8. WellsTrade (Wells Fargo affiliate) | Overall score: 1.9 | Commissions and fees: 3 | Investment choices: 1 | Mobile app: 3.5 | User experience: n/a | Tools: 2 | Research: 2 | Advisory services: 2
7. Ally Invest | Overall score: 2.2 | Commissions and fees: 2.5 | Investment choices: 1.5 | Mobile app: 3 | User experience: 2 | Tools: 3 | Research: 1 | Advisory services: 2.5
6. Firstrade | Overall score: 2.5 | Best for: ETF investors | Commissions and fees: 3 | Investment choices: 5 | Mobile app: 2.5 | User experience: 2.5 | Tools: 2 | Research: 1 | Advisory services: n/a
5. Merrill Edge | Overall score: 3.5 | Best for: Active traders with high balances| Commissions and fees: 3 | Investment choices: 1.5 | Mobile app: 4 | User experience: 5 | Tools: 4 | Research: 5 | Advisory services: 2.5
4. E-Trade | Overall score: 3.8 | Best for: Students of investing | Commissions and fees: 3 | Investment choices: 4.5 | Mobile app: 4.5 | User experience: 3.5 | Tools: 3 | Research: 3.5 | Advisory services: 3.5

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3. Fidelity | Overall score: 4 | Best for: Mutual fund investors | Commissions and fees: 2.5 | Investment choices: 4 | Mobile app: 5 | User experience: 4.5 | Tools: 4.5 | Research: 5 | Advisory services: 4 (Photo: AP)
2. Charles Schwab | Overall score: 4.1 | Best for: Robo advisor services | Commissions and fees: 3 | Investment choices: 3.5 | Mobile app: 4.5 | User experience: 4.5 | Tools: 4.5 | Research: 4 | Advisory services: 5 (Photo: Bloomberg)
1. TD Ameritrade | Overall score: 4.2 | Best for: Students of investing | Commissions and fees: 2 | Investment choices: 3 | Mobile app: 4.5 | User experience: 5 | Tools: 5 | Research: 5 | Advisory services: 4

Check out last year’s list: 7 Top Online Brokerages: Kiplinger

In an increasingly competitive environment, it is becoming harder for online brokers to stand apart from one another.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently published its rankings of the best online brokers of 2018 among eight firms it surveyed. The top ones finished in a dead heat.

“At first glance the differences among the online brokers are hard to see — their fees and commissions are low, their online tools are plentiful, they provide generous access to low-cost investments, and their websites and mobile apps are crammed with research reports, charts and videos,” Mark Solheim, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, said in a statement.

“We took a closer look and found that each firm has its own strength depending on what investors are looking for.”

Each broker’s overall score was based on the weight assigned to seven categories:

  • Investment choices: 20%
  • Mobile app: 20%
  • User experience: 15%
  • Tools: >12%
  • Research: >12%
  • Advisory services: >12%
  • Commissions and fees: 10%

Researchers gave less weight to commissions in this year’s survey because they were $7 or less at most firms, according to Kiplinger. In contrast, they gave more importance to mobile apps because surveyed firms reported that investors increasingly interacted with them on tablets or smartphones.

The magazine noted that although brand-name firms scored better overall, nearly all surveyed firms allow investors to trade stocks, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds and individual bonds online, and offer some online advisory services.

Check out the gallery to see how the eight brokers ranked by Kiplinger scored overall and in each investment category.

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