6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (2024)

Trading has never been easier, thanks to the rise of online platforms that enable you to buy and sell various assets at the click of a button. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to decide which platform is right for you.

To help refine your search, Moneyzine combed through the leading providers and a ream of data to provide you with key information. We've done the legwork to bring you a curated list of the top trading platforms out there, each with its unique features and benefits. Throughout the page, we also discuss the types of assets you can trade, how much money you need to get started, and how to choose the best platform catering to your needs.

All of these, with one major warning: Trading carries inherent risks, and there is always the potential for loss. Market prices can be volatile and fluctuate rapidly, and past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Regardless of the tool you choose, you should proceed with caution.

Best US Trading Platforms at a Glance

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NameScoreVisitAccount TypesAssetsPortfolio ManagementMinimum Deposit Disclaimer

1Plus500

Read Expert Review

9.8Visitplus500.comGeneralCFDs, Commodities, Stocks, Options, Derivatives, Cryptocurrencies, ForexDIY$100

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 81% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Availability subject to regulations. FCA (FRN 509909).

2Interactive Brokers

Read Expert Review

9.1Visitinteractivebrokers.comGeneral, Corporate, Margin, Stocks & Shares ISA, Professional, SIPP, JointCryptocurrencies, Stocks, Options, Derivatives, Forex, Penny StocksDIY, Robo Advisor$0

3eToro

8.7Visitetoro.comGeneral, Corporate, ProfessionalCFDs, Commodities, Stocks, Cryptocurrencies, Forex, OptionsDIY, Ready made, Robo Advisor$50

Don’t invest unless you’re prepared to lose all the money you invest.

4Fidelity Investment

7.5Visitfidelity.com$0

5Charles Schwab

8.0Visitschwab.comGeneral, Corporate, JointStocks, Forex, CommoditiesDIY, Managed$0

6Webull

8.3Visitwebull.comGeneral, MarginCryptocurrencies, Penny Stocks, Options, StocksDIY$0

Leading Trading Platforms Compared & Reviewed

Best Trading Platforms at a Glance

Here's a quick summary of the top trading platforms available and the areas where they shine:

Best ForMinimum Deposit
FidelityBest overall$10
eToroSocial trading$50
IGForex trading$250
TD AmeritradeBeginners$0 for standard accounts, $2,000 for margin trading facilities
Interactive BrokersAdvanced traders$0
WebullMobile trading$0

6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (7)

Fidelity

Good to know:

  • Stocks, ETFs, and OTCBB trades are commission-free.

  • And so is robo-advisory services.

  • Broker-assisted trades set you back at $32.95.

  • Options contracts are priced at $0.65, with no caps.

Why we chose it:

Bringing together discount broker costs and the wide range of services, Fidelity is perhaps the closest thing to eating the cake and having it too.

Besides low-cost investing, the platform’s extensive services on financial planning and in-depth, thorough research and analysis tools resonate with both novice and seasoned traders alike.

The screeners take the top spot among the many research and analysis tools compared to the competition. You can use dozens of filters (100s for stocks and ETFs) to refine your search for any asset class included. Subtle touches like being able to filter ETFs that include a specific stock among their investments and thematic filtering options render the tools evermore powerful. The research department is further topped up with access to third-party publications and Fidelity’s analyst-penned insights.

There are three products in total – a web platform, a downloadable Active Trader Pro, and a mobile app. The primary web platform comes with easier navigation and comprises all fundamental tools within Fidelity’s offering. You’ll probably want to swing towards Active Trader Pro if you’re a more active or seasoned trader with extended features like real-time analytics and conditional orders. In terms of customization, and the quality and quantity of features, Active Trader Pro edges close to IBKR, but it’s much more streamlined in its navigation.

Fidelity’s holistic approach also sets the company aside from the competition. By activating Full View, you can monitor your financial life in its entirety from a single portal by integrating Fidelity and non-Fidelity account details, like your investment accounts elsewhere or credit card accounts. In addition, you can pair your monitoring with in-built budgeting and goal-setting tools to get a hold of your financial planning.

Where it falls short:

As good as it is, Fidelity has a crucial gap in its offerings that particularly hurt its appeal to advanced traders. The platform currently doesn’t support futures, commodities, or cryptocurrency trading, and options trading fees are relatively high. For example, an options contract sets you back at $0.65 for both opening and closing, and it's not capped per leg. For comparison, tastytrade (formerly tastyworks) charges $1 per contract, comes with no closing fee, and charges are capped at $10 per leg.

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (8)

eToro

Good to know:

  • There are no commissions for stock, ETF, or options trading.

  • Cryptocurrency trading incurs a 1% fee.

  • There’s a $10 inactivity fee if your account lies dormant for over a year.

  • The minimum deposit requirement is $50.

Why we chose it:

eToro was one of the pioneers of social trading: in 2010, the firm created one of the earliest examples of social trading networks, called OpenBook, where novice traders can communicate and learn from more seasoned traders. As the platform grew and added a variety of assets into its offerings, it integrated social trading capabilities within its flagship product.

Today, social trading sits at the center of eToro’s service. You can easily find and filter traders based on their risk profile, average returns, or preferred assets, add them to your watchlist along with assets and portfolios, and, thanks to its key feature CopyTrader, automatically copy their portfolios along the way. The experience is incredibly interactive: social feeds are included in every investor profile and asset page, like stocks, cryptocurrencies, or commodities, and everybody is welcome to create posts or polls and comment on others.

Due to this unique focus, eToro’s platform feels closer to a social media platform than your average online trading platform. As a result, the trading experience is streamlined as much as possible – it is intuitive and easy to navigate, the order ticket is robust and easy to configure, and asset pages include integrated news feed and analysis pieces, charts, and past performance statistics.

Where it falls short:

eToro’s usability primarily lies in its simplicity – not in a good way. The platform misses out on some crucial elements like a traditional screener and more advanced features like advanced charting or futures trading, which hurts the platform’s appeal to traders that are above the intermediate level. E*Trade offers a comparable user experience and allows more room for advancing with tools that go beyond basic trading mechanisms – but lack social trading functionalities.

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (9)

IG

Good to know:

Why we chose it:

Due to the strict regulatory environment, it’s not possible to find a lot of reputable and accessible forex brokers available in the US. TD Ameritrade comes close regarding the caliber of platform quality and feature versatility. Yet, it can’t quite match IG’s extensive offering of over 80 currency pairs – nor its competitive spreads that start from 0.6 pips.

While the US platform is still feature-rich compared to competitors like Oanda or Forex.com, it is more simplistic than its international counterparts, most notably the UK product. Yet, it covers all the bases, including basic risk management tools like stop-loss orders, news streaming services from Reuters, and charting capabilities topped up with Autochartist integration, a third-party pattern recognition program.

One thing that sets IG apart is its commitment to client education: the IG academy, not though quite at thinkorswim’s level, offers some of the most comprehensive educational bundles available across the industry. Courses cover everything from the basics of forex trading to more advanced strategies; with full-fledged courses and interactive elements, it resonates with users from all backgrounds.

The firm also operates the DailyFX website, which provides comprehensive news and research covering all major currency pairs penned by in-house analysts. Within the trading strategies section, you can create buy and sell signals, view analysts' picks, and a variety of technical data to help build your strategy – education, and research departments are where IG’s over four decades of experience really shine.

Where it falls short:

The obvious drawback with IG is that it only offers forex trading to US-based investors. Thus, leaving out stocks, bonds, commodities, ETFs, and many other assets available for traders in other markets –your best bet for a more rounded trading experience that includes forex is either TD Ameritrade or Fidelity. Ultimately, IG is an excellent choice for forex trading, but that’s about it.

The regional changes spill over to other functionalities as well: the UK traders, for example, benefit from superior risk management tools like FCA-backed negative balance protection (so you may end up in debt to the broker) or guaranteed stop-loss orders, whereas US traders don’t even get FPIC protection.

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (10)

TD Ameritrade

Good to know:

  • Stock and ETF trades are commission-free.

  • The live broker fee is $25 for all asset classes.

  • OTCBB trades incur a commission of $6.95 per transaction.

Why we chose it:

TD Ameritrade’s commitment to client education is nearly unparalleled. The Immersive Curriculum brings together eToro Academy’s bottom-to-up built, multi-media approach and IG’s full-fledged, interactive course design and takes it up a nudge with a personalized touch.

The learning process is tailored from the start. Upon registering, you are asked about your goals, ranging from learning the essentials to building a retirement plan or a diversified portfolio, and other questions regarding your personal circ*mstances. Vis-a-vis your goals and account history, you are recommended a tailored plan to follow, which adjusts itself as you advance your knowledge – it’s almost odd that this service is completely free-of-charge.

TD’s flagship platform, thinkorswim, is also designed for traders with a range of trading levels. The platform is both feature-rich and intuitive, making it great for starters, as you will have access to more advanced features as you expand your knowledge. In addition, you will find it packed with stock and ETF screeners, research insights, and trading idea generators, all of which are invaluable for understanding your investment options as a beginner.

Where it falls short:

With no balance minimums, TD’s entry barrier is already low but could have been lower had it offered fractional shares (a slice of a share based on a dollar amount, imagine you are buying a share of Tesla for a dollar). You can find fractional shares among Charles Schwab’s offerings, which present comparable usability but lags in educational materials.

TD’s services could have also been rounded up with an innovative social trading portal (offered mainly by new-generation solutions, most notably eToro) that connects the platform’s massive 11 million users and allows exchanging tips and ideas.

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (11)

Interactive Brokers

Good to know:

  • Lite account offers commission-free US equity and ETF trading.

  • Pro account charges $0.0005 to $0.0035 per share for all stock and ETF trades, but it decreases as the volume increases.

  • Margin rates range from 4.83% to 6.83%.

Why we chose it:

Interactive Brokers is an excellent choice for those looking for a professional-grade, customizable, feature-rich trading platform. As a global powerhouse, IBKR offers more investment options than you can ask for, including stocks, ETFs, futures, options, cryptocurrencies, bonds, mutual funds, and hedge funds across 150 global markets.

The traders are given the just-right arsenal to act on the opportunities they are presented. Its native charting feature includes up to 120 technical indicators and an extensive suite of drawing tools. In addition, you will receive screeners for stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds, all of which come with in-built trading idea generators. For more, you can also use IBKR Market Signals or third-party news and analysis services like Benzinga or Capitalise.

There are two account types you can go for: IBKR Lite and IBKR Pro. Pro users get more research and analysis tools, but most notably, they can access IB’s highly appreciated SmartRouting functionality. With SmartRouting, all your trades are automatically routed to the lowest-cost exchange – as execution mechanisms get poorer in quality across the industry, this is a chef’s kiss addition for advanced traders.

Pro users forgo commission-free trading and are given a pricing structure that gets more competitive as the volume increases – this essentially makes up IBKR’s appeal for active and stock day traders in particular.

Where it falls short:

Simplicity does not exist in IBKR’s vocabulary. The sheer number of moving parts renders the platform extremely hard to navigate for untrained users – but that’s just a product of their philosophy of serving in-depth research and analytical tools. But, of course, to each their own. Seasoned traders looking for a comparable platform with functionalities but a gentler learning curve (and willing to scale down on investment opportunities) may appreciate E*Trade more.

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (12)

Webull

Good to know:

  • There are no commissions on stock, ETF, or options trading.

  • You can buy fractional shares – but there’s a $5 minimum.

  • Margin rates range from 9.49% to 5.49%.

Why we chose it:

Webull is hardly the best broker you can find out there – it lacks some advanced yet crucial tools like trailing stop-loss orders and, as a discount broker, many portfolio management features. But is it cheap? Definitely. How about the mobile experience? Superb. The mobile app has been downloaded over 10 million times by Android users, snapped a 4.7/5 rating from iOS users, and receives frequent performance improvements (three times a month on average).

There’s enough evidence to conclude that the mobile product is prioritized in development as user feedback varies greatly regarding the experience on different devices. The app includes all bells and whistles required for active trading, and, included on the desktop app: robust stock and options screeners, mobile-optimized charting (through which you can open positions directly and create alerts), and an integrated news feed.

Where it falls short:

As we said before, Webull is a discount broker – so don’t expect to get a full-fledged portfolio management system and access to a financial advisor when required, compared to a full-service brokerage like Fidelity.

It’s also worth noting that the low fees are compensated by different means: like many discount brokers, Webull also relies on payment for order flow (PFOF) to make up for the lack of trading commissions, which results in poorer trade execution. This is particularly painful for day traders, who rely on top-notch order execution – which they can find with Interactive Brokers’ highly appreciated SmartRouting functionality.

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How Do We Choose the Best Trading Platforms?

When curating our list, we focused on four main points;

  • Platform experience – Is it easy to use and reliable? Does the design resonate with the intended user base, i.e., if it’s geared towards advanced traders, is it rich with in-depth features?

  • Range of investments – How many assets can you trade? What value does it add if it’s a specialized platform for a single asset?

  • Customer reviews – How happy are users with the product? Does the company take the time to answer their queries and complaints on review aggregators?

  • Costs – How do costs compare to other platforms? Do the features justify the high costs?

What Actually Is a Trading Platform?

Simply put, trading platforms allow you to buy and sell, or trade, securities (investments or assets) through your desktop or smartphone. It is an administrative system or software which a financial institution, like a broker, releases.

These two terms are often confused, so let’s break it down: you can consider the broker as the car and a trading platform as the wheels. Just as the vehicle needs wheels to move and control its direction, a broker requires a trading platform to provide services effectively, including executing trades and controlling clients’ investments. And the wheels are basically useless without a car – much like trading platforms.

Platforms are usually endowed with features that help investors analyze market data and manage their trades better, such as charting tools, real-time quotes, or risk management tools. Some integrate with more advanced software and tools; MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5 (mainly used for trading automation), and the advanced charting platform TradingView are prime examples.

In any case, you open up a brokerage account on these trading platforms, and the broker executes the trades you order through them.

Make it your own

If you happen to be a developer, you can make use of application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by some platforms, like TD Ameritrade (though still disabled since Schwab takeover) or Interactive Brokers, and develop your own trading applications using the broker’s API.

Discount Brokers vs. Full-Service Brokerages

We’ve used these terms multiple times in our reviews, and you’ve probably seen them tossed around often. They represent two distinct brokerage approaches designed with different audiences in mind.

Traditional brokerages pair trade execution with financial advisory services like portfolio building, monitoring, management, retirement planning, tax advice, insurance, and more. They are typically geared towards high-worth individuals or investors who simply don’t have the time or interest in managing their finances.

The main downside is that full-service brokerages come with fairly high commissions (which you pay with each security you buy or sell) and maintenance fees (that usually run from 1% to 2% of assets under management per year). Fidelity and Charles Schwab are perhaps the most relevant examples of full-service brokerages with a trading platform.

With full-service brokerages, you are essentially paying for the tailored professional service. On the other hand, discount brokerages fill in the gap for self-starters, more often called DIY investors. Their services typically don’t go beyond executing trades and providing industry-standard tools to analyze market data and often include extensive educational materials to help self-starters.

Despite the unattractive name, they carry many attractive qualities: low to no account minimums to begin trading, low to no commissions (many waived commissions following suit Robinhood back in 2019), no administrative charges, and often come with a handsomely designed mobile app – most notably eToro, Webull, and of course, Robinhood.

On that note, we've compared Robinhood and Webull – two giants of discount retail trading. Make sure to read through our comparison before signing up.

How do discount brokers make up for the money they lose on commissions?

More and more trading platforms are moving away from commission-based trading and finding new ways to compensate for it. Payment for order flow (PFOF) is one of the most common ways: platforms typically route orders for execution to a particular exchange, and in return, they gain a small fee. Why should you care? Because it results in poorer execution quality as the order is not routed to the most optimal exchange. It's basically a tradeoff between cost and quality.

Workings of a Trading Platform

So, what can you do with a trading platform? Trading, indeed, – but trade what, how, for how much, under whose authority? Let’s find out.

What Assets Can You Trade?

The first thing that comes to mind when the word trading is uttered is the stock market. But you probably already know by now stocks make up a large, but still a part, of the world of investing.

Many brokers include stocks by default, but you will also see other assets flying around, from more traditional ones like bonds, commodities, and ETFs to newer players like cryptocurrencies. We tend to navigate towards trading platforms with a wide range of offerings as they allow greater flexibility for branching out and having a diversified portfolio.

  • Stocks give you a small ownership stake in a publicly listed company. Their value is determined by the essential supply and demand mechanism, which depends on the market sentiment formed around company fundamentals (financial health), confidence in the industry, and the larger economic environment.

  • ETFs are pools of investment. They include a basket of assets, like stocks, bonds, or commodities. When you invest in an ETF, you own a unit of the fund, and the fund owns the underlying assets. They aim to track the performance of an index, like the top 500 largest companies listed on US stock exchanges (simply called S&P 500), a select sector like tech, or a region like emerging markets. With an ETF, you can expand your portfolio instantly for a fraction of the cost.

  • Bonds refer to debt instruments issued by corporations and governments. When in need of raising money, these organizations issue loans, which are bought by various entities, and also retail investors like yourself. When you buy a bond, you essentially lend money to the issuer organizations. Bonds are fixed-income securities, as they pay out interest payments over time. You are paid your initial investment back in full when they reach maturity. They both generate income and are less risky than stocks and shares.

  • Commodities are considered ‘alternative’ investments today despite being humanity's oldest form of trading products. They refer to tangible products we consume, like metals, oil, gas, or even rice, grains, and sugar. Gold holds a special place – its value usually moves precisely opposite to the stock market, meaning that gold ratchets up when the stocks drop in value. They can be highly volatile and are typically traded through leveraged products (more on that just below).

  • Cryptocurrencies made their very controversial entry to full-service and discount brokerages along with cryptocurrency exchanges a while ago. As digital assets, crypto coins exist on blockchains and have limited use as an actual currency. However, due to their speculative nature, they make a high-risk, high-return investment vehicle.

What are options and futures?

Options and futures are derivative products that derive value from underlying assets. In essence, both represent a contract allowing you to buy or sell an asset, like stocks or commodities, at a specified price, by a designated date.

The main difference is that an options contract gives you the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset at a specified price by a certain date. Conversely, when you enter a futures contract, you must buy or sell the underlying asset at a specific price by a certain date unless the position is closed.

Both options and futures contracts are leveraged products. Leverage refers to borrowed money that can increase your buying power. If you open a trade with $100 and 20x leverage, for example, it will equate to $2000 in investment. The platforms lend you the money to increase your bid, and if your bet pans out, your returns are magnified. Yet, if your bet is not realized, so will your losses. Trading platforms offer much higher leverages for options and futures contracts, which already have complex mechanisms. These all make futures and options incredibly risky.

But of course, different strokes for different folks – if you are interested in options trading, check our guide.

What Are Trading Features?

Remember when we said trading platforms help users manage their trades better? These are the ways.

Different Order Types

When you decide on buying or selling an asset, you place an order for it, which is effectively an instruction you give to your broker to buy or sell a security on your behalf. You can use different types of orders to mitigate the risks of your trade or get better prices. Here are the most common types of trading orders:

Description

Advantages

Disadvantages

Market Order

It instructs the brokerage to execute the trade at the best possible price.

Trades are executed almost immediately if there’s trading liquidity (there are buyers or sellers).

You have no control over the price of the asset you are selling or buying.

Limit Order

It is used to buy or sell an asset at a specified price or better.

You have control over the price at which you buy or sell.

Usually comes with a higher commission, and trades won’t happen if there are no buyers or sellers happy with the price you set.

Stop-Loss Order

It instructs the brokerage to buy or sell an asset at the best available price after it reaches a specified price.

It can minimize your losses: if the share of a price falls, the order may be triggered automatically, and the asset is sold.

Stop-loss orders are vulnerable to short-term fluctuations in the asset price.

Real-Time Data, News, and Research

Understanding what is going on in the financial markets helps us make better-informed decisions. Asset prices go up and down depending on the fluctuations in supply and demand, which are affected by certain news like mergers and acquisitions, industry reports predicting how orders will shape up over the next few months, or general commentary on ongoing economic conditions like inflation or recession – ideally, trading platforms provide insights on these, either created in-house or through providing access to third-party publications.

Besides the news, you can also use company fundamentals, which refer to information on an organization’s profitability, revenue, assets, liabilities, and growth potential. This information informs us about a company's overall financial health and whether investors are likely to buy into them or not – or simply, whether their prices go up or down.

And finally, you will need real-time data on price movements. Online trading platforms display these prices, called stock quotes, along with how much time has passed since the change has happened. Ideally, the time lags should be insignificant so that you can base your decisions on the most up-to-date information.

Analytical Tools

Trading platforms offer price charts to analyze the performance of an asset or market. At their core, trading charts are graphic representations of an asset’s price movement over time. Basically, the most valuable information you get is the past and current prices. These charts create patterns that can enable a trained eye to gather information about where the price will go next – although it is not entirely possible to predict what the trajectory will be based on past performance, patterns do indeed repeat themselves from time to time.

Fundamental vs Technical Analysis

When making trading decisions, there are two distinct approaches to understanding financial markets: fundamental analysis and technical analysis. The industry news and company fundamentals we discussed above create the basis for fundamental analysis: it primarily studies companies' overall economy, industry conditions, and financial health to predict price movements. The chief aim is to gauge the intrinsic value of a stock.

The other camp is technical analysis, where analytical tools like charts factor in. Traders using technical analysis focus on statistical trends like the movement of an asset’s price and volume over time. They believe that all fundamental information will be factored into the price. Technical analysts don’t bother to understand the intrinsic value of a stock. Instead, they focus on identifying patterns and trends in its past performance, which they believe signal what a stock will do in the future.

Paper Trading

Paper trading is simply using a demo account, with which you can take your trading platform for a test ride. With a demo account, the platform lets you practice buying and selling assets in a simulated trading environment with virtual money. You can place orders or execute your strategies without actually risking your capital. Today, many brokers offer paper trading, including eToro, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity.

When doing so, it's important to act as if you are actually trading, meaning that you should consider the risk/reward considerations, your trading objectives, and investment constraints so that you are not just gambling blindly. Paper trading offers value for novice and seasoned traders alike – beginners can understand the trading mechanism and gauge whether the particular trading platform suits them. In contrast, experienced traders can test out their investment strategies.

Are Trading Platforms Free? What Do You Pay?

The simple answer is no. Even discount brokerages, most of which market themselves as free, come with a fee – you only pay it in more complex ways, as we discussed earlier. Besides the hidden fees as such, the most common fees include commissions, spreads, and maintenance fees. Let’s look at them in detail;

  • Commissions are charged on a per-trade basis and are considered a service charge from the broker for executing your trade. It can be a flat fee ($3 per trade) or a percentage fee – which usually floats around 0.5% to 1%. As we said before, many brokerages waived commissions back in 2019.

  • Spreads are built into the price of your trade. It refers to the difference between a certain asset's buy and sell prices. Platforms can also charge fees through spreads, which are mostly used in forex trading.

  • Maintenance fees are usually charged by full-service brokerages and can be annually or quarterly. They may be waived if the account meets certain conditions, like a certain minimum account balance or a minimum number of trades.

How much money do I need to start trading?

This primarily depends on your account minimum requirements (which vary from none to $500 for standard accounts), the type of security you wish to buy, and the frequency of your trades. But above all, it depends on your situation. The rule of thumb is never to trade with more than you can lose to afford. Before understanding the optimal limit, you should take a financial snapshot and see how much you can dedicate without dipping into your income designated for necessary purchases or savings.

If the price of the asset and account minimums allow it, you can start with an amount as low as $100 – but trading with such small capital is not generally advised.

Let's say you decide to invest your hundred bucks in a single stock. The stock initially seems to be doing well, and you manage to earn a 10% return on your investment, bringing your total capital to $110. However, shortly after, the stock experiences a sharp decline, and you lose 10% of your investment, bringing your total capital back down to $99.

In this scenario, even though you made a profitable trade at first, a single loss wiped out most of your gains. With a larger capital base, you would have more cushion to absorb losses and potentially recover from them. With a small capital, you have a limited margin for error and not enough resources to diversify.

And finally, the frequency issue: if you wish to place four or more trades a day or simply become a day trader, you need to have a staggering $25,000 in your account as FINRA then designates you a ‘pattern day trader.’

Who Oversees Trading Platforms?

Whether you end up with some extra on a windfall or you painstakingly generate extra cash for trading purposes – in any case, you should be able to have peace of mind when trusting trading platforms with your money. No need to worry, though, you are somewhat covered.

The trading platforms operating in the US are primarily overseen by two main bodies: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). SEC’s chief mission is to maintain the integrity of the securities markets and protect investors. It ensures that trading platforms must be truthful and transparent about their operations and the risks involved in investing.

While SEC is an independent regulatory agency of the US government, FINRA is a non-profit organization, although it has regulatory powers. Simply put, FINRA lays out the rules brokers are governed by and assumes the responsibility of their enforcement. The rules aim to regulate brokers and protect investors from unlawful actions that brokers may perform.

Trading platforms typically disclose their adherence to such bodies on their websites in the footer section.

How Can You Choose the Best Platform for You?

In this guide, you can find the fundamental information you need to understand what trading platforms are and what they offer – but choosing the best one depends entirely on your personal circ*mstances. The following points may help get the ball rolling;

I. Your Trading Experience

The level of experience is an obvious starting point. If you have zero experience and attempt to begin trading with a platform like Interactive Brokers, you will probably cut and run and end your trading venture before it begins. It’s wise for novice traders to prioritize usability and easy navigation when selecting a trading platform – this often means a lack of advanced tools. Still, you most probably won’t need them anytime soon and can always upscale to a more versatile solution as you advance your knowledge.

If you are serious about trading (and possibly investing) as a beginner, you may want to opt for a full-service brokerage where you can access financial advice from professionals whenever you need it. You may still want suggestions but not be willing to pay an extra dime for them; in that case, you can simply opt for a robo-advisor and put things on autopilot (both of which you can find with Fidelity).

If you are more of a self-starter, look out for a platform with a solid educational department, with TD Ameritrade as the prime example, so that you can have all the resources you need in the same place. It’s also monumentally important for self-starters to use a trading platform with responsive and accessible customer service in case things go south, as they tend to.

II. Your Goals

Are you just interested in speculating on stocks? Do you wish to diversify to bonds, mutual funds, or more? Are you interested in leveraged products at all?

Your goals may change over time, but it’s healthy to establish what you need from the outset. If you simply plan on buying and holding stocks, you may be just happy with a straightforward discount brokerage like Webull. If you wish to diversify with bonds and funds, you may want to opt for a service with a wide range of offerings and lower costs, like Fidelity. Suppose you are eyeing derivative products like options and futures. In that case, it makes sense to find a platform with far-reaching analysis tools to implement your strategies, like Interactive Brokers or tastyworks.

Establishing your short-term goals helps you find a platform that is not cluttered with features or products that are useless to you. To better set your goals, you can use our investment calculator and get an idea of potential returns.

III. Your Style

Are you planning on actively trading, or are you more of a buy-and-forget type? Will you require more information about company fundamentals, or do you plan on losing yourself in the statistical vortex of technical analysis?

Active traders should seek commission-free platforms as trading fees can quickly increase if you frequently place trades. If you continue with active trading and build yourself up to be a day trader at some point, you should begin considering the order execution quality – as you may end up being penny-wise pound foolish.

The approach you will take in your research also affects your choice of a platform: not all platforms are equal in their analytical and analysis tools. Suppose you care more about fundamentals and market insights when making trading decisions. In that case, you may consider legacy brokers that release in-house analyst insights, like IG or Fidelity, and access to other reputable publications. If you wish to carry on with the technical analysis, pay close attention to how in-depth a platform’s charting capabilities are.

The Bottom Line

And here’s our take on the best trading platforms available for US traders.

To recap, our reviews found that Fidelity simply outshines the competition in every category. Beginners and self-starters will greatly appreciate TD Ameritrade’s unparalleled commitment to trader education – those who gained traction over time can move on to make the best out of Interactive Broker’s complex platform. IG offers the best-specialized solution for forex trading, while mobile users will take great comfort using Webull’s ultra-optimized application.

Before you move on, it’s worth remembering that your money is always at risk when trading, regardless of the trading platform of your choice. You can be your best version by constantly educating yourself, using appropriate risk management techniques, and not giving in to your emotions.

FAQ

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6 Best Trading Platforms & Online Brokers for US Traders [2024] (2024)

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