The Ascent's 2021 Stock Broker Awards Winners
Stock brokers and investment apps ratings methodology
The Ascent’s stock brokers and investment apps ratings methodology is heavily influenced by real-life use, both from users and through in-house testing. Our ratings models are intended to cut through the noise and focus on a select few critical factors that we think are important for most people.
For stock brokers, the important factors are:
- Competitiveness of routine fees and commissions
- Investment vehicles offered
- Quality of tools
- Types of accounts offered
We considered similar themes for investment apps, along with availability for both Apple and Android users, and iOS and Google Play app store ratings.
Best Stock Broker
TD Ameritrade stands out as a top pick due to its versatility. The deep lineup of account types and investment vehicles offered provides solutions for nearly every investing need under the sun. It consistently receives high customer satisfaction scores. Lastly, the lineup of trading platforms online, on desktop, and via its mobile app is unmatched in terms of robust capabilities and ease-of-use.
Best Investing App
TD Ameritrade offers its account holders two different apps to manage their investment accounts. We think users should use both. The standard TD Ameritrade app gives users access to real-time quotes, charts, trade entry, account monitoring, research, and price alerts. The thinkorswim mobile app is a trading platform on steroids with advanced order entry and charting. Importantly, your preferences and settings sync from the thinkorswim desktop platform to the mobile app for a seamless experience.
Best Investing App for Beginners
Investing for the first time can be daunting, but it helps if you're with the right broker. Fidelity has a feature-rich platform that's good for investors of all levels managing their accounts on the run. Its fractional shares offering means you can invest in high value stocks with only a few dollars. It has a great mix of no-fee mutual funds and ETFs. And, if you get stuck, Fidelity provides 24/7 customer support.
Best Investing App for IRAs
Charles Schwab offers pretty much every type of IRA that exists and you can access these accounts easily in the app. Beyond the app, Charles Schwab has great customer support (even in-person branch locations) and a great assortment of no-fee mutual funds, including its own proprietary products. New IRA investors may be interested in its fractional shares and wealth of educational resources. Plus, its widely praised standard app trading platform makes it easy to track your investment portfolio.
Best Investing App for Robo-Advisors
Betterment is a robo-advisor pioneer and the app experience is top notch with consistently high app ratings. As a robo-advisor, Betterment charges low fees and doesn't have minimum account requirements. In addition, it provides automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. If socially responsible investing is important to you, Betterment has a couple of SRI portfolio options focused on climate, social impact, or broader social goals. For a fee, you can upgrade to the premium account and deal with a human advisor.
†Betterment Cash Reserve ("Cash Reserve") is offered by Betterment LLC. Clients of Betterment LLC participate in Cash Reserve through their brokerage account held at Betterment Securities. Neither Betterment LLC nor any of its affiliates is a bank. Through Cash Reserve, clients' funds are deposited into one or more banks ("Program Banks") where the funds earn a variable interest rate and are eligible for FDIC insurance. Cash Reserve provides Betterment clients with the opportunity to earn interest on cash intended to purchase securities through Betterment LLC and Betterment Securities. Cash Reserve should not be viewed as a long-term investment option.
Funds held in your brokerage accounts are not FDIC‐insured but are protected by SIPC. Funds in transit to or from Program Banks are generally not FDIC‐insured but are protected by SIPC, except when those funds are held in a sweep account following a deposit or prior to a withdrawal, at which time funds are eligible for FDIC insurance but are not protected by SIPC. See Betterment Client Agreements for further details. Funds deposited into Cash Reserve are eligible for up to $1,000,000.00 (or $2,000,000.00 for joint accounts) of FDIC insurance once the funds reach one or more Program Banks (up to $250,000 for each insurable capacity—e.g., individual or joint—at up to four Program Banks). Even if there are more than four Program Banks, clients will not necessarily have deposits allocated in a manner that will provide FDIC insurance above $1,000,000.00 (or $2,000,000.00 for joint accounts). The FDIC calculates the insurance limits based on all accounts held in the same insurable capacity at a bank, not just cash in Cash Reserve. If clients elect to exclude one or more Program Banks from receiving deposits the amount of FDIC insurance available through Cash Reserve may be lower. Clients are responsible for monitoring their total assets at each Program Bank, including existing deposits held at Program Banks outside of Cash Reserve, to ensure FDIC insurance limits are not exceeded, which could result in some funds being uninsured. For more information on FDIC insurance please visit www.FDIC.gov. Deposits held in Program Banks are not protected by SIPC. For more information see the full terms and conditions and Betterment LLC's Form ADV Part II.
**The annual percentage yield ("APY") on the deposit balances in Betterment Cash Reserve ("Cash Reserve") is 4.00% and represents the weighted average of the APY on deposit balances at the banks participating in Cash Reserve (the "Program Banks") and is current as of Feb. 6, 2023. This APY is variable and subject to change daily. Deposit balances are not allocated equally among the participating Program Banks. A minimum deposit of $10 is required, but there is no minimum balance required to be maintained. The APY available to a customer may be lower if that customer designates a bank or banks as ineligible to receive deposits. APY applies only to Cash Reserve and does not apply to checking accounts held through Betterment Checking. Cash Reserve and Betterment Checking are separate offerings and are not linked accounts.
For Cash Reserve (“CR”), Betterment LLC only receives compensation from our program banks; Betterment LLC and Betterment Securities do not charge fees on your CR balance.
Best Investing App for Options
As a brokerage, Tastytrade has always focused heavily on options trading. The Tastytrade app provides all the tools you need to trade options from your phone and has low trade fees. Traders can quickly scroll through call and put prices for any available expiration date. There are plenty of popular options trading strategies available, including covered calls, iron condors, and butterfly spreads. Other apps have more to offer if you're interested in all types of investing, but tastyworks is the top choice for mobile options trading.
Best ETF Broker
Charles Schwab packs in one of the deepest ETF lineups, including its branded, low-cost ETFs that are great options for passive index investors. Importantly, investors can buy and sell these ETFs online with no commission. Charles Schwab also shines with one of the broadest feature sets in the market to meet nearly any investing or banking need.
Best Mutual Fund Broker
Charles Schwab is a runaway winner in this category. We're big fans of its proprietary mutual funds. The expense ratios rival the lowest cost providers and some funds have minimum investments of $100 or less. Clients also get access to thousands of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and a network of hundreds of branches for in-person help.
*A complete list of 2021 award winners, from financial apps to cryptocurrency exchanges and apps, can be found here.
**You can also find more brokers and robo-advisors to compare by checking out The Ascent's best investment apps page.
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