So you want to trade stocks and start investing some savings, but you either don’t know where to begin or you just know you don’t want Robinhood. Thankfully, there are many great stock investment apps to choose from and they all have a fairly low barrier to entry.
The trickiest part is figuring out what kind of investing you want to start doing and what matters to you in terms of features and costs. While most of the best investment apps have all of the same basics, they differ in subtle ways. Some charge commissions on trades, some offer managed portfolios, some offer other kinds of investments beyond stocks (like IRAs), some have account minimums, etc . . .
So before we walk through some of the best investment apps, here are some definitions and considerations to think about before choosing:
- Commissions: For most of investment history, investors had to go through brokers who charged fees for executing trades. Some apps now offer free trading while some have retained commissions for trades. Some offer free trades for some assets, like stocks and ETFs, but charge for more advanced trades like options and futures.
- Financial products and services: While all the best investment apps offer some kind of stock trading, some offer many more kinds of securities and financial services, such as options, futures, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, personal loans, retirement investing and more.
- Fractional shares: Stock investment apps have increasingly permitted the purchasing of fractional shares, which are exactly what they sound like: a fraction of a share at a proportional price as opposed to buying the full share at a full price. They are typically purchased in a dollar amount, which then tells you what fraction of a given share you’ll get. But even here, there are differences. Some apps allow fractional shares for all stocks, while others limit the pool of stocks.
- Account minimums: Some apps require a minimum deposit to open and operate an account.
- Cryptocurrency: Some stock investment apps let you trade cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum.
- App quality: Not all apps are created equal. We think most stock investment apps, designed to be mobile-first, are pretty usable and intuitive, but you’ll definitely want to flip through screenshots and read reviews if you’re really concerned about complexity and ease of use.
- User support: Most stock investment apps offer some historical data and insights to help users make informed trades, but some offer more information than others. Some apps also have actual humans available for financial counseling and algorithmically managed portfolios, while others do not.
Those are just some of the basics but should be enough to get you thinking about what you really want from a stock investment app. Now, check out our round-up of some of the best investment apps out there. Because every investor will have different priorities and the best investment apps are overall similar despite their small differences, we haven’t ranked the apps, but have tried to be clear about the pros and cons for each app.
Social Finance, or SoFi, originated as a loan provider and turned into more of an all-around investment brokerage in 2019. It offers a pretty solid investment app and is ready to meet most investment needs and goals, even if it’s not perfect.
- Commission-free trades on stocks and ETFs.
- No account minimums to open an account.
- Can get personal, small business, student and home loans as well as loan refinancing.
- Offers cryptocurrency trading, fractional shares and retirement investment accounts (IRAs).
- Offers free guidance from the company’s certified financial planners and automated investing.
- 2019 is crazy young for a brokerage, and SoFi has experienced technical problems due to its rookie status. After an exodus of users from Robinhood to other stock investment apps, including SoFi, the company struggled to pick up the slack, experiencing issues with some bread-and-butter features for its new users, according to reviews on Google Play.
- With all the financial products available, the app can be a little unwieldy, though it’s functional overall.
- Charges commission on cryptocurrency trades.
- No ability to trade important or more advanced securities like bonds, mutual funds, options and futures.
Acorns was made to make long-term investing, either for traditional investments or for retirement, easy. It’s one of the best investment apps for those looking to set it and forget it and “grow your oak,” as the app always says.
- The set-it-and-forget-it approach to investing couldn’t be easier. You connect a bank account to deposit some money, choose what kind of account you want, either traditional or retirement, choose how aggressive you want the investment portfolio to be (there are five options) . . . and that’s it, you’re an investor.
- Great little features that encourage you to save and invest more without even having to think about it. For example, the roundups feature automatically (or manually if you prefer) tallies the remainder of recent purchases from your bank or credit card and transfers the money to your account once it hits a value you set. For example, I set my roundup total at $5 and in the two-ish years I’ve had my account, I’ve moved $250 to my investment account in basically spare change that I didn’t even notice I was missing.
- Found Money gives you cash for your accounts when you spend money with a linked payment at an Acorns partner company. Investing with your money is great, but it’s better with free money.
- The app is easy to use and informative, which is a godsend for investment newbies.
- Acorn added a monthly management fee in the last year, either $1, $3 or $5. That doesn’t seem like much, considering most brokerages charge a percentage, but if you’re playing with small potatoes, it could really hold back your investments at the extremely key early stage.
- It’s really only designed for long-term investment; there’s no trading at all, it’s just the investment accounts.
3. Ally Invest
Ally is a true bank and brokerage in one investment app. If there was an investment app designed for the average U.S. adult’s needs, it would be Ally.
- As a bank, Ally offers checking and saving accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and home and personal loans.
- Stocks and ETFs trade for free and you can invest in thousands of fee-free mutual funds.
- Offers sophisticated tools and trading platform to help you determine risk and tax exposure, a boon for more advanced investors or those investing in retirement through Ally’s IRAs.
- Though the Ally app is well-designed, it doesn’t work as well as Ally’s web portal, which is a significant bummer. But that web portal is accessible from any device, no downloads necessary, which is manageable.
- Ally doesn’t offer futures or fractional shares, which is bad for experts and bad for new investors respectively.
- Options trading has fees.
4. TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is big and established and offers great tools and resources through its app and web platforms for beginner investors or advanced traders, though it might be tough to get into for those truly just starting out.
- TD Ameritrade offers among the most possible investment products, including stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, cryptocurrencies, foreign currency trading (forex), bonds, CDs and annuities.
- The company’s sheer amount of educational resources is unparalleled to the extent of being overwhelming. But if knowledge is power, TD Ameritrade’s resources will make you powerful.
- You can try investing with TD for free for a trial period with its paperMoney simulator, which is a really neat and unique offering among even the best investment apps.
- Though a bit confusing, TD has two different investment apps with accompanying web portals: TDAmeritrade Mobile and TD Ameritrade thinkorswim. The former is more geared toward average investors and supplies the essential info. The latter is for more advanced traders and features more kinds of trading and in-depth analysis.
- The different trading portals and apps and sheer variety of financial products could be straight-up overwhelming for new users trying to gain their bearings.
- TD does not offer fractional shares, which can make investing in blue-chip stocks more difficult for smaller investors.
5. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab probably does the best job of giving users the best of both worlds, whether they’re new traders or advanced traders, courtesy of its different apps and robust research support.
- Can invest with fees in a bevy of financial products, including stocks, options, futures, annuities, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds and fractional shares as well as traditional and Roth IRAs.
- No account minimums, annual fees or inactivity fees.
- Like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab offers a simpler app for average investors, Schwab Mobile, and a more sophisticated and customizable app for advanced traders, StreetSmart Mobile. Both work well and are easy enough to use.
- Excellent research support, with analysis from more than a dozen risk management and financial analysis companies.
- Fees for account closures or transfers.
- Charges fee for options trades.
Overall, Fidelity is one of the best investment apps because its app is actually good, it has new-investor-friendly policies and offers enough research and investment products for advanced traders.
- Excellent mobile app. All of these apps are good, but Fidelity is one of the few to still maintain a rating anywhere close to five stars on Google Play. Investors can also use Fidelity’s web portal, and advanced traders can use its desktop platform, Active Trader Pro.
- No account minimums or account fees.
- Can invest for free in stocks, bonds, CDs fractional shares and thousands of mutual funds as well as options for a fee.
Research from 20 providers on more than 4,500 stocks.
- Reliable customer service
- The web portal where you can trade and manage your entire investment portfolio leaves something to be desired. Though Fidelity has improved its usability substantially in recent years, it still feels a bit outdated and overly complex.
- No futures or forex trading options.
E-Trade’s been in the business of online trading for what feels like forever (anyone remember the talking E-Trade Baby?), but the years of experience shows: E-trade is easy to use for beginners with a straightforward app while still offering enough advanced research and financial products to make it worthwhile for experienced investors.
- No account minimum or account fees
- Can trade and invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, futures, options for a fee and thousands of mutual funds.
- Discounted options fees for active traders.
- Eight providers of financial analysis for free.
- Great educational resources for beginners.
- Has actual human customer support in-person and over the phone.
- Features two levels of platform, the E-Trade app and the Power E-Trade Advanced Trading app. Unsurprisingly, the former is great for rookies and the latter is great for pros.
- There’s not really anything notably bad about E-Trade. Its biggest downer used to be a steep per-trade fee, but now that stock trading is free, there’s little to harp on.
8. You Invest by JP Morgan
You Invest by J.P. Morgan is late to the party for an institutional trading app and that’s reflected in its offerings. But You Invest does offer a basic platform for simple investments and convenience for Chase customers since You Invest is integrated into the Chase app.
- You Invest is integrated into Chase, which makes it really easy to get started if you bank with Chase.
- You Invest doesn’t require an account minimum and you can literally start with $1.
- This is debatable, but we think it’s a pro that Chase prevents users from doing anything too fancy, for example, by blocking trading on certain less predictable or less stable assets.
- If you’re not a Chase customer, you can get a You Invest account, but it’s inherently less useful to you since it’s not integrated into your bank directly.
- The Chase app doesn’t have a ton of supporting analysis and data to help you make decisions. While there’s probably enough for casual day traders, advanced traders may be left wanting.
- A managed account requires a $500 deposit.
- Chase charges a fee to shutter your account or move your money outside Chase.
If you’ve heard of any stock investment app, it almost certainly is Robinhood. The stock trading app skyrocketed to popularity with its easy-to-use design and no-commission trades. Ignoring the recent Gamestop hooplah, which is an issue unrelated to how the app functions and works on a day-to-day basis, Robinhood is easily the best entry-point investment app. It’s the one your writer uses, not because it’s the absolute best, but because it’s easy to use for stocks and I’m too lazy to switch.
- No account minimum required.
- The app is simple and unbelievably easy to use.
- Offers free stock, options, ETF and cryptocurrency trades.
- What we listed above is all you can do in Robinhood: There are no mutual funds or bonds available for trading or anything like retirement investing.
- Non-existent customer support, which has had real-world consequences for people’s lives and wallets.