You're looking for a good brokerage for yourself, eh? (And if you're not, maybe you should be -- there's a good chance you'll find one that’s well-suited to your needs.) Well, I'm sure you know to look for low commissions on the trades you expect to have executed. And you know to make sure the brokerage has a local office. But if you think that’s all you need to know, think again: If you don't trade too often, the commission price shouldn't be a paramount concern. And if you're willing to trade online via the brokerage's website (as millions do), you'll probably get lower rates and will save time and gas, too.

So what should you look at? Well, think about what you really need from your brokerage. Do you want to invest in lots of mutual funds? If so, see how many funds the brokerage offers (and if it offers ones you're interested in). Check its fees for services you might want. Check out how well it will serve you -- can you find your way around its website and online trading platform easily? Are you treated well when you call? Look into the firm's research offerings -- do you find the kinds of stock reports you'd like to find?

And here's one more factor to assess: the interest rate you'll earn on cash you keep in your account. SmartMoney magazine reviewed these rates when it prepared its annual survey of brokerages, published in its August issue. Back then, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), along with Vanguard and Fidelity, offered rates that were competitive with high-yielding savings accounts. But others, including Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD), E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), and Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW), had much lower rates.

Of course, rates change all the time, so when you're ready to sit down and compare some contenders for your business, just call and ask what their current rates are. And here's one last encouraging thought -- the rate you see listed on the website or the one you're given on the phone may not be the only rate you can get. SmartMoney notes: "Customers may be able to get higher rates if they ask."

Meanwhile, learn more about brokerages and how to find the best one for yourself in our Broker Center.