Best Brokerage Firms

2016 list of the best discount brokerage firms in the U.S. that offer low trading commissions and the highest quality of client services

Top Brokerage Firms

In 2016 we named TradeKing, TD Ameritrade, and Scottrade the "Best Brokerage Firms" for self directed (do-it-yourself) investors. Below you will find their commissions and fees as well as brokerage account reviews.

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
IRA Setup
and Annual Fees
Scottrade $7 $17 $7 + $0.70 per contract $0 $0
TradeKing $4.95 $9.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $50* $0
TD Ameritrade $9.99 $49.95 $9.99 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0

* TradeKing imposes $50 inactivity fee if combined account value of the household account(s) is less than $2,500 AND no commission-charged trades have been executed in the account(s) during the last 12 months.

Broker Review Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Pricing Overall Rating
TD Ameritrade

Scottrade was founded in 1980 as Scottsdale Securities. In 1996, the company renamed itself Scottrade and opened one of the first brokerage websites. Today, the firm has millions of customer accounts with billions of dollars in client assets. It is one of the largest brokers in the U.S. The marketing firm J.D. Power ranked Scottrade #1 in Investor Satisfaction with Self-Directed Services in 2016. Many investment products are available with the broker, including over 11,500 mutual funds. Bond investors have good research tools on the broker's website.

In its advertisements, Scottrade emphasizes its nationwide network of local branches. The company has over 500 locations, making this the largest system of offices among online brokers. Despite the emphasis on brick and mortar locations, the firm is still able to offer $7 stock and ETF trades. Scottrade customers also have access to more than 2,100 commission-free mutual funds. The broker's trading technology is very good, with sophisticated charting on the website, a trading ticket at the bottom of the browser, a mobile app, and an advanced desktop system.

Mutual fund traders can do well with Scottrade's large selection. On the other hand, with $7 trades, the firm is also a good choice for active stock and ETF traders. They will receive the desktop platform at no cost. With option contracts at just 70¢, derivate traders can do well here, too. Traders who want in-person service will probably find a Scottrade location nearby. The company also operates Scottrade Bank, which allows clients to easily transfer funds between deposit and brokerage accounts.

Read Scottrade Review

Promotion: Get up to $2000 when you open new account or add funds to existing account.

Open Scottrade Account

TD Ameritrade traces its history back to Omaha, Nebraska in the 1980's. After several mergers, acquisitions, and name changes, the company today has over 6 million accounts and nearly $700 billion in client assets. Barron's recently presented 5 awards to TD Ameritrade, all of which were #1 rankings: Best for Long-Term Investing, Usability, Research Amenities, Portfolio Analysis & Reports, and Novices. In 2015, Corporate Insight gave the broker gold medals for online help, investor education, and news & research. TD Ameritrade is one of the few securities brokers to offer both futures and forex trading.

TD Ameritrade has one of the best selections of trading tools among discount brokers. The website is nicely designed and easy to navigate. At the bottom of the browser is a useful trade ticket. The broker has two advanced trading platforms, both of which are free to use for all customers. There are three mobile apps, one of which has more advanced charting than some brokers' desktop platforms. There is also an app for Apple Watch. In addition to securities, both futures and forex can be traded on thinkorswim, the most advanced desktop platform.

Retirement savers will benefit from TD Ameritrade's selection of 7 Individual Retirement Accounts. The broker charges no annual, inactivity, or low-balance fees for IRA's. Even better, there is no closeout fee for an IRA, which many brokers do charge. Some of TD Ameritrade's 101 commission-free ETF's would work well in an IRA. The broker's website also has excellent educational materials that cover a wide variety of retirement topics, such as making withdrawals from a retirement account and rolling a 401(k) into an IRA.

Read TD Ameritrade Review

Promotion: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.

Open TD Ameritrade Account

The TradeKing Group was founded in 2005, and in 2016 it got acquired by Ally Bank. The company includes both the online discount broker and an investment advisory service. The group has total customer assets of about $4.5 billion spanning more than a quarter million funded accounts. The company has received numerous awards. It 2015, NerdWallet named TradeKing Best Overall Online Broker. In 2013, the financial magazine Barron's awarded the broker Best for Option Traders. In 2012, SmartMoney ranked TradeKing #1 for customer service. The firm is one of the few securities brokers to also offer forex trading.

TradeKing is an ultra-low-cost broker. Stock and ETF trades at the firm are just $4.95. Derivative contracts are only 65¢ extra. Despite the low cost of trading, the broker's mobile app and web-based trading platform cost nothing to use. A more advanced desktop system is available for active traders. The TradeKing website also has an extensive customer forum, where users can discuss trading ideas and financial news. Customer service agents are able to answer client questions on these pages. Opting for the portfolio management services of TradeKing Advisors costs only 0.25% annually.

TradeKing 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, decent customer service, effective trading technology, and sufficient research and educational materials. Having forex capability is also convenient for investors interested in the product, because they don't have to go to another broker. The company also has its own forex platform. Bond traders also have good research and trading tools on the TradeKing website. Despite TradeKing's emphasis on these products, traders have access to more than 8,500 mutual funds.

Read TradeKing Review

Promotion: Get $100 in free commissions. No hidden fees. No minimums.

Open TradeKing Account

About Our Top Brokerage Firms

TradeKing, TD Ameritrade, and Scottrade accept account applications from U.S. citizens and legal residents. They offer a majority of brokerage accounts including margin accounts, managed accounts, traditional IRA, ROTH IRA, and retirement accounts for self-employed. TD Ameritrade and TradeKing also offer forex trading accounts.

The brokers enable their customers to trade stocks listed on NASDAQ, NYSE, and other exchanges. They also offer investing in literally thousands of mutual funds from all top mutual fund families including Fidelity and Vanguard. The categories of mutual funds available through these brokers are load, no-load, NTF (commission fee), index funds, bond and target retirement funds. The firms also provide options trading (including complex options) as well as investing in ETFs (exchange traded funds) and in the majority of available investment grade bond securities.

You can open a new brokerage or an IRA account, or transfer your existing brokerage account to one of these firms by clicking on the links on our website and completing application form. Or you could go to the company's website directly. TD Ameritrade and TradeKing allow opening an account with $0 down, while Scottrade requires $2,500 minimum initial deposit. All three companies offer generous promotions to new customers.

TD Ameritrade, TradeKing, and Scottrade are safe to use: they are members of SIPC and FINRA. This means that they are regulated by the United States government, and their client accounts are insured for up to $500,000 per customer, including up to $250,000 in cash.

Our Recommendations

If you are only comfortable investing with large, well-known broker, then Scottrade is a great choice. The company is one of the "Big 5 Brokerages" - the five largest brokerage houses in the U.S. It has been in business for over 30 years. Scottrade is one of the best online brokerage firms for beginners, long term and mutual fund investors.

TD Ameritrade provides powerful, intuitive, and sophisticated sets of trading tools for every investor's experience level. It also offers virtual trading, no-fee IRAs, free streaming quotes, and best independent investment research. While stock, mutual fund, and ETF commissions are on the higher side, there are ways to build a portfolio at the firm without paying a dime. TD Ameritrade is one of the best brokerage firms for IRAs, buy-and-hold investors, and anyone who wants the best trading platform and research.

TradeKing offers easy-to-use yet powerful trading tools, a simulated trading environment, fee-free retirement accounts, online trader community, free streaming quotes, and great beginner investor education. Stock and ETF transactions cost very low $4.95 per trade, and no-load mutual funds are just $9.95 per transaction. TradeKing is one of the best online brokerage firms for bargain seekers, options traders, and active investors.

Make sure to read broker reviews before opening an account - it will help you make more educated decision.

Updated on 9/16/2016.

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