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Picking the best online brokerage platform isn’t always intuitive. Research is especially important with so many competitors in the field.

We analyzed 18 leading brokerage firms to determine the best online brokerage platforms in 2024. Our assessments are based on each firm’s advisory services, educational tools, trading costs, customer service and more.

Our best online brokers and trading platforms

Why trust our investing experts

Our team of experts evaluates many investing products and analyzes various data points to help you find the best product for your situation. We use a data-driven methodology to determine each rating. Advertisers do not influence our editorial content. You can read more about our methodology below.

  • 18 brokerages reviewed.
  • 50+ data points analyzed.
  • 3-step editorial review.
  • 5-step fact-checking process.

Compare the top online brokers

BROKERCOMMISSION-FREE STOCK, ETF AND OPTIONS TRADINGPER-CONTRACT OPTIONS (FEE)FRACTIONAL SHARE TRADING
Charles Schwab
✔️
$0.65
✔️
E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley
✔️
$0.65
Interactive Brokers
✔️
$0.65
✔️
Fidelity
✔️
$0.65
✔️
eToro
✔️
$0
✔️
WeBull
✔️
$0
✔️
Robinhood
✔️
$0.00279
✔️
TradeStation
✔️
$0.60
Vanguard
✔️
$1
✔️

Methodology

We researched more than 50 queries for each firm in our rankings. Our researchers verified the data and confirmed any missing data points by contacting each company directly and conducting online research.

Among the brokerages we considered, the firms that made our list excelled in areas across several major categories. Those include offerings, trading costs, account minimums and fees, features, advisory services, insurance, customer service, education and research, security, margin interest rate, cash interest, and portfolio analysis.

Within each major category, we considered several subcategories. We then combined them to give an overall score for that category.

Data points were scored on a 0.00 to 1.00 scale. The top raw score was 0.80 and was curved to a 5-star rating as the highest possible score.

Why other online brokers didn’t make the cut

The online brokerage platforms that could have ranked higher need more services and offerings. For instance, some did not offer bonds, mutual funds, options, futures, forex, international stock, crypto or fractional shares trading.

Other brokerage platforms fell short of our rankings due to a relative lack of value-added features.

Lastly, some brokerage platforms charge higher trading commissions and fees than others. Since many platforms offer zero commissions on stock, ETF and options trading, firms that charge for those services ranked lower.

Firms that assessed higher fees for services like account closure or inactivity received lower scores.

Online brokerage comparison

Charles Schwab has something for everyone. It offers three platforms, including proprietary trading software. There are options to satisfy every level of support, from human to robo-advice to DIY. It’s also great if you want to buy individual stocks for less. Schwab’s fractional shares program lets you buy S&P 500 companies for as little as $5.

Fidelity is also a good choice if you want to keep costs low. The firm offers no commissions on stock, ETF, options and many mutual funds. It also provides zero-expense ratio index mutual funds. You can’t get lower in cost than that.

E*TRADE and Fidelity are great for all levels of investors. But active traders may prefer a broker that caters to their technical analysis needs, such as Interactive Brokers.

Final verdict

Our best overall online brokerage platform of 2024 is Charles Schwab. The company has among the most diverse offerings of any brokerage, with something for every type of investor. Access the broker through its website, mobile app or proprietary trading platform. 

You can then choose your level of support. Do you want human guidance? The hands-off support of a robo-advisor? Or are you an active trader who prefers to do it all yourself? Schwab has something for you, no matter who you are.

Charles Schwab also boasts no commissions on stocks, ETFs and options and no account minimums. All it takes to start trading is $5 with the firm’s fractional shares program.

Stock market outlook for 2024

The stock market has been on a fairly steady climb since early 2024. The S&P 500 is up more than 7.8% year to date, and the Nasdaq is up more than 4.5% year to date, as of April 25. Both indexes reached new all-time highs in March 2024. 

Jeffrey Buchbinder, chief equity strategist for LPL Financial, said history suggests 2024 could be a good year for stocks.

“The average gain in the second year of a bull market at 12.9% suggests stocks may be poised to add to this year’s solid gains in 2024,” Buchbinder said. “We think this bull market still has a way to go and won’t be derailed by a (potentially) mild, short recession over the next year.

Analysts project 12.2% earnings growth and 5.6% revenue growth for S&P 500 companies in 2024. Fortunately, analysts see positive earnings and revenue growth for every market sector this year.

How does an online broker work

An online broker is a digital platform that allows you to buy and sell securities, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs. 

Online brokerages often offer portfolio management tools in addition to trade execution. You’ll also often find research reports and educational resources to help you make informed decisions.

Online brokers are designed for self-service. But most platforms provide customer support through chat, email or phone. They may charge fees for trades, account maintenance or other services. But the good news is that commission-free trades are increasingly becoming the norm.

Financial authorities regulate online brokerages, providing a layer of investor protection. That said, you’re ultimately solely responsible for your investment decisions. So it’s important to be well informed and cautious.

How to choose the best online broker

There’s much to consider when choosing the best online broker. You want a brokerage that can satisfy your needs today and in the future.

Here are some questions to ask when choosing an online broker:

  • How tailored are the broker’s offerings to your investment objectives? If you want hands-off options, does it have a good robo-advisor? If you’re an active trader, does it provide a robust trading platform?
  • What degree of research and education are you looking for?
  • Is the platform user-friendly?
  • Does the broker offer a mobile app?
  • What fees does the broker charge? How transparent is the fee structure?
  • Are there account minimums?
  • How accessible is the customer support?
  • Is the broker regulated by a reputable financial authority, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority?

How to buy and trade stocks online

The first step to buying and trading stocks online is opening an online brokerage account. These firms typically require identification and financial documents for verification. Once logged in, you can browse or search for the stock you want to buy. You’ll often search for the stock’s ticker symbol. But searching by name can also work. Stock screeners can help you identify the right stock if you don’t know what you want to invest in.

You’ll probably have the option to place different types of orders. Market orders are the most straightforward option and give you the next available price. You can use limit orders if you have a price in mind that you aren’t willing to buy above or sell below. Just know that with limit orders you’re not guaranteed execution. The stock may never reach your limit price.

It’s crucial to be aware of possible fees, even though some platforms offer commission-free trading. Remember that not all brokerages provide the same access to all asset classes. So you must be aware of possible trade restrictions. 

While financial authorities regulate online brokerages, you are solely responsible for making wise investment decisions. So do your due diligence and consider consulting financial advisors or conducting thorough research before making trades.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Theoretically, you can buy shares without a broker-dealer through transfer agents like Computershare via the Direct Registration System. But this approach tends to be less intuitive, responsive and cost-effective than a broker. 

An online brokerage platform remains the best option for retail investors to buy and sell stocks. And since many offer commission-free online trades and no account fees, they have little downside.

Your stocks always belong to you, even if the online brokerage fails. The Securities Investor Protection Corp. will step in and guarantee your investment up to a certain threshold. 

The SIPC insurance limit is $500,000 per account. That includes a $250,000 limit on cash deposits. But the SIPC cannot reimburse you for losses due to poor investment decisions. SIPC protection kicks in only if a broker becomes insolvent. It won’t make you whole if your investment loses value in the market.

You can buy stocks online without a broker using the Direct Registration System. You then become a registered company shareholder and hold your shares directly rather than through a brokerage account. A transfer agent manages the shares on behalf of the company and keeps them in your name. 

The DRS allows you to bypass brokerage fees but has some limitations. Not all companies offer this service. And the process can be more complex than using a broker. You also won’t have access to the research tools, educational materials or real-time trading brokers offer. Further, orders may be processed less frequently, such as daily or weekly, rather than in real time.

Several online brokers offer trades without commissions. These platforms typically generate revenue through other means, such as payment for order flow or premium services. The absence of trading fees can be attractive. But understand any other associated costs or limitations. 

Read the fine print and consider the overall value proposition before choosing a broker. Also consider the available tools, educational resources and customer service. Finally, these brokers may limit commission-free trades to specific asset classes.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy. The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Tony Dong

BLUEPRINT

Tony Dong is a freelance financial writer with bylines in U.S. News and World Report, the NYSE, the Nasdaq, The Motley Fool and Benzinga. He lives in Vancouver, Canada and is an avid watch collector.

Coryanne is an investing and finance writer whose work appears in Forbes Advisor, U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger, and Business Insider among other publications. She discovered her passion for personal finance as a fully-licensed financial professional at Fidelity Investments before she realized she could reach more people by writing.

Farran Powell

BLUEPRINT

Farran Powell is the lead editor of investing at ӣƵ Blueprint. She was previously the assistant managing editor of investing at U.S. News and World Report. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including TheStreet, Mansion Global, CNN, CNN Money, DNAInfo, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and the New York Daily News. She holds a BSc from the London School of Economics and an MA from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @farranpowell.