According to our research, Fidelity Investments is the best overall online brokerage platform due to its low cost, industry-leading full-service features, powerful tools, and so much more. We researched 25 online brokers and evaluated them on 66 criteria, including fees, account services, user experience, and additional features.

Best Online Brokerage Accounts and Trading Platforms of 2024

  • Best Overall:
  • Best Broker for ETFs:
  • Best Broker for Low Costs:
  • Best Broker for Advanced Traders:
  • Best Broker for International Trading:
  • Best Broker for Options:

Fidelity Investments: Best Overall, Best Broker for ETFs, and Best Broker for Low Costs

4.8
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade
Read full review

Why We Chose It

Fidelity continues its multi-year reign as our top pick for the best broker overall and the Best Broker for Low Costs. For the first time, the company has also been awarded the top slot in our Best Broker for ETFs category, beating out Charles Schwab. Fidelity brings the full-service experience to both its institutional and retail investors with sophisticated tools presented through a simple workflow, all at a low price.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Committed to eliminating common account fees
  • Strong portfolio analysis and account features
  • Excellent order execution
  • Powerful Active Trader Pro platform
  • Direct indexing
  • Fractional shares trading in over 7000 U.S. stocks and ETFs
Cons
  • Higher broker-assisted trade fees
  • Minimum balance for some index trading
  • Multiple platforms may be required to access all tools

Overview

Fidelity is our top pick overall, as well as our top choice for Best Low-Cost Broker and Best Broker for ETFs due to its continued product enhancements, strong customer support, unmatched value, and deep research and educational resources. Headquartered in Boston Massachusetts, Fidelity’s storied history began with its founding in 1946. With $4.4 trillion in discretionary assets as of December 2022, the Boston-based company ranks among the top brokerage firms in terms of assets under management.

Always striving to improve its financial products and services, Fidelity made news in 2022 by launching a Digital Assets Account (DAA), which will enable plan sponsors to offer their participants access to Bitcoin through an investment option in their plan’s core lineup. In addition, the company introduced the Fidelity Crypto Industry and Digital Payments ETF (FDIG), along with a Fidelity Metaverse ETF (FMET). Enhancements also came to the institutional side of the business, with the company expanding access to some of its proprietary tools, like Fidelity Bond Beacon. 

For investors looking for individual help, Fidelity has added to its lineup with digital direct indexing accounts called Fidelity Managed FidFolios. The FidFolios use fractional shares to mimic indexes with ownership of the actual stock rather than an ETF, allowing for deeper customization. But the improvements don’t stop there, as Fidelity also upgraded its mobile experience with a redesigned app dashboard that includes streaming quotes on the home screen and further news feed customizations. 
After years of very tight competition, Fidelity surpassed Charles Schwab as our best broker for ETFs this year. Like Schwab, Fidelity offers rich ETF-focused educational content, powerful ETF screening tools, and a deep pool of ETFs to choose from. But it was Fidelity’s fractional share trading in ETFs that helped push it over the top.
Fidelity has 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 supporting its low-cost, high-value offering. Investors looking for an online broker that keeps costs low while delivering value will be hard-pressed to find a better broker than Fidelity.

ACTUAL USER EXPERIENCE

"I moved all of our family’s investment accounts to Fidelity in 2021 for one simple, but valuable, reason: It’s the only brokerage firm that offers every single account type we have, allowing me to house all of our investments under the same roof. We have a lot of different account types—from various retirement and taxable accounts, to an inherited IRA, to 529s and custodial accounts, and even an investable HSA. Before consolidating to Fidelity, I had to log into multiple places to check on our various investments. Now, except for a new workplace 401(k), I have one login that shows me everything on a single screen. And when I need customer support, Fidelity advisors can also view things as a whole. Moving to Fidelity has added a lot of ease and efficiency to my financial life." - Sabrina Karl, Staff Writer for Investopedia

Editor's Note

In addition to our review of Fidelity's online brokerage platform, we've also reviewed the company's robo-advisor service, Fidelity Go.

Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for Advanced Traders and Best Broker for International Trading

4.2
  • Account Minimum: $0.00
  • Fees: $0.00 commissions for equities/ETFs available on IBKR’s TWS Lite, or low costs scaled by volume for active traders that want access to advanced functionality such as order routing. $0.65 per contract for options on TWS Lite; that is also the base rate for TWS Pro users, with scaled rates based on volume. $0.85 per contract for futures.
Read full review

Why We Chose It

With the closest competition still well behind it in these two categories, Interactive Brokers (IBKR) repeats as our top broker for both advanced day traders and for international traders due to its breadth of global assets and advanced analytical tools and calculators.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Superior order execution
  • Contingent orders for every conceivable situation
  • Unparalleled range of investable foreign and domestic assets
  • Low margin interest rates
  • Trader Workstation (TWS) is very powerful and highly customizable
Cons
  • IBKR's SmartRouting not available to IBKR Lite clients
  • TWS can be difficult to learn
  • No in-platform backtesting
  • Interactive Brokers’ modest fee-based pricing is tiered and can be a bit confusing

Overview

Interactive Brokers is our top choice for both sophisticated and international traders because there isn’t another broker that combines such a wide variety of investable global assets, sophisticated trading technology, and rich research capabilities. With 2.43 million client accounts and $1.92 million in daily trade values, IBKR is a stable, well-capitalized broker that is also publicly traded.

With headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut, the company was founded in 1978 by its current chairman, Thomas Peterffy, under the name T.P. & Co. The company pioneered the use of computers in trading, but it wasn’t until 1993 that Interactive Brokers Inc. was incorporated as a U.S. broker-dealer. Now it is one of the most complete brokers in the industry. With access to 150 markets, trading in stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds, funds, crypto, and more supported in over 200 countries, and funding methods available in 26 currencies, IBKR is the best international broker, hands down

To maintain a large gap over the competition, the company is constantly innovating. More notable enhancements of late include a market rate interest paid on uninvested cash, the IBKR GlobalTrader mobile app, and the addition of fractional shares trading for European shares and ETFs.  
International traders can access financial markets and all assets on the desktop, web, and mobile versions including both IBKR Mobile and the IBKR GlobalTrader app. TWS is a superbly designed platform that brings technical analysis, social sentiment, fundamental research, and financial calculators together in a way that equips users to capitalize on price inefficiencies better than any other platform we reviewed.

Editor's Note:

In addition to our review of Interactive Brokers' online brokerage platform, we've also reviewed the company's robo-advisor service, Interactive Advisors.

In the News

On Dec. 15, 2023, Interactive Brokers announced a number of enhancements to its IBKR Mobile platform that offer an upgraded experience with an innovative design, new and improved features, and quick access to learning resources.


tastytrade: Best Broker for Options

3.9
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees & Commissions: $0 stock trades, $1 to open options trades (capped at $10 per leg), $0 to close
Read full review

Why We Chose It

We chose tastytrade as the best options trading platform because of the way it optimizes tools and content to suit the needs of its options-focused client base. Moreover, tastytrade has set up its options pricing with caps that make it the lowest-cost brokerage for high-volume, high-frequency option traders.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Capped commission structure for options
  • Highly regarded tools for analyzing and monitoring options trades
  • Superb options-specific content and educational material
  • Recent dashboard improvements make for an even better trading experience
  • Follow Feed feature allows users to follow trades of tastytrade's TV celebrities
Cons
  • Limited investment options
  • Few investing and retirement resources
  • Weak portfolio analytics

Overview

Tastytrade maintains its stance as the best broker for options because of its intuitive delivery of an industry-best mix of options-focused tools and content. Launched by tastytrade as tastyworks in 2017 and headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the platform was created by the same people that created and developed TD Ameritrade’s highly regarded application. 
Tastytrade delivers very competitive fees for options trading, with standout features like commission caps for large lot sizes, as well as the absence of any commissions when closing positions. Fortunately for tastytrade users, these low commissions do not come with a platform that delivers poor options analytics, inefficient platform workflow, or slow trade execution. In fact, the tastytrade platform brings all of these elements together in a manner that is among the best of all the companies we reviewed. 
Tastytrade has acted on customer demand for social trading capabilities by allowing users to follow individual traders in real time and enabling them to both view and replicate strategies employed by other traders. Although tastytrade still provides top-notch customer service, a capped fee structure on options trades, and superb options-related educational and trading content, our updated methodology punishes them for the lack of some key research features and limited mobile charting capabilities. A company representative did inform us that it is working on these issues, but any enhancements come too late to keep tastytrade from taking away the titles of Best Broker for Advanced Options Traders from Interactive Brokers.

Final Verdict

While all online brokers make money on the trading activity of their client base, either directly or indirectly, the best brokerage platforms provide strong customer support, robust research and analytical tools, expansive education content, a wide variety of available assets, and an abundance of investment account types, all with a transparent fee structure and limited gamification tactics.   Based on our exhaustive review of the top online brokers, we determined that Fidelity not only outshines the competition when it comes to ETF investing and low costs, but is simply the best brokerage overall. Tastytrade’s platform is also intuitive enough for newcomers and the educational and market content is hard to beat, but only if you plan to make options trading your focus. Finally, when you’re ready to bring your trading to the most advanced platform available with access to the most international markets by far, the experience offered by Interactive Brokers is unmatched.

Options trading entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Certain complex options strategies carry additional risk. Before trading options, please read. 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  for details.

Compare the Best Online Brokers

Broker Star Rating Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Per Contract Options Max Options Legs # of No-Load Mutual Funds Fractional Share Trading
Fidelity Investments 4.8 $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 4 3396 Yes
Interactive Brokers 4.2 $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 6 9030 Yes
tastytrade 3.9 $0.00 $0.00 $1.00/Open Only 4 0 Yes

Why You Should Trust Us

Investopedia collected key data points from 24 online brokerage companies to identify the most important factors to investors. We used this data to review each brokerage platform for fees, usability, trading technology, 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 who has great educational material about the stock market and other financial markets. A number of brokers also allow for paper trading prior to funding an account, giving you an opportunity 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 financial 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 accounts with no required minimums on taxable trading accounts and retirement accounts and access to fractional shares, 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 incredible mobile apps delivering nearly all the features that their desktop counterparts do. Options traders, for example, will find the tastytrade app to be a streamlined version of the tastytrade 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?

Another 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 also check out our guide to opening a brokerage account.

Companies We Reviewed

We researched and reviewed 24 online brokers and trading platforms to find the 4 companies you see included on 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:

Ally Invest, Charles Schwab, ChoiceTrade, E*TRADE, eOption, eToro, Fidelity, Interactive Brokers, J.P. Morgan SDI, Lightspeed, Lime Financial, Merrill Edge, Public, Robinhood, SoFi Invest, SogoTrade, T. Rowe Price, tastytrade, TradeStation, TradeZero, Vanguard, Webull, Wellstrade


How to Pick a Broker That's Right for You

How We Picked the Best Online Brokers and Trading Platforms

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. This year, we revamped the review process by conducting an extensive survey of customers that are actively looking to start trading and investing with an online broker. We then combined this invaluable information with our subject matter expertise to develop the framework for a quantitative ratings model that is at the core of how we compiled our list of the best online broker and trading platform companies.
This model weighs key factors like trading technology, range of offerings, mobile app usability, research amenities, educational content, portfolio analysis features, customer support, costs, account amenities, and overall trading experience according to their importance. Our team of researchers gathered 2425 data points and weighted 66 criteria based on data collected during extensive research for each of the 25 companies we reviewed. 
Many of the brokers we reviewed also gave us live demonstrations of their platforms and services, either at their New York City offices or via video conferencing methods. Live brokerage accounts were also obtained for most of the platforms we reviewed, which our team of expert writers and editors used to perform hands-on testing in order to lend their qualitative point of view. 

Read our full Methodology for reviewing online brokers.

Guide to Online Brokers and Trading Platforms

Learn more about online brokers and trading platforms:
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