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If you’ve never traded stocks before, you might imagine trading to be like the old cliché: dozens of brokers in suits yelling at clients over the phone. It may be difficult to picture yourself in the chaos, especially if you’re a beginner.

Online stock trading removes you from the scene. You don’t have to deal with phone calls, broken promises, and mayhem. Instead, you can trade from the comfort of your own home or on-the-go. Like many other industries, brokerages anticipated the need for great online experiences and delivered. Firms created desktop platforms and mobile experiences with built-in trading tools, education, and analytics at your fingertips.

What is Online Stock Trading?

With online stock trading, you’re able to buy and sell securities over an online platform. It takes the place of the traditional method of making phone calls.

There are three types of brokerages. The first is a full-service brokerage, which provides comprehensive services, tips, and education. A beginner may want to choose this. The second is a discount brokerage. They provide their services for a lower fee but do not provide advice or research. The last is robo advisors. Robo advisors collect client information and make trades based on algorithms. They’re usually inexpensive, but will lack the personalized service of other brokers.

These brokerages provide services on the web and mobile applications.

Why Should I Trade Stocks Online?

Whether you’re just starting to trade or thinking of making the switch to an online brokerage, there are a few things you should know.

  • They normally have lower fees than brick-and-mortar brokerages. This is because online platforms save the brokerage both time and money. This savings is passed to onto the trader through low or no fees of commissions.
  • Access to the latest trading news and trends. So, you won’t have to pay for another news subscription service. Education can come in the form of live news alerts, weekly news roundups, and more intensive trading guides. Brokerage firms also integrate this information into their platforms, providing a seamless trading experience.
  • Because all of the trades happen online, they happen instantly instead of taking minutes. Over time, instant trades can make a huge impact on your portfolio, especially when trading volatile stocks.

But, if you have a great relationship with your current brokerage or are new to trading and want a more personal relationship with your broker, it may not be worth it to make the switch.

Who Trades Stocks Online?

Anyone from beginning traders to seasoned investors trades stocks online. With the recent improvements in online brokerage technology and lower fees, making the switch to online trading is easy. It can save money and time.

But online stock trading might not be right for everyone. While it’s true that you can make money trading online, you have to be willing to put in the work. It isn’t a get rich quick scheme; you have complete control of your success. If you’re not willing to put in the research, time, and money, you won’t see a return on your investments.

How to Start Trading Stocks Online

First, you’ll have to choose a brokerage. You’ll have to consider the following:

  • If you want your account self-managed or managed by an advisor. If you’re confident in trading, a self-managed account is worth the savings. If not, you’ll want an advisor. You will pay more in fees, but it may pay off if you have a great advisor.
  • What types of securities you’ll be trading. You can pick from stocks, mutual funds, options, forex, bonds, ETFs, and futures. If you’re new to stock trading, know the risks and rewards associated with each type of security before you commit.
  • Commissions and fees. How much are you willing to pay? Many online platforms will have low fees, but you’ll need to do the math before you start trading, especially if you can’t commit a lot of money to stock trading. Consider annual fees, discounts for balances, and fees per share.
  • Think about account minimums. Some brokerages offer $0 minimums. Others may have higher account minimums, but more perks. If the brokerage does have account minimums, make sure to look into any penalties.
  • How much market data will you need? Certain brokerages will offer platforms with market data fully integrated into their user experience. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced trader, this may be crucial to your success.
  • What platform you see yourself trading on. At the minimum, brokerages offer access to a desktop platform. Most offer a mobile application. Some platforms are designed better than others, though. Watch out for reviews of clunky, slow, and hard-to-use platforms.
  • Customer support. 24/7 live customer support is the gold standard. Look out for supports via email and live chat as well.

Once you choose a brokerage, you can usually sign up for an account online. You’ll need to collect a few things first.

  • Social Security Number or Individual
  • Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Foreign tax id, passport or visa number if you aren’t a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Proof of identity
  • W-9
  • Your employer’s information
  • Method of funding your account

Now, you’re ready to go. You should be able to sign up through the brokerage’s online portal. Depending on the brokerage, you may even be able to start trading on the same day.

Final Thoughts on Trading Stocks Online

Online stock trading makes investing accessible to the masses. Brokerages provide low-to-no fees, user-friendly platforms, and educational content to make trading simple – even for the beginning investor. But you still have to work hard, do your research, spend money, and be willing to put in the time to see a return on your investments.