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 a trading account with an online broker.
Every stock trading platform is unique. And now — with every broker offering $0 stock and ETF trades — deciding which one to use comes down to differences in the overall trading experience. Investment options, trading tools, market research, beginner education, customer service, and ease of use are all factors investors should consider when choosing a broker.
Our review process at StockBrokers.com is exhaustive: This year we measured more than 200 individual variables across multiple brokers for a total of 3,075 data points.
Best Trading Platforms 2022
Here are the best online brokers for 2022, based on 205 variables.
Fidelity is a value-driven online broker offering $0 trades, industry-leading research, excellent trading tools, an easy-to-use mobile app, and comprehensive retirement services. Serving over 40 million customers, Fidelity is a winner for everyday investors. Read full review
Excellent mobile app for investors
Our top pick for order execution, no payment for order flow (PFOF)
Best trading platforms and tools, best customer service
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 2022. Read full review
Excellent education for beginners
thinkorswim platform suite is our top desktop platform for 2022
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
Power E*TRADE offers great selection of trading tools
Our top pick for mobile trading and ease of use
$1,000 minimum for streaming data
Range of educational materials is limited compared to peers
With nearly $8 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
Multiple financial planning services
Our top pick for IRA accounts
Fractional shares available
Mobile app lacks alerts and real-time streaming quotes
Best for professionals, best offering of investments
Options (Per Contract)
In 2022, Interactive Brokers remains our top pick for professionals because of its institutional-grade desktop trading platform and rock-bottom margin rates. Professionals aside, Interactive Brokers also appeals to active traders and casual investors with $0 trades and a user-friendly web platform. Read full review
Web-based client portal great for casual investors
Offers access to global markets
Robust mobile app
Trader Workstation (TWS) desktop platform best suited for professionals, not beginners
Winner: Fidelity - Best overall, best for beginners
Fidelity took Best Overall honors in our 2022 Annual Stockbroker Review for handily addressing the needs of almost any individual investor while still keeping it accessible to beginners. 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.
Runner-up: TD Ameritrade - Best trading platforms and tools, best customer service
TD Ameritrade is among our top broker picks. It offers a wide variety of features, like its rival Fidelity, and is notably strong in its tools for active traders, specifically its thinkorswim platform. 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 of the TD Ameritrade services, including its stellar thinkorswim trading platform, to continue at Schwab.
Podium finisher: E*TRADE- Best mobile trading and ease of use
E*TRADE won our Best Web Trading Platform and Best Trader App awards in 2022. Active traders on the go will find E*TRADE provides usability and depth. Its suite of research providers is top-notch, making the broker a good choice for long-term investors as well. Beginners will find less content than at TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, but its ease of use will still satisfy beginners.
E*TRADE Mobile, one of two strong apps the broker offers. Press play for a tour of its features.
Charles Schwab - Best IRA accounts, best broker podcast
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. As noted above, Schwab acquired TD Ameritrade in 2020 and is in the process of merging the two brokers.
Interactive Brokers - Best for professionals, best offering of investments
Interactive Brokers has the best trading platform for professionals, but beginning traders might get bogged down by its complexity. Its margin rates are startlingly low, putting it in the running as the best brokerage account for many high net worth clients, leveraged traders, and institutional investors. IBKR is also very strong in ESG (environment, social and governance) investing and trading foreign stock markets.
Ally Invest - For current Ally customers looking to invest in stocks, Ally's universal-accounts experience and easy-to-use website is a convenient solution.
Firstrade - While Firstrade is easy to use and terrific for Chinese-speaking investors, its overall offering struggles to stand out against brokers that also offer $0 stock trades.
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.
Merrill Edge - Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools — especially for ESG research — and excellent customer service. Better yet, the Preferred Rewards program at Bank of America, Merrill Edge’s parent, offers eligible clients the best rewards of any bank broker we tested in 2022.
SoFi Invest - SoFi Invest offers a wide range of services, is relatively easy to use, and gets high marks for its mobile app. Its lack of research, as well as its lagging education and trading tools, leave it a step behind industry leaders.
TradeStation - 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.
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.
Robinhood - Robinhood used to shine thanks to its easy-to-use mobile app and $0 trades. However, today, all of the largest online brokers offer free stock and ETF trades. As a result, it is much more difficult for Robinhood to outduel the competition.
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 solely in mutual funds and ETFs.
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.
2022 Industry Awards
For the StockBrokers.com 2022 Review, all online broker participants were assessed on 205 variables, with 3,075 data points collected in total. Here are the 2022 main category, secondary category, and industry award winners. Here's how we tested.
Based on over 30 variables, the best stockbroker for beginners is Fidelity. Alongside top-rated research, Fidelity offers a vast and diverse selection of educational content. Highlights include over 200 videos, progress tracking, quizzes, and over 100 monthly webinars, among others. Add to this its unique Youth Account, a legitimate investing account for teens ages 13 to 17, and Fidelity is a winner.
Online trading platforms come in one of three forms: desktop (download), web (browser), and mobile (app). After testing 15 brokers and collecting 3,075 data points, we found that TD Ameritrade has the best desktop trading platform, E*TRADE has the best web trading platform, and Fidelity has the best investor app.
We ranked E*TRADE as the best broker overall for 2022. That said, none of the brokers we review in our Annual Stockbroker Review charge a fee to use their platforms, and most don't charge commissions for stock trades. They make their money through payment for order flow, lending, and incidental fees. To make your 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?
Ranked by total assets under management, or AUM, the top 10 brokerage firms in 2022 are as follows:
With over $11 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 reviewed here. Brokerage firms in the United States are very tightly regulated. Illegal tomfoolery and broker insolvency are very rare, and, if something does happen, you’re covered. Customers are insured for, at a minimum, $500,000 per account and $250,000 in cash against theft or the firm going belly-up.
What is the most profitable trading platform?
The most profitable trading platform for you depends on your needs — whether you're a day trader, active investor, or passive investor employing a long-term buy-and-hold strategy. Fidelity is our top all-around pick for 2022 for its industry-leading research, excellent trading tools, and easy-to-use mobile app.
People often mistake trading platforms — like Robinhood or TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim — for companies that place trades for you; in reality, these platforms are meant for self-directed trading (though they may offer educational tools and materials). If you're looking for hands-on guidance with your investments, you can search for a trusted financial advisor on investor.com.
It bears noting that trading profits are never guaranteed; for every potential reward there is an equal amount of risk.
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 to offer $0 stock trades without profiting from the industry practice of payment for order flow, or PFOF. 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, companies like TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, allow you to buy and sell stocks. Traditional stockbrokers — who are individuals — buy and sell stocks on behalf of clients. Traditional stockbrokers often work for corporations, as opposed to individual investors.
If you are looking to buy and sell stocks on your own, you are looking for an online stockbroker. When you open an account with a regulated brokerage, you can deposit money and make investments in the stock market.
If you want someone to manage your money for you, you might benefit from looking for a Registered Investment Advisory on sites like investor.com.
Should I hire a stockbroker?
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 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 for you based on your financial goals and risk tolerance. Our sister site, investor.com, ranks the best financial advisor firms in the United States.
2022 Overall Ranking
Here are the Overall rankings for the 15 online brokers who participated in our 2022 Review, sorted by Overall ranking.
For the StockBrokers.com 12th Annual Review published in January 2022, a total of 3,075 data points were collected over three months and used to score 15 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.
More from the editor
Alongside the StockBrokers.com Annual Review, we also published our sixth annual forex brokers review on our sister site, ForexBrokers.com, reviewing 39 forex brokers from across the globe. And be sure to check the latest ratings of financial advisors and reviews of cashback credit cards and high-yield savings accounts on investor.com.
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.
Chris McKhann has been in the industry for more than 20 years. He has worked for many of the top names in the online trading space, including TD Ameritrade and optionMONSTER, which later became part of E*TRADE. His work has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Financial Times, Forbes, CNBC, Nasdaq.com and Nikkei. He has also been an advisor and outside trader for several hedge funds. He was one of the first traders to delve into the VIX tradable products and to write about them (back in 2006). Chris is also an educator who teaches high school statistics, finance and computer science.
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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