Best online broker trading platforms in January 2022 – Bankrate.com

If you’re looking to trade the markets actively, you’ll probably want to pay more attention to your broker’s trading platform. Unlike buy-and-hold investors who don’t need to get the best price every time out, active or short-term traders live and die by their ability to get a low price. So that’s why finding a broker with a top trading platform can be so important.

The best trading platforms offer traders a way to quickly and intuitively place orders, track a watchlist of stocks and funds, receive alerts for securities that may be interesting trades, offer tools to analyze complex options trades and much more. A top trading platform may also provide streaming news and can even get you a better trade execution, helping you secure the most attractive price possible.

Best online brokerage trading platforms in January 2022

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab is a solid all-around pick for any investor, especially beginning investors, but it also makes a solid pick for active traders, too. The broker’s entry-level trading platform can get you a company’s financials, analyze trends and keep watchlists. But step to its StreetSmart Edge platform for the flagship experience: a highly customizable platform that offers screeners for trading ideas, news feeds, live CNBC coverage, advanced charting and an all-in-one trading ticket. StreetSmart Edge comes in both web and desktop versions. All of this and you’ll get Schwab’s excellent customer service and its bevy of other great features.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract

Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers has long been popular with active traders, because of its good trade execution and ability to transact in almost any market. The broker’s core platform gets the job done if you just need to make a quick trade, but traders will likely find the broker’s Trader Workstation to be a real workhorse. This fully featured platform seems to do it all: customizable charts, real-time data, streaming news, option analytics and more. Interactive Brokers offers a Pro tier with per-share pricing and a Lite tier with commission-free trading. Either way, you get access to its top trading platform, and you’ll also get discounts if you’re trading significant volume.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0.0005 per share, with $1 minimum, or free on Lite platform
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract

TradeStation

With volume discounts and powerful trading platforms, TradeStation should make it to a trader’s shortlist for potential brokers. The flagship desktop app provides a high-caliber experience, with built-in charting indicators, more than 180 technical and fundamental indicators, the ability to create your own indicators and decades of historical data for backtesting strategies. If this platform is appealing, you’ll want to go with the broker’s TS SELECT pricing plan. Although if you don’t quite need all that power but still want a highly capable app, you can opt for the broker’s web-based platform with streaming real-time quotes, dozens of technical studies, watchlists and plenty more. This platform is available on the TS SELECT and TS GO pricing plans. And if you’re looking to trade cryptocurrency, TradeStation offers some very favorable commissions.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0 (on both TS SELECT or TS GO plans)
  • Cost per options trade: $0.50 per contract (TS GO) or $0.60 per contract (TS SELECT)

Robinhood

Robinhood might not be your first guess when it comes to brokers with a solid trading platform, but it does offer a slick mobile app that gets you in the game quickly, and for that reason it’s worth including here. It’s a stripped-down, simple-to-navigate experience and you can swipe your way from watchlist to stock to trade in seconds. You’ll get a news feed and a summary of analysts’ rankings. By upgrading to Robinhood Gold, you’ll also get access to Morningstar research reports and margin loans. Robinhood offers no-commission trading on stocks, ETFs, options and a handful of cryptocurrencies. If you want to place trades quickly and easily, Robinhood gets it done.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0 per contract

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade has long been a favorite of active traders, and the broker brings two trading platforms to the fight. Its classic web-based platform does all the core fundamentals, including streaming news, third-party research and watchlists. TD ups its game with its thinkorswim platform, which is available in web, desktop and mobile versions. This full-powered platform gives you access to not only the basic securities (stocks, bonds, ETFs, options and mutual funds) but also the more advanced ones (futures, forex and futures options). You’ll have some 400 technical studies and plenty of charting tools as well as analytics to help you understand it all.

(Charles Schwab has purchased TD Ameritrade and will integrate the two companies in 2022 or 2023.)

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract

E-Trade

Power E-Trade lives up to its name, with a high-powered set of features for active traders. The broker’s flagship trading platform is web-based and offers more than 100 technical studies and dozens of drawing tools to help traders analyze the markets. You’ll be able to overlay technical patterns on the charts to assess where the security may go in the future, calculate risk-reward and breakeven on options trades and look for unusual activity that might lead to an attractive opportunity. You’ll be able to see the risk-reward on options trades visually and the trading platform brings Bloomberg TV right into your browser. Plus, it doesn’t take a lot of options volume for you to secure a discounted rate, one of the best prices in the industry.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract, or $0.50 for more than 30 trades per quarter

Fidelity Investments

Fidelity offers Active Trader Pro, a trading platform that incorporates a number of its other tools and features. You can build stock charts, analyze the action with dozens of technical indicators, place multiple trades at one time and stream Bloomberg TV right to your desktop. You’ll also get real-time news, earnings reports and other economic news, so you stay on top of the market. Plus, you’ll have immediate access to tools such as Real-time Analytics, which offers trading signals when a stock crosses key technical levels, and Trade Armor, which visualizes your trading opportunities. It all comes in a customizable layout, or you can opt for one of the preset layouts. And you’ll get Fidelity’s helpful and responsive customer service on top of it all.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract

Merrill Edge

Merrill’s high-feature trading platform is called MarketPro, and it offers a ton of elements that active traders can appreciate. The platform’s dashboard is highly customizable, allowing you to set everything up to play to your strengths with an easy drag-and-drop interface. Other features include access to Nasdaq Level II quotes, more than 100 technical studies to help you analyze the trading action and charting tools that use streaming data. Of course, with Merrill’s offering you can set trade alerts, create watchlists and access all the other core platform functions. Combine that with Merrill’s strong research and you have a winning combo.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.65 per contract

Lightspeed

Lightspeed is a favorite for active traders, and it offers a number of trading platforms, though most require a monthly subscription. The broker’s core platform is available free in web and mobile versions, and it’s solid on the fundamentals, with watchlists, customizable charts and technical studies. Those looking to move up to an even more powerful platform have at least four other options, including LS Trader, Sterling Trader Pro, Livevol X and Eze EMS. Each offers streaming Nasdaq Level II quotes, watchlists, advanced charting and technical studies. Some of the platforms include research, customizable order routing and market scanners to find where the action is. Monthly pricing runs from $130 to $325, though the lowest-cost option (LS Trader) lets you fully offset the subscription cost with at least $130 in commissions in the prior month. Truly active traders can rapidly cut their commission fees with volume-based pricing.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0.0045 per share, with $1 minimum
  • Cost per options trade: $0.60 per contract, with $1 minimum

Bottom line

While active traders may focus primarily on a broker’s trading platform, that’s not the only consideration, of course. Traders should also consider what other kinds of value a broker can bring, including fundamental or technical research, costs including volume-based discounts and not least, customer support, which can help resolve any tricky problems along the way.

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