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If you’ve never traded stocks before, you might imagine trading to be like the old cliché: dozens of brokers in suits yelling at clients over the phone. It may be difficult to picture yourself in the chaos, especially if you’re a beginner.
Online stock trading removes you from the scene. You don’t have to deal with phone calls, broken promises and mayhem. Instead you can trade from the comfort of your own home or on-the-go.
Like many other industries, brokerages anticipated the need for great online experiences and delivered. Firms created desktop platforms and mobile experiences with built-in trading tools, education, and analytics at your fingertips. Compare the top online brokerages to find your platform today.
Online Brokerage Comparison Table
This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.
- Novice investors
- Retirement savers
- Day traders
- World-class trading platforms
- Detailed research reports and Education Center
- Assets ranging from stocks and ETFs to derivatives like futures and options
- Thinkorswim can be overwhelming to inexperienced traders
- Derivatives trading more costly than some competitors
- Expensive margin rates
TradeStation is for advanced traders who need a comprehensive platform. The brokerage offers an impressive range of investable assets as frequent and professional traders appreciate its wide range of analysis tools. TradeStation’s app is also equally effective, offering full platform capabilities.
- Advanced traders
- Options and futures traders
- Active stock traders
- Comprehensive trading platform and professional-grade tools
- Wide range of tradable securities
- Fully-operational mobile app
- Confusing pricing structure to leave new traders with a weak understanding of what they pay
- Cluttered layout to make navigating TradeStation’s platform more difficult than it should be
Cobra Trading is a direct access broker focused on access to short opportunities and order execution. Cobra has multiple short locate sources, giving traders access to the best short opportunities in the market. Cobra Trading also specializes in offering comprehensive, responsive customer service throughout the trading day. We recommend Cobra Trading to high-volume traders and short sellers.
- Short Sellers
- Day Traders and Scalpers
- Traders who are tired of using a “Big Broker”
- Affordable commissions
- The DAS Platform
- Excellent customer service
- No trading under 25K
- Not a self-clearing firm
Moomoo is a commission-free mobile trading app available on Apple, Google and Windows devices. A subsidiary of Futu Holdings Ltd., it’s backed by venture capital affiliates of Matrix, Sequoia, and Tencent (NASDAQ: FUTU). Securities offered by Futu Inc., regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Moomoo is another great alternative for Robinhood. This is an outstanding trading platform if you want to dive deep into smart trading. It offers impressive trading tools and opportunities for both new and advanced traders, including advanced charting, pre and post-market trading, international trading, research and analysis tools, and most popular of all, free Level 2 quotes.
Get started right away by downloading Moomoo to your phone, tablet or another mobile device.
- Cost-conscious traders
- Active and Advanced traders
- Over 8,000 different stocks that can be sold short
- Access trading and quotes in pre-market (4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET) and post-market hours (4 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET)
- No minimum deposit to open an account.
- No chat support
This latest groundbreaking technology is IBKR GlobalAnalyst, a new trading tool that helps investors compare the rate of PEG or price-earnings growth valuations and provide more immediate and comprehensive financial metrics of stocks, globally.
Recognizing that stock selection can be challenging for investors to compare the valuations of domestic and international stocks, Interactive Brokers created GlobalAnalyst to offer investors a simple, yet powerful tool to easily evaluate investment opportunities around the world.
Using GlobalAnalyst, investors can search for stocks by region, country, industry, market capitalization and currency to uncover undervalued stocks worldwide. The resulting table displays the current market and financial metrics, including the PEG Ratio. The PEG Ratio is the PE ratio divided by the three-year compound earnings growth rate, and smaller PEG Ratios typically indicate undervalued companies.
- Price earnings growth valuations
- Easily evaluate investment opportunities
It seems like new digital investment management platforms are sprouting up left and right, and for good reason — there’s a great need for easy, straightforward investment management that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in fees or to get started. If you’re new to investing or an old hat who wants to make the switch to a virtual manager, deciding which features you need can be confusing if not overwhelming.
If you want a no-frills financial management platform, Axos Invest (formerly WiseBanyan) takes a traditional but sophisticated approach to automated online investing.
- Traditional investors trying out an automated investor for the first time
- New investors that want to take a hands-off approach to portfolio management
- Straightforward automated investing
- Relatively low account minimum and automated investing fee
- A solid roster of available investment account types
- Not a stand-out from other services if you’re someone who likes all the bells and whistles with your digital financial platform
- No direct relationship with a human financial advisor
NinjaTrader is a powerful derivatives trading platform specializing in futures, forex and options. The platform has a number of unique trading tools. A free version does exist without the extra goodies provided by Trader + and OrderFlow + but users can still break down charts, backtest strategies and trade without upfront payment. NinjaTrader hosts its own brokerage services but users have their choice of several different brokerage options. Accounts have minimums depending on the securities traded and commissions vary depending on the version of the platform. Advanced derivatives traders will have endless fun with the platform’s mighty array of tools and analyzers.
The free version, which is included with all brokerage accounts is a great starting platform for new traders without the financial commitment. As you grow in your trading and are ready for more tools and functionality, you can add more complexity.
- Futures Traders
- Traders looking for 24/7 action
- Advanced Traders
- Powerful analysis tools
- Free download and simulated trading
- Open source trading apps to enhance experience
- Can only trade derivatives like futures and options
eToro is a broker that offers access to over 25 of the world’s most popular cryptocurrencies and 1600 stocks. They have a few unique education and useability tools. Traders can begin buying and selling in as little as 10 minutes.
eToro’s unique CopyTrader feature allows new investors to “copy” the buy orders of professional investors, while the company’s eToro Club feature provides investors with a range of additional education tools and resources.
- Traders looking for an easy-to-use platform
- Traders who want to practice their trades using a virtual account before entering the market
- Simple platform that is easy to master
- CopyTrader feature that allows new traders to copy the same strategies used by professionals
- Virtual dummy account that gives you $100,000 to practice trades
- High non-trading fees
Robinhood is a broker designed for traders who want a simple and easy-to-use platform. It takes out all the bells and whistles that can be confusing to the modern day trader, serving as the perfect place for beginners to learn the markets. The interface is intuitive and easy to master, streamlined to ensure you don’t get distracted as you build a portfolio. Though advanced traders might like more thorough analysis tools, Robinhood gives you everything you need to start trading and learn the ropes.
- Beginner traders
- Mobile traders
- Streamlined, easy-to-understand interface
- Mobile app with full capabilities
- Can buy and sell cryptocurrency
- Fewer analysis tools than most
- Only taxable, non-retirement accounts are available
FOREX.com is a one-stop shop for forex traders. With a massive range of tradable currencies, low account minimums and an impressive trading platform, FOREX.com is an excellent choice for brokers searching for a home base for their currency trading. New traders and seasoned veterans alike will love FOREX.com’s extensive education and research center that provides free, informative forex trading courses at multiple skill levels. While FOREX.com is impressive, remember that it isn’t a standard broker.
- MetaTrader 4 users
- Beginner forex traders
- Active forex traders
- Impressive, easy-to-navigate platform
- Wide range of education and research tools
- Access to over 80 currencies to buy and sell
- Leverage available up to 50:1
- Cannot buy and sell other securities (like stocks and bonds)
Tradovate is an innovative futures broker offering a tiered pricing structure and a comprehensive proprietary trading platform you can access with additional fees. Tradovate offers a community tab that allows you to connect with other traders and exchange trading ideas. New users can test out Tradovate’s platform with a demo account and free trial, which allows new investors to master the learning curve before opening an account. Though the platform might be too complicated for traders who prefer a simplified experience, it can be a strong choice for more experienced users.
- Experienced and intermediate futures investors
- High-volume traders
- Mobile traders
- Free trading platform packed with unique features
- Community tab allows users to connect with other traders
- Tiered pricing structure
- Easy to use out of the box for experienced futures traders
- Currently only supports futures trading
- Platform can be overwhelming for new traders
IG is a comprehensive forex broker that offers full access to the currency market and support for over 80 currency pairs. The broker only offers forex trading to its U.S.-based customers, the brokerage does it spectacularly well. Novice traders will love IG’s intuitive mobile and desktop platforms, while advanced traders will revel in the platform’s selection of indicators and charting tools. Though IG could work on its customer service and fees, the broker is an asset to new forex traders and those who prefer a more streamlined interface.
- New forex traders who are still learning the ropes
- Traders who prefer a simple, clean interface
- Forex traders who trade primarily on a tablet
- Easy-to-navigate platform is easy for beginners to master
- Mobile and tablet platforms offer full functionality of the desktop version
- Margin rates are easy to understand and affordable
- Access to over 80 currency pairs
- U.S. traders can currently only trade forex
- Customer service options are lacking
- No 2-factor authentication on mobile
Webull, founded in 2017, is a mobile app-based brokerage that features commission-free stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trading. It’s regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Webull offers active traders technical indicators, economic calendars, ratings from research agencies, margin trading and short-selling. Webull’s trading platform is designed for intermediate and experienced traders, although beginning traders can also benefit.
Webull is widely considered one of the best Robinhood alternatives.
- Active traders
- Intermediate traders
- Advanced traders
- No account maintenance fees or software platform fees
- No charges to open and maintain an account
- Intuitive trading platform with technical and fundamental analysis tools
- Does not support trading in mutual funds, bonds or OTC stocks
Plus500 is a European derivatives broker focusing on contracts for difference (CFDs). CFDs are similar to binary options in the U.S. where traders take all-or-nothing speculation on the prices of certain securities like indices, commodities or currencies. While not legal to trade in the U.S., CFDs are legal in many jurisdictions across the globe and Plus500 offers a wide array of tradable markets using these instruments.
Plus500 doesn’t charge commission and only profits off the spread, which is the difference between the buy and sell price of a specific security. But Plus500 is not a broker for beginners — the education materials are sparse and CFDs are risky derivatives capable of sapping out all of an investor’s capital. Only trade these instruments if you understand how they operate and the risks involved with buying them.
- Traders looking for a smooth mobile experience
- Great mobile app
- Low spreads and commissions
- Unlimited demo account
- Only derivatives are available
- Not open to U.S. residents
What is Online Stock Trading?
With online stock trading, you’re able to buy and sell securities over an online platform. It takes the place of the traditional method of making phone calls. There are 3 types of brokerages.
The 1st is a full-service brokerage, which provides comprehensive services, tips, and education. A beginner may want to choose this. The 2nd is a discount brokerage. They provide their services for a lower fee but do not provide advice or research. At times, there are hybrids that might tickle your fancy. eToro offers crypto, stocks and ETFs, zero commissions and a multitude of information. In short, you don’t need to settle for a broker that offers low fees and no information when, clearly, there are better alternatives.
The last is robo advisors. Robo advisors collect client information and make trades based on algorithms. They’re usually inexpensive but will lack the personalized service of other brokers. These brokerages provide services on the web and mobile applications.
Online Broker Reviews
Why Should I Trade Stocks Online?
Whether you’re just starting to trade or thinking of making the switch to an online brokerage, there are a few things you should know.
- Online platforms normally have lower fees than brick-and-mortar brokerages. This is because operating online-only saves the brokerage both time and money. This savings is passed to onto the trader through low or no fees of commissions.
- Access to the latest trading news and trends. So, you won’t have to pay for another news subscription service. Education can come in the form of live news alerts, weekly news roundups, and more intensive trading guides. Brokerage firms also integrate this information into their platforms, providing a seamless trading experience.
- Because all of the trades happen online, they happen instantly instead of taking minutes. Over time, instant trades can make a huge impact on your portfolio, especially when trading volatile stocks.
But, if you have a great relationship with your current brokerage or are new to trading and want a more personal relationship with your broker, it may not be worth it to make the switch.
Who Trades Stocks Online?
Anyone from beginning traders to seasoned investors trades stocks online. With the recent improvements in online brokerage technology and lower fees, making the switch to online trading is easy. It can save money and time.
But online stock trading might not be right for everyone. While it’s true that you can make money trading online, you have to be willing to put in the work. It isn’t a get rich quick scheme; you have complete control of your success. If you’re not willing to put in the research, time, and money, you won’t see a return on your investments.
How to Start Trading Stocks Online
First, you’ll have to choose a brokerage. You’ll have to consider the following:
- If you want your account self-managed or managed by an advisor. If you’re confident in trading, a self-managed account is worth the savings. If not, you’ll want an advisor. You will pay more in fees, but it may pay off if you have a great advisor.
- What types of securities you’ll be trading. You can pick from stocks, mutual funds, options, forex, bonds, ETFs and futures. If you’re new to stock trading, know the risks and rewards associated with each type of security before you commit.
- Commissions and fees. How much are you willing to pay? Many online platforms will have low fees, but you’ll need to do the math before you start trading, especially if you can’t commit a lot of money to stock trading. Consider annual fees, discounts for balances, and fees per share.
- Think about account minimums. Some brokerages offer $0 minimums. Others may have higher account minimums, but more perks. If the brokerage does have account minimums, make sure to look into any penalties.
- How much market data will you need? Certain brokerages will offer platforms with market data fully integrated into their user experience. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced trader, this may be crucial to your success.
- What platform you see yourself trading on. At the minimum, brokerages offer access to a desktop platform. Most offer a mobile application. Some platforms are designed better than others, though. Watch out for reviews of clunky, slow, and hard-to-use platforms.
- Customer support. 24/7 live customer support is the gold standard. Look out for supports via email and live chat as well.
Once you choose a brokerage, you can usually sign up for an account online. You’ll need to collect a few things 1st:
- Social Security Number
- Taxpayer Identification Number
- Foreign tax ID, passport or visa number if you aren’t a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Proof of identity
- Your employer’s information
- Method of funding your account
Now you’re ready to go! You should be able to sign up through the brokerage’s online portal. Depending on the online brokerage, you may even be able to start trading on the same day.
Trade Stocks Online
Online stock trading makes investing accessible to the masses. Brokerages provide low-to-no fees, user-friendly online brokerage platforms, and educational content to make trading simple – even for the beginning investor. But you still have to work hard, do your research, spend money, and be willing to put in the time to see a return on your investments.