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PROS / SpeedTrader’s trading fee is lower than many discount brokers, especially if you keep a higher balance in your account.

CONS / Mobile trading is only available on the iPhone and iPad.

VERDICT / The lower trading fees are beat by the best discount brokers, and the trading platform does not offer anything that makes it stand out.

sybe medicalSpeedTrader offers trades at competitive rates within the industry and even lower than some of the bigger names in the industry. Using the web-based DAS Trader platform, you can create watch lists and option chains, perform research, and order trades. Mobile trading is limited to only iOS mobile devices, and while the platform allows for basic trading, it lacks some the research tools and analytic reports many other online stock trading services offer.

With trade fees at a fixed $6.95 and option contracts at $0.50, SpeedTrader has some of the lowest trade fees. If your account balance is over $25,000, the trade fee drops to $4.49, making it an even better value. While trade fees are lower than many other services, other fees are higher than the best online brokers. The fee for an option exercise or assignment is $30, which, when compared to the top services we reviewed, is nearly six times the price. The broker-assisted fee is also higher than average at $30, but some services still charge more than that.

The online platform – owned and operated by DAS Inc. – allows a number of useful functions for online trading. While not customizable, you can still specify information you wish to view for watch lists, option chains and strategies, and analytic reports. The stock screeners allow you to monitor call and put prices for options and their expiration dates. Some useful tools that the platform lacks are calculators for probability and certain reports for stock information, such as volatility.

This online broker offers trades in stocks and options but not in other vehicles, such as ETFs – which are a common choice – or futures, forex or international markets. However, it does offer other investment options, including IRAs, mutual funds and bonds.

As mentioned above, mobile trading is only available on iOS devices: the iPhone and iPad. Further, because you do not log into the website and the program is provided by DAS rather than SpeedTrader itself, you cannot log into the website from any mobile browser to trade. From your iPhone or iPad, you are able to trade stocks and options, track watch lists, and monitor your orders and positions.

SpeedTrader offers good support and educational resources on its website. You can view video tutorials, read the FAQs page and even link a free stock market widget to your personal or professional website. Standard customer service is available during normal business hours via telephone, email and live chat.

Summary

SpeedTrader offers competitive trade fees, but some of its other fees are less desirable than with other online stock brokers. The DAS platform is solid in basic function but lacks some additional tools that make its competitors stand out. Mobile trading is limited to only Apple products, but with those, you can trade and keep track of your positions. While there are some good basic features to this service, it doesn’t offer anything to make it stand out among its competition.

PROS / Firstrade offers extended trading hours.

CONS / The education resources are not as extensive as other services we reviewed.

VERDICT / With extended trading hours and competitive fees, Firstrade is a good choice to help you build your investment portfolio.

sybe medicalFirstrade offers online stock trading, exchange-traded funds, bonds, mutual funds and option trading. Online trading fees are $6.95, and broker-assisted trades cost $19.95. Extended trading hours is one key feature Firstrade offers. The extended hours means that you can make trades before or after traditional market hours. You can react to news and reports before the market opens from 8:05 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. and after hours from 4:05 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. Eastern time.

The online stock trading dashboard is simple and organized into two columns. The first column shows your account information. In this column, you can view your account balances and the status of any orders. You can organize this column by dragging and dropping charts where you want them. It’s possible to view multiple accounts at once, and you can see charts on your account’s performance. The second column helps you monitor the market. Here you can view top stories and monitor gains and losses in the market. Both columns are customizable to help you make informed trades. There’s also a quick bar at the bottom of your screen no matter where you go on the Firstrade site that allows you to get quick information and make trades without having to navigate away from your current page or opening another tab.

In addition to the computer-based platform, Firstrade offers free iPhone and Android apps. Both apps allow to you view your account dashboard, make trades and monitor newsfeeds.

The education center offers four tools to help you choose the best investment strategy. An investment glossary provides clarification on trading and investing terms you come across. The tax guide explains how rules set by the government affect your investments. A thorough understanding of taxes related to online trading can help you chose the best investing strategy. The investment strategy guides offer detailed information on trading stocks online and outlines different investing strategies. These guides compare benefits and drawbacks of commonly used strategies to help you determine which strategy is a good fit for your portfolio. The last guide is about margin loans. This guide discusses the risks of margin investing and the benefits of adding it to your portfolio. While these educational resources are useful, Firstrade doesn’t offer as many in-depth resources as the best online stock trading companies do.

Customer service representatives are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. A detailed FAQs section is available online to answer questions about Firstrade, technical support and investment options.

Summary

Firstrade offers a variety of investment options to help you build your portfolio. Prices for online trading and broker-assisted trading are competitive when compared to other online stock brokers. Extended trading hours is a unique feature that allows you to place your trades before the market opens or after it has closed. The trading platform is simple and available on iPhone and Android apps.

PROS / ShareBuilder has an easy-to-use online trading platform.

CONS / The FAQs section is difficult to find on the website.

VERDICT / ShareBuilder is worth looking into for its competitive fees and automatic investing features.

sybe medicalShareBuilder is an online stock broker owned by Capital One. It offers stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and option trading. It does not offer international trading or forex and futures like some of our higher-ranking services. There is no minimum balance required when you open a ShareBuilder account. Online trades are priced at $6.95 and broker-assisted trades are only $19.95. The trade prices are average when compared with other online trading companies we reviewed, and the broker-assisted trades are on the low end. A key feature of ShareBuilder is automatic investing, which lets you schedule dollar-based investments on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. To use the automatic investment plan, all you have to do is select which stocks or bonds you want to invest in, set a dollar amount you would like to invest and create a schedule for your plan to follow.

The online trading platform is visually clean and easy to navigate. When you are stock trading, you can easily choose what you would like to invest in, how many shares you would like to purchase and which funding source you will use for the trade. Before your trade is complete, you can review your order and an estimate of the total cost of your trade, including your trade fee. Selling is just as easy as buying in this user-friendly platform.

Mobile apps available for iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android and Blackberry enable you trade no matter where you are. The apps allow you to monitor your individual accounts and stay up to date on market news. You can place trades, get quotes, make transfers and view charts from a mobile device. Each app is customizable, and an information icon on the screen provides tips and instructions for using the app.

The research section on this online broker’s website provides up-to-date news and investment reports. It is conveniently divided by type of investments offered. Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and options each have their own research page, offering insight into what the markets are doing in that category. Popular screens on each page are grouped at the top of the webpage for easy access. It also offers tools to help you choose your investments and monitor them. The Find Investment section offers an investment screener to help you find investments based on your criteria. The Portfolio Builder is another tool to help you choose what to invest in if you are not sure where to start. Even though ShareBuilder has a good selection of educational tools, it lacks risk and volatility calculators to help you estimate risks associated with certain investments. It also does not offer webinars, seminars or live events like other services do.

ShareBuilder offers a FAQs section to answer both general and advanced trading questions, and it includes information on topics such as funding your account, real-time quotes, retirement and technical help. The information is very helpful, but we had a hard time finding the document itself on the ShareBuilder website. Additional assistance is available via live chat, email or phone during business hours. Customer support is not 24/7.

Summary

ShareBuilder offers a good selection of online stock trading services and offers competitive pricing options. The uncluttered trading platform is easy to use, and the mobile apps offer additional convenience. The research section is well organized and provides good insights on investment options. ShareBuilder is a good choice for online stock trading, especially if you are interested in scheduling automatic trades.

PROS / This service offers solid educational resources and customer support.

CONS / The platform doesn’t offer automated trading.

VERDICT / Charles Schwab has a well-established service with a well-deserved good reputation, but some of its fees are higher than its competitors.

sybe medicalIn addition to traditional banking, Charles Schwab offers a large number of investments for online stock trading. Its trading platform comes with a number of helpful tools and calculators to assist in your trading decisions. The website has solid educational articles and resources, and customer service is available 24/7 online as well as in-person help during normal business hours in a number of branches in 44 states.

With this online broker, you can trade stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs. Each trade for stocks and ETFs is a flat $8.95, which is slightly above the average among services we reviewed, but it is cheaper than some. The cost for option trading is $8.95 for commission plus $0.75 per contract, which is also just slightly higher than average. If you would like assistance when completing a trade, there is a $25 broker-assisted fee on top of the commission and contract fees. A broker-assisted fee is standard in the industry, but $25 is more than many services charge. In general, this stock broker charges slightly higher fees than other services. You also must have $1,000 to open an account, while many services do not require anything in advance to open an account.

The Charles Schwab trading platform includes all of the tools you would expect for this type of software. There is a customizable desktop with alerts, level I quotes, level II quotes, option chains, screeners, watch lists, charts and graphs. There are also risk and volatility calculators to help you estimate your risk and potential earnings or losses on specific securities. This platform does not allow for automated trading.

This online investing site offers apps for some of the most popular mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle Fire. From these mobile devices, you can view quotes and read market news, trade orders and view their status, and keep an eye on your watch lists and option chains.

For customer support, Schwab has around 300 offices nationwide in 44 states where you can go for face-to-face assistance and attend live educational events, or you can contact a representative 24/7 by phone, live chat or email. You can also take advantage of online webinars, view video tutorials and search the large database of financial articles.

Summary

Charles Schwab provides a variety of investments suitable for traders and investors. Trade commissions are competitive, albeit higher than some services, including the broker-assisted fee. The online platform contains good trading tools, and you can access your account and place trades from the most popular mobile devices. Charles Schwab has a well-established and trusted name, and the service it provides is solid, but some of its fees make it a less-desirable service than the best online trading sites.

PROS / This service is one of the best values for active traders.

CONS / SogoTrade offers fewer investment options than other services we reviewed.

VERDICT / The service and its platform has its limitations, so it may also be of lesser value to more experienced and serious traders, even with its low fees.

sybe medicalSogoTrade offers many different trading platforms. The most basic is the online platform, which is a simple, single screen for ordering trades. SogoTrader is a basic platform if you simply wish to trade stocks. If you are looking to trade stocks, options and ETFs and have a comprehensive platform with useful tools, SogoOptions is one of the best choices. It includes streaming quotes, option chains and reports for analytics. While some of SogoTrade’s fees are higher than with other online stock trading services we reviewed, it has some of the lowest trading fees, especially if you are an active trader.

With SogoTrade, there is no minimum amount for trades, so you can order a single trade and only pay the set trade fee. The fee for stock trades is $5, unless you order more than 150 trades in one quarter, in which case the $5 drops to $3, making it the cheapest for stock trades of any service on our online brokerage comparison. Options are the $5 base rate plus a $0.50 per-contract fee, which is also one of the lowest we’ve seen. The $15 fee for options exercises and assignments, however, is two or three times higher than what the best online brokerage firms charge. The $25 broker-assisted fee, while not the lowest, is fairly standard.

While the platform’s main focus is options, it is just as useful for trading stocks and ETFs as well. The desktop application is customizable and comes with a number of tools to monitor your watch lists, option chains and positions. The real-time ticker displays popular stocks, and you can use analytic charts, graphs and calculators to research stocks and help you decide when and what to trade. While this service offers the most popular choices for trading, it does not include trading for forex, futures or international stocks, and it lacks other investment options, such as mutual funds and bonds.

Mobile trading is also limited, as you can trade stocks and ETFs but not options. This is because there are no mobile apps, but the online trading platform is optimized for mobile browsers. While its trading choices are limited, you can still monitor orders and positions, perform research, and keep track of your watch lists.

SogoTrade’s help and support is typical, with customer service by email, telephone and live chat available during normal business hours. The website provides some good resources for education, including the basics of trading, choosing a stock and margin accounts. There is also a FAQs page for the service and a glossary full of useful trading and market terms.

Summary

SogoTrade has some of the best prices for trading of any online broker we reviewed, especially when you order more than 150 trades in a single quarter. There are a few different platforms to choose from, including SogoOptions, which gives you a more comprehensive platform. However, mobile trading is limited. There are fewer investment choices than many other services offer. While the service costs less than many, it is not the best choices for serious investors.

PROS / The flat rate for trades, exercises and assignments is one of the lowest of services we reviewed.

CONS / There are fewer tools to help you estimate the performance of a stock.

VERDICT / While this service has reasonable fees and a decent platform, little makes it stand out among its competition.

sybe medicalMerrill Lynch is an online discount broker that offers trades of popular investments through its trading platform Merrill Edge. It offers trades of stocks, options, ETFs and bonds at prices that are lower than many of its competitors. The platform is more advanced than some others, which makes it a good choice for more experienced traders. It is a pretty standard service compared to some of the best online brokers, but its long history of good business practices means that Merrill Lynch is a solid service despite lacking some of the fancier features of other online stock trading services.

This online stock broker sets a flat rate for all trades. Stock trades are $6.95 and option trades are also $6.95 plus the standard per-contract fee, which at $0.75 is average for the services on our brokerage comparison. The flat fee further applies to an option exercise or assignment. The fee for a broker-assisted trade is $29.95, which is a little above average. The rate for margin accounts is typical, although for the lowest rate of 4.5%, you must have a balance of over 10 million dollars, which is higher than many services’ top-tier balance.

Within the platform, Merrill Edge clients have access to the stock market and to helpful resources that can inform transactions. A screener filters stocks according to your criteria. You can customize charts to demonstrate the performance of stock that you hold in comparison with published indices. A comparison tool shows stocks according to earnings and growth, performance, and fundamentals. Despite these useful tools, this service does not have some helpful resources, including profit-versus-loss estimation or volatility reports.

If you wish to trade when you are away from your computer, you can access your online account on your smart phone. The website is optimized for mobile browsers, and there are apps available for the iPhone, iPad and Android phones. You can trade investments, research stocks, create watch lists and set alerts. If you have the mobile apps, you also are able to take advantage of remote check depositing by simply taking a picture of the check with your phone.

The website provides a good deal of resources for researching stocks, learning about investments and planning for your future. Webinars cover topics concerning the market and events that affect it. There are also financial tools to help you calculate if you’ll be ready for retirement, track your spending and estimate your net worth. For assistance with the platform or trading, you can contact customer service through live chat, on the telephone and by email.

Summary

This online stock trading service has lower-than-average prices and one of the best online trading platform with standard features, which means that it is a good choice, but there are better choices. However, it is also a well-established broker, which may make it more attractive than newer businesses.

PROS / E-Trade offers three different trading platforms to meet the needs of both average and advanced traders.

CONS / E-Trade’s pricing is among the most expensive.

VERDICT / Although it’s more expensive than many other services, E-Trade offers forex and futures trading as well as a variety of educational resources, making it a solid choice.

sybe medicalEditor’s note: A newer version of this product is available. We will evaluate, rank and review the new version of this product when we next update the Online Stock Trading reviews.

E-Trade is geared toward meeting both simple and advanced online stock trading needs. It offers a full range of investment options, including forex and futures. If you choose to explore forex and trading options, be aware that they involve more advanced trading and more risk than other investments. Online trading for stocks, options and exchange-traded funds all start at $9.99, which is more expensive than most of the other services we reviewed. However, if you make more than 150 trades per quarter, this prices drops to $7.99. Broker-assisted trades cost $25. To open an account, a minimum deposit of $500 is required.

Three online trading platforms are available: E-Trade 360, E-Trade PRO and mobile platforms. The E-Trade 360 platform is easy to use and customizable. It uses charts and graphs to display your account’s progress and current activity. You can choose which windows you want to view based on what data is most important to you. Choices include streaming market data and watch lists to help you track important stocks.

The advanced E-Trade Pro platform is designed for active online stock traders who place 30 or more trades per month. It has additional features, such as in-depth trading and analysis tools, streaming market data and live CNBC, as well as a number of charts and extended trading hours.

Mobile trading is available on iPhone, Android devices, tablets and the Windows phone. The Android and iPhone apps have the most complete set of features, including CNBC on demand and real-time alerts. The tablet and Windows phone apps do not have the same level of features, but they do allow you to make trades and manage your accounts.

The website provides thorough educational resources on stock trading online, including a retirement planning toolkit to help you plan investment strategies for your future. A key feature of the education center is the recorded webinars that cover a range of topics, such as choosing the right retirement account and how diversifying your portfolio can benefit you. In addition to the webinars, the company provides investment guides, online investment courses, articles and live events at E-Trade locations.

Customer service is readily available via email, phone, live chat or in person at one of E-Trade’s locations. If you have general questions, you can use the live chat feature. If you have account-specific questions, it will be best to call a representative. They are available 24 hours a day Monday through Friday. E-Trade also has a FAQs section and a glossary on its website.

Summary

E-Trade is a full-service online stock broker that offers different trading platforms to meet both basic and advanced trading needs. The E-Trade 360 platform is a good option for an average investor and the E-Trade Pro platform provides advanced tools for active traders. No matter what type of online trading you do, you can access your accounts on the go with the mobile platforms. The website has an exceptional offering of education resources to help you further explore your investment options. Overall, E-Trade is a good, though somewhat expensive, choice in an online stock trading service.

PROS / This service does not require a minimum investment amount to open an account.

CONS / Its fees are some of the highest for online discount brokers.

VERDICT / While this service charges more than many other services, it offers an impressive platform with its trusted name and reputation.

sybe medicalTD Ameritrade is a popular and well-established name in online stock brokers. It offers the most popular investment options and trades; however, trades with this service have a larger price tag than those of many other online stock trading services.

TD Ameritrade’s list of investments includes stocks, options, bonds, mutual funds and CDs. Stock trading is a flat $9.99, and options are $9.99 for commission plus $0.75 per contract. This works out to $17.49 for 10 contracts. This is on the higher end of the services we reviewed, as is the fee for an option exercise or assignment at $19.99. One fee that is significantly higher than the other services we reviewed is the broker-assisted trade fee, which is $44.99 for a trade plus the additional $0.75 per options contract. A bonus is that this service does not require a minimum deposit to open an account.

The thinkorswim platform is one of the most well organized we saw. It includes a customizable dock, which is always visible and provides the tools and information to spot market opportunities and implement stock trading strategies. The command center screen brings all of your important information together in one place. Furthermore, you can browse the web and do other tasks while monitoring your stocks. The service is easy to browse with well-labeled tabs across the top of each page, and help is always just a click away. There are mobile apps available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices from which you can view your account and streaming quotes, and you can trade or monitor securities.

This service also provides educational materials, including articles and seminars. The included planning tools and calculators help you prepare for life’s stages, including higher education and retirement. There is also helpful information on the website through online documentation and FAQs. For further assistance, you can contact customer support by phone, email and live chat.

Summary

TD Ameritrade offers a good collection of stock opportunities, and this online discount broker has an easy-to-use platform as well as access to research and charting tools. Clients have access to educational resources, such as seminars, videos and courses. You can access your account and trade stocks online using a web interface or popular mobile devices. This is a good service for an online stock broker, but it does have higher fees and fewer tools than other services.

PROS / Scottrade has a fully equipped knowledge center to help you make your trading decisions.

CONS / The broker-assisted trade fee is on the high end of sites we reviewed.

VERDICT / Scottrade has a great knowledge center and offers four platform options to meet the needs of all levels of traders.

sybe medicalScottrade is a well-designed online stock broker that can meet the needs of both novice and advanced traders. It has straightforward pricing and does not charge extra fees for account maintenance or inactivity.

Scottrade’s online trade fee is $7. The broker-assisted trade fee is $32, which is one of the higher fees among the sites we reviewed. Scottrade offers a wide variety of investing options, including IRAs, mutual funds, exchange traded funds, stocks, bonds and international investing. Opening an account with Scottrade requires an initial deposit of $500. Extra services, such as Dow Jones Real-Time News and cost-basis reporting, are available to you at no additional cost.

There are four different online trading platforms: Scottrade, Scottrader, Scottrade Elite and OptionsFirst. Scottrade is designed for the average online user and provides basic stats and good account monitoring tools. Scottrader is stepped up a bit, with live streaming stock quotes, personal stock lists and free Dow Jones news. This platform is fully customizable. Scottrade Elite is the most advanced platform and is designed for active traders. Its features include Dow Jones and Comtex news, top-performer scanners, charting ability and access to Level II quotes. OptionsFirst is specifically for option trading. It lets you access advanced option trading tools, like risk assessment, market watch, hot lists and option chains. Scottrade does a good job at providing trading tools for beginners and advanced traders.

The trading platforms are easy to use and customizable. To make the platforms fit your needs, you are able to create up to three home pages for viewing your account and trading information. You can select which windows you want to view – including quick quotes and a portfolio manager – and have up to 23 tables displayed on a page at one time. The drag-and-drop functionality makes organizing your viewing windows quick and easy.

The Scottrade website has a knowledge center with tutorials to help you learn the best way to use the company’s online trading tools. There are also investment-planning calculators and videos that provide interactive resources for helping you make informed trade decisions. This online discount broker hosts educational events both in person and online. These in-person events and live webinars are free to Scottrade users. If you have questions or need additional assistance with your account, Scottrade’s customer service is available over the phone, by email, via live online chat, through social media or in person at your local branch.

Summary

Scottrade offers a range of online investing options with low fees and commissions. However, the broker-assisted fee is high compared to other online stock trading sites. Pricing is straightforward, and you are not charged extra for maintenance or inactivity. The knowledge center is a good resource for both novice and advanced traders with its mix of live events and interactive tools. The trading platform lets you customize which tables are displayed and how they are arranged. If you need additional assistance with your online trading, Scottrade’s customer service representatives can be accessed in person, over the phone or online.

PROS / This service offers a large array of educational resources for financial and retirement planning.

CONS / You must provide a minimum deposit of $2,500 to open an account.

VERDICT / This online broker is well established and is a good choice for in-person guidance with branches in most states.

sybe medicalFidelity is a familiar and well-established name in the online stock trading industry. It offers trades with competitive fees, a customizable and intuitive trading platform, and unmatched educational resources. It also has local branches in the majority of states, providing an opportunity for in-person advice and investment counseling. It does fall short of the best online stock trading sites in other areas, such as the required $2,500 minimum investment to open an account, and its platform has fewer tools to assist in your trading decisions.

Stocks trades with Fidelity are a flat $7.95, which is lower than what many other online stock brokers charge but higher than others. Options have a $7.95 base rate plus $0.75 per contract. This works out to $15.45 for 10 contracts, which is higher than the average of services we reviewed. If you need assistance when completing a trade, the fee for broker-assisted trades is $32.95, which is among the highest of the services we reviewed. The margin rate is average, ranging from 3.75% up to 8.575%. As mentioned above, you must have a minimum balance of $2,500 to open an account, which is high in the industry, and many services do not require a minimum at all.

Fidelity offers a solid choice in investments, including stocks, international stocks, options and mutual funds. It does not offer futures or forex trades. It also offers fixed-income options, such as bonds, mortgage-backed securities and CDs. You can choose from a number of IRAs as well, and the website provides much information and guidance on planning for retirement.

The Fidelity online investing platform is customizable with charts, graphs and streaming quotes. You can create watch lists and option chains and set up alerts and automated trading. You can use the probability calculator and the profit and loss calculator to help you decide on a particular investment. However, there are no calculators to estimate risk or illustrate volatility.

If you want to make trades on the go, there are mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone. The apps allow you access to your online broker to make trades, receive live quotes and view real-time market information.

This is an excellent service for educational material in addition to retirement planning. Fidelity offers breaking news stories, analyst research reports, articles and information on taxes. For in-depth information, you can attend live online workshops, attend seminars or speak to an advisor face-to-face at one of the many investment centers. There is also a variety of online help and support features, including virtual tours, documentation and a FAQs page. You can contact customer service by email, phone or instant messaging.

Summary

Fidelity offers competitive commission fees and margin rates plus a wide range of investments. If you are an active trader, Fidelity gives you dedicated support and advanced tools. If you want to research a particular strategy, Fidelity provides its account holders with 20 sources of independent research. Customer support is available around the clock via online chat, secure message or telephone.