Once upon a time, a stock broker was the fashionably dressed, skyscraper-dwelling man (it was almost always a male) you called whenever you wanted to change the composition of your equity portfolio. He’d place your trades in accordance with your instructions, confirm once the transactions completed, and collect a hefty commission as his reward.
Well-compensated human stock brokers do continue to play a role in the American financial industry today, although they rarely take instructions for specific trades over the phone, and they work far more efficiently with the help of inordinately powerful financial software.
But the hardest-working stock brokers today aren’t human at all. They’re the digital platforms — online stock brokers — that have dramatically simplified, sped up, and reduced the cost of retail investing since the early days of the Internet.
Due to their low cost and simplicity, online stock brokers are the preferred portfolio management vehicles for individual investors without vast amounts of capital at their disposal. As with the human brokers they’ve supplanted, they’re not all alike, which makes choosing the right online broker for your investing strategy and goals all the more important.
This list features the top online brokers on the market today. Many offer both self-directed and managed investing options, while others focus on one or the other. Most cost significantly less than full-service wealth managers. Many charge no commissions on self-directed trades. All are worthy of your trust whether you’re a novice investor or a seasoned pro looking to give your money more room to grow.
Best Online Stock Brokers
These are among the best online stock brokers for U.S.-based retail investors. They include traditional online brokerages such as TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, hybrid money management apps like M1 Finance and Acorns, and newer entrants from popular online banks and lenders, such as Ally Invest and SoFi Invest.
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing is a low-cost online stock broker from massive global bank J.P. Morgan Chase Bank. Its self-directed and managed portfolio options make it a worthy choice for passive and active investors alike.
Like most major online stock brokers for DIYers, J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing promises commission-free stock and ETF trades with thousands of choices available. There’s a decent selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds here as well.
J.P Morgan’s passive investing offering, J.P. Morgan Automated Investing, resembles Wealthfront and Betterment, although its management fee is a bit higher at 0.35% AUM on all balances. Like its two major competitors, builds semi-customized, tax-optimized portfolios to cater to a range of risk tolerances and common long-term objectives.
- Plans and Pricing: J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing does not charge commissions on stock or ETF trades and offers many no-transaction-fee mutual funds. However, funds themselves generally charge management fees that J.P. Morgan can’t control. The J.P. Morgan Automated Investing advisory fee is 0.35% AUM on all balances.
- Account Opening Bonus: There’s presently no account opening bonus.
- Minimum Required to Invest: Deposit at least $1 to open a self-directed account or $500 to open an automated investing account.
Vanguard is a storied online stock broker with two distinct options: a brokerage that facilitates self-directed or advisor-assisted portfolio construction and an in-house advisory service (Vanguard Personal Advisor Services) that offers comprehensive financial planning and fully customized portfolios. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is extremely affordable for a full-service financial advisory shop, with advisory fees topping out at just 0.30% AUM — less than a third of the national average.
In both cases, investors enjoy access to the full universe of Vanguard’s low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds. Self-directed investors can also take advantage of the vast library of individual stocks held in Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds, along with CDs, bonds, options, and other securities. Low or nonexistent commissions and extremely low fund management fees make Vanguard one of the most affordable online stock brokers around.
- Plans and Pricing: Vanguard’s brokerage charges no commissions or transaction fees on ETF, stock, or mutual fund trades. Vanguard Personal Advisor charges a flat advisory fee ranging from 0.30% AUM for balances up to $5 million to 0.05% AUM for balances above $25 million. Funds held in either account typically carry management fees, although Vanguard’s are much lower on average than those of most other funds.
- Account Opening Bonus: None.
- Minimum Required to Invest: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services has a $50,000 account minimum.
3. Ally Invest
Ally Invest is a low-cost investing platform from Ally Bank, a digital banking pioneer. It blends an affordable self-directed option with a low-cost robo-advisory solution that’s free for clients willing to keep a portion of their portfolio in cash.
On the robo-advisory front, Ally Invest’s managed portfolio offering features a “cash enhanced” option that sets aside 30% of the account balance in a high-yield savings account. The objective is to reduce exposure to market volatility and increase the account’s appeal for risk-averse investors. More aggressive investors can opt into a traditional managed account that sets aside just 2% of the account balance in cash, on average. Both options include a range of portfolio options catering to various levels of risk tolerance and investment time horizons.
On the self-directed side, Ally Invest has a surprisingly robust trove of real-time market analysis and research tools for a basically commission-free brokerage. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the risky but potentially lucrative world of day trading, this isn’t a bad place to start.
- Plans and Pricing: Ally Invest’s self-directed platform waives commissions on stock, ETF, and options transactions, although options trades carry unavoidable contract fees. It also has lots of no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Ally Invest’s managed portfolios platform waives advisory fees on “cash enhanced” accounts, which invest only 70% of their balances, on average, into equities. Without the “cash enhanced” option, the managed portfolio advisory fee is 0.30% AUM on all balances.
- Account Opening Bonus: Open a new self-directed account with Ally Invest by December 31, 2020, and make a qualifying deposit of new money or assets to earn up to $3,500 bonus cash. Bonus tiers range from $50 on deposits of $10,000 to $24,999 to $3,500 on deposits of $2 million or more.
- Minimum Required to Invest: Self-directed portfolios have no minimum opening deposit or balance requirements. The minimum for managed portfolios is $100.
Ellevest is the leading digital investment advisor online stock broker built by women, for women — a beacon of relatability for women investors in a stubbornly, overwhelmingly male-dominated space. The Ellevest offering is also more holistic than some other advisors, and their money membership not only includes investing but also includes banking*, coaching, and learning.
Ellevest’s approach to investing and financial planning accounts for unique cultural and structural challenges faced by women investors across the income spectrum, including the gender pay gap, career breaks due to childrearing, and longer life expectancy. And Ellevest makes socially responsible investing options available to all members, even low-asset Ellevest Digital subscribers who aren’t bound by account minimums, although you can also choose to just invest in their core portfolio.
Ellevest has some additional advantages worth noting, including fully personalized portfolios based on your goals and investing objectives, and automatic rebalancing and tax optimization. Their basic membership plan, Ellevest Essential, is just $1 per month and allows you to get started with their build wealth investment goal. Higher-priced plans offer the ability to open a retirement account or roll over a 401(k) and multi-goal investment management.
- Plans and Pricing: Ellevest charges monthly fees, not fees calculated as a percentage of assets under management, so it’s a great deal for higher-asset investors. Ellevest Essential costs $1 per month and comes with basic investing and banking capabilities, plus 20% off one-on-one financial coaching sessions. Ellevest Plus costs $5 per month, adds the retirement investing goal and support for 401(k) rollovers, and ups the coaching discount to 30%. Ellevest Executive adds multi-goal investment management and ups the coaching discount to 50%.
- Account Opening Bonus: None.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum balance required to open an Ellevest account.
*Banking products and services are provided by Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International.
5. Stash Invest
Stash is another micro-investing platform that works a lot like Acorns and M1 Invest. The biggest difference is a self-directed approach and may offer appeal for beginner or moderate investors. Stash differs from a traditional online stock broker in that the platform offers limited trading windows. In addition, Stash allows users to purchase shares with a focus on long-term investing and offers investment advice. Thanks to fractional shares starting at just $0.011, you can invest in any available stocks or ETFs2 and achieve a customized, exquisitely diversified asset allocation.
Stash has three paid plans. The lowest-priced includes a taxable investing account and a bank account3 with an early payday4 option (up to two days in advance) for qualifying recipients. Higher-priced plans add a tax-advantaged retirement account5 and custodial investment accounts (UGMA/UTMA)5 for up to two kids.
Stash’s Auto-Stash feature is available for all three plans6. Its three distinct features facilitate regular small-dollar investing: recurring investments scheduled by the account holder, a round-up-the-change feature that diverts excess cents from checking transactions, and an AI-enabled “smart investing” feature that sets aside checking funds you’re not expected to need.
- Plans and Pricing: The Beginner plan ($1 per month)7 has a taxable investing account for the account owner, a checking account for the account owner that features an early payday option, and Stock-Back8 (fractional stock rewards) on transactions, and financial education tools. The Growth plan ($3 per month)7 adds a tax-advantaged retirement account. The Stash+ plan ($9 per month)7 adds custodial investment accounts for two kids, a metal debit card with twice the Stock-Back8 potential, and a monthly market insights report.
- Account Opening Bonus: $5.
- Minimum Required to Invest: No minimum1.
Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.
1 For Securities priced over $1,000, the purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
2 Before investing in any exchange-traded fund, consider your investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses.
3 Bank Account Services provided by and Stash Visa Debit Card issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC, not Green Dot Bank, and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value. In order for a user to be eligible for a Stash banking account, they must also have opened a taxable brokerage account on Stash. Account opening of the debit account is subject to Green Dot Bank approval.
4 Early access to your direct deposit depends on deposit verification and when Green Dot Bank gets notice from your employer and may vary from pay period to pay period.
5 Stash does not monitor whether a customer is eligible for a particular type of IRA, or a tax deduction, or if a reduced contribution limit applies to a customer. These are based on a customer’s individual circumstances. You should consult with a tax advisor.
6 The adult (or Custodian) who opens the account can manage the money and investments until the minor reaches the “age of majority.” That age is usually 18 or 21, depending on the Custodian’s state. The money in a custodial account is the property of the minor. Money in a custodial account can be used by the parent or legal guardian, but only to do things that benefit the child.
7 You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
8 Stash Stock-Back® is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A., or any of their respective affiliates, and none of the foregoing has any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.
The Money Crashers is a paid Affiliate/partner of Stash.
6. SoFi Invest
SoFi Invest is a low-cost online stock broker with two options: self-directed (Active Invest) and automated managed portfolios. Active Invest is commission-free for stock and ETF transactions. Automated portfolios waive advisory fees entirely, although third-party fund management fees are unavoidable.
SoFi Invest stands out for its Stock Bits feature — a vast library of fractional shares. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can build an active portfolio using only Stock Bits. Managed portfolios also feature Stock Bits. Another notable distinction is SoFi Invest’s cryptocurrency trading feature. Despite its growing popularity, SoFi Invest remains one of the few online stock brokers to offer direct access to crypto. If you seek exposure to this alternative investment class through an SIPC-insured investing platform, SoFi Invest should make your online stock broker shortlist.
- Plans and Pricing: SoFi Invest has two account options: self-directed (Active Invest) and automated managed portfolios. Although managed portfolios carry some unavoidable third-party expenses, neither option charges commissions or advisory fees.
- Account Opening Bonus: Get up to $150 when you open a SoFi Money (checking) and Active Invest account in the SoFi app.
- Minimum Required to Invest: The account opening minimum is $1 for both account types.
7. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab (or Schwab, as it’s known for short) is a full-service online stock broker offering taxable and tax-advantaged accounts. Schwab charges no commissions on self-directed stock and ETF trades and has a no-fee robo-advisory service called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.
With an array of research and market analysis tools, Schwab’s self-directed arm is appropriate for novice and expert investors alike. On the robo-advisory side, investors able to clear the $5,000 account minimum enjoy virtually fee-free trading, with Schwab covering management expenses on already low-cost Schwab ETFs. An attractive account-opening bonus sweetens the deal even further, although it requires a referral from an existing Schwab customer.
- Plans and Pricing: Charles Schwab charges no commissions on stock or ETF trades and boasts a nice lineup of no-transaction-fee mutual funds. However, funds generally carry unavoidable management fees.
- Account Opening Bonus: Earn up to $500 when you’re referred to Charles Schwab. Ask a friend or family member with a Schwab account to send you their unique referral code, then use it to open a new Schwab account with an initial deposit or deposits totaling at least $1,000 within 45 days of opening the account. You’ll receive your cash bonus about a week after you complete the qualifying deposits. To get the full $500, you’ll need to deposit at least $100,000 in new money or assets.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum deposit requirement for self-directed portfolios. The minimum deposit for Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is $5,000.
Fidelity is another full-service online stock broker with no-commission stock and ETF trades, a robo-advisor platform with relatively low fees and no minimums, and a bespoke wealth management arm for investors with at least $250,000 in investable assets. In other words, it has something for everyone.
One of Fidelity’s biggest differentiators is a library of no-fee Fidelity ETFs that allows self-directed investors to create truly fee-free portfolios. If you don’t want to build your own portfolio, try the Fidelity Go robo-advisor or Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice hybrid platform instead. Both offer semi-customized portfolios calibrated to your objectives and risk tolerance with varying levels of input from human advisors. For clients with at least $50,000 in investable assets, Fidelity’s wealth management offering boasts hands-on service and greater customization. With even more bespoke services and individualized attention, Fidelity’s private wealth management offering is reserved for the company’s wealthiest clients
- Plans and Pricing: Fidelity’s self-directed solution is virtually fee-free thanks to zero-commission stock and ETF trades and a library of no-fee Fidelity ETFs. Fidelity Go (robo-advisor) fees are a flat 0.35% AUM. Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice (hybrid robo-advisor and human-aided coaching) fees are a flat 0.50% AUM. Wealth management advisory fees range from 0.50% AUM to 1.50% AUM, depending on the balance invested. Private wealth management advisory fees range from 0.50% AUM to 1.05% AUM, depending on balance.
- Account Opening Bonus: None.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum deposit required to open a Fidelity self-directed account or Fidelity Go robo-advisor account. Hybrid robo-advisor and coaching accounts start at $25,000 invested across all enrolled accounts. Wealth management accounts require at least $50,000 (with dedicated advisors available from $250,000), and private wealth management services start at $2 million.
TD Ameritrade is yet another full-service online stock broker that waives commissions on stock and ETF trades. Low-cost options trading (just $0.65 per contract) is a big selling point for advanced traders seeking hedges against market volatility.
But TD Ameritrade’s real differentiator is its wide array of offerings — spread across multiple trading platforms — for investors and traders of every skill and experience level. Expert-level day traders eager to capitalize on intraday market movements can take full advantage of the professional-grade thinkorswim platform, while novices and intermediate investors looking to place a smattering of trades here and there can use the perfectly capable Web and mobile platforms to do so.
- Plans and Pricing: TD Ameritrade charges no commissions on stock and ETF trades. Other trade types and certain account activities can incur fees. See TD Ameritrade’s brokerage fees page for more details.
- Account Opening Bonus: There’s presently no account opening bonus. Check back for the latest offers.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum deposit required to open a TD Ameritrade account, but you must have at least $2,000 on deposit to use TD’s margin trading service.
Qapital is one of the best online stock brokers for beginners. With multiple ways to automate saving and investing, including a round-up-the-change feature that sets aside a few cents on every debit card transaction and a payday savings feature that reserves a portion of your paycheck, it’s not difficult to see why.
Qapital’s prebuilt portfolios are ideal for hands-off investors who’d prefer to let the experts manage their money. Simply specify your investing goal, time horizon, and risk tolerance, and Qapital puts together a diversified, semi-customized portfolio stocked with low-cost funds designed to track the broader market.
- Plans and Pricing: Qapital has three pricing tiers. Basic, the savings-only tier, costs $3 per month. Complete, which combines savings and low-cost investing solutions, costs $6 per month. Master, which Qapital claims helps users save an average of $5,000 per year, costs $12 per month. There are no hidden fees or management expenses, other than fund expenses over which Qapital has no control.
- Account Opening Bonus: There’s currently no account opening bonus. Check back regularly for the latest details.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no official account opening minimum.
11. Zacks Trade
Zacks Trade is the broker’s online stock broker — or, more accurately, the trader’s digital trading desk. Built by and for active investors, its multi-platform approach caters to a variety of styles and skill levels, from DIYer novices to day traders employing sophisticated hedging strategies. The charting and market analysis tools here — all included with membership — are second to none.
Even Zacks Trade’s apparent drawbacks conceal pockets of value. For instance, in an increasingly commission-free trading environment, its modest commissions ($0.01 per share, with a $1 minimum) seem like a downside. But they pay for a legendary customer service apparatus and shockingly low margin rates that are roughly half what Schwab charges.
- Plans and Pricing: Stock and ETF commissions start at $0.01 per share (minimum $1). There’s no ongoing account fee and virtually no fees for other account actions, such as withdrawals or closures.
- Account Opening Bonus: None.
- Minimum Required to Invest: The minimum deposit to open an account is $2,500.
Along with other low-cost micro-investing platforms, Acorns redefines what it means to be an online stock broker. Acorns is a money management app that caters to small-dollar investors seeking the flexibility to supplement scheduled, recurring deposits with tiny deposits produced when the app rounds up debit card transactions to the nearest dollar. The biggest drawback is the lack of full customization: Rather than build-your-own portfolios, Acorns sticks to prebuilt ETF portfolios spanning a range of risk tolerances.
Acorns Invest, Acorns’ basic taxable brokerage account, is available with Acorns’ lowest-priced plan. Spend another dollar per month to get access to Acorns Later, a tax-advantaged retirement investing option. Because it doesn’t calculate advisory fees on the basis of assets under management, Acorns isn’t ideal for clients with less than around $10,000 to invest. On the other hand, higher-asset investors OK with limited customization and no guidance from human advisors can get a lot of value out of Acorns.
- Plans and Pricing: The Basic plan ($1 per month) includes a taxable Acorns Invest account and bonus payments from more than 350 Found Money partners. The Plus plan ($2 per month) offers tax-advantaged retirement investing through Acorns Later. The Premium plan ($3 per month) adds Acorns Spend, a free checking account with additional opportunities to earn bonus cash.
- Account Opening Bonus: There’s a $5 opening bonus for Acorns account. New Acorns Spend customers can earn up to $100 on the first $1,000 spent.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no investment minimum for Acorns Invest or Acorns Later.
13. M1 Finance
M1 Finance is not all that different from Acorns, at least on the investing side. Its automated investing platform, which is free for entry-level users, pairs with a free checking account. M1 Invest, as the investing solution is known, builds customized, regularly rebalanced portfolios with whole or fractional shares from more than 80 ETFs. To achieve an entirely friction-free investing experience, automate your M1 Invest deposits.
M1 Invest supports an even more innovative solution: M1 Borrow, a source of very low-cost financing secured by the assets in the account holder’s investment portfolio. When you upgrade to M1 Plus ($125 per year), you’ll get 150 basis points off your M1 Borrow interest rate, dropping the APR to just 2% — lower than home equity loans and lines of credit and comparable to the best auto loan rates available. M1 Finance is an excellent financing option for relatively affluent investors without sufficient home equity to secure large home equity loans or lines or for those who don’t own a home.
- Plans and Pricing: M1 Finance’s base plan does not charge management fees on M1 Invest balances. However, it has just one daily window during which trades are conducted, which limits investors’ flexibility to take advantage of market movements. For $125 per year, M1 Plus adds a second daily trading window, a 1% yield on checking balances, and 1% cash back on checking transactions.
- Account Opening Bonus: Earn a bonus worth up to $3,500 when you transfer an existing investment account to your new M1 Finance (M1 Invest) account. Plus, get a free year of M1 Plus (a $125 value) when you open a new account by Jan. 31, 2021.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum required to invest with M1 Finance.
Robinhood was a pioneer of the commission-free trading movement — a movement that’s all but conquered the online investing world. Even as most other online stock brokers copy its business model, Robinhood remains innovative, with one of the best cash management accounts around and easy access to alternative investments like precious metals and cryptocurrencies. Join the waitlist to be among the first to invest in fractional shares with Robinhood.
- Plans and Pricing: Robinhood doesn’t charge commissions on cash trades. Certain transaction types and account activities can produce fees, and standard regulatory fees apply. See Robinhood’s complete fee disclosure document for more details.
- Account Opening Bonus: Apply for a new Robinhood brokerage account and get approved to get a free stock worth $2.50 to $200 per share.
- Minimum Required to Invest: There’s no minimum deposit required to open an account.
Webull is a commission-free online stock broker for frugal self-directed investors. With a powerful lineup of analytic tools, extended-hours trading that lets clients take advantage of market moves and breaking news in overseas markets, and advanced screeners with hundreds of variables, it’s a serious platform for serious traders. And it boasts two of the best brokerage account opening bonuses on the market right now.
- Plans and Pricing: Webull doesn’t charge commissions on trades. Margin rates begin at 6.99% for clients with under $25,000 in account assets and drop to 3.99% for clients with more than $3 million in assets.
- Account Opening Bonus #1: Begin your account opening process by June 30, 2020, and finish within 24 hours of starting to receive a free stock valued between $2.50 and $250 per share.
- Account Opening Bonus #2: Make an initial deposit in any amount to your new account to claim a free stock valued between $12 and $1,400 per share. Again, the likelihood of receiving a stock valued on the lower end of this range is very high.
- Minimum Required to Invest. There’s no minimum opening deposit required.
Retail investing has changed a great deal over the years, mostly for the better. Costs have fallen, choice has grown, and the industry’s human workforce has become more representative of the broader population, although true parity is still a distant goal.
One thing remains more or less the same: the role played by stock brokers, whether they’re online or office-bound. If you want to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, or any other securities, you or your financial advisor need to use a broker. There’s a good chance your choice appears on the list above.
What’s your favorite online stock broker? What do you like about it?