April 3, 2015

Study: Best Stock Broker App

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Staying on top of your investments no longer handcuffs you to a desktop computer and an occasional peek into how your funds are performing. With mobile apps, you have no excuse for not knowing how the overall market is doing or whether your own investments are tanking. The bad news is this can give you even more reasons to keep checking your phone (not that you needed any more reasons). But the good news is, the right app may make you a smarter, more effective investor.

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CreditDonkey reviewed the best brokerage mobile apps to help you decide which apps can help you streamline access to your investments and make it easier to maintain and grow your portfolio anytime, anywhere.

Roundup Methodology

CreditDonkey considered 3 factors to determine the best mobile stockbroker app:

  1. Interconnectivity
  2. Tracking
  3. Ease of Use

When using a mobile app to access your investments and make snap decisions, you’ll want some interconnectivity with your other accounts. Several apps we reviewed function similar to high-end banking apps, allowing you to deposit checks, make credit card payments, and get alerts when bills are due.

In addition to being able to easily move your money around, you also need to have the ability to track your current investments, potential investments, and lay out possible investing strategies to set your money up to grow steadily. Apps we looked at provide a varying degree of charts, videos, and news updates, in addition to ways to track your profits and losses and test out strategies without actually using your money.

Different features may appeal to different investors, of course, but we wanted to narrow down those apps that have the best overall ability to track your investments at the touch of a finger.

Most importantly, the point of using an app is for quick and easy access to your account - you don’t want to have to search online for it every time and navigate through a lot of pages to get what you want. Some apps allow for one-touch login and let you stay logged in. Quick and easy access on the go was a high priority for us.

Best for Beginning Investors: Thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade

  • Interconnectivity: 3.5/5
  • Tracking: 4/5
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • CreditDonkey score: 3.83/5

Mobile platforms: Apple, Android, Blackberry

TD Ameritrade is diving headfirst into capturing the mobile investing market. It not only offers a sleek, easy-to-use app (with a catchy name, too), but also allows users to monitor the market and test out trading ideas without using money or even needing a trading account. This makes it helpful for less experienced investors as well as those who can handle fancy trades.

“TD Ameritrade has a huge customer base,” according to Barron’s, “and continues to try to serve everyone, from mom-and-pop investors to hedge funds to Gen Xers and Millennials, who are used to engaging visual experiences.”

Why we like Thinkorswim: There are a few standalone apps specifically designed for testing investment strategies and learning how to invest in the market without using your own money.

Thinkorswim also recently incorporated a fingerprint scanning login for quick access to the app and for making trades without having to type in your password. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you start logging in to the app multiple times a day.

You can also stream CNBC through the app, scan multi-touch charts and studies, as well as create your own charts. And there’s an interactive calendar that tracks events related to your investments.

The downsides: Other apps allow users to deposit checks, pay bills, and connect your credit cards directly through the app. Currently, Thinkorswim does not offer these functions, which is a surprising omission compared to the rest of the options available.

The app is also simpler than the others we reviewed. This can be good if you do not like to be overwhelmed, but for those who like customization and the ability to choose which settings and charts you want to view, Thinkorswim is not as generous in these areas.

Best Designed App: Fidelity Mobile App

  • Interconnectivity: 5/5
  • Tracking: 4.5/5
  • Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • CreditDonkey score: 4.67/5

Mobile platforms: Apple, Android, Windows

As technology continues to advance, for many users, it’s not enough to simply have the information you need at your fingertips. How it’s presented and how well the mobile app is designed is just as important. It may sound superficial, but if you’re going to be looking at an app every day to track your investments, the deciding factor may be how great it looks when you’re navigating through screens. While design and beauty are subjective, it’s obvious at first glance that Fidelity made these areas a priority when putting together its app.

But don’t let that fool you. Fidelity’s beauty is not just skin deep. It also brings the core meat and potatoes of investing for its account holders.

“Fidelity is second to none when it comes to research, and the firm offers useful tools and features a large selection of funds, bonds and foreign stocks,” according to Kiplinger.

Why we like Fidelity: Fidelity’s app seems to find a strong middle ground between beginning investors and investors who can handle more depth. And, as we mentioned, the design stands out from the competition.

Another big plus: You can deposit checks by taking a photo, move money between accounts, pay bills, access credit card balances and view overall trends in your account balances.

Fidelity also lets you call customer support with just one click and can show you how to find nearby investor centers if you let it know of your location.

The downsides: Fidelity is geared toward more experienced investors than Thinkorswim, so you won’t find simulated strategies for using your own money here. It also seems to sacrifice some of the more detailed features offered by the next mobile app on our list in favor of aesthetics. While it does a great job toeing the middle ground, information junkies may find themselves starving for the ability to comb through more information.

This may come down to the specific user’s viewpoint of how a mobile app should serve users – as a more streamlined and easy-to-access application or a one-click, fully functional version of the desktop broker application. For the former, Fidelity hits the ball out of the park. For the latter, read on to the next entry on our list.

Best for the Advanced User: E-Trade Mobile

  • Interconnectivity: 5/5
  • Tracking: 5/5
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • CreditDonkey score: 4.67/5

Mobile platforms: Apple, Android, Windows

E-Trade has long been at the forefront of online trading, and it continues this tradition in its mobile app, which will appeal to users who are experienced investors and also technologically savvy. While it doesn’t offer some of the features that may appeal to beginner investors or the aesthetics of Fidelity’s design, E-Trade provides the most features and information of any competitor’s app. If you can look past the strong points of the others we reviewed, or don’t really care for them, then E-Trade gives investors everything they could possibly need in their hands.

“The race is neck and neck among the well-established firms when it comes to who has the best mobile app. But E-Trade edges out the competition,” according to Kiplinger. “In addition to handling stock, option, and mutual fund trading, its app is set up for bond trading, a function none of the other apps offer.”

Why we like E-Trade: E-Trade is made for the advanced user. The mobile app caters to investors who love having close access to news and charts and don’t worry about information overload. Moreover, E-Trade has similar functionality as Fidelity, with check deposit and bill pay money management features.

We’re not sure how useful it is, but E-Trade’s barcode scanning option is cutting edge. The feature allows you to scan the barcode of any product to get the details of the publicly traded company that sells the product, if it is available. For most users, the feature may be no more than a novelty, but it can be fun to use.

In terms of accessibility, E-Trade incorporates fingerprint authentication and voice recognition to access quotes, options, company data, and order stocks simply by talking to the app. For Apple users, the app also utilizes the new widgets feature in iOS 8, allowing you to easily view pertinent information just by pulling down from the top of the screen.

The downsides: The lack of simulated strategies bothers us. And we’re also wary of the potential for information overload. If you’re already an E-Trade user or an investor who can never have too much information, then you’ve probably already decided it’s a tradeoff worth having.

Verdict: Fidelity and E*Trade are neck-and-neck, with the winner being a matter of your preference. If you prefer a streamlined mobile app experience that is visually appealing and easy to use, Fidelity is going to be your winner. If you don’t care so much about the mobile experience and simply want to have the most information with all the bells and whistles, E-Trade will fit your preferences best.

Other Apps to Consider

Ally Invest (Apple, Android): Ally Invest boasts on its site that its commission fees are the lowest of the major brokerage offerings. The app does not have all of the top-notch features of the top apps we discussed above, but if the commission fees are the most important deciding factor for you, the app is strong enough to support that decision.

TradeMonster (Apple, Android): A lightweight app that has all the basic features you need, including one that allows you to set up an exit plan for leaving any strategy you create. TradeMonster also offers 60 days of trading commission-free – without a minimum deposit requirement.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

TD Ameritrade has not influenced the content of CreditDonkey. CreditDonkey may earn compensation for accounts opened at TD Ameritrade.

More from CreditDonkey:

Etrade vs Scottrade vs Ameritrade

How to Invest 1000 Dollars


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