As someone who started investing with a good old Vanguard account several years ago, investing from my phone was a foreign concept. But these mini-computers we carry in our pockets are now capable of executing trades with the best brokers in the world.
The stock market investing apps available today are simple, easy to use, and have unbelievably low financial barriers to entry. So it’s no wonder why so many young investors are making their way into the investment world.
To help you cut through the noise, we’ve gathered up a list of the top 5 stock market investing apps available today. And while functionality may differ, you can expect low costs and sleek interfaces from all.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The benefits of using an app for your investments
- What to look for in an investing app
- The top 5 stock market investing apps in 2021
Sure, you could go the old-school route and head to a big brokerage to do your investing. But the issue with many of these larger companies (and their apps) is they’re overloaded with all the things you could ever dream of investing in.
That means you click the “Investing” tab and see 529 plans, 401(k) rollovers, and CDs when all you really wanted was to buy a few shares of GameStop.
More app-focused companies have designed the investing experience with the user in mind. That means they veer towards:
Simplicity: Stock market investing apps help you to invest in the stock market. That’s all. They don’t need to help you manage your 401(k) or check on your niece’s 529 balance. These apps keep it quick and painless to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds and make sure it’s immediately evident how to transact.
Convenience: Apps are the easiest way to do virtually any online transaction these days. You’re already ordering food, catching rides, and watching movies from your phone. Why not throw investing in the mix?
Information: My favorite aspect of many of the best stock market investing apps is the added benefit of knowledge in the palm of your hand. Most apps have a blog or news area with hundreds of articles about all things stock market. These help centers can help you decide what to invest in or learn how to invest if you’re a beginner.
All apps are not created equal. And when you’re entrusting an app to put your hard-earned money into stocks, there are a few key elements to look for.
- Security: Security of your personal information and funds should be top of mind when choosing an app. Those apps with stable reputations, five-star reviews, and happy customers tend to be the most reliable and secure.
- User-friendly interface: The simpler, the better when it comes to something as complex as the stock market. Look for functionality that enables you to buy, trade, reference tax forms, and set up recurring investments. If there are too many tabs/buttons or you feel confused about how to trade when you log in, thank you, next.
- No fees or minimum balance requirements: Great apps are no fee and do not require that users maintain a minimum account balance to participate.Our top apps have no trade fees and no balance requirements for basic trades.
- Referral rewards: Some apps will reward you for getting friends to sign up. These referral rewards can pay off big if you can drum up a lot of interest or have an expansive network.
- Help center or blog: Especially for new investors, information is king. And an app that can provide reliable, unbiased information for new traders is immensely valuable.
The market is saturated with stock market investing apps, but these 5 (plus an honorable mention) rise above the rest as some of the best tools in the game today.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a discussion of the top stock market investing apps that doesn’t include Robinhood. Famous for democratizing stock market investing, Robinhood enables investors to dump funds from their phones into fractional shares of ETFs, individual stocks, crypto, and more.
Robinhood has some limitations in the analytics department, so it’s probably not a go-to app for serious investors interested in digging into data.
But the significant upside is their referral promotion. Robinhood grants one free stock to new account holders and one for each time you refer a friend to the app (up to $500 in stock per year).
Best for: The everyday investor or day trader looking to deal in fractional shares.
Ally, an online bank known for its high-yield deposit accounts, also offers an app for stock market investing for all stages of investors.
They offer self-directed trading if you’d prefer to be more hands-on and make the trades yourself. Or you can choose the Robo-advisor tool if you like your investments like you like your income, passive.
Ally’s sleek online platform is easy to use with a robust suite of tools, including watchlists and probability calculators. But it’s worth noting that advanced investors may be disappointed with the available tools compared to those available from a larger brokerage.
Ally also offers commission-free trades on stocks and ETFs, which you can manage alongside your day-to-day banking needs.
Best for: Active traders with larger amounts to invest who also want to manage banking.
The Fidelity investing app is not only simple to use, but chock full of resources, including news, real-time quotes, charts, and more. They also offer dollar-based investing, enabling users to trade in fractional shares a la Robinhood. This is a massive perk for beginner investors who aren’t yet ready to go all in.
Fidelity has taken driving trade fees down to a new level and offers $0 trades, no account minimums, and even a few 0% expense ratio funds.
But be cautious if you decide to make a broker-assisted trade as the fees can add up quickly. Overall, investors can expect a seamless experience and to keep more of their investment using this app.
Best for: Beginner investors who want to be in the know without leaving the app.
While SoFi first made their name in the student loan repayment space, they’ve branched out quite a bit since and now offer the SoFi Invest app.
With only a $1 minimum deposit to start, you can learn about and trade in whole or fractional Stocks or ETFs. Investment tools are limited, though, so more advanced investors might steer clear of SoFi entirely.
Best for: Beginners who want to make small investments.
TD Ameritrade boasts an impressive offering with two mobile apps. The basic TD Ameritrade app services the average investor, while the thinkorswim app goes deep into market analyses, charts, and risk assessments.
The best part is, any investor who opens an account with TD Ameritrade will immediately have access to both apps.
And with integrations that work on mobile, desktop, tablets, and even Apple Watch, you can pretty much guarantee you can invest from anywhere.
The only potential downside on the TD Ameritrade front is that they have so many excellent tools that investors could potentially be sifting through information on several mobile apps and the website to get what you need.
But if you’re willing to dive in, there’s plenty of great information out there.
Best for: Experienced investors who want to get deep in the weeds with thinkorswim analytics.
Founded in 2014, Acorns focuses on micro-investing, which puts away small sums towards larger investment goals. The platform caters to the passive investor who wants to invest in the stock market without messing with individual stock picking.
You choose your strategy in Acorns, from conservative to aggressive, and the portfolio is decided for you. With recurring investments and round-ups, you’ll see your “oak” grow over time with less volatility than traditional stock market investing.
The downside to handing off investing to the Acorns portfolio is that they charge a monthly fee from $1 to $5, depending on the type of account you have.
I use the standard brokerage account, and it costs $1 per month. This may not seem like much, but if you’re only investing a few bucks each month, $12 in fees at the end of the year can end up being a pretty high percentage of your overall portfolio.
But when you consider their $10 sign-up bonus, it evens out at least in the first year.
Best for: The hands-off long-term investor who doesn’t want to pick individual stocks.
The Bottom Line
Apps have helped to make stock market investing much more accessible for the average person. But before you jump in and download an app, be sure to check for:
- App cost, fees, and account minimums
- Easy-to-use interface
If you’ve considered these elements and found the perfect fit, you’re only a few swipes away from buying your first investment. While some apps may seem more like games, you’re still taking on significant risk by putting your funds into the market.
Be sure to never put in more than you’re willing to lose and always have a strategy in place before you get started. Happy investing!
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