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How to find a good online stock broker

Picking the right online brokerage depends on your priorities. Your trade representative can be either an on the floor broker or an online stock broker. While the main factor contributing to broker selection is your willingness to pay higher commissions for good quality trade platform, here are a few other factors that you should consider while weighing out different stock brokers:

Pay close attention to account minimums
Most online stock brokers require an initial deposit of brokerages of $1,000 or more. Hence, the first important thing for you to narrow down your choices on the basis of the amount you intend to invest. The initial deposit in designed based on certain reasons. For example, it is difficult to make money out of small accounts for brokerage firms. Moreover, it is harder to achieve proper diversification with the lesser investment money.

There are also several mutual funds that require such minimum investment amounts. This means that you will have to struggle to invest the money in a mutual fund or a stock even after you have managed to open a brokerage account. Also, with the very little amount left to invest, your options of having multiple types of investments also will be less. Although not impossible, there are still several highly ranked stock brokers online from whom you can pick for your stock trading.

The second thing you may consider is based on the requirement of a broker with a higher minimum balance requirement. In this case, you can accumulate sufficient money in a normal savings account that can then be transferred over to a trading account.

Assess your investments based on their frequency of use and the commission rates
Your investment selection should usually be in such a way that the most frequently used investment should have the least commissions. This will help you to save up on brokerages largely. However, the investment options offered by most brokers will depend on two things: How much of your investment requirements will be satisfied by the options provided and how much money will have to be spent by you towards commissions. Here are a few common investments offered by online brokers to give you a fair idea of the associated commissions.

Individual stocks
While a per-trade commission of $5 to $10 is the most common practice, there are a few stockbrokers online who offer per-share pricing for brokerages.

Options
While there are a few brokers who either charge only a commission or a contract fee, options trades typically include a combination of a stock trade commission and a per-contract fee. This can range between anywhere $0.15 and $1.50.

Mutual funds
Since there are some passively handled funds (S&E 100 for example), a purchase fee is usually charged by some brokers on mutual funds and index funds. Selecting a broker who offers a no-transaction-fee mutual fund will help to reduce or completely eliminate the transaction costs involved in these funds.

Exchange-Traded Funds
Although this is a type of index fund, ETFs are traded like stocks which are bought for a share price that are usually subjected to a commission or brokerage. You can be a little careful while investing to ensure that you find a broker who can offer a list of commission-free ETFs.

Bonds
Although there are brokers who have a minimum or maximum charges depending on various fees involved, it is still possible for you to buy bonds with no charge either by purchasing a no-transaction-fee mutual fund or a commission-free ETF.

In addition to the above investment, there may be some firms that will charge you for offering access to futures trading and forex trading.

Calculate the various fees associated with your account
There are several fees like annual fees, inactivity fees, extra charges for broker-assisted trades, trading platform fees, extra charges for research and data, paper statement fees etc. that are associated with your account. Although it is not possible to completely eliminate these costs, you can smartly reduce these expenses. For example, you can transfer the charges that would otherwise be incurred on funds transfer or account closure from one broker to another who would offer a reimbursement. The overall cost can be reduced by eliminating several charges either by not taking the services that are charged additionally or by choosing a broker who does not charge for them.

Pick a broker who suits your trading style and requirements

  • Beginner
    If you are someone who is still in the learning phase of investing, your frequency of trading could be very less. Hence, you can avoid brokers who charge an inactivity fee that is usually charged if a minimum number of trades are not completed for a specified period. You can also avoid additional charges involved in availing an advanced trading platform. There are several ways to eliminate the charges involved in availing education material on trading.
  • Active trader
    Look out for high-quality stock brokers online who offer free access to online trading platforms, tools to perform analysis, data offerings, and research. There are yet other brokers who offer discounts for high-volume traders.

Exploit the benefits of promotional offers
Several online brokers try to attract new customers with deals like commission-free trades or a cash bonus on certain deposit amounts etc. With a little caution, these promotional offers can be considered to make some cost savings.

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