NYSE Nov 9 2011
New York Stock Exchange. Reuters

The biggest and best brokerages in the industry are constantly doing their utmost to woo customers and beat competitors. Today, it takes more than customer service and discounts. Investors look for mobile platforms to let them trade from anywhere, or sophisticated education resources to help them navigate tricky markets.

Investors Business Daily and TechnoMetrica, a polling company, surveyed more than 10,000 investors to find out which online brokers are best.

They polled more than 10,000 investors to see what they liked and disliked about the brokerages they used. Firms were then ranked by 12 categories that include trade reliability, low commissions and fees, equity trading tools, customer service, research tools, investment research, portfolio analysis, mobile platforms and educational resources, options trading platform, ETF choices and tax preparation.

Here are the top five IBD Best Online Brokers of 2013:

Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW)

9 million active accounts

Charles Schwab took the top spot in for trade reliability and research tools, but its top spot in Mobile Platform Trading distinguishes it from the rest of the list.

The 40-year-old San Francisco-based firm started its online trading in 1996. Today, they hold over $2 trillion in assets.

Clients can use the Schwab Mobile app to view real-time market data, place trades and even watch a live stream of CNBC from their smartphone or tablet.

“Our employees interact with our clients on their terms,” said Kelli Keough, Schwab’s senior vice president of client experience.

Fidelity Investments (NYSE: FNF)

14.5 million accounts

Fidelity’s high rank is thanks to its top spot in the portfolio analysis and investment research categories.

The Boston-based firm placed in the top five in nine out of 12 categories including equity trading tools, research tools and customer service.

Investors can compare up to four stocks at a time using up to 147 different traits with Fidelity’s tools. About a quarter of the mutual funds and about 6 percent of the ETS are commission-free for online customers.

“It’s flexible,” said Doug Nordman, a retired Navy officer and Fidelity customer since 1986.

“I started with mutual funds. And I’ve done everything from stocks, options, calls, naked puts and exchange traded funds using their brokerage,” he said.

TD Ameritrade (NYSE: AMTD)

6 million accounts

TD Ameritrade is a newcomer to the list this year, ranking second place in the options trading platform category with high scores in nine other categories including research tools and educational resources.

This year, the Omaha-based firm introduced its Investor Movement Index, which monitors investing behavior in real time.

The company is known for innovation. Employees compete on a regular basis to develop new ways to make things run better.

“We’re a bottom-up organization,” said Steve Quirk, senior vice president of trading at TD Ameritrade.

“No idea is stupid,” he said. “We’re a judgment-free zone.”

USAA Brokerage

Number of accounts is undisclosed

USAA makes the list for its high top customer service ranking, which it also won in the 2012 survey.

About 85 percent of members at the San Antonio-based firm are from the active and deployed military community – which includes retired personnel and families.

The firm even supplies a “deployment checklist” to make sure that financial matters are in order for deploying personnel.

“We’ve built our customer service based on focusing on what our members do on a daily basis,” said Art Garcia, product management director.


80,000 accounts

TradeStation Group took the top spot of all brokers for its equity trading tools.

The Florida-based company holds 80,000 accounts and targets traders looking for analytic data to help decipher market moves. Its investors can access more than 40 years worth of historical data. It caters to traders who make anywhere from five trades a month to hundreds.

Their technical support is also important.

“We can’t just rely on offering great technology; we have to educate our customers,” said CEO Saolmon Sredni to IBD.