Extensive offering of third-party research; cash-back rewards credit card is an industry leader; fixed income investments availability and research.
Need to make 36-plus trades per year to utilize top Active Trader Pro platforms; no site-wide quote bar.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2014 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
Ask most investors if they have heard of Fidelity Investments, and the answer is almost always yes. Fidelity is a huge brand, perhaps the largest based on total assets alongside Charles Schwab, and one of the largest brokers as far as total clients goes along with TD Ameritrade and ETRADE.
As a full-service broker with millions of clients and ample service offerings, it is no surprise that providing top-notch research is the No. 1 priority. Investment guidance and retirement services are two other monster parts of Fidelity’s business, which this review will take a closer look at.
Commissions & Fees
Fidelity, like its closest competitors, uses a simple, flat-fee trading commission structure. Stock trades are $7.95, and option trades run $7.95, plus $.75 per contract, which are rates similar to those found at TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab and Scottrade.
One standout feature for Fidelity: Among the big online brokers, Fidelity has the lowest margin rates, with ETRADE not much further behind (full margin rate schedules can be viewed and compared using the Compare Tool).
|Fidelity||TD Ameritrade||Etrade||Charles Schwab||Scottrade|
|Mutual Funds ($)||$49.95||$49.99||$19.99||$76.00||$17.00|
Fidelity offers 76 commission-free ETFs, up from 30 in early 2013. The broker still trails ETRADE, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab, however, with Charles Schwab leading the industry, offering 121 in total.
Lastly, Fidelity offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and debit cards, but no home mortgages. Its credit cards in particular stand out in the area of rewards. Next to Capital One ShareBuilder, the offers are the best in the brokerage space.
Research, Ease of Use
Fidelity’s shining star is its research, and this should come as no surprise. We were extremely impressed with the overall depth and scope of what is available. Some could argue that, at times, the amount of research is over-done.
Take, for example, equities research. Pull up a quote of Apple (AAPL) and you will find an Equity Summary Score alongside 13 different third-party research reports to navigate through, the largest of any broker. ETFs are not left out either, as we found six total third-party research reports available for SPY.
The primary research provider for ETFs and mutual funds, as far as key data and ratings goes, is Morningstar. Morningstar is our favorite provider for fund research, and all the big brokers use them. We've found their screeners to be more thorough, the data to be more visually appealing and unique tools such as the fund StyleMaps to be great.
While the research area is fairly straight-forward and easy to navigate, the rest of the site used to be a mess. In our 2013 Review, Fidelity ranked lowest among its competitors for ease-of-use, mostly because of its outdated website and extremely small navigation menu.
Fidelity heard us loud and clear, though, taking a big step forward in 2013 with the launching of a brand new main site navigation menu that is 10 times better than its predecessor. See for yourself the difference between the two below (first displayed is the new navigation, second the old navigation).
With its main site navigation cleared up, Fidelity should focus on adding a site-wide quote bar that includes real-time streaming quotes and a fully functioning trade ticket, so trades can be placed from any page on the site. Alongside the quote bar, Fidelity should skip the pop-up mini quote windows that appear after entering a stock’s symbol into the top right corner quote box, and instead simply take the user to the symbol’s research page. Less clicks and less windows equals happier users.
Customer Service, Education
When reviewing Fidelity customer service, we expected great results, and great results are what we got. Fidelity once again finished as one of the top brokers in customer service, giving us consistently high-quality service, regardless if we were on the phone, emailing in or utilizing live chat.
In the area of education, Fidelity does a good job of breaking up content, sorting by experience level, category, and content type. Articles, videos, webinars, infographics, as well as courses are available to clients. Courses organize articles and videos into a step-by-step roadmap and track your progress so you can easily leave and come back later without forgetting your place.
Including infographics was a very nice touch — even just two — crafted in-house and extremely informative. The weakest content of all the types was webinars. Only five were available, and they were all beginner or intermediate.
Platforms, Mobile Trading
Fidelity, like its competitors, does provide Active Trader Services and tools, including two desktop-based platforms and one web-based platform.
Desktop-based platforms include Fidelity’s flagship platform Active Trader Pro, as well as Wealth-Lab Pro. Active Trader Pro comes in both desktop and web flavors, requiring at least 36 or more qualified trades in a rolling 12-month period for access. To unlock Recognia and Elliott Wave analysis, 120-plus trades must be made.
WWhile Active Trader Pro has made great strides over the years, especially in 2013 with its improvements in its options capabilities, the platform still trails the two undisputed leaders in this arena: TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim and TradeStation.With that said, though, there is a lot to like and the bulk of Fidelity clients will be very pleased with the product.
Alongside the platforms, Fidelity also offers Active Trader Services (dedicated trading specialists and personalized support), which has even steeper requirements. To qualify, clients must “place 120 or more stock, bond, or options trades in a rolling 12-month period and maintain $25,000 in assets across their eligible Fidelity brokerage accounts.”
Active trader platforms and services aside, when it comes to mobile, Fidelity provides apps for all major devices and makes them available to all clients — no prerequisites needed here. We found the iPhone app easy-to-use and bug-free. The broker does an especially great job with integrating its banking services into the app, something that banking clients will appreciate.
Our favorite feature was the customizable "home screen cards," allowing for a quick overview of all client products upon log-in. The weak points in Fidelity’s mobile services center around active traders. Charting depth and customizations lacked, and the broker does not support complex option orders.
Overall, Fidelity Investments is a very well respected broker, competing among the largest brands in the online broker space. The backbone of its success, specialty services and research, will certainly continue to be front and center for many years to come.
Compare Fidelity Investments to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$7.95||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$7.95||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$7.95||Options Exercise Fee|
|$7.95||Options Assignment Fee|
|$49.95||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$32.95||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|7.58%||$25,000.00 to $49,999.99|
|7.08%||$50,000.00 to $99,999.99|
|6.58%||$100,000.00 to $249,999.99|
|6.58%||$250,000.00 to $499,999.99|
|3.75%||$500,000.00 to $999,999.99|
|$1.00||Bond Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Treasury Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Certificate of Deposit (CD) Trade Fee|
|$12.95||Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone Trade Fee|
|$0.00||IRA Annual Fee|
|$50.00||IRA Closure Fee|
|$7.95||Forced-Margin Sellout Fee|
|$0.00||Returned ACH Fee|
|$0.00||Returned Wire Transfer Fee|
|$0.00||Stock Certificate Processing Fee|
|$100.00||Stock Certificate Delivery Fee|
|$0.00||Paper Statement Fee|
|$0.00||Paper Confirmation Fee|
|$15.00||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$0.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
Fidelity requires no minimum deposit to open an account. To trade mutual funds a $2,500 minimum deposit is needed and for margin trading a $5,000 minimum deposit is required.
Stock Trades: Online trades are $7.95. Fidelity applies a very straight forward flat-fee based commissions structure without any catches or fine print notes. There are no limits on total trade size or price. Furthermore our research found no additional fees or charges for trading stocks under $1 or trading during pre and post market hours.
Fidelity offers 30 iShares ETFs commission free. There are no fees for selling one of these ETFs within 30 days of purchase.
Options Trades: Options trades cost $7.95 + $.75 per contract. Any exercise and assignment is $7.95.
Mutual Funds: Through the Fidelity FundsNetwork investors have access to over 4,900 mutual funds. While Fidelity does offer No Transaction Fee (NTF) funds, mutual fund transactions are otherwise pricey at $75 per order. Broker assisted funds purchases are also expense costing .75% of the total principal amount, $100 minimum up to $250 maximum.
2014 Review Results - Fidelity Investments finished #2 Overall with 4.5 stars and Best in Class for Platforms & Tools, Research, Customer Service, Education, and Mobile Trading. Read the 2014 Online Broker Review.
2013 Review Results - Fidelity was awarded Best Retirement Services, Best iPad App, and rated 4.5 stars for Research and Offering of Investments. Read the 2013 Broker Review.
Misc. Account Information
|National Financial (Fidelity)||Clearing Firm|
|76||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|182||No. of Retail Locations|
|6277||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|4747||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|13||No. of 3rd Party Research Report Providers|
|4||Max. No. of Legs (Complex Options)|
|No Minimum Deposit|
|No Maintenance Fees|
|Online Trader Community|
|Live Chat Support|
|24/7 Customer Support|
|Long Term Trading|
|Credit Card Accounts|
|Debit Card Accounts|
Trading Platform Features
|Web Browser Platform|
|Windows Desktop Platform|
|Mac Desktop Platform|
Active Trading Features
|Direct routing offered to clients|
|Broker receives payments for order flow|
|Broker internalizes trades|
|Clients receive rebates for adding liquidity|