It can be a little more complicated than you might expect to find the best brokerage for yourself. Sure, you could simply find one with ultra-low commission fees. But if you don't trade very often, those commissions shouldn't be a paramount concern.
If you're not the richest person on your block, here's something you should pay attention to: minimum assets needed to avoid maintenance fees. I was reminded of this when reviewing a chart that rated online brokerages in Consumer Reports'Money Adviser newsletter. (I'm an equal-opportunity newsletter consumer. I get a lot out of our own Fool newsletters -- check their impressive results! -- and non-Fool ones, too.)
The top-rated brokerage (based on criteria that focused to a large degree on mutual fund offerings and fees) was Firstrade (www.firstrade.com), followed by Trading Direct (www.tradingdirect.com), neither of which is too familiar to me. The third brokerage is one I am familiar with, as it's featured in our Broker Center: Brown/Co, a division of J.P. Morgan Chase
In case you're thinking this isn't a big deal, think again. According to Money Adviser, Charles Schwab
Fool, if you think your asset size or trading habits put you at risk of getting socked with account maintenance fees, look for a brokerage with low or no minimum requirements. Our Broker Center's handy comparison table might help. TD Waterhouse, a unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank
Finally, know that some fees are negotiable. On our Discount Brokers discussion board recently, member kahunacfa explained that when he transferred an account from Schwab to another brokerage, "Schwab charged me a $60 exit fee. I made a copy of my very large [remaining] IRA account statement, enclosed that in a letter to Schwab, and told Schwab that I would transfer that account, too, unless they refunded the $60 exit fee for the smaller account. I had a $60 check from Charles the next week."
Learn more about the brokerage biz at our Discount Brokers discussion board and in these articles:
- Which Brokerage Is Best?
- You Can Trade Online
- Unify Brokerage Accounts
- The $5 Stock Trade
- Brokerage Statement Bewilderment
- Don't Get Blindsided by Your Broker
- Rating the Low-Cost Brokerages
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.