Other brokers tested
In addition to our top five trading platforms for free stock trading in 2023, we reviewed 12 others: Ally Invest, Charles Schwab, eToro, Firstrade, J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, Robinhood, SoFi Invest, tastytrade, TradeStation, Tradier, Vanguard and Webull. To dive deeper, read our reviews.
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.
What is commission-free trading?
Commission-free trading means the broker does not charge a fee for buying or selling a stock or exchange-traded fund (ETF). Brokers have other ways of making money, though. Most free stockbrokers make money via a practice called payment for order flow, or PFOF, a hidden fee that generates over $1 billion each year in revenue for the industry.
Can you trade stocks for free?
Yes, you can now trade stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for free with most online brokers. Brokers are competing hard for your investing dollars. A pricing war in 2019 led to full-service brokerages cutting their commissions to $0 to compete with free trading platforms such as Robinhood. Don’t worry about them making money, though: Instead of charging commissions, almost all accept payment for order flow (PFOF), loan money and securities, earn interest on idle cash balances, and charge incidental fees.
How can I trade without fees?
It’s not difficult to trade fee-free. In our analysis, we conducted comprehensive tests on 17 online brokers, all of whom offer “free” stock and ETF trades. By free, they mean that they don’t charge any cost per share to trade. Brokers do pass along some trade fees charged by regulatory bodies and exchanges, but they are almost always miniscule and measured by fractions of a cent per share. Brokers may charge fees for other products and services, such as trading options, mutual funds, robo-advising, or transferring your money in or out. Some brokers also charge for penny stocks. Confused? We assess those costs in our reviews, guides, and comparisons.
Are trading platforms free?
Yes, trading platforms with features once only available to investing professionals are now offered to investors for free. Most of the online brokers that cater to individual investors make their trading platforms available for free simply by opening an account. There’s rarely a minimum investment required, which means you can have a zero balance and still use many of the broker’s tools. You may even be able to test-drive the trading platform with paper trading, which allows you to practice trading with pretend money.
What are the best free stock trading apps?
Most online brokers now offer commission-free stock trading. In our 2023 Annual Review, the brokers with the best trading apps are:
- TD Ameritrade - 5 stars - Best overall
- Interactive Brokers - 5 stars - Best specialty apps
- E*TRADE - 5 stars - Best stock app for traders
- Fidelity - 5 stars - Best novice app
- Merrill Edge - 5 stars - Best banking and research
What is the best free trading platform?
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 of making money. With larger full-service brokers such as Fidelity and Schwab, the largest revenue source comes from sweeping the idle cash sitting in customer accounts into subsidiary banks each night. They also loan money to margin investors and charge incidental fees. Brokers also hope to upsell their commission-free stock investors into advisory services or other managed products.
StockBrokers.com 2023 Overall Ranking
Here are the Overall rankings for the 17 online brokers who participated in our 2023 Review, sorted by Overall ranking.
Explore our other online trading guides:
For the StockBrokers.com 13th Annual Review published in January 2023, a total of 3,332 data points were collected over three months and used to score 17 top brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
In order to assess the overall trading experience, we test across a wide range of devices and operating systems.
Mobile testing was done on devices for both Apple and Android operating systems. For Apple: iPhone 12 Pro with the most current iOS. For Android: Samsung Galaxy S9+, 6.2" 4K Super AMOLED (2960x1440) 64-bit Octa-Core Snapdragon 835 Processor 2.7GHz, 6GB RAM 6.2" with the most current operating system.
For this guide to the best brokers for free stock trading, our research team looked closely at all costs incurred by investors, including payment for order flow and miscellaneous account fees; and rigorously tested key features such as platform usability, app ease of use, educational resources and market research. In all, we tested more than 100 features.
As part of our annual review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones and complete an in-depth data profile, which we hand-checked for accuracy. Brokers also were offered the opportunity to provide executive time 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 Editorial Team
Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Sam Levine is a longtime writer, investor and educator with nearly three decades of experience in the investing industry. His specialty is making even the most complicated investing concepts easy to understand for beginning and intermediate investors. He holds two of the most widely recognized certifications in the investment management industry, the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Chartered Market Technician designations. Previously, he was a contributing editor at BetterInvesting Magazine and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder and other media outlets.
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.
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 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.
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.