StockBrokers.com is committed to the highest ethical standards and reviews services independently. Learn how we make money.

Online Broker Features & Fees Glossary

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Written by Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Steven Hatzakis
Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer

March 08, 2024

This page summarizes 21 of the most common online broker features and fees. For a deeper dive, use the online broker comparison tool.

Jump to:

Stock and Options Trading Fees

Guides: 5 Best Online Brokers, 6 Best Brokers for Free Trading, 5 Best Options Brokers, 5 Best Penny Stock Brokers.

Minimum Deposit: The minimum amount of money required to open a new online brokerage account. While most brokers do not require a minimum deposit to open a new account, some do.

Stock Trade Fee: The cost to place a stock trade. Charging $0 (no fee) for ordinary stock trades is the industry standard.

Broker Assisted Trade Fee: When clients do not have access to the internet, or are trying to trade a specialty security, a broker assisted trade can be placed via phone to execute the order. Broker assisted trades are different than Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, trades. IVR trades allow clients to simply use their phone to place a trade without human assistance, whereas a broker assisted trade is placed by a licensed broker live.

Penny Stocks Fee (OTC): The fee to trade penny stocks over-the-counter (OTC). Brokers that do not offer penny stock (OTC) trading are listed with "N/A" throughout the site.

Mutual Fund Trade Fee: The commission charged to place a mutual fund trade depends first on the type of fund you are trading. No Transaction Fee, or NTF, mutual funds do not carry a trade fee, for example, but an early redemption fee may be charged if you sell the fund too quickly (typically within 60 to 90 days). The online broker mutual fund trade costs listed below are the standard published rates listed by the brokers and cover the majority of mutual funds including load and no-load funds. Note that some online brokerages do not offer mutual fund trading at all.

Options Trading Base Fee: When trading options online through an online brokerage, most brokers will charge a base fee per trade plus a per contract fee. Other brokers, specifically day trading brokers, typically charge only a per contract fee and no base fee. Brokers that do not charge a base rate are listed as "$0.00" throughout the site.

Options Trading Per Contract Fee: Most online brokers charge a base option fee and then a commission for each individual contract. Some brokers have multiple tiers or several different commission structures for options trading to give clients flexibility in their rates depending on how many contracts they trade.

Options Trading Exercise Fee: Online brokers charge an exercise fee to long option holders when they exercise their rights to buy or sell the underlying shares that each options contract represents. Because all options expire worthless if not exercised, when you hold an options contract, it can either be exercised automatically upon expiration by your broker, or you can direct your broker to do so manually at any time; in either case the exercise fee is charged. For example, if you hold a long put (right to sell) or call (right to buy), you can exercise those rights; but if you are short a call or put, the holder who purchased those contracts from you retains the exercise right and will incur any related fees.

Options Trading Assignment Fees: Online brokers charge an assignment fee to short option holders whose positions (short call or short put) have become exercised by their underlying holders (that is, the buyer of the long call or long put). Remember, for every option trade there is a buyer and a seller, so if you are short an option, there is someone out there who is long that option and who could exercise. An assignment is an obligation for you to deliver shares — lend them to a seller or sell them to a buyer — when you hold a short options position.

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Broker Assisted Trade Fee Penny Stock Fees (OTC) ETF Trade Fee Mutual Fund Trade Fee Options (Base Fee) Options (Per Contract) Futures (Per Contract)
Fidelity logoFidelity $0.00 $0.00 $32.95 $0.00 $0.00 Varies info $0.00 $0.65 (Not offered)
TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade $0.00 $0.00 $25 $6.95 $0.00 Varies $0.00 $0.65 $2.25
E*TRADE logoE*TRADE $0.00 $0.00 $25 $6.95 info $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 $1.50
Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab $0.00 $0.00 $25 $6.95 $0.00 Varies $0.00 $0.65 $2.25
Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers $0.00 $0.00 $30 $0.00 $0.00 $14.95 $0.00 $0.65 $0.85
Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge $0.00 $0.00 $29.95 N/A $0.00 Varies info $0.00 $0.65 (Not offered)
Firstrade logoFirstrade $0.00 $0.00 $19.95 $0.00 $0.00 $0 $0.00 $0.00 (Not offered)
Ally Invest logoAlly Invest $0.00 $0.00 $20 $4.95 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.50 (Not offered)
TradeStation logoTradeStation $0.00 $0.00 $25 $0.01 info $0.00 $14.95 $0.00 $0.60 $1.50
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing logoJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing $0.00 $0.00 Varies $0.00 $0.00 $0 $0.00 $0.65 (Not offered)
Tradier logoTradier $0.00 $0.00 $10 N/A $0.00 $30 info $0.00 $0.35 info (Not offered)
Webull logoWebull $0.00 $0.00 N/A N/A $0.00 N/A $0.00 $0.00 $1.25 info
Robinhood logoRobinhood $0.00 $0.00 N/A N/A $0.00 N/A $0.00 $0.00 (Not offered)
Vanguard logoVanguard $0.00 $0.00 $25 info $0.00 $0.00 Varies info $0.00 $1.00 (Not offered)
SoFi Invest logoSoFi Invest $5.00 $0.00 N/A N/A $0.00 $0 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
View More

View more comparisons using our Compare Tool.

phone_iphone Learn more

If you're interested in trading on the go, see our picks for best mobile apps for stock trading.

Margin Trading Fees

Guides: Best Brokers for Day Trading

Margin Interest Rate: Margin is money borrowed from a stock broker to purchase stocks, ETFs, options, or other investments. By borrowing money on margin, traders can increase their position size. The margin rate is the interest rate brokers charge for the portion of funds borrowed. For example, the US standard margin leverage is 2:1, meaning you can borrow $1 for every $1 you invest. So, if you buy $100 worth of stock, your online broker will provide you an additional $100, for a total of $200 to invest.

Margin Trading Fee: Beyond the standard commission rate (nearly all brokers offer $0 trades), online brokers do not charge a fee for trading stocks, ETFs, and similar instruments on margin. Instead, they charge an interest rate on the net balance borrowed. For example, if you buy $2,000 worth of Apple (AAPL) stock, with $1,000 of it borrowed on margin, you will pay interest on the $1,000 borrowed.

Margin Call: When traders use leverage to buy shares of stocks, ETFs, or trade options on margin, they can be subject to a margin call from their online broker. A margin call occurs when the trader no longer has enough personal capital in the position to offset the unrealized losses due to the trade going sour. For example, if you short $1000 of stock XYZ at $10 ($500 cash, $500 margin), and it trades up to $20, you now owe not only the original $500 borrowed, but also an additional $1000 from the position doubling in price. Unless you deposit additional cash funds into your brokerage account, your online broker will likely issue a margin call, and force liquidate the position.

Feature Fidelity logoFidelity TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge Firstrade logoFirstrade Ally Invest logoAlly Invest TradeStation logoTradeStation J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing logoJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing Tradier logoTradier Webull logoWebull Robinhood logoRobinhood Vanguard logoVanguard SoFi Invest logoSoFi Invest
Margin Rate Under $25,000 13.575% 14.75% info 14.2% info 13.575% 7.83% info Varies info 13.75% 13% 13.5% 13.25% 9.5% 9.74% 12% info 13.75% info 9.5%
Margin Rate $25,000 to $49,999.99 13.075% 14.25% 13.7% 13.075% 7.83% info Varies info 13.5% 12.75% 13.5% 13% 9.5% 9.24% 12% info 13.25% 9.5%
Margin Rate $50,000 to $99,999.99 12.125% 13.25% 13.2% 12.125% 7.83% info Varies info 13% 12% 12.5% 12.5% 9.5% 9.24% 12% info 12.75% 9.5%
Margin Rate $100,000 to $249,999.99 12.075% 13% 12.7% 12.075% 7.83% info Varies info 12.5% 10.75% 12.5% 12.25% 9.5% 8.74% 12% info 12.25% 9.5%
Margin Rate $250,000 to $499,999.99 11.825% 12.75% 12.2% 11.825% 7.83% info Varies info 12.25% 9.75% 12.5% 12.25% 9.5% 8.24% 12% info 11.75% 9.5%
Margin Rate $500,000 to $999,999.99 9.5% Varies info Varies info Varies info 7.83% info Varies info 10.35% 9.25% 8% info 11.5% 9.5% 7.24% 12% info 10.5% 9.5%
Margin Rate Above $1,000,000 9.25% Varies info Varies info Varies info 7.83% info Varies info 9.75% 8.5% 8% info 11% info 9.5% 6.74% info 12% info Varies info 9.5%
Visit Site Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
View More

View more comparisons using our Compare Tool.

Beginner Trading Features

Guides: Best Brokers for Beginners

Virtual Trading: Not every investor is ready to jump right in the water and trade stocks and options with real money. Because of this, online brokers will often offer virtual trading so users can practice trading first. With virtual trading, also known as paper trading or stock trading simulator, investors are given a practice portfolio of fake money alongside access to the broker's trade platform. Using delayed quotes, users can then trade both stocks, options, and even forex and futures if they're offered.

Feature Fidelity logoFidelity TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge Firstrade logoFirstrade Ally Invest logoAlly Invest TradeStation logoTradeStation J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing logoJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing Tradier logoTradier Webull logoWebull Robinhood logoRobinhood Vanguard logoVanguard SoFi Invest logoSoFi Invest
Education (Stocks) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Education (ETFs) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No No Yes
Education (Options) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Education (Mutual Funds) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No No No Yes
Education (Bonds) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No No No Yes
Education (Retirement) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No Yes Yes
Retirement Calculator info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No No Yes No
Investor Dictionary info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes No Yes
Paper Trading info No Yes Yes No Yes No No No Yes No Yes Yes No No No
Videos info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No Yes No
Webinars (Archived) info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No Yes
Progress Tracking info Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No No No Yes No No No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes info Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No No No No Yes No No No
Visit Site Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
View More

View more comparisons using our Compare Tool.

phone_iphone Learn more

If you prefer trading on the go, see our picks for best mobile apps for stock trading.

Read Next

Explore our other online trading guides:

About the Editorial Team

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

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.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

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
Steven Hatzakis

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.

Blain Reinkensmeyer
Blain Reinkensmeyer

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.

close