It’s been years since I have placed a trade with a bricks and mortar, old school brokerage firm. Instead, I use an online brokerage account, as does almost everyone else — complete control over your account, much lower commissions, and often very lucrative sign-up bonus offers.
Here are some of the best online brokerage accounts as of April 2011, in Outlaw‘s view:
OptionsHouse — “Barebones” is not how I’d describe this one: you get a ton of free extras, good streaming charts, and the regular commission for stock trades is only $3.95. Plus, they are running a promotion right now where you can get 100 commission-free trades after signing up (use the link located here to apply.)
That is nominally a $395 value, which is a seriously awesome deal.
ShareBuilder — I like my ShareBuilder online brokerage account for the simple reason that it’s owned by ING now, so it is very easy (and instantaneous, in fact) to move money from an ING DIRECT savings or checking account into your brokerage account, or back into an ING deposit account. I have found transfers to external accounts to be fairly swift as well. Real-time trades are $9.95, unless you subscribe to their Advantage program, in which case the rate is $7.95 per online trade. I’ve found trading on margin with ShareBuilder in the past to be easy and cost effective as well; the rates are reasonable.
E*Trade — Ah yes, everyone knows E*Trade. That alpha male baby in all the commercials. Real-time trades are $9.99 each, unless you make more than 150 trades per quarter, in which case the rate is $7.99 each. I used to think this was the best online discount brokerage around, but nowadays it seems a tad expensive when there are a number of totally competent competitors willing to make the same trades for less. They are running a good promotion right now, though, where you can earn free trades for the first 60 days your account is open.
TD Ameritrade — Good research tools and support, but the same $9.99 commission as E*Trade.
View all of my favourite new bank deals and offers over on Outlaw.
Disclosures: I used to review credit cards for a living. Also, my web site has financial relationships with numerous financial institutions, including but not limited to ING DIRECT, OptionsHouse LLC and Barclays.