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Overall

From industry-leading research to quality customer support, trader tools, mobile apps, and retirement services, Fidelity defines “value” and provides investors with everything they need and more to succeed.

By Blain Reinkensmeyer / February 21st, 2017 / Updated: May 25th, 2017

Dislikes
  • Need to make 36-plus trades per year to utilize top Active Trader Pro platforms
  • Mobile app charting lacks depth
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Review Sections:

Data:

Most investors have heard of Fidelity Investments. As a full-service broker with over 17.9 million retail brokerage accounts and $1.71 trillion in client assets as of December 31, 2016, clients expect Fidelity to provide ample service offerings and a top-notch client experience. While investment guidance and retirement services are two significant parts of Fidelity’s business, they are not the only focal points, as this review will show.

Commissions & Fees

Fidelity, like its closest competitors, uses a simple, flat-fee trading commission structure. Stock trades are $4.95, and option trades run at $4.95 plus $.65 per contract, which are rates less expensive than those of TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab, and Scottrade.

Fidelity offers 13,204 mutual funds, of which just over 4,000 are No Transaction Fee (NTF) funds. Regular mutual fund trades cost $49.95 to buy, $0 to sell. Unlike most brokers, Fidelity alongside Charles Schwab only charge for the original purchase. There is no additional charge for redemption (i.e., selling).

For investors seeking low cost ETFs, Fidelity offers 91 commission-free ETFs. Ninety-one is certainly good; however, the broker still trails ETRADE, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab, with Charles Schwab leading the industry with its offering of 229.

Fidelity TD AmeritradeE*TRADECharles SchwabScottrade
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$4.95$6.95$6.95$4.95$6.95
Options Base Fee$4.95$6.95$6.95$4.95$6.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.65$0.75$0.75$0.65$0.70
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$49.95$49.99$19.99$76.00$17.00
Commission Free ETFs911011332290
Commissions & Fees 3 Stars 2.5 Stars 2.5 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.5 Stars

Lastly, it should be noted that Fidelity provides industry-leading transparency and order execution quality; it finished No. 1 in the category again this year. One outstanding feature is that Fidelity is the only broker to provide its clients with a raw tally of savings from quality order execution. For a deeper dive into the topic, see our order execution guide.

UPDATE 02/28/17 – Fidelity reduced its equity and options commissions. Equity trades, including stocks and ETFs, have been lowered to $4.95 per trade (previously $7.95) while options trades have been lowered to $4.95 + $.65 per contract (previously $7.95 + $.75 per contract). Since these new rates were announced after the 2017 Review was published, they are not incorporated into Fidelity's star rating for this category.

Research

Fidelity’s shining star is research, which should come as no surprise.

Fidelity’s shining star is research, which should come as no surprise. Take, for example, equities research. Pull up a quote on Apple (AAPL) and you will find a methodically laid out page including key financial metrics, ratings, graphs, charts, recent news, and more. With ratings, for example, you will find the Equity Summary Score alongside 12 different third-party research reports to navigate through, the largest of any broker. ETFs are not left out either, as I found five third-party research reports available for SPY.

Fidelity stock screener

In 2016, Fidelity completed the roll out of its new design for equity, ETFs, and mutual funds research. The image above shows this new layout for equity quotes. The entire experience is meticulously laid out and is completely responsive (mobile friendly), making it fantastic for usability, regardless of whether you are using a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device. No other broker comes close to providing this kind of research experience. I was wowed when the new design was unveiled in 2015, and seeing it now in 2017 fully in place truly reveals it as a masterpiece. Here’s the view for mutual fund quotes.

Fidelity mutual fund quote

Beyond the visuals and strategic placement of key metrics and pertinent data, the inclusion of fund comparisons stood out to me. For example, in examining both ETFs and mutual funds, you are shown a table that compares the fund you searched to similar funds from different providers, including Fidelity’s funds. If a fund is similar but is commission free or has a lower expense ratio, it will be highlighted. Make no mistake, Fidelity funds are frequently included and highlighted as recommendations, but self-promotion aside, the table itself is extremely insightful and helps you find your way to invest in a particular sector or index at the lowest cost.

Fidelity similar ETFs comparison

Screening for investment ideas follows the same new clean, completely mobile friendly design style. The new design applies to both stock and ETF screeners as of early 2017; mutual funds are due up next. Fidelity’s new screeners are rich with filter options and very easy to use. One of my favorite new features, which came late in 2016, was the addition of screening for technical patterns. The list of highlights is lengthy. No doubt, Fidelity’s screeners have set a new benchmark for the industry.

Fidelity stock screener

Fidelity’s leadership in research also extends to overall market research with Fidelity Viewpoints. Only Schwab, with its Insights articles, can go toe to toe with Fidelity’s market analysis. While Schwab edges Fidelity with video content, Fidelity edges Schwab with its detailed and extremely well written market reports and educational pieces. For active traders and options trading analysis, TD Ameritrade’s thinkMoney and The Ticker Tape does the best, but lacks in the former areas compared to Fidelity and Schwab.

While all brokers supply market analysis, the detail Fidelity goes into and the format it uses makes the content digestible, regardless of your experience level.

For example, heading into 2017, Fidelity released a 2017 sector outlook report that highlighted key trends to watch and detailed analysis of each sector. While all brokers supply market analysis, the detail Fidelity goes into and the format it uses makes the content digestible, regardless of your experience level. I frequently forward the research on to family, friends, and colleagues within the industry. To stay current, I recommend subscribing to the weekly or monthly email updates. I’ve been subscribing to the weekly updates for over a year and have yet to be disappointed.

Fidelity Viewpoints 2017 special report

All things considered, Fidelity offers a comprehensive research experience that is truly unmatched in the industry. Charles Schwab, which has placed No 1 for the past five years in the Research category, has been officially dethroned. With 51 variables assessed, Fidelity is on top in 2017.

Fidelity Charles SchwabTD AmeritradeE*TRADEMerrill Edge
Equity Research - Social Sentiment Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Equity Research - Research Reports128743
ETF Research - Research Reports Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Customer Service

After finishing No. 1 overall for customer service in 2014 and 2015, Fidelity slipped to #2 overall in our 2016 Review, and in our most recent 2017 Review, Fidelity finished fifth. The company still provides excellent customer support, but its closest competitors have caught up to give Fidelity a run for its money.

Out of the three customer service channels we tested – phone, email, and live chat – Fidelity ranked first for email, fourth for live chat, and sixth for phone. Of the three channels, phone is weighted the highest by far, and thus offsets the No. 1 finish with email.

Taking a closer look at phone, response times were pretty quick, with reps connecting to our calls after less than two minutes, on average.

Taking a closer look at phone, response times were pretty quick, with reps connecting to our calls after less than two minutes, on average. Our institutional grade testing with partner Confero had phone call tests coming in from throughout the United States. Half the tests resulted in “great” overall results but there simply wasn’t enough consistency of excellence to compete with this year’s winners.

Platforms & Tools

Fidelity, like its competitors, provides active trader services and tools, including Active Trader Pro, which is both desktop and web based, as well as Wealth Lab Pro, which is desktop based.

Fidelity Charles SchwabTD AmeritradeE*TRADEMerrill Edge
Desktop Platform (Windows) Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Charting - Indicators / Studies1664037011873
Charting - Drawing Tools2215222422
Option Chains - Total Columns2634333962
Watch Lists - Total Fields8094401130216

It is important to note right off the bat that these platforms, unlike competitors Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, Fidelity does not make its active trader platforms available to all clients. Instead, to qualify for access, 36 or more qualified trades must be made in a rolling 12-month period.

Fidelity Active Trader Pro platform

Focusing on Active Trader Pro for desktop, which is the flagship platform, on the pros side the design is clean and there is a plethora of features. Immediately post login you are greeted by the Daily Dashboard, which provides a clean, high level overview of the current market environment as well as your portfolio. A summary of the current indices is on top, with a heatmap of your portfolio’s gainers and losers alongside relevant news and upcoming portfolio events resting below. In my case, Wells Fargo (WFC) had earnings upcoming and it showed up under Portfolio Events.

Fidelity Active Trader Pro Daily Dashboard

Speaking of portfolio events, Fidelity stands out with its Real-Time Analytics tool. Choose between eight different signal filters, select a watch list or portfolio, and Real-Time Analytics will stream trade signals throughout the day. I found some of the signals to be far more relevant than others; for example, signaling for new highs vs. signaling for volume spikes which were sporadic and almost always just unactionable noise. Users of Trade-Ideas software will find the tool similar, although it is far less customizable. To go from interesting to impactful, I would love to see Fidelity expand the tool so users can build custom signals. For example, alert me when any stocks in my watch list hit +5% on the day and have traded at least 1 million shares, or if a stock gaps up at the open by more than 10%.

Fidelity Active Trader Pro trade signals

Charting is cleanly laid out and encompasses pretty much everything a trader could want: 22 different drawing tools, 166 optional studies, overlays, custom profiles, trading off the chart, displayed alerts, notes, and more.

Charting is cleanly laid out and encompasses pretty much everything a trader could want: 22 different drawing tools, 166 optional studies, overlays, custom profiles, trading off the chart, displayed alerts, notes, and more. Recognia is even tied in to automate the identification of technical patterns. Being a user now for multiple years, I’ve always found the charting interface easy to use and configure. Compared to industry leaders TradeStation and TD Ameritrade thinkorswim, the total number of available studies and the ability to custom code studies are two missing pieces from a nearly flawless experience.

Fidelity ATP stock chart

Fidelity’s charting and trading workflow also integrates with Trader Armor, a tool designed to help manage currently active positions. I loaded Trader Armor with my Wells Fargo (WFC) position and could see a clean summary of my open position value. The chart on the left will highlight any currently active stop loss orders and alerts alongside high level technical analysis, specifically support and resistance.

Fidelity Trade Armor

The two gripes I have with Trader Armor are that you are limited in what can be displayed on the chart, and the window can only extend the window horizontally, limiting the chart size. Being a big chart junkie, this is annoying. I wonder if the experience would be better served as an optional add-on to the main charting experience.

Trade Armor aside, I was surprised to find that the watch lists have only 80 optional columns available for customization. Eighty may seem high, but six brokers provide over 100, and four of them make over 200 available. The watch lists experience is as clean as you’ll find anywhere; however, this lack of depth surprised me considering that the other tools were all rich in depth. Another minor drawback is that they don’t automatically re-filter on the fly. Sorting by column “% Change,” for example, will filter your real-time streaming watch list accordingly, but within seconds, securities adjust in price and fall out of place.

Fidelity Active Trader Pro watch list

Stepping away from equities trading, options traders will find Active Trader Pro impressive. Both the probability calculator and the profit/loss calculator have been well designed. I also enjoyed the strategy ideas window and the option statistics overview, which clearly break down relevant volatility and options data from the current day’s session. Lastly, option chains are fully customizable, although they include only 26 optional columns, which is slightly less than the industry average of 29. See: Best Brokers for Options Trading.

Fidelity Active Trader Pro option statistics

With all 58 variables assessed, Active Trader Pro’s functionality list is robust to the point where it trails only behind the two undisputed leaders in this arena: TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim and TradeStation. To steal a top-two spot from one of these kings, Fidelity will need to muster more depth across the board. That said, for Fidelity clients who meet the minimum threshold for access, Active Trader Pro is a fantastic platform that will please most active traders.

Alongside the platforms, Fidelity also offers Active Trader Services (dedicated trading specialists and personalized support), which has even steeper requirements. To qualify, clients must place 120 or more stock, bond, or options trades in a rolling 12-month period and maintain $25,000 in assets across their eligible Fidelity brokerage accounts. With customer service already fantastic, Active Trader Services status is simply the icing on the cake.

Mobile Trading

When it comes to mobile, Fidelity provides a quality experience, regardless of whether it is using an Apple device (including the iPad, which finished first in our review, and the Apple Watch) or Android. Even basics skills are supported with Amazon Alexa, although that experience is certainly still in early development. The only other broker to even offer Alexa functionality is TD Ameritrade.

New in 2016, Fidelity launched an entirely new dashboard experience, displayed as a personalized feed.

Focusing on the iPhone app, I found it easy to use and bug free. New in 2016, Fidelity launched an entirely new dashboard experience, displayed as a personalized feed. In your personalized feed, market cards float on top of varying scenery images that rotate each login, creating an experience I have not encountered. Cards include a summary of market average returns, portfolio summary, international market summary, a variety of news feeds, as well as a high level watch list and position summary cards.

Fidelity mobile custom feed

The different cards can be hidden if desired and news feeds can be personalized, although currently the background images cannot be changed. It is clear Fidelity is thinking outside of the box and challenging the status quo, which is great to see. The customized feed feels 1.0ish, but I am looking forward to seeing it evolve throughout 2017 and beyond. It has a lot of potential.

Other highlights of the mobile app include note-taking functionality, which syncs with its Notebook tool on the main site and Active Trader Pro. To boost alerting capabilities, Actionable Alerts are another nice touch, adding the options “Get Quote” and “Trade” to regular push notifications.

Considering the broker’s dominance in research, I found the experience to be just ok. I would love to see Fidelity incorporate components of its responsive research area into the mobile apps, including screening. Charting was clean and included after-hours charts, which was nice; however, there were only two indicators available, which is a far cry from the industry average of 36, and neither could be customized.

Fidelity mobile stock chart

Ultimately, Fidelity’s mobile experience is cleanly designed, bug free, and very good all round, but it did leave me wanting more, particularly with research and charting. Out of 16 brokers, Fidelity finished third.

Ease of Use

The ongoing redesign of Fidelity’s research area is part of a company-wide effort to bring the Fidelity website into the modern age. In 2012, Fidelity’s website was a mess, and in our 2013 Review, Fidelity ranked lowest among its competitors for ease of use, mostly because of its outdated website and extremely small navigation menu.

Fidelity heard us loud and clear, though, and took a big step forward in 2013 and 2014 with the launch of a brand-new navigation menu on its main site that was ten times better than its predecessor. Then, in 2014, the broker launched a new client summary area that by mid-2015 was a work of art: clean, easy to navigate, personalized, and 100% mobile friendly.

Fidelity portfolio asset allocation

Today, Fidelity leads the industry, placing first for the category Ease of Use. Fidelity’s vision is clear: provide a completely mobile friendly, HTML 5-driven experience. This includes everything from opening a new account to viewing positions, placing trades, conducting portfolio analysis, research, education, and everything in between. Fidelity isn’t 100% there yet, but it continues to grow closer by the month, and has come far enough to take the top prize for usability in 2017.

Education

In the area of education, Fidelity does a good job of breaking up content, sorting by experience level, category, and content type. Articles, videos, webinars, infographics, and courses are available to clients. Courses organize articles and videos into a step-by-step roadmap and track your progress so you can easily leave and come back later without forgetting your place.

Fidelity education course

One tip for newcomers: when accessing the Learning Center, skip the category overviews at the top and scroll straight down to the “All Courses and Lessons” section. The filtered category areas are a nice effort but it’s too easy to lose track of where you are, not to mention overlook additional content. “Was that article I liked in this category or that category?” is the question I often found myself asking.

Other Notes

Fidelity offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and debit cards, but no home mortgages. Its credit cards, in particular, stand out in the area of rewards – thanks to its Rewards VISA Signature Card, which yields 2% cash back on every purchase.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, Fidelity Investments is a very well respected broker, competing among the largest brands in the online broker space. The backbone of Fidelity’s success, specialty services and research, will certainly continue to be front and center for many years to come.

What impresses me most about Fidelity is its drive to continue innovation and push forward across all its products to provide the best possible client experience. I also admire the broker’s focus on value, especially with its efforts in the area of order execution. For a broker with over 17 million clients competing against other powerhouse brands, there is no time to take the foot off the gas pedal.

Methodology

For our 2017 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked sixteen different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 349 customer service tests, collected 5,277 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. How we test.

View all Fidelity Investments Fees & Features
Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format seven years ago, a format broker executives consider the most thorough in the industry. Blain currently maintains funded accounts with more than a dozen different US-regulated online brokers and has executed thousands of trades throughout his career. He enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

Summary

Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
Research
Customer Service
Banking

Best in Class

2017
 2

Overall
  • Overall
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Order Execution
  • Banking
  • Active Trading
  • New Investors
2016
 1

Overall
  • Overall
  • Offering of Investments
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Order Execution
  • Banking
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
  • New Investors
2015
 2

Overall
  • Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Ease of Use
  • Investor Education
  • Banking
  • New Investors
2014
 2

Overall
  • Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading
  • Investor Education
2013
 5

Overall
  • Overall
  • Research
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Trading

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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. 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.

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