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Best Picks

The Best Stock Software of 2017

We have reviewed this category for 10 years. In the last year, we spent several hundred hours evaluating 15 different software providers to find the best.

Editor’s Note: OptionsHouse has been acquired by E*TRADE. OptionsHouse will continue to be operated as a separate brokerage, with no change to the platform, pricing or accounts. Any future changes that arise due to this acquisition will be reflected in the next update to our stock trading sites.

The Best Stock Software of 2017
Our Ranking Stock Software Price
1 OptionsHouse $4.95
2 Fidelity $4.95
3 TD Ameritrade $6.95
4 E*TRADE $6.95
5 optionsXpress $4.95
6 TradeKing $4.95
7 Charles Schwab $4.95
8 Scottrade $6.95
9 TradeStation $5.00
10 Firstrade $4.95

Stock Software Review

Why Use Stock Software?

Best Online Stock Software:

With its easy-to-use and affordable platform, OptionsHouse earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award. This service offers a wide range of educational tools, so trading is accessible even for the most novice traders. Trades start at $4.95 for stocks, options and ETFs. The company does not require a minimum investment, so you can start an account even if you don’t have much money to invest.

This platform is accessible for every level of trader – from beginners to advanced traders. Beginning traders will appreciate the simple platform, while advanced traders can make use of the sophisticated analytic tools and versatile options strategies.

Best Low-Cost Stock Software:

Fidelity offers one of the best low-cost options in stock charting software. This trading tool is our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner due to its basic trade cost and commission-free ETF trading. Options start at $4.95 per trade with $0.65 on top per contract. The biggest drawback of this service is the $2,500 minimum initial investment. This is much higher than what similar stock platforms require.

Best Trading Tools:

Analytic tools can help you spot trends and simplify complicated trades. TD Ameritrade offers some of the best trading tools that we reviewed, so we gave this stock trading software our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award. It offers over 300 analyzers on its thinkorswim platform, which is double what other stock charting software offers. These tools help you spot trade opportunities, limit risk and make trading decisions based on the numbers. They can help you build long-term trading strategies and track your progress. One especially useful feature that TD Ameritrade offers is its paper money tool, which lets you test trades in a simulator to see how your strategies play out.

How We Ranked the Best Online Stock Charting Software

To compare trading platforms, we looked for stock software that offers analytic tools and options trading. We also looked for companies with a familiar brand name and both an online and mobile platform. Because of these requirements, we did not evaluate software like Robin Hood and Motif, which are less versatile platforms. As part of our evaluation, we contacted each stock charting software company in our lineup to access their trading platforms and perform hands-on testing with all of the features, rather than a less-advanced demo.

Once our reviewers finished their in-depth tests of each platform, they compared and evaluated their findings in the following categories:

Ease of Use: The top stock charting software lets you easily place trades through a watch list or from the main dashboard. The best software from our tests lets you set multiple alerts and advanced trade criteria in just a few easy steps. Lower-ranking programs are difficult to navigate; you have to take multiple steps just to find the right information for trading. Other factors we considered are the advanced trading tools that platforms offer, like how simple it is to set up and manage option chains.

Mobile Apps: Every platform that we reviewed has a mobile app. We believe this is a necessity since it lets you access your trading tools from anywhere. The best mobile apps let you easily set trades and set up alerts. Companies scored high when their mobile apps made trading just as simple as it is on the main platform. Lower-ranked apps either did not let us set alerts from the mobile platform or required multiple steps for carrying out simple trading tasks.

Other Factors to Consider: While the trading platform itself is the most important aspect we evaluated during our tests, there are other important features to consider when looking for stock trading software.

Pricing: For beginning traders, cost may be one of the biggest factors when deciding on which stock software to use. Average prices for making a trade range from $4.95 to $8.99. Options traders should pay close attention to contract fees associated with each trade. These fees range from $0.40 to $1.50 per contract. While these sums might seem small, they can quickly add up as you make trades.

Another cost associated with trading online is the minimum required investment. Many companies in our review do not require any minimum investment. Others range from $500 all the way to $5,000. Margin rates are another cost associated with online stock software, although we did not calculate these rates into our scoring since these costs fluctuate often.

Trading Tools: In our evaluation, we consider what trading tools a platform offers to help you analyze and place trades. With technical indicators, more is better. Traders have different styles and ways that they like to analyze trades; because of this it is better to offer a higher number of tools that users can select from to develop their trade style. TD Ameritrade offers an impressive 300 different technical indicators.

Other useful tools to look for include ones that help you gain a long-term outlook of your trade portfolio, like risk forecasters and risk vs. reward analysis.

Educational Resources: Knowledge is perhaps never more important than when your money is involved. Before you start trading, make sure to visit the online knowledge center the stock trading software offers. During our evaluation, we examined the platform-specific training offered as well as general instruction about best investment practices.

Stock software scored high if it offered a detailed learning center that covers a variety of trading topics with video tutorials and step-by-step training. Companies also scored high if they offered training for different skill levels. Even experienced investors should be able to learn new information or tricks for tweaking their trading styles. Both Fidelity and E*TRADE offer comprehensive learning centers with tools that cover many topics and tutorials that are beneficial for multiple skill levels.

What Should I Invest In?

While we can review trading platforms and provide detailed information about each service, what to invest in is entirely up to you. We do not recommend specific investments; however, we can recommend investment strategies that fit different profiles. For more, read our articles about investing, specifically this article about investing amounts from $100 to $10,000.

  • If You Are Risk Averse: If you want to invest but want to stay widely diversified, index fund ETFs might be a fitting choice. Index funds are among the most popular and easiest investments. You can purchase ETFs through your stock software just as you would purchase stocks. Some software platforms offer commission-free ETFs, which can significantly lower overall trade costs.
  • If You Are Thinking Long Term: Investing your money in the stock market is one of the best things you can do for accomplishing long-term financial goals. Stocks are typically the most reliable long-term investments available. A well-balanced stock portfolio, in companies with proven longevity, can produce significant growth over time when you use a buy-and-hold strategy. 
  • If You Don’t Mind Something Riskier: There is a trade-off for making risky investments – the rewards can be far greater if you take risks. These riskier investments include Options Trading, Day Trading and Forex. These investments are often more complex than buy-and-hold index or stock trading and require more skills and knowledge of the stock market than many beginning investors will have. If you have the time and money to put into learning about these investment strategies, the payout could make it worthwhile. Just be sure you understand the risks before you start trading.

What You Should Know Before Trading Online

If you have chosen a stock platform and a trading strategy, there are a few things you should be aware of before you start investing. These considerations will vary depending on your level of skills and experience. What you decide to trade – stocks, ETFs, etc. – will also have an impact on these factors.

  • Diversify: This is one of the most common investing tips. A diverse portfolio helps you minimize risk because it spreads your market exposure across a variety of investments. This means if you make one bad investment, your entire portfolio will not be at stake.
  • Risk: No matter what you decide to invest in, there will be risk involved. However, different types of trading carry different risks. When you begin trading, it is important to understand how comfortable with risk you are and, more importantly, how much risk you can afford. Setting a stop-loss in your trading platform can help you limit your risk at a specific threshold.
  • When to Buy: No matter what you are investing in, it is important to consider the timing. If you want to buy shares in a company, you first should research the company to understand the best time to make your purchase. Choosing the right time to buy includes more than just the history of a company and the price of a stock. You also need to consider whether a stock is undervalued and the in-depth finances of the company.
  • When to Sell: Knowing when to sell is one of the toughest trading lessons you can learn. It is tempting to hold on to stock that made you a lot of money in the beginning, even if the shares are losing value. Holding on to a stock for too long can damage your portfolio long term. Setting stop-loss orders can be a good, non-emotional way to ensure you sell stocks when they begin losing value.

More Online Broker Recommendations

While our three best stock trading programs are the most versatile platforms in our lineup, there are other stock charting products that are worthy of mention for standout features.

Best Mobile Trading App

Every service on our lineup offers an app, but we found E*TRADE’s app to be one of the best of the bunch. This app lets you access many of the same features that are available on the full platform, including quotes, watch lists and stock screeners. You can also create custom alerts. Your online account syncs through your app and online dashboard, so any lists or alerts you create will be easily accessible, no matter which platform you are using.

Best Simulated Trading Tools

Simulated, or paper, trading lets you test the waters before trading with your actual money. While many of the best stock trading software programs offer this feature, we found optionsXpress’s simulated trading feature to be one of the top tools on the lineup. This feature provides $25,000 of simulated cash so that you can use forecasting and analysis tools to test strategies that you might want to use in your trading.

Selecting the right stock software and a solid strategy can be a challenge. We have reviewed 12 stock trading software platforms and mobile apps to come up with this lineup of the best stock trading software.