Commissions and Fees

Updated Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Looking for the lowest cost online broker?  Just find the service that offers the lowest trading commissions and sign up, right?  Not so fast.  Each broker has its own fee structures, discount offers, and a number of less visible costs associated with account ownership.  Luckily, we are here to help simplify the process of finding the broker that offers the best deal for you.

Below we break down the basic fee structures for all of our reviewed brokers.  At the end, we decide which brokers meet our minimum criteria to be recommended from a commissions and fees perspective.

We urge everyone to read the commission and fee agreements for each broker thoroughly before investing. Fees can vary widely depending on account value, trading frequency, the types of trades involved and other factors. The information on this page is accurate as of the date of posting but is subject to change at any time.

Commissions and Fees by Type
Click on the links below to access the detailed breakdown pages.
Other Additional Fees That May Apply
Final Analysis
We have chosen to forgo our standard A-F grading scale for the purposes of comparing commissions and fees.  Instead, we have chosen to use a simple pass or fail grade with three criteria.  These three criteria are as follows:
Based on the above criteria, our results are as follows:

eOption PassPassPass
E*TRADE PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensiveFail - quarterly fee unless 2 trades per quarter, less than $5k+ assets or other conditions
Fidelity PassPassPass
Firstrade PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensivePass
Interactive Brokers PassPassFail for IRAs (quarterly fee) and minimum $10 monthly fee if commissions do not reach that level
Just2Trade PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensivePass (though IRA annual fee may apply)
Merrill Edge PassPassPass
OptionsHouse PassPassPass
optionsXpress PassFail - per contract pricing too highPass
Schwab PassPassPass
Scottrade PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensivePass
ShareBuilder PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensivePass
SogoTrade PassPassPass
TD Ameritrade PassFail - exercise / assignment is too expensivePass
TradeKing PassPassPass
Vanguard Fail - commissions too high for those with less than $50k in assetsFail - commissions are simply far too highFail - quarterly fee unless $50k+ assets
Wells Fargo Advisors Fail - commissions too high for non-PMA accountsFail - exercise / assignment is too expensiveFail - quarterly fee unless $50k+ assets or PMA account holder
Zecco PassPassFail for IRAs (quarterly fee)

We feel that our commission and fee criteria is more than lenient and that any broker that fails in one of the above categories is simply not even close to being competitive with the value offered by top competitors.  All brokers that pass all three criteria are at the very least viable broker choices.

To reiterate one more time, please make sure that you verify the commissions and fees of all brokers before investing.  We try to keep this page update this page as often as possible but commissions and fees can and will change at any time.

Related articles:
Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs)
Summary Reviews