PROS / The online platform is well-organized, and it is easy to navigate, order trades and conduct research.
CONS / A minimum investment of $2,500 is required to open an account.
VERDICT / This discount stock broker provides a solid online platform coupled with local branches for live events and in-person support, making it a top choice in online stock trading services.
Fidelity is a familiar and well-established name in the online stock trading industry. In addition to being available online, it has local branches in the majority of states, providing an opportunity for in-person advice and investment counseling. It offers trades with competitive fees, an online searchable knowledgebase and its well-known retirement planning assistance. Its online platform is very easy to use yet provides dozens of analytic charts and reports for in-depth research of securities. For these reasons, we award Fidelity our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award for online stock trading services.
Platform & Tools
The Fidelity online investing platform is laid out like a standard website, so it is intuitive and can be navigated easily by those new to the trading platform or even new to investment trading. The trade ticket is straightforward, and you can preview your order before finalizing the trade. When ordering options, you can choose from different strategies, including multi-leg, butterfly and condor.
You can choose from different investments choices, including stocks, options and mutual funds, or fixed income, such as bonds, mortgage-backed securities and CDs. You can choose from a number of IRAs as well, and the website provides much information and guidance on planning for retirement.
Because it is a static website, you are not able to customize the platform by adding and removing windows or even rearranging the windows available. You can minimize the windows to decrease clutter, however. You have the option of creating multiple watchlists that are sortable by price, highs and lows, or volume. You are able to choose actions from the watchlist as well, such as setting an alert, starting a trade or jumping to reports about the security.
When researching within the platform, you have access to dozens of interactive analytic charts. You can draw trend lines, add technical indicators and mark certain events. You can adjust the date range to see as little as the past week or as much as 10 years. These reports can be exported as a spreadsheet or as an image.
Beyond the visual charts, the research page provides information about the security's outlook, performance and comparisons against the company's top competitors. You have direct links to articles about the company and important events concerning the company.
If you want to make trades on the go, there are mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone. From the app, you can order trades, perform research and fund your investment accounts. A great bonus is that the analytic charts are not trimmed down; you still have access to fully interactive charts.
Fees & Commissions
Fidelity's fees are average in the industry. Stocks trades are a flat $7.95, which is lower than what many other online stock brokers charge but higher than some. The average person buying stocks online orders 17 trades per year, which works out to $135.15 for a year's worth of trading. However, you are required to have a minimum balance of $2,500 to open an account, which is high relative to the other services on our lineup, and many services do not require a minimum at all.
Options have a $7.95 base rate plus $0.75 per contract. This works out to $15.45 for 10 contracts, which is higher than the average of services we reviewed, but like stocks, not the highest cost we saw. If you need assistance when completing a trade, the fee for broker-assisted trades is $32.95, which is among the highest of the services we reviewed. The margin rate is average, ranging from 3.75 percent up to 8.575 percent.
Education & Resources
This is an excellent service for educational material in addition to retirement planning, for which Fidelity is well known. The website provides solid advice for planning big life events and planned large expenses. For investors, it offers advice for beginners, starting with the basics and the differences between growth and income investing to help you create a strategy. If you need assistance learning the platform or about specific investment types or strategies, you can go to the online learning center and filter the content by topic, type and skill level.
For in-depth information, you can attend live online workshops, attend in-person seminars or speak to an advisor face-to-face at one of the local investment centers. You can contact customer service by email, phone and instant messaging.
Fidelity offers an online platform that is easy to use but still provides powerful research resources with over 60 interactive and customizable charts. Those charts are available on the mobile app, making it simple to perform research and order trades from your smart phone. Fees with this service are on par with industry average, and if you are an average trader, your trading fees should be less than $150 a year. Fidelity is one of the best stock trading sites for traders of all experience levels.