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Best Brokers for Banking Services in 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Sep 23, 2021

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2021 review (11th annual) took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

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

StockBrokers.com 2021 Review

Here's a breakdown of the best online brokers that offer banking services.

Merrill Edge
Overall

Bank of America, Merrill Edge

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65

Invest in a new account and get up to $600.

When it comes to banking and brokerage, Merrill Edge — part of Bank of America — takes the crown, thanks to $0 trades, 4,300 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

Pros

  • Excellent tools for ESG research.
  • Robust rewards program for current Bank of America customers.

Cons

  • Penny stocks and OTC securities are not available.
  • Fractional share trading is not available.
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Invest in a new account and get up to $600.

Charles Schwab
Overall

Charles Schwab, Schwab Bank

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65

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

Pros

  • Our top pick for stock and market research.
  • Fractional shares available.
  • Multiple financial planning services.

Cons

  • Mobile app lacks alerts, streaming quotes and options chains.
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Ally Invest
Overall

Ally Invest, Ally Bank

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.50

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

Pros

  • Excellent banking via Ally Bank.
  • Universal account management.

Cons

  • Trading tools lag behind leading bank/brokers.
  • Limited education and stock research.
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Fidelity
Overall

Fidelity

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65

Trade at Fidelity.1

Fidelity offers all major banking services except home mortgages and has some 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

Pros

  • Excellent mobile app for investors.
  • Our top pick for order execution, no payment for order flow (PFOF).

Cons

  • Margin rates can be higher than peers'.
  • No custom screening on mobile.
  • Banking services offered via a third party.
panorama_fish_eye panorama_fish_eye panorama_fish_eye

Trade at Fidelity.1

E*TRADE
Overall

E*TRADE, E*TRADE Bank

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65

Open & fund, get $600 w/ code: BONUS21 Advertisement

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 main drawback is that universal account management is not offered. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent web and mobile platforms; Power E*TRADE.
  • Our top pick for options trading.

Cons

  • $1,000 minimum for streaming data.
  • Range of educational materials is limited compared to peers.
panorama_fish_eye panorama_fish_eye panorama_fish_eye

Open & fund, get $600 w/ code: BONUS21 Advertisement

Other brokers tested

Beyond addition to our top five picks for banking services in 2021, we reviewed six other platforms:

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
Visit Site
Charles Schwab Ally Invest
Minimum Deposit $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
ETF Trade Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $19.95 $49.95 $9.95
Options (Base Fee) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65 $0.65 $0.50
Futures (Per Contract) N/A $2.25 N/A
Broker Assisted Trade Fee $29.95 $25.00 $20.00

Feature Merrill Edge
Visit Site
Charles Schwab Ally Invest
Bank (Member FDIC) Yes Yes Yes
Checking Accounts Yes Yes Yes
Savings Accounts Yes Yes Yes
Credit Cards Yes Yes No
Debit Cards Yes Yes Yes
Mortgage Loans Yes Yes Yes

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.

Feature Definition
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.

Summary

To recap, here are the best brokers for banking.

Best brokers for banking 2021

Methodology

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.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and offered executive time (live in person or over the web) 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.

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About the Author

Blain Reinkensmeyer

As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company, among others.



All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/19/2021 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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.

1 Fidelity Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal. Options trading entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Certain complex options strategies carry additional risk. Before trading options, please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options. Supporting documentation for any claims, if applicable, will be furnished upon request.

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