When it comes to free stock trading in 2021, investors need to look beyond the price of stock and ETF trades. Why? Because all brokers offer free trades. However, not all brokers have excellent education, a great trading platform, or robust market research. Also, most brokers accept payment for order flow (PFOF), a hidden fee that generates over $1B each year in profits for the industry.
For our 2021 Annual Review, we scored 11 different online brokers that offer free trading. To assess each platform, we tested well over 100 features, broke down miscellaneous account fees, and researched each firm's order execution practices.
Best Brokers for Free Stock Trading 2021
- Fidelity - Best free trading platform
- TD Ameritrade - Free trading, best education
- Interactive Brokers - Free trading, best pro tools
- E*TRADE - Free trading, best trader app
- Charles Schwab - Free trading, best research
Best free trading platform[promotion_fidelityinvestments]
Fidelity is the best free trading platform for 2021 because it offers $0 trades while also NOT accepting payment for order flow (PFOF). This guarantees customers get the absolute best price on every stock and ETF trade. Pricing aside, Fidelity offers industry-leading research, excellent trading tools, and a feature-rich trading app built for everyday investors. Read full review
Free trading, best education[promotion_tdameritrade]
TD Ameritrade delivers $0 trades, fantastic trading platforms, excellent market research, industry-leading education for beginners, and reliable customer service. This outstanding all-around experience makes TD Ameritrade our top overall broker in 2021. Read full review
Free trading, best pro tools[promotion_interactivebrokers]
Traditionally known for its leading offering of platforms, tools, and pricing for professionals, Interactive Brokers has made significant strides in recent years and today also appeals to casual investors, thanks to $0 trades and its Client Portal web platform. Read full review
Free trading, best trader app[promotion_etrade]
Founded in 1982 as one of the first online brokerages in the United States, E*TRADE highlights include $0 trades, two excellent mobile apps, and the Power E*TRADE platform, which is great for beginners, active trading, and options trading. Read full review
Free trading, best research[promotion_charlesschwab]
With more than $6 trillion in client assets, Charles Schwab understands how to consistently deliver value to its customers. Highlights include $0 trades, excellent stock research, a diverse selection of trading tools, and an industry-leading offering of financial planning services. Read full review
Other Trading Platforms for Free Stock Trading
Beyond our top five free trading platforms for 2021, here are high-level takeaways for Merrill Edge, TradeStation, Webull, and Robinhood. To dive deeper, read our full reviews.
Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools (especially ESG research) and excellent customer service. Better yet, for current Bank of America customers, Merrill Edge's Preferred Rewards program provides the best rewards of any best bank broker we tested in 2021. Read full review
As a trading technology leader, TradeStation supports casual traders through its web-based platform and active traders through its award-winning desktop platform, all with $0 stock and ETF trades. Like its other active-trader focused competitors, TradeStation lacks in its offering of fundamental company research for casual investors. Education is also a mixed bag, making it just an "ok" choice for beginners. Read full review
While Webull's mobile app offers more features than Robinhood, it struggles to compete with the extensive amount of trading tools provided by the best stock trading apps. Also, like Robinhood, Webull's top source of revenue is payment for order flow (PFOF), making hidden trading costs a substantial drawback to using the app. Read full review
Robinhood's stock app is very easy to use; however, now that all online brokers offer $0 stock and ETF trades, Robinhood's lack of trading tools and research leaves it a step behind the competition. In addition, Robinhood's top source of revenue is payment for order flow (PFOF), making hidden trading costs a substantial drawback to using the app. Read full review
Trading Fees Comparison
Using our online brokerage comparison tool, here's a comparison of the trading and account fees for the best free trading platforms.
|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||$49.95||$49.99||$14.95||$19.99||$49.95|
|Options Base Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.65||$0.65||$0.65||$0.65||$0.65|
|Futures (per contract)||N/A||$2.25||$0.85||$1.50||$1.50|
|Broker Assisted Trades Fee||$32.95||$44.99||$30.00||$25.00||$25.00|
|IRA Annual Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|IRA Closure Fee||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$60.00||$50.00|
|Account Transfer Out (Partial)||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$25.00||$25.00|
|Account Transfer Out (Full)||$0.00||$75.00||$0.00||$75.00||$50.00|
|Returned ACH Fee||$0.00||$25.00||N/A||$0.00||$25.00|
|Returned Wire Fee||$0.00||$25.00||N/A||$0.00||$25.00|
|Stock Certificate Processing Fee||$0.00||$0.00||N/A||$0.00||$100.00|
|Stock Certificate Delivery Fee||$100.00||$500.00||N/A||$75.00||N/A|
|Paper Statement Fee||$0.00||$0.00||N/A||$2.00||$0.00|
|Paper Confirmation Fee||$0.00||$0.00||N/A||$0.00||$0.00|
|Domestic Wire Fee||$0.00||$25.00||$10.00||$25.00||$25.00|
|International Wire Fee||$0.00||$25.00||$10.00||$25.00||$25.00|
What is commission free trading?
Commission-free trading means there is no charge for placing a stock or ETF trade. In October 2019, a pricing war led to the full-service brokerages cutting their stock and ETF commissions to $0 to compete with free trading platforms such as Robinhood.
How do brokers make money on commission free trades?
For startup brokers such as Robinhood and Webull, payment for order flow (PFOF) is the primary way they make money. Meanwhile, for larger full-service brokers such as Fidelity and Schwab, their largest revenue source comes from sweeping the idle cash sitting in customer accounts into subsidiary banks each night.
More details: When online brokers sweep uninvested cash overnight into their subsidiary banks, they earn a tiny bit of interest. Brokers claim they share this with their customers, but the reality is, most keep the majority of interest for themselves. While it may not seem like much, earned interest adds up when conducted across millions of accounts and billions in idle cash.
What is the best free trading platform?
The best free trading platforms offer $0 stock and ETF trades, easy to use trading apps, quality market research and education, and a diverse selection of trading tools. Our top picks for free stock trading in 2021 are Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Interactive Brokers, E*TRADE, Charles Schwab.
To recap, here are the best brokers for free stock trading.
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.
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.