NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions.
The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent. We spent over hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. The app offers commission-free trading of more than 5, equities and ETFs, with respectable execution speed and free real-time data. The company also allows investors to trade on margin, for a flat fee based on debit balance instead of the typical interest rate charged by most brokers. The trade-off is most of the bells and whistles of a typical brokerage account.
ETFs have become the darling of the investing world, with a long list of investor-friendly attributes. They tend to have low expense ratios — the operating expenses of the fund, passed on to investors as an annual cost. That last bit makes them liquid and tax efficient, but it can also cost you. Because they trade on an exchange like a stock, ETFs typically are subject to broker trade commissions.
That means investors looking for ETFs should find a broker that offers a lengthy list of commission-free options. Both E-Trade and Charles Schwab fit that bill. Charles Schwab leads here, with over ETFs from 16 providers.
Both brokers also have reasonable account minimums, helpful ETF screeners and research, and no inactivity or annual fees. OptionsXpress may be especially attractive to investors who trade ETFs and options; the broker excels at the latter, as you might guess.
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These brokers offer thousands of mutual funds with no transaction costs. Mutual funds are the old-school ETF — similar principle, at least from the diversification angle. Like ETFs, they hold many individual investments, so investors get some level of diversification in a single fund.
But many brokers have a list of no-transaction-fee funds. That means you can buy funds on those lists with no charge, though as with ETFs, investors in these funds will pay expense ratios. OptionsHouse offers one of the best free-trading promotions around: The deal is valid only for new customers, and trades must be executed within 60 days of opening the account, so get rocking.
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Low commissions; good tools, particularly for options.