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 a larger choice than ever of 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, 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's a breakdown of the best online brokers that offer banking services.
- Merrill Edge - Bank of America
- Charles Schwab - Schwab Bank
- Ally Invest - Ally Bank
- Fidelity - Fidelity
- E*TRADE - E*TRADE Bank
Bank of America, Merrill Edge[promotion_merrilledge]
Merrill Edge is part of Bank of America. When it comes to banking and brokerage, Merrill Edge takes the crown thanks to $0 trades, 4300 retail locations, seamless universal account management, and the Preferred Rewards program, which offers the best rewards benefits of any bank broker we tested. Read full review
Charles Schwab, Schwab Bank[promotion_charlesschwab]
Charles Schwab offers a suite of banking services in addition to its online brokerage arm. With 330 service locations, Charles Schwab Bank is a registered member of the FDIC, offering everything from checking and savings accounts to mortgages and credit cards. Read full review
Ally Invest, Ally Bank
Among the bank and brokerage combinations, Ally shines and competes with the best in the industry. Like Merrill Edge and Chase, all your bank and brokerage accounts are managed under one login. Transferring money between accounts is also a breeze. Read full review
When it comes to banking services, Fidelity offers all primary banking features, less home mortgages. Alongside 200 service locations, the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature credit card offers 2% cashback on all purchases, with rewards deposited directly into any of your Fidelity accounts. Read full review
E*TRADE, E*TRADE Bank[promotion_etrade]
While not as well known as the other bank brokers, E*TRADE does offer banking services through its E*TRADE Bank subsidiary and corporate parent Morgan Stanley. The one primary drawback is that universal account management is not provided, making the offering less appealing. 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 account. A 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.
What is a bank brokerage?
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, you have the benefits of a brokerage checking account and other banking capabilities, such as money transfers and debit cards when you open a bank brokerage account.
Can you use a brokerage account as a checking account?
Yes, a brokerage checking account allows you to write checks and deposit checks. There are a growing number of banks with brokerage accounts offered that provide check-writing capabilities.
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. As an alternative, open a separate cash management account so you do not risk overdrawing. 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 like a brokerage account with a debit card. The cash management feature enables you to use a debit card to spend non-invested cash in your brokerage account. Your debit card can be used for everyday purchases such as groceries, dining, entertainment, and leisure.
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 banks offer online trading through their brokerage arm. For example, Bank of America offers online trading through its discount brokerage, Merrill Edge.
Can you buy stocks with a debit card?
No, you cannot use a debit card to buy stocks. To buy stocks, open and fund an online brokerage account, go to the order ticket, type in the company’s stock symbol, then place the trade.
What banks offer brokerage accounts?
Many of the largest banks in the U.S. offer online brokerage accounts. For example, Bank of America offers online trading through Merrill Edge, JP Morgan Chase offers online trading through Chase You Invest Trade, and Ally offers online investments through Ally Invest.
Which bank has the best brokerage account?
Based on our research, Bank of America has the best brokerage account offering (Merrill Edge). Merrill Edge offers $0 stock and ETF trades, excellent bank broker universal account management, the best rewards program, and outstanding customer service.
Bank Broker Pricing and Features Comparison
Here’s a pricing and features comparison of the best bank brokers sides by side using the online brokerage comparison tool.
|Feature||Merrill Edge||Charles Schwab||Ally Invest||
|Stock Trade Fee (per trade)||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|ETF Trade Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$19.95||$49.95||$9.95||$49.95||$19.99|
|Options Base Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.65||$0.65||$0.50||$0.65||$0.65|
|Futures (per contract)||N/A||$1.50||N/A||N/A||$1.50|
|Broker Assisted Trades Fee||$29.95||$25.00||$20.00||$32.95||$25.00|
|Feature||Merrill Edge||Charles Schwab||Ally Invest||
|No Fee Banking||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Broker Banking Features List
On a feature by feature basis, our top five finishers this year offer a combination of the following features to their banking customers.
|Member FDIC||Member of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) - fdic.gov.|
|Checking Accounts||Offers formal checking accounts and checking services. To qualify, checking services must be marketed on the website as a client service. Basic checking through the clearing firm does not count.|
|Savings Accounts||Offers savings accounts.|
|Debit Cards||Offers debit cards as part of a formal banking service.|
|Credit Cards||Offers credit cards.|
|Mortgage Loans||Offers mortgage loans.|
|Mobile Check Deposit||Check deposits can be made through the mobile app.|
|Online Bill Pay||Ability for clients to add and pay bills using the website.|
|Mobile Bill Pay||Ability for clients to add and pay bills using the mobile app.|
|ATM Fee Reimbursement||Are debit card ATM fees reimbursed?|
|No Fee Banking||Offers no fee banking. Requirements: no minimum balance required, no monthly maintenance fees, no debit card fees, no annual fees.|
|Retail Locations||Total retail locations. Company HQ or similar corporate offices do not count. Must be a formally branded, publicly accessible branch office marketed on the public website.|
To recap, here are the best brokers for banking.
Explore our other online trading guides:
- Best Online Brokers
- Best Online Brokers for Beginners
- Best Brokers for Day Trading
- Best Brokers for Penny Stocks
- Compare Online Brokers
For the StockBrokers.com 11th annual best trading platforms review published in January 2021, a total of 2,816 data points were collected over three months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
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