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Yearly Review of Stock Brokers

2014 Online Broker Review

Published by on February 18th, 2014 .

Fellow Investors,

2013 was one bulls will remember for quite some time and bears are still trying to forget. The S&P 500 returned 29.6% and closed at fresh all-time highs. No matter how your portfolio was invested, as long as it was long and not sitting in cash, you had a very good year. Whether or not this excessive optimism will falter in 2014 as the stimulus high slowly fades away is to be seen, but for now, despite a shaky January, the market continues to maintain its long-term uptrend.

The brokerage industry also felt the positive market. DARTs were up across the board, as retail investors returned in droves and billions in fresh assets poured into the market. The positive atmosphere yielded big appreciation for the stocks of the four publicly traded brokers: ETRADE (ETFC) led the way as its stock was up 119% for the year, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) saw its stock price improve 82%, Charles Schwab moved up 81%, and Interactive Brokers (IBKR) finished 2013 with its stock up 78%.

Looking at the industry on the whole, investors should feel good, as we saw improvements across the board. Customer service is clearly a focal point for most brokers — service teams are well trained and understand their clients’ needs. We saw numerous brokers enhance their platforms and tools, specifically focusing on options trading. Lastly, advancements in mobile are clear to see as what were once highlight features — for example, watch list to web syncing — are now standard among the majority.

Seeing the industry evolve and make positive changes is what we clamor for. Our yearly review is designed to serve two goals: push the industry forward, and help all of us as investors find the right broker for our needs.

Less the brokers themselves, we are the toughest critics. Our grading criteria, which includes several hundred variables, sorts through the fluff to identify the true leaders. With a “for traders, by traders” mentality, the StockBrokers.com yearly review has a reputation for being the toughest review in the industry, and we don’t plan on it changing anytime soon.

With more than 100,000 reads the past two years, I am proud of what we have accomplished. This year, we had one new broker join, Merrill Edge, and one broker drop out, Cobra Trading, resulting in once again 17 total brokers participating. Instead of the review being contained all on one page, our updated research and results are spread throughout the site. Links to all of our latest content can be found in the sections below, including our in-depth individual reviews, as well as our “Best in Class” analysis.

Here’s to us as investors and our success in 2014,

Blain Reinkensmeyer
Co-Founder & CEO
StockBrokers.com

2014 Individual Broker Reviews

Each individual broker was assessed on 266 unique variables. Full length reviews for each broker can be found on their respective review pages:

2014 "Best in Class"

Our “Best in Class” groups highlight the top five brokers for nine different categories. Detailed analysis for each category is also included:

Industry Awards

Each year there are online brokers that stand out for going above and beyond. Our broker Industry Awards recognize these brokers for their hard work and dedication in the past year.

#1 Broker Innovation: tradeMONSTER

#1 International Trading: Interactive Brokers

#1 Banking Services: Merrill Edge

#1 Online Banking Services: ShareBuilder

#1 iPad App: TD Ameritrade

#1 Smartphone App: ETRADE

#1 Desktop Platform: thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade

#1 Web Based Platform: tradeMONSTER

#1 Platform (New Investors): tradeMONSTER

#1 Platform (Options Trading): tradeMONSTER

#1 Platform Technology: TradeStation

#1 Client Dashboard: ETRADE 360

#1 Overall Client Experience: Scottrade

#1 Retirement Services: Charles Schwab

#1 Trader Community: TradeKing

#1 Trade Ticket: optionsXpress

#1 New Tool: Scottrade FRIP

2014 Rankings

Self Directed Investing (Overall)

How we scored: Brokers were assessed in eight different categories with the following weightings: "Commissions & Fees" (15%), "Ease-of-Use" (15%), "Platforms & Tools" (15%), "Research" (15%), "Customer Service" (15%), "Offering of Investments" (15%), "Education" (5%), and "Mobile Trading" (5%). It is important to note that behind each category star rating is a numerical score, so while some brokers may have similar star ratings, total points earned for that category likely vary. With all of the category weighted scores calculated, a formula is then applied to determine the overall star rating.

The chart below can be sorted by both category and least/greatest ratings. Please click on any column header area to re-sort.

  Commissions & Fees Customer Service Platform & Tools Research Ease of Use Offering
of Invest
ments
Education Mobile Trading Overall Rating
TD Ameritrade Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Fidelity Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Merrill Edge Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
ETRADE Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Charles Schwab Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Scottrade Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
tradeMONSTER Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
ShareBuilder Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
optionsXpress Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
TradeKing Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
OptionsHouse Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Firstrade Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Interactive Brokers Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
TradeStation Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
MB Trading Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Lightspeed Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star
Just2Trade Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star Star