Ready to get started investing but not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a list of the best online stock brokers for beginners that we recommend for 2021.
Whether it is customer service, affordability, or platform versatility, each of these online brokers shines in its own way.
Be sure to compare the most important differentiators, such as trading costs and account minimums before you make your choice. As a beginner, you may also place more value on educational resources and customer support while you’re still learning the ropes.
7 Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners
Robinhood is aptly named, offering commission-free stock and ETF (exchange-traded funds) trades. Not just some of the time — all of the time.
On top of this, they don’t have an account minimum. If you want to get started trading, there’s no reason to wait. Robinhood also offers fractional shares.
Robinhood has a great mobile app team. It’s so good there’s no reason for you to ever hop on a PC. It takes new investors five minutes to set up and only an hour for them to activate your brokerage account. Seem long? By industry standards, it is pretty darn fast. (Keep in mind this is a brokerage account, not a Twitter account you’re setting up.)
When you transfer $1,000 to Robinhood, it is available immediately for you to invest. If you upgrade to Robinhood Instant (a free upgrade), any proceeds you make from selling stocks or ETFs can be immediately used to buy stocks or ETFs elsewhere.
Don’t like the hassle of transferring money back to your bank account or vice versa? You can set up your account so that money is transferred to and from automatically whenever you want.
Once a week, once every two weeks, and so on. For as much as Robinhood offers, this one is just the icing on the cake for many users.
Due to popular demand, some of its features do having a waiting list, such as Robinhood Instant. Sign up on day one so you can take advantage of this upgrade as soon as possible.
If you’re a seasoned investor, you may never have heard of Ally Invest, but its newness to the scene shouldn’t make you discredit it.
In 2016, Ally invest bought out TradeKing and has only recently emerged into the online brokerage game. That said, it’s quickly become very clear that everything that was great about TradeKing has only gotten better.
Ally offers automated portfolio management and forex trading. There is no account minimum, commissions on trades are $4.95.
Are you a frequent investor?
Ally Invest offers discounts to members who trade 30 or more times per quarter. At that point, the fee drops down to $3.95.
Whether you use a PC or a smartphone, Ally has a great online stock trading platform for its users. Trade fast, get current, 24-hour quotes and data, make your own unique dashboard, and get a diverse set of trading tools at your disposal.
Here are some of our favorite helpful features:
- Profit-and-loss calculator
- Maxit Tax Manager, which informs you of any changes to your taxes based off of trades
- Probability calculator to tell you of the likelihood of your desired targets for each share
Worried about trading from work? Don’t be. Ally Invest’s web platform doesn’t require you to download anything. Simply log in and you are ready to trade. Considering everything they offer online, this is quite an achievement in and of itself.
TD Ameritrade is considered by many investors to be one of the best resources for both beginning and advanced investors.
It offers portfolio-building advice, has over a hundred commission-free exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and provides great trading platforms (mobile and PC) — all while not requiring an account minimum for its customers.
TD Ameritrade also has a program online for beginners called Web Platform which is extremely useful. Here newcomers can select their trading ‘skill level’ and their level of education, and TD Ameritrade will help the investor build a properly balanced portfolio, including:
- Mutual Funds
If you like to do your own research before doing any kind of investing, TD Ameritrade also provides its investors with a lot of free resources. Customers can stream CNBC news for free, access market ‘heat’ maps and real-time trading quotes.
They can also communicate with a community of specialists that are available to chat in person or over the phone about investment options and ideas. Ameritrade is one of the few companies these days that offer this kind of service.
Part of its success comes from its ability to delegate. Every quarter TD Ameritrade relies on Morningstar, an independent investment research firm, to compile a list of mutual funds that offer no-transaction-fees.
This rather large list hits 45 investment categories and is given out exclusively to Ameritrade customers.
Merill Edge is a great option for beginning investors. You can open an account with $0 minimum investment. They also offer excellent customer service, strong education and research, and low fees.
You can get unlimited free online stock, ETF, and options trades with their Preferred Rewards program, or pay just $2.95 per trade with no trade or balance minimums.
Merrill Edge offers flexible tools with customizable features and the best part is they are there to guide you step-by-step. They have dedicated advisors who will work with you one-on-one to help you build a comprehensive financial strategy.
Their advisors can give you recommendations based on your needs to help you grow and preserve your wealth. If you prefer to meet with them in person, Merrill Edge has over 2,000 Bank of America locations where an advisor will be more than happy to work with you.
Perhaps one of the best online stock brokers for low-cost investing, Vanguard is frequently utilized by buy-and-hold and retirement investors with high account balances.
Its expense ratios on index funds and ETFs are quite below the national average, so it is the go-to broker for long-term investors.
Retirement-minded investors can find a lot of resources with Vanguard through its website. They list safe and healthy investment options that promise long-term growth, and it gives helpful hints on where you should prioritize your time and energy if you’re just getting started.
They also have a sophisticated program that can estimate when you’ll be able to retire and can help calculate your monthly expenses (sudden or otherwise) once you do.
If you have some money to invest, you can save by choosing Vanguard. For brokerage accounts with at least $50,000, trades only cost $7 regardless of how big they are. When the brokerage account hits $500,000, trades only cost $2. When it surpasses a million dollars, many trades become free.
Want to make active trades? Keep looking.
If you’re an active trader and don’t have nearly that amount of money laying around, however, Vanguard isn’t the best stock broker. It doesn’t have any software to support its traders (meaning there aren’t any trading tools or platforms to utilize).
Also, investors who frequently trade (say, more than 25 times a year) are penalized with fees (assuming, of course, they don’t have $1 million invested with Vanguard).
There are only a few online brokers out there where we can honestly say are well suited for both beginning and advanced investors, but Charles Schwab is one of them. It has the tools to satisfy anyone, no matter their level of expertise.
Are ETFs your thing? Charles Schwab offers over 200 commission-free ETFs. Are you an absolute beginner? Schwab objectively selects what it believes to be the best ETF in every category, so you don’t have to go down rabbit holes of information and research.
On top of this, if you are just starting to build your portfolio, Schwab also offers recommendations based on your chosen risk tolerance. Take the safe road and know that your money is in good hands.
If you need to speak with a representative, you may do so no matter the time of day, whether via phone or online chat. That said, Schwab is a full-service broker that has a pretty large brick and mortar presence, where you can make an appointment to speak with a representative or attend invaluable workshops.
A downside to Schwab is that they do have an account minimum. While several online brokers we’ve discussed require no account minimums, Schwab does require that its investors maintain at least $1,000 with them. If you don’t have that, you can have the minimum waived when you sign up for an automatic monthly deposit of $100.
With low $4.95 commissions per trade, Fidelity is one of the most affordable online stock brokers, considering what it offers to its customers.
Utilizing top-notch research from over 20 companies, Fidelity provides its investors with some of the best investment advice that money can buy. It could be a lot of information to wade through, but after a few quick questions, Fidelity can match you up with providers that resonate with your personal investment style.
Though it’s not considered the best customer support in the industry, Fidelity still offers some pretty sharp service for its customers. Investors can meet with representatives in physical branch locations, as well as attend investor seminars throughout the year for free.
The seminars cover a wide array of topics, such as social security and technical analysis. Plus, if in person doesn’t appeal to you, you can still study and expand your knowledge via webinars.
Looking for a solid online broker? Fidelity is truly among the best.
It offers both online and mobile support, and if you are an active trader, you can even get real-time feeds displayed on your desktop. Each trading platform is intuitive and easy to use and provides tools to help you get a leg up on your competition.
For those interested, Fidelity also offers a premium tool called Wealth Lab Pro, which offers customizable strategies and 20 years of historical data.