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Best Online Discount Broker Comparison

Each time I look at a new discount broker, the first thing I do is see how it stacks up against some of the best discount brokers I already use. With the new offer from OptionsHouse [1], I wanted to see how they stack up.

As a benchmark, I always begin my comparison with Scottrade [2], an account which I’ve had for years, and the place where I regularly open accounts for young family members [3].

Comparing Total Costs of Discount Brokers

Obviously, cheap trading fees are a big consideration, as are account fees, when evaluating the total cost of a broker. I also look at IRA fees, minimum balance requirements, ETF and mutual fund fees. And of course, any current promotional offers!

When opening a new account, it’s often hard to find all of these fees in one place since each broker prominently markets their best selling point. Compiling all of the fees and account minimums for each discount broker makes it much easier to compare discount brokers across the board.

Online Discount Broker Comparison

Here is an overall cost comparison of the best online discount brokers, ranked according to readers’ favorite discount brokers [4]:

Discount Broker Scottrade TradeKing Zecco Options Express Trade Monster Sharebuilder OptionsHouse
Stock Trades $7 $4.95 $4.95 $9.95 $7.50 $9.95 $3.95
Options Base $7 $4.95 $4.95 $0 $0 $9.95 $8.50
Options Contract $1.25 $0.65 $0.65 $1.50 $0.50 $1.25 $0.15
ETF Trades $0 or $7 $4.95 $4.95 $9.95 $7.50 $9.95 $3.95
Mutual Fund Trades $0 or $17 $14.95 $10.00 $9.95 + load $0 or $15 $0 or $19.95 $9.95
Broker Review Scottrade Review [5] TradeKing Review [6] Zecco Review [7] Options Express Review [8] Trade Monster Review [9] Sharebuilder Review [10] OptionsHouse Review [11]
Account Minimum None None None None None None None
Opening Account Minimum $500 None None None $2,000 None $1,000
Account Fees None None None None None None None
IRA Account Fees None None $30 annually None None None None
Broker Assisted Trades $27 $4.95 $19.99 $9.95 $7.50 $19.95 $3.95
Special Offers Scottrade 15 Free ETFs [5] $150 Transfer Fees Refund [6] N/A OptionsXpress $100 Sign Up Bonus [12] $250 Transfer Fees Refund [13] ShareBuilder $50 Sign Up Bonus [14] Free Dell Monitor from OptionsHouse [15]
Reader Ranking 1 2 3 4 5 N/A N/A
Open an Account Scottrade [2] TradeKing [16] Zecco [17] optionsXpress [18] TradeMonster [13] Sharebuilder [19] OptionsHouse [1]

To read more details about each discount broker including highlights, you can see the full review for each broker.

I’m currently working on moving around some of our money, invested in ETFs [20], at discount brokers to take advantage of the lowest total cost for our portfolio.