Are you ready to start investing? Great, you’ll likely need to open a brokerage account first. And to find one that works best for you, it’s important to have a comprehensive look at the top options.

We’ve examined the largest brokers based on characteristics that matter to individual investors, including trading fees, account minimums, free research and many other features. We’ve evaluated each broker on their pros and cons, and here’s how they stack up on the most important aspects for 2023.

What is an online brokerage account?

An online brokerage account is a specialized financial account that allows you to invest in a number of different assets, including stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, bonds, options and more. And because it’s online, this kind of account allows you to access the market on your computer or mobile device without the help of a human advisor from a full-service brokerage.

Comparing top online brokerages

As you’re looking for the best online broker, you’ll want to consider a number of aspects of each company:

  • Cost: To find a low-cost broker, factor in not only trading commissions but other costs such as transfer fees and other account fees, too.
  • Available securities: See if the broker allows you to trade what you want. Some brokers won’t offer bonds, mutual funds or options, for example.
  • Account types: While every broker offers a basic individual taxable account, many don’t offer a joint account, an IRA or more unusual account types.
  • Trading platform: Some brokers are set up for buy-and-hold investors, while others have a well-developed trading platform for active traders.
  • Education: Many brokers offer a ton of educational materials if you’re looking to understand how to invest or use the broker to its best advantage.
  • Research: Many brokers offer third-party research but some even offer their own proprietary research and reports to customers.

Those are some of the most important factors when comparing top online brokerages, but your own individual needs will also drive what you find important in a broker.

Best online brokers in 2023

Charles Schwab: Best overall

Schwab has been well-known for decades for its customer-first approach. Charles Schwab does it all well, from low fees to solid research to no account minimum – all at a reasonable trading commission. Beginners will like the zero commissions and thousands of no-transaction-fee funds, while more advanced traders will appreciate the highly customizable StreetSmart Edge trading platform.

On top of all of this, the broker offers great customer support, educating you on how to invest and giving you a fast response. Buy-and-hold investors may be especially interested in Schwab for its low trading costs, low-fee funds and a wide offering of retirement accounts.

Best for: Overall experience, research, customer support

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Ally Invest

Ally Invest is an excellent add-on for customers of Ally Bank who need a fully functioning broker that can execute all kinds of trades – stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds and even forex, if you’re into that. You’ll get the industry standard commission on stock and ETF trades, and you can get an industry-beating commission on options contracts, at just $0.50.

While the broker doesn’t have any no-transaction-fee mutual funds, it does offer a low base price ($9.95) for such trades.

Best for: Low trading commissions, Ally Bank customers, sign-on promotions

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.50 per options contract

Minimum: $0


If you want access to all types of investing, then E-Trade can give you that, with access to stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, mutual funds and futures. You’ll also be able to buy more than 6,000 mutual funds with no transaction fee.

You’ll get extensive customer support (think 24/7 access across email, phone and online chat), a high-quality mobile app in Power E-Trade and plenty of research and market commentary, if you’re looking for it.

Best for: Active trading, robust trading platforms, no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract, with a discount to $0.50 for 30 or more trades per quarter

Minimum: $0

Fidelity Investments

With a reputation for being investor-friendly, Fidelity is a great overall pick for your next broker. Fidelity provides a wealth of research and is highly regarded for its snappy customer support, too. The broker offers commission-free trading on stocks and ETFs and throws in thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee, too.

The Boston-based broker is great about getting rid of unnecessary account fees even as it provides a top-quality experience. Fidelity’s deep research and educational resources make it a great choice for beginner investors, and you’ll find every retirement account you could want, making it an ideal place to invest for your golden years.

Best for: Overall experience, beginning investors, customer support

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0


Firstrade offers investors commission-free trading in stocks, ETFs and options, which is still a rarity among brokers. You’ll also have several different account-type options including a variety of IRAs and education savings accounts as well as a solid research offering. Firstrade’s mobile app is highly rated and offers advanced features.

Despite those strong positives, Firstrade does not offer a wide range of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, just several hundred as of last count. Nor does it allow traders to buy fractional shares, though that may not be a deterrent for the traders that the broker is targeting.

Best for: Options traders, research, mobile app

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Interactive Brokers

With its stripped-down trading interface, Interactive Brokers only looks like a no-frills broker. But this “broker to the pros” has put all its resources into creating a great experience for active traders. So it’s no surprise that it’s a top choice among advanced traders and those who value the finer points, such as swift trade execution. Volume-based discounts and a pro-level trading platform are enticing to many of these active traders.

Interactive Brokers is an ideal choice for investors focused on keeping costs to a minimum. Active traders using the Pro platform will pay $1 minimum commission (or a half-cent per share above 200 shares), while users in the Lite tier won’t pay commission on stocks or ETFs. You’ll also have access to about 19,000 no-fee mutual funds, tops in the industry, and you won’t have to worry about annoying account or transfer fees.

Best for: Active trading, tradable securities, margin trading

Commission: $0 (Lite service) or $1 minimum per trade (Pro service), with volume discounts available; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge’s strongest suit is the research it offers clients, which comes from the broker’s extensive in-house team of analysts. The package includes detailed analyst reports for companies that it covers, and Merrill also offers good educational material for beginning investors.

One of the best features is the broker’s integration with Bank of America, so you can move money quickly from bank to broker, and it all comes at a great price: free!

Best for: Research, Bank of America customers, customer support

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade is great if you want a broker that can go anywhere. Besides the usual stocks, bonds, ETFs and options, you’ll also get access to futures and forex. That’s on top of more than 3,600 mutual funds with no transaction fee.

With free research and the high-powered thinkorswim trading platform available to investors, it’s a winner. And of course, this leading broker charges no commissions on stock and ETF trades. 

(Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade and the companies plan to have most accounts converted to Schwab between April and September 2023.)

Best for: Trading platform and mobile app, a wide range of securities, research and education

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0.65 per options contract

Minimum: $0


Webull is less well known than its rival Robinhood, but the trading app also allows customers to trade everything from stocks and ETFs to options and cryptocurrencies commission-free. While you’ll be able to reach customer service through the phone 24/7, the educational resources are severely lacking for an app that targets new investors.

Webull offers attractive charting, if that’s important to you, but it’s only part of the mobile experience. Each stock has a comprehensive page with links to news and other third-party content, and you can see what other traders are saying about it, too. You’ll get instant funding of your account as well as the ability to purchase fractional shares.

Best for: Commission-free trading, cryptocurrency trading, mobile trading

Commission: $0 per stock or ETF trade; $0 per options contract

Minimum: $0

Honorable mention

The brokers below also scored highly under Bankrate’s methodology and excel in a number of features that may appeal to certain investors.


Tastyworks may have an unconventional name for a brokerage, but it’s not less firmly committed to providing an attractive environment for traders, especially options traders. It charges a commission on only the buy side of an options trade and also caps the total commission to $10 on any options leg, making for attractive pricing if you’re making higher-volume trades. You’ll also be able to trade cryptocurrency as well as stocks, ETFs and futures, but not mutual funds.


Robinhood brings an attractive and smooth mobile app to the trading game, allowing you to buy stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrency with no out-of-pocket commission. You’ll also get to buy fractional shares and can earn an attractive interest rate on your cash balances here. Plus, Robinhood now lets you open an IRA and provides you a 1 percent match on your contributions.


You won’t struggle to find securities to trade at TradeStation, which allows users to buy and sell traditional assets like stocks and ETFs, as well as less common ones like futures and cryptocurrency. Plus, you can do it all through the broker’s sophisticated mobile app or desktop trading platforms.


Known for its cost leadership in the fund industry, Vanguard also offers commission-free trading in stocks and ETFs. You’ll also find more than 3,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds available. But its mobile app is basic and doesn’t match the performance of industry leaders. You’re also only able to reach customer service Monday through Friday over the phone.


Zacks provides investors with an excellent research offering and a wide variety of account types. New investors may appreciate its offering of fractional shares, which can be a great way to get started investing with small amounts. You won’t be charged any of those annoying account fees that can eat into your returns at ZacksTrade, but unfortunately the broker doesn’t offer any no-transaction-fee funds.

What to consider when choosing an online broker

If you’re just getting started, the world of investing can seem daunting. It’s good to start slowly and work your way into it. The good news for investors is that it’s never been easier or cheaper to trade with an online broker. As you’re looking for a broker, you’ll first want to consider your needs:

  • Are you looking to trade short-term or invest long-term?
  • Do you need a fully featured broker that gives you access to retirement accounts such as a Roth IRA or business accounts such as a SEP IRA?
  • Are you looking to invest regularly but not really follow the market closely?
  • Do you want to invest in individual stocks or do you prefer funds?
  • How much customer support do you need?

Some brokers will fall straight out of contention, if you need a Roth IRA, for example, and the broker doesn’t offer it.

What kind of brokerage account is right for you?

After you’ve established your needs, you can begin to consider how each broker may meet those needs. Some brokers such as Interactive Brokers really cater to advanced traders, while others such as Charles Schwab and Fidelity Investments make it easy for beginners and long-term investors to start.

And if you’re just looking to trade with a mobile app and don’t want some of the frills, then you might also consider turning to Robinhood or Webull.

Finding the right broker starts with you identifying what your needs are and then matching up with a broker that closely meets them.

Are online brokers safe?

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC, protects the clients of brokers who are covered by the plan, including those listed above. Think of it as a kind of FDIC for brokers. That means it protects a customer’s assets, up to $500,000 in total with a $250,000 limit on cash, in the event that the broker fails. Some brokers such as Interactive Brokers take out even more insurance to reassure their customers that their assets are safe with the broker.

But this insurance does not protect you from making a bad investment and losing money. You can buy a stock and it can decline in value, and its price may not rise again to what you paid. While FDIC-backed bank products are fully insured, market-based products can lose money. That said, a long-term investment in a broadly diversified group of stocks can perform very well.

What is the best online stock broker for beginners?

Beginning investors should focus on brokers that are investor-friendly, offer a lot of education and research and have strong customer service. These factors are key to new investors learning the basics of long-term investing and how to navigate the market and the brokerage.

Fidelity came out on top in Bankrate’s review of the best brokers for beginners, with Schwab, Interactive Brokers, E-Trade, Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade also performing well. Fidelity’s low costs, research and educational materials, as well as its strong customer service offering, makes it tough to beat for new investors.

Brokers with strong customer support allow you to contact them and ask questions, sometimes at any hour of the day via phone or chat. They’ll also have educational sections on their site that walk you through how to trade on their platform, what to look for in an investment and more.

Strong research is also helpful if you’re just getting started. If you’re looking to buy stock funds, such as ETFs or mutual funds, it’s helpful to have a broker who can screen for the best picks. If you’re looking to buy individual stocks (which can be riskier for new investors), you’ll want to look for a broker that provides research on the company and its future prospects. But even with those resources, you’ll still want to come to your own decision on how and why to invest.

Bankrate has reviewed the best brokers for beginners and offers its top picks.

Bottom line

Selecting a broker requires you to think about your needs, because the deciding factor is not always about price. If you’re a buy-and-hold ETF investor, you’ll probably need something different than if you’re an active trader.

While new investors might find choosing a broker to be daunting, you aren’t likely to go wrong with any of the names mentioned above. The bigger step is just getting started, so don’t delay. Once you’ve found a broker, you can begin plotting your way to a more secure financial future.