Buy Side | Best Online Stock Trading Platforms of 2022 – The Wall Street Journal

Saving in your 401(k) is well and good, but if you’re like many investors, you’ll also want to invest directly in the markets—and that means finding a convenient and low-price way to trade stocks, bonds, mutual funds and maybe even cryptocurrency. 

Luckily, the past few years has seen a profusion of online stock trading platforms. And these days almost all brokerage firms—whether startups or venerable brands around for decades—offer zero-commission trades, meaning you no longer need to worry about always looking for the cheapest option.

So, how to choose the right one for you? We spent hours comparing more than a dozen stock trading platforms looking for the most intuitive tools, in-depth research and access to guidance and other educational content. We considered all of this when making our picks for the Best Stock Trading Platforms of 2022. You’ll find more details about how we evaluated and selected our winners at the end of this article.

Best Overall

Fidelity

Key stats: 

  • $0 account minimum for investing
  • $0 commissions for online stock, ETF and options trades
  • 3,400+ no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • 4 zero-expense-ratio index funds
  • Fractional shares of 7,000+ U.S. stocks and ETFs
  • 190+ Fidelity branches across the U.S.
  • No-fee Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card earns 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Free mobile app available on iOS and Android devices
  • 24/7 phone, chat and email support

Why we picked it: Fidelity meets the needs of all types of investors. Whether you’re just starting out in active trading or an experienced investor looking to upgrade your platform, you’ll appreciate Fidelity’s commitment to low-cost investing, robust market research and financial planning integration. 

The investing account dashboard on Fidelity’s main web trading platform is a solid homebase. It’s detailed yet easy to find what you’re looking for thanks to a slightly more intuitive navigation bar than competitors like Charles Schwab. The best-in-class stock screener lets you explore stocks that align with a specific theme (such as “Pharmaceutical technology”) or strategy (“growth”). Within those lists, you can sort through dozens of criteria, from company facts to trading characteristics, to refine your potential picks. If you get lost, Fidelity has a helpful stock screener tutorial in its Learning Center, along with a huge searchable database of videos, articles and courses on various topics that you can filter by beginner, intermediate or advanced difficulty. Experienced investors can toggle between the main site and the Active Trader Pro platform, which lets you customize your dashboard and check out real-time analytics, news and strategic insights.

Fidelity has an edge over competitors when it comes to financial planning, offering some of its most comprehensive management tools to brokerage account holders who activate Full View, a feature that lets you connect external accounts so that all of your cash, investment and debt balances can be monitored from one Fidelity dashboard. You can easily track your net worth, categorize transactions and play around with Fidelity’s budgeting and goal-setting tools. And if you decide at any point to turn in your active investor card, Fidelity has a well-designed robo advisor, Fidelity Go, for when you’re working toward a specific goal, as well as one-on-one advisory services and full account management. 

Fidelity also has a solid, no-fee credit card that earns 2% cash back on all purchases (higher than Schwab’s otherwise nearly identical card), which you can deposit into either a Fidelity cash management account or a Fidelity investment account.

And as a plus, Fidelity doesn’t use the controversial practice of payment-for-order flow when executing trades. 

Caveats: Fidelity’s downsides are mostly notable for advanced investors. The broker doesn’t support futures, foreign exchange, commodities or cryptocurrency trading (though it does offer a commission-free ETF that invests in companies at the forefront of the crypto and digital payments industry). And while stock, ETF and options trades placed online are commission-free, broker-assisted orders placed over the phone cost $32.95 per trade. Schwab charges $25 per broker-assisted trade. Note that Fidelity also charges a short-term redemption fee for no-transaction-fee mutual funds in its FundsNetwork held for less than 60 days.

Other companies we considered: Charles Schwab offers a similarly well-rounded investment platform with no-commission online trades and a large and varied investment selection (but no crypto). However, Schwab also charges a short-term redemption fee on certain mutual funds, but the holding period is longer, at 90 days. 

Next to Fidelity, Schwab falls short because it lacks full integration of its financial planning tools and its investment platform. Both companies allow you to link external accounts so you can see all your finances in one place, but Fidelity uses that data to help you track your progress toward retirement and create a budget based on your typical spending patterns, among other things. Schwab could be a better choice, however, for advanced investors looking to trade futures.

Best for Beginners

TD Ameritrade

Key stats:

  • $0 account minimum for investing
  • $0 commissions for online stock, ETF and options trades
  • 3,400+ no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • 175+ branch locations across the U.S.
  • Two free mobile apps available on iOS and Android devices
  • 24/7 phone, chat and email support

Why we picked it: TD Ameritrade claims to help investors get smarter. It backs that claim up with a robust library of free—and most importantly, easy to find—videos, webinars, courses and articles explaining everything from how to build a diversified retirement portfolio to understanding stock analysis techniques. 

TD (the brand has been owned by Schwab since 2020) cleverly gamifies learning by asking users of its web investing platform to select a goal (options include “I’m new to personal finance and I want to learn the essentials,” “I want to build a nest egg for retirement” and “I’m an experienced trader who wants to speculate”), recommending a curriculum to follow and awarding points and badges for completing modules along the way.

Sophisticated traders love TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim trading platform, but there’s something for beginners there too: paperMoney. Accessible via the Thinkorswim desktop, web and mobile applications, paperMoney lets you practice your trading strategies using $100,000 in virtual cash. 

Caveats: TD Ameritrade doesn’t yet support fractional shares, an increasingly common offering among stock trading platforms that allows investors to buy by the dollar amount instead of the share. Like most other investing platforms, it’ll cost extra to execute a stock or ETF trade over the phone. In this case it’s $25 per trade.

Other companies we considered: Vanguard is an industry leader in buy-and-hold investing and offers a no-frills experience that’s especially appealing for those just starting out. The company took the No. 1 spot on J.D. Power’s 2022 customer satisfaction ranking for do-it-yourself investors. 

Alas, Vanguard is not a top pick for active investors. Anyone trying to beat the market will find that Vanguard operates with an opposing ethos. The company says on its website that it does not provide watch lists or news updates to investors in order to discourage them from trading frequently. Even investors on board with a buy-and-hold strategy may be deterred by the relatively high barrier to entry. There’s a $3,000 minimum for investing in Vanguard’s lowest-cost class of index funds, called Admiral Shares. 


Best for Advanced Investors 

Interactive Brokers

Key stats:

  • Lite account: $0 commissions on U.S. exchange-listed stocks and ETFs
  • Pro account: $0.0005 to $0.0035 per share for all stock and ETF trades (volume discount available)
  • $0.25 to $0.65 per options contract (minimum $1 per order)
  • No account maintenance or minimum balance fees
  • 17,000+ no-transaction-fee mutual funds
  • Supports margin trading at industry-low rates
  • Trading available for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash
  • Free mobile app available on iOS and Android devices

Why we picked it: Interactive Brokers, or IBKR, is for investors looking for efficient, professional-grade web and mobile platforms. It stands out in part for its range of investments, allowing options, futures, crypto and forex trading—most firms don’t support all four—in more than 150 global markets.

The company’s two services, IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro, cater to casual and active traders, respectively. Pro comes with additional research tools, but moves away from $0 commissions on stock and ETF trades. Instead it uses tiered pricing where higher trading volume results in lower costs. Pro users also get access to the SmartRouting tool to execute trades at the best possible price, avoiding the controversial practice of payment for order flow, and enjoy competitive interest rates on uninvested cash over $10,000.

U.S. margin traders will find some of the lowest loan interest rates with Interactive Brokers, ranging from 3.58% to 5.58% as of September 2022, depending on the loan amount and account type. By way of comparison, TD Ameritrade charges between 10.50% to 12.50% on margin accounts.

Caveats: Advanced traders craving simplicity won’t find it here. With Interactive Brokers, the value is in the highly detailed research, charting and ordering capabilities. However, the company has launched a new mobile app, IBKR GlobalTrader, that’s meant to streamline its offerings. So far it’s better received by users than the original IBKR mobile app.

Due to tiered pricing within the IBKR Pro account, it’s not easy to estimate what you’ll pay for trades up front. And unlike most competitors, Interactive Brokers doesn’t offer 529 college savings accounts

Other companies we considered: As previously mentioned, TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim platforms—mobile, web-based and desktop versions—are highly respected among advanced investors for their breadth of technical indicators and customization capabilities. However, Interactive Brokers has a wider investment selection, including cryptocurrency, while still charging low or no commissions.

Best for Mobile

Webull

Key stats:

  • $0 account minimum for investing
  • $0 commissions on stock, ETF and options trades
  • $0 options contracts
  • Supports margin trading
  • Trade 50+ crypto coins ($1 minimum)
  • Buy fractional shares ($5 minimum)
  • Download the app for free on an iPhone, iPad or Android

Why we picked it: If you’re searching for a mobile-first experience, Webull delivers. The free Android app has been downloaded on more than 10 million devices, exceeding the mobile downloads of any other firm on our list. 

The app, also available for iPhones, presents a user-friendly interface with all the bells and whistles necessary for day trading: in-depth charting, a customizable dashboard, real-time quotes, detailed screeners, news, analysis and an impressive amount of easily digestible educational content. Plus, new users can get free stocks for opening an account or inviting new friends.

To get a better understanding of how trading works, or to test new strategies without the risk, Webull offers paper trading with no cap on the amount of your virtual cash. Users can compete in paper trading contests, bounce ideas off of each other and check out the latest market news in the app’s “community” section.

Webull app reviewers appreciate the company’s extended trading hours, which are longer than Fidelity’s and Charles Schwab’s. Another way it’s different from the big guys: Webull supports direct crypto trading, and even has a new crypto wallet where you can store your holdings. (Transfers in and out are only available for Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin at this time). 

Caveats: You can’t buy mutual funds or bonds on Webull, which could be a nonstarter for anyone seeking a well-diversified portfolio under one roof. Webull also doesn’t provide access, paid or complimentary, to investment professionals like some of the big firms do. Even contacting the customer support team can sometimes be a struggle, app reviewers say. Webull also offers only a few account types: traditional, Roth and Rollover IRAs and individual accounts.

Other companies we considered: Less experienced investors—or those looking for mutual funds and bonds rather than crypto—should consider using the Fidelity Investments app, available on iPhones, iPads and Android phones. It’s a solid extension of the excellent Fidelity desktop platform for keeping tabs on your portfolio, browsing research and analysis and placing trades. 

How we picked

To pick Buy Side from WSJ’s best stock trading platforms, we reviewed offerings from more than a dozen companies. We favored those with zero-commission trades—now an industry norm—and from there evaluated each company on its investment selection; account minimums and fees; breadth of educational materials; quality of market research; navigability of web platforms; and user ratings on mobile apps. 

We also considered whether the company offers value-adds, such as budgeting or net worth tracking tools that integrate with the investment platform to aid in comprehensive financial management. 

To gather this information, we relied on the company’s own websites (extra points went to those with transparent pricing and clear product offerings) and also considered customer testimonials published on YouTube and in the reviews sections of mobile app stores. 

In addition, we consulted J.D. Power’s U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study for 2022, which measured satisfaction among nearly 5,000 investors, split between do-it-yourself investors and those who sometimes seek a professional for guidance but don’t have a dedicated advisor. Each of our top picks ranks above the industry average. 

All of the winners offer the following types of investment accounts, except where noted: individual and joint brokerages, traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, 529 college savings plan, and custodial accounts. 

Note: Tanza Loudenback has written articles for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Morgan Stanley is the corporate parent of E*Trade, one of the stock trading platforms considered for this story. 

The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.

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