What Reviewers Think About Online Brokerage Firms

By Matt Krantz

It can be overwhelming to parse through all the online brokers’ commissions because there appear to be more moving parts than in a Swiss watch. Minimum requirements and fees vary, and it’s hard to know how fast a broker’s website will be until you actually sign up and try it. Luckily, some professional reviewers have kicked the tires for you.

Different rating services and publications that evaluate brokers each year include

  • ConsumerSearch.com: These folks review the reviews, compiling what other rating services, websites, and publications say about everything from toasters to cars to, yes, discount online brokers. The site, shown here, also has a comprehensive section that ranks the reviews of online brokers and summarizes their findings.

    ConsumerSearch is a good place to research online brokers because it compiles reviewers' reviews.

    ConsumerSearch is a good place to research online brokers because it compiles reviewers’ reviews.
  • J.D. Power: Although it’s best known for rating cars, J.D. Power also evaluates both online and full-service traditional brokers every year. It rates brokers based on several criteria, including cost, customer service, how quickly trades are completed, website design, data that’s provided, and overall satisfaction. Read the latest reviews.

  • Barron’s: A Wall Street fixture since the 1920s, Barron’s keeps an eye out for online brokers that serve sophisticated investors best. You’ll have to subscribe, though, to read the stories online. An online subscription costs $79 a year and includes access to its entire site, which contains more than just broker ratings. Barron’s Online is available, and you can read the most recent brokerage ratings for free.

  • KeyNote: Bringing science to the measurement of broker quality is also a goal of KeyNote. KeyNote maintains a Brokerage Performance Index for online brokers’ websites in which it checks how quickly they can load pages. KeyNote takes the measurements from ten different cities to make sure it has an accurate measurement. The Brokerage Performance Index is only one small part of KeyNote’s benchmark activities.