5 Best Brokers for Stock Trading 2023
As part of Reink Media Group portfolio enhancements, StockTrader.com was merged with investor.com in September 2023.
Investors should know the best online brokers for stock trading. Some online stockbrokers are known for their trading platform, while others are known for research capabilities or customer service.
Over the years, I've placed thousands of trades with well over a dozen different online brokers. While I focus primarily on stock and ETFs trading, I also have experience with options trading, cryptocurrency, and forex. My goal with this guide is to highlight some of the best brokers available today with tips and advice for choosing an online broker.
In my analysis, the five brokers that rose to the top are also some of the biggest brokers in the United States. That’s not surprising; they have ample resources to build (or license) whatever they think will lead to the best client experience.
Best Brokers for Stock Trading 2023
- TD Ameritrade - Best overall
- Merrill Edge - Terrific user experience
|Options (Per Contract)||$0.65|
TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform and mobile app are loaded with tools and TDA has the best trading education in the business. The flagship app and TDA website are simpler to operate and excel at addressing the needs of most clients.
- Separate stock apps offered for beginners and active traders.
- Outstanding education resources for beginners.
- Fractional shares not offered.
- Penny stock trades are not $0 ($6.95).
Comprehensive tools and global reach
|Options (Per Contract)||$0.65|
Low costs, global reach and every imaginable tool are available at IBKR, though at the cost of complexity. You can keep things simple using their Global Trader phone app.
- Huge array of highly customizable tools and investment choices
- Allows trading in foreign markets and holding multiple currencies
- Restrictive trading permissions
- Professional-grade tools mean there's a learning curve
New clients, special margin rates.
Best for order execution
|Options (Per Contract)||$0.65|
Fidelity focuses its customer experience on value. Fidelity offers $0 trades and an easy-to-use website, which is loaded with excellent stock research and educational materials for beginners. Fidelity's stock app is also terrific, my favorite for casual investing.
- Excellent education and stock research.
- No payment for order flow, thus industry-leading order execution.
- Easy-to-use mobile app.
- Active trader platform not as robust as top competitors.
Great web-based trading platform
|Options (Per Contract)||$0.65|
E*TRADE is best known for its Power E*TRADE trading platform, which is available through its website and as a stand-alone stock app. We also appreciate access to Morgan Stanley’s stock research.
- Power E*TRADE platform is excellent for options trading.
- Power E*TRADE stock app is tools-loaded.
- Streaming real-time data requires $1,000 minimum deposit.
$0 Commissions* for ETF, stocks & more
Terrific user experience
|Options (Per Contract)||$0.65|
Merrill Edge has the most attractive design of the five reviewed here and offers Bank of America Securities research along with third party reports. Its Stock Story format presents vital stock stats clearly.
- Unique research tools Stock Story and Fund Story.
- Excellent ESG research.
- Penny stocks not offered.
- No fractional shares.
TD Ameritrade: Best overall
TD Ameritrade was purchased by Charles Schwab in 2020, and I expect significant changes to the TDA experience in the near future. Happily, TD Ameritrade’s popular thinkorswim platform will continue at Schwab. TDA’s live trading webinars are terrific.
Interactive Brokers: Comprehensive tools and global reach
This broker has low prices, comprehensive tools and the ability to trade in 33 countries. It's midranked due to its professional focus and the desktop trading platform’s complexity, but it has great mobile apps for novices (Global Trader and Impact) and a client portal that’s devoted to the essentials.
Investing in the U.K.
Interactive Brokers also made our top picks for trading apps in the United Kingdom. Read more on our sister site, UK.StockBrokers.com.
Fidelity: Best for order execution
If the Green Machine had a dedicated mobile trading app, it would have won our top spot for best online stock trading. What you do get with Fidelity is higher-quality executions (granted, this might be a matter of pennies per trade for the average stock trader), a staggering amount of research, and great education.
E*TRADE: Great web-based trading platform
E*TRADE’s strengths – aside from some amazingly funny talking baby commercials – are its browser-based web trading platform and access to Morgan Stanley’s stock research. We’re stock traders here, but we’re also impressed E*TRADE doesn’t charge transaction or early redemption fees for mutual funds.
Merrill Edge: Terrific user experience
Bank of America’s DIY investing arm is better suited for buy-and-hold stock investors than itchy-fingered day traders. It’s beautifully designed and presents important stock, fund and portfolio information in a very innovative way through its stock/fund/ETF “Stories” and Portfolio Insights.
Tastytrade (formerly called tastyworks) is an exception to the maxim that bigger brokers usually provide the best services. All of its platforms provide crisp charts, efficient trading workflows and trade analytics. Check out the comprehensive review of tastytrade on our sister site, StockBrokers.com.
How to choose an online broker
It’s hard to trade successfully when you have the wrong broker for your needs. Consider these nine key factors to find the best broker for you.
1. Trading tools
Trading is a lot easier when you have the right tools. A top stockbroker should offer access to a wide variety of trade tools to help make the most of each and every trade. Some examples of valuable tools include real-time streaming quotes, quality stock scanners, dedicated mobile trading apps, ladder trading, chart trading and options analytics.
2. Speed and order execution
While stock and ETF trades are all $0 these days, order execution speed and fill price are very important for day trading. I won't get too in-depth here, but I have tested many of these brokers and there can be noticeable differences in trade execution times and quality. For the majority of investors, saving a fraction of a penny per share isn't the end of the world, but for day traders it might mean the difference between a profit or loss. To learn more, read this guide to order execution on our sister site, StockBrokers.com.
3. Stock research tools
A great online broker will provide a variety of market research tools. My testing has found time and time again that full-service brokerages offer better market research (both fundamental and technical) than the newer stock apps that focus on just basic trading.
4. Investment options
An online stockbroker should offer access to not only trading stocks, but also a strong selection of commission-free ETFs and the ability to analyze complex options positions. Other unique investment offerings to look for could include direct market routing, conditional orders, futures trading, and forex trading.
5. Other fees
Fees beyond trade commissions include inactivity fees and IRA fees (for having a retirement account). While none of the brokers listed here charge predatory fees, it's still important to do your due diligence. You can use StockBrokers.com’s compare tool to help you determine which broker will be cheapest for the way you trade.
6. Retirement accounts
Funding a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or other retirement account with no annual fees is an extra perk many online brokers offer. There is no reason why you should pay an annual fee to have a retirement account. Read more about retirement accounts.
7. Banking services
Larger online brokers offer banking and other financial services. This goes beyond money market accounts and CDs. Checking accounts, mortgages, debit cards, and credit cards may also be offered. The leader in this space is, hands down, Bank of America - Merrill Edge.
8. Customer service
When you pick up the phone or email a broker, is a well-trained customer service representative ready to assist? How an investor is treated as a client is more important to some than others. But, even for those that don't rely on customer support that often, knowing that there’s award-winning service when you need it is comforting. StockBrokers.com tests phone support each year, which I recommend referencing using its broker comparison tool.
9. International trading
For investors in the U.S., this is not a problem; but for investors living outside the U.S., it’s important to verify brokers offer service in your country. Here's a good list of international brokers to start with. If you’re in the U.K., check out this guide to the best U.K. online brokers.
Once you decide what’s most important to you, use this trading brokers comparison tool to dig even deeper into which broker is perfect for your needs.
What is the best website to use to invest in stocks?
TD Ameritrade has the best website to invest in stocks because of its diverse research, comprehensive trading tools and valuable investing education and online mentoring.
Which trading platform is best for researching stock picks?
Comparing apples with apples, all the top brokers use Morningstar and/or Refinitiv as their primary providers for exchange traded funds (ETFs) and mutual fund research. They also all offer a slew of data and graphs for researching stocks. Slight differences begin to show only when you assess specifics such as the number of third-party research reports or the availability of proprietary research from their full-service parents (for example, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley being available on Merrill Edge and E*TRADE, respectively).
All in all, when it comes to researching stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and fixed income, any large online broker is going to provide an excellent experience for investors.
Fidelity stands out for the sheer quantity of equity research reports and fantastic stock comparisons. Fidelity also distributes high-quality market analysis and personal finance education through its Fidelity Viewpoints weekly distribution. For deep dives, though, nothing beats the detailed analysis of proprietary research from full-service firms, even though I merely use them for context and ignore their targets and buy ratings.
Which stock trading site is best for beginners?
Based on my testing, the best stock trading sites for beginners are:
- TD Ameritrade – best trading education, best overall trading education.
- Fidelity – Terrific all-around broker with fractional shares, but lacks a dedicated mobile app for trading.
- Merrill Edge – Excellent presentation of stock information through Stock Stories.
- E*TRADE – Also a strong overall performer with an easy-to-use web trading platform.
- Webull – A crisp and easy-to-use web-based trading platform, but needs more and better educational content.
What is the best stock app?
When it comes to trading on the go, I like customizing my watch list columns alongside flipping between multiple watch lists, setting price alerts, and occasionally streaming some video. For this reason, TD Ameritrade Mobile thinkorswim is my top pick for mobile trading. For non-active traders, TD Ameritrade also offers a second app, TD Ameritrade Mobile, which is also excellent (I highly recommend the stock education videos!).
Active trading aside, I am also an everyday investor who appreciates conducting stock research and reading quality market editorial. So next to TD Ameritrade, the second broker app I use most frequently is Fidelity mobile. My absolute favorite feature with Fidelity's mobile app is the customizable dashboard, which is essentially a personalized feed that you see upon login. Your feed pulls all your portfolio holdings, watch list tickers, and account information into one streamlined view. From there, you launch straight into full-featured stock quotes or market analysis. It's awesome.
Which trading app is best for beginners?
Fidelity offers investors a one-two punch of terrific market research that is comprehensive and easy to use, alongside a large selection of educational courses covering the basics of stock trading and beyond.
Want to jump-start your learning?
Journaling is an underutilized but great way for investors to build their skills. See my picks for best online trading journals.
Which day trading platform is best?
Traders rely heavily on tools. Today’s trading platforms are not only web-based, but also desktop-based, and are becoming increasingly mobile-based as well. Advanced charting, options tools, screeners, hotkeys, virtual trading, watch lists, ladders, Level 2 quotes, and backtesting are just a sampling of the functionality brokers make available to their customers.
Over the years, I have learned it is not just the trading tools that separate brokers, but the design, depth, speed, and overall execution of delivering the ultimate trading experience. This is where brokers such as TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim and our honorable mention tastytrade really excel. After spending many hours on both desktop platforms, I give thinkorswim the edge, thanks to its modern feel and outstanding trader tools; however, both platforms execute so well that it truly comes down to personal preference. Diehard fans exist for both, and either one is a great choice for seasoned traders.
Which broker is best for international trading?
With a focus on professional and institutional trading, Interactive Brokers offers trading in 35 market centers across 33 countries, making it a clear winner for international trading. Additionally, Interactive Brokers offers day traders over 60 different order types. It also has a beginner friendly mobile app, Global Trader, that makes international trading a breeze.
Can I start trading stocks with $100?
Yes, you can. Most brokers don’t charge per-trade commissions on stocks and you can buy fractions of shares and build a diversified portfolio of 20 $5 positions if you wish. Better yet, deposit your $100 and only invest a few dollars at a time to build experience. Remember, not every trade is going to be a winner.
Best stockbrokers summary
|Company||Minimum Deposit||Stock Trades||Options (Per Contract)||Education (Stocks)||Education (Options)||Desktop Trading Platform||Web Trading Platform||Visit Site|
Investor.com's sister site, StockBrokers.com, comprehensively examines virtually every facet of the client experience and rates top U.S. brokers according to how well they serve a wide swath of customers, from complete novices to demanding professionals. For StockBrokers.com’s 2023 Annual Review, more than 3,000 data points were collected and every platform of 17 major brokers thoroughly put through its paces.
For this guide to the best brokers for traders, I've used the data and opinion scores that go into the StockBrokers.com ratings and reweighted them to reflect what would be important to traders. For example, I weighted platforms and tools, mobile apps and opinion scores heavily, but disregarded ease of use and education, except in the question above regarding best sites for beginners.
Explore our other online trading guides:
- 5 Best Online Stockbrokers
- 6 Best Trading Journals and How to Journal Successfully
- 20 Best Stock Trading Books
- 6 Best Free Stock Chart Websites
- 10 Great Ways to Learn Stock Trading
- How to Read Stock Charts
- 7 Best Free Stock Screeners
- Why Day Trading is a Loser's Game
- How to Invest (Beginner's Guide)