8 Best Stock Trading Software Platforms for Beginners [2021]

Getting started with your investing journey can present a lot of consternation: what to invest in, how to do it and which stock trading software should beginners use to avoid becoming overwhelmed? Thankfully, with the advent of FinTech services, many stock trading brokers offer beginners access to the stock market for no cost and with easy-to-understand interfaces.

This list walks through the best stock trading apps and software packages for beginners and up. While we prize no commissions, we more want to focus on providing the best overall user experience that aligns with this site’s overarching aim: building long-term wealth. That often means investing in low-cost index funds you plan to hold for long periods of time.

Take a look below at the best investing apps for beginners to consider opening and using to trade stocks and ETFs. We highlight the best app to start investing and best stock trading app for beginners first. 

What are the Best Stock Trading Software Platforms for Beginners?

In truth, no one app serves every individual person’s needs the same. Some investors choose to follow a more active approach while others would rather a set-it-and-forget style.

While I espouse the latter more so on this site, I don’t necessarily think investing in individual stocks is a bad approach when using research and analysis to guide your decision-making.

In fact, services like the Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers have shown tremendous outperformance over the last two decades and really represent a significant value for investors looking to rely on others for making stock picks.

Some may even want to practice a more active form of trading and get vetted stock alerts sent directly to their phones to take advantage of market movements. As long as you account for your risk preferences and level of commitment to following the market, your investment choices will depend on you.

No matter your investing style, when you want to get started investing, you want to look for apps that provide the functionality you want without feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, the best stocking trading app for you depends on your experience, trading goals, and desired level of educational support.

Beginners benefit from apps that have the least amount of fees and a lot of charts, quotes and educational tools. But they also don’t want to get lost in all this distraction if they can’t make sense of the information provided.

The adage of “keep it simple, stupid” usually applies, especially at the start.

Apps that provide a one stop shop for managing your personal finances often act as a great starting point. This means including your banking and investing needs, but also services that act as the best stock news apps for you to follow the market and learn as you go.

As you develop a better understanding of the market, you’ll want to extend your investing reach into new areas and see if other investing styles suit your needs. Your app should accommodate these growing needs.

With that in mind, this list of the best stock trading software platforms for beginners tries to offer simplified investing experiences at the start but ones which can still serve your needs as you grow your investing knowledge.

I try to highlight free apps where possible because investing your money shouldn’t come with charges unless the service provides other value-added products for managing your money.

 

1. M1 Finance (Best Stock Trading Software Platform for Beginners)

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
  • Sign up here

M1 Finance offers free stock trading but also provides automated investing according to your predetermined investment decisions as this site’s top robo-advisor pick. What we like most about this app is the ability to make recurring deposits that automatically get invested into your portfolio.

M1 Finance acts as a singular personal finance app to assist with building wealth through automating your investments into diversified portfolios, having a bank account and linked debit card that provide market-beating interest rates and have access to valuable personal finance literature.

Most importantly, investing with M1 Finance can be as simple as depositing money, setting your stock and index fund selections and having the platform automate your investments on your behalf. I’ve said it before, but this truly automates your investments if you set up recurring deposits, allowing your wealth to build.

From there, M1 Finance automatically rebalances your portfolio in line with your stated asset allocation targets. Doing this at regular intervals has been shown to improve overall portfolio performance. It does so by moving outperforming funds into underperforming ones, capturing a value effect over time as returns revert to the mean.

Consider opening an investment account with M1 Finance. If you deposit $1,000, you can even earn a free sign up bonus.

Our Robo-Advisor Pick

M1 Finance | Smart Money Management

  • M1 Finance’s Smart Money Management gives you choice and control of how you want to invest automatically, borrow, and spend your money—with available high-yield checking and low borrowing rates.
  • Special Promotions: Through February 2021, open an account and make a $1,000 deposit to receive a $30 bonus. Also, get a one year free trial of M1-Plus

 

2. Webull (Best Stock Trading App for Beginners)

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
  • Sign up here

Webull came into the stock trading world in 2018 when it started challenging Robinhood for market share. This stock trading app offers free stock trading as well as free trades on ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies.

Like most investing apps available, the company provides access to trade on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. Further, it charges no commissions for the trades because Webull makes money on other actions you take, like Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), margin loans, interest on cash and service fees for their Nasdaq TotalView Level 2 Advances quotes subscription.

Webull also provides you access to several powerful tools you can use for in-depth trading analysis. These services easily make the service one of the best stock research and analysis apps for conducting technical analysis.

If these account features sound attractive, the best part might also come with knowing setting up a Webull account is free and comes with no account minimums you must meet or maintain. Finally, to de-risk your sign up, Webull also runs frequent promotions that give free stocks.

Our Self-Directed Investing App Pick

 

3. SoFi Wealth

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
  • Sign up here: (iOS), Android

SoFi Invest is an app that allows you to track and trade your money. The well-known brand in the personal finance space recently entered into the investing world by offering free trades on stocks, ETFs, cryptos and more.

The service provides you the ability to trade actively or stand back and let its automated investing tools takeover. Therefore, this app might make a good place to hold your investment accounts because you’ll have options of how to invest money.

The company wants to serve all customers who have an interest in improving their financial situation alongside participating in their other personal finance products like refinanced student loans, money management, credit cards and more.

SoFi Invest | Free Investing

  • No trading fees or commissions
  • No account minimums
  • Invest in Stock Bits (fractional shares)
  • Trade select cryptos
  • Automated investing options for a hands-off approach

 

4. Stash

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play
  • Sign up here

Stash is a mobile-friendly personal finance app that comes paired with investing options and a checking account. Stash acts as a low-cost, all-in-one financial platform and gets included in this list as a result.

While the app primarily caters to hands-off investors looking to automate their investing, you can also actively select stocks to trade. You can do all of this as you spend money and make recurring deposits into your account.

Stash offers custodial accounts for real beginners (young investors), or those under the age of 18. Getting started early on your investing journey can build real long-term wealth over time as your returns compound.

Stash comes with a recurring monthly fee but justifies this with a full-service personal finance platform. Of note, while it does charge a monthly account service fee for its full-suite of products, it does not charge trading commissions for your investment holdings.

Stash | Investing Made Easy

  • Stash is a personal finance app that simplifies investing, making it easy and affordable for everyday Americans to build wealth and achieve their financial goals.
  • By signing up and making a $5 deposit, Stash will also provide a $5 sign up bonus.

 

5. Acorns

Acorns is an investing app for minors and young adults who wish to start with a small amount of money in their investments. With more time, these recurring contributions and rounded up deposits from your purchases will grow into a large portfolio over time. Hence the company’s name, Acorns: start small like an acorn but grow strong into a mighty oak tree.

Like Stash, the service charges a monthly fee for users. Though, it doesn’t charge trading commissions when your gets invested on your behalf. Instead, it charges an account fee depending on the subscription plan you select for your account.

Currently, the service has multiple offerings including Acorns Lite for $1/mo, Acorns Personal for $3/mo, and Acorns Family for $5/mo.

These subscriptions provide various products which fit well for goals of young adults like investing young and managing your money prudently. The service easily acts as one of the best money apps for kids with its all-in-one platform (Acorns Family).

Their plans come as follows:

    1. Acorns Lite ($1/mo): Comes with the Acorns Invest plan, which invests spare change through the popular “Round-Ups” feature, earns bonus investments and provides access to financial literacy articles
    2. Acorns Personal ($3/mo): Everything on Acorns Lite (Investing), plus it also includes Acorns Later for tax-advantaged investment options like individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Acorns Spend. This service acts as your bank account, offering free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs nationwide and no account fees and the ability to earn up to 10% bonus investments
    3. Acorns Family ($5/mo): Everything in Acorns Personal (Acorns Invest, Later and Spend), plus Acorns Early. This allows you to make the best investment for your child’s future and can teach you how to start investing as a teenager or minor through opening a custodial account.

Our Micro-Investing App Pick

Acorns | Your Financial Wellness App

  • Invest spare change by investing the leftover change from everyday purchases by turning on automatic Round-Ups.
  • You can also use Acorns to save for later in life using Acorns Later, the easiest way to save for retirement.
  • Starts at $1/mo.


 

6. Vanguard

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
  • Sign up here

This list wouldn’t be complete without the company at the vanguard of fighting for the retail investor: Vanguard. The company has long sought to lower investing costs for retail investors by offering market index investments for increasingly affordable rates.

In fact, John Bogle originated the idea of index fund investing and first offered them to retail investors as mutual funds and eventually exchange traded funds (ETFs). These low-cost investments have saved retail investors billions of dollars over the years, allowing their returns to compound further.

While apps like Robinhood have slashed trading commissions to $0, Vanguard has led index fund investors to virtually $0 fund expenses as well. When combined, you invest for almost nothing. Take about a great accomplishment for the small investor looking to invest steadily over time.

Vanguard excels as a free stock trading platform when you wish to buy and sell Vanguard securities like index fund ETFs. You pay no commissions on their products like VTI or VTSAX or VFIAX.

Further, the company also recently announced it will no longer charge trading fees on competitors’ ETFs as well. This marks a departure from the company’s long-standing position of charging commissions on other investment firm’s products.

My only complaint about the app comes from its clunky nature. In particular, I don’t see the app as some paragon of investing app functionality. I use the app for managing my work’s 401k plan and will admit to its bloat and lack of clarity for calculating my investment returns.

While the app shows raw dollar returns, it fails to do so on a percentage basis, complicating my understanding of how well they perform on an apples-to-apples basis with my investment vehicles I hold elsewhere. As a counterpoint to this, by offering stripped down reporting and functionality, the app may encourage you to visit it less.

By touching your diversified investments less often, you won’t run the risk of fiddling with what usually works: holding diversified investments for long periods of time and seeing compounding returns.

 

7. Public

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
  • Sign up here

Public is another commission-free investing app that targets Millennials and Gen-Zers who have attuned their senses to social media.

While the company previously followed the lead of apps like Robinhood with monetizing Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), or receiving kickbacks from clearinghouses for routing trades to them, they’ve recently abandoned this practice. Instead, they now rely on other revenue streams as well as a “tipping” system.

This places this beginner investing app firmly on the side of retail investors and not pledging allegiance to Wall Street clearinghouses. For younger investors who want to align their investing with their social preferences, as well as keep good company to socialize and learn from others, Public might be the app for you.. 

For those interested in starting to trade on Public, the online brokerage platform for beginners offers a free $10 signup bonus if you make an initial deposit. Further, you can share your special link with others and gift them free stocks (fractional shares) as well. 

If this sounds like an interesting investing app, open an account and make an initial deposit to see if the app meets your social and investing needs.

Public | Commission-Free Themed Investing

  • Public offers zero-commission trading on thousands of stocks and ETFs, available as fractional shares
  • Uses a social feed where members can share why they believe in certain companies (or don’t) and can post comments on others’ trades
  • Can invest in curated lists of stocks and ETFs for people to aggregate investments by interest area or values

 

8. Robinhood

  • Available via desktop, Apple iOS and Google Android.
  • Sign up here

Robinhood became the first free stock app to slash trading commissions to $0. Others in the industry had no choice but to follow if they wanted to remain relevant to retail investors. 

Likewise, many new apps like Robinhood have cropped up in recent years, many of which feature on this list. The service offers free stock trading, as well as the ability to trade index funds, options, penny stocks and cryptocurrencies commission-free.  

Robinhood’s app offers a simple and easy-to-use design. Many have found this useful for placing their trades by not overcomplicated it.

Robinhood | Free Trades, No Account Minimums

  • Robinhood is an investing app famous for its free trades on ETFs, options and cryptocurrency.
  • It has no account minimums and comes with a free stock upon signing up for the service.

 

Related Questions on Stock Investing Apps for Beginners

Below you will find several frequently asked questions related to the best investing apps for beginners.

Can I trade stocks for free?

Traders in the 1980s paid an average of about a quarter per share to buy or sell a stock. The brokerage app Robinhood paved the way and offered traders zero commission stocks. Other companies, seeking to remain competitive, had no choice but to provide the same. 

As a result, many apps now avoid charging trading commissions on your trades. Some apps still charge fees but those are the minority. In fact, most investing apps only charge these fees for other value-added services.

After slashing trading costs to $0, you might wonder how these brokerages can afford to make a profit. You might even reason that hidden fees pad these brokers’ accounts. After all, brokerages still need to make money as profit-seeking companies.

Now, most brokers find other ways to monetize their retail traders. They do this by charging interest on margin loans, offer premium services for fee-based subscriptions or one-off services and lend retail trader-owned securities to institutional clients. 

For most beginner traders, none of these fees affect you.

Can you invest for free?

Usually, stocks qualify as riskier investments than exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or long-term investments, such as a retirement fund. Luckily, many stock apps allow you to invest in ETFs and retirement funds for free as well. 

For example, the stock trading app Webull offers commission-free ETF, stock and options trading. You can use the service to open a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or Rollover IRA. The service does not charge opening, closing or annual account fees. If you wish to add on a subscription to Nasdaq TotalView after your first three months, you can for a nominal $1.99/mo fee. 

What are the best free stock trading apps for beginners?

The Best Free Stock Trading Apps for Beginners

In the last decade, trading apps have become far simpler and easy to use for investors. While certainly a boon to many, this can also encourage trading more than previous brokerages.

Being able to trade without fees, starting with a small amount of money, from the convenience of your smartphone makes stock trading accessible to more people than ever before. This cuts both ways. As a result, I always espouse a passive investing strategy in low-cost, diversified index funds.

Fortunately, many of the best stock trading apps for beginners allow for both active and passive investing styles. As you mature as an investor, you’ll want an app that can meet your needs. Choose one or more stock apps mentioned above to start investing in your future. See which one works best for you.

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