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2011 Kiplinger’s Best Online Brokers

Every year Kiplinger’s magazine [3] puts out a survey of the best online brokers. Every year, I take a look at the list because I’m curious how the different brokers stack up. I’d like to know if anyone has made any big changes or improvements to their service, it might change my mind about who I do business with.

Usually the lists don’t change all that much. As you scan this year’s list, you’ll see the same ones near the top, the same ones near the middle, and the same ones near the end. The meat is in the article detailing the different categories (like commissions and fees, investment choices, etc.) because it adds a little color to an otherwise robotic list.

One important thing to remember as you peruse this list: the best online broker is the broker that satisfies all of your requirements. All the bells and whistles in the world don’t matter if they don’t offer exactly what you need. With so many brokers, many of which are inexpensive, you should be able to find your best broker, online or offline, if you’re diligent.

Let’s get to the list…

2011 Best Online Brokers

Here’s the list along with their “comment:”

  1. Fidelity: Top-notch all around.
  2. TD Ameritrade: Tied for first place, with better investment choices than ever.
  3. E*Trade: Solid in all areas.
  4. Vanguard: Low costs and superb customer service set this broker apart.
  5. OptionsXpress: A Mecca for options buffs that scores high on costs.
  6. Charles Schwab: Offers the broadest list of funds with no loads or transaction fees.
  7. Scottrade: A better Web site would have boosted this broker’s ranking.
  8. TradeKing: The first broker to incorporate social networking.
  9. Firstrade: Could use additional tools and investment choices.
  10. Merrill Edge: This newcomer charges high fees.
  11. Zecco: Offers low costs but few investment choices.
  12. Just2Trade: Bare-bones broker boasts the lowest commissions.
  13. Muriel Siebert: Impressive range of investment choices; abysmal Web site.
  14. USAA: Costs are high, and Website and investment choices are lacking.

In the past, when we covered Kiplinger’s best discount brokers [4], they broke out discount and “regular” brokers. It’s hard to compare a broker like Vanguard against a discount broker like TradeKing (I use both but for different purposes) and expect a fair comparison. That’s why I recommend finding the best broker for you, rather than relying on lists.

Who is your favorite online broker and why?