Every year, Smart Money takes an in-depth look at online brokers, from their trading platform to their customer service, and rates them based on their performance. They open up accounts and make trades, they call up customer service and pore through the reviews, and they share all of their experiences with you – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
One thing that does surprise me is how little the list changes each year. For yet another year, the top five are the same, though their order has changed a little, and the back of the list sees the same faces. You would think that these brokers would look at these problem spots and at least make some steps to address them.
Best Online Discount Brokers
Who are the top discount brokers according to Smart Money?
The top ten (of seventeen) are (list ):
- Fidelity  – $7.95/trade
- E*Trade  – $9.99
- TD Ameritrade  – $9.99
- Charles Schwab  – $8.95
- TradeKing  – $4.95
- Scottrade  – $7.00
- WallStreet-E  – $7.99
- Firstrade – $6.95
- Just2Trade  – $2.50
- Muriel Siebert  – $14.95
The top five this year are the same top five as last year (2009 Smart Money Broker rankings ) with a few shifts. E*Trade lost the top spot to Fidelity while TD Ameritrade shot ahead two spots to take third. It’s interesting to note that in the top five, only TradeKing charges less than $5 a trade.
- Commissions & Fees – Best: Just2Trade, Worst: Banc of America
- Customer Service – Best: TradeKing, Worst: ShareBuilder
- Trading Tools – Best: Fidelity, Worst: WellsTrade
- Mutual Funds & Investment Products – Best: Charles Schwab, Worst: SogoTrade
- Banking Services – Best: E*Trade & Fidelity, Worst: OptionsXpress
- Research – Best: Charles Schwab, Worst: WallStreet-E
Of the five brokers, I’ve used three (E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, and TradeKing) and have had great experiences at all three. I currently use TradeKing because of their low commissions and great customer service. I haven’t used Just2Trade but with a 9th place finish and $2.50 commissions, I’d give them serious consideration if I traded stocks more often.
Zecco, often lauded by many a personal finance blogger because of their low/free commissions, appears to have made a concerted effort to improve its services. Last year they were 15th out of 16. This year they climbed a few rungs up to 12th, putting it ahead of some discount veterans like Sharebuilder and Banc of America.
Which broker do you use and do you think they were fairly treated by the Smart Money research team?