I have posted in the past a ranking of brokers that was published in Smart Money. I wanted to give my impressions after using 3 different brokers:
1) Merrill Lynch--Merrill Lynch is one of the most well known companies on Wall Street. They have excellent customer service and my financial advisor is not only a close friend but I trust his judgment without question. ML is great for someone that wants an advisor to manage their IRAs or Brokerage Accounts. The Fees for Stock Trades is higher than E-Trade or Scott-Trade but you are also getting full service. The thing that is not good at ML is their web-page it seems to always be 24 hours behind. The other problem is that when you look at posted (credits/debits) transactions to the account it does not show you a running balance.
2) Scott-Trade-has a good service–very good customer service–simple web-page that is easy to understand and get around. The Fees are the lowest of the three only $7 per trade. The thing that led me to switch to E-Trade has to do wit the banking features. The problem with Scott-Trade is that you can electronically transfer money into the account but you cannot electronically transfer money out. This just does not make sense. Why do they need to send you a check. If you are in need of your money quickly this is just not convenient.
3) E-Trade–has a great web-site–lot of information that is easy to access. The fees are a bit higher than Scott-Trade but the banking features are much better. You can also get one of the highest interest rates around by putting money into their Savings Accounts–3.3% currently. The good thing is that you can electronically get your money out. So far I am very happy with E-Trade.