Do you want to buy shares of stocks like Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Netflix (NFLX), or Tesla (TSLA)? If so, you'll need to set up an investing account with a brokerage. Online brokers execute trades and provide tools that help you make informed investing decisions. By making those decisions yourself, you can save thousands of dollars in asset management fees compared to hiring someone else to manage your money for you.
Every stock trading platform is unique. Today — with every online retail broker offering $0 stock and ETF trades — deciding which one is right for you comes down to differences in fees, features, and ease of use. Investment options, trading tools, market research, beginner education, customer service, and presentation are all factors investors should consider when choosing a broker.
Fortunately, our expert traders at StockBrokers.com have done much of this work for you. The review process at StockBrokers.com is exhaustive: This year, we measured 196 individual variables across 17 top online brokers for a total of 3,332 data points. (See more about how we test.)
Best Trading Platforms 2023
Here are the best online brokers for 2023, based on nearly 200 variables.
Best trading platforms and tools, best for beginners
Options (Per Contract)
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 one of our top overall brokers in 2023, in which it placed among Best in Class in several categories including options trading and best for beginners. Read full review
Best overall client experience, best for high net worth
Options (Per Contract)
Merrill Edge and its parent, Bank of America, make for a well-rounded offering, with $0 trades, robust research, reliable customer service; and its Stock Stories and Fund Stories are an industry standout. There are some gaps in investment offerings, including crypto and futures. Read full review
Portfolio Story, Dynamic Insights, and the Stock and Fund Stories are groundbreaking features
As the granddaddy of discount brokers, Charles Schwab understands how to deliver value to its customers, providing a comprehensive roster of tools, advice and actionable ideas at reasonable cost. Read full review
Vast menu of investment offerings
Excellent research and content for long-term investing
Cryptocurrency isn’t offered
Mutual fund fees are complex
Content has a less friendly approach than some competitors
Winner: Fidelity - Best overall, best for commissions and fees
Fidelity took Best Overall honors in our 2023 Annual Stockbroker Review for handily addressing the needs of almost any individual investor while still keeping it accessible to beginners, especially through its novice-focused mobile apps, Bloom and Spire. Fidelity provides a ton of news and market commentary, along with extensive research on a wide array of investment options. If you’re new to investing, you’ll appreciate a huge library of helpful articles, too. Read our full review of Fidelity.
Runner-up: TD Ameritrade - Best trading platforms and tools, best for beginners
TD Ameritrade is a longtime standout in the industry. It offers a wide variety of features, like its rival Fidelity, and is notably strong in its tools for active traders, specifically its thinkorswim-branded mobile and desktop platforms. Note that TD Ameritrade was purchased by Charles Schwab in 2020, and TD Ameritrade accounts will eventually be migrated to Schwab. A new menu of services from the combined company has not been announced, but we expect many TD Ameritrade services, including its stellar thinkorswim trading platform, to continue at Schwab. Read our full TD Ameritrade review.
TD Ameritrade's feature-rich thinkorswim app. Press play for a walk-through of features.
Podium finisher: E*TRADE- Best investor app, best web trading platform
E*TRADE won our Best Web Trading Platform award in 2023, and its mobile Power E*TRADE app is no slouch, either. Active traders will find E*TRADE provides usability and depth. Its suite of research providers is top-notch, making the broker also a fine choice for long-term investors. Beginners will find less educational content than at TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, but its ease of use will still satisfy beginners. Read our full review of E*TRADE.
E*TRADE Mobile, one of two strong apps the broker offers. Press play for a tour of its features.
Merrill Edge - Best client experience, best for high net worth
Merrill Edge’s… err, edge, is in its design. Beginners will find the mobile app and website easy to navigate. Sophisticated investors can keep clicking toward a wealth of detail. Merrill’s Stock and Fund Stories, along with Portfolio Insights, are thoughtfully designed to ensure investors make informed investing decisions. If you prefer your banking and investing under one roof, check out Bank of America’s killer Preferred Rewards program, which also counts balances at Merrill Edge. Read our full review of Merrill Edge.
Bank of America Merrill Edge Preferred Rewards tiers
The Stock Story feature on the Merrill Edge mobile app. Press play for a demo.
Charles Schwab - Best for long-term investing
Schwab offers a solid suite of tools for traders, investors, and beginners, but its notable strength is in financial planning. Clients will find useful calculators that can help them make informed long-term investing decisions. Schwab’s Choiceology podcast from Wharton professor Katy Milkman is a joy. As noted above, Schwab acquired TD Ameritrade in 2020 and is in the process of merging the two brokers. Read our full review of Charles Schwab.
In addition to our top five trading platforms for 2023, we reviewed 12 others: Ally Invest, eToro, Firstrade, Interactive Brokers, J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, SoFi Invest, tastytrade, TradeStation, Tradier, Robinhood, Vanguard and Webull. Here are our high-level takeaways for each. To dive deeper, read our reviews.
Ally Invest - For current Ally customers looking to invest in stocks, Ally's universal account experience and easy-to-use website is a convenient solution. Read full review.
eToro - eToro’s primary strengths can be found in its crypto and its investing community. Crypto enthusiasts can build followings and be paid on them, which encourages quality posts. Though eToro’s stock capabilities might not stack up to industry leaders, we liked its charting package for its ease of use. Read full review.
Firstrade - While Firstrade is easy to use and terrific for Chinese-speaking investors, its overall offering struggles to compete with brokers that also offer $0 stock trades. One standout feature: $0 commission options. Read full review.
Interactive Brokers - Though IBKR, as it’s known, is primarily thought of as a broker for professionals, two of its mobile apps, GlobalTrader and Impact, are remarkably user-friendly. Its desktop trading platform, Trader Workstation, is phenomenally powerful, but also phenomenally complicated to learn. Read full review.
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing - J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing gives Chase Bank customers easy access to investing, and its all-in-one platform makes money and asset management simple and straightforward. Access to J.P. Morgan Securities research is a distinct plus. Read full review.
SoFi Invest - SoFi Invest offers a wide range of services, is relatively easy to use, and gets high marks for its investor community features. Its sparse research and lagging education and trading tools leave it a step behind industry leaders. Read full review.
Tastytrade - Tasty has a lightning-fast trading platform and tools and options pricing that will put a smile on any trader’s face. It’s heavy on analytics, but is missing the research that industry leaders routinely provide. Read full review.
TradeStation - As a trading technology pioneer, 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. Crypto traders will find TradeStation’s CryptoPlus platform invaluable for finding liquidity in multiple markets. Read full review.
Tradier - Tradier is aimed at the advanced trader, but one who is not interested in cryptocurrencies or futures trading. To get the most out of being a Tradier client, investors must also be willing to pay for a premium platform. Read full review.
Robinhood - Robinhood once stood out for its easy-to-use mobile app and $0 trades. However, today, all the largest online brokers offer free stock and ETF trades. As a result, it is much more difficult for Robinhood to outduel the competition. Robinhood’s Snacks newsletter is a delicious read; we recommend it. Read full review.
Vanguard - Vanguard is aimed squarely at buy-and-hold investors, and its platform reflects that focus. Vanguard is known for its low-cost funds, and the investment platform is really built for those looking to invest in mutual funds and ETFs, though stock trades are supported on the website. Read full review.
Webull - Webull offers a unique community experience and easy-to-use trading platforms that will satisfy most newer investors. However, for everyday investing, Webull lacks the trading tools and features to compete with industry leaders who also offer $0 stock and ETF trades. Read full review.
Based on over 30 variables and our hands-on testing, the best stockbroker for beginners is TD Ameritrade. Along with mountains of research, TD Ameritrade provides stacks of educational content and, when we tested, was less focused on proprietary products than top rivals Fidelity or Charles Schwab. This is likely to change, though, as TD Ameritrade is in the process of merging its offerings and content with Schwab, which acquired the broker in 2020.
Which online trading platform is best?
Online trading platforms come in one of three forms: desktop (download), web (browser), and mobile (app). After testing 17 brokers and collecting more than 3,000 data points, we found that tastytrade has the best desktop trading platform, while E*TRADE has the best web trading platform and TD Ameritrade has the best mobile app for traders on the go.
In our testing, Fidelity ranked as the best broker overall for 2023. That said, none of the brokers we analyze in our Annual Stockbroker Review charge a fee to use their platforms, nor do they charge commissions for stock trades. They make money through payment for order flow (PFOF), lending, and incidental fees. To make the best choice, first decide which features and tools are important to you, then read through our reviews and comparisons to find the least expensive broker for how you invest.
Who are the top 10 brokerage firms?
Here are the top 10 scorers in our Annual Stockbrokers Review, based on extensive hands-on testing:
Who is the most trusted brokerage?
With approximately $10 billion placed with the firm, Fidelity has the most assets, making it – by dollar amount – the most trusted broker. But that doesn’t mean Fidelity is more “trustworthy” than the other brokers we’ve tested and reviewed in this guide. Brokerage firms in the United States are very tightly regulated. Illegal tomfoolery and broker insolvency are rare, and if something does happen, you’re covered: Customers of the brokers we review here are insured for, at a minimum, $500,000 per account including up to $250,000 in cash against theft or the firm going belly-up. It’s important to remember, however, that insurance does not protect any investor against losses due to market fluctuations.
What is the most profitable trading platform?
The most profitable trading platform for you is the one that best supports your trading requirements. Are you a day trader, active investor, or passive investor employing a long-term buy-and-hold strategy? Fidelity is our top all-around pick for 2023 for its industry-leading research, excellent trading tools, and easy-to-use mobile apps.
Which online broker has the lowest fees?
When it comes to buying stocks online, our research found that Fidelity has the lowest fees overall. Fidelity is the only online brokerage we reviewed to offer $0 stock trades without profiting from the industry practice of payment for order flow, or PFOF (read more about PFOF here). In a world where every online broker offers free stock trades, hidden costs matter.
How do you change your trading platform?
You should be able to transfer your account via an in-kind transfer, known in the industry as an ACATS transfer (Automated Customer Account Transfer System). No need for any long goodbyes and apologies to your current broker (unless you want to); all you need to do is open an account at a new broker and follow the new broker’s instructions to transfer. Brokers are happy to welcome new assets, so they do everything they legally can to make it as simple as possible.
Pro tip: Before you initiate a transfer, check to see what fees might be charged. It’s common for brokers to charge fees for transferring accounts out; less so for brokers to charge for transferring accounts in.
What does a stockbroker do?
There are two types of stockbrokers. Online stockbrokers, meaning companies like TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, allow you to buy and sell stocks. Traditional stockbrokers — individuals who pass a series of exams and work at brokerages — buy and sell stocks on behalf of clients. Traditional stockbrokers often work for corporations.
If you are looking to buy and sell stocks on your own, you are looking for an online broker. When you open an account with a regulated brokerage, you can deposit money and make investments in the stock market.
It depends on your needs. If you want to handle your own investments, there's no need to hire an individual stockbroker; opening a free brokerage account with a broker such as Fidelity or TD Ameritrade provides you with the services needed to trade in the stock market, usually for free or for a small commission per trade.
On the other hand, if you want someone to manage your money for you, then you may consider hiring a financial advisor for a fee. Financial advisors can buy and sell stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and other financial assets based on your financial goals and risk tolerance. Our sister site, investor.com,
screens financial firms in the U.S. and identifies those that are fiduciaries, indicating the firm is required to put your interests above its own and disclose any conflicts of interest.
2023 Industry Awards
For the StockBrokers.com 2023 Review, all online broker participants were assessed on nearly 200 variables, with 3,332 data points collected. Here are the 2023 main category, secondary category, and industry award winners. Here's how we tested.
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.
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.
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.
1Fidelity 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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