Kiplinger Best Online Brokers

Kiplinger Best Online Brokers for Investors

Kiplinger website updated their list of best online brokers and below we provide their ratings (excluding Firstrade and TradeStation). As an alternative opinion you could also read our more detailed reviews of all of these brokerage firms.

Kiplinger survey of some of the most popular firms analyzed each broker and rated seven broad areas of interest to most investors. The categories are weighted to reflect what investors consider most important: investment choices, 25%; tools, 20%; Web site and mobile functionality, 15% each; commissions and fees, 10%; research, 10%; and advisory services, 5%.

1. Fidelity Investments

Fidelity has the best mix overall of the seven criteria categories. It is strong in the No-Transaction-Fee (NTF) fund program, offering almost 3,200 mutual funds that qualify. The downside is a fee of about $50 for funds not on the NTF list.

Fidelity has a strong research arm, offering access to information from 21 research companies such as Ford Equity Research and S&P Capital IQ. This will be of particular benefit for serious investors who like to dig deep for as much information and opinion on a stock as they can obtain.

A third plus that helps Fidelity stand out from the pack is managed-account portfolios that can hold stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and separately managed accounts. Other brokers offer managed portfolios that may hold only mutual funds and ETFs. Fidelity review: click here.

2. Charles Schwab

Schwab's competitive advantages over other top brokers are numerous. Unique to Schwab are: they offer nearly 5000 mutual funds that can be bought for no transaction fee or upfront load, they sell 182 commission free ETFs, they allow investors access to some Initial Public Offerings, and they let their clients access 61 international exchanges with certain restrictions.

Schwab is also a leader in personal investment advice. They have a nationwide network of some 800 Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), 3000 registered representatives, and more than 325 branch offices. Research access is solid, with advice available from almost a dozen firms. They also produce proprietary reports covering the major markets and individual securities.

For high-asset clients with accounts greater than $250,000, Schwab offers customized investment and financial advice in the areas of estate planning, options trading, fixed-income securities, and investments. They also offer a variety of managed accounts that may include ETFs, dividend-growth-oriented stocks, and /or a variety of mixed assets from their Private Client team. Charles Schwab review: click here.

3. Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge rises to the upper echelon of online brokers on the strength of their trading tools. Their online calculators, screeners, and charts are second to none among brokers.

For budget-minded investors, Merrill Edge has no minimum dollar amount for opening an account and charges only $6.95 per trade. As long as a client maintains a combined balance of at least $25,000 in certain Merrill Edge accounts, the deal improves. Unlike any other broker on this list, Merrill Edge allows traders up to 30 free trades per month. Merrill Edge review: click here.

4. E*Trade

E*Trade's competitive edge is its mobile app. Considered the best among the leading brokers, the app lets an investor trade stocks, options, and mutual funds. Unique on their mobile app is the ability for the investor to trade bonds, which no other brokers offer. The mobile app works on Windows and Amazon Fire phones as well as standard iPhones and Androids. The bonus kicker is the app's ability to scan a bar code of a product and check to see if the parent company is a publicly-traded stock.

E*Trade's research arm is solid, with offerings from eight firms including Market Edge, Thomson Reuters, and Credit Suisse. Some of Morningstar's premium membership screeners, tools, and analysis are available as well. E*Trade review: click here.

5. TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade scores in the middle of the pack with solid offerings in most categories, but isn't near the top in most categories except an easy-to-navigate website and an above- average mobile app.

Basics such as stock, fund, and ETF screeners, portfolio reports for analyzing holdings, and a virtual trading tool for testing investing strategies are offered, but none stands out as special. The number of NTF funds is decent at 2,819, but stock trade commissions are $6.95 per trade. TD Ameritrade review: click here.

6. Scottrade

Scottrade appeals to newer investors because they offer the best personal service. The company received high marks for user satisfaction with customer service by phone, in branches, and on the web. They also shine with their website dashboard, which is clean, simple, and easy to learn and navigate.

Low scores on advisory services and access to research brought down Scottrade's scores. Commissions are a lower-than-most $7 per trade for most stocks, and the minimum amount to open an account is only $500. Scottrade may be a good option for newer investors who are just beginning to explore online investing. Scottrade review: click here.

7. Ally Invest

Ally Invest is a good choice for super active investors mainly due to its low commissions of $4.95 per trade. Of course, since there is no free lunch, Ally Invest offsets those low commissions with high charges on other trades, such as $100 to buy and sell 100 Treasury bonds. Other firms charge $0 for the same transaction.

Although there is no minimum to open an account, account balances below $2500 may incur a $50 fee if the account is deemed inactive.

Investment advice is limited, as is research, investment choices, and trading tools, but if you are an active day trader of mostly common stocks who has other research and trading tools at his disposal, Ally Invest may be the best choice for you. Ally Invest review: click here.

Updated on 2/8/2017.

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