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Broker Reviews

Fidelity Investments

Published by
On Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 .

Overview

From customer service to research to banking to trade tools, Fidelity provides clients with everything they need and more to succeed. While the requirements to access Fidelity's premier platforms are steep, the rest of Fidelity's offerings still scream value.

Dislikes

Need to make 36-plus trades per year to utilize top Active Trader Pro platforms; no site-wide quote bar.

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Fidelity Review

Ask most investors if they have heard of Fidelity Investments, and the answer will almost always be yes. As a full-service broker with over 15 million retail brokerage accounts and $1.5 trillion in client assets as at December 31, 2014, clients expect Fidelity to provide ample service offerings and a top-notch client experience. While investment guidance and retirement services are two monster parts of Fidelity’s business, they are not the only focal points, as this review will show.

Commissions & Fees

Fidelity, like its closest competitors, uses a simple, flat-fee trading commission structure. Stock trades are $7.95, and option trades run at $7.95, plus $.75 per contract, which are rates similar to those found at TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab, and Scottrade.

One standout feature of Fidelity’s is that among the big online brokers, it has the lowest margin rates for assets between $500,000 and $999,999 (3.75%) as well as for amounts over $1 million (3.75%), with ETRADE not much further behind (4.14% and 3.89%, respectively). Full margin rate schedules can be viewed and compared using the Compare Tool). 

Fidelity TD AmeritradeETRADECharles SchwabScottrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$7.95$9.99$9.99$8.95$7.00
Options Base Fee$7.95$9.99$9.99$8.95$7.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.75$0.75$0.75$1.25
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$32.95$44.99$25.00$25.00$32.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$49.95$49.99$19.99$76.00$17.00
Commissions & Fees
Overall

Fidelity offers 84 commission-free ETFs, up from 76 in our 2014 Review. The broker still trails ETRADE, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab, however, with Charles Schwab leading the industry with 182.

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 Bank of America Merrill Edge, and Capital One ShareBuilder, the offering is the best in the brokerage space.

Research, Ease of Use

Fidelity’s shining star is its research, which should come as no surprise. We were extremely impressed with the overall depth and scope of what is available. In fact, so much so, it may seem at times that the amount of research is overwhelming.

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 five third-party research reports available for SPY.

Fidelity Equity Summary Score

The primary research provider for ETFs and mutual funds, as far as key data and ratings go, is Morningstar, our favorite provider for fund research, and the one all the big brokers use. We've found their screeners to be more thorough and the data more visually appealing. They also have unique tools such as the fund StyleMaps.

While the research area is fairly straightforward 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, and took a big step forward in 2013 and 2014 with the launch of a brand-new main site navigation menu that is 10 times better than its predecessor. Then, in 2014, the broker launched a new client dashboard area that is 100% mobile friendly.

Fidelity client dashboard

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, making the new client dashboard customizable would really make the dashboard homey.

Customer Service, Education

When reviewing Fidelity customer service, we expected great results, and that’s exactly what we got. Fidelity once again finished as the top broker for customer service, giving us consistently high-quality service, regardless of whether we were on the phone, emailing, or using 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, and 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.

Fidelity education course

Including infographics crafted in-house (two in total) was a very nice touch and extremely informative. We’d love to see Fidelity flex its creative muscles and develop infographics more often, perhaps like the interactive ones Bloomberg is now known for.

When accessing the Learning Center, we recommend simply scrolling down and filtering by “All Courses and Lessons.” The filtered category areas are a nice effort but it is too easy to lose track of where you are, not to mention overlook additional content. “Was that article I liked in this category or that category?” is the question I often found myself asking.

Platforms & Tools

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, and requires 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.

Active Trader Pro now only trails behind the two undisputed leaders in this arena: TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim and TradeStation. To steal a top-two spot from one of these kings, Fidelity will need to muster more depth across the board, from the offering of technical studies to total optional columns in watch lists to tool customizations. Pickiness aside, Active Trader Pro is a fantastic platform that the vast majority of Fidelity clients will be very pleased with.

Fidelity active trader pro charting

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.

Mobile Trading

When it comes to mobile, Fidelity provides apps for all major devices and makes them available to all clients. No prerequisites needed here, unlike the Active Trader platforms. We found the iPhone app easy to use and bug free. Fidelity does an especially good job integrating its banking services into the app, something banking clients will appreciate.

Our favorite feature was the customizable "home screen cards," which allow for a quick overview of all client products upon login. In 2014, Fidelity also added complex options, a nice plus for options traders who like to trade on the go, and have the opportunity to sell custom lots for tax purposes.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, Fidelity Investments is a very well respected broker, competing among the largest brands in the online broker space. The backbone of Fidelity’s success, specialty services and research, will certainly continue to be front and center for many years to come.

What impresses me most about Fidelity is its drive to continue innovation and push forward across all its products to provide the best possible client experience. Especially for a broker with over 15 million clients competing against other powerhouse brands, there is no time to take the foot off the gas pedal.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by

Blain has been involved in the markets for over 12 years, heading StockBrokers.com equity broker research and reviews. His personal blog, StockTradingToGo.com, provides to-the-point daily market recaps to over 17,000 subscribers.

Commission Notes

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. Broker assisted trades cost $32.95. There are no limits on total trade size or price. Furthermore, there are no additional fees for trading stocks under $1, or for trading during pre and post market hours.

Fidelity also offers 84 commission free ETFs. iShare funds that are purchased commission free and sold within 30 days of purchase are charged a Short-term trading fee of $7.95.

Options Trades: Options trades cost $7.95 + $.75 per contract. Any exercise or assignment is the regular options rate. When buying to close, rate is flat $7.95 when the contract is less than $.65, otherwise regular options rates apply.

All options trades have a maximum charge of 5% of the principal amount.

Mutual Funds: Through Fidelity investors have access to over 12,000 different mutual funds through the Fidelity FundsNetwork. Funds that are not No Transaction Fee (NTF) cost $49.95 per trade. Note, unlike most brokers, Fidelity alongside Charles Schwab only charge for the original purchase. There is no additional charge for redemption (ie selling).

For NTF funds, there is no charge to buy or sell. However, if the fund is sold within 60 days of purchase, a $49.95 short-term redemption fee is charged.

Lastly, broker assisted mutual fund trades are expensive, costing .75% of the total principal amount with a $100 minimum up to a $250 maximum rate.

International Trading: International Trading allows Fidelity customers to trade stocks from 25 countries (16 different currencies) within their primary Fidelity account.

Trade Commissions Breakdown

$7.95 Stock Trade Fee (flat)*
N/A Stock Trade Fee (per share)*
$7.95 Options Base Fee*
$0.75 Options Per Contract Fee*
$7.95 Options Exercise Fee
$7.95 Options Assignment Fee
$49.95 Mutual Fund Trade Fee
$32.95 Broker Assisted Trades Fee
$2,500.00 Minimum Deposit

Margin Rates

8.08% Under $24,999.99
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
3.75% Above $1,000,000.00

Miscellaneous Fees

$1.00 Bond Trade Fee
$0.00 Treasury Trade Fee
$0.00 CD Trade Fee
$12.95 IVR 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 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 Domestic Wire Fee
$0.00 International Wire Fee

Fidelity Ratings

Overall
Commissions & Fees
Customer Service
Platforms & Tools
Research
Ease of Use
Offering of Investments
Education
Mobile Trading
Banking

Fidelity Awards

2015

Fidelity Investments finished #2 Overall with 4.5 stars and Best in Class for Platforms & Tools, Research, Customer Service, Investor Education, Mobile Trading, and Banking. Read the 2015 Online Broker Review.

2014

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

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.

Offering of Investments

Yes CDs
National Financial (Fidelity) Clearing Firm
84 Commission Free ETFs
Yes Corporate Bonds
Yes Direct Market Routing - Stocks
Yes DRIPs
2767 # of Easy to Borrow Stocks
Forex Trading
Futures Trading
Yes No Fee IRAs
Yes Mini Options
Yes Municipal Bonds
Yes Mutual Funds
5709 Mutual Funds (Load)
6859 Mutual Funds (No Load)
3186 Mutual Funds (NTF)
12568 Mutual Funds (Total)
Yes No Inactivity Fees
No Minimum Deposit
Yes Options Trading
Yes Order Type - After Hours
Yes Order Type - Algo
Yes Order Type - Broker Assisted
Yes OTCBB / Pink Sheets
182 Retail Locations
Yes Stock Trading
Yes US Treasury Bonds
Yes Weekly Options

Customer Service

Yes Phone Support
Yes Email Support
Yes Live Chat (prospect clients)
Yes Live Chat (current clients)
Yes 24/7 Support

Platforms & Tools

Yes Desktop Platform
Yes Mac Platform
Yes Web Platform
Active Trader Pro Active Trading Platform
Auto Investing
Yes Ladder Trading
Yes Level 2 Quotes - Stocks
Yes Option Chains - Basic View
Yes Option Chains - Strategy View
Yes Option Analysis - P&L Charts
Yes Streaming Time & Sales
Yes Streaming TV
Yes Trade Hot Keys
Yes Virtual Trading

Research

Yes Research - ETFs
Yes Research - Mutual Funds
Yes Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB
Yes Research - Fixed Income
Yes Misc - Global Market Overview
Yes Equity Research - News
Yes Equity Research - Chart
Yes Equity Research - Option Chains
Yes Equity Research - Balance Sheet
Yes Equity Research - Cash Flows
Yes Equity Research - SEC Filings
Yes Equity Research - Insider Analysis
13 Equity Research - Research Reports
Yes ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes ETF Research - Research Reports
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Performance Chart
Yes Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings
Yes Screener - Stocks
Yes Screener - ETFs
Yes Screener - Mutual Funds
Yes Screener - Options
Yes Screener - Bonds

Education

Yes Has Education - Stocks
Yes Has Education - ETFs
Yes Has Education - Options
Yes Has Education - Mutual Funds
Yes Has Education - Bonds
Yes Has Education - Retirement
Yes Investor Dictionary
Yes Client Webinars
Yes Live Seminars
Yes Retirement Calculator
Community Forums

Mobile Trading

Yes iPhone App
Yes iPad App
Yes Android App
Yes Android Tablet App
Yes Mobile Site
Yes Company Data
Yes Company News
Yes Watch List Syncing
Yes Options Chains Viewable
Yes Market Movers (Top Gainers)
Barcode Lookup
Yes Charting - Multiple Time Frames
Yes Charting - Can Turn Horizontally
Charting - Portfolio Perf vs Indices
Yes Charting - Stock Comparisons
Yes Trading - Stocks
Yes Trading - Simple Options
Yes Withdrawal Balance Available

Banking

Yes Checking Accounts
Yes Savings Accounts
Yes Debit Cards
Yes Credit Cards
Mortgage Loans
Yes Mobile Check Deposit
Yes ATM Fee Reimbursement
Yes No Fee Banking

Active Trading

Yes Internalizes Trades
Yes Receives Payment for Order Flow
Client Liquidity Rebates

Best in Class

Yes Best in Class - Offering of Investments
Best in Class - Commissions & Fees
Yes Best in Class - Platforms & Tools
Yes Best in Class - Research
Yes Best in Class - Customer Service
Best in Class - Ease of Use
Yes Best in Class - Investor Education
Yes Best in Class - Mobile Trading
Best in Class - Active Trading
Best in Class - Options Trading
Best in Class - New Investors

Compare Fidelity Investments:



All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 5/01/2015 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the top of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.

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