accounts, including $0 cost trades, transfer rebates as well as cash back, which will be based on the size of your account balance.
  • You can open retirement accounts such as a Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, SEP IRA and SIMPLE IRA at this broker.
  • You can be a part of a vibrant brokerage community as well. Check out their newsletter, blog or FB and Twitter accounts.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$6.95 $6.95 $0.75 $0.00 $26.95 $0.00 - $9.95

Charles Schwab

  • Charles Schwab provides mutual funds, ETFs and banking products such as checking and savings accounts.
  • This broker also offers bonds and fixed income products, margin loans and annuities.
  • As a customer, you'll be able to access no load funds that won't hit you with transaction fee via their Mutual Fund OneSource® program.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$0.00 - $8.95 $8.95 $0.75 $1,000 $8.95 + $25.00 $0.00 - $49.95


open account
  • Recognized online leader in the brokerage and banking industries.
  • Offers a full range of investment products including stocks, options, futures, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and international trading.
  • Access to SmartMoney magazine’s Five Star rated interactive tool suite including stock, fund, and ETF screeners, real time stock quotes, E*Trade MarketTrader, and automatic buy and stop loss orders.
  • Free Trades for up to 60 days (plus $500) for every new account funded with a minimum of $2,000 in the initial deposit.
  • Open a E*Trade checking or savings account and take advantage of advanced features such as unlimited ATM fee refunds, free account transfers, and free online bill pay.
  • Receive $1,000 off mortgage closing costs by taking advantage of E*Trade’s low cost, easy application mortgage loan program.
Stock Trades Options Base Options Contract Minimum Deposit Broker Assisted Fund Trades
$7.99 - $9.99 $7.99 - $9.99 $0.75 $500.00 $45.00 $0.00 - $19.99

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin January 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm

One of the more important features to consider when looking for a brokerage to house your investments is the quality of customer service provided. What if you need to perform trades and make transactions but then you find that you need to ask a few questions before making a move? If a broker were really reputable, you’d expect them to provide you with prompt and satisfactory answers but a firm that cuts corners by employing untrained staff or that lacks insufficient methods to contact them can be pretty frustrating to deal with. And of course, it can be worse! The wrong choice can cost you money.

Silicon Valley Blogger January 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I agree — a company is only as good as its employees. If you aren’t experiencing good service, it’s likely that you won’t last long as a customer. To gain loyal customers, a company needs to have top service and not just a solid or popular offering.

john mclean February 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

I am just getting started in the investment world ….Need lots of help in this area!

David May 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Check out Just2Trade: only $2.50 per trade!

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How To Choose A Great Broker

How do you go about finding a quality broker that is rated highly? Here are a few tips that can help you out:

  • Look through professional reviews. Financial publications such as Kiplinger's, Barron's, and SmartMoney regularly offer reviews of brick-and-mortar and online brokerages and rate them on several aspects. You may also be interested in reviews provided by other online resources (such as our site) in order to get a comprehensive idea about a broker's reputation.
  • Get some references. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find out how a broker measures up against its competitors. You can also locate both current and former customers of the broker and solicit an opinion.
  • Look for reports or complaints with consumer organizations. Check out the Better Business Bureau or other industry watchdog groups to see if a firm has a negative report. Most reports filed with such organizations are complaints. But understand that complaints in themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the broker addresses and attempts to resolve any issues in an amicable matter. A broker with a commitment to its customers and with a high regard for customer service will work on resolving any issues and disputes against them.
  • Determine a firm's accessibility. Many people don’t like calling companies when it comes to addressing a concern. Does the broker allow you to email a question? If so, what is the expected timeframe for a response? Does the broker have a live chat function? If so, is it staffed? Having alternative avenues to contact the firm is a good indicator of a solid customer service program.

The brokerage industry is competitive enough such that their level of service can be a deciding factor for you when you shop around for a company to work with. So, the next time you are in the market for a place to stash your money, take a good long look at the way your banks, mutual fund firms and brokerages treat their customers before you make your decision.

Full Service Stock Brokers vs Discount Brokers

When it comes to brokers, you will notice that the bulk of them will fall into one of two categories: full service and discount. But what makes a broker a full service broker? Is it merely an issue of pricing? Or is there more to it? The answer may surprise you. Here is a quick peek at some of the main differences between a full service broker and a discount broker.

  1. Price. Trade commissions are probably the most glaring difference between a full service broker and a discount broker. Why? Because the cost of trading with a full service broker can exceed 10 times that of a discount broker and often does. So, the question remains as to why anyone would choose a full service broker over a discount broker if they can both accomplish the same feat, which is to execute trade orders. The answer lies in what you get for your money. Full service brokers offer unparalleled customer service, sound investment advice, and help for planning for your future.
  2. Personal Service. With a full service broker, you will get one on one attention which commonly occurs face to face, though some will assist you over the phone. In any event, you will have access to a live, experienced person. Your investment broker’s role is to be the eyes and ears of your portfolio by conducting research on your behalf, preparing reports, and providing you with solid investment guidance. Online discount brokers are not typically known for this level of service. They offer an environment that is more conducive to the do-it-yourself approach. While many will provide you with great educational opportunities, innovative trading, analysis tools and a wealth of up to the minute information, the guidance you receive isn’t personalized to you or your portfolio. You may spend hours digging through all of the available information to find the one piece you need.
  3. Wider Range of Services. Full service brokers oftentimes have access to certain private equity and hedge funds that may not be available to discount brokers. These exclusive investments may offer a unique opportunity for you to make the most of your investment dollars without greatly increasing your risk threshold.
  4. Peace of Mind. Full service brokers are well trained and know how to best navigate turbulent markets and avoid costly mistakes. This is especially handy if you are a novice investor since you lack the experience to be able to read markets accurately and understand trends. A reputable firm with a long standing reputation for producing good returns year over year adds a layer of security to your portfolio, especially when dealing with highly volatile markets.

Lastly, understand that it all really boils down to cost versus service. Full service brokers offer all of these great services at a cost that may be significantly higher than an online discount broker. This cost can significantly cut into any return you may realize and may limit the amount of trading you can do, especially if you have a small initial investment to work with. Discount brokers are extremely attractive to new investors because of their low cost and state of the art trading tools, but will limit the support available to customers. The savings you get for dealing with a cheap stock broker are passed on to you.

You may think that novice investors with low trading volumes should stick with a full service broker as the cost associated with using one will usually be much lower than making a mistake on your own and losing not only any chance of getting a return, but your initial investment capital as well. But the reality is that high volume investors and traders are rewarded with even better perks at a discount brokerage, including free trades and even lower commissions. The key here is to determine what you'll be comfortable with. For most people, a low cost investment broker typically suffices.