Of course, the most obvious thing you'll pay when buying or selling stocks is a per-trade commission. But you'll find that most brokerages charge other fees, including the following:

  • Transfer fees. If you have stocks, bonds, or mutual funds in an existing brokerage account, you may have to pay a fee to move them into your new account.
  • Account closing fees. To cover administrative costs, some brokerages will charge a fee to close or transfer assets out of your brokerage account.
  • IRA custodian fees. You may also pay an additional annual fee if you have an IRA account.
  • Wire transfer fees . Be careful if you need to move money quickly -- some brokerages pass on their wire transfer costs to their customers. In contrast, most regular electronic transfers don't involve paying a fee, although they take slightly longer.
  • Account inactivity fees. Because brokerages make the most money on accounts in which customers trade actively, some will charge fees if you don't make a certain number of trades every quarter or year.
  • Annual fees. In some cases, you might pay a fee just for being a customer.
  • Minimum balance fees. Some brokerages charge fees for not maintaining a minimum level of assets in your account. Again, this is partially to recoup costs of maintaining accounts that aren't very profitable for brokers.

When you add all this up, you may find that you're paying quite a bit more than you expected for your broker. So be sure you understand exactly what fees you'll have to pay.

In addition, brokers may offer other special "services", so be sure to read the fine print and decide what's worth paying for.