Barrons top online broker ratings, reviews, rankings, and comparison for 2020

Barrons magazine annual stock broker survey and review of the top rated investment accounts, best discount online trading companies.

Barron's Broker Survey Overview

Every year, Barron’s publishes its list of top brokers ranked by a number of criteria. They compared a list of 14 different popular brokerage firms to each other based on areas such as personalization, technical sophistication, and costs, and ranked them based on their scores. This article will provide an overview of Barron’s results and the trends they’re seeing in the industry, followed by a quick overview of the four “top brokers”.

2020 Industry Trends

Barron’s criteria for ranking the different brokers in 2020 largely reflect the trends they are observing take shape across the industry. These include increased personalization, more market access, more sophisticated platforms, and a shifting away from commission-heavy revenue models. We’ll discuss each of these factors next and offer some of the highlights Barron’s observed among the brokers.

Increased Personalization

Today’s brokerage industry is all about offering the consumer a robust platform and service that looks and functions exactly as they would like it to. This ideal platform will look different for different investors, so it’s paramount that brokers are able to offer a significant amount of customization to their clients that goes beyond the ability to setup watch lists and custom stock screens. Today’s top brokers allow their clients to choose what information shows up and where once they sign into their account, such as the modules that you can “dock” on Ameritrade’s main screen for easy viewing, and the ability to setup alerts that notify you of stock-specific events and price action.

More Market Access

Another trend in the industry is increased access to the markets. Today’s top brokers go beyond offering extended hours trading, with Ameritrade and Etrade offering round the clock trading on many ETFs during the week. This category includes giving traders higher quality access to the markets they trade in. Barron’s notes that trade execution times in general have been cut in half over the last five years. Popular options broker, Tastyworks, boasts an execution time of 25 to 50 milliseconds, which is 8 to 12 times faster than you can blink. Faster execution times generally results in better execution prices.

Higher Sophistication

Another visible and growing trend in the industry is the push towards more sophisticated trading platforms that change the way we interact with our portfolios and place trades. As if being able to place a trade by clicking on a chart wasn’t cool enough, Ameritrade is now letting clients get market information and place trades using Amazon’s Alexa device. TradeStation is fine-tuning its artificial intelligence to observe how and when you view your portfolio and what you do on your account to push out more relevant and timely alerts.

Lower Commissions

Finally, the Barron’s article mentions the clear trend towards reducing, and in some cases even eliminating, commissions. Over the last five years, the average commission among top brokers has fallen some 27% to $5.95. Some brokers, such as Robinhood and Firstrade, don’t charge any commissions. Even the brokers that still charge commissions are offering more and more commission-free ETFs and no-load mutual funds as the industry’s revenues are coming less and less from commissions and more from fees.

Barron’s Top Four Brokers

So, who were the winners? Barron’s top four brokers for 2020 were Interactive Brokers, Fidelity, Etrade, and TD Ameritrade. Next we’ll provide a brief overview of the highlights of these top brokers.

Interactive Brokers

Trading is not commission-free at Interactive Brokers, but that’s okay when considering their two strongest features – investment selection and platform. By supporting trading in global stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, futures, warrants, options on futures, forex, bonds, contracts for difference, structured products, and commodities, Interactive Brokers has one of the largest selections of investment choices spanning world markets. They also offer a very robust trading platform called “Trader Workstation”, which boasts interactive and technical charting features, customizable routing instructions, and an advanced multi-legged options order builder. Learn more...

Interactive Brokers Promotion

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Fidelity is another of Barron’s top brokers, and their low-cost model boasts a wide variety of investment options beyond just stocks and bonds. They also offer several advanced trading tools, a neat robo-advisory service, and some helpful cash management features that make it easier for you to deploy your excess cash in the market as soon as you need it. Learn more...


Another top broker, Etrade, can be characterized by competitive commissions with further discounts available for frequent traders. They also boast an impressive library of articles and videos on everything from how to use their trading tools and organize your finances to advanced options strategies. Learn more...

TD Ameritrade

Number four on Barron’s list is TD Ameritrade, which offers a world-class trading platform called Thinkorswim that is especially popular among options traders. Besides this, Ameritrade offers cash management services, a library of education articles and webinars, around 300 commission-free ETFs, and some of the best customer service we’ve seen. Learn more...

TD Ameritrade Promotion

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Ally Invest

Ally Invest has a new $0 commission on stocks and ETFs and $9.95 charge on mutual fund trades, the broker will attract cost-conscious traders. Read Learn more....

Ally Invest Promotion

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Worst Online Broker According to Barron's

At the bottom of the results an Barron's online broker rankings are AutoShares, Just2Trade, and TradingBlock. These brokers performed very poorly in most categories.