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Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners


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Best for educational content, easy navigation, and transparent fees

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In our list of the best brokers for beginners, we focused on the features that help new investors learn as they are starting their investing journey. Brokers were selected based on top-notch educational resources, easy navigation, clear commission and pricing structures, and portfolio construction tools. Some brokers also offered low minimum account balances, and demo accounts to practice.

Best for Beginners

Our list of the top five brokers for beginners:

  • TD Ameritrade
  • E*TRADE
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Charles Schwab
  • Merrill Edge

TD Ameritrade

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Free stock, ETF, and per-leg options trading commissions in the U.S., as of October 3rd, 2019. $0.65 per options contract.

Despite slightly higher than average fees, TD Ameritrade attained the top spot because of the firm’s detailed educational platform, its range of product offerings, and the ability to open an account and explore before depositing any money. Beginning traders should get started on TD Ameritrade’s standard web-based interface, frequently referred to as “the green site.” As they grow comfortable with trading, they can move up the features ladder into Trade Architect, and consider jumping into the rich thinkorswim trading platform, which is packed with tools for sophisticated options traders. This is a broker that can grow with you. We also found its demo account, research tools, and mobile apps to be much better than the industry average.

Previously the most expensive of the major online brokers, TD Ameritrade eliminated base trading commissions on equities, ETFs, and options for U.S.-based customers.

Pros

  • Well-rounded set of educational material and resources

  • $0 minimum initial investment

Cons

  • Tools are spread across multiple platforms

  • The website is so packed with content and tools that finding a particular item is difficult

E*TRADE

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.

E*TRADE features robust trading and analysis software. Forex trading and annuities are missing, but E*TRADE’s advanced trading platform, launched in December and called Power E*TRADE, integrates the options trading and education tools via their acquisition of OptionsHouse, and should provide a lot of value to stock and options traders.

E*TRADE eliminated its base trading commissions on equities, ETFs, and options in the U.S., effective October 7th, 2019.

Pros

  • More research and analytical tools than most of the other brokers we reviewed

  • User-friendly options trading platform

  • Huge investments in their infrastructure over the last few years

Cons

  • Only frequent traders and those with high account balances can access a specialized support channel

  • Dividend reinvestment unavailable online

Fidelity Investments

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade

Fidelity offers a wide range of trading capabilities, research, and education opportunities that can help the new investor grow. With over $2 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity is a massive broker with the ability to use its scale to deliver excellent customer support and low trading costs.

In October of 2019, all U.S. stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) no longer incur a commission, and the base per-leg charge for options trades has also been eliminated. Options trades are $0.65 per contract under Fidelity’s new pricing.

Pros

  • Superior trade routing algorithms

  • No requirements for their Active Trader Pro platform

  • Calculators to help new traders avoid entering orders that might be rejected due to inadequate buying power

Cons

  • Features spread across several platforms

  • Low balance fees for some mutual funds

Charles Schwab

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Free stock, ETF and options trading commissions in the U.S., as of October 7th, 2019. $0.65 per options contract.

Currently, among our top five Best Brokers for Beginners, Schwab offers the lowest combination of trading commissions and account minimums. Schwab also offers a wide array of commission-free exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds for those who aren’t interested in individual stocks. Those who are interested in stocks and options will find world-class research.

Schwab eliminated its base commissions for stock and ETF transactions as well as its per-leg fee for options trades.

Pros

  • A wealth of information created by highly rated research analysts and news sources

  • Waivable account minimum

Cons

  • The sheer number of features and reports available can feel overwhelming

  • Schwab maintains transaction history for just 24 months online

  • Several different trading platforms make it hard to keep track of everything

Merrill Edge

  • Account Minimums: $0
  • Fees: $0 per stock trade. Options trades $0 per leg plus $0.65 per contract

With its growing group of financial advisors and a $0 minimum initial investment, Bank of America’s Merrill Edge provides an excellent home base for beginning traders who are either looking for a little more hand-holding, want to start with a smaller account, or both. The firm’s technology focuses on helping clients plan for financial goals, and their “Portfolio Story” experience is a great way to track progress towards those goals. Among other features, the Portfolio Story tracks your investments in terms of environmental, social, and governance ratings.

Recognizing that younger investors prefer to use mobile devices, Merrill has made its desktop and app experiences increasingly similar, making the transition from one to the other much smoother.

Pros

  • Merrill Edge employs financial advisors at more than 2,000 Bank of America locations for in-person service

  • $0 Minimum Initial Investment

  • Top-notch education for new stock and options investors

Cons

  • $5,000 minimum to access Merrill Edge Guided Investing robo-advisory platform

What Is a Stock Broker?

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