In recent years, more and more people have developed an interest in trading. Within the last few months, over 14 million households have used an online stock trading service.
If you're looking to get into trading for yourself, I've taken a look at many of the top companies, looking for the best stock trading site. Here are some of my top choices.
Finding the Best Stock Trading Site: What to Consider
The Best Stock Trading Site
For those who are considering getting involved in trading, and those who are already involved, it is vital to have the right tools, resources, and information on hand. These are among the things that can play a huge role in your success in the world of trading, which will ultimately impact your financial success.
My rundown of the 5 top online trading service providers can help to ensure you choose a good, solid, reliable service to help you make the most of your trading.
A good online stock trading service will offer a host of tools, resources, reports, educational aides and advice, all of which can benefit you hugely when it comes to trading and investing. There are people at many different levels in trading and investing. This includes those who are just starting out, those who have done it for a while but still need a little help, and those who are experts but want to stay up to date on the latest reports and news.
...over 14 million households have used an online stock trading service.
The best trading sites cater to people in all categories, although some are more focused on a particular group given the enormous impact that an online trading services provider can have on your capabilities and success when it comes to trades and investments, it is vital to choose the right one. I've compiled four things you need to take into consideration when making the best online stock trading site decision:
1. Fees and Commissions
Service platforms can vary significantly from the amounts they assess you for fees and commissions to use their services. With this mind, it's important to do research, comparing multiple firms to find out which ones offer the most affordable fee and commission structure.
A great place to start is to examine our reviews of the top providers in this field because some stock trading sites charge less than what other competitors do for the same advice. After all, when investing, where would you prefer the bulk of your money to go, to your future or a firm?
2. The Range of Investments that are Offered
Not everyone has the same investment strategies, so it's important to work with a provider that can cater to your varied needs. One of the first things you should examine when selecting a provider is to identify the different types of investments offered and match them with your financial needs. If you discover the firm doesn't have a wide selection of investments available, then it is best to go with someone else.
3. Investment and Trading Tools
Having access to the most up to date information is imperative when making sound investment decisions; this is why a provider's resources and tools are some of the most important things to examine before signing up for service. Does the provider give you flexibility in how you can set up and make changes to your investment strategy? Are they providing you with the latest information, so you can make adjustments as needed?
4. User Friendliness
Ease of use signifies how much value the provider places in you. For example, when you visit its website and find it difficult to navigate due to a clunky site design or dated service tools, then it indicates the provider isn't interested in you, only to sign you as a client and move on.
Meanwhile, many reputable providers have intuitive websites, where you can access the information you need simply, have an opportunity to contact someone for help if you need it and be able to handle your account with ease.
Compare the Best Online Stock Brokers
|Company||Cost per Trade||Monthly Price|
Before you start trading stocks online, compare the top providers side by side. Looking at the monthly costs side by side can help you find the cheapest online stock trading platform. You can also compare the cost per trade and minimum balance required with the best online stock brokers.
The Best Online Trading - Educational Resources
Similar to the ease of use of a website, the quality of educational resources a broker gives is an indication on how it views you as a client. If it is willing to provide a comprehensive training program, where even the most novice investors can learn basic strategies quickly, then it shows a high level of service and value for the customer. Meanwhile, if a broker doesn't provide much in the way of education and training, it indicates they want to take control of your investing with little to no input from you.
Something I learned is ,while some might feel more comfortable placing their investments in the hands of financial experts, you have to ask if they don't value you enough to provide you with the basic information you need, will they exhibit the same care with your investments.
The Best Online Stock Trading - Customer Service
If you are looking for the best online brokerage firm, it's important to research its reputation. You can begin by going to the Better Business Bureau's website. The BBB studies many aspects of a company, including customer service before assigning a grade from A to F. On its website, you can also find how many unresolved issues the broker has with a customer. This site was incredibly valuable throughout my analysis and can be a great indication of a company's customer service.
A great companion to the BBB is to ask around or read customer reviews of the broker. This is where you gain the most insight, because you will find out others' experiences with the client. If you notice a reoccurring issue such as the broker failing to return calls promptly, it's a clear indicator that the provider might not have the best customer service.
Lastly, when you meet with the broker, it's important to ask what the turnaround time is for returning calls or emails. A reputable provider will have resources available to answer any concerns you have in a timely manner, normally within one business day. If the broker struggles to give you a concrete answer, then it shows the provider doesn't have the resources in place needed to assist you well.
How to Trade Stock Online
Roughly speaking, "investing" means putting a resource to good use over a given period – say, a quarter, year or decade – and let the asset generate profits. Finance people talk about the same concept when they say "asset" or "resource." You have two types of resources: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets run the gamut from land and equipment to homes and cars. Intangible resources, by contrast, lack physical substance yet provide economic benefits.
They include investment products, such as bonds and stocks as well as the collection of intellectual-property items ranging from patents and trademarks to copyrights and corporate logos.
Good investing requires familiarity with numbers, economic savvy, a good dose of patience, and commitment to a strategy, among other things. But as you embark upon the investment train, don't forget to figure out key things like the type of investor you are, products that will suit your situation, the type of professional help you may need, and how retirement planning fits into the whole investment equation.
1. What to Do Before Starting an Investment Plan?
A group of sophisticated investors I have known for years invariably use a three-step approach when analyzing a new investment opportunity: net resource assessment, income fore-casting and deal economics. Let's apply this trifecta to your situation.
- Resource assessment - First, assess your net resources, also known as net worth. Write down all your assets, specifying things like how much money you have at the bank – and stashed under your mattress – your certificates of deposit, retirement accounts and every other financial product you can convert into cash. You also must include equipment and cars and your mortgage-free home. While you are at it, put in the mix that piece of family memorabilia Grandpa bequeathed to you a long time ago and that might fetch a few hundred, if not thousands, dollars on eBay. Add up all these resources to figure out your total assets. To determine your net worth, subtract all your debts from your assets.
- Income forecasting – The second piece of your investment plan is income forecasting. Here you estimate your current earnings and how much you think you would earn in the future, say, five or 10 years from now. This type of analysis entails clarity about your own job prospects – meaning you must know where you want to see yourself professionally in, say, 10 years – the state of the economy, your academic background and employment trends in your industry. For example, as a website designer, you could say that your financial income would grow 5% each year and that in 15 years' time, your earnings would double.
- Investment Plan - The third thing to consider in forging your investment plan is to figure out whether the transaction makes economic sense. If finance and math and the economy and everything number-related are not your strong suit, talk to someone versed in those fields to determine whether you should invest in a particular company or real estate deal, for example.
2. What Kind of Investor Am I?
This question implies the notion of uncertainty, the kind that comes from the fact that you don't know whether your personal investment will generate profits in the future or whether you would lose everything – save for a penny. That notion of inherent uncertainty is what investment professionals call "risk." You need to determine whether you are risk averse or a risk taker.
You're considered risk averse if you invariably would prefer staying away from high-risk investment products, even if those assets tend to generate a higher return. A risk taker fits the opposite profile, that is, someone who relishes the thrill and high income (and, sometimes, loss) returns of a specific investment opportunity'
3. What Investment Products Will Suit Me?
Investment products that best suit your condition depend on a hodgepodge of factors, including your risk profile, the economy, your retirement goals and the investment products that are available to you. Discuss this topic with your financial advisor to see the best options for you. Investment products span the whole commercial universe and include things like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, alternative investments, certificates of deposit and money market accounts.
You can analyze these products from different angles, slicing the various categories by liquidity and income generation, among other criteria. For example, a bond – which is a debt that a company or government must repay – is considered a fixed-income product because you, the bondholder, receive interest periodically, say, every month or quarter, and the principal amount invested at the bond maturity date. By contrast, the value of a corporate share typically bows to the whims of the stock market trade and the economy, and you could even lose your total investment if, for example, the company whose stock you bought files for bankruptcy. (The same scenario would apply to a bondholder, with certain exceptions.)
4. Investing Help
Many professionals can help you figure out the best investment approach that suits your needs. Start with your banker; he or she may already have an idea of your financial situation, especially if you have things like checking, savings, student loan and mortgage accounts with the same bank.
Ask the banker the type of investment products – such as certificates of deposits, mutual funds and money market funds – that the bank provides. Next, talk to your financial adviser and go through the same question-and-answer session. You also can tap into government resources or databases maintained by nonprofits to learn more about Investment 101. Other professionals who can help you include your tax accountant, a certified financial planner, a retirement specialist and a certified public accountant.
5. Long-Term and Retirement Goals
A highly regarded investment adviser recently told me that the best way you can grow your investment portfolio in the long term is to allocate funds meticulously and gradually, taking into account factors such as your age, risk profile, portfolio and other assets.
The adviser said you can choose a 60-40 or 70-30 or 80-20 rule, depending on your age, for example. If you are in your thirties, maybe allocating 80% percent of your money to stocks and 20% to bonds is economically sensible because stocks typically generate the best returns in the long term yet can be volatile and subject to the ups and downs of financial markets. By contrast, if you are nearing retirement, I would recommend a 60/40 bond/stock allocation.
Good investing generally requires a level of sophistication that finance professionals take years to hone, but you don't have to possess that level of savvy to be a successful investor and grow your financial portfolio. To make an investment successful, do your homework, talk to your banker and financial advisor, figure out your net worth and investable assets, and choose an investment approach that fits your retirement plans.
The Best Stock Trading Sites
With the demand for online stock trading continuing to grow, there are ample online stock trading providers available to help meet your investing needs. I've selected the best online brokerage firms:
- Monthly Price: $50
- Cost per Trade: $4.95
- Range of educational tools
- Variety of trading resources
- Decent range of trading and investment options
- Affordable pricing and fees
- No account or trade minimums required
- No international or Forex trading offered
- Around the clock support not available
- Low BBB rating
TradeKing offers a wide range of investment options from stocks, mutual funds and fixed income investments. What's more, it doesn't require any account minimums and its ease of access to ample investment training and educational resources make it one of the better providers.
- Monthly Price: $49.99
- Cost per Trade: $4.95
- Educational resources for all levels of traders
- Free coaching available
- Flexible and affordable fees
- The ability to benefit from a demo account
- Virtual trading is free
- This trading service doesn't offer Level II quotes
OptionsHouse provides a comprehensive mix of educational tools and coaching to help you no matter your level of trading. Arguably its best educational feature is to ability to set up a demo account, so you can learn through experience. Along with its ample educational resources, OptionsHouse has low fees, free virtual trading and an excellent reputation, making them one of the better online providers to consider.
- Monthly Price: $0
- Cost per Trade: $10.00
TD Ameritrade Review
- Excellent trading platforms
- 24/7 customer service
- Experienced and reputable provider
- No minimum balance
- High BBB rating
- Prices higher than some competitors
TD Ameritrade designed its platform around user experience and it shows. It has customer service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you. Moreover, its advanced trading platforms and ample educational resources make TD Ameritrade well worth the fees they assess.
- Lower fees the more you invest
- Excellent customer service
- No minimum deposit
- Intuitive technology
- Percentage fees can be high
Betterment sets up IRA accounts via its online Retirement Guide, conducting a complete analysis of your retirement goals and financial situation. They fund your IRA account according to your needs via their ingenious in-house software, maximizing results while charging a tiny percentage of your balance for the service. For balances of less than $10,000, you must auto deposit $100 per month, or face a $3 per month fee.
- Monthly Price: $99.90
- Cost per Trade: $9.99
- Great website and app
- High BBB rating
- Great educational tools
- Easy to use resources
- Good customer service
- High prices
- Minimum amount of trades to access best platforms
ETRADE does a good job providing intuitive controls through its website and mobile application to give you easy access to your account and educational resources. Speaking of educational resources, its offerings are diverse, making it perfect for every level of investor from novice to the most experienced. Though a bit on the higher end for fees, the web interface it offers is exceptional.
Advice for Finding The Best Stock Trading Site
Before you go about selecting the best online trading platform for you and begin to do stock trading online, you can explore our advice guides, which have practical information you can use on trading stocks online. These guides are valuable resources in that they can give you answers to the questions you need quickly, so you feel more confident about what you want to do. Here are a few examples of the resources available:
- Building a strong investment portfolio takes a well-balanced approach. To make the exercise a success, surround yourself with financial and investment experts, set and implement a winning strategy, check it every now and then, and adjust your portfolio's holdings if needed. This in-depth article on building an investment portfolio shows you a step-by-step way of doing accomplishing these tasks to help ensure your future financial success.
- Investing, be it in short-term assets or long-term resources - has tax implications, some of which could cause you to send more than a third of the investment income to the taxman. Included in this are capital gains and losses, the financial implications of each and how to account for each. To learn more about the tax ramifications for your investments, be sure to read the breakdown of capital gains and losses.
- Good investing requires familiarity with numbers, economic savvy, a good dose of patience, and commitment to a strategy, among other things. But as you embark upon the investment train, don't forget to figure out key things like the type of investor you are, products that will suit your situation, the type of professional help you may need, and how retirement planning fits into the whole investment equation. This article on a quick start guide to investing can assist you with these tasks.
- Mutual funds provide you with various benefits, but like any other investment product, they also carry risks. To reap the maximum benefits from your mutual fund investments, talk to the right people and do your homework by reading the prospectuses and other documentation sent by the mutual fund you are interested in. This article on reaping mutual fund benefits touches on this, as well as what a mutual fund is, how they work and how to invest in them.
- A savings bond is a type of saving product issued by the U.S. government as part of its normal funding process. To learn more about the types of savings bonds available, where to buy them, how to cash them in, and their pros and cons, you can read the comprehensive article on the basics of savings bonds.
- Renewable energy stocks and exchange trade funds (ETFs) have emerged from their early days as questionable investments to become competitive with established energy stocks. This primer on green online trading will help you learn more about trends in renewable energy, green EFT funds and more.
There is no doubt that many of the services, investment options, tools, resources, and fees are very similar from one online stock trading service to another. However, taking the time, as I did, to look at each of the leading providers in more detail will enable you to pick up on little things that could make a big difference.
Certain factors can make a provider more suited to a particular type of trader, and it is looking out for these factors that will make it easier for you to make a more informed decision with regards to the provider you choose.
If you are looking for other types of investment options like robo advisors, take a look at some of our other investing reviews. If you are looking for low risk, saving options, we have also taken a look at the best CD rates and the best IRA accounts. These can offer you a safe place to invest your money with small returns or solid retirement planning.