How To Open A Brokerage Account
Updated On November 1, 2021
Editorial Note: This content is based solely on the author's opinions and is not provided, approved, endorsed or reviewed by any financial institution or partner.
What is a brokerage account?
A brokerage account is an account in which you buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, currencies, futures, options contracts and other investments.
You can use a brokerage account as your primary taxable investment account, where your investments will be subject to short-term capital gains tax and long-term capital gains tax. You can also open a brokerage account for a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA, and participate in special tax-deferred or tax-free benefits, respectively.
Top Picks For Student Loan Refinancing
How do you open a brokerage account?
Once you have selected an online stock broker, the process of how to open a brokerage account is simple. You can open a brokerage account with an online stock broker in just a few minutes online.
You will need several pieces of information to open a brokerage account, which may include:
- Name, address, date of birth and contact information
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s license or other government identification
- Employer Name and occupation
- Annual income and net worth
You can open a brokerage account with no minimum deposit in many cases, but typically fund the brokerage account thereafter. You can typically fund an account with a bank wire, ACH deposit or by check. Once you have funded your brokerage account, you are ready to start investing.
How do you choose the best brokerage account?
When it comes to choosing the best online stock broker, there are several factors to consider. The best online brokerage account for you depends on what you value most – whether it’s the trading platform, mobile trading or customer service.
Here are some of the essential factors to consider when selecting the right stock brokerage account and online stock broker for you:
Trading Commission: Choose an online stock broker and brokerage account with reasonable trading commissions. Most online stock brokers and brokerage accounts will charge a flat commission for each trade, whether you buy or sell, regardless of the share count.
Investment Products: When it comes to the best online stock broker, you should look for flexibility in investment products. While your focus may be stocks, your online stock broker also may offer ETFs, mutual funds, options contracts and other investment products. You can use Mentor’s brokerage account comparison to find the right stock brokerage account for you.
Mobile Trading: If you are looking for the best brokerage account for mobile trading, make sure to find the best online stock broker who offers this flexibility. The good news is that the online stock broker and brokerage account you choose likely has mobile trading, since most major platforms do. Mobile trading is most useful for active traders with a brokerage account who prefer to trade stocks while away from a computer.
Customer Service: When finding the right online stock broker, customer service may or may not be an important criteria for you. Some investors prefer an online stock broker to have 24/7 customer service, while others are comfortable to chat online with their online stock broker. The good news is that most of the best online stock brokers and brokerage accounts offer comprehensive customer service, with many open for extended hours.
Investment Platform: When choosing the best online stock broker and stock brokerage for you, find the online stock broker with the right investment platform. The investment platform, tools, research and analytics are important factors when selecting an online stock broker and brokerage account. The best online stock broker for you should have the right desktop or web-based trading platform that makes you feel most comfortable.
Regulatory: The best online stock brokers in the U.S. are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and U.S. law. Your online broker and stock brokerage account also will be a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). You can always verify your online stock broker with FINRA’s free stock broker check tool.
Other Fees: Stock brokers make money from commissions and fees. Therefore, your online stock broker may have other fees such as inactivity fees and potentially IRA fees.
Account Security: The best brokerage accounts have secure platforms and the highest standards for online security. Secure websites (noted with the “https”) are commonplace when you choose the best online brokerage. Some online stock brokers even offer two-factor authentication for an extra level of security.
Which brokerage account is right for you?
- Regular Brokerage Account: If you want to invest in the stock market, a regular brokerage account with an online stock broker is a smart choice for you. In this brokerage account, you can manage your own stock portfolio. Here are our best online stock brokers.
- IRA Brokerage Account: If your goal is to save for retirement, you can also open an IRA brokerage accounts. There are two types of IRA brokerage accounts: a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. A Traditional IRA is a retirement account where you make contributions with pre-tax dollars, and pay income taxes when you withdraw from your Traditional IRA. A Roth IRA is a retirement account where you make contributions with after-tax dollars, and do not pay any income taxes when you withdraw earnings from your Roth IRA. The good news is that you can have both a regular brokerage account and one or more IRA brokerage accounts with your online stock broker. Here are our best Traditional IRA brokerage accounts and our best Roth IRA brokerage accounts.
- Robo-Advisors: If you would like a brokerage account and online stock broker where someone else manages your investment portfolio, then a robo-advisor can be an attractive option. A robo-advisor is an online portfolio management service that automates the allocation of your investments through a computer algorithm, rather than a human money manager. Here are our best robo-advisors.