Trading stocks means you can end up with a mixed bag of emotions. You might be excited at the prospect of watching your money grow, overwhelmed at the number of stock options available to you or even frustrated if you’re having trouble making your 1st buy.
You don’t want to pile on the feeling of being overcharged by your online trading platform. Commissions, account maintenance charges
Luckily, most brokerages have recognized this fear and created free options to help new traders save more money when getting started. Take a look at our top picks to compare services and find your match today.
Best Online Trading Platforms:
- Best Overall Online Trading Platform: TradeStation
- Best Mobile Brokerage: Webull
- Best for Advanced Traders: Moomoo
- Best Advanced Platform: TD Ameritrade
- Best for Professional Traders: Interactive Brokers
- Best for Beginners: Robinhood
- Best for Advanced Traders: Schwab
- Best for Saving on Taxes: Vanguard
Compare Online Brokers
Take a look at our top picks for online stock brokers. Compare what each offers to find the right service for you.
Characteristics of a Successful Online Stock Trader
Though each trader has his own individual set of financial and personal goals, the most successful stock traders enter the market with the following 3 characteristics:
- Commitment to education. The most successful traders never buy stocks based on a “gut feeling.” They do their research, look at the history of the company and its leadership
andmake selections based on hard data and perspectives of industry experts.
They also stay up to date on political happenings both at home and abroad and they factor in how new laws and regulations affect the market. Looking to increase your knowledge of the stock market? Check out our list of the best low-cost day trading courses you can sign up for right now.
- Use of the right tools. The best stock traders use the right tools at their disposal.
- A realistic perspective. There are plenty of stock trading courses that teach traders the secrets that industry professionals “hide” from the general public and website pop-ups that say they the next Amazon or Bitcoin buy. The best traders know that these are over-exaggerated claims at best and downright scams at worst. Before you start trading, check your goals
andmake sure they are realistic—the stories of overnight millionaires are few and far between.
Things to Look for in an Online Trading Platform
Though most stock trading platforms charge account maintenance fees and commissions, you’ll find a number of brokers that will allow you to trade for free. Some characteristics that all reliable free trading platforms share include:
- An intuitive trading site. A brokerage firm isn’t very useful if you can’t understand how to get started. Watch a few YouTube tutorials or website overviews to get a feel for the platform before you commit desktop space and time to the broker. If the platform isn’t intuitive, check the brokerage’s customer service options. A responsive team of customer service professionals may be able to help you understand how to operate a more complicated platform.
- Clear and easy-to-understand free trading. Though some platforms will allow you to trade for free indefinitely, some may only allow commission-free trades within a limited window after opening an account. When you sign up for an account on a free trading platform, make sure you read the terms of service to understand how many free trades you are entitled to with your account. Brokerages that try to hide this information may make their money “tricking” users into thinking that trades are free indefinitely, only to stick them with high fees later on by hiding a clause in the fine print.
- Realistic claims. Trading platforms that make unrealistic claims (like promising a dollar amount of returns or claiming that they have “secrets” that other brokers hide) are more than likely just trying to take your money with a hidden fee or commission. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The Best Online Trading Platforms
Based on the criteria above, we’ve compiled a list of the best online trading platforms to get started trading stocks for free.
TradeStation is for advanced traders who need a comprehensive platform. The brokerage offers an impressive range of investable assets. Frequent and professional traders appreciate its wide range of analysis tools. TradeStation’s app is also equally effective, offering full platform capabilities.
TradeStation offers 2 distinct account types: its basic TS GO account for new traders and the more in-depth TS Select for advanced traders who need comprehensive tools and research options.
There’s no minimum account balance required to open a TS GO account. TS Select accounts require a $2,000 minimum deposit.
If you’re new to trading, you’ll love TradeStation’s Simulated Trading tool. It allows you to practice entering buy and sell orders using TradeStation’s suite of charting and analysis tools
Webull is a mobile app-based brokerage that features commission-free stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trading. It’s regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Webull offers economic calendars, ratings from research agencies, margin trading and short-selling. Its intuitive trading platform is complete with technical and fundamental analysis tools. Its a solid option for active intermediate and advanced traders.
You’ll enjoy commission-free trading for more than 5,000 different stocks and ETFs. There are no maintenance or software platform fees, and no charge to open or maintain an account.
Moomoois a stock trading app with in-depth, customizable tools and a powerful platform. It’s a No. 1 contender for fastest trades. Moomoo’s trading channels and order processing capabilities fit all investor levels with its intuitive and powerful investing platform.
You get free access to Level 2 market data which displays real-time bids and asks. You can determine entry or exit points that assure the liquidity needed to complete your trades. (Don’t forget Moomoo’s customized stock screener so you can get what you need — instantly, the way you want it!)
Moomoo charges no commission for U.S stocks, ADRs, ETFs and options. Learn more.
4. TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade is 1 of the largest discount brokers. It’s a 1-stop-shop for traders and investors with varied trading experience. It offers a range of tradable securities, advanced and user-friendly platforms, as well as tools made available to users.
Opening an account is fairly easy and you can pay for it electronically and start trading the very same day. The Web Platform’s My Dock feature adds up to four columns of streaming data, while it also has predefined and custom screeners to filter thousands of investment opportunities.
Additionally, the Snap Ticket trading features to ensure a secure connection and make the trade even while you are doing any other task.
Given the plethora of research reports and the advanced trading tools TD Ameritrade boasts of, it is quite apparent that it fits into the scheme of advanced traders nicely.
5. Interactive Brokers
Created for experienced, professional day traders, Interactive Brokers offers users 4,156 no transaction fee funds.
However, Interactive Brokers has earned a special place on our list for its incredibly low-cost stock trading and investing. And Interactive Brokers got rid of account minimums for individual investors.
Though not free, users pay just $1 maximum per stock trade and $0.70 per options contract. These commissions are an average of about $4 lower than most competitors, making it 1 of the lowest-cost trading platforms on the market. and account maintenance fees (a monthly $10 inactivity fee for traders with account balances under $100,000).
If you’re an active trader and you’re looking for individual trades, Interactive Brokers is the closest you’ll get to free trading at a professional level.
The gold standard of free stock trading, Robinhood is a unique app that allows users to buy a wide range of exchange-traded funds and stocks.
The mobile trading app has also introduced cryptocurrencies with its 2019 update—though this option is not available in a number of U.S. states, including New York, Washington, Nevada and others.
The platform charges $0 in commissions and there are no account maintenance or inactivity fees you’ll have to worry about. If you’re looking for research and tools, the Robinhood offers company information, charts, and other tools. The broker nonetheless offers exactly what it promises—truly free trades and over 5,000 equities to choose from.
The platform appeals to this demographic by offering the bare essentials of investment products and services. That means that those seeking to purchase and sell bonds, options contracts or mutual fund shares will have to look elsewhere. At the moment, the only vehicles available to Robinhood Investors are domestic exchange stocks and ETFs.
7. Charles Schwab
If you’re looking to invest in ETFs for free, Charles Schwab has 1 of the most comprehensive selections available.
Schwab offers 200 commission-free ETFs. Users can build a comprehensive and diverse collection of funds without paying the fees that come along with buying individual stocks. Charles Schwab also offers over 4,000 commission-free mutual funds, a selection on-par with competitors.
While accounts with Charles Schwab typically come along with a $1,000 account minimum, the brokerage firm frequently runs promotions that offer to waive this minimum if you sign up for an automatic $100 monthly investment.
Though buying ETFs and mutual funds is free, it’s important to note that traders are subject to a $5 commission when buying or selling individual stocks and options.
When it comes to buying and selling commission-free ETFs, Vanguard reigns supreme. The financial giant’s founder invented the mutual fund, and the company offers over 1,800 commission-free ETFs and 2,800 transaction-free mutual funds.
Its selection of mutual funds is expansive, offering everything from an S&P 500 index fund to the Vanguard Real Estate ETF that invests solely in real estate management companies and property holdings.
Though Vanguard charges a $20 annual service fee, the company waives this fee for account holders with over $10,000 in Vanguard funds and holdings.
Find an Online Brokerage Now
Start with our top online broker platforms to find a service that works for you. A solid brokerage can also help you stay up-to-date on the market and make smart buying and selling decisions.
It’s hard to find a complete free trading platform. However, any online broker platform worth using will offer you a free trail period to try the product and use its educational offering. Get your feet wet and try a few options to settle on your best fit today.