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 now 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
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
Best overall, best for beginners | Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Get up to $375 and trade commission-free with TD Ameritrade.
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
Best for everyday investors | Open Account
Trade Commission-Free: No commissions to trade online U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options.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
Best IRA accounts | Open Account
Current Offer: $0 online stock, ETF, and options commissions at Schwab.
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
Best for professionals| Open Account
Exclusive Offer: New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate.
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
Best web trading platform | Open Account
Current Offer: Open an E*TRADE account & get $50 or more w/ code: WINTER21
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
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's our high-level takeaways for each. To dive deeper, read our reviews.
6. Merrill Edge | Open Account
Current Offer: Invest in a new account and get up to $600.
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
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
8. 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. Read full review
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
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
Robinhood is very easy to use; however, now that all online brokers offer $0 stock and ETF trades, Robinhood's lack of trading tools and research leaves it a step behind the competition. Read full review
2021 Overall Ranking
Here's the Overall rankings for the 11 online brokers who participated in our 2021 Review, sorted by Overall ranking.
|Brokers||Commissions & Fees||Research||Platforms & Tools||Mobile Trading||Offering of Investments||Education||Ease Of Use||Overall Rating||Open Account|
|TD Ameritrade||Open Account|
|Charles Schwab||Open Account|
|Interactive Brokers||Open Account|
|Merrill Edge||Open Account|
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.
To recap, here are the best trading platforms overall for 2021.
Explore our other online trading guides:
- Best Online Brokers for Beginners
- Best Brokers for Day Trading
- Best Brokers for Penny Stocks
- Compare Online Brokers
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.