TradeStation vs. Fidelity: Searching for the Best IRA Account

By Jordan Wathen Markets Fool.com

Roth and traditional IRAs can be powerful retirement savings tools, but where you open an IRA really matters. Millions of Americans use online discount brokers to house their IRA, taking advantage of more choices in stocks and funds, while saving thousands of dollars in fees they'd otherwise pay to a full-service broker.

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Here's how Fidelity and TradeStation compare for IRA accounts, Roth or traditional.

Commission prices per trade

Depending on what you invest in, and how frequently you place trades, commissions can add up quickly. Here's how TradeStation and Fidelity's basic pricing compares.

Brokerage

Stocks and ETFs

Stock Options

Mutual Funds

TradeStation

$8.99 per trade (or $0.01 per share, $1 minimum)

$8.99 + $0.70 per contract (or flat rate of $1.00 per contract)

$14.95 per purchase

Fidelity

$7.95 per trade

$7.95 + $0.75 per contract

$49.95 per purchase

Data source: company websites.

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Ultimately, standard prices aren't necessarily reflective of how much you'll pay in commissions. TradeStation offers discounts that can drop its flat-rate pricing to $4.99 per stock trade and reduce its volume-based prices down to $0.002 per share. Fidelity offers thousands of mutual funds and ETFs that can be purchased without paying a commission, lowering its customers' average commission cost.

Those who do a little extra comparison shopping can really save. Check out currentspecial offers for IRA accounts, which routinely include bonus cash and commission-free trades for opening a new account.

Fee-free mutual funds and commission-free ETFs

The modern investor has it good: Many brokers now offer a long list of mutual funds and ETFs that you can buy and sell and pay absolutely nothing to make the trade. Here's how TradeStation and Fidelity compare on fund selection and fee-free funds.

Brokerage

Total Mutual Funds

No-Load, No-Transaction-Fee Funds (NTF)

Commission-Free ETFs

TradeStation

More than 12,100

None

None

Fidelity

More than 11,500

More than 3,600

91 (Fidelity and iShares)

Data sources:Barron's, company websites and representatives.

The availability of fee-free choices can greatly reduce an investors' trading costs. Fidelity's standard mutual fund commissions are relatively steep at $49.95 per purchase, but investors who shop from its list of more than 3,000 fee-free funds will never pay a dime in commissions. TradeStation doesn't currently offer any no-load, no-transaction-fee funds, but it has the lower standard commission price of just $14.95 per purchase for mutual funds.

Minimum deposit requirement for IRA accounts

Although investment minimums are coming down over time, some brokers require that new clients meet a minimum deposit requirement to open an account. TradeStation requires a minimum initial deposit of $5,500 for IRA accounts. Fidelity doesn't have a minimum deposit requirement for IRAs.

Minimum deposits may be less important for rollover IRAs. Image source: Getty Images.

International stocks and ADRs

Stock pickers who like to venture to foreign soil will find that their choice in a broker is more important than it appears. While virtually all brokers allow their clients to invest in foreign companies that have American stock tickers, few offer the ability to route trades overseas.

Type of Investment

TradeStation

Fidelity

American depositary receipts(ADRs)

Yes

Yes

Stocks traded on international stock markets

No

Yes (25 markets)

Mutual funds and ETFs of foreign stocks

Yes

Yes

Data source: company websites and representatives.

In general, large-cap stock pickers may not be deterred by being limited to ADRs. Foreign large caps such asVale, IMAX, and Nestle all have an ADR listed in the United States, meaning they can be bought and sold without venturing to an international stock exchange. The biggest difference between brokers is when it comes to small foreign companies, which are less likely to have a U.S. listing or ticker.

Mobile app reviews

You can check your account and make trades from your mobile phone or tablet from anywhere around the world. Here's how each broker's users and customers rated their mobile trading apps, as of Feb. 13, 2017.

Brokerage

Apple App Store

Google Play

TradeStation

4.0 stars

4.3 stars

Fidelity

4.6 stars

4.3 stars

Data source: relevant app stores.

Fees on IRA accounts

Any broker can charge any fee for any reason, but there are two fees you should know about before shopping around. The first is a maintenance fee, or a monthly or annual charge just for having an IRA. The second is an inactivity fee, which is assessed on accounts that do not meet the brokers' minimum for trading activity.

TradeStation charges an annual IRA account fee of $35. In addition, it charges a monthly minimum activity fee of $99.95 if you do not maintain a balance of at least $100,000, or do not meet minimum trading requirements. Minimum monthly trading requirements include meeting one of the following: 10 round-turn futures and/or futures options contracts, 50 options contracts traded, or 5,000 shares traded.

Fidelity doesn't charge a maintenance or inactivity fee on Roth or traditional IRAs. It may charge a $25 annual fee for employer-sponsored SIMPLE IRAs, which are less common.

TradeStation vs. Fidelity for traditional or Roth IRAs

Each broker really offers something different, depending on how you invest. TradeStation caters to the high-volume trader with volume discounts and variable pricing that gets lower as your trading volume increases, but it doesn't have as much to offer in the way of fee-free funds. Fidelity has generally higher commissions, but offers thousands of mutual funds to choose from, more access to international markets, and no-fee IRA accounts with no minimum deposit requirements.

The truth is that every broker caters to a particular subset of the market, and for that reason, there isn't a perfect brokerage for every type of investor. It's all about how a broker's pricing and capabilities fit within the needs of your portfolio. To be clear, The Motley Fool does not endorse any particular brokerage, but we can help you find one that is a good fit for you. VisitFool.com's IRA Centerto compare several brokers all on one page and see if you qualify for any special offers for opening a new account.

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Jordan Wathen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends IMAX. The Motley Fool owns shares of Companhia Vale. The Motley Fool recommends Nestle. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.