Best Stock Trading Platforms for Beginners

Anyone who has a desire to be comfortable in retirement needs to learn how to invest their savings. There is no value to be had from putting money in a savings account or Certificate of Deposit (CD).

The best way to accumulate wealth for the future has been and remains to be investing in the stock market.

When it comes time for a beginning stock trader to start getting involved in the stock trading process, there are two ways they can go. First, they can always choose to enlist the services of a retail stockbroker. By doing so, they would have access to professional brokers who can provide them with information and help facilitate the trading process. The problem with this approach is it can cost a lot of money in the form of broker commissions.

For someone who is willing to learn and wants to save money, self-administered online stock investment platforms make a lot of sense. With this option, it might take a beginning stock trader time to learn about the stock market and trading stocks, but it is a fun and rewarding time.

In the sections below, we have identified the 10 best stock trading platforms and associated trading apps. Each selection comes with a review that identifies the top characteristics of each platform and how they can benefit a novice stock trader.

1. TD Ameritrade

It would be an injustice to not start this list off with some of the biggest names in the stock trading industry. One of the reasons platforms like TD Ameritrade rank so highly is because they focus on providing an excellent platform for beginners while also providing sophistication for the more astute investors.

td ameritrade trading platform

TD Ameritrade has been around since the beginning of online trading. Over the decades, the company has continuously worked hard to make sure the company’s platform is high on functionality but easy to use.

Stock & ETF Trading Signals

thinkorswim mobileAmeritrade desktop version, “thinkorswim”, offers an abundance of trading tools. Customers can easily access trading markets all over the world with the simple click of a mouse.

The one thing that might set this platform above the others the websites is a focus on educational tools. That’s the thing novice investors need the most, education. The list of educational tools includes video tutorials, hundreds of webinars and educational sessions, and access to TD Ameritrade’s “thinkmoney” magazine.

Pricing: TD Ameritrade offers free trading across most markets. There is a mutual fund trade fee of $44.99, and broker-assisted trades are available for the same price.

Tools: Trading tools, charting, earning analysis, portfolio analysis

App: Thinkorswim Mobile Trading is an excellent platform for beginners. It includes almost all of the same functionality that’s available with the web-based platform.

2. E*TRADE

E*TRADE earned its high rating on this list based on its “Power E*TRADE” web-based platform, which is likely the best in the industry. It’s promising to see that management at E*TRADE continues to focus on offering is customers access to a wide range of online trading services. They do this through a platform that is highly functional and very easy to navigate.

E*TRADE scores are very high for its mobile app and options trading module. While options trading is something novice investors should avoid until they gain more experience, the E*TRADE options trading platform is so powerful that it makes options trading seem easy.

Pricing: E*TRADE offers free trading across most markets. There is a mutual fund trade fee of $19.99, and broker-assisted trades are available for $25.00 per trade.

Tools: Trading tools, charting, earning analysis, options trading, futures trading

App: One of the top trading apps in the industry with most of the same functionality as the web-based platform.

3. Charles Schwab

The original discount broker Charles Schwab continues to impress with its online trading platform. As a full-service brokerage firm, Schwab can offer its customer a wide range of online investment options. That’s something that should appeal to beginning stock traders who have an appetite for learning about other types of securities.

Schwab offers customers two different platforms: StreetSmart Edge and StreetSmart Edge. Much like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab offers access to a lot of excellent educational and training tools. They also fill a big gap for investors who are looking to open IRA type investment accounts.

Pricing: Charles Schwab offers free trading across most markets. There is a mutual fund trade fee of $49.99 (quite high), and broker-assisted trades are available for $25.00 per trade.

Tools: charting, earning analysis, options trading, futures trading

Stock & ETF Trading Signals

App: App needs improvement related to alerts and quotes. The app market research tools are excellent.

4. SoFi

As far as the stock trading platform is concerned, SoFi offers a highly functional, easy to navigate web-based product. It’s the mixed details that keep SoFi from making it into the top 3 inline brokerage options.

sofi investing

On the plus side, SoFi offers its Robo-advisor service free of charge. This is a unique service that beginning investors might enjoy if they have limited time to do research. The software platform also offers the ability to purchase “odd lots” (standard stock lot is 100 shares), which is highly unique in the online trading space. Where SoFi falls shorts is they don’t offer access to common investment options like bonds, options, and mutual funds. However, SoFi does offer crypto trading.

Pricing: SoFi offers free trading across all available markets. The charge for crypto transactions is 1.25% of the trade value.

Tools: limited research tools, including historical stock performance data.

App: App offers limited access to core account functions such as tracking, quotes, and trading.

5. Stash Invest

As a stock investing platform, Stash Invest offers a nice range of features and trading options. It a solid platform that is very easy to navigate and use. Where Stash earns high marks is with its absolute focus on new investors.

stash prices stock trading platform

The relationship with new investors begins with an initial online interview that helps to establish the new investor’s investment goals and risk tolerance. From there, Stash’s “coach feature” helps the investor develop an investment portfolio that targets said investment goals while taking risk tolerance into account. Stash does offer fractional share purchases, which always works well for beginning investors who don’t have a lot of money to invest but want some diversity.

Pricing: Stash offers free trading across all available markets. However, there is a three-tiered subscription fee of $1, $3, or $9 a month, depending on the level of service a customer desires.

Tools: limited research tools, including historical stock performance data.

App: App offers limited access to core account functions such as tracking, quotes, and trading.

6. Merrill Edge

The power of Merrill Edge lies in its affiliation with Bank of America as a subsidiary. With Merril customer service reps located in many B of A branches, Merrill ranks very high in terms of customer service.

merrill edge investing stock platform

In terms of the Merrill Edge trading platform, there is plenty here to like for beginners. Traders get access to a wide range of trading options, research and educational tools, and Bank of America banking services that are fully integrated with the trading platform.

Pricing: Unfortunately, Merrill’s platform comes with a wide range of fees. Basic stock and EFT transactions are free, but options carry a small cost while mutual fund trades cost $19.95 per trade. Live broker fees are $29.95 per trade.

Tools: The Merrill Edge platform features charting, stock tracking capabilities, portfolio analysis, third party research, and educational tools.

App: The app offers many of the same features as the web-based platform. The quoting system could use improvement.

7. M1 Finance

M1 Finance is a leader in the Robo Investor space. However, traders do get access to research and making trades on their own. What new investors will appreciate is the opportunity to select a portfolio template to follow from a group of over 80 different portfolios that were designed by financial investment professionals.

Pricing: Basic M1 accounts are free for both Robo and customer transactions. A higher level trading account is available for $100 the first year and $125 every year thereafter.

Tools: The M1 Finance platform features charting, portfolio management and analysis, and educational tools.

App: The app is highly functional and offers all of the same access an investor would get through the web-based program.

8. Robinhood

robinhood stock tradingRobinhood has no designs on trying to compete with the big boys. Of the top online stock trading platforms, this is the one that keeps things very simple for customers. What Robinhood does so well is to provide a great training ground for beginning investors.

This is a bare-bones platform that avoids all the trading bells and whistles in favor of functionality and easy navigation.

Pricing: Robinhood offers free trading across all available markets. However, there is a $5 per month maintenance fee, which makes this an expensive option for inactive investors. No options or mutual fund trading is available.

Tools: limited research tools, but does offer charts and analyst ratings.

App: Clean and easy to use app offers limited access to core account functions such as tracking, quotes, and trading.

9. Fidelity

Fidelity Investments is another online broker that offers access to a wide range of trading services. The web-based platform is very rich in research and educational tools, which is exactly what beginning stock traders should be looking for in a reliable online trading platform.

fidelitiy investments trading platform

The company’s “Active Trader Pro” platform is ideally suited for investors who plan on being active traders. The one place where Fidelity falls a little short is with its options trading module.

Pricing: Fidelity offers free trading across most markets. There is a mutual fund trade fee of $49.95 (quite high), and broker-assisted trades are available for $32.95 per trade.

Tools: charting, Website watch lists, options trading, Active Trader Pro

App: Excellent mobile app that features a fully customizable dashboard.

10. Vanguard

Vanguard built is reputation in the stock investment space as a top-level manager of mutual funds. What people don’t always remember is Vanguard runs a successful brokerage firm.

The Vanguard online trading platform is very basic by way of comparison to other top online brokerage firms. However, this bare-bones approach works very well for beginning investors who are looking to buy and hold stocks for the long term. The good news is investors do get access to a wide range of trading options, including mutual funds, options, EFTs, penny stocks, and international stock exchanges.

Pricing: Vanguard offers free trading across most markets. There is a $20 annual account service fee for small accounts and a $20 to $50 charge for live broker transactions. Mutual fund trades can go as high as $50 per trade.

Tools: charting, Calculators/Trading Idea Generator, portfolio analysis, and educational products.

App: Very basic app that supports stock trades without access to bell and whistles.

 

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