Fidelity is a one-stop shop, offering services that range from international trading to checking accounts. It excels in research and tools, as well as providing excellent educational resources like retirement planning.
Dozens of calculators; a $2,500 new-account minimum. Fidelity offers a large selection of no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds, and its website is packed with helpful planning and educational tools. (Some say the information can be difficult to navigate.) The firm is also known for its large selection of investment products.
Fidelity's website provides sophisticated tools for education, planning and analysis to help you make the best choices, including three dozen savings, tax and retirement calculators, according to Kiplinger.com, which rates the brokerage second to E*Trade. There's a $2,500 minimum to open an account; most, including IRAs, can be opened online in a few minutes.
Competitive stock trades; high mutual fund fees. Fidelity.com's trades (Est. S8) are competitive, and despite the steep initial minimum investment (Est. $2,500) there aren't any account inactivity, handling or maintenance fees. Mutual fund purchases (Est. $75) are significantly higher, though Fidelity offers nearly 2,900 no-fee mutual funds, according to the Fidelity.com website.
In addition to stocks bonds, ETFs, international markets, options and mutual funds can be traded; Forex (foreign-currency trading) and futures aren't among the investment options, however. Fidelity.com's mobile platforms have vastly improved: it provides applications for Android, BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone and offers mobile research and deposits.
Social-media outreach, but traditional assistance is so-so. Fidelity has an array of customer-service options, including phone, instant messaging, email and nearly 150 branches offering seminars and investment planning. The hours vary based on the service (for example, retirement representatives are available for longer hours and every day, while international trading representatives can be reached Sunday through Friday). Many tools are available for a free trial even if you're not a customer.
Fidelity wins the top spot in SmartMoney magazine's survey because it makes its top-notch research public via social media, and it allows standard-account clients to access high-level research and tools. However, SmartMoney gives the firm 3 out of 5 stars for customer service, and phone, email and chat reps gave inconsistent answers to a question about the purchase fee for a bond fund. If you're looking for a broker with good customer service, a lower account minimum and lower commissions, reviewers suggest Scottrade (Est. $7 per trade).
SmartMoney magazine identifies Fidelity as the best online broker for the third year in a row. According to reviewer J. Alex Tarquinio, Fidelity "offers the biggest selection of funds and the most comprehensive website."
Review: Best and Worst Brokers of 2012, J. Alex Tarquinio, May 16, 2012
Kiplinger.com assesses 10 online brokerages based on fees and commissions, range of investment options, research and tools that are accessible to all clients, and banking services. For 2012 E*Trade wins first place overall; Fidelity is a close second, with 3.5 stars out of 5. It gets 1.5 stars for customer service and 5 stars for banking and research/tools.
Review: Best Online Brokers, 2012, Nellie S. Huang, Nov. 2012
Investor's Business Daily's website, Investors.com, identifies the best online brokers based on a survey of 10,250 Investor.com readers. Fidelity ranks first for investment research and is rated first overall.
Review: Top 5 Online Brokers Ranked for Every Investor Type, Victor Reklaitis, Feb. 5, 2013
Reviews.com gives Fidelity 4 out of 5 stars, declaring it "the right choice for long-term investors and anyone looking to start planning their financial future." Reviews.com maintains it isn't the best for active traders, however, and many competitors get 5 out of 5 stars.
Review: Fidelity Review, Ed Carlson, June 7, 2013
5. AAII: The American Association of Individual Investors
Fidelity ties with Scottrade as the most frequently used online discount broker by the American Association of Individual Investor members. The association likes Fidelity's interface -- including its customizable graphs -- and its research and tools, like its retirement planning evaluator.
Review: Online Discount Brokers, Joe Lan, Not Dated
Keynote.com editors rank online brokers weekly, based on response time for placing a stock order and the success rate of order completion. An archive lists results as far back as 2007. As of July 2013, Fidelity and Charles Schwab generally led in the overall categories.
Review: Performance Index: Brokerage, Editors of Keynote.com, As of July 2013