When you're looking for a broker, you have three distinct choices. From the most to the least expensive, they are: full-service brokers, discount brokers and online brokers. What differentiates them is the advice they provide and cost.
Full-service brokers will call with stock ideas and back this advice with reports from their firm's research department. They'll keep an eye on your picks and let you know when they think changes are necessary.
Discounters do less of this. While there's typically plenty of research available on the best online brokerage sites, it's up to you to dig for it.
Cost: Commissions are typically based on a percentage of your purchase (or sale) price.
Cost: Between $4 and $20 for a trade of 1,000 shares or less, and on average, discounters charge one-third the price of full-service brokers.
Cost: From $5 to $15 a trade, or even free for 60 days, it doesn't get any cheaper than this.