The Top 50 Financial Websites
By Sarah Rose With reporting by Adrienne Carter; Borzou Daragahi; Jeanne Lee; Kevin Max; Brian P. Murphy

(MONEY Magazine) – It was a simple concept but a daunting task: scour the Internet to find the leading sites in every major personal-finance category. A team of six reporters spent two months doing exactly that.

We started with our own bookmarks but soon ventured to the farthest reaches of the Web, visiting nearly 1,000 sites in all. We surfed, clicked, compared and made purchases to determine the most useful investing, money-management and big-ticket commerce sites available. (Indeed, one reporter now has a new credit card, airline tickets, renters insurance and a checking account to show for her efforts.)

We limited ourselves, in fact, in only one regard: To earn a spot on our list, a site's best features had to be free of monthly or annual subscription fees.

In the end, we emerged with the 50 websites that no person who cares about money can afford to ignore. They are a diverse collection. Some, like Microsoft's MSN MoneyCentral, are backed by the richest corporations in the world. Others are the passion of one person, like the Superstar Investor directory that Terry Silver runs from his home in San Ramon, Calif. But they all have this in common: They are the very best financial sites the Internet has to offer.

There are more than a dozen megasites vying to be your one-stop financial portal, but Yahoo! Finance, Microsoft's MSN MoneyCentral and Intuit's run circles around the rest. All three deliver quotes, research, news and other investing essentials and can help you with additional personal-finance tasks like shopping for a mortgage or estimating taxes.

Of course, no single site can do it all, and each of the supersites has features that will appeal to some users more than others. We recommend you give all three a test drive; you'll likely find that one becomes your first stop whenever you hit the Web.



With its no-frills design and nonstop data, Yahoo! Finance is the pinnacle of utility and the best place to go when you need factual financial information fast. Want to check out a stock? Punch in its ticker at the top of the home page (or look it up by name). Volumes of additional info are just another link away. From the first screen you can also see how the Dow and other indexes are doing or head for breaking stories from Reuters and the Associated Press.

The site is organized into 11 broad categories such as research and world markets. And while Yahoo! hosts its own information centers and marketplaces for products like loans, insurance and real estate, it's also one of the best directories on the Net. If it can't give you what you need, it will point you to the sites that can.

No review of Yahoo! would be complete, however, without a mention of its message boards, the biggest, baddest investor discussions on the Web. It's worth knowing that the chatter here has the capacity to move some stocks. But hype, rumor and incivility run wild, making this one Yahoo! area not worth most serious investors' time.


MoneyCentral offers nine sections that place a greater emphasis on editorial content and step-by-step guides than Yahoo! does. MoneyCentral's real strength, however, lies in its wide range of interactive tools and investing research. You have to download a small program to your hard drive upon your first visit to take full advantage of the tools, but they are well worth this inconvenience. The Research Wizard (which walks you through the basics of fundamental analysis) makes the site accessible to newcomers, while its stock screener, charting capabilities and other free onscreen gadgets are among the most sophisticated available anywhere, at any price. (Unless, perhaps not surprisingly, you run a Macintosh; in that case, the coolest tools simply don't work).


While Yahoo! focuses on data and MoneyCentral is big on tools, excels at broad coverage and consistency. Here, you can get the scoop on all personal-finance topics without having to dig far. The site is logically laid out, with major categories tabbed at the top of every page, allowing easy access from virtually any other part of the site. And each area, be it retirement, banking or taxes, is complete in itself, with bulletin boards, reference materials, solid (if generic) advice and, in many cases, a marketplace where you can shop for items like insurance and mortgages.



If there's an investing destination worth your time, you'll probably find it at Superstar Investor (, which contains 7,500 links organized by topics ranging from annual reports to technical analysis, and provides thumbnail reviews of leading sites in key categories. Other directories may rival Superstar in size, but many are cluttered with paid links and none are so smartly organized.

If you prefer to spend less time vetting sites on your own, the critics at the Dow Jones Business Directory ( offer up only those they consider best of breed, and they add new reviews every week. Although the directory is designed primarily as a business resource, it has sections spanning most personal-finance topics.


CBS MarketWatch ( and CNNfn ( both offer timely, accurate, well-written updates on the day's top news and make it easy to find in-depth articles on specific industries or trends. CNNfn (which, like money, is owned by Time Warner) is particularly diligent about supplementing stories with links to company profiles or previous articles. MarketWatch isn't as well organized, making it harder to navigate than CNNfn, but it does offer a broader collection of stock market and financial data, and it features lively commentary written by a stable of regular columnists.


The hands-down favorite quote site of the money staff, Yahoo! Finance ( is the best place for quick access to stock price, P/E, volume and other fundamental information. Company profiles, news, charts, insider trades, analyst ratings and Securities and Exchange Commission filings are then just one more click away.

MSN MoneyCentral ( serves up much of the same data in a format that's slightly less easy to use. It does, however, offer a few notable research extras, such as its "advisor fyi alerts," which supplement your quote with significant company developments, such as analyst recommendation changes, quarterly earnings filings dates and unusual trading volumes.

Some of Thomson Investors Network ( is fee-based, but much of the best info is free, including commentary from insider trading expert Bob Gabele; a weekly earnings newsletter from First Call; and I-Watch, which tracks institutional trading activity. The site's TipSheets give quotes a new dimension: Enter a ticker and get a handy one-page overview of the company that includes charts, earnings estimates and tables comparing its key ratios to its competitors'.

Quarterly and annual earnings reports filed with the SEC often disclose crucial corporate info not available anywhere else. 10K Wizard ( is the best place to get them. Search here for filings by company name, ticker or any other keyword.


Virtually all financial sites feature portfolio trackers that let you follow a group of stocks. The best ones are easy to set up, include cost-basis comparisons (so you can see how much money you've made or lost), offer tools to help identify asset-allocation weaknesses and alert you to news that affects your holdings. ( has an outstanding tracker for active investors, with real-time quotes, alerts that notify you when a stock hits a price you specify and a customizable ticker tape that, like the cable network's, scrolls across the bottom of the screen. The site also has a bunch of flashy, graphical valuation tools that can help you decide whether to adjust any of your holdings.

The tracker at ( alerts you whenever an analyst upgrades or downgrades one of your stocks. More useful for mainstream investors is its portfolio analyzer, which can pinpoint diversification shortfalls, using easy-to-read pie charts.


Many destinations offer mutual fund advice, and most fund families have competent, informative sites, but ( is the must-have bookmark for every fund investor. Access Morningstar's massive database to compare funds' performances, holdings and returns. Cool extras include a portfolio X-ray, which lets you see the extent to which your funds hold the same stocks, and Q&As with fund managers and analysts.

FundAlarm ( is not just the place to go for a gossipy inside look at the fund industry, it's a great source of info on foundering funds. The site maintains a list of "3-Alarm" funds that have underperformed their benchmarks for the past 12 months, three years and five years.


The Investment Finder at MSN MoneyCentral ( is the most powerful free screening tool on the Web (for PC users, that is; the Mac version is feeble). Using its CustomSearch, you can choose among hundreds of criteria--from basics like market cap to arcana like short interest ratios--to find exactly the right stock for you.

Offering a more manageable set of 33 criteria, the Stock Search at ( is better suited for people who want to perform basic searches quickly.


The best online chart programs let you draw good-looking, easy-to-read charts easily and compare many stocks on one page over multiple time periods. MSN MoneyCentral ( serves up rich, informative charts that download in a jiffy and update on the fly. You can choose from 10 time periods or pick your own dates, and get high, low, close and volume stats for any date with a point of your cursor.

BigCharts ( is a close contender to MSN--and a top choice for Mac users, since MSN's best charting functions work only on PCs. You can choose among several styles (such as bar, candlestick or fever line) and plenty of backgrounds. One minor drawback: You must hit a button to reload the page every time you make a change in your chart.


Much has changed in the online brokerage industry since our in-depth review in June, but not enough to sway us from our top picks. Charles Schwab ( is still the standard by which others are judged, despite its relatively high $29.95 trade tariff. Good design, navigation and customer service, online and off, make it a top choice for most investors.

National Discount Brokers ( is our dark-horse darling, ranking near Schwab in overall excellence. Its low $14.75 commission, easy navigation and no minimum balance make it a good bet for beginners.

Datek Online's ( super-low $9.99 basic trades, one-minute execution guarantee and after-hours trading through its own ECN make it a winner for active traders.


Raging Bull ( fosters a relatively civilized stock-chat environment. The site is only loosely monitored, but the community polices itself fairly well. You can report bad posts with the click of a button, while the "ignore" button allows you to screen out posters you don't like.

Silicon Investor ( is the place to talk tech stocks. SI attracts a serious clientele, and many members post using their names rather than a handle. You have to pay $60 for the first six months to post messages, but you can read for free.

Regular participants at the Motley Fool ( generally espouse a long-term, large-cap investing philosophy. They encourage newcomers to join in discussions, creating a more welcoming atmosphere than at the other board sites.


If you're not as familiar with bonds as you are with stocks, Investing in Bonds (, brought to you by the Bond Market Association, is a great starting place. The site not only explains how bonds work, it gives advice on identifying investing objectives and finding the the right mix of stocks, bonds and cash.

Our top destination for buying and selling bonds: the Bond Center at E*Trade ( Offerings include munis, corporates, zero coupons and Treasuries, among others. (There's a $40 fee for trades of fewer than 20 Treasuries or 10 munis or corporates; as with all bonds, the commission is embedded in the selling price.) E*Trade's searchable database organizes bonds according to price, yield, credit rating and maturity. Bonds are not as liquid as stocks, but E*Trade's quick-pick feature calls up lists of all bonds that are available for immediate purchase.


IPO Central ( is a one-stop information clearinghouse on initial public offerings, with comprehensive data and hype-free news. Get the scoop here on postponed offerings, recent pricings and the first-day trading details of new issues. You can search for articles by a company's name or the date of its offering. The site's four-part beginner's guide also explains how an IPO actually works.

Missed out on a hot IPO and want to pick up shares after the trading begins? Check out IPO Edge (, part of the supersite, which tracks aftermarket performance for every company that's gone public over the past 18 months. It rates each new issue on 36 criteria, including the quality of a firm's underwriter and buying habits of executives.


Keep up with global investing trends by visiting ( The site's best feature is its ranking of ADRs (American Depositary Receipts, shares of foreign firms traded in the U.S.), which is searchable by industry or country.

If you're looking for the latest developments on the Nairobi Stock Market or other exotica, the Emerging Markets Companion ( is the place to go. The site covers global investing instruments like Brady Bonds and euros, along with news, research and a hodgepodge of links you probably couldn't find elsewhere.


With data on more than 1,000 dividend-reinvestment plans, Netstock Direct ( is the ultimate guide to buying stock directly from companies.

--Investing newsletters are rarely worth the cost, but Investools ( lets you sample many of the most popular ones. The site's goal is to sell subscriptions, but you can browse for free.

--Stock Detective ( scours the Web for info on stocks that investors would do well to avoid. Visit the site for an education on how not to get burned, or just for the spectacle of how shameless stock promoters can become.

--The monthlong stock market simulation games at ( are a great way to test your most daring strategies without risking real money.

--ClearStation ( is the place for learning the specifics of technical analysis, the discipline that aims to predict stock prices by reading chart patterns.

--More than 250 brokerages offer their research to individuals at Multex Investor ( for $10 to $150 a report. So why haven't we featured this site more prominently? Because the quality of institutional research varies widely and generally isn't as valuable as everyone pretends it is.



With the advantages you'd expect from a virtual bank (like great rates and low fees), plus the backing of $256 billion Bank One (and free access to its 4,000 ATMs), ( is the best banking embodiment yet of the "clicks and mortar" strategy. There's no minimum balance for free checking and bill paying, balances of $1,000 earn around 3% (going up to 4.5% for balances over $10,000), and Wingspan reimburses up to $5 a month for other banks' ATM fees.

If you want to see how your bank compares with others in your region or if you're hunting for the best deals on CDs, mortgages, personal loans or credit cards, head to (, which tracks the savings and lending rates of 4,000 institutions.


Several card issuers are moving their operations to the Net, but NextCard ( is a true Web native. Fill out the online application, and within 30 seconds the site will return up to three different offers with terms based on your credit history, along with the balances of every other card in your wallet. It's not just gee-whiz technology, either: The rates are as good as the application is easy.

If you want to search for a new card, shop for the lowest rates nationwide, or read about the latest trends, visit (, a site that caters to consumers and industry types.


MSN MoneyCentral ( has sections devoted to topics like audits and property tax, with up-to-date information and tips, plus links to relevant publications and forms from the Internal Revenue Service. Use the tools to estimate next year's taxes or to find out what deductions you might be missing.

To make sure the IRS doesn't eat up all of your market gains, go to Fairmark Press Tax Guide ( The site focuses specifically on investing taxes, offering advice to beginners struggling with their IRAs, active traders looking to minimize capital-gains taxes and anyone in between.


The most complete collection of calculators on the Web resides at FinanCenter ( than 100 in all. Use them to answer questions on everything from bonds (which are better for me: taxable or tax-exempt?) to cars (should I lease or buy?). It uses text and graphics to help you make sense of the results.


The Retirement and Workplace Services area at American Express (www.american offers a good general overview of various retirement planning issues along with clever interactive features. You can, for example, calculate the impact of any habit (be it smoking or eating out) will have on your retirement savings.

If you're only a few years away from retirement, head to the money section of ThirdAge (, a community site that's designed for "active older adults." Everything here is tailored for the over-50 set, from chats to news articles to links to other resources.


For life, home, car and even pet insurance, head to Insweb (, the most complete insurance marketplace on the Web. Request specific coverage and InsWeb attempts to offer guaranteed, instant, online quotes from multiple insurers. Its success rate varies, depending on where you live and what kind of insurance you're seeking. When quotes aren't available online, you can choose to receive no-obligation quotes from participating firms over the phone or in the mail. Even if you ultimately choose not to buy via InsWeb, it's an invaluable shopping tool.

Quicken Insurance ( is another good place to hunt for home, life or car policies. If you're new to a category of insurance, you'll appreciate a feature of the online applications here that lets you click a button to learn why you are being asked a particular question and how your answer might affect your quote.

Before you commit to any policy, poke around ( Not only does the site serve up lots of background info, its complaint finder reveals, by state, how many grievances have been filed against an insurer and how it stands relative to its peers.


No real estate site promises to let you do everything online, but many let you tour thousands of homes, hundreds of miles away, any time of day. (, the official site of the National Association of Realtors, is the biggest home-search site out there, with 1.3 million listings nationwide. The site walks you through every stage of buying or selling a home, including advice on moving. You can hunt for a house by clicking on a map or typing in an address or a zip code, or you can screen neighborhoods on such attributes as school quality, average home costs or crime statistics. If you don't find a listing you like, will e-mail you possible matches as they come on the market.

Sellers can save on broker fees with (, a for-sale-by-owner marketplace with about 20,000 listings. The cost of showcasing a house ranges from zero for a basic listing to $139 for a three-month premier package, which lets you post several pictures of your property online and gives your listing the best placement. Not bad, considering alliances with Yahoo! and E*Trade direct a lot of buyers to these virtual open houses. Buyers can take advantage of extras, like online maps and community information, and they can usually e-mail sellers directly with questions, or even offers.

The home-value tool at Yahoo! Real Estate ( can be especially useful--and entertaining. Type in an address and see the most recent selling price for that property. Not every house is listed, of course, but it's a great gadget if you're pricing real estate or if you're just wondering how much your new neighbor paid for the dump across the street.


Shopping for a mortgage online can save you money (many virtual brokers will waive the application fee), or it can simply help you to track down the best rates, take that information to your local banker and close the loan the old-fashioned way. Start at E-Loan (, which has more than 70 mortgage partners and is licensed to do business in 45 states as either a broker or lender. In addition to its extensive network, E-Loan offers an easy way to compare different products, apply for a loan and track its status. Although its network of lenders is smaller, iOwn ( also reels in competitive rates and lets you lock them in online.


If you're not wedded to finding a car with the exact specifications you desire, try ( A search often won't give you an exact match, but it usually finds a close fit. Select a car and compare the manufacturer's price with the Carsdirect price. Use the information to negotiate with your local dealer or go ahead and seal the deal online. You can pick the car up at an affiliated Carsdirect dealer or have it delivered, usually within a matter of weeks.

Autonation USA ( is also good for quick pricing. And because AutoNation owns a network of dealerships, the car you see online is actually sitting in a showroom near you. Or will be soon--the service was available in only 22 states as of late October, but further expansion is planned.

Even if you prefer to buy your car at your friendly neighborhood dealer, visit ( It's a fantastic source for invoice prices, reviews, consumer advice and road-test results, as well as used-car prices.


Who needs a travel agent when you have ( to find and book the best deals on flights, car rentals and hotels? It runs on Sabre, the same reservations network that travel agents search. The site not only finds great bargains, it's also extremely easy to use. If there are several airports in a particular city, for example, it can check them all, and its Fare Watcher e-mails you price changes on up to five flights.

Nonetheless, airline databases are so complex that no one travel site can guarantee you the lowest fare every time, which is why you should double-check your fares with ( a worthy runner-up to Travelocity.