August 02, 2021
The Ascent's 2020 stock broker and robo-advisor awards winners offer a deep bench of perks, including rock-bottom costs, great customer service, high-quality trading platforms, and more. See below to learn which ones topped the podium position this year.
TD Ameritrade wins Best Stock Broker Overall for its superior desktop trading platform and mobile app, as well as its best-in-class educational resources and stock research access. TD Ameritrade also scores high marks for its mutual fund availability and wide variety of account types. Plus, with a large network of branch offices, TD Ameritrade is one of the best in the business when it comes to customer service.
Charles Schwab offers no-commission trading, no account minimums, and excellent customer service. It also has a wide variety of educational resources, investment research, and a network of branches for in-person customer service, all of which are extremely valuable to beginning investors. However, what really pushed Schwab to the top of the list is the availability of fractional share investing, which makes higher-cost investments more accessible to beginning investors who may not have a ton of capital.
$0 options trading commissions ($0.65/contract) are just the starting point for why we recognized E*TRADE as a leading options broker. E*TRADE’s trading platform has built a big fan base, particularly with options traders looking for an edge. Add in the fact that E*TRADE has a well-rounded suite of investment solutions, and you can see why the broker is a solid pick, for options traders, and more.
It can be tough to understand all the rules, limitations, and advantages of IRAs. TD Ameritrade takes top honors in IRAs in part because it makes that information easily accessible via its online tools and plentiful research sources. You can analyze fees and examine your risk profile to choose the best kind of IRA for you, and TD Ameritrade offers plenty of options for constructing your retirement portfolio within your IRA, including commission-free ETFs, no-transaction fee mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and CDs.
Wealthfront earns the title of best robo-advisor because of its low fees, low minimum account balance, and user-friendly interface. There are no fees for most services, and the annual advisory fee is just 0.25%. Tax-loss harvesting is available for all investment accounts, while some robo-advisors limit this feature to those with a high minimum balance. And you'll have a wider choice of account types than with some robo-advisors, as Wealthfront offers 401(k) rollovers; Roth and traditional IRAs; SEP IRAs; 529 accounts; and individual, joint, or trust accounts.
SoFi Automated Investing is one of the cheapest robo advisory services in the business, with no management fees whatsoever and underlying investment funds with minimal expenses. As if that wasn't enough, SoFi gives clients access to human financial advisors -- and not just a little, but unlimited access. Since SoFi offers personal loans, mortgages, and other financial products, it also scored points for giving investment clients discounts on interest rates for those products.
Charles Schwab’s 24/7 customer support is just the beginning of why the broker is held in such high regard for customer service. It’s also one of the few brokers with a big national branch network where customers can take care of their day-to-day investing and banking needs. Face-to-face customer support is an important feature for many people, even as brokers move almost entirely online.
TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim® trading platform – available as a downloadable app on your computer, online via browser, or as a mobile app – gets accolades for solid reasons. It’s highly customizable, allowing you to trade and follow all sorts of investment vehicles in one place, from stocks to IRAs to ETFs, and offers sophisticated automation and tracking. Thinkorswim® even looks great – its sophistication can be configured to look the way you like it, from streamlined simplicity to full-on NASA control room.
Robinhood's trail-blazing zero-commission trading set a new standard for online brokers, and it continues to stand out. Its spirit of low cost and simplicity shine through its app and online platform. For example, if you want to buy into pricier stocks but don't have the cash, Robinhood offers fractional shares. You can also buy cryptocurrencies and earn interest on your uninvested cash. If you're willing to pay $5 a month for the Robinhood Gold premium app, you can also invest using margin. If you're after a simple no-frills, low cost broker, Robinhood is hard to beat.
No broker can top Charles Schwab’s breadth of ETF and index investing offerings. In addition to having one of the largest ETF marketplaces, Charles Schwab has its own line of branded ETFs that rival the lowest cost options in the market. What’s more, the broker automates building an ETF portfolio within minutes by answering a few simple questions. This is a standout, free feature for hands-off investors.
Vanguard has been a leading broker for mutual fund investing for decades. We see no reason why that should change in 2020. The broker has built a legacy with its high-quality, branded mutual funds that are among the lowest costs in the industry, even as others have been nipping at its toes playing catch up. Vanguard also offers popular mutual funds outside of its branded offerings, including thousands with no transaction fees.
Betterment’s cash management offerings broaden the robo-advisor's appeal to investors seeking more than just a low cost, high-quality investment solution. Betterment offers a cash account with a high APY and a no-fee checking account, which reimburses all ATM and foreign transaction fees.
*A complete list of 2020 award winners, from credit cards to mortgages, can be found here.
**You can also find more brokers and robo-advisors to compare by checking out The Ascent's best stock brokers page.
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