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Best Brokers for Free Stock Trading 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Dec 06, 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.

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

StockBrokers.com 2021 Review
Fidelity
Overall

Best free trading platform

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

Trade at Fidelity.1

Fidelity is our 2021 pick for best free trading platform because it offers $0 trades while not accepting payment for order flow, or PFOF, which guarantees customers get the 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

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.
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Trade at Fidelity.1

TD Ameritrade
Overall

Free trading, best education

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

Get up to $375 and trade commission-free

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

Pros

  • Excellent education for beginners.
  • thinkorswim platform suite is our top desktop platform for 2021.
  • Futures and forex trading available.

Cons

  • $6.95 fee per trade for penny stocks.
  • No access to international stock markets.
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Get up to $375 and trade commission-free

Interactive Brokers
Overall

Free trading, best pro tools

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

EXCLUSIVE: New clients, special margin rates.

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

Pros

  • Web-based client portal great for casual investors.
  • Offers access to global markets.
  • Robust mobile app.

Cons

  • TWS desktop platform best suited for professionals, not beginners.
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EXCLUSIVE: New clients, special margin rates.

E*TRADE
Overall

Free trading, best trader app

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

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

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

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

Charles Schwab
Overall

Free trading, best research

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

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

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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Other brokers tested

Beyond addition to our top five picks for free stock trading in 2021, we reviewed six other platforms:

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.

Feature Fidelity
Visit Site
TD Ameritrade
Visit Site
Interactive Brokers
Visit Site
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 $49.95 $74.95 $14.95
Options (Base Fee) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65 $0.65 $0.65
Futures (Per Contract) N/A $2.25 $0.85
Broker Assisted Trade Fee $32.95 $25.00 $30.00

Feature Fidelity
Visit Site
TD Ameritrade
Visit Site
Interactive Brokers
Visit Site
IRA Annual Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
IRA Closure Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Account Transfer Out (Partial) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Account Transfer Out (Full) $0.00 $75.00 $0.00

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.

Summary

To recap, here are the best brokers for free stock trading.

Best brokers for free stock trading 2021

Read Next

Explore our other online trading guides:

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.


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.

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and StockBrokers.com are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. View terms.

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