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Best online brokers of 2020
Ready to open an investment account? These five platforms are worth a look.
There’s plenty to consider when selecting a brokerage account, from fees and research tools to reliability and customer feedback. We’ve charted the numbers to narrow down some of the best trading platforms in the industry. Here are our top online brokerage picks.
1. Ally Invest
- Best for self-directed traders and passive investors seeking portfolio management.
- Look elsewhere if you’d prefer to use a robo-advisor.
Ally Invest nabs our highest rating because it successfully edges out its competition across a spectrum of metrics. Active investors can take advantage of competitive trading fees, a comprehensive suite of research tools and responsive customer support. Hands-off investors have four distinct portfolios to choose from and best of all — pay no advisory fees.
Ally Invest’s mobile app is well-reviewed and traders can buy and sell a respectable lineup of securities, including stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds and options. It even offers access to over 50 currency pairs in the forex market with no commission costs. And no major service outages have been reported.
But no platform is perfect — even those with the highest ratings. Ally Invest charges $0.50 per options contract and we uncovered a small number of complaints citing refresh rate delays on the mobile app.
2. TD Ameritrade
Our rating: ★★★★★ 4.44/5
- Best for advanced traders seeking sophisticated research and analytics tools.
- Look elsewhere if you’re interested in portfolio management services.
When TD Ameritrade acquired the Thinkorswim trading platform in 2009, it established itself as a brokerage that could cater to advanced traders. Despite already having an in-house web and mobile trading platform on hand, TD Ameritrade upped the ante with Thinkorswim’s Desktop, Mobile and Web trading platforms, making TD Ameritrade one of the best-equipped brokerages on the market.
In addition to its five available trading platforms, it offers commission-free stock trading, access to 75 currency pairs on the forex market and — thanks to Thinkorswim — some of the most robust research and analytics tools in the industry. TD Ameritrade also won itself a bonus star for its paper trading feature.
The drawbacks? Investors report a steep learning curve navigating the Thinkorswim platforms and Google Play users report mobile app freezes.
- Best for new and active traders seeking commission-free stocks.
- Look elsewhere if you want to trade bonds, mutual funds or OTC stocks.
Webull is a well-balanced platform with features designed to cater to new and experienced traders. The desktop app is outfitted with an extensive suite of research tools, including watchlists, charts, stock screeners and real-time market data. The mobile app is well received and traders can test the viability of their trading strategies with Webull’s paper trading feature.
The biggest drawback to Webull’s platform is its limited range of securities — those seeking mutual funds, bonds, futures, forex or crypto trading will be disappointed. It also doesn’t offer retirement or joint accounts, narrowing its target market to investors seeking an individual brokerage account to swap stocks and options.
4. Chase You Invest
- Best for investors seeking a simple platform for self-directed trades.
- Look elsewhere if you’re a day trader in need of advanced charting tools.
Chase You Invest is a solid option for new to intermediate investors. While it lacks some of the research-savvy bells and whistles of more advanced platforms, it has a respectable lineup of securities, competitive fees and a range of products for active and hands-off investors. It’s especially well-suited to those who already hold a Chase bank account, as you can manage all your finances from a single platform.
Its mobile app receives one of the highest ratings we’ve encountered, equally liked by both Apple and Google investors. It also earns a bonus star for its Find Investments feature: A tool that helps you sort available investments with over 30 filters to identify opportunities that fit your portfolio goals.
There are several drawbacks, though. Chase You Invest doesn’t offer access to forex or cryptocurrency trading and the platform’s parent company, JPMorgan Chase, doesn’t have the best reputation among its customers.
5. Zacks Trade
- Best for investors looking for self-directed international trades.
- Look elsewhere if you want to trade commission-free stocks.
Zacks Trade distinguishes itself from competitors by offering access to stocks from 91 global exchanges. International investors are welcome to apply and account options are plentiful. It offers four distinct trading platforms, including a feature- and research-rich desktop platform, Zacks Trade Pro, and a mobile app for Android and iOS, Handy Trader.
A Zacks Trade account comes with 23 free research subscriptions through IBIS with the option to add up to 80 additional subscriptions for a fee. The platform offers many analytics tools, including 120 technical chart indicators and portfolio rebalancing by risk tolerance. Among the platform’s standout features are its free broker-assisted trades — a useful perk for those seeking professional support during the trading process.
But Zacks Trade falls short when it comes to account minimums and trading fees. Unlike many of its competitors, Zacks Trade still charges commissions on stocks and its options fees are among the highest we’ve seen at $0.75 per contract. You also need at least $2,500 to open an account.
How we picked these platforms
Our rating methodology helps us rank trading accounts using a system of one to five stars. Each platform’s aggregate score is a compilation of individual scores across six key metrics: fees, available securities, mobile app ratings, customer support, platform resources and reliability.
That said, all categories are not weighted equally. A platform’s trading fees have twice as much impact on its rating, with commissions, portfolio management and account fees all factored into the final score.
How to choose a stock trading platform
There are a number of factors to consider before signing up for a brokerage account:
- Fees. There’s a reason fees weigh heavily into our rating methodology — they have the potential to impact your bottom line. Look beyond what trading commissions a platform charges and inquire about account minimums, transfer fees and costs for other securities.
- Available securities. Some platforms offer a wide range of securities while others specialize in only one or two. Make sure the platform you pick can cater to your trading interests.
- Research tools. Beginners may want a platform with educational resources while active traders will need robust analytics tools.
- Mobile support. Most trading platforms offer mobile trading support but apps typically aren’t as well equipped as the desktop version of the platform. If you prefer to trade on your mobile device, check investor feedback in Google Play and the Apple App Store.
- Customer feedback. Explore customer feedback on the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot and Reddit to find out what investors really think about the platform.
The right trading platform for your portfolio depends on where you are in your investment journey. Before you open an account, compare your brokerage options to find the platform best equipped to help you meet your financial goals.
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