Best Brokerage Firms


2017 list of the top discount brokerage firms in the U.S. that offer low trading commissions and the highest quality of investment services



Top Brokerage Firms

In 2017 we named TD Ameritrade, Fidelity Investments and Ally Invest the "Best Brokerage Firms" for self directed (do-it-yourself) investors. Below you will find their commissions and fees, ratings by various categories as well as brokerage account reviews.

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Ally Invest $4.95 $9.95 $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $49.95 $6.95 + $0.75 per contract $0 $0
Fidelity $4.95 $49.95 ($75 for some funds) $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Ally Invest
Ameritrade
Fidelity




Traders choose Fidelity especially for its fund offerings, outstanding customer service, low commissions, and advanced technology. The firm recently lowered its equity commission to $4.95, which now happens to be one of the lowest rates in the industry. Option contracts at the broker are just 65¢. Despite these very low charges, the broker's mutual fund transaction fee is a rather steep $49.95 on the buy side ($75 for some funds). A securities account at Fidelity has no annual fee, or other fees. The broker does require a $2,500 deposit to open an account, although there is no on-going low-balance fee. A margin balance costs 8.325% for a loan under $10,000. Investors who would rather let Fidelity manage their assets can sign up for one of the firm's investment advisory services. Plans starts at just 0.35% per year.

There is a wide selection of mutual and exchange-traded funds at Fidelity. The broker's mutual fund screener returns 11,055 products that are open to new investors. The tool can search explicitly for no-transaction-fee funds. Running this screen produces 3,597 securities. About half of them also have no load. Unfortunately, there is no method to search exclusively for funds that have both no load and no transaction fee. There are 91 ETF's that can be traded commission-free. Some of these are Fidelity funds, while the rest are from iShares. The broker imposes a $4.95 short-term redemption fee if one of these ETF's is sold in less than 30 days after purchase.

Fidelity has a lot of great trading tools. The website is user-friendly and has a trading ticket that makes placing orders simple. However, it is fairly basic and not quite as sophisticated as at some other brokers. The Fidelity mobile app is nicely designed and includes live streaming of Bloomberg business news. The broker's advanced trading platform requires 36 trades in a 12-month period. Fidelity also has an app for Apple Watch, and it's one of the few brokers to offer a platform for Apple TV.

Read Fidelity Review

Promotion: 200 free trades for new and existing customers.


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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 10 million accounts and nearly $1 trillion 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. 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 in the industry.

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. The firm also offers robo advising service called Essential Portfolios for a 0.35 annual fee.

Read TD Ameritrade Review

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


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The Ally Invest Group was founded in 2005, and last year it got acquired by an online banking giant Ally Bank. The company includes both the online discount broker and an investment advisory service. Thanks to the new parent company it now also provides arguably the best online banking products in the industry. Ally Invest has received numerous awards. The firm is one of the few securities brokers to also offer forex trading.

Ally Invest is an ultra-low-cost broker: stock and ETF trades at the firm are just $4.95 and mutual funds are incredibly low $9.95 per transaction. 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 Ally Invest 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 Ally Invest Advisors costs only 0.25% annually.

Ally Invest 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, award-winning 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 Ally Invest website. Despite Ally Invest's emphasis on these products, traders have access to more than 11,000 mutual funds.

Read Ally Invest Review

Promotion: Switch to Ally Invest and get up to $150 in transfer fees reimbursed.


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About Our Best Brokerage Firms

Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity Investments 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 Ally Invest also offer forex trading accounts, and the former firm provides access to the futures market.

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, target retirement funds and many others. These best brokerage 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 Ally Invest allow opening an account with $0 down, while Fidelity requires $2,500 minimum initial deposit. All three companies offer generous promotions to new customers.

TD Ameritrade, Ally Invest, and Fidelity are safe to use since they are all 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 Fidelity or TD Ameritrade are great choices. The companies belong to the "Big 5 Brokerages" - the five largest brokerage houses in the U.S. They has been in business for over 30 years. These are the best brokerage companies 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. There are ways to build a portfolio at the firm without paying a dime. TD Ameritrade is one of the top choices for IRAs, buy-and-hold investors, and anyone who wants the best trading platform and research.

Ally Invest 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. Ally Invest is one of the top brokers 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 5/23/2017.





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