What Is a Deep Discount Broker?

What Is a Deep Discount Broker?

4 Min.

Deep discount brokers charge less but offer fewer services compared to full-service brokers. However, with the advent of online trading, they have become more popular by adding services like check-writing and stock research.


The deep discount broker is a new financial intermediary in the complex arena of securities trading, facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers on exchanges. What sets them apart is their distinct proposition of commission rates even lower than those offered by traditional discount brokers.

Naturally, the realm of services offered by these deep discount brokers differs significantly from that of standard brokers. Their focus lies primarily in executing stock and option trades, often accompanied by a fixed fee for each transaction. This minimalistic approach to services reflects their commitment to cost-efficiency.

Interestingly, the trajectory of the brokerage industry has led many conventional discount brokers to adopt characteristics akin to deep discount brokers. A notable shift towards negligible stock and ETF trading commissions has marked the evolution. Nevertheless, these modern platforms retain an edge by providing supplementary services such as timely news updates, research resources, and cutting-edge trading and charting tools. This blend of affordability and value-added tools encapsulates the changing face of brokerage services in contemporary financial markets.

Exploring the Realm of Deep Discount Brokers

In the era of online trading, the ascent of deep discount brokers has been remarkable. Beyond equity trading, these brokers often extend their service portfolio. Notably, contemporary trade execution practices converge between discount and established brokerages. For instance, TD Ameritrade harnesses third-party execution services like Knight, Citadel, and Citigroup. Interestingly, TradeKing (acquired by Ally Invest) utilizes the same third-party services, albeit at approximately half the cost.

In stock trading, there are two pricing models: flat fee and per-share pricing. The optimal choice hinges on an investor's typical trade order size. For instance, if the average stands at 2,000 shares, per-share pricing might prove costly, favoring the economic stance of flat-fee options. Over 99% of investors align with the flat-fee approach. Brokerages may impose a minimum balance requirement, varying from $500 to $2,000; however, this prerequisite could be waived for IRA-seeking investors.

Recent times have witnessed a surge in commission-free trading, propelled by an intriguing mechanism. Deep discount brokers embrace this model by vending order flow to high-frequency trading (HFT) entities and hedge funds. Notable names like Robin Hood, Fidelity, Etrade, and Schwab have joined the fray, offering commission-free trading for stocks, ETFs, and options. This dynamic shift encapsulates the evolving landscape of brokerage services.

Comparing Full-Service and Deep Discount Brokerage

In the world of financial brokerage, there are two main models: full-service and deep discount brokers. Full-service broker-dealers, licensed and comprehensive, offer various services encompassing research, advisory, retirement planning, and tax insights. Beyond mere trade execution, they delve into investment exploration and consultation.

Ideal patrons of full-service brokers possess substantial investment portfolios yet lack the inclination or time for active management. In exchange for these comprehensive offerings, clients face relatively elevated fees for stock transactions. A full-service broker could levy around $150 to $200 per trade, starkly contrasting the $5 to $10 charged by online discount brokers or even the nominal $1.00 to $0 fees of deep discount brokers. Furthermore, full-service counterparts on client accounts might impose annual service or maintenance charges, which are absent in discount brokerages.

Deep Discount Broker Trade Example

Charles is choosing between a full-service broker and a deep discount broker for opening a brokerage account. Scrutiny reveals the contrasting realms: the comprehensive full-service avenue, adorned with tax insights and consultations, and the streamlined path of the deep discount broker, characterized solely by trade execution prowess. A mere $1 per trade beckons at the deep discount arena, whereas its full-service counterpart unfurls a weighty $35 per trade tariff. With a singular preference for execution sans frills, Charles swiftly aligns his course with the deep discount broker, a pragmatic choice emblematic of his purpose.


The emergence of deep discount brokers has reshaped the brokerage landscape, offering lower commissions and streamlined services. This shift has been amplified by the digital era and evolving market dynamics, driving their popularity. Deep discount brokers, functioning as cost-efficient intermediaries in securities trading, provide a distinctive edge with reduced commission rates. The industry has witnessed a transformative trajectory, with conventional brokers aligning towards this model by lowering commissions and enhancing value-added features. 

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