The top performers in our review are OptionsHouse, the Gold Award winner; TradeKing, the Silver Award winner; and optionsXpress, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 15 companies.
Affordable stock software offers you a way to manage and develop your investment portfolio through an online trading platform. This type of personal investment software is developed to meet the needs of people investing for personal gain and not as a profession. Stock tracking software allows you to design your trade platform to your preferences. The software comes with powerful tools and features for researching, trading and monitoring stocks and for managing your positions.
The services on our stock software comparison are ideal for trading stocks. If you are a beginner in the stock market, you may want to look at our site for Beginner Stock Trading, which focuses on education and learning offered. If you are more advanced and looking for higher-risk trading, you can check out our Options Trading or Forex sites.
Best Online Brokers
All online stock trading software is provided by online discount brokers. These brokers set commission fees for trades that your order. While most services charge competitive rates, some charge less than others, and some also offer tiered fee models, so the more you trade, the less you spend per trade. TradeStation is one of these tiered-model services. If plan to open a margin account, which allows you to borrow money from your broker for investment purposes, the margin rate will be important to you. The lower the margin rate the better, and most services decrease this rate the more you borrow. Along with the rates and fees, the platform of the software itself, discussed below, will be important when choose your stock trading software. For more information, take a look at our additional articles on stock software.
Discount Brokers: Choose the Best Trading Platform for You
Because you will be making your trades online and managing your investments through your personal stock software's trading platform, it is imperative that the software you choose offers a well-designed and easy-to-use trade platform with powerful tools.
Stock software platforms come in many different forms, and the best depends on the features and style of platform that works best with your stock trading strategies. Online platforms are becoming more common, such as Fidelity's platform. Being online and a static webpage, most online platforms are less customizable than desktop platforms as they are organized into tabs with fixed information on each. However, these also tend to be more intuitive as they are more simplistic.
On the other end are the desktop platforms, such as TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim. Platforms such as these have a classic trading look, one with black backgrounds and color-coded analytic charts and graphs. All of the desktop platforms we reviewed are customizable, so you may add multiple windows to track multiple watch lists or option chains at the same time, and run reports or monitor stock performance from a single window. These lists and reports may be resized and reorganized on the platform so you are watching the information that is important to you.
All of the services on our lineup offer mobile platforms, either as apps or as a mobile-optimized website. You are able to trade stocks with all of the services, and options with most. You are able to research stocks, monitor your positions and manage your portfolio. Some mobile apps, such as the E-Trade mobile platform, have additional features, like barcode scanning, which scans products and provides publically trading information concerning that product's stock.
How We Evaluated Stock Software
When evaluating stock software, we considered how comprehensives the features each platform offers are. Features, including a profit-and-loss estimator, help you keep track of the performance and possible future performance of your portfolio. Volatility reports assist in speculating on the future perform of a stock. Standard features we ensured each service included are the ability to create custom watch lists and option chains and the ability to monitor live, streaming quotes. Further, we measured how well those features work and how much information and customization you have control over, such as adding markers to and setting parameters for reports.
When we tested the platforms, we created watch lists and options chains, ran reports, and researched stocks. We evaluated how easily each of the tasks could be completed and assessed the intuitive nature of the platform itself, including customizing the platform when possible.
While there is inherent risk with investing in the stock market, the risk depends on the investment vehicle you choose. Stocks and retirement funds are less risky than options or futures, which speculate on the future performance of stock rather than buying and selling at stock outright at face value. Forex is further riskier. These high-risk investments also offer the potential for higher pay offs, but the opposite is true of high losses as well. Options, futures and Forex trading is not recommended for beginners.
Our Verdict & Recommendation
When choosing stock software, your personal trading goals and strategies are the most important aspects. If you will be trading simple stocks and do not require advanced tools for researching and monitoring stocks, a simple online platform, such as Fidelity or Scottrade, may be adequate. If you trade complicated and higher-risk investments, such as options and stocks, a desktop platform or a customizable online platform would be a better choice so that you can have control over the most important information for your trades along and so that you have a platform with advanced features and tools. OptionsHouse and optionsXpress offer customizable online platforms, or desktop platforms like TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim would be good choices for those more advanced platforms. Our top performers offers solid platforms, most of which are customizable, along with low rates and fees.