Buying and selling stocks online is easier and cheaper than ever. In fact, there’s so much competition that at least one brokerage charges nothing for trades and does not require an account minimum.
But as with most things, you get what you pay for. While trading and other fees may be the most important factor in choosing a broker, regulatory disclosure incidents, margin interest and available research may also factor into a decision of which broker to go with.
Financial information website MoneyRates.com has looked at 19 online brokerage firms and ranked them on the basis of cost and these other elements to determine the best overall online brokerage firm and the best in each of the four named categories.
Here are MoneyRates.com’s choices.
Best Overall: Motif Investing received especially high marks for its clean record of disclosures and its cost-effectiveness for small brokers. Optionshouse and Capital One Investing were runners-up as best overall brokers.
Best for Small Investors: Firstrade, Motif Investing and Optionshouse tied in this category, based on their low $4.95 commission on trades and no account minimum.
Best for Margin Investors: Interactive Brokers topped this category with a margin rate of 2.16%, well below the average rate of 7.52%. Runners-up were Just2Trade and Lightspeed, both with 6.50% margin rates.
Best Disclosure Records: Motif Investing topped this category as well. According to FINRA, Motif has been registered since 2010 and has experienced no regulatory events or arbitration rulings in all that time. Runners-up were Just2Trade and T. Rowe Price.
Best for Research Resources: Merrill Edge, the online arm of Merrill Lynch, led in this category. Runners-up were Charles Schwab and Scottrade.
And that broker that charges no commission fee on trades and requires no minimum account? That’s Robinhood, a relatively new online broker that uses a limited margin account type as well as a standard cash account to clear trades.
Visit MoneyRates.com for more information and details on the rankings.