Updated October 27, 2022

Best Free Stock Trading Apps

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Want to trade stocks for free? These stock trading apps can help every type of investor build their nest egg.

© CreditDonkey

There's never been a better time to invest.

Not only can you trade for free, you also have access to high-quality research, advanced tools and even perks like free stocks.

But which free stock trading app is right for you?

In this guide, find out which free stock trading apps are worth checking out, their pros and cons, and how safe they are.

What is the best free stock trading app?

Best Stock Trading Apps

© CreditDonkey

Here are the best free investing apps for different types of investors, whether you're a beginner, hands-off investor, or need something more robust.

AppBest forPerks
RobinhoodBeginner tradersOffers fractional shares
WebullActive tradersFractional shares, Extended trading hours
PublicSocial investing'Themed' investments
TD AmeritradeAdvanced research and toolsTrade $100K in practice account
M1 FinanceHybrid DIY/robo investingGo fully DIY or automated
SoFi InvestAutomated investingFractional shares, auto-rebalancing
E*TRADEWide investment selectionPre-built portfolios made by experts
FidelityHigh customer satisfactionHigh-quality research, real-time quotes
Charles SchwabAll-in-one platformFree access to financial specialists
VanguardRetirement planningRoths, IRAs, and more

Robinhood: Best for Beginners

Robinhood was the first app to offer completely commission-free investing. It offers free stock, ETF, options, and cryptocurrency trades.

The Robinhood app is also pretty bare-bones. It makes a good choice for beginners who don't want to get overwhelmed by a ton of features.

Here's what you get with Robinhood:

  • Trade fractional shares
  • Set up customized alerts and news to stay up to date
  • Free extended trading hours from 9:00am - 6:00pm ET
  • Perform up to 3 day trades in a five-trading day period
  • Educational articles in Robinhood Learn

However, Robinhood only offers taxable accounts. It doesn't support retirement accounts.

Robinhood Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares from $1
  • Crypto platform
  • Easy to use for beginners
  • No IRAs
  • Limited research
  • No mutual funds
  • Weak customer service

Is Robinhood good for beginners?
Robinhood is good for beginners because trades are free and there is no minimum requirement. The app is also simple to use. However, it does not provide any guidance, so you still need to do some research to select your investments.

Works on: iPhone, Android

If you're a more experienced trader or want to open an IRA, the next app may be a better fit for you.

Webull: Best for Active Traders

Just established in 2017, Webull is already one of the most popular trading apps and Robinhood's biggest competitor. You can trade stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptos commission-free.

Webull has several features that sets it apart:

  • Extended trading hours from 4am - 8pm
  • Paper trading account with $1,000,000 in fake money
  • Free margin account with $2,000 minimum
  • Perform up to 3 day trades in a 5-trading day period
  • 50 technical indicators and 12 charting tools
  • Supports short selling
  • Offers fractional shares

Compared to Robinhood, Webull offers more advanced research and technical analysis. It also supports IRAs. Webull is a good choice for both more serious investors and beginners who want a platform they can grow with.

Webull Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares from $5
  • Practice trading account
  • Crypto platform
  • No dividend reinvestment[1]
  • No mutual funds

Works on: iPhone, Android

Free trading apps can save you a lot of money. But they may not be truly free. Stick around to the end for hidden costs to watch out for.

Public: Best Social Investing Community

Public is a newer app that combines investing with a social community where you can share insights and learn from others.

It offers stocks, ETFs, and cryptos with no trading fees.

If you're not sure what to invest in, you can search Public's themes. Themes include Women in Charge, Growing Diversity, Green Power, and tons more. This lets you easily invest in companies and causes that you care about.

Some special features include:

  • Ability to search for investors with similar interests
  • Social feed with news of your favorite companies and fellow investors
  • Chat groups with friends and community members
  • Designate long-term investments in a dedicated portfolio
  • Buy fractional shares starting from $1

Public Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares from $1
  • Social community
  • Crypto platform
  • Limited research
  • No IRAs

Works on: iPhone, Android

TD Ameritrade: Best Platform and Tools

TD Ameritrade is known for having the gold standard in trading platforms. More serious investors will appreciate the excellent research and advanced tools on the thinkorswim mobile app. All users can access this app for free.

App features include:

  • Trade stocks, complex options, futures, and forex
  • 300+ technical charts and indicators
  • See the potential profitability and risk of your investments
  • $100,000 practice Virtual Paper Money account
  • Chat and screen-share with trade specialists within the app

Beginners also have the option of using the more basic TD Ameritrade Mobile app, which doesn't include futures and forex.

All stocks and ETFs traded through the app are commission-free. Option trades charge a $0.65 per contract trade fee and OTC stock trades incur a $6.95 commission fee.[2]

TD Ameritrade Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Robust research and tools
  • Wide range of investment options
  • No fractional shares
  • 2 different apps may be confusing

Works on: iPhone, Android

Options involve risks and are not appropriate for all investors. Options trading may expose investors to potentially significant losses.[3]

Does managing your own portfolio sound like too much work? This next app is perfect for hands-off investors who still want a say.

M1 Finance: Best Hybrid DIY & Robo Investing

CREDIT: M1

M1 Finance has a unique hybrid approach. You select your investments and M1 Finance will take care of the trading and portfolio management for you. This is great for those who want to choose their investments, but don't want the hassle of managing.

You can select your stocks and ETFs for fully customized portfolios. Alternatively, you can choose one of many pre-made portfolios and make adjustments.

M1 doesn't charge any commissions, usage fees, or markups. However, it does charge fees for extra services and an inactivity fee for accounts with less than $20 that have had no activity for 90 days.[4]

The M1 app features:

  • Buy fractional shares
  • Set up automated investment schedules
  • Automatic rebalancing
  • Automatically reinvest dividends
  • Tax efficiency to minimize taxes when you withdraw

M1 Finance also offers a cash management account called M1 Spend. It comes with a competitive APY and cashback debit card. You can also transfer funds automatically between the M1 Spend and investment accounts, and they'll be automatically invested according to your portfolio.

M1 Finance Pros and Cons

  • $100 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares
  • Create portfolio and M1 manages for you
  • Expert pre-set portfolios available
  • Only trades once a day
  • No human advisors
  • No mutual funds

Works on: iPhone, Android

If you rather not have the responsibility of choosing your investments at all, the next app may be perfect for you.

SoFi Invest: Best Fee-Free Automated Investing

Yes, SoFi (the student loan company) also offers a great investing platform. SoFi Invest offers both DIY investing and automated investing.

Their automated investing service is entirely fee-free. Most robo-advisors charge a management fee, which can add up as your portfolio grows. SoFi's free service lets you keep more of your profits.

Features include:

  • Buy fractional shares
  • Real human support from certified financial advisors
  • Automatic rebalancing
  • Investment strategies to tackle different goals

SoFi Invest also offers crypto trading starting at $10. But there is a 1.25% fee on crypto transactions.[5]

SoFi Invest Pros and Cons

  • $5 minimum deposit
  • No service fees for managed portfolio
  • Fractional shares from $5
  • Access to financial advisors
  • Limited research
  • No mutual funds

Works on: iPhone, Android

E*TRADE: Best Investment Selections

E*TRADE was one of the first online trading brokers publicly available. Today, the broker offers 2 mobile apps for Apple and Android devices.

The E*TRADE Mobile App is ideal for beginners and casual traders to trade stocks, ETFs, and options commission-free. The Power E*TRADE app allows for more complex options and futures trading.[6]

A unique offering is the pre-built portfolios designed by E*TRADE financial advisors. These are made up of leading mutual funds or ETFs, giving you a fast, simple way to diversify.[7]

Watch out for miscellaneous fees
If you trade during E*TRADE's pre- or post-market hours, there is a fee of $0.005 per share. There's also a $6.95 per trade for penny stocks.[8]

Some highlights of the E*TRADE app are:

  • Easy navigation
  • Access to streaming quotes and charts
  • Create watch lists and set up alerts
  • Stream live Bloomberg TV
  • Chat with customer support within the app

E*TRADE Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Wide range of investment options
  • Professional prebuilt portfolios available
  • No fractional shares

Works on: iPhone, Android

Many free trading apps don't offer live customer support. If you want to be able to contact a human for questions, check out the next broker.

Fidelity: Best Customer Satisfaction

Fidelity's mobile app not only makes it easy to trade from anywhere, it's also one of the most highly rated investing apps for both iOS and Android. If you want a high-quality, free trading experience, Fidelity is the one to try out.

Fidelity offers commission-free trading options for stocks, options, and ETFs. The Fidelity app also recently released the ability to trade fractional shares, making it more accessible to beginners.[9]

Fidelity Options Trading Fees
Fidelity does charge $0.65 per options contract.[10]

The Fidelity app features:

  • Access relevant research information
  • Access real-time quotes and account balances
  • Access quotes on your Echo device
  • Receive customized push alerts
  • Stream educational podcasts
  • Use touch and Face ID

Fidelity Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares from $1
  • Robust research and educational materials
  • High commissions for non-Fidelity mutual funds
  • No futures or forex

Works on: iPhone, Android

Charles Schwab: Versatile Investing App

With Charles Schwab, you pay $0 commission on stocks, options, and ETFs. It also offers plenty of $0 transaction mutual funds.

Charles Schwab claims that it offers more commission-free ETFs than most other brokers. However, it requires a $1,000 minimum for some account types, which may not make it feasible for beginners.

Schwab also offers managed portfolios for no advisory fee - something that other robo-advisors don't. This will save you a lot of money if you choose to go the automated route. The minimum for this option is $5,000.[11]

Charles Schwab Options Fees: $0.65 per contract for options trades done on the Charles Schwab app.[12]

On the Charles Schwab app, you can:

  • Buy fractional shares of S&P 500 companies starting from $5
  • Create customized watch lists
  • Access real-time quotes
  • Access financial specialists for free
  • Listen to Schwab's daily podcast
  • Manage Schwab bank and trade accounts with one app

Charles Schwab Pros and Cons

  • $0 minimum deposit
  • Fractional shares for S&P 500 stocks
  • Robust research and tools
  • Wide range of investment options
  • Fractional shares not available for all stocks & ETFs

Works on: iPhone, Android

If you're looking for automated investing, but don't have a lot of money to start, consider a robo advisor. Some will allow you to start investing even with just a few bucks. However, they do usually charge a small service fee.

Vanguard: Best for Retirement

Vanguard is best known for its mutual funds. You can trade stocks, options, ETFs, and thousands of Vanguard and some non-Vanguard mutual funds for free.

Vanguard also offers both Roth and Traditional IRAs, giving you way more options than your standard employer's 401(k). By trading commission-free, you'll maximize your retirement dollars.

It also requires no minimum to open an account, which makes it accessible to people who don't have a lot of investing money when they are starting out.

Options have an extra $1 per-contract fee (which is a little more than competitors). Also, all accounts charge a $20 annual maintenance fee, which can be waived by choosing electronic statements.[13]

On the Vanguard app, you can:

  • View your balances, holdings performances, and prices
  • Deposit checks right from your mobile device
  • Monitor returns and play with asset mixes in real time
  • Access the latest financial news
  • Access to viable research

Vanguard Pros and Cons

  • No commissions on stock trading
  • Large selection of low-cost ETF and mutual funds
  • $3,000 minimum for most Vanguard funds[14]
  • Less robust platform
  • No futures or forex

Works on: iPhone, Android

Other Good Investing Apps for Beginners

The apps we listed above are all free to use and have no stock trading fees. But there are other apps worth considering even if they're not free, especially for beginners.

If you don't feel confident investing on your own or don't have the time/interest to manage your own portfolio, you may find that the small fee is worth it.

Have you ever bought stocks?
22% Yes
78% No
Source: CreditDonkey poll, November 2022

Acorns: Best Spare Change Investing App

CREDIT: ACORNS

Acorns is the original spare change robo-investment app. You link your debit and credit cards and Acorns will automatically round up and invest the change from your purchases. This lets you invest money without thinking.

Of course, you also have the freedom to deposit money whenever you want or set up a recurring deposit schedule. There are no minimums.

Acorns is a robo-advisor. It will create a portfolio for you based on your age, investment goals, and risk tolerance. It takes care of the trading and managing for you.

Features include:

  • Buy fractional shares starting from $1
  • Automatic rebalancing
  • Automatic dividend reinvestment
  • Earn cash back into your investing account when you shop with partners

Cost:[15]

  • $3/month for a regular investing account + IRA + checking account
  • $5/month to add investment accounts for your kids

Works on: iPhone, Android

Stash: Best for Learning About Investing

CREDIT: STASH

Stash fills that gap for beginners who want to choose their own investments, but with a little bit of guidance.

Stash starts by asking some questions about your goals, risk tolerance, and interests. Based on that, it will recommend investments. It helps you build a personalized portfolio from scratch, but you still have full control over your stock decisions.

It offers access to thousands of US stocks and ETFs with no trading fees. You can start investing with $5.

  • Fractional shares from just 1 cent
  • Round-up feature
  • Set up auto recurring investments
  • All users get access to Stash banking account

Cost: [16]

  • $3/month
  • $9/month to add investment accounts for your kids

Works on: iPhone, Android

Pros & Cons of Free Trading Apps

Pros:

  • No commissions means that you don't lose earnings to trading fees.
  • Trade anywhere on the go.
  • A lot of them support fractional shares so you don't need to have money for a full share.
  • Accessible to beginners.

Cons:

  • Limited investment offerings for some apps.
  • Some basic free trading apps may not have enough research and analysis to make informed decisions
  • No trading fees may encourage inexperienced investors to get carried away.

Are Free Trading Apps Safe?

Trading apps are safe as long as the brokerage is a member of the SIPC and registered with the SEC.

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation insures your investments up to $500,000 per account type, should the brokerage fail. The SEC is a government agency that regulates the U.S. stock market and protects investors from misconduct.

In addition, most brokerages are members of FINRA. This is a regulatory authority that makes sure the broker-dealer is operating fairly and honestly. By visiting BrokerCheck, investors can conduct research on the professional backgrounds of brokers, brokerages, investment adviser firms, and advisers.[17]

In addition to these regulatory measures, ensure the brokerage has security measures such as 256-bit AES encryption.

FAQ

How do commission-free stock apps make money?
Commission-free trading apps usually make money through premium memberships, margin lending, broker-assisted trades, and short selling fees. For example, Robinhood has an optional margin trading account for $5/month.

Is commission-free trading good?
The good thing about commission-free trading is that you won't lose any profits to trading fees. This makes investing more accessible to smaller investors. However, free trades may also encourage rash decisions and too frequent trading.

Can you withdraw free stocks from Robinhood?
You can sell the free referral stock from Robinhood three trading days after you receive it. But you cannot withdraw the cash value for 30 calendar days. After 30 days, there are no more restrictions.

For example, let's say you get $10 worth of free referral stock. This means $10 of your withdrawable cash balance cannot be accessed for 30 days. If you sell the free stock, then you'll have an additional $10 to withdraw.

What Experts Say

CreditDonkey assembled a panel of industry experts to answer readers' most pressing questions.

Here's what they said:

What to Watch Out for with Free Stock Trading Apps

While the word "free" is enticing, there may be hidden fees, or the app may not offer the services you need. Always do your due diligence and make sure it makes sense for your situation.

Here are some fees to be aware of:

  • ETF fees: ETFs have a management fee called an expense ratio. It can be as low as 0.02% to as high as over 1.5%. For example, if you choose an ETF with an expense ratio of 0.5%, this means a $1,000 investment would cost $5.

  • Mutual fund fees: Similarly, mutual funds also have an operating fee. They tend to be more expensive, around 0.5% - 2.0%. Some mutual funds also charge a fee when you buy or sell shares.

  • Premium features: Some free trading apps make money by charging for premium features. For example, Robinhood has a premium Robinhood Gold account that allows for margin trading. Webull charges for advanced market quotes.

  • Account transfer fee: If you no longer want to use a certain brokerage and want to transfer your assets to another one, there may be a transfer fee. It's usually $50 - $100.

  • Margin loans: Margin trading means borrowing money to purchase stocks. You'll have to pay back what you borrowed plus interest.

Bottom Line

Think about what you want out of your stock trading app. Are you looking for a company where you can bank and invest, all in one? Are you an active trader who needs advanced tools?

Knowing what you need will save you the headache of switching accounts in the long run. Make sure to figure out your individual needs before opening an account, since it is your money on the line in the end.

References

  1. ^ Webull. Do you support dividend reinvestment (DRIP)?, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  2. ^ TD Ameritrade Pricing, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  3. ^ OCC. Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options, Retrieved 4/3/2022
  4. ^ M1 Finance Miscellaneous Fees, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  5. ^ SoFi Invest Crypto, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  6. ^ E*TRADE. Mobile Platforms, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  7. ^ E*TRADE. Prebuilt Portfolios, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  8. ^ E*TRADE Pricing and Rates, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  9. ^ Fidelity. Fractional shares, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  10. ^ Fidelity Pricing, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  11. ^ Charles Schwab. Investment Advice Options, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  12. ^ Charles Schwab Pricing, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  13. ^ Vanguard Annual Account Service Fees, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  14. ^ Vanguard. Costs, fees & minimums, Retrieved 3/2/2022
  15. ^ Acorns Pricing, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  16. ^ Stash Pricing, Retrieved 1/3/2022
  17. ^ FINRA. BrokerCheck, Retrieved 4/3/2022

Write to Kim P at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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.

Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View important disclosures. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.

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New to investing and having trouble choosing a broker? How do you choose a trading platform that's best for beginners?
Have you ever bought stocks?
22% Yes
78% No
Source: CreditDonkey
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