Introduction:Over the past 12 years, I have used various online stock brokers and have had several accounts from personal to business to retirement. In the following list, I have ordered them according to personal preference based upon the overall features that I have found useful and helpful.
When adding up the total package, I have to say that I like E*Trade the best. The site is reasonably easy to navigate and the order entry is fairly straightforward. E*Trade also has the MarketCaster feature which provides me with real time stock quotes. Each day I load it on my laptop and watch all of my stock holdings. I am able to keep track of the bid and ask, volume trade, and many other stats in real time. One of the newest features allows me to watch CNBC live as well. E*Trade is not the best platform to make complex options trades. For that, I use my second place choice, Optionsxpress.
Clearly this is the best site for options trading and information. I almost placed this site at first place for my favorite since I do a fair amount with options. However, the site doesn't offer any way to get real time stock quotes which could hamper your trading if this was the only site that you used. I use my E*Trade account to gather real time information in one window while trading at Optionsxpress in the other. The site is easy to navigate and I especially like the feature that allows me to roll my covered calls from month to month very easily. They also seem to be the best of the five at getting multi-leg option trades completed.
Fidelity is where I hold all of my retirement accounts. I use the site because I want to keep all of my retirement accounts separated from my other personal and business accounts. For simple stock and option trades, Fidelity is OK. The commissions are a bit pricier than at some of the other discount brokers (see my list of cheapest online stock brokers in the links below), but I like the size of the company for something as important as retirement. I am willing to pay a little bit more to know that they will be around for the next 30 or 40 years.
I used Ameritrade several years back. I haven't used the site in probably 3 years now. Since that time, they merged with TD Waterhouse. It was certainly a decent site and was easy to navigate. I used to have my business account with them before switching to Optionsxpress. I am certain that changes have been made during that time to improve the features that they have. I can't say anything bad about Ameritrade. I simply don't hold an account there any longer.
It has been a little over a decade since I have used Schwab. Needless to say I wasn't that impressed overall which is why it is number five on the list. The commissions seemed high at the time though I must confess that I haven't made any comparisons lately. Still, I know they aren't the cheapest (nor are the ones I use) but I am happy where I am for now and won't be making any changes in the near future.
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