Discount Broker: Definition, What They Do

Zarith Sofea · 21 Feb 4.7K Views

What Is a Discount Broker?

A discount broker is a professional who executes buy and sell orders at reduced commission rates when compared to a full-service broker. Unlike their full-service counterparts, discount brokers do not provide investment advice or conduct analyses on behalf of clients.

In the past, access to the stock market and the services of a broker were primarily available to individuals with significantly high annual incomes. The advent of advanced communication technology has transformed this landscape. The internet has facilitated the rise of numerous discount online brokers, enabling individuals with more modest capital to engage in trading at lower fees.

In the realm of the stock market, the majority of discount brokers operate through online platforms. Consequently, the term "discount broker" has become almost synonymous with online brokerages.

Recognizing Discount Brokers

Discount brokers execute orders at a lower cost, primarily focusing on order execution without offering additional services such as personal consultations, advice, research, tax planning, or estate planning. The absence of these services and the lack of efforts to attract high-net-worth individuals allow discount brokers to provide services at reduced fees. Many discount brokers operate online, leveraging low overhead costs. Starting in 2019, some even eliminated commissions for specific types of securities.

In the securities industry, discount brokerages provide clients with individual accounts for order placement. Interaction with live brokers is minimal, usually limited to trade executions. These services cater to self-directed traders and investors, offering electronic trading platforms designed to benefit active traders through features like charting and position monitoring.

Choosing Between Full-Service and Discount Brokers

The choice between a discount broker and a full-service broker depends on various factors, including the investor's knowledge, market experience, financial goals, and current financial situation. Given that commissions can significantly impact investment returns, some individuals prefer the offerings of discount brokers.

Investors seeking professional advice or requiring comprehensive support for financial planning beyond investing may find full-service brokers more suitable.

Discount brokers prove valuable for investors and traders engaged in frequent buying and selling of securities. Those who actively trade benefit from the lower commissions charged by discount brokers. Investors with smaller portfolios or those who prefer streamlined trade execution without the need for advice also typically find discount brokers to be a more suitable option.

Discount Brokers in Other Industries

Discount brokers are prevalent not only in the financial services sector but also extend their presence to real estate. In real estate, these brokers assist individuals in the buying and selling of properties. They possess access to the same property listings as full-service real estate agents, allowing clients to directly access these listings for a fee. However, it's important to note that discount brokers do not guide clients through the purchasing process in the same way a traditional realtor would.

Additionally, discount brokers may offer insurance products, although they do not provide professional financial advice. In essence, if you have a clear understanding of your needs and preferences, opting for a discount broker who executes your instructions may often be a more cost-effective choice compared to a broker who provides advice-oriented services.

Pros of Discount Brokers

The key benefit of engaging with discount brokers lies in their offering of reduced commission fees, resulting in lower costs for clients.

Independent investors who prefer self-direction, particularly those already collaborating with a financial advisor, find significant advantages in choosing discount brokers. For confident investors, discount brokers provide a cost-efficient means to execute trades without incurring the additional expenses associated with full-service brokers.

Cons of a Discount Broker

The main disadvantage of utilizing a discount broker is that it predominantly involves a do-it-yourself approach. For clients lacking experience and seeking financial advice, discount brokers may not be the most suitable option.

Moreover, not all discount brokers are identical. There are notable differences in terms of fees and services among them. Discount brokers provide diverse products, account types, and services. Prospective clients should thoroughly investigate discount brokers to ensure compatibility before making a commitment.


A discount broker is a brokerage that carries out buy and sell orders, often catering to individuals with lower income or smaller investments. These brokers operate with reduced commission fees.

The main benefit of choosing a discount broker lies in their lower commission fees compared to full-service brokers, who provide an array of services but typically charge higher commissions.

However, a significant drawback of opting for discount brokers is that the responsibility of the investment process largely falls on the client. If the client lacks experience in investing, using a discount broker may not be advisable.

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