Starting out in stock trading is exciting. No matter the economy, there are always opportunities to make money with equities. Stock investors love the satisfaction they feel when they pick winning stocks and watch their money work for them.

Choosing the right stocks and following the right strategies makes all the difference. Thankfully, in today’s day-and-age, there are many online brokers offering fantastic research tools on discount-priced platforms. These platforms make success in the stock market possible for the novice investor.

Ally, Merrill Edge, E-Trade, and Wealthfront offer user friendly platforms that make stock trading profitable. The right choice for you depends on your trading style. The below descriptions detail each platform’s tools, fee structures, account minimums, and the ongoing promotions that can save you big money.


No account minimums make Ally a great place for stock investors to start. Its fees are reasonable at $4.95 per trade, and active traders qualify for $3.95 per trade. Active traders commence 30 or more trades per month or maintain an account balance above $100,000. Ally also prices ETF trades at $4.95, a great help to new investors who want to gain broad market exposure with modest starting funds.

Investment gurus recommend diversifying into bonds, and Ally makes this affordable with $1 per-bond trades, though a $10 minimum applies. Option trades are $.65 per contract with a $4.95 base. Before trading in options, investors must read Ally’s helpful options-trading guide, which schools them in the characteristics and risks of options trading.

Ally’s research tools provide company data on any stock traded on the major exchanges. Users can view quotes, charts, high/low prices, dividend dates, overall options summary, news, historical quotes, and peer performance comparisons. Trader tools also include streaming charts for stocks, ETFs, and indices, market and company snapshots, and watch lists. Options traders can calculate their potential profit and loss for single or multi-leg positions.

In terms of promotions, Ally currently offers a $200 cash bonus on qualifying deposits.

Ally is well-suited to active individual stock traders who want comprehensive research and analysis tools. It also suits options traders because of low fees and robust research options. If you are strictly interested in ETFs or mutual funds, however, Ally does not offer commission- and traction-free trades.

Merrill Edge

If you are a research-oriented investor, you’ll love the Merrill Edge platform. It integrates Merrill’s own well-regarded investment research with a host of market data from other top sources. Even better, Merrill Edge members are eligible for step-by-step assistance from Merrill’s licensed investment professionals. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs are all available on the platform. If you are a Bank of America customer, you have the option of integrating the platform with all your B of A accounts.

Merrill Edge charges a standard stock-trade fee of $6.95. Options contracts run $.75 per contract, plus a $6.95 base cost.

Customers with a minimum of $20,000 on deposit qualify for 30 free trades per month through the Preferred Rewards program. Over $100,000 qualifies for up to 100 free trades per month. Merrill also offers over 3,000 no-transaction fee mutual funds. However, it does not offer no-cost ETF trades unless you are in the Platinum Rewards program.

Merrill offers cash rewards to new members. Open a $20,000 account, and you earn $100 cash, payable two weeks after the 90-day qualifying period. $50,000 earns $150; $100,000 earns $250; $200,000 earns $600.

Merrill Edge won Nerd Wallet’s award for the best broker for research, so if you want to delve into your investment options, you can’t go wrong with Merrill Edge.


If you are a frequent trader and willing to accept the $500 account minimum ($0 for IRAs), E-Trade offers a tiered commission structure based on trade frequency that can save you on cost basis. Investors who trade less than 30 times per quarter pay $6.95 per trade, while investors trading more than 30 times per quarter enjoy a $4.95 trading fee. Also, E-Trade is running a promotion offering 60 days of free trades for investors with a $10,000 minimum opening balance.

E-trade offers a tiered commission system for options trading. Customers who make less than 30 trades per quarter pay a $6.95 base plus $.75 per contract. Customers who make over 30 quarterly trades pay a $4.95 base, plus $.50 per contract.

The platform also offers over 150 commission-free ETFs and 4,400 transaction-free mutual funds.

E-Trade’s popularity results largely from its user-friendly platform with extensive research tools and its 24/7 customer support. In addition to equities, it also offers bond and futures trading.


This online broker has made its clients very happy by offering free investment management on the first $10,000 invested ($15,000 through a NerdWallet promotion). It also offers a direct indexing service that adds up to two percent to customer’s annual returns. Wealthfront charges .25 percent of money managed beyond the promotional amounts. The minimum investment stands at $500.

Wealthfront uses sophisticated software to manage client investment accounts. These strategies create diversified portfolios that keep risk levels within customer’s designated tolerances. It also reduces taxes and fees. As the market moves and customer accounts gain value, Wealthfront automatically rebalances the portfolios to retain the best diversification ratio.