Top 8 Stock Brokers in the US
What Is a Stock Broker?
In simple terms, a stockbroker buys and sells shares and securities on behalf of clients as a profession.
They are otherwise known as investment brokers, registered representatives, or wealth managers.
Most stockbrokers work for independent brokerage firms and will have a portfolio of clients they trade on behalf of.
Stockbrokers typically work in one of three ways:
Discretionary – Where they take full management to make investment decisions on behalf of a client.
Advisory – Where they offer guidance and suggestions on transactions but only act when authorized to do so by the client.
Execution-only – Where they only action investments at the instruction of a client without giving any advice.
What Are the Different Types of Stock Brokers?
The number of US brokerage firms and online trading platforms has grown dramatically in the past few years.
A Licensed Financial Broker-Dealer Firm
Also referred to as a full-service broker, this type of broker offers a wide range of services to clients, from market analysis and forecasting to advice, wealth management, tax advice and much more.
A discount broker takes a far less involved approach.
They buy and sell securities, but they do not take an advisory role, which is why they typically charge far lower fees.
Online Stock Brokers
An online stock broker acts as an intermediary between a buyer and seller of stocks, shares, and other financial instruments.
They transact entirely online in place of a human broker.
How Do Stock Brokers Make Money?
Remember, earning potential is directly related to performance and how good a stockbroker is at building a reputable portfolio.
New stockbrokers, for example, tend to earn an annual salary as they build up their client base.
Once established, they work on a commission basis.
Are US Stock Brokers Regulated?
US brokers are regulated under the Securities Exchange Act 1934 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
SEC acts independently of the US government to enforce securities laws and covers the US stock exchanges, options markets and electronic exchanges.
To give an idea of its scale, it has six divisions and 24 offices.
Things to Consider Before You Choose a US Stock Broker
Before exploring the top stockbrokers in the US or the best trading account in the USA, here are a few tips to help you choose:
Know What You Need
Every stockbroker works differently.
Do you want your stockbroker to work for you on a discretionary or advisory basis?
How much and what are you looking to trade?
Are you after an independent broker or an online trading broker?
Once you have established how you want the trading relationship to work, it is far easier to make your selection.
Listen to Other Investors
Do your research: the best advice is to ask for recommendations from other investors.
A good way to gain the views of more than just one investor is to join a forum.
Many of the top stockbrokers in the US facilitate community boards.
Check They Are Regulated
It does not take much time to check the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) register.
Just remember to check their trading name, which may well be different from the name of their website.
Be Aware Of the Trading Fees
Some stockbrokers make their money by commission alone, others by a set fee, and some by a combination of the two.
It can be complex; therefore, ensure you are aware of the fee structure.
Carefully consider whether you want to engage on a flat-fee or percentage-fee basis.
Some brokers make a charge per transaction, which can quickly add up, and you may even be charged for inactivity.
This is commonplace with many of the best online brokers in the USA.
Make Sure the Tradable Assets Work for You
There is quite a range of assets that can be traded aside from stocks and shares, foreign exchange currencies Forex and cryptocurrencies being two.
If you are interested in exploring new commodities, choose a stockbroker who is keen to broker new markets and has a good track record of doing so.
Know What Trading Platform Will Work Best For You
Is it just to transact, or do you need a platform that will help you develop your trading skills and knowledge with analytics and market analysis?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of different trading platforms out there.
Some online trading platforms will offer full access to their systems in exchange for managing your investment.
Our best advice is to explore the platform and ask for a free trial.
Does It Have Social Copy Trading?
Depending on how and what you wish to trade, you may consider choosing a platform that enables social copy trading.
Many of the top stockbrokers in the US offer this.
Essentially, this is where you use technology to copy real-time forex trades of other investors that you can see are performing well.
How Good Are the Analytical Tools?
The best online brokers in the US are top of their game for a good reason.
They provide those wanting to trade through their platform a wide range of analytical tools.
Usually, they include market analysis software, performance tracking, real-time insights on trade performance and even simulation software to test how a trade could perform in market conditions.
Before you sign-up to access more advanced features, read the reviews left by other investors, check out forum boards and ask to have a demo.
How Valuable Are the Educational Resources?
By far, most top stockbrokers in the US want those trading through their online platform to do well.
After all, the success of their members translates into higher financial and reputational rewards.
They often invest heavily in educational resources, therefore.
Look for an online platform that provides several resources such as podcasts, tutorials, and papers free to access.
You will be surprised how much you will learn.
What Is Their Customer Service Like?
Look for those that offer 24/7 support, whether through a designated chat facility or by telephone.
Take the time to read other investor’s reviews and testimonials, and if you are using an online stockbroker, visit review sites such as Feefo for impartial feedback.
After all, consistency of care is crucial.
The 8 Best Stock Brokers in the US
Now that the role of the stockbroker has been explored, here is a quick overview of the top stockbrokers in the US.
This list, while not exhaustive, will give you a good level of insight into what you can expect.
It is no replacement for doing your research, however. After all, businesses change all the time, and stockbrokers are not immune to this.
Best for: Retirement investors and active traders looking for low fees
Account minimum: $0
Withdrawal fees: None
Tradable assets: Stocks, fractional shares, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, Options
Available trading platforms: Fidelity.com and Active Trader Pro
Fidelity is one of the top stockbrokers in the US and is best known for its commission-free stock, ETF, and option trades, and is popular with established traders and retirement investors.
Members can access over 3,400 no-transaction-fees mutual funds.
This means that investors can build an almost free retirement portfolio with zero-expense-ratio funds or through low ratio Fidelity index funds.
Likewise, Fidelity is also popular with experienced individual investors, as it offers access to a wide range of funds with low or no minimum.
Best for: International trading
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 if using IKBR Lite
Tradable assets: Wide range, including stocks, futures, bonds and options
Available trading platforms: Interactivebrokers.com (client portal), Trader Workstation, IBKR Mobile and APIs
Established investors around the globe use Interactive Brokers.
Its main attraction is its vast selection of tradable assets in 125 markets in 31 countries and 22 currencies.
For many years, Interactive Brokers has offered fractional share trading and has one of the smartest order platforms in the industry.
This makes it easier to stay on top of changing market conditions in multiple territories.
Moreover, as a top stocker broker in the US, it constantly invests in new educational resources to make the platform accessible to less experienced investors.
Best for: Investors and experienced traders
Account minimum: $0 (for US clients only)
Fees: Low trading fees (US Stock – Free stock and ETF trading), yet high fund fees
Tradable assets: Free stock and ETF, forex, bond and options
Available trading platforms: thinkorswim (Desktop and Web) and Mobile trading
TD Ameritrade is popular with experienced investors because its fees are low, and its thinkorswim software is one of the most intuitive in the industry.
However, it is only available to US clients (and a small number of territories) and it is only possible to trade on US markets.
On the plus side, though, it has one of the best educational communities, making it the go-to platform for stockbrokers to sharpen their knowledge.
It also gives its traders access to a wide variety of online trading and investment choices on the US markets with order routing that constantly seeks price improvement.
4. Zacks Trade
Best for: Self-directed traders
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Low fees (margin rates start at 3.56%)
Tradable assets: Extensive stock and ETF selection
Available trading platforms: Zacks Trade Pro and Zacks Trader
Self-directed, experienced traders use Zacks Trade to trade on over 91 exchanges in 19 countries on a wide range of assets.
Overseen by top-tier regulators, Zacks Trade has the reputation you would expect from a top stockbroker in the US.
It is not the best platform for beginners, however.
Given the complexity of its platforms and app, it is better suited to experienced traders who find advanced analytics beneficial.
Best for: Beginners, active traders, and options trading
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Regular stock and ETF trades are $0, option trades run $0 + $.65 per contract. Pre and post-market hours, an ECN fee of $.005 per share is added to the regular commission rate (a fee competitors do not charge)
Tradable assets: Stocks, options, mutual funds, ETFs, futures, bonds and CDs, prebuilt portfolios
Available trading platforms: Two apps and Power E*TRADE platform
As one of the most popular top stockbrokers in the US for beginners, the E*TRADE platform is user-friendly.
The platform has won multiple awards, including the 2021 Best Web-Based Platform on stockbrokers.com.
For new investors, there is no better place to learn how to trade options.
There is even an inbuilt risk/reward visual (complete with smiley emojis) that provides a snapshot of the health of a trade.
Best for: Wide range of investors, from active traders to self-directed investors
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Free stock, ETF trading, $0.65 per options contract
Tradable assets: Mutual funds, ETFs, money market, stocks, bonds, options
Available trading platforms: StreetSmart Edge
Charles Schwab is rated as one of the best brokers in the USA for ETFs and ETF screeners.
As such, it is a firm favorite with traders looking for a high level of customization.
The platform boasts 150+ screening criteria, including asset class, fund performance, and regional exposure.
Schwab’s trading experience is built around the concept of an all-in-one trade ticket, which works on various platforms, making it easy to switch between different software packages.
Best for: Self-directed traders or those looking for a robo-advisory service
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Zero commission on stocks and ETFs
Tradable assets: stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies (self-directed). Full range of assets when using automated investing
Available trading platforms: SoFi Invest
Short for ‘Social Finance’, SoFi, is a US-based fintech celebrating its tenth year in business.
Initially, it started life as a student loan refinancing company before becoming a broker in 2018.
Although new to the market, it packs a punch in terms of its technology. It is very easy to open an account and start trading.
It is currently only available to US clients.
You have the option of either trading without advice or using the automated service where SoFi builds and manages a portfolio based on algorithmic learning.
8. Merrill Edge
Best for: Active traders and research-focused traders
Account minimum: $0
Fees: Zero commissions on all stock, ETF, and options trades (although a $0.65 per options contract is applicable)
Tradable assets: US stocks, ETFs, options and bonds
Available trading platforms: Merrill Edge and Merrill Guided Investing
As one of the best online brokers in the US, Merrill Edge offers three main investing accounts: self-directed, guided investment and advisor driven.
There are three trading platforms, including Merrill Edge Market Pro, Merrill Edge web and the mobile app.
All are incredibly intuitive and offer investment insights and third-party analysis from Moody’s and CFRA.
If you are a Bank of America customer, you can even integrate your bank account with your Merrill Edge account.
Best of all, as a client, you benefit from access to investment specialists 24/7 from over 3,500 Financial Solutions Advisors.
As you can see, there is quite a lot to think about when choosing between the top stockbrokers in the US. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Before you make your final choice, spend time exploring each platform's demo videos and having a chat with their sales teams.
That way, you will get a good feel for what best suits you.
WikiJob does not provide tax, investment or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.