About

HOW WE WORK

Our mission at BrokersReview.online is simple: provide thorough and unbiased reviews of online brokers.

For the BrokersReview.online 7th best online brokers review published in January 2020, a total of 3,540 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes the site home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

We also take pride in BrokersReview.online data quality. Every broker that participates in the annual review must complete an in-depth data profile and provide executive time for an annual update meeting. We then audit each data point to ensure its accuracy.

This rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust.

Testing device

Testing Devices

All testing is co nducted on the devices listed below, using a hardwired, 50 MB Internet connection. Mobile device testing is conducted using an 802.11n wireless Wi-Fi connection; 4G connections are used when Wi-Fi is not available. Unless noted, all websites and web-based platforms are tested using the latest version of the Google Chrome browser.

Review Categories, Variables

For the BrokersReview.online 2020 Online Broker Review, all equity broker participants were assessed on 236 different variables across 8 core areas: Commissions & Fees, Customer Service, Platforms & Tools, Research, Ease of Use, Offering of Investments, Education, and Mobile Trading.

Review Categories, Variables
Awards

Awards

BrokersReview.online presented “Best in Class” awards to equity brokers across all eight core areas as well as additional categories Beginners, Options Trading, Futures Trading, Active Trading, Professional Trading, Order Execution, IRA Accounts, Banking Services, and Overall. A “Best in Class” designation means finishing in the top five brokers for that category.

The following individual Industry awards were also distributed:

#1 Best Overall Broker
#1 Best Overall Broker
#1 Best Customer Service
#1 Best Customer Service
#1 Best Overall for Beginners
#1 Best Overall for Beginners
#1 Desktop Platform
#1 Desktop Platform
#1 Investor App
#1 Investor App
#1 Overall Client Experience
#1 Overall Client Experience
#1 Education Product
#1 Education Product
#1 Trader App
#1 Trader App
#1 Client Dashboard
#1 Client Dashboard
#1 New Tool
#1 New Tool
#1 Best Web Platform
#1 Best Web Platform
#1 Trader Community
#1 Trader Community
#1 International Trading
#1 International Trading
#1 Platform Technology
#1 Platform Technology
#1 Innovation
#1 Innovation

Category Scoring Methodology

While most categories are scored using our default method of combining Yes / No points (Variable score) with a 1 - 10 Opinion score, scoring does vary. One category is scored with 100% Yes / No points, one is scored with 100% opinion, and two others are entirely custom.

  • Commissions & Fees - Custom
  • Platforms & Tools - Yes/No with Opinion
  • Research - Yes/No with Opinion
  • Mobile Trading - Yes/No with Opinion
  • Customer Service - Custom
  • Offering of Investments - Yes/No Only
  • Education - Yes/No with Opinion
  • Ease of Use - Opinion Only

How We Score: Custom

Both Commissions & Fees and Customer Service apply separate custom scoring formulas due to their complexity.

Each individual category score is also translated into a star rating. Specifically:

95% - 100%
85% - 94.99%
75% - 84.99%
65% - 74.99%
55% - 64.99%
45% - 54.99%
35% - 44.99%
25% - 34.99%
15% - 24.99%
5% - 14.99%
0% - 4.99%
0.0

How We Score: Yes/No with Opinion

First, points are awarded for each “Yes” answer. The number of points awarded for each "Yes" varies by variable depending on its significance. Next, the total points earned from “Yes” answers is divided by the total points possible to calculate a final Yes/No score, also known as a Variable score.

Example: Broker XYZ has nine of ten features for category Research and earns 14 out of a possible 15 total points (remember, points allotted to each individual variable varies). Thus, Broker XYZ earns a Variable score of 93.33% for category Research.

Next, the editorial team gives an opinion score to each broker for the category. Opinion scores range from 1 – 10, with one being “very bad” and ten being “very good”. Half points are used, e.g. "9.5", so scoring isn't restricted to just whole numbers. Note: While the editorial team does take into consideration the Variable score, the Opinion score is more focused on the editorial view of how well the broker performs overall as compared to the industry standard and its closest competitors.

Example: Broker XYZ does a great job with its Research offering, exceeding the industry standard. Not only are a variety of tools available to conduct research, but they are rich with depth and also easy to use. The editorial team awards Broker XYZ a score of "10" for its Opinion score, which equates to 100%.

Finally, to determine a final percentage score for the category, the Variable score and Opinion score are independently weighted and added together. This score is then also translated to a star rating. Weightings vary by category depending on the complexity of the category, e.g. 70% Variable, 30% Opinion.

Example: Broker XYZ earned a Variable score of 93.33% and a Opinion score of 100%. For category Research, the Variable score is 60% of the total and the Opinion score is 40%. Thus, Broker XYZ earns a final score of 96% for Research, which is calculated as "(0.9333*.6)+(1*.4)". Translated into a star rating, Broker XYZ earns 5 Stars for Research.

Commissions & Fees

Commissions & Fees

First, multiple scenarios are assessed for equity trades, options trades, and margin rates. For example, the cost of placing a 500-share market order or the cost of placing a two-legged one-contract options spread, or the margin rate for a $50,000 balance. Brokers are awarded points depending on how low cost they are relative to their peers.

Next, multiple monthly pricing scenarios are assessed for different investor types. For example, the net monthly cost to place one stock trade (500 shares per), representative of a casual investor, or the monthly cost to place 10 stock trades (500 shares per) and 5 options trades (10 contracts per), representative of an active trader. Brokers are awarded points depending on how low cost they are relative to their peers.

Thereafter, all points are tallied to determine a total Scenarios score. Separately, scoring is then conducted to assess Order Execution quality, which applies a Yes/No with Opinion methodology (see above).

Finally, to determine a final percentage score for the category, the Scenarios score and the Order Execution score are independently weighted and added together. Note: While there is currently no universal metric to assess order execution quality, the significance of execution quality is as important as ever given the reliance on PFOF as a source of revenue for brokers that charge $0 for trades. All said, Order Execution made up 10% of the final Commissions & Fees category weighting in 2020. Read our guide to understanding order execution quality.

This final score is then also translated to a star rating.

Customer Service

For the past six years, BrokersReview.online has partnered with customer experience research group to conduct phone tests from different locations.

For the 2020 Review, 280 customer service tests were conducted (20 per broker) over an eight week period during the months of September through November 2019.

Our agents used one of ten unique scenario templates provided by BrokersReview.online (on average, three questions are asked) to assess each broker. To ensure fairness as well as gather the highest quality data, twenty separate agents were used and each agent used one single template to test all 14 brokers. Thus, twenty agents conducted 15 tests each (14 brokers), for a total of 280 tests.

Customer Service

To score each test, three separate buckets are assessed: 1. Time to connect 2. The ability of each broker representative to professionally (and thoroughly) answer each question and 3. A Net Promoter Score for the overall support experience. Response times are 15% of each test score, representative assessments are 35%, and Net Promoter Scores make up the remaining 50%.

Once all individual test scores were compiled, they were combined to determine an overall score for Customer Service. This final score is then also translated to a star rating.

Overall Score Calculation

All eight core categories are factored in to compile the Overall ranking for each broker. The weightings of each category were as follows (view the Final Rankings):

Review Category Weighting
Commissions & Fees 18%
Offering of Investments 15%
Platforms & Tools 15%
Research 15%
Customer Service 15%
Mobile Trading 12%
Education 7%
Ease of Use 3%
Why Trust Us

Why Trust Us

BrokersReview.online is an industry-leading resource for online brokers and self-directed investing, referenced in leading media outlets such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and the Chicago Tribune. Since its inception, Reink Media Group has helped over 17 million visitors compare financial products.

We pride ourselves on testing products using strict, proprietary testing methods and collecting insightful data to draw comparisons. Today, BrokersReview.online boasts over 30,000 words of research.

Numbers aside, our sixth-month annual review is respected as the most comprehensive by industry executives. Learn more about our team and how we test.

Still aren't sure which online broker to choose?

Still aren't sure which online broker to choose?

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