Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

How do we rate stock trading platforms?

Comparing brokers is complicated, so we've rated them. Here's our methodology for scoring the features that matter.

Not all stock trading platforms are created equal. To help you identify where a platform shines — or struggles to — our editors objectively assess each platform across a spectrum of performance metrics. We then use this analysis to create our expert star ratings. We’d love to hear from you if there’s a provider you’d like to see us review and score.

We consider nine key factors in our ratings:

What factors do we take into account?

Our ratings

We rate stock trading platforms using a system of one to five stars. While our ratings are designed to help you assess a trading platform’s strengths and weaknesses, the best way to inform your decision is to read our full platform reviews for an in-depth breakdown of platform features, pros and cons.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Excellent

★★★★★ 4/5 — Good

★★★★★ 3/5 — Average

★★★★★ 2/5 — Subpar

★★★★★ 1/5 — Poor

How we rate fees

This is the most heavily weighted category, with twice as much impact on the final score as any other category, and we measure platforms on two separate types of fees: commissions and other.

Commissions on stock and options purchases

Most trading platforms charge fees on options, and many still charge stock trading fees.

Platforms with commission-free trades get our highest rating, while platforms with options contract fees or commissions on stocks, bonds or mutual funds receive fewer stars.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Commission-free trading

★★★★★ 4/5 — Commissions on options, but $1.00 or less per contract, commissions on stocks less than $5.00

★★★★★ 3/5 — Commissions on options, but $1.25 or less per contract, commissions on stocks less than $10.00

★★★★★ 2/5 — Commissions on options and/or stocks but less than $10.00, but $1.50 or less per contract

★★★★★ 1/5 — Commissions of more than $1.50 per contract, commissions on stocks higher than $10.00

Other fees

We also evaluate account fee, minimum balance to deposit, exchange rate, inactivity and any other fees charged by the brokerage or platform.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Few fees, lower than average costs

★★★★★ 4/5 — Reasonable fees, slightly lower than average costs

★★★★★ 3/5 — Fees slightly higher than average

★★★★★ 2/5 — Fees noticeably higher than average

★★★★★ 1/5 — High fees

How we rate available securities

If you’re looking to build a stock portfolio, it’s useful to be able to manage all of your investments on one platform. But while some brokerages offer everything from futures to forex, others are more limited.

We look into how many securities each platform offers, including:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Options
  • Futures
  • GICs
  • Forex

How this breaks down

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers 6 or more investment options

★★★★★ 4/5 — Offers 4 to 5 investment options

★★★★★ 3/5 — Offers 3 investment options

★★★★★ 2/5 — Offers 2 investment options

★★★★★ 1/5 — Offers only 1 investment option

How we rate account types

While you can typically open a variety of basic account types such as personal, TFSA and RRSP, some providers go above and beyond and offer additional account types.

We look into how many account types each platform offers, including:

  • Personal
  • TFSA
  • RRSP
  • RESP
  • LIRA
  • Margin

How this breaks down

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offer more than 4 account types

★★★★★ 4/5 — At least 4 account types

★★★★★ 3/5 — At least 3 account types

★★★★★ 2/5 — At least 2 account types

★★★★★ 1/5 — Only 1 account type

How we rate features

Some platforms cater to more advanced traders and therefore offer a wider range of features.

We look into how many different features each platform offers, including:

  • Fractional trading
  • OTC/Pink stocks
  • Live quotes
  • After hours
  • Short selling
  • Margin trading
  • Leverage
  • Access to a wide variety of international stock exchanges

How this breaks down

★★★★★ 5/5 — Offers at least 6 of the above features

★★★★★ 4/5 — Offers at least 5 of the above features

★★★★★ 3/5 — Offers at least 4 of the above features

★★★★★ 2/5 — Offers 3 or less of the above features

★★★★★ 1/5 — Offers 2 or less of the above features

How we rate mobile and desktop features

In today’s age, apps matter. Many traders rely on mobile apps when traveling or making quick purchases during market shifts — and it’s getting increasingly popular for traders to buy and sell stocks exclusively on their phones. Having access via a desktop can also be helpful, so we take that into account as well.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Easy to use, intuitive, offers both desktop and mobile app

★★★★★ 4/5 — Easy to use, intuitive, offers mobile app or desktop

★★★★★ 3/5 — Average with room for improvement and better usability

★★★★★ 2/5 — Less intuitive, difficult to use

★★★★★ 1/5 — Poor design, difficult to use

How we rate resources and tools

Resources can include market research, strategy tools, charting capabilities, personalized trading advice, financial advisers and access to subscription-based articles or videos. The goal is making sure you have access to innovative guidance on trading options, tracking the market, or tracking the performance of your investments, if you need it.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Robust and useful tools that are significantly better than most competing platforms, such as advanced charting or personalized advice

★★★★★ 4/5 — Useful tools to keep track of and monitor investments, but not as robust as top platforms

★★★★★ 3/5 — Basic mix of tools and information

★★★★★ 2/5 — Informational tools only, like newsletters and market news

★★★★★ 1/5 — No resources or tools

How we rate customer support

The quality of a brokerage or platform’s customer support can make or break the customer experience. We evaluate the ways in which you can get help should you need timely assistance.

★★★★★ 5/5 — At least 3 ways to get help, with timely customer service

★★★★★ 4/5 — At least 2 ways to get help, timely customer service

★★★★★ 3/5 — At least 1 way to get help

★★★★★ 2/5 — Slow customer service, only 1 way to get help

★★★★★ 1/5 — Difficult to find out how to get in touch with customer support

How we rate customer feedback

For this category, we take a look at ratings from customers via TrustPilot and the BBB, as well as ratings customers leave on Finder.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Highly rated

★★★★★ 4/5 — Highly rated with some negative feedback

★★★★★ 3/5 — Average feedback with some highly rated and some complaints

★★★★★ 2/5 — More complaints than praise

★★★★★ 1/5 — Most feedback consists of complaints

Does it do what it claims to do?

Some platforms are designed for beginners, while others cater to advanced traders. We make sure that the platform does what it claims to do – and ultimately caters to the type of trader it attempts to appeal to.

★★★★★ 5/5 — Exceptional product-customer alignment; Platform goes above and beyond what it claims to do

★★★★★ 4/5 — Meets expectations of its target customers; Platform does what it claims to do

★★★★★ 3/5 — Room for improvement in product-customer alignment; Platform doesn’t fully deliver on what it claims to do

★★★★★ 2/5 — Misalignment between product and target customer; Platform falls short of what it claims to do

★★★★★ 1/5 — Gross misalignment between product and target customer; Platform does not do what it claims to do

How do we decide which features are more important?

Each factor in our scoring methodology is carefully considered. Our experts base this on user and market research to ensure it reflects what’s important to you. For instance, we weigh fees more heavily than any other category.

Here is the breakdown of weighting for each category:

  • Fees: 30%
  • Securities available for trade: 10%
  • Account types: 5%
  • Features: 10%
  • Mobile and desktop features: 10%
  • Platform resources and tools: 10%
  • Customer support: 5%
  • Customer feedback: 5%
  • Does it do what it claims to do?: 15%

Notes

We exclude providers known as “robo advisors” which do everything for you – with these, you’re not making your own investments directly in the stock market (examples are Wealthsimple Invest, JustWealth and BMO SmartFolio).

Does Finder compare all investing platforms in the market?

We review most of Canada’s popular and well-regarded online brokers and we’re adding more all the time.

More guides on Finder

Go to site