How We Test

By Blain Reinkensmeyer | February 18th, 2019

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Our mission at is simple: provide thorough and unbiased reviews of online brokers.

For the ninth annual review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes the site home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

We also take pride in data quality because it is 100% verified by the industry itself. Every broker that participates in the annual review must complete an in-depth data profile and provide executive time for an annual update meeting. We then validate each data point to ensure its accuracy. 

This rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust.

Testing Devices

All testing is conducted on the devices listed below, using a hardwired, 50 MB Internet connection. Mobile device testing is conducted using an 802.11n wireless WiFi connection; 4G connections are used when WiFi is not available. Unless noted, all websites and web-based platforms are tested using the latest version of the Google Chrome browser.

Desktop: Six ASUS 24″ LED Monitors, Intel Core i7-3770 Processor, 8 GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600 MHz memory, 2 AMD Radeon HD 7770 video cards, and a 120 GB ADATA S510 SSD Hard Drive. Windows 10 operating system.

Tablet: iPad Air 2 with the most current iOS. Safari Browser. 

Smartphone: iPhone Xs with the most current iOS. Safari Browser.

Review Categories

For the 2019 Online Broker Review, all U.S. equity broker participants were assessed on 284 different variables across 9 core areas: Commissions & Fees, Customer Service, Platforms & Tools, Research, Ease of Use, Offering of Investments, Education, Mobile Trading, and Banking. 

All nine primary categories, except for Banking, are factored in to compile the Overall ranking for each broker. The weightings of each category, alongside their respective variable counts, were as follows: 

Review Category Weighting Variables
Commissions & Fees 18% 33
Offering of Investments 15% 40
Platforms & Tools 15% 59
Research 15% 60
Customer Service 15% 9
Mobile Trading 12% 50
Education 7% 19
Ease of Use 3% 1
Banking 0% 13

Category Scoring presented “Best in Class” awards to equity brokers across all nine core areas as well as additional categories Options Trading, Active Trading, Beginner Investors, Professionals, and Overall. A “Best in Class” designation means finishing in the top five brokers for that category. Individual Industry awards were also distributed.

A breakdown of how the categories are assessed is shown below. For detailed commentary and analysis on all categories, view our Best Brokers section. For example, Best Brokers for Mobile Trading.

SB in content

Yes/No with Opinion

First, points are awarded for each “Yes” answer. The number of points awarded depends on the variable. Next, the total points earned from “Yes” answers is then divided by the total points possible to calculate a final Yes/No score.

To determine a final score for the category, this Yes/No score is then combined with an opinion score (1 – 10, with one being “very bad” and ten being “very good”). The weighting of the Yes/No score compared to the opinion score varies for each category. For example, 70% Yes/No, 30% Opinion.

Categories assessed in this manner include Offering of Investments, Platforms & Tools, Research, Mobile Trading, Education, Ease of Use, Order Execution, and Banking. Note, Offering of Investments does not incorporate an opinion score. Also, Ease of Use is 100% opinion weighted.


Both Commissions & Fees and Customer Service apply separate scoring rubrics due to their complexity.

To score Commissions & Fees, first, multiple scenarios are assessed for equity trades, options trades, and margin rates. For example, the cost of placing a 500-share market order or the cost of placing a two-legged one-contract options spread, or the margin rate for a $50,000 balance. Brokers are awarded points depending on how cheap they are relative to their peers.

Next, multiple scenarios are assessed for different investor types on a monthly basis, incorporating any miscellaneous account fees, platform charges, and active trader rates. For example, the net monthly cost to place 10 stock trades (500 shares per), or the monthly cost to place 100 stock trades (500 shares per) and 50 options trades (10 contracts per).

Finally, all scenarios are independently weighted and points are combined from order execution to determine an overall score for Commissions & Fees.

To score Customer Service, partnered with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2019 Review, 300 customer service tests were conducted. View infographic.

Confero agents used one unique template provided by (on average, three questions are asked) to assess each broker. Agents were only allowed to conduct one round of tests for each method to ensure the highest quality, and the most diverse data were collected.

To score each test, the tests were divided into three separate groups and scores were given for the time taken to connect with each support representative and the ability of each representative to professionally (and thoroughly) answer each question. A Net Promoter Score was also given for the overall experience. Response times are 15% of each test score, representative assessments are 35%, and Net Promoter Scores make up the remaining 50%.

Once all individual test scores were compiled, they were combined to determine an overall score for Customer Service.

Review Media 2019 Rankings Meet the Team
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