Updated July 24, 2019

Best Investment Apps for Beginners

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Looking to start investing? You can begin with as little as $5. Check out these cheap (or free) apps for new investors.

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Brand New Investors: Stash

Pros

  • Low $5 minimum investment
  • "Round up" option invests users' spare change
  • Educational videos and tips to help users learn how to invest
  • Users can choose individual stocks

Cons

  • Fees are high compared to other apps
  • No robo-advisor to auto-invest and manage money once it is invested
  • Very basic, users can outgrow limited functionality

Stash is ideal for those learning how to invest independently. The app uses "micro-investments," like automatically rounding up transactions and depositing the spare change (users can also make larger deposits).

That money is then invested in individual stocks or in themes, which are pre-made bundles of stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Stash does not use a "robo-advisor" to automatically invest - users make their own choices.

Choosing individual stocks and ETFs can be overwhelming for new investors. Experienced investors may want to customize their portfolio. Beginners may be better served following suggested allocations.

Fees
Users with less than $5,000 pay $1 to $2 per month, depending on the type of account.

Users with more than $5,000 are charged 0.25% of their balance per year.

Anyone under 25 years old can invest in an IRA account for free.

How to Get Started

  1. Sign up for a Stash account online or through the app.

  2. Follow instructions to link and verify your bank account.

  3. Make an initial deposit. Once it reaches $5, you can invest in a themed portfolio or individual stocks.

  • $5 minimum balance
  • Charges $1-2 per month under $5,000
  • 0.25% per year over $5,000

App Store Rating: (4.7/5 stars out of 94.8K ratings)

Hands-off Approach: Betterment

Pros

  • No minimum required balance or transaction fees
  • "RetireGuide" helps calculate how much you should be saving
  • Automatic deposits
  • Easy to "set and forget" and invest without having to think about it
  • Automatically rebalances users' portfolio

Cons

  • 0.25% fee every year, which is more costly than similar app M1 Finance
  • Cannot pick and choose individual stocks or ETFs

Betterment is a great choice for new investors who want to put money away and not worry about it.

The platform is a robo-advisor that invests according to users' long-term goals. It sets risk level based on factors like the user's current age, income and planned age of retirement.

Robo-advisors are algorithms that create and manage portfolios automatically. They invest primarily in shares of Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs.

Robo-advisors tend to have low fees, which benefits beginning investors who don't have much money to spend.

Betterment also offers a "RetireGuide" function that helps users determine the amount of money they should be depositing each week to meet their retirement goal.

Fees
Betterment charges 0.25% of a user's balance per year as a service fee. The app also does not charge fees to make trades.

How to Get Started

  1. Download the free app.

  2. Complete a short survey to determine a pre-made portfolio tailored to your goals and risk level.

  3. The app suggests a deposit amount, both the first time and on a recurring basis.

  • No minimum balance
  • Annual 0.25% fee under $100,000

App Store Rating: (4.7/5 stars out of 6.9K ratings)

College Students: Acorns

Pros

  • Free for college students
  • No transaction fees
  • Allows users to invest without having to think about it
  • Users can customize which transactions get rounded up
  • Offers debit card and IRA account options
  • Automatically rebalances users' portfolio

Cons

  • Comparatively high monthly rates for non-students
  • Difficult to make substantial investments with only spare change
  • Cannot pick and choose individual stocks or ETFs

Acorns allows you to start saving with spare change. It may take longer to build substantial savings. But the platform is a good place to start.

Like Stash, the platform rounds up users' transactions to the nearest dollar amount, then deposits the spare change into an account. Once the account accumulates at least $5, it invests in a pre-selected portfolio.

Users can choose from a regular investment account, an account that features specific retirement options, or an account that features both retirement options and a debit card.

Fees
College students who register with their .edu email address can use Acorns for free while they are in school.

For non-students, the app charges between $1 and $3 per month. There's no minimum deposit to get started with Acorns, and the app charges no trading fees.

How to Get Started

  1. Download the free app.

  2. Take the quiz to determine your goals and risk level.

  3. Make an initial investment after reviewing your portfolio. Or wait until your rounded-up transactions equal $5, and the app will automatically invest for you.

  • No minimum balance
  • Free for students with a .edu email
  • $1-3 per month for other accounts

App Store Rating: (4.7/5 stars out of 371.4K ratings)

Minimal Control: M1 Finance

Pros

  • Free to use - no annual or per-trade fee
  • Invests in both stocks and ETFs
  • Users can choose individual stocks and ETFs
  • Can set up automatic withdrawals
  • Automatically rebalances users' portfolio

Cons

  • $100 minimum deposit
  • High monthly cost for premium service

M1 Finance is a robo-investor app that allows users more choice in their investments.

The platform creates a portfolio based on individual goals and circumstances. Users can choose and tweak from pre-made portfolios focused on retirement savings, investing in socially responsible companies, and more.

    M1 Finance

    M1 Finance: Commission Free Stock Trading

    M1 Finance allows investors the choice of ETFs and stocks. M1 charges no management fees or commission.

Fees
The platform's basic service is free to use and charges no per trade fees. There is a $100 minimum to start investing.

M1 Plus costs $125 a year and features extra perks like:

  • A second trading window
  • .25% discount on borrow rates
  • 1.5% APY
  • 1% cash back on debit card purchases

Need a refresher course on investing? Check out this article from Dividend Life for some guidelines on purchasing stocks.

How to Get Started

  1. Register to start an account.

  2. Take a short quiz to get a recommended portfolio based on your risk level and goals.

  3. Edit the portfolio to your liking; unlike with Betterment and Acorns, you can add individual stocks and ETFs.

  • $100 minimum deposit
  • No annual fee

App Store Rating: (4.7/5 stars out of 6.2K ratings)

Complete Control in Your Investments: Robinhood

Pros

  • No trade fees or minimum balance requirements
  • Allows total control of investments
  • Offers ETFs, stocks, options, and some cryptocurrency
  • Easy-to-use app lets users get started quickly

Cons

  • Choosing each individual trade can feel overwhelming for new investors
  • No pre-made portfolios
  • Does not offer goals like retirement saving

Unlike other apps on this list, Robinhood allows users to have full control over how and where to invest their money.

The platform has no pre-made portfolios. Instead, users invest in individual stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies, entirely for free.

Robinhood allows you to start investing even before your banking information is verified. After a deposit, you will receive a credit in the same amount to begin buying.

Fees
With the basic app, everything from opening an account to making trades is free.

Robinhood primarily makes its money from users who pay an extra fee for the premium Robinhood Gold service. This allows trades on margin, which is essentially a loan. The service also makes money by lending out investors' idle money.

How to Get Started

You can open a high-yield savings account for near-future investments and set up a Roth IRA account for retirement. Here's how:

  1. Set up your account.

  2. Link and verify your bank account.

  3. Begin investing in available stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency with your first deposit.

  • Completely free - no minimum investment
  • No per-trade fees

App Store Rating: (4.8/5 stars out of 620K ratings)

Bonus: Apps for Experienced Investors

Here are more solid choices for traders who want to become more involved with their investing. These apps charge an industry standard per-trade fee.

This typically allows for extra features like market insights, research, and predicted future analytics, which knowledgeable traders will likely appreciate.

Fidelity

  • Offers 350+ commission free Fidelity-affiliated ETFs available, $4.95 per-trade fee for all others
  • No account fees
  • Dashboard includes news, research, insights
  • Integrates with Fidelity banking services

Read our full review of Fidelity here.

Ally Invest

  • Charges a $4.95 per-trade fee for both stocks and ETFs and a $0.65 per contract fee for option trades
  • No account opening minimum
  • Research and market analysis tools available for free
  • Unlimited, 24/7 access to brokers for customer service questions

Read our full review of Ally Invest here.

TD Ameritrade

  • Charges $6.95 per trade fee for ETFs and stocks
  • No minimum opening balance
  • Gives users access to Thinkorswim trading platform, which offers advanced tools and research with no minimum investment required
  • Gives users access to 24/7 customer support

Read our full review of TD Ameritrade here.

Bottom Line

If you have as little as an extra $5, there are plenty of low-risk ways to begin investing. These apps are all free to download and have low (or no) fees to use.

The right match depends on the type of investor you want to be and the amount of time you want to spend managing your money.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service 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.

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

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