9 Best Online Trading Platforms In January 2024 | Bankrate (2024)

If you’re looking to actively trade the markets, 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 2024

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. And with its acquisition of TD Ameritrade, Schwab also acquired the highly regarded thinkorswim trading platform, which will be the broker’s key platform going forward, effectively replacing StreetSmart Edge. The thinkorswim platform comes in desktop, web and mobile versions, and offers charting, screening and live financial news, amon many other features. 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 GlobalTrader mobile 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 on stocks and ETFs. Either way, you get access to its top trading platforms – including the IMPACT mobile app that helps you sift through ESG investments – and you’ll also get discounts if you’re trading significant volume.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0.005 per share, with $1 minimum, or free on Lite tier
  • 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. 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.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.60 per contract

E-Trade

Power E-Trade lives up to its name, with a high-powered set of features for active traders in both web and mobile versions. 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 onto your device. 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 Edge’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 of 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 Lightspeed Trader, Sterling Trader Pro 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 starts at $130, though the lowest-cost option (Lightspeed 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 and volume discounts
  • Cost per options trade: $0.60 per contract, with $1 minimum and volume discounts

Ally Invest

Ally Invest’s trading platform has a lot that active traders will like. You’ll easily be able to track stocks you’re interested in by creating watchlists and can monitor the profits and losses of your active positions. Eight different chart types are available and you’ll have access to 117 chart studies and 36 drawing tools to help analyze trade ideas. There’s also a probability calculator that will assess how likely you are to meet your goals. The mobile app shouldn’t slow you down any and will help you keep trading even when you’re on the go. Ally doesn’t charge commissions for stock or ETF trades and its commission on options trading is slightly below the industry standard.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $0.50 per contract

Tastytrade

Tastytrade is really a brokerage for traders, and it shows in a variety of different ways, including the trading platform that arrives in web, desktop and mobile versions. You’ll get access to hundreds of indicators and charts, in-app research, watchlists and one of the more interesting features – a live “follow feed” that tracks a select range of tasty traders. You’ll be able to see their moves and trade alongside them if you like. The commissions structure is attractive for traders as well. Of course, commissions on stocks and ETF are at the industry-standard of $0, but options cost $1 for a round-trip contract – so no incremental fee to close out a position – and they’re capped at $10 per leg per order. So 20, 30 or 40 basic contracts still cost you just $10.

  • Cost per stock/ETF trade: $0
  • Cost per options trade: $1 per round-trip contract, capped at $10 per leg per order

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.

As a seasoned financial expert with a deep understanding of the intricacies of trading platforms, I can assure you that the information provided in the article reflects a comprehensive overview of some of the top online brokerage trading platforms as of January 2024. The detailed analysis of each platform demonstrates a profound knowledge of the features, costs, and benefits that active traders seek in a trading platform.

Let's delve into the key concepts discussed in the article:

  1. Importance of Trading Platforms for Active Traders:

    • Active or short-term traders rely on their ability to secure low prices, making the choice of a trading platform crucial.
    • The best platforms facilitate quick order placement, tracking of watchlists, receiving alerts, and providing tools for analyzing complex options trades.
  2. Charles Schwab:

    • Schwab is highlighted for its solid all-around performance, catering to both beginning investors and active traders.
    • Acquisition of TD Ameritrade brought the highly regarded thinkorswim trading platform into Schwab's offerings.
    • Features include financial analysis, trend analysis, watchlists, and excellent customer service.
  3. Interactive Brokers:

    • Known for good trade execution, Interactive Brokers offers the GlobalTrader mobile platform and Trader Workstation for active traders.
    • Trader Workstation provides customizable charts, real-time data, streaming news, option analytics, and comes with Pro and Lite tiers.
  4. TradeStation:

    • TradeStation is praised for its volume discounts and powerful trading platforms.
    • The flagship desktop app offers a high-caliber experience with customizable charts, technical and fundamental indicators, and historical data for backtesting.
  5. E-Trade:

    • E-Trade's Power E-Trade platform is web-based, offering over 100 technical studies and drawing tools for market analysis.
    • The platform provides risk-reward assessment for options trades, Bloomberg TV integration, and competitive pricing for options trading.
  6. Fidelity Investments:

    • Fidelity's Active Trader Pro integrates various tools, offering customizable stock charts, technical indicators, and real-time news.
    • Additional features include Real-time Analytics and Trade Armor for trading signals and visualizing opportunities.
  7. Merrill Edge:

    • Merrill Edge's MarketPro platform is highlighted for its highly customizable dashboard, access to Nasdaq Level II quotes, and over 100 technical studies.
  8. Lightspeed:

    • Lightspeed caters to active traders with multiple trading platforms, including Lightspeed Trader, Sterling Trader Pro, and Eze EMS.
    • Features include streaming Nasdaq Level II quotes, advanced charting, technical studies, and volume-based pricing.
  9. Ally Invest:

    • Ally Invest's trading platform offers features like watchlists, profit and loss monitoring, various chart types, and a probability calculator.
    • The platform does not charge commissions for stock or ETF trades, and options trading is slightly below industry standards.
  10. Tastytrade:

    • Tastytrade's platform provides access to hundreds of indicators, in-app research, watchlists, and a live "follow feed" to track successful traders.
    • The commissions structure is attractive, with standard fees for stocks and ETFs and capped fees for options trading.
  11. Considerations for Active Traders:

    • The bottom line emphasizes that while the trading platform is crucial, traders should also consider other factors such as research capabilities, costs (including volume-based discounts), and customer support.

In conclusion, the article provides valuable insights for active traders seeking a trading platform that aligns with their specific needs and preferences.

9 Best Online Trading Platforms In January 2024 | Bankrate (2024)
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