Online Broker Review 2011
Yearly Review of Stock Brokers
After several hundred hours worth of extensive research and testing, the stockbrokers.com staff is proud to present its 2011 Online Broker Review. For 23 brokers ( E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, TradeKing, optionsXpress, OptionsHouse, Interactive Brokers, Fidelity, Scottrade, Firstrade, tradeMONSTER, MB Trading, Zecco, TradeStation, Lightspeed Trading, Choice Trade, SogoTrade, SpeedTrader, Just2Trade, Sharebuilder, Muriel Siebert, Cobra Trading, and WallStreet*E) we evaluated their customer service, researched stocks, tried new tools, tested platforms, and everything in between. Our No. 1 priority is to provide investors with the most pertinent information in order to find the best online broker to suit their investing styles and needs. Contained in this review is our in-depth analysis for the following seven categories:
- Commissions and Fees: Our analysis primarily focuses on the costs of traditional stock trades, options trades, broker-assisted trades, and mutual fund trades. Miscellaneous and hidden fees are also factored in and analyzed. This includes, but is not limited to, charging extra fees for placing certain order types and for utilizing platforms and tools.
- Ease-of-Use: Sites are evaluated for overall website and interface navigation for clients, order placement and tracking, access to customer support/help, and the ability to customize the homepage.
- Tools and Research: The Online Broker Review includes accessibility of watch lists, real-time quotes, and real-time streaming watch lists. Charting capabilities are assessed for flexibility, time customization, and the overall offering of common technical indicators, studies, and other chart overlays. Accessibility to third-party research, Level II quotes, streaming sales, streaming TV, and other trade tools are evaluated. Unique/proprietary trading and research tools are properly noted and explored.
- Customer Service: Brokers should, at a minimum, offer phone and e-mail support. Live chat, "24/7" coverage, and the use of a help center/FAQ area is also reviewed.
- Offering of Investments: Highest priority is given for access to standard investments: stocks (market, limit, stop, trailing), ETFs (no-fee ETFs a plus), options, and mutual funds (no-load, loaded). Additional offerings reviewed include contingent orders, advanced options spreads (all types), broker-assisted trades, after-hours trading, and OTCBB (penny stocks) capabilities.
- Education: Brokers' efforts to provide education online are analyzed in terms of articles, videos, and webinars. Thoroughness, ease-of-use, accessibility, and overall educational value are key rating factors.
- Mobile Trading: Mobile applications for popular platforms and devices are evaluated, including iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, Windows ME, as well as a mobile-specific website or sub-domain.
This review caters to both the casual investor and active trader. By utilizing our 2011 Online Broker Review, in addition to the other various tools and reviews on our site, investors will be able to determine what broker is best for them, whether they are just opening a new account or already managing a portfolio.
The online brokerage industry is continuously evolving and subsequently improving its offerings for investors. With advancements in mobile smart phones, Internet accessibility via fiber lines, and computing power, it is an exciting time to be an active part of the online investing community.