NerdWallet's ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.
Understand the risks associated with the stocks you are investing in. In the company’s 10-K, there is an extensive section that talks about the company’s risks. You also need to understand your own tolerance for risk. If you invest in a stock that is highly volatile and you are not comfortable with market fluctuation, owning the investment will make you anxious and more likely to sell when it does not make sense strategically.
With the large library of educational and research content, you can enter the high-speed options trading world with your eyes wide open to the risks and opportunities. That said, the competitive costs and quality trading platforms make it a worthy consideration for even the most experienced traders. Accounts require a $1,000 minimum to access options trading.
Merrill Edge is the online brokerage arm of Bank of America, which is open to all investors, regardless if they are a current banking customer. Alongside $0 trades, Merrill Edge offers excellent stock research (Merrill Edge was rated #1 for environmental, social, and governance “ESG” research). Also, Merrill Edge offers the best rewards program. Reward perks include credit card bonus cash back, savings interest bonuses, priority customer service, and more. My wife and I have personally been members of the program since it launched in 2014. It’s awesome. Full review.
When we started our 2020 online broker reviews six months ago, no one knew how the world would change. We recognize that we all are living through a particularly volatile time as we deal with this global crisis, and financial markets have also seen unprecedented change, impacting all investors. Our analysis of the online brokerage industry is, "Commission Cuts, Consolidation, and a Coronavirus Crash."
TradeStation offers the most advanced desktop trading platform in the industry and is excellent for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures trading. Meanwhile, TradeStation’s web-based platform and mobile app offer $0 stock trades and are great for casual traders. What I love most about TradeStation is the true focus on traders. Whether you are a new trader just learning the ropes, a casual trader, or an active trader who day trades or swing trades, TradeStation has you covered. Full review.
A broker – Your broker will be your gatekeeper to the market. They will facilitate your trades in return for a commission on your trades. When you’re making so many trades each day, an expensive broker could seriously cut into your profits in the long term. Do your homework and find a broker that’s reliable and offers a straightforward, competitive fee structure. To compare platforms, visit our brokers page.
There are two types of trading platforms: prop platforms and commercial platforms. As their name indicates, commercial platforms are targeted at day traders and retail investors. They are characterized by ease-of-use and an assortment of helpful features, such as news feeds and charts, for investor education and research. Prop platforms, on the other hand, are customized platforms developed by large brokerages to suit their specific requirements and trading style.
Risk tolerance is a psychological trait that is genetically based, but positively influenced by education, income, and wealth (as these increase, risk tolerance appears to increase slightly) and negatively by age (as one gets older, risk tolerance decreases). Your risk tolerance is how you feel about risk and the degree of anxiety you feel when risk is present. In psychological terms, risk tolerance is defined as “the extent to which a person chooses to risk experiencing a less favorable outcome in the pursuit of a more favorable outcome.” In other words, would you risk $100 to win $1,000? Or $1,000 to win $1,000? All humans vary in their risk tolerance, and there is no “right” balance.

A full-service broker might charge you as much as $300 in fees to invest $10,000 in a mutual fund or up to $100 to invest that same amount in a stock. On the other hand, a discount broker typically charges no commissions for online trades and has a list of no-commission mutual funds. That means the cost difference alone is reason enough for new investors to use a discount brokerage firm.
TradeStation offers the most advanced desktop trading platform in the industry and is excellent for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures trading. Meanwhile, TradeStation’s web-based platform and mobile app offer $0 stock trades and are great for casual traders. What I love most about TradeStation is the true focus on traders. Whether you are a new trader just learning the ropes, a casual trader, or an active trader who day trades or swing trades, TradeStation has you covered. Full review.

If you are literally just getting started, the services offered by most major stockbrokers (information here) as a part of their trading account services will be a good place to start (and free). Firms such as Trade King, eTrade, Charles Schwab and Ameritrade provide a range of online tools. These will give you a feel for how portfolio management software works without having to pay extra to learn. However, these services typically offer no advice (known as execution only), which means that a separate service will be required for information analysis.
The use of borrowed money “levers” or exaggerates the result of price movement. Suppose the stock moves to $200 a share and you sell it. If you had used your own money exclusively, your return would be 100% on your investment [($20,000 -$10,000)/$10,000]. If you had borrowed $5,000 to buy the stock and sold at $200 per share, your return would be 300 % [(20,000-$5,000)/$5,000] after repaying the $5,000 loan and excluding the cost of interest paid to the broker.
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