Best Online Stock Brokers for Investors and Traders 2018

​As a trader and investor, you should know the best online broker and brokerage account available for your individual needs. This guide will help you to make a more precise choice. I have also added some helpful comparison tables for your convenience.

When looking to trade with the best online stock broker, investors should always focus on three major factors:

  • ​the total cost,
  • ​customer service,
  • ​and the trading platform.

​​​While there are other important criteria such as awards and rewards, these three attributes are the most important.

Best Online Stock Brokers

Best Online Stock Brokers

​The three main selection criterias explained


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Total costs and asset protection

​What is your goal when you plan to open a brokerage account with the best online stock broker?

I assume you have the same goal as everyone else.

You want to trade and invest to increase your net worth.

At first, trading and investing means spending money. Even if you buy and sell your stocks at the same price, you make losses.

Why?

Because you have to pay your online broker for his services.

Simply put, if you are the buyer, he connects you with the seller and vice versa. For this service the online broker charges you a service fee.

As you will see in this article, the difference can be huge and the total costs vary by more than 100%.

A word of caution, never open a brokerage account with a broker who is in a bad financial situation. Make sure your money is protected in case your broker goes bankrupt. Segregated accounts give you better protection than non-segregated accounts.

Also, make sure the online broker you choose is regulated by a trustworthy authority. The more money you transfer to your brokerage account, the better the protection should be.


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​Customer service

We all know the game. Everything is perfect when someone is trying to sell us something.

We can reach the "new clients" support center in seconds and all our questions are answered in no time.

While good sales support is comforting, the most important factor still remains the customer service. Once you have become the client of an online brokerage company you need very good support.

Not being able to reach anyone within the brokerage company can cost you thousands of dollars if there is a problem with your order executions.

That’s why it is very important to focus on the available support channels when choosing your broker.


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​Online Broker trading platform

​The brokerage costs could be incredibly low, and the client support could be the best in the world, but if you choose an online broker trading platform that doesn’t suit your needs then you have just made the wrong selection.

If you are a day trader using an online broker trading platform where you have to enter all of your trades by hand, spending five minutes to fill out each form, you will never make money. Never!

And if you plan to invest long term, choosing an online stock broker with a great API, automated trading support and other cool features for a monthly fee, then you are also throwing money out the window.

Your trading platform should enable you to trade the financial instruments you want to trade: stocks, options, exchange-traded funds, forex or even high risk products like binary options, CFDs or crypto currencies.

​The 5 best online brokers that every investor and trader should consider

TD Ameritrade

​​Best for investors and high volume traders

tdameritrade.com

tdameritrade.com

Pricing

  • ​Stocks: $6.95
  • ​Options: $6.95 + $0.75 per contract
  • ​Futures: $2.25 per contract (+exchange & regulatory fees)
  • US Dollar Circle
    Broker-assisted trades: $44.99

Current Offer: Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600

Number of clients: 11M | Stock Symbol: AMTD | Market Cap: 31.84B | Earnings per Share (TTM - trailing 12 months): 2.06 (10/2018) | Brokerage Firm Regulated by FINRA SEC#: 23395

TD Ameritrade has been in business for over 40 years and is one of the market leaders in the industry. They acquired Scottrade in 2017 to strength their market position. Now, more than 11 million clients hold their accounts with TD Ameritrade.

TD Ameritrade supports 24/5 trading so on working days you can trade around the clock (excluding holidays).

The price model is among the more expensive. With stock trading flat fees of $6.95 and options flat fees of $6.95 per trade plus $0.75 per contract, TD Ameritrade offers trading execution prices that perfectly suit any investor and high volume short term trader.

Day traders trading order sizes of 100 stocks or less should look elsewhere.

However, TD Ameritrade’s free main trading platform thinkorswim® is perfect for just about any private investor. Great functionalities and powerful order-flow processes make it a good choice, especially for the more active investors and traders.

TD Ameritrade total costs per month

​Long Term Investor
10 trades, 300 stocks per trade on average

10 * $6.95 = $69 total costs / 2.3 cents per share

High volume day trader
200 trades, 1000 stocks on average

200 * $6.95 = $1,390 total costs / 0.7 cents per share

Low volume day trader
50 trades, 100 stocks on average

50 * $6.95 = $348 total costs / 7 cents per share

TD Ameritrade customer service

​Supported channels: Local Branches ✓ Telephone ✓ Chat ✓ email ✓
Special Features: Facebook Messenger bot ✓ Alexa Skill ✓

TD Ameritrade trading tools and platforms

  • Web platform
  • thinkorswim®
  • Trade Architect
  • Mobile

TD Ameritrade overall rating

​TD Ameritrade’s trading platform is one of the best available at this time. The costs are a bit higher but the usage of their trading tool is completely free. Another great feature is the free paper trading account integrated in their trading platform.

This way it is easy to test new trading strategies and testing platform functionalities without any risk. New clients benefit from the current special promotion worth $600.


SureTrader

​Best for day traders with low liquid capital

SureTrader review | SureTrader Website | SureTrader Twitter​

suretrader.com


suretrader.com

Pricing

  • ​Stocks: $0.50 Cents per share
  • ​Options: $4.95 + $0.50 per contract
  • ​Futures: n.a.​
  • US Dollar Circle
    Broker-assisted trades: $25.00

Current Offer: Free Demo account with a $100,000 balance

Number of clients: 20,000 | Stock Symbol: n.a. | Market Cap: n.a. | Earnings per Share (TTM - trailing 12 months): n.a.) – not listed at a stock exchange. | Off-shore broker, licensed & regulated by Securities Commission of The Bahamas

SureTrader is the exotic online broker in this comparison. One main difference is that SureTrader is not listed at a stock exchange and their headquarters is located outside the United States. SureTrader has an account minimum of $500 and is located in the Bahamas. According to their statistics, more than 20,000 clients hold an account with them.

SureTrader is one of the market leaders in low-cost stock and options trading. With $0.005 per share and a minimum of $1.95 per trade, they offer amazingly low fees.

The trading platform is free of charge. However, day traders will need SureTrader Pro which costs $49 per month. The trading platform costs include funding and withdrawal trades at the cost of $40 for outgoing funds, a $50 inactivity fee per quarter (if under 15 trades) and a $25 margin call fee. There is also a 0.5% fee for short positions held overnight.

SureTrader total costs per month

​Long Term Investor
10 trades, 300 stocks per trade on average

​10 * $1.95 = $19.50 total costs / 0.65 cents p. share.

High volume day trader
200 trades, 1000 stocks on average

​200 * $5.0 = $1,000 total costs / 0.5 cents per share

Low volume day trader
50 trades, 100 stocks on average

​50 * $1.95 = $97.50 total costs / 1.95 cents per share

SureTrader customer service

​SureTrader is located outside the U.S. in the Bahamas.
Supported channels: Local Branches Telephone ✓ Chat ✓ email ✓

SureTrader trading tools and platforms

  • SureTrader Pro Desktop ($49 per month)
  • SureTrader Web-Based Trading (free)
  • SureTrader Mobile iPhone & Android ($35 per month)

SureTrader overall rating

​There is a lot of back and forth regarding SureTrader. Many investors do not even consider SureTrader because there are other brokerages offering far better tools for long term investment decisions along with good money protection.

Also, high volume day traders probably skip SureTrader because other big trading companies provide better packages, as well as better money protection.

U.S. residents cannot open an account with SureTrader the traditional way.

In my opinion, the target audience is day trading beginners with low liquid capital. Especially due to the fact that there is no pattern day trading rule using SureTrader.

While any broker located in the U.S. requires a minimum account balance of $25,000 to day trade intensively, with SureTrader you can day trade with an account balance of $500 or even lower.


Interactive Brokers

​Best for day trader and active investors

interactivebrokers.com

interactivebrokers.com

Pricing

  • ​Stocks: $0.50 cents per share ($1 minimum)
  • ​Options: $0.70 per contract ($1 minimum)
  • ​Futures: $0.85 per contract (+exchange & regulatory fees)
  • US Dollar Circle
    Broker-assisted trades:​ not for the average investor and a minimum of 10,000 stocks or 100 options needed for trading desk support

Current Offer: not available

Number of clients: 385,000 | Stock Symbol: IBKR | Market Cap: 24.37B | Earnings per Share (TTM - trailing 12 months): 4.07 (10/2018) | Brokerage Firm Regulated by FINRA SEC#: 47257

Interactive Brokers provides access to all market data 6 days a week, 24 hours a day. For more than 40 years IB has been offering its clients low cost trading all over the world, providing access to 120 financial markets in 26 countries. More than 385,000 clients hold an account with Interactive Brokers.

The pricing model is by far the most competitive. Where else can you trade stocks and options with a minimum fee of only $1? Nowhere! Interactive Brokers is an excellent choice for any day trader who can maintain a minimum account balance of $25,000.

Furthermore, Interactive Brokers has a great API. Traders can connect an amazingly high number of applications to the IB Traderworkstation (TWS). Fully automated trading can be implemented in no time using tools like Trade Ideas

Sending trade ideas directly from your stock screener to the IB Traderworkstation works like a charm. Traders can adjust the settings depending on their personal preference. Trades can be managed as either fully automatic, semi-automatic or completely manual.

The Traderworkstation is not a web-interface. It is an application designed for high active traders. Instead of typing in each order, the TWS can be handled with a few mouse clicks.

Interactive brokers is a NYSE listed company with a solid earnings sheet.

Interactive Brokers total costs per month

​Long Term Investor
10 trades, 300 stocks per trade on average

​10 * $1.50 = $15 total costs / 0.5 cents per share

High volume day trader
200 trades, 1000 stocks on average

​200 * $5.00 = $1,000 total costs / 0.5 cents per share

Low volume day trader
50 trades, 100 stocks on average

​50 * $1.00 = $50 total costs / 1 cent per share

Interactive Brokers customer service

Supported channels: Local Branches Telephone ✓ Chat ✓ email ✓

Interactive Brokers trading tools and platforms

  • Desktop TWS - Traderworkstation
  • IBKR Mobile App
  • IB Web Trader
  • IB APIs

Interactive Brokers overall rating

In my personal opinion, Interactive Brokers is the best choice for any active day trader. If you are a day trader with a high trading frequency, you need low trade fees as well as a great API to connect external trading tools. That’s exactly what Interactive Brokers offers. Connect stock screeners like Trade Ideas to Interactive Brokers and you’ll be firing on all cylinders.


Charles Schwab

​Best for retirement savings and long term investing

Charles Schwab review | ​Charles Schwab Website | ​Charles Schwab Twitter

schwab.com


schwab.com

Pricing

  • ​Stocks: $4.95
  • ​Options: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract
  • ​Futures: $1.50 per contract (+exchange & regulatory fees)
  • US Dollar Circle
    Broker-assisted trades: $25

Current Offer: Get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades for two years.

Number of clients: 11.3M | Stock Symbol: SCHW | Market Cap: 70.25B | Earnings per Share (TTM - trailing 12 months): 2.01 (10/2018) | Brokerage Firm Regulated by FINRA SEC#: 16514

Charles Schwab is the heavy weight champion in this stock broker comparison with more than 70 billion market capitalization.

And most importantly, for any long term investor and retirement savings investor, Charles Schwab is the only online broker in this report who is offering automated robo-advice-investing with no commissions or advisory fees.

Like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab has local branches where clients can talk to Charles Schwab employees about their personal finances.

Charles Schwab has been in business for more than 40 years and offers its clients high-tech trading tools, like StreetSmart Edge, as well as a wide range of investment options in stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options and much more. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced investor, Charles Schwab is a great overall online stock broker.

Another incentive is the competitive pricing compared to other all-round-brokerage firms like TD Ameritrade and e*Trade. A per trade fee of $4.95 is $2 less than what the others charge.

Charles Schwab’s trading platform StreetSmart Edge comes with an intuitive workflow.

Charting and complex trading strategies can be managed with StreetSmart Edge. The web interface is the perfect addition to your daily business tasks and the mobile apps are a must-have these days.

Charles Schwab total costs per month

​Long Term Investor
10 trades, 300 stocks per trade on average

​10 * $4.95 = $49.50 total costs / 1.65 cents p. share.

High volume day trader
200 trades, 1000 stocks on average

​200 * $4.95 = $990 total costs /  0.495 cents p. share

Low volume day trader
50 trades, 100 stocks on average

​​50 * $4.95 = $247.50 total costs / 4.95 cents per share

Charles Schwab customer service

​Supported channels: Local Branches ✓ Telephone ✓ Chat ✓ email ✓

Charles Schwab trading tools and platforms

  • Web Trading
  • Trading Software StreetSmart Edge®
  • Mobile Trading

Charles Schwab overall rating

​Charles Schwab has great customer service, tons of local branches for personal consultation with finance experts, and loads of free information for beginners on their website. Their current promotion, $100 referral award for new clients, is interesting but this should not be the crux in your decision.

The overall picture is good, the robo-advisor service is intriguing, and the trading platform looks very promising for traders. The pricing structure for basic investments, like stocks, is solid. Some funds are not commission free so make sure to inquire first before opening an account if you want to invest in funds.


Ally Invest

​Best investment & online banking combination

Ally Invest review | ​Ally Invest Website | ​Ally Invest Twitter

ally.com/invest

ally.com/invest

Pricing

  • ​Stocks: $4.95 standard / $3.95 active traders
  • ​Options: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract standard / $3.95 + $0.5 active traders
  • ​Futures: ​n.a.
  • US Dollar Circle
    Broker-assisted trades: $​20

Current Offer: not available

Number of clients: 250,000 (investment clients) | Stock Symbol: ALLY | Market Cap: 11.64B | Earnings per Share (TTM - trailing 12 months): 2.67 (10/2018) | Brokerage Firm Regulated by FINRA SEC#: 66982

Ally's core business is online banking. Checking accounts, savings accounts, home loans, mortgages, refinance, and many other products and services are part of Ally's core business. Ally offers customer support 24 hours a day by phone and email. However, unlike Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, Ally Invest has no physical branches in which you can consult with a professional to talk about your investments.

It should be pointed out that Ally made a huge leap in the right direction for their investment clients. Back in 2016, Ally Financials acquired TradeKing for $275 million and since then Ally Financials has offered great investment products, including a solid trading platform based on state-of-the-art technology under the name, "Ally Invest.”

That is why Ally is good all around.

Let’s now focus on the investment capabilities.

With brokerage-costs of $4.95 per trade, Ally Invest has conditions comparable to Charles Schwab. In terms of costs per trade, Ally Invest settles between ultra-low cost brokerages, like SureTrader or Interactive Brokers, and the more expensive online brokerage companies, like TD Ameritrade and E*Trade.

Active traders with an average daily balance of at least $100,000 and / or those who make at least 30 trades per quarter benefit from discounted rates of $3.95 per trade for stock and ETF trades and $3.95 + 50 cents per contract for option trades.

The discounted price begins on day 1 of the following quarter where the criteria were met. For example, if you made at least 30 trades in the first quarter of the year, the discounted rates will begin on the 1st of April. As you will see below, this is an attractive price plan for active investors trading high numbers of shares on a regular basis.

Ally Invest total costs per month

​Important: The following calculation is based on the assumption that you make at least 30 trades per quarter to maintain access to the discounted trade rates Ally Invest provides. It takes at least 1 full quarter before you can reach the discounted rates. If you trade less than 30 trades per quarter, then you have to add about 25% to the numbers I outline. I do it this way to provide a better comparison to the other online brokerage firms mentioned in this article. Again, the objective here is to help you make the right long term decision.

​Long Term Investor
10 trades, 300 stocks per trade on average

​10 * $3.95 = $39.50 total costs / 1.31 cents p. share.

High volume day trader
200 trades, 1000 stocks on average

​200 * $3.95 = $790 total costs / 0.395 cents p. share

Low volume day trader
50 trades, 100 stocks on average

​50 * $3.95 = $197.50 total costs / 3.95 cents per share

Ally Invest customer service

​Supported channels: Local Branches Telephone ✓ Chat ✓ email ✓

Ally Invest trading tools and platforms

​Only a web-application, but with streaming charts, a profit/loss and probability calculator, watchlists, market data and option chains (interesting for options-traders)

Ally Invest overall rating

Ally has a bit of everything but is not specialized in one financial investment style. Ally is an all-rounder with a market capitalization of $11.64 billion and solid earnings per share.

Ally Invest doesn’t provide high tech trading software tools like TD Ameritrade, Interactive Brokers and Charles Schwab, but they do have competitive trade rates for active traders. Overall, Ally is more for people who are looking to manage all their financial belongings under one account at low costs.


Broker comparison table

​Broker

​Ideal for

​Rating

​​​Best for investors and high volume traders

4.5/5

Best for day trader and active investors

4.8/5

Best for day traders with low liquid capital

4.0/5

​Charles Schwab

​​Best for retirement savings and long term investing

4.0/5

​​Best investment & online banking combination

3.8/5

Average Rating: 4.2/5.0

Best online stock brokers | ​The summary

This detailed online stock broker comparison clearly shows there is not one perfect solution for everything. The previously mentioned online brokers have their advantages and disadvantages.

The question, "What online broker is the best?" can only be answered depending on your personal emphasis and requirements.

Tech savvy day trading geeks will probably go with Interactive Brokers. Their API is great, the rates are at the very bottom, and trade executions are lightning fast. As an active trader, you can save thousands of dollars each year based on the low fees Interactive Brokers provides. It is easy to connect Trade Ideas and Interactive Brokers for automated trade executions. Additional costs for the platform and the exchange data feeds can apply, depending on the trading activities.

The off-shore broker, SureTrader is for people who have only low liquid capital and are aware of the risks speculating with high leverage (6:1) and low liquid capital. The SEC wants to protect people with a day trading rule thereby making it necessary to have at least $25,000 in the trading account in order to day trade. SureTrader bypasses this rule depending on how and where the account is set up. SureTrader is located in the Bahamas and is not listed on the stock exchange. They are licensed & regulated by the Securities Commission of The Bahamas. U.S. Residents cannot open an account with SureTrader the traditional way. Additional costs for the platform apply when choosing professional desktop software.

Investors looking for a way to have only one account for everything, from personal financial belongings to trading and speculative investing, might consider Ally Invest. The trading platform from Ally Invest is not as good as the ones from Interactive Brokers, SureTrader, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, but the technology is solid and everything can be handled from one web-interface.

Traditional investors wanting to communicate face to face with a real person might consider TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. Both have many local branches, as well as great trading tools and investment opportunities. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab also have the highest market capitalization of the 5 online brokerage companies we have covered. The prices per trade are a bit higher but they provide well-engineered trading platforms without additional costs.

I hope this Best Online Stock Brokers Guide provides you the transparency you are looking for. Please make sure to do more research on the website of your preferred company before making a decision.

​Best Online Stock Brokers for Investors and Traders 2018 [Top 5] | via @daytradingz

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If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment ​or use the contact form to ask your question.

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