In Better Investing magazine recently, I read an article by Kate Fitzgerald recapping new developments in the world of brokerages. Permit me to share some with you, along with additional thoughts:

For starters, fees have been falling at many brokerages. Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) has lowered its rates to $13 per trade for many customers and $10 for others. At Fidelity, E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), and TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD), you can trade for less than $10 a pop. At many other brokerages, fees are even lower. At Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), some customers can even trade for free.

Where you're buying
But no matter how much you trade, there's more to picking a broker than the commission fee. For instance, if you want to invest internationally, some brokerages (such as E*Trade, Fidelity, and Schwab) now permit you to execute self-directed online stock trades in a handful of countries, such as Canada, France, Germany, and Japan. Some brokerages have made it easier to trade bonds as well.

There's more. Your brokerage may offer emailed alerts to give you a heads-up about sizable price movements in stocks you're following. Many brokerages offer beefed-up retirement planning tools and services, along with educational and research sources. At my brokerage, TD Ameritrade, for example, I was able to access research reports from Standard & Poor's, Ford Equity Research, and Vickers, among others.

Another interesting development is that some brokerages offer you the ability to invest virtually -- essentially managing a mock portfolio. This can be a great way to try out various strategies, or just to get used to your brokerage's trading platform and formats.

Learn more about brokerages and how to find the best one for you in our Broker Center. You can also learn more in these articles:

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.