Fidelity® Review 2018

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Bottom line in a sentence

Fidelity made a name for itself with mutual funds that were ahead of the curve, and its online broker platform looks to help customers share in that success via in-depth research tools and low transaction costs.

Fidelity at a glance

Star Rating

4.5
  • Affordablity: 4 of 5
  • Usability: 4 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 4 of 5
  • Mobile: 4 of 5
  • Scalability: 4 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $500
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $4.95
  • Cost per options trade:
    $4.95 plus $0.65 per contract
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    Over 200 commission-free ETFs, and thousands of no-transaction cost mutual funds
  • Customer service:
    24/7 phone and online chat support.
  • Inactivity fee:
    There are no yearly inactivity fees for not placing a trade or not actively engaging in the account.
  • Mobile app:
    Fidelity offers mobile apps for Apple devices, Android devices, and Amazon devices.
  • Annual fees:
    There are no annual service fees, minimum initial investment fees or account transfer fees.
  • How long to withdraw:
    It generally takes three to five days to receive your check once it has been requested, depending upon mail delivery in your area and the type of account from which you are withdrawing money.
  • SIPC insured:
    Yes, the SIPC will cover up to $500,000 in securities, including a $250,000 limit for cash held in a brokerage account
  • Best for:
    Beginning investors looking for practical tools to help them grow

What Fidelity is

Fidelity made a name for itself as a mutual fund provider with some of the brightest and boldest managers on Wall Street. For instance, its flagship Fidelity Magellan fund was piloted to consistent outperformance by iconic investor Peter Lynch across the 1970s and 1980s. To this day, his book "One Up On Wall Street" is required reading for any serious trader.

Though the age of stock picking has given way to a new era of index funds, Fidelity has stayed true to its roots. It continues to offer funds and products with a focus on more tactical strategies, intended to provide outperformance instead of just settling for whatever the Dow Jones industrial average gives you.

This philosophy shines through in its online brokerage platform, and makes it the perfect tool for active individual investors. Fidelity offers a robust suite of standard tools, and scales nicely to help even advanced traders look beyond just mutual funds and take advantage of any strategy they desire.

What Fidelity costs

Standard pricing is very competitive at just $4.95 for each stock and ETF trade. You can also take advantage of commission-free ETFs that are quite strategic, allowing you to play an individual sector like technology or a meet a specific portfolio goal like dividend growth investing.

And, of course, you'll have access to Fidelity's namesake mutual funds including investments like its iconic Magellan fund of large U.S. stocks or the even larger Fidelity Contrafund with more $120 billion in assets under management. You may have to meet minimum investment thresholds, of course, but these are often just $2,500.

This isn't just a platform for fund investors who buy and hold, however. With very competitive rates on options at $4.95 a trade and an additional $0.65 per contract, it's one of the cheapest brokerages in the industry.

Just about the only area where Fidelity isn't a bargain is on representative-assisted trades, in the event you need a bit of hand holding to book a transaction. At $32.95, that's one of the costliest rates around. So if you prefer the attention of a full-service broker, be aware that the cost structure ramps up steeply with hands-on help.

What Fidelity offers

Fidelity offers an incredible array of tools. It doesn't matter whether you're a beginner or a veteran trader, either, because this broker doesn't overlook any part of your investing journey.

For newer investors, the "Planning & Advice" section offers well-designed category pages about everything from budgeting and spending to life events like marriage or estate planning. The broker naturally brings some of these events back to its products and services, but the information is valuable and the approach isn't too salesy.

For traders who just want to roll up their sleeves, Fidelity offers a wide array of screening tools and research to investigate investment options. You can easily find out which stocks and sectors are making moves, and with just a click or two can dig deeply into analysis that is formatted with colorful charts and iconography to keep things readable.

Fidelity is one of the few brokers out there where investors can do intensive research on every element of their portfolio without ever having to do a Google search or visiting a third-party site.

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
fidelity logo Read Our Review
$4.95 4 of 5
e-trade logo Read Our Review
$6.95 4 of 5
charles-schwab logo Read Our Review
$4.95 5 of 5
td-ameritrade logo Read Our Review
$6.95 5 of 5

Some of these specific features worth noting include:

  • Excellent quote pages: The reason every financial site feels the need to host a baseline of information for every company, such as 52-week highs or dividend yield, is because it allows for quick comparison. But some platforms simply find the cheapest and easiest way to display basic metrics, making their quote pages hard to read or just not useful. Fidelity goes all out to ensure its quote pages are among the best in the industry with an engaging and easy-to-understand presentation. This isn't just about aesthetics, after all, it's about making it easy for investors to find the information they want and compare stocks. Fidelity takes this intent to heart, and it shows in its stock quote interface.
    "After boilerplate information at the top of each quote page, investors can scroll down to get even meatier analysis than simply daily volume or 52-week trading ranges that are available anywhere."
  • Sophisticated screening tools: If you're not sure what stock or fund to dig into, Fidelity has you covered with an array of screening tools. It's easy to do a basic screen, but there are also next-level tools for knowledgeable traders such as dividend screens that include payout ratio and ex-dividend dates or trading screens that include variance from key moving averages. Fidelity also suggests screens for you – such as a list of companies still run by their founders or even a "most popular" screen that tells you what criteria other investors are digging into.
    "This is not a plain vanilla screener that simply lets you sort by sector or size. Even complex filters, like this one for stocks with big but sustainable dividends, are possible."
  • Even more research and analysis: If that's not enough for you, Fidelity offers even more research and analysis. For instance, each stock page has links to PDF reports from a host of third-party research firms. And unlike other platforms, it even provides scorecards for each analyst shop to let you know if their research is actually worth your time. And on its mutual fund and ETF pages, it gives you side-by-side analysis of similar investments – highlighting some Fidelity-run options, of course – in case there is a cheaper way for you to invest while still staying faithful to your goals. And of course, the in-house analysts at Fidelity regularly offer commentary on the website or delivered to your email about what is moving the market and what to expect from different sectors or asset classes.
    "Transparency around the actual returns generated by the so-called experts offering research on its platform is an invaluable aid. After all, why waste your time reading an analyst who can’t even beat the S&P 500 index?"

There are plenty other valuable tools and insights on the platform. For instance, there's even a premium Active Trader Pro platform that's available to customers who trade at least three times each month. It's also worth noting most of these tools are available on a mobile experience, too.

Suffice to say that if you have any interest in doing your own research and staying informed about the market, Fidelity has you covered.

What Fidelity lacks

If you're investing in mutual funds and have only a small nest egg, the $2,500 minimums could be a negative. It's also possible that you're an active trader who really wants to focus on ETFs, and it's fair to say that some other brokers offer a larger suite of commission-free ETFs.

The biggest challenge is the intimidation factor. Experienced traders may love getting lost in the in-depth research, but in many ways new investors may simply wind up with a ton more questions than answers after a few minutes on the platform.

If you're a buy-and-hold investor looking for mutual funds, perhaps for an an old 401(k) that you're rolling over, other pared down brokers who are marginally better on cost may serve you slightly better.

Fidelity is best for...

If you're serious about investing, whether it be via trading individual stocks or simply taking a less conventional approach to your portfolio than simply buying an S&P 500 index fund, Fidelity will serve you well. It's also great for those who dabble in options but do most of their trading in stocks and don't want to sacrifice the depth of research for an options-specific broker.

And best of all, it grows with you. Not only is Fidelity competitive on costs at every level, it also offers plenty of research and education to help you evolve and thrive as an investor.

If you don't want to check in to you or portfolio more than once or twice a year, then perhaps the platform is slightly more powerful than you need. But that said, it certainly doesn't deliver an inferior experience.