Direct Access Brokerage Firms List

Below we list top direct access brokerage firms in 2016. Read their reviews, compare stock and options fees, and see ratings and rankings for their direct market access trading platforms.

ThinkOrSwim Direct Access Broker

Trading stocks and ETF's on TD Ameritrade's ThinkOrSwim platform costs $9.99. Options are an additional $0.75 per contract. Commissions are negotiable if you can show that you are an active trader. One of our traders right now has a $5.99 per trade rate.

The brokerage firm has over 100 commission-free ETF's and charges nothing extra for penny stocks, large orders, or after-hours trading. There are no account maintenance or inactivity fees, including for IRA accounts. The broker also offers DRIP services at no cost.

Investors have access to more than 13,000 mutual funds, of which 2,500 carry no transaction fee. Research reports are free of charge from 12 independent providers. Traders have access to two major trading platforms, ThinkOrSwim and Trade Architect, both of which come with free streaming quotes, including Level II quotes. Investors can practice trading with Paper Money, a virtual trading account, or discuss ideas in myTRADE, a trader community. There are 126 local branches for investors who want personal service.

On the down side, the broker has high margin rates and above-average commissions.

Broker Review

ThinkOrSwim Review

TradeStation Direct Access Broker

TradeStation offers its clients both a flat-rate pricing schedule and a per-share structure. The flat-rate trading commission is on a sliding scale and ranges from $9.99 for clients making 1 to 9 trades per month to $4.99 for traders making 200 or more trades. There's also a per-share pricing schedule that charges investors $0.01 per share for the first 500 shares, and $0.006 per share after that. This plan carries $1.00 minimum per trade. Options also have two different pricing schemes. Traders can choose a flat-rate $1 per contract with no base charge or a per-share price ranging from $9.99 plus $0.70 per contract (1 to 9 trades per month) to $4.99 plus $0.20 per contract (200 or more trades).

This broker has an active online community and has a large selection of investment products. The charting tools are high quality, and the platform has trading modeling capacity.

On the flip side, this broker charges $35 per year for IRA's and $99.95 per month for accounts not meeting active trader minimums. TradeStation also charges $0.004 per share for direct routing after the first 1,000 shares. The trading platform is difficult to learn for beginners, and this direct access broker only offers about 100 mutual funds. The minimum to open an account is rather steep ($30,000 for day traders and $5,000 for non-day traders).

Broker Review

TradeStation Review

Interactive Brokers Direct Access Broker

IB charges $0.005 per share for stock and ETF trades, with $1 minimum. Options are $0.70 per contract if the premium is greater than or equal to $0.10. The $0.70 charge is discounted to as low as $0.25 for premiums under $0.10.

IB is great for margin borrowing and global investing. It also has a large selection of investment products. Its flagship trading platform, Trader WorkStation, is very sophisticated.

On the bearish side, there is a rather steep $10,000 minimum opening deposit for most accounts. There is $10 monthly minimum commission requirement to avoid a $10 fee. If an account doesn't generate the required $10 in monthly commissions, market data is also charged at $10. A staggering $100,000 account balance is required to waive such fees. IRA accounts cost $30 per year.

Because Trader WorkStation was developed with advanced, active trader in mind, it is difficult to learn, especially for beginners. IB's fee structure is very complicated, and customer service is hit and miss. This direct access broker regulates margin too strictly. Per-share pricing structure makes orders with a large number of shares rather expensive. IB only offers no-load mutual funds, and the minimum order amount is $3,000, which is higher than the industry average.

Broker Review

Interactive Brokers Review

SpeedTrader Direct Access Broker

SpeedTrader charges $6.95 for stock and ETF transactions for accounts under $25,000. For accounts above $25,000, the charge is $4.49. A per-share plan is also available for accounts above $25,000. The trading fee is $0.0044 per share with a $1.99 minimum per trade. Options are $0.40 per contract with a $1.99 minimum per trade. Exchange fees are passed onto the customer.

Bulls say the trading platforms are good quality here. Virtual trading is also available for clients who want to practice. Active traders can do well here because the commission schedule favors them.

Investors criticize the annual $75 fee for IRA's. There are also steep platform fees. A $10 inactivity fee is charged if an account has less than 15 trades in a quarter. Option exercise and assignment fees are $10 each. Pricing and platforms are changed too frequently here. There are no research tools at this direct access broker, and the record keeping is inadequate.

Broker Review

SpeedTrader Review

Updated on 6/23/2016.

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