Unless you have a seat on the stock exchanges, you'll need a brokerage account to make investments. That's not such a bad thing -- investing from the comfort of your own home has its advantages. Two well-known online discount brokers, TD Ameritrade and Capital One, have a lot to offer as brokerages for buy-and-hold investors. Here's how they compare with one another on key features and costs.

Trading costs and commissions

Worried about trading costs? You'll be happy to find that TD Ameritrade and Capital One have low commissions to trade stocks, options, ETFs, and mutual funds. Here are the standard trading commissions.

Broker

Stocks/Options

ETFs

Mutual Funds

TD Ameritrade

$9.99 per trade + $0.75 per options contract

$9.99 per trade

$49.95 per purchase

Capital One

$6.95 per trade + $0.75 per options contracts

$6.95 per trade

$19.95 per purchase

Data source: company websites.

Capital One and TD Ameritrade frequently advertise special offers (see current offers for taxable and IRA accounts) that effectively reduce the cost of making a trade. 

Capital One's ShareBuilder and PortfolioBuilder services can be used to place less-expensive trades that aren't time-sensitive. ShareBuilder allows you to place trades for as little as $3.95, while PortfolioBuilder enables you to buy a portfolio of stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds for a flat rate of $18.95. 

Commission-free funds and trades

One of the big perks of a brokerage account is that some brokers have no-transaction-fee (NTF) trades on ETFs and mutual funds. TD Ameritrade and Capital One have commission-free ETFs and NTF funds that will help you save money on select transactions.

Broker

Commission-Free ETFs

Mutual funds

TD Ameritrade

101 ETFs (iShares, Vanguard, VanEck)

3,984

Capital One

None

400+

Data source: company websites.

Transaction fees are just one part of the cost of investing in any mutual fund or ETF, as all funds carry management fees of some type. But it's always nice to reduce transaction costs where possible, and fund investors should enjoy the opportunity to save on transaction fees, especially if you plan to make frequent investments into ETFs or mutual funds.

Account minimums

The best part about the boom in online brokerages is that you don't need a lot of money to open an account. TD Ameritrade and Capital One have no minimum accounts that can be opened with just a dollar to start.

Note, however, that you need to have enough money in your account to buy at least one share of a stock, ETF, or mutual fund, to actually make an investment. That said, neither broker will turn you away just because you don't have a lot of money to open an account.

Td Ameritrade Vs Capital One

No minimum account requirements make it possible to open a TD Ameritrade or Capital One brokerage account without gutting your savings account. Image source: Getty Images.

Trading platform

We at The Motley Fool are investors, not traders. Thus, we don't really care all that much about the functionality of a trading platform. We just log in to buy and sell on occasion and don't make full use of platforms as day traders might.

Both TD Ameritrade and Capital One offer a trading platform that will probably fit the needs of true, long-term investors. The quality of a trading platform is in many cases just a personal preference, so it's fair to say that different people will have different opinions about which platform is better.

International stocks and ADRs

If you want to invest globally, there are some important things you should know. TD Ameritrade and Capital One don't offer trading on international stock markets. However, their brokerage clients can trade American depositary receipts (ADRs), which trade on U.S. stock exchanges and are plentiful for many of the largest foreign companies.

Investors who prefer funds to individual stocks will be happy to know that they can buy funds and ETFs that hold foreign stocks on their behalf.

Research quality and tools

Discount brokerages may be known for providing less research to their customers, but that's becoming less true by the day. TD Ameritrade and Capital One both offer third-party research from Morningstar, in addition to tools that consolidate various expert opinions into a consensus.

Both brokerages have online stock screeners, alerts, and heat maps to find what's hot and what's not. Truthfully, investors can find plenty of research and related tools as a customer of either broker.

Mobile app

If trading on your phone is important to you, you'll be happy to know that both brokers have a mobile app through which you can place trades. Here's how each broker's users and clients rated their mobile capabilities on iOS and Android, as of Dec. 1, 2016.

Broker

Apple App Store

Google Play

TD Ameritrade

4.5 stars

3.5 stars

Capital One

2.5 stars

3 stars

Data source: relevant app stores.

Selecting for your needs

Both brokers offer low-cost online trades, access to funds and ETFs, and research tools to help investors learn more about their investments. Furthermore, no minimum account sizes open the door to investing to just about everyone. For these reasons, both brokers could be suitable for investors with a long-term mindset.

To be clear, The Motley Fool does not endorse any particular broker. See Fool.com's Broker Center to compare the differences in commissions, minimum account sizes, and other features at major online discount brokers.

 

Jordan Wathen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends TD Ameritrade. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.