Best Online Brokers and Trading Platforms for 2024

Best Online Brokers and Trading Platforms

The best brokerage platforms provide strong customer support, robust research and analytical tools, a wide range of assets, numerous account types, and more-all with a transparent fee structure and limited gamification tactics.

After hundreds of hours of comprehensive research, data analysis, and live broker platform demos, Fidelity Investments is our best overall online brokerage platform for investors due to its low fees, expansive product offering, wide-ranging full-service features, and so much more. Fidelity is just one of 26 online brokers that we evaluated based on 89 criteria, including available assets, account services, user experience, and additional features.

Fidelity Investments: Best Overall, Best for ETFs, Best for Low Costs, Best for Cash Management

Why We Chose It

Best Overall

When it comes to bringing critical full-service brokerage features, sophisticated tools, and low fees to a wide range of traders and investors, all across continually enhanced platforms, Fidelity reigns supreme for the third consecutive year.

Best for ETFs

Fidelity is our best broker for ETFs because of its rich ETF-focused educational content and research tools, expansive ETF offering, and fractional ETF trading. Fidelity is a repeat winner in this category, after earning the top from Charles Schwab spot in 2023.

Best for Low Costs

Fidelity has long been an industry leader when it comes to lower fees, and its transparent and compelling fee schedule is the reason why, for the third year running, it wins for low costs.

Best for Cash Management

Finding the best brokerage account for cash management is not just about earning the highest interest rate possible. It’s also about seamless integration with critical, no-fee banking features and industry-leading insurance. In these areas, Fidelity’s cash management offering is unmatched, and it comes with solid passive earnings power on uninvested cash, along with reimbursable access to a global network of ATMs.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No payment for order flow (PFOF) makes for excellent order execution
  • Strong portfolio analysis and account features
  • Superior trading platforms for all types of investors
  • Top-tier educational content, screening tools, and research capabilities
  • FDIC insurance up to $5 million

Cons

  • Only two digital coins available for trading
  • Minimum balance required for some index trading
  • Multiple platforms may be required to access all tools

Overview

In an industry full of innovative companies competing for the attention of an incredibly diverse universe of traders and investors, Fidelity delivers the most well-rounded product offering to suit the needs of nearly every investor. Headquartered in Boston, Fidelity’s storied history began with its founding in 1946. With $4.9 trillion in discretionary assets as of December 2023, the company ranks among the top brokerage firms in terms of assets under management.

Investopedia began evaluating online brokerages in 2019, and Fidelity has shown a commitment to improving its financial products and services ever since. Improvements in financial advisor support, bond liquidity analysis, and the new Fidelity Youth app were the highlights of our 2024 product demonstration with the company. In fact, of the 38.7 million brokerage accounts that Fidelity services, 43% of those accounts have been opened by investors 18 to 35 years of age.2 But the improvements didn’t stop there. Fidelity now also has a comprehensive cash management product that is jam-packed with banking features.

Fidelity has long been an industry leader when it comes to lowering fees, and it has a stellar reputation as a broker with a huge customer service network, including 200 customer centers, supporting its low-cost, high-value offering.3 Investors looking for an online broker that keeps costs low, all while delivering some of the most powerful tools in the industry and resisting the common industry practice of collecting PFOF, will be hard-pressed to find a better broker than Fidelity.

Also, Checkout: How To Trade Stocks: 6 Steps To Get Started

Charles Schwab: Best for Beginners

Best for Beginners

Even before TD Ameritrade’s educational content was incorporated into its ecosystem, Charles Schwab—which acquired TD Ameritrade in 2020—was known as one of the best platforms for new traders and investors. With the integration nearing completion in May of 2024, Schwab has taken over top ranks in this category, a position previously held by TD Ameritrade for the past two years. Schwab now houses the most comprehensive library of evergreen learning materials, along with seemingly endless coaching programs and regularly scheduled live training events, making it the best for beginner investors.4

RESEARCH INSIGHTS

“If you’re a beginner trader, a user-friendly broker platform will be key. It should be easy to navigate and understand, like using a familiar app. Don’t forget about learning! Look for a broker that offers educational resources to help you understand the market and make informed decisions. Many brokers now offer commission-free trades on stocks and ETFs, so be sure to factor that in as you compare costs.  Consider fractional shares too! They allow you to invest in smaller portions of expensive stocks or funds, a great way to get started without a huge initial investment.” -Amrut Deshmukh, Investopedia Research Analyst

Also, Checkout: How To Start Investing in Stocks in 2024 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Industry-leading educational content
  • Multiple user-friendly platforms
  • Superb ETF research and scanners
  • Over 400 branches in 45 states
  • Access to the highly regarded thinkorswim® platform

Cons

  • Relatively high margin rates
  • Low interest earned on uninvested cash
  • Lacks fractional ETF trading
  • No direct investments in cryptocurrencies

Overview

After Chuck Schwab and his partners formed First Commander Corporation in April 1971, they later changed the company’s name to Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. in 1973.5 Charles Schwab has experienced continuous growth over the years and, in October 2020, completed its acquisition of TD Ameritrade, with full client integration expected to wrap up in May 2024.6 Not only does Schwab provide the right mix of usability, tools, education, and research to cater to its diverse customer base, but it does so across multiple top-tier platforms.

With Schwab’s integration of TD Ameritrade nearly complete, the powerful combination of Schwab’s exceptional lineup of products and services and TD Ameritrade’s powerful capabilities for traders has boosted the company even closer to the top of our comprehensive rating model. One of the most anticipated additions to Schwab’s lineup occurred on April 11, 2024, with the company announcing that futures and forex trading, along with a new Portfolio Margin feature, have been made available on its thinkorswim platform.7Prospective customers should note, however, that crypto spot trading still isn’t available.

Interactive Brokers: Best for Advanced Traders

Best for Advanced Traders

Interactive Brokers’ lineup of advanced analytical tools, trading technology, and breadth of assets is, quite frankly, awe-inspiring. Ongoing enhancements to legacy platforms like the masterfully constructed Trader Workstation (TWS) and the February 2024 addition of the next-generation IBKR desktop offer just a small glimpse into how Interactive Brokers equips advanced traders to capitalize on fundamental dislocations and pricing inefficiencies better than any other platform we reviewed. This is the third straight year Interactive Brokers has earned this award.

RESEARCH INSIGHTS

“For intraday and advanced traders, speed is everything. Look for a broker with fast execution speeds to ensure your trades go through quickly. In-depth market research is also crucial, so tools and data analysis are important features to consider. Advanced features like algorithmic trading and order routing control can be helpful for active traders looking to automate strategies or optimize order fulfillment. But remember, even the most advanced tools won’t guarantee success—reliability and low costs remain essential for all traders.” -Amrut Deshmukh, Investopedia Research Analyst

Best for International Trading

Simply put, not one of the 26 online brokerage companies we reviewed comes close to offering the scope of global research capabilities, international trading and support access, and currency-based funding variety that Interactive Brokers offers. That’s why, for the third straight year, the company is our top broker for international traders.

Best for Algorithmic Trading

As trading technology continues to advance, so too does the interest in algorithmic trading. Advanced traders will find a powerful lineup of algorithmic trading features in Interactive Brokers’ pre-built algos, a laundry list of API languages, available algorithmic paper trading accounts, and so much more.

Best for Risk Management

With its powerful rebalancing features, robust portfolio and risk analysis tools, nearly boundless opportunities for asset diversification, and available access to licensed brokers, investors will be hard-pressed to find a better platform for managing portfolio risk than Interactive Brokers.

Best for Generating Stock Trading Ideas

For professional and retail traders looking for investing and trading ideas across the vast universe of equities, over short-, intermediate-, and long-term time horizons, Interactive Brokers brings together leading industry research vendors, proprietary search tools, and the industry’s largest universe of investable stocks to provide a nearly endless source of ideas that suit every investing and trading strategy.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Increasing availability of beginner-friendly platforms
  • Superior order execution
  • Industry-best selection of contingent orders
  • Unparalleled range of investable foreign and domestic assets
  • Powerful and highly customizable professional-level functionality

Cons

  • IBKR’s SmartRouting not available to IBKR Lite clients
  • TWS can be difficult to learn
  • No in-platform backtesting
  • Often confusing tiered pricing

Overview

Founded under the name T.P. & Co. in 1978 by its current chairman, Thomas Peterffy, the company pioneered the use of computers in trading. Eventually, Interactive Brokers Inc. was incorporated as a U.S. broker-dealer in 1993, and the company has since developed into one of the industry’s most complete online brokerage platforms. Interactive Brokers (IBKR) offers astonishing access to 150 markets in 34 countries and support for its services in 200 countries, all with funding and trading capabilities in up to 27 currencies. Simply put, this is the broadest global coverage in the industry.8

One of the first adopters of technology to the financial markets, both algorithmic and active traders have long regarded the company highly for its advanced trading features, highly customizable tools, low margin rates, and alpha-generating capabilities. Investopedia’s team of industry experts is constantly delighted by IBKR’s innovative enhancements that just make so much sense from a purist’s perspective. IBKR’s latest product innovation is IBKR Desktop, a next-generation platform that combines a simple user interface with many of the company’s powerful trading solutions. It features innovations like Option Lattice, a graphical options chain display highlighting potential outliers in key metrics, and MultiSort, which enables users to sort data using multiple factors simultaneously.9

This idea of simplicity is really where things have been getting interesting for Interactive Brokers, as the company has committed to making its platforms more accessible to beginners. With notable touches like the expansion of educational content across several platforms, including its entry-level IBKR Lite platform; available fractional investing; and the innovative and helpful Options Wizard tool offered on its user-friendly Global Trader mobile app (as well as other platforms), Interactive Brokers is quickly gaining ground on the industry’s top all-around brokerage platforms.

tastytrade: Best Broker for Options

Best for Options Trading

For the third year in a row, we chose tastytrade as the best options trading platform because of its options pricing structure, which includes options pricing caps that make it the lowest-cost brokerage for high-volume, high-frequency option traders. In addition, tastytrade optimizes tools and content to suit the needs of its options-focused client base.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Capped commission structure for options
  • Highly regarded tools for analyzing and monitoring options trades
  • Fantastic options-specific content and educational material
  • Fully customizable trading experience
  • Follow Feed feature allows users to follow trades of tastytrade’s TV celebrities

Cons

  • No on-platform paper trading support
  • Few investing and retirement resources
  • Lacks some key investment choices like mutual funds

Overview

Ask any options trader and they are likely to tell you that this form of derivative trading is complex and difficult to master. But with the right guidance, the many options strategies that are available to use can become powerful weapons that allow both traders and investors to benefit from key factors like time decay and leverage. Created by the same people who developed TD Ameritrade’s highly regarded thinkorswim platform, tastytrade maintains its stance as the best broker for options because of its intuitive delivery of an industry-best mix of comprehensive options-focused tools and content.

Launched as tastyworks in 2017 and headquartered in Chicago, tastytrade delivers very competitive fees for options trading, including standout features like commission caps for large lot sizes, as well as the absence of any trade commissions when closing positions. Fortunately for tastytrade users, these low commissions come with a platform that continues to undergo enhancements which complement its already powerful delivery of options analytics, platform workflow, trade execution, and valuable digital content.

E*TRADE: Best for Mobile Investing & Trading 

Best for Mobile Investing & Trading

A pioneer in both mobile and online trading, E*TRADE has mastered the art of developing a mobile experience with the right mix of intuitive navigation, robust portfolio and risk management capabilities, deep research, easy-to-digest education, and complex trading tools to cater to investors and traders of all levels. Ongoing enhancements to E*TRADE’s mobile capabilities over the past couple of years have caused it to solidify its position as our best mobile trading and investing platform for the first time ever.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Excellent range of tools and resources
  • Pre-built and automated portfolio options
  • Educational content library
  • Top mobile apps for traders and investors of all levels

Cons

  • Lacks international exchange trading
  • No direct crypto investing
  • Fractional shares only available through a robo-advisor portfolio or dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP)

Overview

Since its founding in 1982, E*TRADE has been at the forefront of embracing innovation that makes for one of the best customer experiences in the industry. Following Morgan Stanley’s acquisition of E*TRADE in 2020, the company has only continued to advance its capabilities by integrating many of Morgan Stanley’s highly regarded research materials, thought leadership insights, and large pool of financial advisors.

As one of the largest online brokers in the country, E*TRADE brings an expansive list of investment choices and trading tools to its customer base of 8.2 million households via its website, desktop, and two mobile platforms.10 E*TRADE’s already vast educational catalog has only grown with the Morgan Stanley integration, complementing the intuitive site design in a way that lets new investors enter the market with confidence.

For more experienced investors, the ability to do deep analysis has never been greater now that proprietary Morgan Stanley research joins highly regarded third-party research and consensus ratings. While E*TRADE only offers these more advanced traders exposure to cryptocurrencies via ETFs and related stocks, traders have access to a wide array of analysis tools, charting functionality, and trading technology to make the most informed decisions in this and many other asset classes.

eToro: Best for Cryptocurrency Trading

Best for Cryptocurrency Trading

eToro offers access to the largest crypto coin selection of any company we cover in the online broker space, and it does this with one of the most user-friendly experiences in the industry. One login to eToro’s online brokerage platform gives users access to stock, ETF, and futures trading, as well as 21 physical crypto coins, all on the company’s intuitive and socially focused web-based and mobile platforms.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Established platform available in over 100 countries
  • Relatively large selection of tradable crypto assets
  • Innovative and easy-to-use social trading experience

Cons

  • Only available in 47 states
  • Very limited account types
  • General lack of advanced trading tools, features, and research
  • No margin trading in the U.S.
  • Options trading only offered to U.S. and U.K. residents via a separate app

Overview

Originally developed with a focus on forex trading in 2007, eToro eventually transformed and in 2010 created one of the first social trading experiences, called OpenBook.11 Since then, the company has enhanced this means of enabling users to learn from and copy other seasoned traders across popular asset classes like stocks, ETFs, futures, and crypto. Currently, eToro is only available in 47 U.S. states, but its 25 million-plus users can also find support in more than 140 countries around the world.12

eToro recently upgraded its charting capability with the addition of Tradingview’s Pro charts, but the platform still lacks many of the tools, calculators, and detailed order types beyond basic market and limit orders that most sophisticated investors would find necessary to carry out advanced trading techniques. eToro provides real-time pricing information for 21 cryptocurrencies, over 3,000 stocks, and more than 270 ETFs, covering the most important assets and securities.13

1415 eToro’s crypto wallet is a separate omnibus wallet with its address. Users can’t bring in their existing crypto, but they can buy and store it with eToro’s wallet. Additionally, there is no staking available in eToro wallet.16

While eToro recently added options trading to its asset mix, this functionality is currently offered to U.S. customers via a separate app. However, during our live demonstration with eToro we learned that options trading is currently being piloted in the U.K. and will soon be made available on the main app.

Public: Best for Alternative Investments

Best for Alternative Investments

Public offers an easy-to-use platform with social networking features, fractional investment capabilities, and a creative selection of alternative investment options. In addition to stock, option, ETF, and cryptocurrency trading, Public provides a platform for purchasing Treasury bills and alternative investments, like rare sneakers, trading cards, royalties, and more.17

While Public is our best brokerage for alternative investments and offers a novel mix of alternative investments, it’s important to know that many of these investments are highly illiquid and speculative. That means it may be difficult to buy and sell assets with ease.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Available fractional share investing
  • A social media element that connects investors
  • Easy-to-use mobile app
  • No payment for order flow on stocks and ETFs
  • High interest earned on uninvested cash

Cons

  • Very limited account types
  • Illiquid and expensive alternative investments
  • Basic educational material
  • Limited features
  • One-leg options strategies only

Overview

Established in 2019 by Jannick Malling and Leif Abraham, Public offers mobile and web browser-based trading best suited for investors interested in a unique set of alternative assets. The New York-headquartered company is a regulated broker-dealer, with SIPC protection in each account up to $500,000.18

Public was developed to help lower the barrier to entry for those who shy away from investing due to a lack of financial literacy, as well as those who lack the means to acquire positions in many expensive financial products. The company has certainly succeeded on this front with its clean and simple user experience; commission trading of stocks, ETFs, and options; $0 account minimum; fractional investing; and social networking element.

However, the platform is not without its faults. To begin with, many of the alternative investments offered on the platform are highly illiquid and speculative, and come with high transaction costs. Next, Public does not engage in payment for order flow (PFOF), but it charges an assortment of fees for things like inactivity and instant withdrawals. Investors may also be turned off by the fact that Public requires users to manually opt out of tipping on each transaction, which the company calls “a more transparent, more aligned way to make money” than PFOF.19 Lastly, Public currently only offers access to individual brokerage accounts.20

The Bottom Line

Through our exhaustive research, we found that Fidelity not only outshines the competition when it comes to ETF investing, low costs, and cash management features, but it is also the best online brokerage platform overall. While International Brokers’ ongoing evolution into a more beginner-friendly platform is driving it closer to parity with the industry’s top all-around brokerage platforms, it remains a top choice for advanced trading techniques and risk management, as well as international trading.

For traders planning to make options the main strategy they use to reach their investment goals, tastytrade’s platform and market content are hard to beat. Charles Schwab’s integration of TD Ameritrade’s educational programs and trading personalities has produced an unparalleled body of actionable learning materials and live training content for beginners.

E*TRADE’s long history of enhancing the user experience continues to shine through with its fantastic mobile apps, while eToro and Public bring social trading and networking to the next level as part of their top-rated crypto and alternative offerings.

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.

There is an Options Regulatory Fee that applies to both option buy and sell transactions. The fee is subject to change. See Fidelity.com/commissions for details.

Why You Should Trust Us

Investopedia collected 89 criteria that are critical to investors, from 26 online brokerage companies. We used this data to review each brokerage platform for fees, usability, research amenities, and other key features to provide unbiased, comprehensive reviews to ensure our readers make the right decision for their investing needs. Investopedia launched in 1999, and has been helping readers find the best online brokerage accounts since 2019.

How to Choose a Brokerage Account

When choosing an online broker, you have to think about your immediate needs as an investor or trader. If you are a beginner, you may need a broker that has great educational material about the stock market and other financial markets. Several brokers also allow for paper trading before funding an account, allowing you to learn the platform, sample the available assets, and test out the trading experience without risking real capital.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Online Brokerage Account and How Does it Work?

A brokerage account is a type of account similar in function to the accounts you have with a bank. With a brokerage account, you deposit funds with an investment firm (the brokerage). This is usually done by a transfer from your existing bank account. Once funds are added to your brokerage account, you can put the money to work using the brokerage’s trading platform to invest those funds in the market. The assets you buy with your cash can be anything offered by that brokerage, including stocks, bonds, ETFs, and even cryptocurrency.

Your online brokerage account will display your holdings (the assets you’ve purchased) as well as your cash balance (your buying power). If you invest in something that gains in value, you can sell it and the profits will be deposited in your online brokerage account. From there, you can place another trade or even transfer the funds out to your regular bank account to use elsewhere. Some brokerage accounts even allow you to earn interest on your uninvested cash.

 

How Much Money Do you Need to Open a Brokerage Account?

There is no longer a real minimum to start investing in the financial markets. With many brokers offering margin accounts with access to fractional shares and no required minimums, you can open and fund an account with any amount of money. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, however, it will influence how you approach the market. Although you could invest $1 in fractional shares of a specific stock, the better approach with limited capital is to use ETFs. Index tracking ETFs, for example, offer greater diversification for your dollar than a single company stock because every share (and fractional share) of the ETF replicates an index made up of many companies in many different industries. You could also consider using options to leverage your dollars with a directional bet on the market or a specific stock, but this is a strategy best reserved for risk capital—not the whole of your limited investment capital.

When investing with small sums, consistency is the key to building wealth. If you can regularly put a set amount of money into the market—even $10 a week—you will be surprised at how quickly it begins to grow. This consistency also helps to smooth market effects, as you will be buying dips and peaks as the market goes up and down.

Can You Invest With a Small Amount of Money?

Many online brokers allow for small minimum deposits which can be a great alternative for those with limited funds. Account minimums (if any) are displayed at the top of our reviews, as well as in our selection of the best platforms for different types of investors. If you are looking for more general guidance on investing with limited capital, check out our article on smart investing on a small budget.

Do Brokers Offer Mobile Platforms?

Some online brokers have powerful mobile apps delivering nearly all the features that their desktop counterparts do. For example, E*TRADE’s app, which we picked as our best app for mobile investing and trading, offers two mobile platforms that are streamlined versions of the company’s powerful desktop platform.

Can You Lose Money in a Brokerage Account?

Yes, you can. It is a reality of the market that no reward comes without risk. You can lose money buying a bad investment, but you can also lose by buying a good investment at the wrong time. Investment decisions should be guided by extensive research and careful consideration of your risk tolerance. When it comes to the financial markets, there are endless possibilities for making and losing money. Unless all the funds in your brokerage account are sitting in uninvested cash (brokerage cash accounts are afforded up to $250,000 of protection by Securities Investor Protection Corporation insurance), there is a risk you will lose money.

Another way of looking at that, however, is that a brokerage account sitting full of uninvested cash isn’t at risk of making any money either. You can use strategies like asset allocation and diversification to reduce the risk of you losing money, but you will never fully eliminate it without also eliminating your chances of making a decent return.

Can I Buy Stocks Without a Broker?

Yes, you can actually buy and sell stocks without a broker, but it is not a common approach these days. Some companies still offer direct stock purchase plans that allow you to buy shares directly from the company. Companies administer these plans according to internal rules, and some are only open to company employees. You need to contact companies to find out whether they offer a direct stock purchase plan and what the terms and conditions are. These plans initially helped investors avoid brokerage fees, but the rise of online discount brokers with zero fees has removed this barrier, making the direct stock purchase plan somewhat of a relic.

What Is the Difference Between Investing and Trading?

An important thing to consider is the distinction between investing and trading. When people talk about investing they generally mean buying assets to hold long-term. The goal of investing is to gradually build wealth and reach your retirement goals. Conversely, trading involves short-term strategies that maximize returns on a short-term basis, such as daily or monthly. Trading is generally considered riskier than investing.

All these factors are worth considering before choosing an online broker. Do you want to trade or invest? Do you want a great mobile app to check your portfolio wherever you are? What types of assets are you looking to invest in? Answering these questions is not always easy. For more support on how to choose a broker, you can check out our guide to choosing a stock broker. Once you’ve made a decision on a broker, you can refer to our guide to opening a brokerage account.

Companies We Reviewed

We researched and reviewed 26 online brokers and trading platforms to find the best companies you see in the list above. Below is the full list of companies we researched along with links to individual company reviews to help you learn more before making a decision

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