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Best Online Brokers and Trading Platforms - Fidelity Review

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Best Online Brokers  and Trading Platforms - Fidelity Review

Fidelity is an established and reputable company in the financial services industry that offers a variety of platforms, tools, and research for both investors and active traders.

Fidelity Investments is a highly reputable financial services company that offers a wide range of investment options and services to its clients. It has been recognized as one of the best brokers in the industry by several reputable publications and organizations.

Here are some of the awards and recognitions that Fidelity Investments has received:

  1. Best Overall: In 2021, Fidelity was named the Best Overall Online Broker by Investopedia. The company was praised for its comprehensive investment platform, low trading fees, and user-friendly website and mobile app.

  2. Best Broker for ETFs: Fidelity has also been recognized as the Best Broker for ETFs by Barron's for several years in a row. This award is given to the brokerage that offers the best selection of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as low costs and efficient trading tools for these investments.

  3. Best Broker for Low Costs: Fidelity has also received recognition for its low-cost investment options. In 2021, the company was named the Best Broker for Low Costs by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Fidelity was recognized for its low fees, no account minimums, and commission-free trading for stocks, ETFs, and options.

Overall, Fidelity Investments is a highly respected brokerage that has received numerous awards and recognitions for its investment platform, low costs, and comprehensive selection of investment options.

 

 Our perspective on Fidelity

Our perspective on Fidelity is that it continues to hold its position as the best overall online broker and the best low-cost broker. This year, Fidelity also surpassed Charles Schwab as the best broker for ETFs. Fidelity provides its clients with exceptional market platforms that are accessible through both computers and mobile devices. The company maintains its position by consistently enhancing its product offerings while maintaining low fees and administrative costs. Fidelity does not charge any fees or commissions on stock or ETF trades, and offers access to mutual funds, options, currencies, OTCBB (penny stocks), and fixed-income products, including treasury, corporate, agency, municipal bonds, and CDs.

Moreover, Fidelity is known for its exceptional resources and tools for investors and traders. The company offers robust educational materials, portfolio analysis tools, reports, calculators, and effective screeners to help identify individual securities in an asset class. However, Fidelity does not offer futures, options on futures, commodities, or cryptocurrencies, which may not suit some traders' needs

Introduction

 Fidelity is a well-established brokerage firm that has been our top choice for both the best online broker and low-cost broker. It is also the largest brokerage firm in the United States. Fidelity has made significant investments in its systems and has been innovative in enhancing its online trading platforms. For instance, it has added an enhanced investor dashboard that remembers where you were when you closed the program, so you can start at that page on your next login. Moreover, it has introduced thematic baskets and customizable indexes that can be rebalanced for individuals.

Founded in 1943 and headquartered in Boston, Fidelity has a massive customer base of 40 million individual investors. The firm has $9.6 trillion in assets under administration, $3.6 trillion in discretionary assets, and processes around 3.1 million trades every day. Fidelity's guiding principle has been to encourage intelligent risks instead of following the crowd. This philosophy continues to shape the firm, and its current Chairman and CEO, Abby Johnson, has emphasized that the company's core mission remains to strengthen and secure its clients' financial well-being.

Pros:

  • Fidelity offers low costs, making it an attractive option for investors and traders.
  • The company provides excellent trade executions, ensuring that clients receive favorable prices for their trades.
  • Fidelity has an extensive collection of research materials and asset screeners that allow investors to make informed decisions about their investments.
  • The company's educational content is top-notch, providing clients with valuable resources to enhance their financial knowledge.
  • Fidelity's portfolio analysis tools and calculators are excellent, enabling investors to track their investments and analyze their performance effectively.

Cons:

  • Fidelity does not offer access to futures, commodities, or crypto trading, which may limit its appeal to some traders.
  • Accounts with Fidelity are restricted to U.S. residents and those residing on the main island, which may be a disadvantage for investors living outside of these areas.
  • Fidelity charges high fees for broker-assisted trading, which may be a disadvantage for some investors.
  • Options fees at Fidelity are higher than those charged by its competitors, which may make it less appealing to options traders.

Explanation of Pros:

  • Low costs: Fidelity's low costs are a major advantage for investors, as they offer free stock and ETF trading and have eliminated most account fees. Options trading incurs a $0.65 fee per contract traded, which is still competitive with other brokers.

  • Great trade executions:

    Fidelity's trade execution algorithms are designed to facilitate optimal trade executions. These algorithms route orders to multiple market centers, up to 50 in some cases, enhancing the potential for excellent trade execution.

    They often obtain even better price execution than the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO) quote. Fidelity does not accept payment for order flow (PFOF) for stock and ETF trades, which means they are always seeking the best price execution for their clients.

  • Excellent research and asset screeners: Fidelity provides a wide range of research tools and asset screeners for stocks, ETFs, options, and fixed income investments. These resources are designed to facilitate excellent research capabilities and assist in identifying suitable assets. They have many criteria available for their screeners, including ESG and watch lists that can be created from search results. Fidelity offers free access to both Fidelity research and third-party research from over 25 sources.

  • Extensive educational content: Fidelity offers multiple educational resources for their customers, including articles, videos, live and recorded webinars, and infographics.

    Customers have the opportunity to engage with experienced professionals to discuss their trading ideas and gain insights into various investment products. This personalized interaction allows for valuable discussions and enhances the overall trading experience.

  • Top-notch portfolio analysis tools and calculators: Fidelity provides many portfolio analysis tools and calculators for investors, including options calculators to see the probabilities of options trades ending in the money. They also offer tools for determining investment goals and tracking portfolio results

    Cons Explained

    Fidelity has some cons to consider, including limited trading options. The platform does not support futures, commodities, currencies, or cryptocurrencies trading, which may be a disadvantage for more active traders who prefer to have all their trading products on a single platform. Fidelity accounts are only available to residents of the U.S. or its main islands, excluding potential customers from other countries. Another potential drawback is the high broker-assisted trading fees charged by Fidelity, at $32.95. Investors and traders who rely on broker-assisted trading may find lower fees elsewhere. Additionally, Fidelity's options fees are higher than some competitors, charging $0.65 per options contract traded on both the open and closing sides of the trade, with no cost cap. This may not be the best option for high-volume options traders who may prefer brokers like Webull or tastyworks that offer lower fees or capped commission.

 Usability.

 Fidelity offers a standard account setup process that requires mailing address, Social Security number, and employment information. Existing customers can open new accounts easily, and multiple account types can be created for different purposes. Trading options or on margin will require additional forms and approval.

Fidelity offers three platforms that provide stock quotes and news, with the web-based platform being simpler and more suitable for passive investors. Active investors and traders can use Active Trader Pro, which is highly customizable and offers advanced features, such as conditional orders and options analysis tools. The mobile app is similar to Active Trader Pro, but does not support fixed-income trading or conditional orders.

The navigation of Fidelity's platforms is intuitive, although the website has many sub-menus that can take time for newer users to get used to. Fidelity also has a watch app that provides real-time quotes for stocks, options, ETFs, and mutual funds, as well as notifications for orders, including price triggers

Trade Experience

Trading with Fidelity is generally straightforward, with an intuitive navigation system on their website. However, streaming news is not available and has to be manually refreshed. Users will also have to re-enter most information for each trade, despite the ability to set trading defaults. The web platform provided by Fidelity supports a range of order types, including buy, sell, and stop orders. Additionally, it offers advanced features such as trailing stops and market-on-open or market-on-close orders, empowering users with flexible trading options.

However, options trading on the web platform is not as strong as other broker offerings. The platform only supports four-leg options strategies and lacks diagrams of commonly used payout graphs. Additionally, traders have to input all trade information manually, whereas other brokers have more interactive ways to change strikes and maturity dates.

The Active Trader Pro platform is more robust and customizable than the web and mobile offerings, with the ability to personalize the layout, set trade defaults, create shortcuts, and assign hotkeys for navigation and trade entry. While the Active Trader Pro platform is better for options trading, it is not as easy to use as other broker offerings.

While both Active Trader Pro and the website support conditional orders, it's important to note that the mobile platform does not currently offer this feature.

 Additionally, modifying trades, such as changing the price, is not available from the open order window.

Mobile Trade Experience 

The mobile trading app offered by Fidelity is also user-friendly and offers access to news and fundamental data for specific securities, as well as the ability to place trades on-the-go. However, the app shares some of the same drawbacks as the web platform, such as the less user-friendly options order form that requires traders to manually input all details. Additionally, the mobile app does not support conditional orders, meaning traders need to use the website or Active Trader Pro for these order types.

When it comes to options trading, the drop-down menus on the mobile app also require traders to manually input specifics such as maturity and strike, which is not as seamless as other brokers where the legs are displayed and can be adjusted on the profitability graph. Although some features from the Active Trader Pro workflow are available on the mobile app, it is not as fully-featured as the desktop platform.

Overall, while the Fidelity mobile app is suitable for less active investors, it falls somewhere between the web platform and desktop platform and may not be robust enough to fully meet the needs of active traders who require the features available on Active Trader Pro.

Range of Offerings

 

Fidelity offers a diverse range of assets to investors, including stocks, ETFs, options, fixed income, and mutual funds. The company also offers currency exchange services, but not forex trading. While Fidelity's mobile app offers all the same asset classes as the web and desktop platforms, it does not include fixed income. Notably absent from Fidelity's offerings are futures, futures options, currency trading, and cryptocurrency trading, although the company has developed an ETF providing exposure to the cryptocurrency sector.

Fidelity's product lineup includes a variety of investment options, such as stocks, OTCBB penny stocks, mutual funds, bonds, single and up to four leg options strategies, robo-advisory services, international access, forex trading for 16 currency pairs, fractional shares, and other securities such as ETPs, IPOs, foreign ORDs and ADRs, preferred shares, rights, warrants, TIPS, municipal reset bonds, high-yield corporate bonds, precious metals, and principal-protected notes. Fidelity is also planning to offer Bitcoin as an investment option for retirement accounts, subject to plan sponsor approval.

 

Order Types

 

Fidelity offers various order types for trading, with availability depending on the platform used. The mobile app supports market, limit, stop loss, and trailing stop orders, while the website and Active Trader Pro offer additional conditional orders such as OCO and OTO. Traders can trade stocks based on share or dollar amounts and can easily close positions or roll options orders from the positions page.Fidelity's basket trading services enable users to create customized baskets consisting of up to 50 stocks. These baskets can be easily monitored, traded, managed, and rebalanced as a single unit, providing convenience and efficiency in portfolio management.

Additionally, Fidelity offers tax lot preferences for account owners, including first in, first out, last in, first out, or average cost, and allows for the selection of a specific tax lot when closing a position

 

Trading Technology

Fidelity is known for its strong trade execution technology, including the use of proprietary smart order routing and Fidelity Dynamic Liquidity Management (FDLM) to find the best location and price for customer orders. Fidelity utilizes CrossStream, an alternative trading system, which facilitates the matching of client buy- and sell-side orders with Fidelity's substantial order flow. This system enhances the efficiency of order execution and contributes to improved trading outcomes for clients.

Fidelity's average execution speed is 0.08 seconds, with 90.46% of trades receiving price improvement. For equity trades, the average price improvement for a 1,000-share trade is $17.46, over four times the industry average.

Fidelity provides options traders with the flexibility to direct their orders to any of the eight available exchanges. This order routing capability is accessible through a representative, allowing traders to choose the most suitable exchange for their options orders.

Fractional share trading is available for both stocks and ETFs, and after-hours trading is also supported.

Fidelity also offers Wealth-Lab Pro, a trading technology that allows traders to back-test trading strategies. This premium offering is available to investors who place at least 120 commissionable trades in a rolling 12-month period and have an account balance over $25,000

Costs

Fidelity offers commission-free online trading in U.S. stocks and ETFs, and it does not have any account fees or minimums to open a retail brokerage account. Fidelity's fees for other trades include a per-contract options fee of $0.65, a covered call trade of 500 shares plus five contracts costing $3.25, and mutual fund commissions for funds outside the no transaction fee program being $49.95 on the buy and no charge on the sell. Margin interest rates vary depending on account balance and range from 12.825% to 8.5%.

Fidelity does not charge any fees for software usage, account inactivity, account closure or transfer, exercise/assignment of options, domestic wire transfers, checks, or paper statements and trade confirmations.

Most orders incur exchange fees, which Fidelity passes along to customers. Certain mutual fund families are charged $75 on the initial purchase. The live broker fee is $32.95 per trade. International trades may incur various fees, so customers should carefully review those commissions before entering an order. Overall, Fidelity has ranked highly in the Best for Low-Cost category every year.


How Brokers Generate Income: Working on Your Behalf and Earning with You

As more brokerages move away from charging commissions, it's becoming less clear how they generate revenue. However, Fidelity has several ways to make money both from and for its customers.

Fidelity generates revenue through the interest on cash held by its clients in cash sweep programs. When clients enroll in these programs, Fidelity earns interest on the balances held by its customers and pays out a nominal interest rate to clients. The difference between the interest rate paid to clients and the interest earned by Fidelity on customer balances is where the company generates its revenue. While this may seem like a disadvantage to clients, many brokers do not offer any interest on idle cash, making Fidelity's automatic enrollment a benefit to customers.

Margin interest is a fee that brokers charge clients who borrow funds to trade. At Fidelity, the margin interest rate is 12.325% for accounts with a balance of less than $25,000. While this rate is below the industry average, there are other brokers who offer even lower rates and compete on margin as a key feature. Clients who choose to trade on margin should be aware of the risks involved, as borrowing funds to invest can amplify both gains and losses.

Fidelity does not accept payment for order flow (PFOF) for equity trades, which means that they do not earn money from directing equity orders to market makers.

Fidelity generates revenue through stock loan programs, which involve lending stocks from your account for short sales with your consent. They then share the income generated from these loans with you. Fidelity reports that over two months of lending certain hard-to-borrow securities, 38% of accounts earn $100 or less, 37% earn between $100 and $1,000, and the remaining 25% earn more than $1,000. In addition, Fidelity provides an average net price improvement of $0.0174 per share for equity orders. Fidelity also offers portfolio margining to eligible clients, which calculates real-time margin for stock and options trades based on risk rather than fixed percentages.


 

Account and Research Amenities

Fidelity provides a wide range of high-quality amenities and accounts, which are typical of a large brokerage. These features are of great quality and quantity and make Fidelity stand out among its competitors. Some of these amenities include flexible screeners, trade idea generators, charting tools, access to research and fundamental data, and many others.

Stock Screeners

Fidelity offers a robust stock screener with more than 140 customizable criteria, such as volume, implied volatility, and order flow. Users can select from different themes, including data services, drones, and SRI/ESG scores, and further customize them. Recently, Fidelity added a feature that allows users to filter out pre-market movements. The screener results can also be added to a watchlist.

 

ETF and Mutual Fund Evaluator

Comparing the Best Brokers for ETFs

 

Fidelity's ETF and mutual fund screeners offer a range of 100 customizable criteria to choose from, making it easy for users to filter and refine their searches. The screeners also include different themes, such as market cap, fixed income, or SRI, which can be further customized by the user. Additionally, Fidelity has developed a feature that allows users to identify ETFs and mutual funds that contain a specific security. As with the other screeners, the results can be used to create a personalized watchlist.

Options Screeners

Fidelity’s option screener is powered by LiveVol. Users can choose from pre-built scans or customize their own criteria, such as volume, implied volatility, time spreads, and order flow. There are over 25 predefined filters in Active Trader Pro, and nearly 200 individual criteria that can be used to conduct a search

 

Fixed Income Screeners 

 

Tools and Calculators

Charting 

Trading Idea Generators

News

 

Third-Party Research 

 

Cash Management

Fractional Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)

SRI/ESG Research Amenities

 

Portfolio Analysis

Education 

Customer Service 

Security and Reliability

 

Transparency

Available Account Types

Final Verdict

Frequently Asked Questions

 

https://www.investopedia.com/best-online-brokers-4587872

https://www.investopedia.com/fidelity-review-4587897..

 

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