Ready to start your investing journey? Check out our ultimate list of the best investing apps for beginners. Explore user-friendly platforms, commission-free trades, educational resources, and more to help you make confident investment decisions and grow your wealth.
In today’s technological age, we have an opportunity unique to our place in history: using investing apps to trade on the go.
The stock market has attracted a lot of attention again and more diverse demographics are looking to join. But it can be a daunting task for beginners, and at times even for those of us with a little more experience under our belts. Investing apps have bridged the gap in recent years, making a major breakthrough in simplifying the process and making it more accessible.
Whether you’re a first timer looking to get started, have plenty of experience, or simply want to diversify your investments, there’s an app for you.
Pros and Cons to Investing Apps
Before we get started with our ultimate list of best investing apps, it’s important to understand that these have their pros as well as their cons. While each app will have their own sets, there are also a few things worth mentioning about them as a whole.
Being able to trade from your smartphone has many appealing benefits. Whereas in the old days you’d need to phone a broker to trade, you can now do so anywhere and at any time. All you need is a secure connection to engage with your portfolio. But beyond that, it’s also much easier to stay updated with the real-time investment data when all it takes is a few taps to do so.
Furthermore, many brokers offer added benefits by way of promotions aimed toward new investment app users. We will take a look at these in the summaries below.
That being said, having so much information available at your fingertips also has a potential downside. As is the case with all trading, you’ll need to ensure that you’re not only making informed decisions, but carefully considered decisions. It can be tempting to make spur of the moment choices no matter your level of experience. Sometimes these work out well, but you can just as easily end up regretting them.
It’s also worthwhile to note that using an investing app doesn’t mean you’ll never need to trade from your laptop again. Apps are typically condensed versions of a broker’s web-based trading platform, which means some of their features won’t be available.
Best Investing Apps for Beginners
If you’re just getting started with investing, you want an app that will help you learn without costing a lot. Micro-investing apps are especially attractive to students and low-income investors, as they take a “set it and forget it” approach to helping you save money.
1. Free Trade with Robinhood
Robinhood offers a truly unique approach to investing. The app is 100% free, with no hidden costs and no trading fees or commissions.
All you need to do is download and install the app, link your bank, fund your account and start trading. There’s no minimum account requirement either. If limiting expenses is your primary concern – especially as a beginner – then Robinhood is a top recommendation. And with a streamlined interface, the app is a pleasure to use.
As with all brokers, in order to open a margin account with Robinhood you’ll need to build up a minimum of $2,000 for your portfolio balance. This may seem like an odd requirement to new investors. However, it’s a trade standard set by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. There’s good reason for it too, as margin trading carries a lot of risk. You’re essentially borrowing money from the broker in order to trade. It’s usually best to leave margin trading alone until you have more experience as an investor, not to mention enough capital to recover any losses.
The only downside to using Robinhood is that in exchange for free trade, you have to limit yourself mostly to stocks and ETFs (exchange-traded funds). Options and cryptocurrency trading are also available though, as well as American Depository Receipts. You’ll also have less trading, education, and research tools available.
This makes it difficult to diversify and grow as an investor. However, when you’re just starting out, it’s a great starting platform – and you can always expand your horizons by adding or moving to another app when you’re ready.
While there are no running costs of the usual kind, as well as no ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfer fees, there is an industry-standard $75 ACAT (Automated Customer Account Transfer) fee if you want to move your funds to another platform or to your bank.
Another option – if you’re not looking to diversify beyond the tradable security options available – is to simply upgrade to Robinhood Gold. This is where margin trading becomes an option.
2. Automated Micro-investing with Acorn
Acorn has become a top-name broker in the micro-investing realm since the company was founded in 2012.
You have two options for investing with Acorn: depositing money or automating trades. Especially as a first-timer, using the “round up” feature is a great way to get started.
How it works is by modernizing the old-school practice of a change jar. After you’ve linked your credit or debit card, every purchase you make is automatically rounded up to the next dollar. The extra change gets added to your Acorn portfolio, with up to seven professionally managed ETF asset classes to choose from.
There’s no sign-up fee, though you’ll need $5 minimum in your account to start trading. If you’re a student with a valid .edu email, you can use the investing app free of charge for up to four years. Management fees for other users range from $1 – $3 per month depending on your account type, with a cap at $5,000. Once your account exceeds that amount, you’ll start paying a very competitive commission fee of just 0.25% monthly.
Despite being limited to ETFs, Acorn remains an attractive investing app for beginners.
3. Learn Trading with Stash
Stash puts a lot of focus on helping beginners learn about trading. There are many terms and acronyms flying around on the stock market, which can quickly become overwhelming. While Stash doesn’t offer the vast array of information and research that more advanced brokers do, they make the learning process easy and approachable. To help streamline this process, they target their educational content based on your investment preferences.
The platform has a very similar pricing plan to Acorn’s: $1/month for ETF accounts, $2 for IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) up to $5,000, with a 0.25% commission for accounts with more funds. If you’re under the age of 25, Stash will waiver the fees on your IRA.
If you’re looking to become a thematic or impact investor, Stash is a great way to get started. You can choose to customize your portfolio or opt for a value-driven portfolio with a focus theme, and set-up an “Auto-Stash” plan on recurring investments.
Stash is a good platform for starting out on, but once you’ve gained some trading experience you’ll want to move on.
Best Investing Apps for Advanced Traders
If you already have some experience on the stock market, then the above options aren’t going to be too attractive to you. That’s why we’ve also gathered the best investing apps for advanced traders.
Whether you want to stick with stock trading or are seeking to diversify your investments portfolio, the following apps are sure to be a perfect fit.
4. Level-Up Your Portfolio with TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is an ideal platform for making the transition from beginner to advanced. The app is suitable for absolute beginners too, as it boasts better-than-average research and trading tools. In fact, the educational resources available with TD Ameritrade are incredibly in-depth.
But more experienced traders will really benefit from the investing app’s capabilities. With no account minimum and a full-range of investment selection categories, there’s something for everyone. TD Ameritrade also has plans for adding cryptocurrency spot and futures contracts in 2019, working with regulated cryptocurrency exchange company ErisX.
The platform also rises to the occasion by equaling and even exceeding what other big-name brokers offer. There are more than 300 ETFs to choose from, commission-free, as well as over 4,000 mutual funds with no transaction fees. TD Ameritrade also has no account minimum either, unlike most of its big-name competitors.
If you’re using the app in conjunction with their web application,you’ll also be able to make the most out of diversifying your portfolio with TD Ameritrade’s Portfolio Planner Tool.
Unfortunately, there is a downside. TD Ameritrade’s trading commission is a relatively high $6.95 per trade, plus an extra $0.75 per contract with options trading. There’s also a $13.90 short-term trading fee for holding any of the commission-free ETFs for less than the 30-day minimum, and their redemption fee for mutual funds traded in less than 90 days is $49.99. Their high service standards and availability – the broker has more than 350 branches – make up for it though, especially if you invest well.
5. Invest on the Go with E-Trade
- Trade is another popular big-name broker, and has been for a long time.
Similar to TD Ameritrade, E-Trade is an investing app suitable for investors on both ends of the experience spectrum. Its highly user-friendly tools assist in the learning process for beginners and ensure that more advanced investors can enjoy a streamlined experience.
The E-Trade mobile app has most of the same features as their web trading platform. One of the most useful of these is the ability to receive live updates, quotes, and news from popular stock exchange channels such as Bloomberg TV. Putting E-Trade ahead of nearly all their competitors, the app also includes ETF and stock screeners and multi-leg options trading.
Possibly the only area in which E-Trade falls behind TD Ameritrade is in offering fewer tradable securities. This can be a slight deterrent if you’re looking to really diversify your portfolio, but there are still more than enough options to choose from regardless: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options, and futures. With over 250 commission-free ETFs and nearly 4,500 mutual funds free of transaction frees, the experienced investor is sure to be more than happy with the potentials.
The remaining downsides are all very similar. E-Trade charges a $6.75 stock trading cost and the same plus $0.75 per options trade contract. However, they rise above again by offering a volume discount to frequent investors, which means the more you trade the more you save. While there’s no annual fee or inactivity charges, you do have to have $500 minimum in your E-Trade account. IRAs are the exception there, with no minimum account balance required.
Partial transfers out of your account carry a surcharge of $25, while a full transfer will set you back $75.
6. Bonus App: OptionsHouse
OptionsHouse used to be a well-established brokerage platform and was acquired by E-Trade several years ago. E-Trade rebranded the web platform as OptionsHouse by E-Trade and have also launched a mobile investing app for it.
For very active investors, OptionsHouse is a worthy supplement – or replacement – for the original E-Trade app. It has most of the same features as the web platform, which makes it ideal for options traders with a good level of experience. There’s an impressive selection of technical studies and charts, as well as a customizable options chain view. You can also stream live quotes and news, as is the case with E-Trade’s main investing app. Complex trading strategies such as four-legged options spreads can also be executed via the app.
Experienced futures traders will also enjoy OptionsHouse, as it allows you to access the futures ladder and enter orders directly.
The payment scheme is naturally identical, meaning you’ll need a minimum of $500 in your account. Options trade contracts cost $6.95 each, plus the additional $0.75, but once again there are volume discounts on offer for regular investors.