Best Online Brokers for ETF Investing

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Contributor, Benzinga
Updated: June 27, 2022

Want to jump straight to the best ETF broker? Check out Interactive Brokers.

The more popular ETFs have become, the more they've popped up. Here’s a look at the best online brokerages for ETF investors. Investors who want to get exposure to the high returns of the stock market without risking the potential downside of individual stocks are increasingly choosing to invest in exchange-traded funds or ETFs. 

Quick Look: Best Online Brokers for ETF Investing

1. Easiest to Use: Axos Self-Directed Trading

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There’s a new way to trade at Axos Invest. Their latest digital investing platform is designed especially for traders like you who are ready to take focused control of their portfolios. Not only are ETF trades free with Axos Self-Directed Trading, their low fees extend beyond ETFs to include:

  • Commission-free stock trading
  • Options for only $1 per contract
  • Mutual funds for $9.95 per trade

A platform like this allows you to enter the ETF market, and it also helps you diversify as much as possible. After setting up Joint, Individual and even IRA accounts, raise your game by joining Axos Elite. And start earning extra features that bring you closer to the markets, just like the pros. Elite also offers the possibility of margin trading to maximize your purchasing power, providing additional funds to help make your key high-return trades at a very competitive 5.5% rate.

2. Lowest Cost Overall: Interactive Brokers

  • IBKR Stocks & ETFs
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Interactive Brokers’ "fee waived" no transaction fee program offers over 150 exchange-traded funds which reimburse IBKR Pro clients for commissions paid on ETF shares held for at least 30 days. IBKR Lite clients always pay $0 commissions on ETFs.

Choose from 2 plans: IBKR Lite or IBKR Pro.

  • IBKR Lite provides retail clients with $0 commissions on US listed stock and ETF trades, no account minimums and no inactivity fees.
  • IBKR Pro is the IBKR Plan for sophisticated investors and active traders. IBKR Pro clients access the IB SmartRoutingSM system, which provides $0.47 per 100 shares price improvement vs. the industry.

In additiona to their low costs, you can easily trade and monitor your IBKR account on-the-go from your iOS or Android device.

3. Best for Mixed Portfolios: eToro

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    Benzinga is compensated if you access certain of the products or services offered by eToro USA LLC and/or eToro USA Securities Inc. Any testimonials contained in this communication may not be representative of the experience of other eToro customers and such testimonials are not guarantees of future performance or success.

eToro is well known for its crypto investing platform, allowing users to build portfolios in this emerging market. The platform, however, also allows users to invest in stocks and ETFs.

When you register with eToro and build an account, you can:

  • Invest in full stocks or fractionals, including ETFs
  • Speak with real, experience investors
  • Mix your crypto and stock/ETF portfolios
  • Review detailed price charts and technical analyses
  • Pay zero commissions

Reach out to the customer service for more information, or you can simply build your portfolio on eToro today. With diversification comes greater wealth, especially as ETFs provide you with the security you need in uncertain times.

4. Best for Retirement Savers: TD Ameritrade

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TD Ameritrade currently offers over 300 commission-free ETFs. Like E-Trade, TD Ameritrade's ETFs are coupled with Morningstar research so investors can make most informed decisions.

You'll find today's price change, last price, gross expense ratio, net expense ratio and ratings on one easy-to-understand page. iShares, Wisdom Tree, and First Trust are among some of the popular ETFs that TD Ameritrade offers.

TD Ameritrade is one of Benzinga's favorite online brokerages. It's known for its great trading platform, technology, and excellent customer support.

Read Benzinga's full TD Ameritrade Review  

5. Best for Advanced Traders: TradeStation

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TradeStation offers over 2,000 commission-free ETFs making it a valuable option for anyone interested in trading ETFs.

TradeStation's platform leverages cutting edge trading technology for both active and passive individual traders in the U.S. TradeStation has fully customizable market monitoring, charting and analysis tools that allow you to identify and act upon opportunities.

TradeStation also boasts a spectacular mobile platform which investors on the go can access on their iOS or Android device. Your mobile account automatically synchronizes with your online accounts in real time.

See our TradeStation Review.

6. Best for Active Traders: E*TRADE

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Like its competitors, E*TRADE offers over 250 commission-free ETFs, including some of the most popular ETFs among traders. E*TRADE makes doing ETF research easy, too. Their comprehensive list of ETFs tracks historical data from ETFs in a variety of asset classes in one easy-to-use webpage.

Quotes are only delayed by about 15 minutes, too, making the data truly actionable.

If you're looking to trade outside of the commission-free ETFs, E*TRADE charges $6.95 per ETF trade. This rate is a few dollars higher than their competitors, so if you're looking to trade outside of the free ETFs, keep this in mind.

Read Benzinga's full E*TRADE Review.

7. Best for All Trading Levels: Charles Schwab

No matter how many ways you look at it, 245 commission-free ETFs is tough to beat. But if you add low expense ratios, Schwab’s ETF Portfolio Builder tool, its quarterly list of prescreened ETFs and its world-class customer service team, Schwab becomes the top online destination for ETF investors.

Investors can customize a portfolio of ETFs based on their personal risk tolerance and financial goals. They can also browse through the categorized prescreened ETF lists and make sure their portfolio covers all the bases.

Schwab is still actively adding offerings to its commission-free ETF OneSource program, and investors never have to worry about early redemption fees.

Outside of the program, commissions are free, expense ratios are low, and face-to-face feedback is as easy as going down to the local branch. Schwab has everything an ETF investor could ever want and offers a great starting point for retirement investors.

Read Benzinga's full Charles Schwab Review

What is an ETF?

While mutual funds are priced just once a day based on their net asset value, ETFs trade on public exchanges just like stocks, making them extremely liquid and tradable. But instead of a single stock, ETFs are funds that invest in dozens or hundreds of stocks, commodities and/or other securities all at once, allowing investors to achieve major diversity all in one swoop.  There are two types of ETFs: index-based ETFs and actively managed funds. 

Why Buy ETFs?

For some, ETFs are the right choice. Here's why you may want to invest in them: 

  • Limit risk: Investing in a basket of stocks versus an individual stocks spreads risk around.
  • Save time: You don't have to do the research on each individual company's stock.
  • Have lower fees: For the most part, ETFs have low fees, but pay attention to the expense ratio.
  • Bought and sold during market hours: Unlike mutual funds, you don't have to wait until the market closes to trade ETFs.

Here's what you'll have to watch out for. You can check the ETF's prospectus via a Google search or the SEC's EDGAR for this information:

  • Objective: What is the fund trying to achieve.
  • Historical performance: Not all ETFs are created equal. Check out the ETFs performance over time before you invest.
  • Investment strategy: How will the funds be managed and achieve its objective.
  • Risks involved: Specific risks should be outlined in the prospectus.

What to Look for in an ETF Brokerage

If you decide that you want to invest in ETFs, you'll have to open a brokerage account. Both the big and small name brokerages offer ETF investing and the number of options can be a little overwhelming. Here's what to look for before you open an account to invest in ETFs:

  • Low commissions: Most ETF brokers offer some form of free trading or commissions for new clients. If the brokerage does charge commission, it usually hovers around $5 per trade.
  • Selection of ETFs: The bigger the selection, the better. Some brokerages offer over 200 ETFs to choose from.
  • Research: The brokerages should make it easy to look up data about the ETFs they offer. This includes the origin, objective, strategy, and historical performance.

Now that you understand a bit more about ETF investing and brokerages, take a look at our picks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions & Answers

Q
Do you need a broker to buy ETFs?
A

Yes, you’ll need to open a brokerage account in order to buy and sell ETFs.