11 Best Stock Trading Platforms (for Day Trading and Options)

Investing
Updated: 17th Feb 2021
Written by Drew Cheneler
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Investing
February 17, 2021
Written by Drew Cheneler

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These days, more and more people are getting into the stock market for the first time.

But as opposed to investing through an IRA or another retirement account, people are trying their hands at day trading or options trading: two trading styles that require active accounts and in-depth research tools.

Instead of looking at online stock brokers in general, today we’ll check out the best trading platforms for day trading and options.

This means making lots of short-term trades. Additionally, we will highlight brokerages that can support trading options – which is a type of trading that involves buying and selling stock price contracts or “options”.

All the platforms we reviewed have robust market research tools and allow you to trade options. But they differ significantly across a wide range of key features and aspects.

Let’s take a closer look.

Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading (And Options)

Without further ado, here are the best stock trading platforms for both day traders and options traders.

#1. TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade is an excellent beginner’s trading platform that offers an astounding array of features, controls, and educational materials.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Market research is second to none
  • Has excellent educational resources to teach you how to trade stocks reliably
  • Good customer service
  • $0 trading fees

Cons:

  • Lacks trade options for some currencies/assets

Final Thoughts

TD Ameritrade is a good basic stock trading platform suitable for both beginners and moderately experienced traders who want enough market research materials to grow their portfolios successfully for several years.

#2. Fidelity

Fidelity is one of the most well-known stock trading platforms. It offers versatile trading opportunities for both securities and options, as well as some of the best market research tools available.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Market research tools are among the best
  • Support trading of multiple assets, including forex
  • Retirement/investment accounts available
  • In-person meetings with financial advisors available at physical branches
  • Lots of educational materials

Cons:

  • A little more complex than other stock trading platforms
  • Doesn’t support crypto trading

Final Thoughts

Fidelity is a top-tier choice for traders who want to practice both stock trading and long-term investment strategies through the same broker.

Learn More: Fidelity Review

#3. Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers is a particularly good choice for advanced or experienced traders and active options traders thanks to its tools and tiered membership style.

It offers multiple subscription accounts depending on what you want to trade and varying fees depending on account type.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • It’s a platform dedicated to options trading
  • Includes professional-level controls and analysis features
  • Has two pricing structures based on what works for your trading style
  • Includes support for advanced trading software application interfaces or APIs

Cons:

  • The pricing structure is complex
  • Not the most beginner-friendly

Final Thoughts

All in all, Interactive Brokers is a good pick for traders who already have some experience under their belts and who want to make the most of riskier options trading strategies.

#4. TradeStation

TradeStation is an ideal stock trading platform for active investors who will take advantage of sophisticated analysis tools and high-volume trades.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Any trades up to 10,000 shares don’t have commission fees
  • The trading platform is robust and features advanced controls
  • Has an active trading community
  • Good research materials for active traders

Cons:

  • Mutual funds trading does incur fees
  • Some membership plans can be confusing

Final Thoughts

TradeStation is ultimately a quality stock trading platform for high-energy day traders interested in low-cost but accessible tools to make the most of their short-term strategies.

#5. Ally Invest

Ally Invest is an online-only bank that gives you access to either managed or self-directed portfolios. It’s affordable overall and offers both stock trading and retirement accounts depending on what you’re looking for.

Account Minimum: None for self-directed, $100 for managed portfolio

Pros:

  • Different trading accounts depending on your experience level
  • Retirement/investing accounts available
  • Supports treating all kinds of access, including forex
  • Full support for forex trading 24 hours a day
  • Good market research materials

Cons:

  • No crypto trading

Final Thoughts

Ally Invest is a solid platform for traders who may not want to be hands-on with the day-to-day management of their portfolios.

Learn More: Ally Invest Review

#6. Webull

Webull offers no commissions trading available on its platform. It comes with plenty of extra features to make it worth your while, including a mobile app for active traders who want to check on their trades’ statuses during the day.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • No fees for stock, ETF, and options trades
  • Mobile and desktop platforms available
  • Good savings if you have a high trade volume
  • Some new customers get a free stock

Cons:

  • Some fees for margin trading and for access to advanced data feeds
  • Relatively limited list of tradable assets

Final Thoughts

Overall, Webull is a decent trading platform that may yet grow into one of the industry’s top competitors.

Learn More: Webull Review

#7. Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge is one of the best stock trading platforms thanks to its phenomenal research tools and top-tier customer service.

It’s also a particularly good pick for Bank of America customers due to some included rewards program perks.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Research tools are among the best
  • Customer service is helpful and educational
  • Offers IRAs and other investment accounts
  • Low options trade fees ($.65 per contract)
  • AI-powered dashboard for ease-of-use and extra information

Cons:

  • Some trading limitations, including no fractional trading or penny stocks

Final Thoughts

Merrill Edge is a great stock trading platform without any big downsides if you’re interested in traditional trading or investing through stocks, ETFs, index funds, and mutual funds.

Learn More: Merrill Edge Review

#8. Charles Schwab

Overview: Charles Schwab is another ideal stock trading platform for beginners due to its extensive educational resources and advanced charting tools/trade calculators.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Has lots of resources to teach you the basics of trading
  • Has a good web platform
  • Low commissions for options trading
  • Comes with advanced trade calculators and charting analysis tools

Cons:

  • Has very strict margin trading tools
  • Some contract prices are higher than competitors’

Final Thoughts

Overall, Charles Schwab is an excellent stock trading platform for beginners and for those interested in opening a long-term investment account as well.

Learn More: Charles Schwab Review

#9. Robinhood

Robinhood is one of the most popular free trading apps on the market, as it’s all controlled via a mobile interface. Users are not charged fees for making trades, and it offers both regular financial security trading and cryptocurrency trading.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Great for quick trading, no barriers to entry
  • No fees
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading
  • Easy to understand interface
  • Award-Winning Mobile app

Cons:

  • No investment/retirement accounts
  • No support for trading certain assets like bonds, mutual funds, or foreign exchange trading
  • Limited educational resources

Final Thoughts

Robinhood may be the best investment app due to its intuitive user interface and basic control setup. Moreover, Robinhood makes it easy for new investors to create an account and begin trading immediately.

Learn More: Robinhood Review

#10. Firstrade

Firstrade is an especially good choice for Chinese speaking investors that offers affordable portfolio options and 24/7 customer service.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Includes a fully translated experience for Chinese speakers
  • Good mobile app after a recent redesign
  • No stock trading fees
  • Decent research from Morningstar

Cons:

  • Website platform and tools could use some work, especially since it lacks advanced tools for more experienced traders
  • Does not offer very comprehensive educational resources

Final Thoughts

Firstrade is a reasonably balanced stock trading platform that will benefit foreign investors instead of English speakers. Why? Firstrade can be fully translated into various languages.

That said, Firstrade is still a great platform for Americans as well. There are no fees, charting, and complimentary research from Morningstar.

#11. E*Trade

E*Trade is an established online brokerage firm that features low costs and one of the most intuitive and comprehensive trading platforms in the industry.

It is a great platform for traders who will eventually grow into practicing more advanced strategies.

Account Minimum: None

Pros:

  • Relatively low fees, i.e. $.65 per contract for accounts with under 30 trades per month
  • Includes advanced stock analysis tools
  • Advanced options trading controls
  • Competitive pricing for active traders

Cons:

  • Prices do go up as you trade more frequently

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, E*Trade is a phenomenal platform. It is used by millions of Americans. In particular, E*Trade is favored by those who are looking for a long-term platform they can grow with.

How to Choose a Trading Platform

All the above trading platforms are at least decent. But you can choose the best trading platform for your needs by focusing on the below factors.

Compare Fees

Most trading platforms worth your time and money will have low fees, with a few rare exceptions. $0 trading fees for stocks and other common financial assets or securities are the norm, though expect fees ranging from as low as $.50 up to a dollar or so for options trading.

Technology

The best stock trading platforms will leverage superior technology and controls for your trading strategies.

These can include robo-advisors (which can assist you when selecting or investing in stocks) or advanced analysis controls to provide you with key stock information before making an investment.

Customer Support

Some stock trading platforms will include 24/7 customer support, while others will be more limited. The quality of customer support can significantly impact your overall experience.

Ease of Use

You’ll also likely want to find a trading platform that’s easy to use. Intuitive and mobile-friendly platforms are usually better since they allow you to check your stocks or make trades while on the go without feeling like your interface is clunky and limiting.

UX/UI (Clean Design)

Similarly, check out screenshots of the user interfaces for these popular stock trading platforms.

The best user interfaces are usually minimalist and clean without featuring a lot of cluttered tools or tabs. Graphs and other advanced stock analysis information should also be easy to parse.

Mobile App Compatibility

Lastly, check to see whether a given stock trading platform is compatible with mobile apps.

Mobile use is a huge deal for day traders who may need to step away from their desk from time to time, but who also may need to capitalize on a sudden stock development.

Stock Charts Provided

As a day trader, you’ll rely on technical analysis to enter and exit trades. Technical analysis requires you to review stock charts to watch for developing patterns, volume, RSI, and other leading indicators.

The best stock trading platform for day traders will provide you with advanced charting features and a clean design, so you can make informed decisions before you deploy your hard-earned capital.

Best Trading Platforms FAQs

Which Stock Trading Platform has the Lowest Fees?

The best online stock trading platforms have $0 commission fees on regular trading, such as for stocks, ETFs, and similar securities.

However, most trading platforms also charge small commission fees for options trading. E*Trade, Charles Schwab, and Merrill Edge have the best commission rates for trading options.

But Fidelity is even better since it does not accept any payments for order flow. This is a kind of hidden fee that often applies to other stock trading platforms. Brokerages receiving payments for order flow was highlighted in the Robinhood vs Wall Street Bets saga.

Which Online Trading Platform is Best?

This will depend on your overall experience level and personal preferences.

But for our money, we personally think TD Ameritrade and Fidelity are the top two stock trading online platforms available to most users.

They offer great research tools, reasonably accessible user interfaces, and excellent educational materials for beginner traders.

Robinhood is a good third option if you want to practice mobile-only day trading thanks to its minimalist user interface and accessibility.

Is My Money Insured?

Yes. Any legal and licensed stock trading platform must have insurance for its users. This covers you in the event of a technical error or some other economic meltdown.

You’ll be covered up to a certain amount. This is usually several hundred thousand dollars at a minimum.

How Quickly Can I Start Trading?

With most of these platforms, you can start trading within a business day or so. You’ll first have to make an account, then make a deposit so you can purchase one or more stocks or other securities.

Robinhood is known to be among the fastest stock trading platforms since you can usually connect a bank account to the platform and wire yourself some money ASAP.

However, expect to spend between one and five business days waiting for your account to be funded with most stock trading platforms.

Bottom Line: Best Stock Trading Platforms

At the end of the day, the best stock trading platform for you will depend on your experience level, desired features, and the kinds of fees you can stomach.

Be sure to check out each of the above platforms and see which seems to be the best fit for your needs. You can’t go wrong with TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Robinhood!

Other Brokers to Consider:

Drew Cheneler
Drew Cheneler
Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, Fox Business News Section, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, US Chamber of Commerce, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.