It has been a while since I got involved in the brokerage industry, and I can say that with so many options in the modern online brokerage industry, choosing the right investing company can be quite an intimidating process.

In the United States, I can clearly see people here have a love-hate relationship with their investment firms. Intimacy is built into the very nature of creating security for the future, yet investors are often dissatisfied with the fees they pay and the services they receive.

Below, you can find the list of top 5 brokerage firms that offer great services, provide powerful trading platforms, do right based on their customers' evaluation and are fully regulated.

Whatever is important for you - low fees, convenience or technology - the following table will help you decide on choosing a brokerage that is right for your investment goals and skills level.

 

Best brokerage firms in 2017

Brokerage Rating Stocks & ETFs Options Cost Per Contract Mutual Funds Min to Open
Ally Invest $4.95* $0.65* $9.95 $0
TD Ameritrade $6.95 $0.75 $49.95 $0
Motif Investing $4.95 n/a n/a $0
Swell Investing 0.75% per year $500
TradeStation $4.95 n/a n/a $0

* - Ally Invest offers special pricing of $3.95 per equity trade and 50 cents per options contract for users who make 30 or more trades in the prior calendar quarter and/or maintain an average daily balance of more than $100,000 in the prior calendar quarter.

 

#1

Ally Invest was formed by the merger of two strong financial institutions - TradeKing and Ally Financial. TradeKing announced an acquisition by Ally Financial in the early 2016, aiming to continue offering value and great brokerage services to its clients without any increase in cost. In May 2017, TradeKing officially became Ally Invest.

Ally Invest offers a wide array of investment products, a well-designed and easy-to-use intuitive trading platform and great customer service. All these great services are inherited from TradeKing. The merger of two firms allowed Ally Invest to provide even more services. So, Ally Invest offers a great variety of online banking services, which were not offered by TradeKing. It is all for the same low price and no account fees!

Ally Invest waived a $50 inactivity fee for every client. At TradeKing, the fee was a big drawback for some new investors. Ally Invest does not require any minimum balance or any minimum investment. You can be more than a little surprised to see that there is no initial investment to open an account. Basically, anyone can open an Ally Invest account and start exploring the broker's services and tools for free!

There is even more. Ally Invest introduced the special lower pricing for investors who make 30 or more trades in the prior calendar quarter and also for high net worth investors. You only need to maintain an average daily balance of more than $100,000 in the prior calendar quarter to receive the broker's special rate.

If you plan to open an IRA account, the broker offers a variety of IRA accounts with no annual or maintenance fees. The only $50 fee will be applied if you choose to close a retirement account.

Great for: beginning investors, long-term investors, do-it-yourself investors; stocks, ETFs, and options traders, mutual fund investors, Forex traders, great for IRA accounts.

You can learn more about Ally Invest here.

 

#2

TD Ameritrade is another great brokerage firm for investors of any experience level and any type.

As Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade is a great choice if you are just starting out with investing. TD Ameritrade is a highly experienced trusted brokerage firm. It is one of the largest brokerage houses in the country. In the late 2016, the company grew even more by acquiring Scottrade, which is a well-known broker with a long history on the market.

The pricing is slightly higher than what is offered by Ally Invest, yet there are some unique services not offered by Ally Invest.

For instance, TD Ameritrade offers the convenience of local branches for those clients who prefer a personal touch. More than 100 brick-and-mortar branches are located across the country, where investors can receive one-on-one guidance and help.

Another unique aspect of TD Ameritrade is that the company offers its three award-winning trading platforms absolutely for free. You can choose to use any platform, depending on your skills and experience level. Start with the Web Platform, which was rated the best for novice investors by the industry's most prestigious best Barron's online brokers. As you progress, you can choose either the highly-rated sophisticated thinkorswim or the advanced Trade Architect. In fact, a majority of online brokers charge steep fees for using premium platforms. Those are offered for free by TD Ameritrade!

Other strong features of TD Ameritrade include its more than 100 commission-free ETFs, excellent educational resources and research amenities.

With a wide selection of investment choices, TD Ameritrade is great for opening an IRA account. The broker offers a wide selection of fees-free retirement accounts. There is a $2,500 opening investment requirement for a retirement account. A brokerage account can be opened with as low as $0, which is a great opportunity for a new investor to use the firm's educational resources and explore trading tools. TD Ameritrade even offers a simulated trading. You can learn tools and apply your investing knowledge risk-free.

In addition, TD Ameritrade is one of three brokers that received four and a half stars out of five in the most prestigious brokerage firms' ranking by Barron's this year.

As I mentioned above, a TD Ameritrade account can be opened and explored with no initial deposit. However, if you decide to invest $3,000+ into your account in the first 60 days of account opening, you will receive 60 days of commission-free trading.

Great for: new investors, great for long-term investors, do-it-yourself investors; stocks, ETFs, and options traders, mutual fund investors, self-directed investors and those who prefer baranches and the personal touch, Forex traders, active traders, excellent for IRA accounts.

You can open TD Ameritrade account here.

 

#3

Motif Investing is a low-cost online brokerage, which offers a unique approach to investing. You can open an account with no initial deposit and start trading individual stocks or ETFs for a low $4.95 commission. However, the company provides you with an opportunity to invest in a motif, which is a basket of up to 30 stocks or ETFs, for only $9.95. You can create your own motifs or invest into more than 150 professionally-created motifs.

Motifs are customizable and can be created around a specific sector. The platform is very intuitive and well designed. There is a lot of information presented in a visual form, so even if you are new to investing, you shouldn't have any obstacles to use the platform. But if you do, then there are step-by-step instructions on the website. The platform is very easy to understand and pleasing to the eyes.

The brokerage offers clear and straightforward fees. An account can be opened with no initial investment. There is a $250 minimum deposit to start investing.

Great for: new investors, long-term investors, do-it-yourself investors; sector investors, stocks & ETFs traders; IRA accounts.

You can learn more about Motif Investing or open an account here.

 

#4

Swell Investing is a portfolio-based online investing platform. Swell focuses on providing clients with a way to invest in companies that have a positive impact on the world. Portfolios are constructed around high-impact global trends - 'healthy living,' 'renewable energy' and 'clean water' - with potentially high returns.

You can start with Swell with a minimum balance of $500. It does not charge any trading commissions. There is a 0.75% annual fee charged on a monthly basis. In fact, according to the Swell's official website, "With $500, your yearly fee would be $3.75 ($500 *0.0075= $3.75). That’s less than a fancy coffee! If you want to know how much per month that comes out to, it’s about $.32 a month."

Swell does not charge a fee to close the account. Once you initiate withdrawal of balance to your linked bank account, you can expect to receive it within six to seven business days.

If you are concerned about what makes Swell different from any fund, it is transparency. You, as an investor, are totally transparent into what you own and have an opportunity to make changes to your holdings at any time.

The firm is a legitimate company which is regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Great for: new investors, long-term investors, do-it-yourself investors; sector investors, set it and forget it investors.

You cal learn more about Swell investing or open an account here.

 

#5

TradeStation offers a free premium trading platform, which was offered for $95 anually less than a year ago. Year after year, TradeStation's trading platforms and professional level trading tools receive high rating and recognition as one of the best trading software in the annual Barron's best online brokers' ranking. TradeStation is among the top brokers for options traders by Barron's.

The company mostly targets experienced high-volume active traders. However, if you are a less than experienced trader, you can also open an account with TradeStation as long as you are willing to make a minimum investment of $5,000.

Tradestation offers two different pricing plans - the per-trade and the per-share plans. The latter one is designed for active and high-volume traders. Unless you are a frequent trader and decide to choose the per-share plan, stock trades will cost you $5 while options will cost you $5 + $0.50 per contract.

Great for: experienced investors, active/day traders, high-volume traders.

Learn more about TradeStation or open an account here.

 

Best Brokerage Firms 2017

 

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