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To help you to find the best online broker for funds in 2021, we went ahead and did the research for you. First, we selected 93 quality online brokers, then we tested them with real accounts. We evaluated their selection of mutual funds, the fees they charge and much more. We took their non-trading fees, such as the inactivity fee, into special consideration. We dug deep, so you won’t have to. 5 made it to the top in the US. We highly recommend all 5 to you. And now, without further ado...

Our top 5 picks for the best online brokers for funds in the US:

  1. Firstrade is the best broker for funds in the US in 2021. Free stock, ETF, fund and options trading. Solid research tools. Quality educational tools.
  2. Ally Invest takes second place. Low trading and non-trading fees. Easy and fully digital account opening. Great education.
  3. E*TRADE rounds out the top three. Low trading fees (free stock and ETF trading). User-friendly mobile trading platform. Great research tools.
  4. Charles Schwab, numero quattro. Free stock and ETF trading. Outstanding research. Great customer service.
  5. Vanguard just made it to the list at number five. Some ETFs and mutual funds are free to trade. Easy account opening. Great mobile trading platform.
Best online brokers for funds in the US
Broker Info Funds fee class # of available fund providers
#1 Firstrade US discount broker Low 450
#2 Ally Invest US stockbroker Low 600
#3 E*TRADE US stockbroker High 520
#4 Charles Schwab US discount broker High 600
#5 Vanguard US stockbroker High 290

All 5 brokers are considered safe, as they are regulated by at least one top-tier financial authortiy.

What makes a good online broker for mutual fund investing? First, they need to offer fair fees for buying and selling funds. Second, they should also offer access to a good selection of fund providers. It's also important that the inactivity fee shouldn't be high and we considered the broker's overall score as well.

These features may sound obvious and easy to list, but they're hard to figure it out. We are testing brokers based on more than 300 criteria with real accounts and real money. We know what's up.

For a tailored recommendation, check out our broker finder tool. You can enter your country and it will show only the relevant brokers. Want more details? Compare brokers with the help of this detailed comparison table.

And now, let's see the best brokers for fund investors in the US one by one, starting with the winner, Firstrade.

Firstrade Logo

#1 Best brokers for funds in the US
Firstrade

4.3

Firstrade is a US discount stockbroker regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The company was founded in 1985 under the name of First Flushing Securities.

Firstrade is considered safe because it has a long track record and is overseen by top-tier regulators.

Pros Cons
Free stock, ETF, fund and options trading No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfer
Solid research tools You can trade only on US markets
Quality educational tools No live chat or 24/7 availability

Visit broker

#1 Firstrade
Fees

Firstrade has low fees when it comes to buying and selling funds.
Firstrade fees
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Mutual fund $0.0 $10.0 $20.0 $24.8 $20.0
Inactivity fee No No No No No

* Note: We excluded the following fees:

  • Ongoing fees (expense ratio): All mutual funds have a fee called expense ratio, which is sometimes called a management fee (or "operating expense"). This fee is deducted daily and is determined by the fund provider itself, not by your broker. Annually, it usually comes to 0.10%-2.5%, depending on the fund. There might be different series or classes, which are identified by a letter. For example, a fund Series 'A' for retail investors may charge 0.5%-1% more than the same fund Series 'I', but the latter might have a minimum investment requirement of $200,000.
  • Front-load and redemption fees: A front-load fee may be charged when you purchase the fund; while if you sell, a redemption fee may apply. Again, these fees depend on the mutual fund itself, as some providers might charge one or both. Usually this one-time fee is between 0 and 5%.
  • Short term redemption fees: Some brokers might charge you if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days. In our review, we assumed a longer investment time horizon (6+ months).
  • Performance fee: Some funds deduct a percentage for above-benchmark net returns, typically 10%-20%. For example, if they managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 2 percentage points in a given year, they would deduct 0.2% (that is if the performance fee was 10% and their benchmark was the S&P 500)

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#1 Firstrade
Markets and products

Available fund providers typically include many boutique firms, as well as some or all of the biggest fund providers (asset managers) such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan or BlackRock. These have hundreds of funds, so you've probably heard of them already.
Firstrade markets and products
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
Firstrade available products other than funds
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No No No
Futures No No Yes Yes No
CFDs No No No No No
Crypto No No Yes Yes No

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Ally Invest Logo

#2 Best brokers for funds in the US
Ally Invest

4.6

Ally Invest is a US stockbroker regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Its parent company, Ally Financial Inc. dates back to 1911 when its predecessor, General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) was founded. Ally Financial Inc. is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a banking subsidiary, Ally Bank.

Ally Invest is considered safe because it has a long track record and is regulated by top-tier financial authorities.

Pros Cons
Low trading and non-trading fees You can trade only on US markets
Easy and fully digital account opening Forex trading is available through a separate account
Great education Lack of proper 2-step authentication

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#2 Ally Invest
Fees

Ally Invest has low fees when it comes to buying and selling funds.
Ally Invest fees
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Mutual fund $0.0 $10.0 $20.0 $24.8 $20.0
Inactivity fee No No No No No

* Note: We excluded the following fees:

  • Ongoing fees (expense ratio): All mutual funds have a fee called expense ratio, which is sometimes called a management fee (or "operating expense"). This fee is deducted daily and is determined by the fund provider itself, not by your broker. Annually, it usually comes to 0.10%-2.5%, depending on the fund. There might be different series or classes, which are identified by a letter. For example, a fund Series 'A' for retail investors may charge 0.5%-1% more than the same fund Series 'I', but the latter might have a minimum investment requirement of $200,000.
  • Front-load and redemption fees: A front-load fee may be charged when you purchase the fund; while if you sell, a redemption fee may apply. Again, these fees depend on the mutual fund itself, as some providers might charge one or both. Usually this one-time fee is between 0 and 5%.
  • Short term redemption fees: Some brokers might charge you if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days. In our review, we assumed a longer investment time horizon (6+ months).
  • Performance fee: Some funds deduct a percentage for above-benchmark net returns, typically 10%-20%. For example, if they managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 2 percentage points in a given year, they would deduct 0.2% (that is if the performance fee was 10% and their benchmark was the S&P 500)

Visit broker More

#2 Ally Invest
Markets and products

Available fund providers typically include many boutique firms, as well as some or all of the biggest fund providers (asset managers) such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan or BlackRock. These have hundreds of funds, so you've probably heard of them already.
Ally Invest markets and products
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
Ally Invest available products other than funds
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No No No
Futures No No Yes Yes No
CFDs No No No No No
Crypto No No Yes Yes No

Visit broker More

E*TRADE Logo

#3 Best brokers for funds in the US
E*TRADE

4.8

E*TRADE is a US-based stockbroker founded in 1982. It is regulated by top-tier financial authorities like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

E*TRADE is considered safe because it has a long track record, is listed on a stock exchange, has a banking background, discloses its financials, and is overseen by top-tier US regulators.

In February 2020, E*TRADE was acquired by Morgan Stanley. To find out more about the motives behind the acquisition and about the wider market context, check out this article we wrote about the deal.

Pros Cons
Low trading fees (free stock and ETF trading) Only US markets, no forex
User-friendly mobile trading platform Only bank transfer
Great research tools Slow live chat

Visit broker

#3 E*TRADE
Fees

E*TRADE has high fees when it comes to buying and selling funds.
E*TRADE fees
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Mutual fund $0.0 $10.0 $20.0 $24.8 $20.0
Inactivity fee No No No No No

* Note: We excluded the following fees:

  • Ongoing fees (expense ratio): All mutual funds have a fee called expense ratio, which is sometimes called a management fee (or "operating expense"). This fee is deducted daily and is determined by the fund provider itself, not by your broker. Annually, it usually comes to 0.10%-2.5%, depending on the fund. There might be different series or classes, which are identified by a letter. For example, a fund Series 'A' for retail investors may charge 0.5%-1% more than the same fund Series 'I', but the latter might have a minimum investment requirement of $200,000.
  • Front-load and redemption fees: A front-load fee may be charged when you purchase the fund; while if you sell, a redemption fee may apply. Again, these fees depend on the mutual fund itself, as some providers might charge one or both. Usually this one-time fee is between 0 and 5%.
  • Short term redemption fees: Some brokers might charge you if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days. In our review, we assumed a longer investment time horizon (6+ months).
  • Performance fee: Some funds deduct a percentage for above-benchmark net returns, typically 10%-20%. For example, if they managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 2 percentage points in a given year, they would deduct 0.2% (that is if the performance fee was 10% and their benchmark was the S&P 500)

Visit broker More

#3 E*TRADE
Markets and products

Available fund providers typically include many boutique firms, as well as some or all of the biggest fund providers (asset managers) such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan or BlackRock. These have hundreds of funds, so you've probably heard of them already.
E*TRADE markets and products
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
E*TRADE available products other than funds
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No No No
Futures No No Yes Yes No
CFDs No No No No No
Crypto No No Yes Yes No

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Charles Schwab Logo

#4 Best brokers for funds in the US
Charles Schwab

4.8

Charles Schwab is a US discount broker that was founded in 1971 and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

It is regulated by several top-tier financial authorities, such as the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Pros Cons
Free stock and ETF trading High fees for some mutual funds
Outstanding research Only US/Canada markets available
Great customer service

Visit broker

#4 Charles Schwab
Fees

Charles Schwab has high fees when it comes to buying and selling funds.
Charles Schwab fees
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Mutual fund $0.0 $10.0 $20.0 $24.8 $20.0
Inactivity fee No No No No No

* Note: We excluded the following fees:

  • Ongoing fees (expense ratio): All mutual funds have a fee called expense ratio, which is sometimes called a management fee (or "operating expense"). This fee is deducted daily and is determined by the fund provider itself, not by your broker. Annually, it usually comes to 0.10%-2.5%, depending on the fund. There might be different series or classes, which are identified by a letter. For example, a fund Series 'A' for retail investors may charge 0.5%-1% more than the same fund Series 'I', but the latter might have a minimum investment requirement of $200,000.
  • Front-load and redemption fees: A front-load fee may be charged when you purchase the fund; while if you sell, a redemption fee may apply. Again, these fees depend on the mutual fund itself, as some providers might charge one or both. Usually this one-time fee is between 0 and 5%.
  • Short term redemption fees: Some brokers might charge you if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days. In our review, we assumed a longer investment time horizon (6+ months).
  • Performance fee: Some funds deduct a percentage for above-benchmark net returns, typically 10%-20%. For example, if they managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 2 percentage points in a given year, they would deduct 0.2% (that is if the performance fee was 10% and their benchmark was the S&P 500)

Visit broker More

#4 Charles Schwab
Markets and products

Available fund providers typically include many boutique firms, as well as some or all of the biggest fund providers (asset managers) such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan or BlackRock. These have hundreds of funds, so you've probably heard of them already.
Charles Schwab markets and products
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
Charles Schwab available products other than funds
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No No No
Futures No No Yes Yes No
CFDs No No No No No
Crypto No No Yes Yes No

Visit broker More

Vanguard Logo

#5 Best brokers for funds in the US
Vanguard

4.3

Vanguard is a US stockbroker founded in 1975. The company is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Vanguard is considered safe because it has a long track record and it is overseen by top-tier regulators.

Pros Cons
Some ETFs and mutual funds are free to trade Only the US market covered
Easy account opening Basic research tools
Great mobile trading platform High financing rates (margin rates)

Visit broker

#5 Vanguard
Fees

Vanguard has high fees when it comes to buying and selling funds.
Vanguard fees
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Mutual fund $0.0 $10.0 $20.0 $24.8 $20.0
Inactivity fee No No No No No

* Note: We excluded the following fees:

  • Ongoing fees (expense ratio): All mutual funds have a fee called expense ratio, which is sometimes called a management fee (or "operating expense"). This fee is deducted daily and is determined by the fund provider itself, not by your broker. Annually, it usually comes to 0.10%-2.5%, depending on the fund. There might be different series or classes, which are identified by a letter. For example, a fund Series 'A' for retail investors may charge 0.5%-1% more than the same fund Series 'I', but the latter might have a minimum investment requirement of $200,000.
  • Front-load and redemption fees: A front-load fee may be charged when you purchase the fund; while if you sell, a redemption fee may apply. Again, these fees depend on the mutual fund itself, as some providers might charge one or both. Usually this one-time fee is between 0 and 5%.
  • Short term redemption fees: Some brokers might charge you if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days. In our review, we assumed a longer investment time horizon (6+ months).
  • Performance fee: Some funds deduct a percentage for above-benchmark net returns, typically 10%-20%. For example, if they managed to beat the S&P 500 index by 2 percentage points in a given year, they would deduct 0.2% (that is if the performance fee was 10% and their benchmark was the S&P 500)

Visit broker More

#5 Vanguard
Markets and products

Available fund providers typically include many boutique firms, as well as some or all of the biggest fund providers (asset managers) such as Fidelity, Vanguard, Franklin Templeton, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan or BlackRock. These have hundreds of funds, so you've probably heard of them already.
Vanguard markets and products
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
Vanguard available products other than funds
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No No No
Futures No No Yes Yes No
CFDs No No No No No
Crypto No No Yes Yes No

Visit broker More

Best online brokers for mutual funds in the US in 2021 - Fee comparison included
How did we pick the best brokers for funds?

We tested brokers based on more than 300 criteria. Below, we will show you the 4 most important criteria we took into account when picking the best brokers for funds.

4 important criteria for the best brokers for funds in the US
Fund fees
  1. The commission for buying funds is typically zero or a flat fee around $10-80. Watch out if the fee is given in percentage terms; in this case, you might want to look for brokers that have a maximum fee (cap) in place.
  2. We did not include any entry or exit fees (load fees) in the calculation, as this depends on the fund itself and not specific to the broker. Ongoing fees are also excluded as they are likewise determined by the fund itself.
  3. We also did not include any short term redemption fee that some brokers might charge if you sell your fund within 30/60/90/etc. days, as we assumed a longer time horizon for investors.
Number of available fund providers Check the product coverage before opening an account, because your favorite mutual funds might not be available. The higher the number of funds your broker offers, the bigger the chance that you will find a fund that suits your needs.
Inactivity fee Funds are very often favored by buy-and-hold investors. You buy the fund, and then all you do is check its performance from time to time. But what if your broker starts charging high inactivity fees just because you haven't traded in a while?
Overall score A better overall score usually implies good-quality trading platforms, payment options and customer service, so this is also something to consider.

Are these brokers safe?

Mutual funds are typically meant for sizable buy-and-hold investments - so you certainly don't want to add extra risk by using the services of a less reputable broker. These brokers are all considered safe. You can be sure none of them is a scam. They are regulated by at least one top-tier financial authority. Some of them are also listed on an exchange, and some have a banking background.

Best online brokers for mutual funds in the US in 2021 - Fee comparison included
Why can funds be useful in your investing journey?

Mutual funds are pooled investment vehicles managed by professional portfolio managers, who do the research, pick the assets to invest in, and monitor the fund's risk.

In Western Europe, they are sometimes referred to as SIVAC, which is the French name for open-ended mutual funds.

It is worth mentioning that there also exist some passively-managed funds, like Vanguard index funds, which track an index (similar to an ETF) and come at a very low cost. But in this article, we'll focus on open-ended, actively-managed mutual funds.

Open-ended means that there is no 'expiry'. Investors can buy and sell the fund each day, and if there are more buyers than sellers, the fund manager will use the proceeds to invest in line with the fund's strategy. For example, in a US Large Cap Tech Fund, the fund manager could use the new money to buy (additional) Apple or Facebook shares.

Actively-managed funds can also opt not to invest the money right away and park it instead in cash, for example when they want to wait for a better entry point to buy more stocks.

If investors collectively are sellers of the fund, the fund manager may sell shares to raise money to pay off these investors. Alternatively, the fund manager may simply use any cash previously set aside (as in the previous example) to pay investors who want to exit the fund.


Until ETFs became widespread, mutual funds were the only way to get exposure to a diversified portfolio without having to buy into 20-30 individual stocks or bonds.

Funds usually have a benchmark. For example, a US-focused large cap equity fund can be benchmarked against the S&P 500 index.

Do mutual funds still have any advantage over ETFs? The answer is, it depends. Unfortunately, there are a lot of 'closet index funds' that simply mimic the benchmark they are following. For example, they would simply buy S&P 500 components with almost the same weighting as the index. Obviously, such a strategy cannot produce any excess returns, and you just end up paying a higher fee compared with an ETF.

(To learn more about ETFs, be sure to check our article How to buy ETFs online?)

However, there are funds that are actively managed, and these do deviate from the index components, which can lead to over- or underperformance. (There are some actively-managed ETFs as well, but those are outside the scope of this article).

You'll find that most actively-managed funds that are benchmarked against major indexes like the S&P 500 usually underperform their benchmark in ‘good’ times (when the stock market rises), and therefore usually underperform in the long run as well. (You might want to read more about this in the following CNBC article: Active fund managers trail the S&P 500 for the ninth year in a row in triumph for indexing)

On the other hand, during bear markets and market downturns, mutual funds sometimes don't fall as much as indexes and ETFs, or have lower correlation with stock market movements.

To get an idea about how certain mutual funds have performed in the past, it is advisable to check their Morningstar ratings.

Some investors also put a lot of emphasis on the person who is managing the fund, although it's not guaranteed that 'star' managers will continue to outperform. However, it is often a good sign if the fund's manager has been the same person for a long time.

Most brokers have screeners for funds. Our advice is to put in the time and effort to find the fund that is suitable for your investment goals.


To wrap it up, ideally you'll want to find a mutual fund that

  • Overperforms its benchmark, or
  • Has (sometimes significantly) lower risk than the general stock or bond market, but with returns that are not that much lower, or
  • Has low or inverse correlation with other investments you may have, and therefore can be a good instrument for portfolio diversification.


On the negative side, the ongoing fees of a fund can be a drag on performance.

Compared with stocks, mutual funds offer less flexibility. Mutual funds are priced once a day, so you would not know the price at which you purchased the funds until the end of the business day. Also, underperformance versus stock index benchmarks (and ETFs) is very common among mutual funds.

Note that there also exist so-called Closed-End Funds, or CEFs (not covered in this article). They are traded on stock exchanges like stocks, and can trade at a premium or discount compared with their Net Asset Value (NAV), depending on investors being optimistic or pessimistic on the fund's prospects. They are not open to new money; only existing shares are traded.

Open-ended funds accept new money and honor redemption requests once every day, and while there may be a bid-ask spread applied to Net Asset Value (NAV), generally any selling and buying will be based on the daily closing NAV. In this article, we cover open-ended funds.

Best online brokers for mutual funds in the US in 2021 - Fee comparison included
Bottom line

You saw the details, now let's zoom out. Here are the best online brokers for mutual funds in the US:

Best online brokers for funds in the US for 2021
Firstrade Ally Invest E*TRADE Charles Schwab Vanguard
Fund fee class Low Low High High High
Fund providers (#) 450 600 520 600 290
Inactivity fee No No No No No
Overall score 4.3 4.6 4.8 4.8 4.3
Visit broker Visit broker Visit broker Visit broker Visit broker

Firstrade is our winner, the best online broker for funds in the US. Free stock, ETF, fund and options trading. Solid research tools. Quality educational tools.
All of these brokers are considered safe, and a great choice. Pick the winner or any runner-up, and take the next step in your investment journey. Let us know what you think in the comment section.
Still unsure? Use our broker finder tool to find the online broker most suitable for you.

Author of this article

András Iván

Author of this article

Andras has over 4 years of experience analysing and trading equities and bonds. He believes that active trading and a more passive investing approach both have merits and everyone can find a strategy that fits their needs. He's eager to help identify the characteristics of specific brokers, so the best match can be found for each client.

András Iván

Broker Analyst

Andras has over 4 years of experience analysing and trading equities and bonds. He believes that active trading and a more passive investing approach both have merits and everyone can find a strategy that fits their needs. He's eager to help identify the characteristics of specific brokers, so the best match can be found for each client.

Everything you find on BrokerChooser is based on reliable data and unbiased information. We combine our 10+ years finance experience with readers feedback. Read more about our methodology

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