We look at the best online investment sites to find out which offer the best option for investors
- Summary: Best Online Brokerages
- Best Online Investment Site Overall: Ally Invest
- Best Investing Site for Experienced Traders: TradeStation
- Best Online Investment Site for Beginners: Swell Investing
- Best Robo Advisor Site: Personal Capital
- Best Investing Site for 401(k): Blooom
- Best Site for Investment Selection: TD Ameritrade
- Best Online Brokers
- Best Online Trading Companies
- Best Stock Trading App
- Best Crowdfunded Investing Service
- Best Cheap Stocks to Buy
- Best Online Stock Broker for Beginners
Online investing can be one of the best things to do with your money when you want to increase your savings. While there is no single choice for the best online investment sites that is best for everyone, there are plenty of financial tools available to help you make the best decisions. It’s helpful to be aware of your options — plenty of online brokerages, virtual trading sites and investing sites would love to have you choose them. Regardless of whether you’re looking to invest for the first time or you’ve been trading options for a long time, there are interactive brokers out there that can help you make smart financial decisions. Here is a breakdown of some of the best resources on the web.
Here’s quick breakdown of our ratings with the reviews below:
Summary: Best Online Brokerages
- Ally Invest: Best Overall Online Investment Site
- TradeStation: Best Investing Site for Experienced Traders
- Swell Investing: Best for Beginners
- Personal Capital: Best Robo Advisor Site
- Blooom: Best for 401(k)
- TD Ameritrade: Best for Investment Selection
Best Online Investment Site Overall: Ally Invest
ALLY INVEST REVIEW
- Best for: Beginners. Ally Invest makes investing easy and offers a lot of education around investing, so you can make the best decisions when it comes to your money.
- Price: Trades are $4.95, and the options base fee is also $4.95. Options per contract are $0.65 and broker assisted orders are $20.
- Features: Ally Invest offers all the typical investing options, including stocks, options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds, bonds, forex and trading on the International Stock Exchange.
- Other highlights: Ally Invest doesn’t require a minimum balance, which is a nice feature that a lot of investing sites don’t offer. It also offers an easy-to-use platform and a mobile app, which are benefits for beginners.
- Customer service: Ally Invest offers customer service both for technical issues and when you have questions about trading. It has brokers on hand to help with any of your investment questions.
|Fees||Investing Options||Minimum Investment||STL Rating|
|$4.95 per trade||Stocks & options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds,
bonds, forex, International Stock Exchange
Commission costs at Ally Invest are $4.95, and it offers a lot of value for that low price tag. Ally Invest has a $0 account minimum and is a great option for active traders and options trading. It isn’t as mainstream as some of its competitors, but it’s building a healthy reputation for the quality and breadth of its offerings. Investing options include stocks and options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds, bonds, forex and International Stock Exchange.
Best Investing Site for Experienced Traders: TradeStation
- Best for: Option trading. TradeStation has one of the best trading platforms of any online broker. It’s tools, tips and trading options make it one of the go-to services for experienced traders.
- Price: Trades are $5, and the options base fee is also $5. Options per contract are $0.50 and broker assisted orders are $50.
- Features: TradeStation offers a large array of investing options, including stocks, options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds, bonds, forex and trading on the International Stock Exchange.
- Other highlights: TradeStations trading tools set it apart. It’s OptionsStation Pro platform offers the same tools as the pro-traders, making it a good fit for more experienced traders. The platform also provides a broker forum, where active traders can talk about tips and ask questions of other experienced traders.
|Fees||Investing Options||Minimum Investment||STL Rating|
|$5 per trade||Stocks & options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds,
bonds, forex, International Stock Exchange
TradeStation is known for its pro tools, so of course it is our pick for the best online investment site for experienced traders. TradeStations OptionsStation Pro platform provides experienced traders with all the tools that the pro traders use, making it easy and intuitive to either do day trading or make long-term investments. Experience and sophistication, of course, come at a price. While TradeStation’s $5 per trade fee is either on-par or lower than other trading sites, it does charge a lot more for broker-assisted trades ($50) and has a high minimum investment at $5,000.
Best Online Investment Site for Beginners: Swell Investing
SWELL INVESTING REVIEW
- Best for: Beginners. Swell Investing not only offers a great mobile app that makes investing easy, but it also is perfect for young professionals who want to invest and do social good at the same time.
- Price: At 0.75%, Swell’s annual fee on investment is a little high compared to other robo advisors, but the high price is due in part to the fact that Swell has to curate their portfolio with only do-gooder companies. The other part is Swell’s intuitive site and app, as well as the investing tools it offers.
- Features: Swell offers all types of IRAs, including beneficiary IRAs, as well as individual accounts, which are not tax-exempt.
- Other highlights: Swell’s mobile and desktop sites can not be praised enough. Both are easy to use and offer great visuals of the breakdown of your portfolio and where your money is being invested.
|Fees||Investing Options||Minimum Investment||STL Rating|
|0.75% annual fee||IRAs and individual accounts||$500|
Swell Investing is being marketed as the investing site for millennials. It not only takes a super-simple approach to investment, but it also allows you to invest in companies that are doing good for the world. It is run by Pacific Life Insurance Company, so it has a long history in the financial world, which is always good for piece of mind.
Swell’s mobile platform makes it easy to invest with the swipe of finger and to even set up weekly or monthly deposits into your accounts. You can set up an account for only $50, and while the 0.75% annual fee may seem steep, its because Swell
Best Robo Advisor Site: Personal Capital
PERSONAL CAPITAL REVIEW
- Best For: Wealthy investors. High-value investors get the comprehensive services available through Personal Capital at a reasonable price.
- Price: Annual advisory fees range from 0.49 percent to 0.89 percent, depending on the account balance.
- Features: Accounts with a minimum of $200,000 enjoy the hands-on service of two account managers, while all account holders can use the available personal finance tools and account teams to manage their accounts.
- Customer Service: Available through email or via phone. Personal Capital also has members-only contact methods, avoiding the clutter of a public line.
|Price||Investing Options||Minimum Investment||STL Rating|
|0.49% to 0.89% percent annual advisory fee,
depending on the account balance
|Traditional and Roth IRAs, Trust accounts,
Taxable Retirement accounts, 401k Plans
Personal Capital is perfect for those who prefer to have a lot of guidance and feedback on their investments and individual stocks. You’ll have dedicated human financial advisors who can help you invest wisely. It’s a good choice for high-net-worth investors and those looking for free financial management tools. Investing options include individual accounts, taxable accounts (joint and trust), traditional IRAs, Roth and SEP IRAs.
Best Investing Site for 401(k): Blooom
- Best For: 401(k) management. Blooom uses the same concept as any robo advisor but applies it to company-sponsored 401(k) plans instead of individual accounts.
- Price: Blooom’s cost is straight forward; perhaps the most straight-forward investing pricing we’ve seen. You pay $10 a month, no matter how large or small your investment. No additional fees. No changing rates. Just $10 a month.
- Features: In addition to the standard robo advisor features that help you make the most of your investment, Blooom also offers personal financial advisors to help you with any questions or issues you might have with the service. Blooom also has high-level security to protect its user’s financial information, and allows you to test out the service before committing, which most robo advisors don’t do. In addition to 401(k)s, Blooom also specializes in 403(b)s.
- Customer Service: Of any of the robo-advisor investing services, Blooom has some of the best customer service, with phone service during business hours during the week and 24/7 email support for any issues you may have.
|FEES||INVESTING OPTIONS||MINIMUM INVESTMENT||STL RATING|
|$10 per month||
With so many robo advisors handling IRAs and individual accounts, Blooom decided to take a different approach and focus on company-sponsored 401(k)s and 403(b)s. It uses the same robo advisor technology to optimize your investment returns while working within the investment offered by your company’s retirement plan. The best part about Blooom is its straight-forward pricing. You pay $10 a month no matter how large your investment is, and there are no extra fees or changing rates like other robo advisors. There is also no minimum investment requirement, so you can sign up no matter what you have saved in your 401(k).
Best Site for Investment Selection: TD Ameritrade
TD AMERITRADE REVIEW
- Best For: Investing options. TD Ameritrade is a well-known online brokerage firm that offers a wide range of investment options, from preferred stocks to college saving plans.
- Price: TD Ameritrade has fairly straight-forward pricing, starting at $9.99 per online stock trade.
- Features: TD Ameritrade is especially popular for its accessibility and user-friendly model, making it particularly attractive to first-time investors. With its one-on-one support system, which is monitored by licensed brokers, it’s also popular with consumers who are interested in investing money but would prefer to be guided by a professional with expertise in trading.
- Customer Service: TD Ameritrade is one of the only online investing service that also offers physical offices you can go to if you need in-person help with your investments.
|FEES||INVESTING OPTIONS||MINIMUM INVESTMENT||STL RATING|
|$9.99 per online stock trade||
TD Ameritrade has a wide selection of investments and makes a good choice for every kind of investor. You can invest in mutual funds or use the high-tech investing platform for more sophisticated trades, and there is no minimum balance requirement. It also provides extensive free research to help you make educated decisions. Investing options include stocks and options, ETFs, IRAs, mutual funds, bonds, forex and International Stock Exchange.
Best Online Brokers
Wealthfront offers free, automated investment management and financial planning for the first $10,000 invested. It’s a useful service for small balances and offers tax-efficient features like Direct Indexing management of 529 college savings plans, something none of its competitors offer.
FutureAdvisor is a robo-advisor that offers some free services, such as a comprehensive retirement planning analysis. It charges 0.50 percent as a management fee and necessitates a balance of $10,000 or more. It also offers access to a team of financial advisors. FutureAdvisor website
Personal Capital offers more one-on-one advisement for investors. It uses computer algorithms, but human financial advisors are paired with each client to help you make your choices. The costs are a little higher as a result — fees range from 0.49 to 0.89 percent per year depending on the size of your account. It’s great for large investments and hands-off investing.
Motif is a great way to invest in ideas without huge hassle or expense. Groups of up to 30 securities are put together by a staff member — there are nearly 100 motifs to choose from and you can trade them for just $9.95 each, quite low fees for that kind of transaction.
OptionsHouse is perfect for active traders because of the low stock trading commissions ($4.95) and lack of penalty fees. It’s free to open and maintain an account, and OptionsHouse offers professional-grade stock analysis research and excellent trading tools. However, it’s not the best for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund investors.
TD Ameritrade’s trade costs are on the high side ($9.99), but it offers first-class trading platforms that seasoned traders love. It also provides a variety of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and commission-free ETFs. There’s no account minimum, and TD Ameritrade offers free research and data, which can be very helpful.
Charles Schwab is a top pick for many reasons. The firm offers full-service treatment if you live close to one of its branches — there are 300 across the country. Online, you can find a lot of educational resources and great mobile trading platforms and tools.
OptionsXpress is a perfect discount broker for investors who aren’t solely focused on stock trading. It provides a selection of investment products, including bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. The cost is $3.50 per contract per side, but you can save money if you’re a high-volume trader.
Merrill Edge definitely stands out because of its research offerings from BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research as well as Morningstar, S&P, Capital IQ and more. It’s a great choice for casual traders because of the competitive pricing and great customer service. It commissions at $6.95 per trade, and there’s no account minimum.
Best Online Trading Companies
Ally Invest is a great choice for fee-conscious investors. The trade commissions are low ($4.95), there is no account minimum, and you can qualify for $1,000 in commission-free trades depending on your deposit. However, it doesn’t offer ETFs or no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
Betterment is one of the best financial advisor platforms. It has no minimum deposit requirement and features tons of great research tools to help users save, develop retirement plans and reduce taxes.The management fee is between 0.25 and 0.50 percent depending on your plan, based on different levels of access to financial advisors.
Scottrade offers excellent customer service, and its advisors can walk you through all your trading choices. It has a huge network and lots of resources for beginner investors. Commissions are moderately priced at $7 per trade, and there’s no account minimum for IRAs and only a $2,500 minimum for a brokerage account.
TD Ameritrade is an advanced trade architect platform with no account minimum. It offers a lot of free research and data, but it’s still best for advanced traders who have experience trading stocks, options or futures and commodities. Equity stock trading costs are $9.99, and transaction-fee mutual fund trades cost $49.99.
TradeStation has an ultra-advanced trading platform that used to be available only to brokers and institutional investors. Now it’s open to everyday investors, and it has super-sophisticated analysis software and other tools available. It’s perfect for very active stock market traders interested in options, futures and forex trading.
Best Stock Trading App
Robinhood is a free-trading app that saves you a lot of money on commissions. You can trade more than 5,000 stocks and ETFs without commissions or account minimums. It’s best for frequent stock or ETF traders as well as mobile traders. It offers real-time market data in addition to free trading.
Best Crowdfunded Investing Service
If you are looking for a non-traditional approach to investing, you can try a crowdfunded investment service like RealtyShares. RealtyShares allows you invest in a portion of a real estate investment project without having to deal directly with that project. The minimum investment is $5,000, which allows people with smaller incomes who are interested in real estate investments to participate at a lower price. The only downside is that your investment is not liquid, so you have to wait until the project is completed and sold before you get the return on your investment. To find out more, here is our RealtyShares review to give you a better idea of how it works.
Best Cheap Stocks to Buy
It’s always a good idea to buy the stock of a great company, but it’s even better if you can buy it at a low price. There aren’t too many companies discounting the sales of their stock these days because the market is at such a high point, but there are still some decent stocks that online brokerage firms can help you buy.
The new administration’s plan to dismantle Obamacare and lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent could mean that Pfizer will be a great investment option. The business tax rate would give Pfizer’s bottom line a big boost. It’s still risky depending on what happens in Congress surrounding these proposals, but the company’s tailwinds still probably make it a good investment.
Brookfield Property Partners stock was selling for about 70 cents on the dollar as the year came to a close. The company is selling selective assets within the core portfolio and is securing great value-affirming deals in retail and multi-family portfolios. Its plans to continue selling assets, buy other discounted assets or repurchase more of its discounted units stand to make it a strong choice.
Infrastructure stocks are looking good on Wall Street this year, again due to the new administration. Many companies stand to gain, but USG has solid products, a solid growth plan and a valuation that make it a more secure choice and a long-term winner.
The Walt Disney Co.
You may have heard on social media about next year’s planned opening of Avatar Land at Walt Disney World. With that and a full year of results from Shanghai Disney Resort, WDW is shaping up to be a great stock choice. Disney also has a slate of new movies coming out this year. Shares are down for now, which makes it a good time to buy before these growth drivers take hold.
Verizon has recently been one of the cheapest stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Although it’s seen slow growth lately, it’s been able to continue growing its business and the FiOS product in a challenging market, and changes in the landscape might make Verizon the company to start investing in right now.
Best Online Stock Broker for Beginners
Trading and investing can be tricky for people who are just starting out, and beginners can greatly benefit from a broker that is willing to help out first-timers. It’s best to start simple — and online investing can be one of the best ways to begin.
Ally Invest offers super-easy tools that are helpful to beginners. It’s known for excellent customer support and makes a great choice for first-time investors. You can take advantage of its options pricing calculator, profitability calculator, stocks and ETF screener, and more. It’s also one of the most affordable sites.
This is a great site for beginners who don’t want to do the decision making on which stocks and bonds to invest in. Wealthfront is a fully automated investment management and financial planning service. After you complete the risk assessment and review your recommended portfolio, you can open and fund an account. Once you’ve made the initial deposit, Wealthfront’s software automatically invests the money for you.
Personal Capital is an excellent site for those who want to invest a considerable sum of money. Its minimum investment policy is $25,000, and for that, it also provides a complete view of your portfolio and personalized services that make stock trading easy and profitable.
Best Online Investing Companies for Staying in the Black
For most of us, the price savings offered through internet investing is the single biggest reason to switch from traditional brokerage firms. Even the most expensive investment site typically costs substantially less than a brokerage firm, even when making brokerage assisted purchases. Priced at only $43.95 for market trades, OptionsHouse.com offers one of the least expensive rates. That fee remains the same, even with brokerage assistance. TradeKing also charges $4.95 plus $20 for brokerage assistance, versus TDAmeritrade’s price point of $9.99 plus $44.99 for brokerage assistance. OptionsHouse.com offers the lowest rates, almost across the board, but they only have three options: Stocks, Options and Spreads. Scottrade offers another option at $7 per trade, but there are a few exceptions to that pricing.
Deals: OptionsHouse.com is currently offering 60 commission-free trades when you sign up. TDAmeritrade is offering up to $600 when you open a new account. And TradeKing is offering $200 when you sign up.
Diversifying Your Portfolio
Volatile markets and the uncertainty left over from the global financial crisis make it important for you to be able to invest in a variety of ways. The limited options available through OptionsHouse.com may not work for the investment portfolio you are trying to build. With mutual funds, Forex, Futures and Fixed income investment options, TDAmeritrade has a package that suits almost any investor. TradeKing goes even further, offering bonds, international trades and margin purchases. TradeKing offers the largest range of potential investments, with clear up-front pricing on all of their products.
Managing Your Investments
Lowest price and greatest diversity does not mean that a site will be your top pick. Easily managing your portfolio can be another big factor. You probably do not have time to sit for hours, poring over financial pages. Instead, you need quick access to your entire investment package and the ability to automate many decisions. Does your online investment site allow you to pre-set sale prices? Can you manage your portfolio from a mobile site? Do you receive notifications when the market shifts, suddenly? Can you call in at any time to discuss your account?
All three of these investment sites offer you control over your sales prices and mobile access, but they do not all offer the same types of customer service. When you are investing a large portion of your savings, it is a nerve-wracking experience. OptionsHouse.com does offer a variety of contact methods, including telephone, live chat and email support, but it is not 24/7.
TDAmeritrade does not include live chat as a support method, but E*TRADE does, and they are both available all day, everyday in other ways. When you need to talk to someone about your investment account, 24-hour service can be a real advantage. Even a few hours can make a big difference to your investment package.
Finalizing Your Choice
Ultimately, choosing the right investment site will be determined by the type and scope of investing you plan to tackle. If you are just looking for the cheapest option that also includes solid investing tools, you should check out Scottrade. If you are most interested in long-term, low-risk trades, OptionsHouse.com may be the best choice. The lower fee structure is a bonus, and you will not need access to more volatile trading options. If you want a more diversified portfolio, TradeKing may be the best option. It has a wealth of trading options, quality customer service and a long-time reputation in the online trading industry. TDAmeritrade’s solid, middle-of-the-road options do not seem to measure up when combined with their higher fee structure. Take a look at this quick, side-by-side comparison to get more information, at a glance.