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Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners

If you are beginning your journey in investing in stocks, becoming a day trader, or even doing options trading, the single most important thing is choosing the right online broker.

This article will highlight everything you need to know before you choose a broker, along with the best online stock brokers that are available.

Best Overall
Webull logo
Editor's Rating    5/5

Webull is a stock trading app that offers commission-free online stock trading covering full extended hours trading, real-time market quotes, and options trading.

Best for Fractional Shares
M1 Finance logo
Editor's Rating    4.5/5

M1 Finance is a financial services company that allows you to invest, borrow, and spend with one easy-to-use platform. It also has brokerage and digital checking accounts.

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Trading stocks can seem intimidating for complete beginners. With so many options on the stock market, trading stocks often seems like a mystery, but the good news is the stock trading playing field is more open than ever. 

That means that even if “fractional shares,” “ETFs,” and “crypto” are new words for you, you can still trade. And you should -- retirement funds and pensions are already invested in the stock market, meaning that you owe it to yourself to learn more about how trading works.

Trading and investing are great for saving up long-term goals, typically five years away or more, but they can also help build up a second income stream.

If you've been thinking about trying out investing and trading, there's never been a better time to jump in. There are stock trading platform options for every kind of trader, from brand new buyers to full-time day traders, with every customization level available.

Several trading services even offer the added benefit of zero fees and no lower limit on balances -- you can trade as little as you want without worrying about fees deducted from your trades and purchases.

But if you're just getting started or want to learn more before you jump in, read on to find out more about the best online stock brokers for beginners in 2021.

The Best Online Trading Platforms of 2021

Comparison of the Best Online Brokers

#1
Webull logo

Our Partner

Webull offers an online trading platform, accessible via mobile app & desktop, for the commission-free trading of stocks.

#2

M1 Finance allows you to invest, borrow, and spend with one easy-to-use online trading platform.

#3
eToro Logo

Our Partner

With innovative investment tools and a collaborative trading community, eToro empowers millions of users in over 100+ countries to trade and invest in stocks.

#4
robinhood app logo

Our Partner

Robinhood is a stock trading app that has commission-free investing, and tools to help shape your financial future.

#5

Public trading platform lets you invest in stocks with any amount of money and see what others invest in.

#6
Questrade logo

Our Partner

Questrade gives you two great ways to invest with lower fees: buy and sell your own investments or get a pre-built portfolio.

Detailed Reviews of Trading Platforms

1. Webull - Best Overall

Webull, founded in 2017, is a brokerage company with mobile, web, and digital trading platforms. With zero dollar fees on stock and options trades and no minimum amount requirement for user accounts, it’s easy to decide how much you want to invest.

Webull had zero commission fees since its creation, meaning that it kept trading free before its competitors jumped on board. It’s quickly become one of the best online stock brokers for these reasons.

Trading Commissions: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: $0

Pros

  • No fees or minimum requirements -- trade without fees and with as much, or as little, as you want.
  • Webull is always adding new features to its app and platforms to make the user experience easier and intuitive.
  • The company has great active trading features, which take advantage of short-term changes in stock prices.

Pros

  • There are no options to invest in mutual funds or OTC stocks, meaning your choices are a little more narrow.
  • Webull has fewer educational resources for its users to learn about investing or the stocks they like.

2. M1 Finance - Best for Fractional Shares

M1 Finance offers a high customization level to its users, letting you create a portfolio with your specifications in mind.

It also allows fractional share buying, so you can use your money to invest in multiple stocks and not just one.

Trading Commissions: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: $0

Pros

  • Users can trade fractional shares instead of having to buy whole stocks.
  • You can view and follow more than 80 portfolios from experts to see what they’re trading.
  • There are no fees for trading or asset management on the platform.

Pros

  • M1 doesn’t have any financial advisers on staff and doesn’t offer a chat feature.
  • It isn't easy to create financial goals on the platform.

3. eToro - Best International Broker

eToro is a broker platform based in Israel that has customers in over 140 countries. In 2018, US customers began to be eligible to trade on the platform in some capacity, but several US states' residents cannot yet trade.

Trading Commissions: Depends on trade

Account Minimum: $200

Pros

  • US customers in eligible states can trade on 15 cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Tron.
  • Users can see what other eToro members are doing and follow their trades.
  • eToro features a well-designed app and website that are easy to use and navigate.

Pros

  • You must buy at least $25 in any cryptocurrency, which is negative for users who want to spread their money over a larger number of cryptocurrencies.
  • You have to have a high balance to copy trades, typically at least $200 for each trade you copy from another trader on eToro.

4. Robinhood - Best for Newbies

Robinhood is a one of a kind online broker offering $0 trading commissions, $0 account minimums, and access to stock, ETF, options, and cryptocurrency trades. 

Their rock bottom pricing (read: zero cost to do business) does come at different price: a lack of research tools.

While every other broker on this list has an extensive amount of research tools available to customers, Robinhood’s base offering does not.

However, for $5 per month, you can subscribe to Robinhood Gold and access professional research from Morningstar and NASDAQ.

Robinhood stands out from the pack with their $0 trading commissions, slick mobile app, and cryptocurrency trading. If you’re looking for the cheapest broker to do business with, you’ll want to consider Robinhood.

Trading Commissions: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: $0

Best for: Low-cost investors, cryptocurrency investors

Pros

  • Robinhood’s fees and commissions are low, making it a great option for the new trader who is more cost-conscious.
  • The site and app user interface are intuitive and easy to use.
  • You can instantly use deposits when trading starts and immediately access your money after trading closes.

Pros

  • Robinhood has experienced several major outages, most significantly in 2020, during market surges and volatility. Users could not access the platform, but Robinhood made no efforts to address these issues and was slow to respond.
  • Robinhood has real-time price updates, but they lag behind other similar platforms.

5. Public.com - Best Social Investing App

Public is a cross between a broker and a social media platform. It allows users to follow investors, communicate with other Public users, and see where their connections are investing.

Trading Commissions: $0 per trade

Account Minimum: $0

Pros

  • There are no account minimums, and it’s free to invest on Public -- no fees or charges for most transactions.
  • There’s a 2.5% interest rate on cash balances.
  • You can trade in fractional shares.

Pros

  • Provides limited research resources for users when you want to find out more about the stock you're watching.
  • There’s no online web platform -- you can only use the mobile iOS or Android apps.

6. Questrade - Best for Canadians

Questrade is a Canadian brokerage company that allows users to transfer their accounts with other Canadian brokers to Questrade or open a new account with Questrade right on their platform.

Trading Commissions: As low as $4.95 per trade

Account Minimum: $0

Pros

  • User-friendly app and web platforms.
  • Fees are lower than other Canadian brokerage platforms, between CAD 4.95 and CAD 9.95.
  • There are no fees on money from tax-free savings accounts or registered retirement savings plans.

Pros

  • Only open to Canadians living in Canada as the company requires a Canadian address -- Canadians living abroad can't use Questrade.
  • Real-time quotes require a subscription to view.

What is an Online Stock Broker?

First and foremost, what is an online stock broker? Or for that matter, just a general stock broker?

In the simplest terms, a stock broker is an individual or company that is licensed to buy and sell stocks via a stock market exchange (like the NYSE).

Before online stock brokers were a thing, you had to hire a stock broker to trade on your behalf. These transactions were time-consuming and costly.  The internet changed all of this. 

Now, most investors use an online stock broker.

Online stock brokers take a once-clunky transaction and make it seamless, many times offering a full suite of investment services in addition to basic stock buying and selling.

Full Service vs. Discount

Online brokers are usually broken down into two categories: full service and discount. The primary difference between the two is the cost of doing business.

Discount brokers, as the name implies, offer rock-bottom trading fees and sometimes no fees at all. They are able to offer these lower fees by cutting out a lot of services that full service brokers offer.

Discount brokers were designed to execute your orders, plain and simple.

They will usually back this up with some research capability and a customer service team, but the offering is really centered around low-cost transactions without the bells and whistles.

Examples of discount brokers include Robinhood and Ally Invest.  Discount brokers are great for beginner investors or investors without a significant amount of wealth.

The low fees and simplicity of the business will always remain attractive to investors.

On the other hand, full service brokers provide a large variety of services to their clients besides the execution of buy and sell orders. They offer services like research and advice, retirement planning, wealth management, tax advice, and more. 

Full service brokers are a “do it all” service. Because they offer so many more services to their clients, the trading commissions tend to be higher.

These commissions support their business structure and allow them to provide these extra and valuable services. Examples of full service brokers include Fidelity and Charles Schwab.

Online Stock Broker vs. Robo Advisor

For more reading on robo advisors, visit our robo advisor guide.

How to Pick the Right Online Broker

When it’s time to choose the right broker to open an account with, you should look for a few key things.

Account Minimums

An account minimum is the minimum opening balance you must have to open an account. Many online brokers have set this minimum to zero, meaning you can open an account with them right away without having to transfer any money just yet.

Others, like Etrade, require a $500 minimum. On the high end of the spectrum, you have brokers like Morgan Stanley who target wealthy clients and have a $100,000 minimum for their base level of services.

If you’re ready to invest right away, moving $500 into an E-Trade account may not be that big of a deal.

But if you aren’t quite ready yet, or don’t have the account minimum, you’ll want to find a brokerage that doesn’t have one.

Trading Commissions

Trading commissions - otherwise known as trading fees - are a flashpoint for online brokerages.  Discount brokerages will almost always offer the lowest trading fees.

Companies like Robinhood were built on having no trading fees whatsoever, making them a top choice of cost-conscious investors. 

But just because something is the cheapest doesn’t always mean you should use it. Take into account how often you will be making trades.

Once per month? Once per quarter? If it is not very often, the trading commissions could take a proverbial back seat to other features that a broker offers.

Additionally, some brokers like Fidelity charge a brokerage fee on most transactions, but also offer a suite of proprietary products that can be traded commission-free.

If you like what they have, you may be able to find the best of both worlds.

Product Offerings

This hails back to the full service vs. discount broker discussion. Which one is right for you?

If you’re after low costs and simple trading, a broker that keeps things simple and lean by not offering any extras may be right for you.

If you’re interested in the other bells and whistles that full service brokers offer, then you should take into consideration what those extra products are and how you may use them. 

Do you want your broker to offer retirement planning solutions, tips, and forecasts?  Then make sure you sign up for one that offers those resources to its customers.

Which Broker Should You Choose?

With so many options and platforms available, there’s never been a better time for beginners to get their feet wet trading on the stock market. If you’ve been looking to get into investing, try one of these options.

Each company offers something for every kind of investor, meaning that there’s a company that will meet your needs as you try out some of the best online stock brokers.

Webull

Webull is an award-winning, commission-free online stock trading platform covering full extended hours trading, and real-time market quotes. They offer an investing app with something for everyone.  

Webull icon

Stock Broker FAQ's

Is My Money Safe With An Online Stock Broker?

From an insurability standpoint, yes. The SIPC protects against the loss of cash or securities up to $500,000 when a brokerage fails.

There is no protection for investment gains or losses, and there never will be since you are willingly taking on risk as the investor.

Do I Need A Lot Of Money To Get Started With An Online Broker?

No! Needing a lot of money to get started is one of the most common misconceptions about opening an investment account.  Of the top 6 online brokers we discussed above, only one (E-Trade) had an account minimum greater than $0.

Online brokers want to help you get started, and their low or non-existent account minimums ensure that you can, regardless of their wealth.

What Is The Difference Between A Brokerage And Retirement Account?

Brokerage accounts are where an investor would buy and sell stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, and other securities on the open market.

A brokerage account is what you might call a “normal” investment account. It is normal because there is no special tax treatment or designation assigned to the account.

Money placed into a brokerage account is placed there from a regular bank account or paycheck after your taxes have been taken out.

Any sales from this account are also taxed based on whether it was a capital loss, short-term gain, or long-term gain.

A brokerage account is your most basic and fundamental investment account, though it may now always be the account you open first.

Retirement accounts receive special tax designations designed to encourage investors to save for retirement and the long term.

Retirement accounts are accounts like a 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or Roth IRA. These accounts all receive special tax breaks by letting investors place pre-tax or post-tax money into them.

They also carry age restrictions for withdrawal, and penalties if you withdrawal from them early. Many times, a retirement account will be the first account opened by an investor.

This most often occurs when you start a job and participate in your employer’s workplace retirement program.


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