Discount Broker

A brokerage firm that offers discount trading rates to investors

What is a Discount Broker?

A discount broker is simply a brokerage firm that offers discount trading rates to investors. The brokers work at a discounted commission rate to accommodate their clients. Discount brokers – either individuals or firms – complete buy and sell orders for clients. They do not, however, provide specific trading advice or other services. Thus, the primary appeal of a discount broker is to investors who manage their own investments.

Discount Broker

A primary reason that discount brokers can operate with lower fees is that they don’t spend money vying for the business of and working with, high net worth individuals (HNWI). They can also offer lower fees because they almost always do business exclusively online, which means lower overhead costs.


  • A discount broker is a brokerage that executes buy and sell orders, often for clients with a lower income or small investors; they operate with lower commission fees.
  • The primary advantage of working with discount brokers is that their commission fees are lower than full-service brokers, who offer a wide variety of services, though their commission fees are typically pretty high.
  • The major drawback to working with discount brokers is that the process of investing is largely placed on the client; if the client is inexperienced at investing, using a discount broker isn’t advised.

Online Operations

Discount brokers in the securities industry are, more and more, conducting their business online, meaning clients rarely get any type of personal interaction. The brokers usually set up online accounts for clients so they can submit their orders for the broker to execute. Live communication with the broker is rare.

Discount brokers online are designed for investors and traders that know what they want and which orders they need to be executed. The platforms that discount brokers tactically provide are created with the intention that active traders benefit by submitting orders and then monitoring the orders’ progress with their own charting/position services.

Full-Service Brokers vs. Discount Brokers

Full-service brokers are significantly different from discount brokers. The former are usually part of or affiliated with a large brokerage firm, such as Morgan Stanley. They are registered financial representatives that provide more than just buy and sell order executions. They walk through the entire trading process with their clients, often offering wealth management and portfolio management services.

Because the brokers are full-service, the commissions they receive reflect the full menu of services they provide. In other words:

Full-service brokers don’t just execute buy and sell orders for stocks and exchange-traded investments (such as ETFs). They also work with mutual funds, charging sales loads on the mutual funds they work with.

Full-service brokers work with clients in person, helping to manage their accounts and other services clients may want or need. They include:

  • Selling annuity products
  • Various types of loans
  • Selling insurance

Think of full-service brokers as both financial salespeople and advisors. They often receive the highest commissions when working with clients, selling them a variety of financial products.

Pros of Discount Brokers

The primary advantage of working with discount brokers is that they charge discounted commission fees, meaning less expense for the client.

Independent, self-directing investors – especially those that are already working with a financial advisor – benefit the most from discount brokers. Discount brokers are a cost-effective way for a confident investor to get his or her trades executed without spending a lot of extra money with a full-service broker.

Cons of a Discount Broker

The biggest drawback is that using a discount broker is largely a DIY endeavor. If a client is inexperienced and in need of financial guidance, they won’t really find it with a discount broker.

Also, discount brokers aren’t created equal. There are often significant variations in the terms regarding fees and services that are offered. Discount brokers offer different products, account types, and a variety of services. It is important for potential clients to research discount brokers before committing to one.

Learn More

CFI is the official provider of the global Capital Markets & Securities Analyst (CMSA®) certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:

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