2017 RANKING & REVIEWS
TOP RANKING BEST ONLINE TRADING PLATFORMS
Intro: Finding The Best Online Trading Site and Top Online Stock Trading Platform for Your Investments
Finding an online trading platform that works for you can make your investments more lucrative and less time-consuming than ever before.
But how do you know which of the myriad of stock trading websites is the best stock trading platform?
Some trading platforms are more heavily advertised than others (think of the E*Trade baby commercials), and if you’ve spent any time searching for the best online trading platforms, you’ve surely bumped into a few of the top trading platforms already.
Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Online Stock Trading Platforms
Review of the Best Online Stock Trading Sites in 2017
Different stock trading websites will have various features that may appeal to you, depending on your investment style and preferences. The best online trading platforms are easy to use, offer low fees, and specialize in the type of securities you’re most interested in buying and selling.
In our review of the best stock trading platform options, we’re going to take a closer look and rank 2017’s best online trading platforms to make your research a little bit easier.
The below online trading platform review presents a list of this year’s top online stock trading brokers, along with a detailed review of each of these highly rated online trading platforms.
AdvisoryHQ's List of the Top 6 Best Stock Trading Sites & Platforms
List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that online trading platform):
Click here for 2016's ranking of the Top 6 Best Online Stock Trading Platforms
Top 6 Best Online Trading Platforms | Brief Comparison & Ranking
Best Stock Trading Site
Fees at a Glance
Table: Top 6 Best Online Trading Platforms | Above list is sorted alphabetically
What Do Active Traders & Experienced Investors Look for in an Online Stock Trading Platform?
Price Per Trade
Price per trade is the first and also the biggest factor for individual investors and professional traders who seek the best online trading platform.
As you are most likely aware, price per trade is how much you’ll pay each time you trade (buy/sell) stocks, options, futures, bonds, or other financial products.
If you trade or invest often, you’ll find out very quickly how beneficial it is to go with a a top online trading platform that offers a low price per trade.
Low Monthly Fees
Paying “little to no” service fees (i.e., $0 inactivity fees and no maintenance fees) is another key factor for investors and traders when they are conducting online stock trading reviews to find the top online stock broker and the best trading platform that fits their needs.
Going with an online stock trading website that offers little to zero account maintenance fees increases your overall trading and investing returns.
Opening a trading account with the best stock trading site that provides the fastest trade execution is another top priority for online traders and investors, and is a factor that you should definitely consider before making your selection.
When trading or investing in fast-moving markets, sometimes the difference between gaining and losing thousands of dollars comes down to a few milliseconds (0.001 vs. 0.01 seconds can make or lose you a ton of money).
Hence, extremely fast trade execution should be a top priority when looking for the best trading platform for your needs.
In addition to the factors outlined in the section above, you’ll also want to consider “added value” or “perks” as important factors when searching for and selecting the best online stock trading platform.
For example, some investors consider value promotions (e.g., receiving up to $1,000 when you open an account), 24/7 customer service, free research tools, and highly advanced stock trading platforms as key criteria when finding the best stock trading site that meets their needs.
Why Use an Online Stock Trading Platform vs. a Full-Service Brokerage?
The best online trading platforms will make investing your money in various types of securities simpler than ever before.
While stock trading websites are nearly everywhere, you can also purchase bonds, options, futures, and currencies through many of the best online trading platforms.
What is the primary draw to these types of trading websites, even for the very best trading platforms?
First and foremost, investors tend to love using an online trading platform because it can be a heavily discounted form of brokerage investing and trading. Because the cost to run these online trading platforms is decreased, those savings can be passed on to users via lower commissions.
Many users also prefer to use a top best trading platform because it allows them to make trades faster than a traditional brokerage is capable of making them.
Reducing the amount of paperwork necessary to make a trade and then reducing the redundancy of entering that information electronically makes your trades happen faster. For some investors, time may not be of the essence.
However, if you were looking for the best stock trading site for day trading, a few minutes saved on a trade might make all the difference.
As we mentioned earlier, the best stock trading platform will depend mostly on how you intend to trade. One site may be geared more towards day trading, while another offers more innovative technology to help you measure risks.
The best online trading platforms have some combination of all of the features discussed in this section, but they will likely specialize in becoming the best trading platform for just one specific type of trader.
AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology
What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the credit cards, financial products, firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top-rated lists?
Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top-rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.
Detailed Review—Top Ranking Best Online Trading Platforms
Below, please find a detailed review of each online trading platform on our list of top trading platforms. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these online trading platforms to score so high in our selection ranking.
Founded in 2010, creators Jon and Eli wanted to design an online trading platform that would be easy to use and ideal for their customers to make easy and smart investment choices.
If you’re searching for the best online trading platform, you might want to consider Betterment for its easy-to-use interface and investment strategies.
Some sites may be considered the best stock trading site based on the low commissions, but Betterment has come to be a leader in the field based on its investment technology.
Key Factors That Enabled This Online Trading Platform to Rank as One of the Best Online Trading Platforms
Below are some of the essential reasons we chose Betterment to be included on our list of the best online trading platforms.
When you begin investing through the Betterment site, your portfolio is automatically groomed to yield higher returns than you might be able to do otherwise as a do-it-yourself investor.
Here are a few of the automated features that make this one of the best online stock trade websites:
When you set up your account, you should sync all your outside investment accounts into Betterment as well.
With all your net worth included in the overview of your financial status, Betterment may be able to suggest better or different ways to invest.
Goal-Based Investing Framework
Do you need to find the best stock trading sites so you can reach a particular goal, like saving for retirement or beefing up a rainy day fund?
The algorithms Betterment employs helps to manage the risk associated with your portfolio based on the timeline in which your account needs to be fully funded.
When you receive dividends or make a deposit, Betterment will automatically rebalance your portfolio. This top online trading platform rebalance your investments based on algorithms that are designed to keep your taxes from skyrocketing.
This is evaluated on a daily basis and all of the cash you have set aside is invested, even if it means purchasing a fractional share.
Betterment has recently restructured their pricing system, making this online trading platform much more accessible for new and experienced traders alike.
This new system is broken down into three separate pricing categories:
0.25% Annual Fee
With no minimum balance requirement, this pricing category offers cost-effective investing for any investor. An annual fee of 0.25% includes the following:
- Automated portfolio management
- Tax-efficient investing features
- Advice across your investments
- Award-winning customer support
0.40% Annual Fee (Plus)
To qualify for a 0.40% annual fee, users need to have a minimum account balance of $100,000. There are a few enhanced perks that come along with this type of fee structure, including:
- Annual call with a team of CFP professionals and licensed financial experts
- Additional account monitoring by licensed experts
0.50% Annual Fee (Premium)
Accounts must have a minimum balance of $250,000 to qualify for a 0.50% annual fee.
While the fee might be substantially higher, the fees may be worth it for investors who want to have access to expert financial advice. This fee adds the following benefits:
- Unlimited calls with CFP professionals and licensed financial experts
- Additional account monitoring by licensed experts
These fees cover all of your transactions, trades, transfers, rebalancing, advice, and account administration. Even some of the best online trading sites charge additional fees when you buy and sell, but Betterment does not.
Making online trades since 1983, this digital brokerage also boasts something that many of the best online stock trading sites do not: physical branches.
With 30 locations across the United States, E*Trade can offer in-person financial and investment advice instead of strictly via live chats, phone conversations, or automatic algorithms.
Key Factors That Enabled This Online Trading Platform to Rank as One of the Best Online Trading Platforms
The unique aspect of live customer service from brick and mortar locations aside, here are some of the exceptional reasons that E*Trade qualified as one of our best online trading platforms.
Having been one of the first online stock trading platforms available to the public, E*Trade currently offers a wide variety of educational resources to assist do-it-yourself investors in making wise choices.
Of note, they can offer users the following:
- Educational resources (a compilation of articles on popular strategies and investment-specific goals)
- Commentary & insights
- Live events
- Free courses
E*Trade recognizes that not everyone is a seasoned investment professional and tailors the information they provide accordingly, making it one of the best online stock trading platforms for beginners.
Even if you decide not to use E*Trade for investments (though they have a great selection of commission-free ETFs you might want to take a look at), it is still a wonderful resource to educate yourself.
Pricing Policies & Updates
While there are options for commission-free ETFs aplenty on E*Trade, the site really shines for those individuals who are looking to make frequent trades.
Some individual investors prefer to make initial investments and hold them for years to come, while others are constantly rebalancing and tweaking their portfolios.
You have the option to do both through E*Trade, but the pricing structure is set up to favor more frequent traders. As a general rule, the more trades you make each quarter, the lower your commission fees will be.
In an exciting shift, E*Trade will be changing their pricing policies. Effective March 13, 2017, online equity and options trades will be reduced to a base rate of $6.95, plus 75 cents per options contract.
E*Trade is also introducing a new program for active traders, defined as those who make 30+ trades each quarter.
This enhanced program will feature $4.95 online equity and options trades, with an additional 50 cents per options contract.
Photo courtesy of: E*Trade
Investors looking for the best trading platform for a specific type of account need look no further than E*Trade. This best online trading platform offers a wide array of account options throughout a core offering of four categories
- Managed Solutions
- Small Business Solutions
For those who are interested in seeing a quick overview, E*Trade does provide a list of their most popular account types.
Motif Investing Review
Over the course of the last six years, Motif Investing has created a one-of-a-kind investment platform that has many naming it the best online stock trading platform.
The trades it makes are centered on ideas or “motifs” of what interests individual investors. Each concept turns into a motif, “intelligently weighted baskets of up to 30 stocks or exchange-traded funds.”
This best trading platform offers over 150 professionally built motifs, and users have created more than 180,000 customized motifs on their own. Motif Investing is ideal for users who want to invest around a specific concept.
Key Factors That Enabled This Online Trading Platform to Rank as One of the Best Online Trading Platforms
Want to know how Motif Investing ended up on our list of the best online trading sites? Take a look below at the various features that determined its ranking.
While the site is centered around providing you with what is essentially a custom-made ETF, investors have the opportunity to control just how much they want to alter.
The original creation of the motif includes up to thirty stocks and ETFs into a “basket,” but the user has the option to add or delete stocks and change the weights on each individual investment item.
For this reason, it is one of the best online trading sites for creative portfolio building.
If you have been investing for a while, you can also browse through their catalog to create your own motif.
These small portfolios are organized by current themes, trends, and strategies, making searching for a motif into an organized and pleasant experience.
A few examples of the categories available through Motif Investing include:
- Green Investing
- Social Causes
- Political Themes
- Current Events
- Energy & Natural Resources
- Financial Services
- Real Estate
Trading Fees and Pricing
You’ll pay just $9.95 total commission for thirty stocks, or as they call it, a motif. Within this bundle of stocks, you can still weight them exactly as you desire.
For individual trades, investors can expect to pay $4.95 per trade, though it certainly seems as though motifs are more popular, as Motif Investing excels at providing dynamic, productive portfolios.
While trading accounts have no account minimum, investing in a motif requires a minimum of $300. Motif Impact accounts have a minimum requirement of $1,000, and to trade on margin, investors will need a minimum of $2,000.
OptionsHouse is one of the best online trading sites for low commission fees and advanced trading technology. Around since 2005, this best stock trading site boasts high rankings from Barron’s, another leading industry reviewer.
Their slightly longer time in business has resulted in a plethora of awards calling this choice one of the best online trading platforms.
For more information on the features and pricing that makes OptionsHouse rank as one of the best online trading site options, see the following section.
The technology offered by OptionsHouse is comparable to what professional brokerages might have in their offices. They tout their tradeCYCLE process as a way to help you make better trades and increase your profits.
Their interfaces are 100% customizable, allowing you to take closer looks at your profitable trades for better research and analysis.
Their other platform, tradeLAB, also allows you to take a look at different strategies with customized metrics.
You can see a quick profit/loss/break even picture for different stocks and options, helping you to better balance risk versus reward.
Adjust the volatility to take a more in-depth look at the possible scenarios you may face from trading your stocks and options.
From these same screens, you can even place your trades right on the spot. With pre-populated orders, you can set your platform to notify you with alerts.
These trigger alerts will even help you to see great opportunities to maximize your potential profits quickly.
For more advanced investors, you can dive deeper into their other programs such as strategySEEK to help you develop and fine-tune different trading strategies and gain insight with custom charts and graphs regarding the profits you’ve made from previous trades.
You have the opportunity to analyze, learn, and grow a new trading strategy with potential situations that can test whether it will work best for your portfolio.
OptionsHouse Trading Fees & Pricing
First and foremost, there is no account minimum in order to open an account through OptionsHouse. Unlike other stock trading websites, they also don’t require maintenance fees for relatively inactive accounts.
When compared to the commission fees on other top trading platforms, this best trading platform carries rates are significantly lower than their competitors.
Who benefits the most from the pricing that OptionsHouse offers? Active traders tend to fare better from the fee schedule, with decreased rates as a reward for the more trades you perform.
TD Ameritrade Review
Another long-running best online trading site, TD Ameritrade has been around for forty years and counting.
It became one of the first “discount brokerages” in the early 1980s and continues to offer the same low trade commission today.
TD Ameritrade is a top pick for those investors who want access to similar analytical tools used by Wall Street, hedge funds, and institutional investors. These tools include a customizable workspace, screeners, streaming market commentary/charts, back testing, strategy rollers, etc.
With 24/7 customer service, great research tools, numerous other investment options, and plenty of physical branches throughout the U.S., TD Ameritrade is a great choice and is a great pick for a best stock trading platform.
Below, we have listed key factors that enabled TD Ameritrade to be listed as one of our options for the best online trading platform.
TD Ameritrade provides a wide range of research and trading tools which investors – from new to those more experienced – have found to be very useful when conducting stock, ETF or options research.
This is a great online trading site to use if you only want to invest in American markets, and the fees are competitive and attractive to beginners.
In addition to providing powerful trading tools to experienced traders, it is clear that TD Ameritrade has positioned itself to be the broker for new and beginning investors, and it is prone to spending large amounts of money on advertising at large sporting events.
Barron's ranked them as first in their class for usability, and this best stock trading platform has made it into several rankings as one of the best stock trading platforms.
Education & Research
TD Ameritrade offers a lot of education and research on potential investments, perfect for beginner do-it-yourself investors or more seasoned traders.
Beginners can get a quick crash course in trading with seminars and webcasts. Learn the different account types and investment products, about taxes, and planning for specific life goals like college or retirement.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can take advantage of their third-party research to help evaluate your investment strategy.
When it comes to research, TD Ameritrade is a leading online trading platform.
Users have access to an entire suite of investment research tools to analyze investment performance and market data, making it one of the best stock trading platforms for those who want quick access to important market data.
TD Ameritrade provides detailed research findings for the following categories:
- Stock Profile
- Options Research
- Mututal Funds
- Bonds & CDs
- Investor Movement Index (IMX)
One of the greatest features that marked TD Ameritrade as one of the best online trading platforms is the option to choose which of their platforms works best for you.
You can choose between four options:
- Web Platform—for serious fundamental investors
- Trade Architect—for active investors and traders
- Think or Swim—for serious traders
- Mobile—for on-the-go investors and traders
Each one of their platforms features different tools and choices, customizable based on your preferences.
Stream news, analyze resources to come up with ideas for your next investment, and make trades quickly and easily. You can also set up alerts from many of these best online trading platforms to keep you in the loop.
TD Ameritrade Fees & Pricing
With recently updated pricing, TD Ameritrade has become a more affordable option. This best trading platform offers flat-rate commissions on all trades, no share limits, and no trade requirements–all for $6.95 per online equity trade.
Looking to avoid paying commission? TD Ameritrade also features more than 100 commission-free ETFs for the same trade price.
While they also have technology and investment research similar to that from E*Trade, OptionsHouse, and TD Ameritrade, commissions and customer service are where they really shine.
Ultimately, TradeKing is built for serious traders who trade actively and in large volumes.
Still, new and intermediate investors and traders can also benefit from the advanced trading capabilities provided by TradeKing, including its low price per trade cost.
If you’re interested to see how TradeKing measures up, take a look below to see how we rated them for our own review of stock trading websites.
Over the past few years, TradeKing has been acknowledged as a best trading platform for customer service.
SmartMoney gave TradeKing the highest ranking for customer service in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The various forms of customer service available through TradeKing include:
- Phone: TradeKing promises to try to answer all calls within seconds without complicated menus or long hold times.
- Online chat: Reach a specialized broker instantly on the live chat feature.
- Email: TradeKing tries to respond within 2 hours to every email inquiry but gives themselves up to 24 hours during the weekends.
One of the best features of the TradeKing trading platform is the use of their TradeKing LIVE software.
Instead of dealing with large downloads limiting your ability to access your investments from every computer, their software is browser-based. Your information and quotes are streamed directly through this software.
The best part is that because it does not involve downloads, you can access it from anywhere and any device.
In addition to this software, you can also use their other tools:
- Technical Analysis Tools by Recognia
- Maxit Tax Manager
- Stocks, ETF, & Mutual Fund Screeners
- Options & Strategy Scanners
- Profit & Loss Calculators
- Probability Calculators
- Options Pricing Calculators
No matter what sort of information you need to assemble, TradeKing probably has a technological tool to help you find the answers.
Photo courtesy of: TradeKing
You are not required to have an account minimum when you get started with TradeKing.
However, there are a few drawbacks to maintaining a low balance or an inactive trading account: inactive clients who have not traded for a full 12 months and have a combined household account value of less than $2,500 will incur an annual inactivity charge.
Still, TradeKing does offer some of the lowest commission rates among the best stock trading platforms. Their stock and ETF trade commission rate falls at $4.95 with an additional $0.65 per contract for options.
The only other option that fell under our ranking of the best online trading sites with a lower commission fee was OptionsHouse.
Most of the savings you get from TradeKing comes from the fact that it devotes fewer dollars to its advertising budget than other firms.
However, note that you will pay an additional 1 cent per each stock under $2, and if your account is under $2500 and you don’t make a trade for 12 months, you will be slammed with a $50 inactivity fee.
For the price, this is a top online stock broker to consider – even if it, perhaps, lacks some of the bells and whistles of other brokers.
There is an active user forum, and interaction with other traders is strongly encouraged. This allows users of this best stock trading site to share experiences, ideas, and strategies for online stock trading.
The general consensus across online stock trading reviews is that you can’t go wrong with TradeKing.
Conclusion — Top 6 Best Online Trading Platforms
Utilizing an online trading platform can save you both money and time when it comes to making self-directed investments.
Pricing from the best online trading sites can be fairly low, making it even more beneficial for you to use one of these stock trading websites instead of a traditional brokerage.
When considering the best stock trading platform or the best online trading platform, you want to keep in mind more than just the price.
The technological advancements they can offer may help to uncover a new strategy that aligns with your investment style. Balance the technology, educational resources, pricing, and customer service to determine the best stock trading platform for your needs.
Keep in mind that many of these brokerages will offer specials and discounted rates during a trial period.
These promotional offers change on a regular basis, so be sure to investigate all of the best online trading platforms you’re interested in to see what they may be offering before making an account.
AdvisoryHQ (AHQ) Disclaimer:
Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.
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