Online Brokers: Expert and User Reviews

Updated June 30, 2013

Online Brokers: Ratings of Sources

1. Best and Worst Brokers of 2012,, May 16, 2012
This is the most detailed review we found, and the thorough research methods lend it a high degree of credibility. The review names the best and worst online broker in each of six categories, and it includes a chart that ranks each broker included in the survey and shows category ratings for each. The top five are, in order, Fidelity, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade and Charles Schwab. Commissions and fees reported here are for an investor who has at least $50,000 in a brokerage account and trades up to five times per month.
2. Barron's Back Online!, Barron's, March 9 , 2013
The annual Barron's ranking of online brokers is a much-relied-upon source of information for investors of all types. For the 2013 rankings, Barron's rates 24 online brokers and summarizes the results in a table. Interactive Brokers, TradeMonster and Place Trade each have 4.5 out of 5 stars.
3. J.D. Power & Associates 2013 U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power & Associates, June 17, 2013
More than 3,600 investors who make all of their investment decisions without an investment adviser responded to J.D. Power and Associates' 2013 self-directed investor satisfaction survey. They rate firms' performance in six areas, including interaction, account information and trading charges and fees. Scottrade comes in first, with 810 out of 1,000 points (and 5 out of 5 stars), but Charles Schwab and Vanguard follow close behind.
4. Where to Put Your Money,, Feb . 2012
Credibility: ranks the performance of nine discount/online and four full-service brokerage firms based on a 2010-2011 survey of over 7,300 subscribers. Respondents rate brokers on customer service, website usability, financial advice and phone service.
5. Best Online Brokers, 2012,, Nov. 2012
Credibility: 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, with Fidelity a close second. There is no chart showing the overall rankings; rather, you scroll through a series of slides arranged in descending order (best to worst overall), with each slide showing a particular broker's ratings in certain areas.
6. 2013 Best Online Trading Service Comparisons and Reviews,
Credibility: offers detailed reviews of 18 brokers, and it summarizes both ratings and data about the firms in a comparison chart that contains overall ratings (on a 10-point scale) as well as rankings based on category, like fees/commissions. Ratings are based on other reviews, as well as hands-on research and testing. OptionsXpress, OptionsHouse and TradeKing are the top three picks.
7. Online Stock Trading,, As of July 2013
The reviews of online brokers on this site are impressive. Each firm is given a fairly lengthy write-up with pros and cons ("the good" and "the bad"), along with a detailed chart highlighting the features -- pricing, mobile options, etc. -- each company offers. Online brokers are compared; E*Trade and TD Ameritrade get 5 out of 5 stars. Most of the 11 brokers get 4 stars.
8. Top 5 Online Brokers Ranked for Every Investor Type,, Feb. 5, 2013
Investor's Business Daily's website,, identifies the best online brokers based on a survey of 10,250 readers. Twelve categories are weighed, including low commissions and fees, customer service, research tools, investment research, tax-preparation tools, mobile platform/trading and more.
9. Top 5 Best Online Trading Sites for Individual Investors,, Feb. 2, 2013
Credibility: editors choose five online brokers after weighing various categories (popularity, discounter vs. full-service, stock/fixed income/options trading capabilities, user experience, cost, online research tools, etc.). Fees and commissions weigh heavily in the review.
10. Hits and Misses of 2012,, Dec. 2012
In this long list of hits and misses, editors endorse TD Ameritrade for housing an IRA, citing its "wide range of investment choices and no annual fee or minimum to open an account." Editors name TradeStation a miss in this category because of fees, but the report is very thin (just a few lines) and only has credibility because of's sterling reputation as a personal finance publisher.
11. AAII: The American Association of Individual Investors Online Discount Brokers , AAII: The American Association of Individual Investors
Scottrade comes out on top of the American Association of Individual Investors' member survey. Not surprisingly, those surveyed marked commissions as the primary factor in choosing a broker, with services named second and convenience third.
12. Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities Magazine 2012 Readers' Choice Awards, Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities Magazine, 2012
Subscribers to this magazine are frequent traders who want electronic access to the best real-time data, technical analysis tools and trade execution tools. As in previous years, Interactive Brokers is voted best stock brokerage, best futures brokerage and best Forex (foreign-currency trading) brokerage. TradeStation is first runner-up in all of those categories and wins in others, like stock-trading systems. The Readers' Choice Awards are presented based on subscribers' votes, but it's unclear how many voters there are.
13. Best Roth IRA Account Providers of 2013,, April 11, 2013
After studying more than 70 Roth IRA account providers, Joanna Pratt of names four brokerage firms, "each meeting the needs best of a different group of retirement investors." TD Ameritrade is named best for the involved investor; OptionsXpress for the sophisticated investor; E*Trade for day traders; and ShareBuilder for new investors. Details are given on each provider, including the number of no-transaction-fee (NTF) funds, expense ratios, minimums to start and cost per trade.
14. 2013 Best Brokerage Firms: Top Rated Discount Online Stock Broker Companies,, May 30, 2013
Credibility: reviews and provides detailed information on services and fees offered by individual trading companies; it also names best brokerage firms, best brokerages for beginners and best IRA accounts. The ad-driven site claims that it "strive[s] to bring the most comprehensive information about brokerage firms in the United States and Canada." OptionsHouse is named the best online broker in 2013 (it also won the distinction in 2012) primarily because of its low fees and zero account-balance minimums, while TD Ameritrade is called "excellent" for IRAs. The review gives pros and cons of each service.
15. Online Broker Review 2013,, Feb. 19, 2013
Credibility: editors review 17 online brokers and weigh commissions and fees (15 percent), ease of use (15 percent), platforms and tools (15 percent), research (15 percent), customer service (15 percent), offering of investments (15 percent), education (5 percent) and mobile trading (5 percent). In addition, winners and runner-ups are named for individual categories. Lightspeed is named the best for active trading, with Interactive Brokers coming in second. Interactive Brokers also ranks first for commissions and fees, while TD Ameritrade is best overall. Blain Reinkensmeyer owns this site as well as, so there's some overlap in content.
16. Wall Street Letter WSL Institutional Trading Awards 2013, Wall Street Letter
Wall Street Letter gives its second annual Institutional Trading Awards to "brokerage firms, exchanges and financial technology companies for achievements and innovation over the last year." Interactive Brokers is picked as the best broker for options (for the second year in a row); in 2012 it won an award for the best use of technology by a broker.
17. Compare the Best Brokerage Firms for Investing Online,
Editors of give short but informative write-ups of five online brokers, giving a star rating for each along with a "best for" tag. (For example: TD Ameritrade gets the highest rating, 4.5 out of 5 stars, and is named best for "new investors who are eager to learn and become more advanced.") The website is transparent about taking commissions, and it's unclear what criteria are used or if the products are tested.
18. DoughRoller List of Online Discount Brokers to House Your IRA, DoughRoller, Dec. 20, 2012
DoughRoller's publisher -- personal finance expert and attorney Rob Berger -- recommendsScottrade, OptionsHouse and OptionsXpress as Editor's Choice picks, and provides longer reviews on each service. The services aren't tested, but Berger gives his strongest endorsement to Scottrade, noting that he's personally opening up an account with the company because of its no-fee options. DoughRoller is a financial blog founded in 2007, with nearly two million visitors each year.
19. Where Should I Open an IRA?,, April 11, 2012
Blogger Mike Piper, a CPA, recommends Vanguard for IRAs because "the company is owned by the funds it runs rather than by outside shareholders." In addition to cutting costs, the investing model also has fewer conflicts of interest, Piper says. He also provides details on other companies and their feature and fee structures.
20. Performance Index: Brokerage,, As of June 2013
Credibility: 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 June 2013, Fidelity and Charles Schwab generally led in the overall categories. There is more variation in the success rate category, where TD Ameritrade, Merrill Edge, ShareBuilder and others occasionally occupy the top spot.
21. Where to Open a Roth IRA Account,, Not Dated
This ad-driven website recommends four leading online brokers for IRAs, but mostly summarizes their fees and features without making critical comments. It's also unclear whether any of the services have been tested. TD Ameritrade is named first among recommended Roth IRAs, though it's unclear what, if any, rating system is used.