As financial firms continue to evolve, many are combining banking and brokerage services under a single roof. That makes it easy to bounce between managing a checking account and trading stocks. With features such as FDIC insurance, universal login, and mobile bill pay, consumers have more choice than ever about where to take their banking and brokerage business.
To determine which online brokerage offers the best bank broker experience, we explored the availability of cash management tools across 17 brokers, starting with traditional banking products — e.g., checking accounts, savings accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and mortgages. Then we looked for other features such as mobile check deposit, debit card ATM fee reimbursement, no-fee banking, and access to local branch offices. Here are our findings.
Best Brokers for Banking
Here are the best online brokers for banking services in 2023.
Merrill Edge, part of Bank of America, kept up its yearslong streak as our top pick for brokerages with banking services for 2023, thanks to $0 trades, thousands of retail locations, seamless universal account management and its Preferred Rewards program, which offers the best rewards of any bank broker we tested. Read full review
Portfolio Story, Dynamic Insights, and the Stock and Fund Stories are groundbreaking features
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing’s all-in-one platform makes money and asset management simple and straightforward for customers of Chase Bank, the largest bank in the U.S. Multi-account benefits include instant transfers, mobile check deposit, universal login and high-quality proprietary J.P. Morgan research. Read full review
Among our best brokers for banking services
Mobile app provides clean access to investing, education and market news
Though its features trail those of leader Merrill Edge, E*TRADE offers essential banking services with 29 branch office locations across the U.S. Banking services include checking accounts with no ATM fees, high-yield savings accounts, and debit cards. Read full review
Watch lists are the best in the business
Smooth mobile navigation
High-quality high-net-worth Morgan Stanley proprietary research
Among the bank and brokerage combinations, Ally shines and competes with the best in the industry. As with Merrill Edge, bank and brokerage accounts are managed under one login, and transferring money between accounts is a breeze. Read full review
Excellent banking via Ally Bank
Universal account management
$0 stock and ETF trades alongside a $0 minimum deposit
Trails industry leaders in areas including platforms, tools, research, and education
SoFi offers a wide range of banking services, including personal loans, home loans and the company’s flagship student loans, as well as credit cards and a cash management account that can be linked to a SoFi Invest account for funding. Read full review
Is a brokerage account the same as a bank account?
No. A brokerage account is used to buy and sell securities (stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, and other assets) and is SIPC insured, protecting up to $500,000 per customer, of which $250,000 can be cash. Many brokers offer “bank-like” services in their brokerage accounts, but they operate a bit differently under the hood than traditional bank accounts.
A true bank account is used for banking (e.g., savings, checking, bill payments) and is FDIC insured, providing up to $250,000 in protection per individual. Some brokers can automatically roll your cash balances into several banks to provide more FDIC insurance coverage beyond the individual bank limit of $250,000, which is crafty, but perfectly legal.
StockBrokers.com co-founder Blain Reinkensmeyer breaks down how a bank-brokerage works.
Which bank broker is best?
Merrill Edge, part of Bank of America, is the best broker for banking services in our annual review of stockbrokers. Whether you’re a student or an entrepreneur bringing your stock public, Bank of America and its subsidiaries offer solid resources. Aside from the industry standard $0 stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) commissions, Merrill Edge has 3,900 retail locations and seamless universal account management. Higher- balance savers and investors will appreciate its Preferred Rewards program, which offers the best rewards of any bank broker we tested.
A bank broker provides both banking services (FDIC insured) as well as stock brokerage services (SIPC protected). This combination allows you to easily move money between accounts and consolidate your finances with a single provider. Besides investing capabilities, when you open a bank brokerage account you have the benefits of a brokerage checking account and other banking capabilities, such as money transfers and debit cards.
What is a brokerage account at a bank?
A brokerage account at a bank allows you to invest where you take care of traditional banking transactions, like taking out a car loan or paying bills. Financial services holding companies such as JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America can own both FDIC-insured banks and security brokers, which have different rules and different regulators than banks. Bank-owned brokers usually make it very simple to bank and invest at the same firm.
What banks offer brokerage accounts?
Many of the largest banks in the U.S. offer online brokerage accounts through their brokerage subsidiaries. For example, Bank of America offers online investing through Merrill Edge, Chase Bank lets you manage your portfolio at J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, and Ally offers online investments through Ally. All of these brokers let you sign on with one login and password.
Which bank has the best brokerage account?
Based on our research, Bank of America has the best bank-brokerage account offering, via Merrill Edge. Merrill Edge offers $0 stock and ETF trades, excellent bank-broker universal account management, the best rewards program of the bank-brokerages we analyzed, and outstanding customer service.
Can you use a brokerage account as a checking account?
Yes, a brokerage checking account typically allows you to write and deposit checks. There are a number of banks with brokerage accounts offered that provide checkwriting capabilities. Check to see if there are fees associated with how you intend to use the account.
More details: If you decide to write checks from your brokerage account, be sure to monitor your account balance to maintain a proper cash allocation. Some brokers can link your checkwriting to borrowing on margin. The good news is that you can access cash very quickly if you need it and, because your investments are collateral for the loan, the interest rates can be much lower than credit cards.
The bad news is that margin is a loan that has to be repaid. Just as it can be easy to max out a credit card, it can also be easy to spend down your investment account. Always monitor your checkwriting on a margin account. Most brokers offer instant transfers between accounts for convenience.
What is the difference between a brokerage account and a cash management account?
Think of a cash management account as a brokerage account with a debit card. The cash management feature enables you to use a debit card to spend any uninvested cash in your brokerage account. Your debit card can be used for everyday purchases such as groceries, dining, entertainment, and leisure. As always, be careful not to spend money you don’t have.
Is a brokerage account better than a bank account?
One is not better than the other; they are simply different vehicles for your money. A brokerage account is necessary for investing and trading in stocks, ETFs, options and futures, whereas a bank account is meant for handling your day-to-day saving and spending. Banks are slightly safer than brokerages because of gold-plated FDIC insurance, but the risk of a U.S.-regulated broker going under is low, and it’s even less likely you won’t be made whole in the event of a brokerage failure.
Is a brokerage account safer than a bank account?
Both your brokerage account and your bank account typically carry insurance, the former through the SIPC and the latter through the FDIC. In that sense, both are safe. But investing or trading through a brokerage account carries market risk: Losses due to market movement are not protected by insurance.
Can I buy stocks through my bank?
Banks do not offer the ability to buy and sell stocks in checking or savings accounts. However, many large bank holding companies have a brokerage arm through which they offer online trading. For example, Bank of America offers trading through its discount brokerage, Merrill Edge, as does Chase through its wholly-owned J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing.
Can I get a debit card for my brokerage account?
Brokerages that offer banking services often include use of a debit card with your associated banking product, such as a cash management account or checking account. Our top pick this year among brokerages with banking services is Merrill Edge, which is affiliated with Bank of America and offers B of A's full suite of bank accounts and features.
Which brokerages have debit cards?
Two highly rated bank-owned brokers, Merrill Edge and E*TRADE, offer debit cards and don’t require an account at their bank. Though not owned by banks, the brokerages Fidelity, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Interactive Brokers, Robinhood, Vanguard, eToro and Firstrade offer debit cards. Firstrade requires a $20,000 minimum.
Can you buy stocks with a debit card?
No, you cannot use a debit card to buy stocks, at least not directly. Some brokers will allow you to use a debit card to fund your account with cash; then you can buy stock within the account. We don’t recommend choosing a broker based on whether it accepts debit card funds, because almost all will accept ACH deposits, which only require your checking account and routing numbers.
For the StockBrokers.com 13th Annual Review published in January 2023, a total of 3,332 data points were collected over three months and used to score 17 top brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
As a rapidly expanding area of brokerage services, banking features have grown in importance to stock traders who value ease of money transfer and keeping their investing and banking under one roof. Our research team evaluates each broker’s offerings, such as cash management tools, debit cards and credit cards, traditional bank accounts, mobile deposits, no-fee banking and branch accessibility. Additionally, we evaluate the commissions and fees charged by the brokerage for many popular features. In total, we evaluate more than 200 variables for each broker.
As part of our annual review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones and complete an in-depth data profile, which we hand-checked for accuracy. Brokers also were offered the opportunity to provide executive time for an annual update meeting.
Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.
Sam Levine has over 30 years of experience in the investing field as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and writer. He also taught investing as an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University. Sam holds the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Chartered Market Technician designations and is pursuing a master's in personal financial planning at the College for Financial Planning. Previously, he was a contributing editor at BetterInvesting Magazine and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder and other media outlets.
Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 2,500 trades placed during that time. He heads research for all U.S.-based brokerages on StockBrokers.com and is respected by executives as the leading expert covering the online broker industry. Blain’s insights have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.
Carolyn Kimball is managing editor for Reink Media and the lead editor for the StockBrokers.com Annual Review. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.
Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.
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