CHICAGO — If you’re one of the millions of Americans who own stocks and bonds, it’s a good bet that you maintain those investments in a brokerage account. Keeping physical possession of stock or bond certificates in this digital age makes about as much sense as stuffing cash under the mattress.
But opening a brokerage account was only your first decision. These days, you must also decide whether to go with a so-called full-service broker or a discount broker, and it’s important to understand the difference.
Discount brokers such as TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE, Charles Schwab and others typically charge between $2 and $20 for individual online trades; full-service brokers such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and others charge as much as 10 to 15 times that much. While competition has caused many full-service brokers to reduce commissions lately, on average, you'll still pay $100-$150 for an average trade done through the typical full-service (translation: full-price) broker. And it doesn’t stop there.