TradeStation — which also just eliminated commissions — is planning to launch crypto trading later this month, said John Bartleman, the company's president. Unlike its free stock trading platform, TradeStation will charge small commissions to trade bitcoin, ethereum, ripple/XRP and several other cryptocurrencies.
"We're going after serious traders with a competitive offering," Bartleman said, adding that the company may eventually launch a crypto trading product for retail investors without commissions.
Webull, another commission-free online trading platform, makes money from lending products, such as margin loans to customers who want to borrow money to buy more stocks, according to CEO Anthony Denier. Webull also issues stock loans to short sellers who sell borrowed shares with the hopes of buying the stock back at a lower price. Webull also generates fees from routing orders to the exchanges.
"Now that the playing field is level, we have to go back to what broker-dealers are supposed to do: offer a better platform and customer experience. Consumers have so much more power these days," Denier said.
Brokers to act more like banks?
Industry participants said all brokers are going to have to start offering more services if they want to stay competitive.
"For every broker out there, trying to sell services with explicit fees is going to be almost impossible. The next frontier will be centered around providing more financial well-being solutions — expanding beyond just brokerage products," said Bill Capuzzi, CEO of Apex Clearing, a custodian firm that holds securities for brokerage firms.
Capuzzi said brokerages may look to take on more deposits and offer debt consolidation loans, for example.
"The brokerages need to connect the dots between banking, investing and lending," he said.
Capuzzi added that an unintended consequence of a growing number of brokerages offering zero commission trading accounts is that they may tack on larger minimum account balance and cash requirements and reduce the number of ETF and mutual fund options to make up for the hit to fee revenue.
The one major online broker that has yet to cut commissions to zero is mutual fund giant Fidelity. The company touts how it offers a higher rate of return to customers by automatically putting their excess cash into higher-yielding money market accounts — a service known as a cash sweep.
"It's interesting that Schwab, TD Ameritrade and E-Trade have deliberately chosen not to help the greatest number of their investors by automatically providing the highest interest rate on their cash sweep like Fidelity does," the company said in a statement to CNN Business.
So even though the race to zero is now pretty much over, the online brokerage marketing wars may have only just begun.