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Best Trading Platforms 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Jul 07, 2021

The StockBrokers.com 2021 Review (11th annual) took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

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.

Having led these annual reviews for the past 11 years, I have seen the industry evolve firsthand. I placed my first stock trade when I was just 14 years old. (It was Starbucks.) Today, at 34, my lifelong tally of trades is more than 2,500.

I geek out over every aspect of the trading experience, which is why our review process is so exhaustive. This year we measured more than 250 individual variables. I couldn't have done this alone, though. Big thanks to my teammates Steven Hatzakis, Jessica Hoelscher, and Joey Shadeck, along with the rest of our awesome editorial staff.

Best Trading Platforms 2021

StockBrokers.com 2021 Review

Here are the best online brokers for 2021, based on 256 variables.

  • TD Ameritrade - Best overall, best for beginners
  • Fidelity - Best for everyday investors
  • Charles Schwab - Best IRA accounts
  • Interactive Brokers - Best for professionals
  • E*TRADE - Best web trading platform
TD Ameritrade
Overall

Best overall, best for beginners

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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Fidelity
Overall

Best for everyday investors

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

Trade at Fidelity.1

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 32 million customers, Fidelity is a winner 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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Charles Schwab
Overall

Best IRA accounts

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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Interactive Brokers
Overall

Best for professionals

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

EXCLUSIVE: New clients, special margin rates.

Once again, in 2021, Interactive Brokers is 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 casual investors with $0 trades and its user-friendly 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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E*TRADE
Overall

Best web trading platform

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

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

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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Other Trading Platforms

In addition to our top five trading platforms for 2021, we reviewed six others: Merrill Edge, Firstrade, Ally Invest, TradeStation, Webull and Robinhood. Here are our high-level takeaways for each. To dive deeper, read our reviews.

Merrill Edge
Overall

Great research tools

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

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 bank broker we tested in 2021. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent tools for ESG research.
  • Robust rewards program for current Bank of America customers.

Cons

  • Penny stocks and OTC securities are not available.
  • Fractional share trading is not available.
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Firstrade
Overall

Chinese-speaking investors

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

Commission-Free Trading on 700+ ETFs

While Firstrade is easy to use and terrific for Chinese-speaking investors, its overall offering struggles to stand out against brokers who also offer $0 stock trades. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent for Chinese-speaking clients.

Cons

  • Firstrade Navigator trading platform requires at least $10,000 in your account.
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Ally Invest
Overall

Current Ally customers

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.50

For current Ally customers looking to invest in stocks, Ally's universal-accounts experience and easy-to-use website is a convenient solution. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent banking via Ally Bank.
  • Universal account management.

Cons

  • Trading tools lag behind leading bank/brokers.
  • Limited education and stock research.
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TradeStation
Overall

Best trading technology

Minimum Deposit $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.50

Free Commission on Stocks, ETFs, & more. Advertisement

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. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent desktop and web-based trading platforms.
  • Great for professionals.
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading.

Cons

  • Research trails industry leaders.
  • Educational content split between two sites.
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Webull
Overall

Easy to use, limited tools

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

$0 Commission: Stocks, Options, Crypto*

Webull offers a unique community experience and easy to use trading platforms that will satisfy most young 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

Pros

  • Easy to use trading platforms.
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading.

Cons

  • Trails the best brokers in trading tools, research, and education.
  • No phone support offered.
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Robinhood
Overall

Easy to use, limited research

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

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. Read full review

Pros

  • "Robinhood Snacks" is our fav market newsletter for 2021.
  • Easy-to-use app.

Cons

  • Limited phone support.
  • Lacks trading tools and market research offered by competitors.
  • Controversial order practices.
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2021 Overall Ranking

Here are the Overall rankings for the 11 online brokers who participated in our 2021 Review, sorted by Overall ranking.


Note: Due to the pandemic and extensive market volatility, Customer Service was not scored as a main category.

2021 Industry Awards

For the StockBrokers.com 2021 Review, all online broker participants were assessed on 256 different variables, with 2,816 data points collected in total. Here are the 2021 main category, secondary category, and industry award winners. Here's how we tested.

What is the best stock broker for beginners?

Based on over 30 variables, the best stock broker for beginners is TD Ameritrade. Alongside paper (practice) trading, TD Ameritrade offers the largest and most diverse selection of educational content. Highlights include over 200 videos, progress tracking, quizzes, and over 100 monthly webinars, among others.

Which online broker has the lowest fees?

When it comes to buying stocks online, our research found Fidelity has the lowest fees overall. Fidelity is the only online brokerage to offer $0 stock trades and not accept payment for order flow (PFOF). Since every broker offers free stock trades, hidden costs matter.

Which online trading platform is best?

Online trading platforms come in one of three forms: desktop (download), web (browser), and mobile (app). After testing 11 brokers and collecting 2,816 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 stock trading app.

Summary

To recap, here are the best trading platforms overall for 2021.

Best trading platforms 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.


More from the editor

Alongside the StockBrokers.com Annual Review, our fifth annual forex brokers review, which included 27 forex brokers, was also published on our sister site, ForexBrokers.com. Finally, be sure to check the latest financial advisor ratings, which you can view on investor.com.



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.

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

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.

*Webull Disclaimer View Disclaimer.

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