IRA Reviews: How We Rate Companies

How We Rate Companies

In 2021 staff have rated well over 20 largest U.S. discount brokerage firms, using specific criteria that we feel offers a solid methodology to compare brokers against one another.

In our broker ratings and rankings we used the following categories (percentages in parentheses is the weight we give that specific criteria in the overall rating):

     -  Pricing (35%): This category rates brokers on a combined value of commissions, fees, surcharges, and promotions. It includes availability of commission-free ETFs and mutual funds.

     -  Trading Tools (15%): Rates brokers based on the quality of their trading tools - customizability, ease of use, richness of features, charts sophistication, order execution. Here, we also factor in mobile trading apps features as well as advanced platform availability to all clients.

     -  Range of Products (15%): This category is a total number and variety of investment products available to clients. One of the most crucial factors here is the total number of mutual funds available. It also includes availability of options, bonds, futures, and forex trading.

     -  Research Amenities (15%): This criterion is the quality and number of options for investment research.

     -  Customer Service (8%): Compares brokers based on how responsive, knowledgeable, and cordial their customer service team is. Includes an evaluation of the hours of support as well as availability of physical branches and online chat.

     -  Friendliness to Beginners (6%): Rates brokers based on support provided for customers new to investing and trading. Includes ease of use of the websites, presence of an online user community, availability of practice accounts, and well as surcharge on broker-assisted trades.

     -  Education (6%): Compares online brokers based on availability of educational resources about investing and trading including videos, webinars, and online classes.

Pricing receives by far the highest weight on overall score in our online broker comparison. While investors may value different features higher or lower, the majority of brokerage clients care about trading costs and fees since these expenses may have a large impact on investment returns.

Trading Tools, Range of Products, and Research Amenities categories are next in terms of importance and have equal value in overall score. Advanced trading tools help traders take advantage of time sensitive opportunities in the market as well as help lower the chances of making costly mistakes. Research Amenities help investors find excellent investing opportunities while products in the Range of Offerings category gives clients a variety of investment and trading options to maximize their returns.

The lowest weight on total score is given to Customer Service, Education, and Friendliness to Beginners categories. While these are important to some clients, they are not the most critical factors to consider when choosing a broker.