Discount brokerage firms range from those that offer a wide range of services and market research to those with rock bottom commissions that expect stock and option traders to pick their own investments. The financial news publications like SmartMoney, Kiplinger and Barron's do regular reviews and rankings of the discount brokers. Kiplinger provides an interactive online broker selector to help investors find the broker that fits their needs.
E*Trade was ranked number one in the SmartMoney 2009 Broker Survey and will usually be in the top three when using Kiplinger's broker selector. This broker ranks high for its broad range of product offerings and receives consistent marks in all rating categories. The standard stock commission is $12.99, which can be significantly reduced for active traders.
Schwab is tops for investors looking for stock advice, whether through online research or from a live financial adviser. The website is easy to use, but trade execution was noted as slow by SmartMoney. The standard stock commission is $12.95.
Fidelity will often achieve the number one ranking when using Kiplinger's selector and was rated number two by SmartMoney. This broker offers the broadest mutual fund selection and outstanding research. Stock commissions are $10.95.
Barron's rated the discount brokers from a trader's point of view and discount broker thinkorswim was their number one pick in 2006, 2007 and 2009. This broker offers desktop, browser-based and hand-held device trading platforms. Customers can select stock commissions of 1.5 cents per share, $5.00 minimum or a $9.95 flat rate.
MB Trading tied with thinkorswim for top honors in trading technology according to Barron's and was number two in the magazine's overall ranking. The broker is a private company focused on customer service. MB Trading allows trading in futures and currency exchange as well as the usual stocks and options. The stock commission rate is a low $4.95.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.