Best Investing Apps for College Students

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 25, 2023

Investing apps offer a fun, easy and intuitive way to begin exploring the investing landscape. These apps provide you with plenty of tools and recommendations you can use to maximize your returns when investing on the go. Many of these investing apps are perfect for tech-savvy college students, combining low minimum deposits with clean interfaces and little required prior knowledge. Here are the best investing apps for college students.

The Best Investing Apps for College Students:

  • Best for Stock Market News: Benzinga Pro
  • Best for Intermediate Traders and Investors: Webull
  • Best for Prepping for Future Investing: Acorns
  • Best for Customized Auto Investing: M1 Finance
  • Best for Active and Global Traders: Interactive Brokers
  • Best for Casual Investing: Stash
  • Best for Investors Who Maintain Significant Margin Balances: TradeUP
  • Best for ETF and Mutual Fund Investing: Vanguard
  • Best for Trading Ideas: Public.com
  • Best for Insurance Hub Services: Marble

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have a million dollars in your bank account to start investing in stocks, Exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and more. Brokerage apps make it easy to get started investing, allowing you to open an account in just a few minutes with a couple dollars. The following investment apps have made waves with college students, allowing new investors to get started buying and selling assets on a shoestring budget. 

Best for Stock Market News: Benzinga Pro

  • securely through Benzinga Pro's website
    securely through Benzinga Pro's website
    Best For:
    All Trading Levels
    Rating:

Benzinga has some of the best stock analysis software you’ll find, especially because this platform is designed for everyone. If you’re new to investing, you can learn quite a lot from Benzinga Pro. If you have a full portfolio and you would like to learn more about the assets that you’re already holding and new assets that you would prefer to add.

You can get all the news you need for your assets, and you will also learn about the businesses that will impact your portfolio now and in the future.

Benzinga Pro provides the Audio Squawk broadcast and other tools like stock screeners, stock research and an integrated stock chart room that is vital for those who want to learn more other investors. Completely user friendly and easy to use, you can get started on Benzinga Pro right away.

Pros

  • You can do all your research through Benzinga
  • The Benzinga platform also offers courses that you can mix with your Pro subscription

Cons

  • Unfortunately, you cannot execute trades through Benzinga

Best for Intermediate Traders and Investors: Webull

Webull can be a strong choice for exceptionally active investors who are interested in exploring short-term trading strategies like scalping or day trading. Webull offers a complete suite of technical indicators and research that you can use to develop a trading strategy. While new investors may not need these tools, everyone can appreciate Webull’s lightning-fast order system.  

College students who don’t have much money to invest won’t have a problem opening and maintaining an account with Webull. Webull does not charge any type of account maintenance or service fees, and there are no account minimums. Webull also offers a trading education center and a trading simulator to help newer investors develop their own unique investing strategy.  

Pros

  • You can do a full technical analysis on any asset
  • You can use this platform to learn before you ever invest

Cons

  • Some investors might want to start smaller

Best for Prepping for Future Investing: Acorns

  • securely through Acorns's website
    securely through Acorns's website
    Best For:
    Prepping for future investing
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Acorns offers its users a hands-off way to invest, which can be appealing for busy college students. When you make a purchase, Acorns rounds up the dollar amount and invest your spare change. For example, if your grocery bill comes out to $50.55 for the week, Acorns will round your purchase up to $51.00 and invest the $0.45 difference. Acorns says that this investing method automates your deposits and does so in a way that you won’t notice that you’re investing at all when you look at your bank account or credit card statement.

Acorns refers to this investment strategy as microinvesting — and though it might not seem like a significant way to invest, these pennies can add up quickly. Acorns offers fractional share investments, which means that small deposits come together over time to form a complete share of stock that you own. Acorns also offers savings account options, with a wide-reaching network of free ATM options. 

Pros

  • You can start students saving on this app or stuff some savings away with ease
  • You can easily set up the app so that it helps you save without doing too much work

Cons

  • You may feel the need to move on at some point because of the small scale of the platform

Best for Customized Auto Investing: M1 Finance

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    securely through M1 Finance's website
    Best For:
    Customizable Auto Investing
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    Brokerage products and services are offered by M1 Finance, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of M1 Holdings, Inc. ✝Your free trial (a $30 value) begins the date you enroll in the M1 Plus subscription, and ends 3 months after (“Free Trial”). Upon the expiry of the Free Trial, your account is automatically billed a monthly subscription fee of $10 unless you elect annual billing of $95 or cancel your subscription under your Membership details in the M1 Platform

M1 Finance is an investing app that has pioneered a unique pie-investing strategy. When you open an account with M1 Finance, you choose between 80 expert portfolio allocations, with each investment in the allocation represented by a slice of your total investing pie. This method takes the guesswork out of choosing how you want to structure your portfolio.

When you open your account, M1 Finance will assist you in choosing an allocation by asking questions about your investing goals, risk tolerance and income. Each time you make a deposit into your account, M1 will divide your investment according to your chosen allocation. As you learn more about the market, you also have the option to create your own pie with asset allocations that you handpick. 

Pros

  • You can open several account types with M1 to get the best options for your investments
  • You can use the portfolio allocations on the site to make the most of your investments without guessing at how to diversify

Cons

  • You may want a platform that doesn’t lock you into the expert allocation options

Best for Active and Global Traders: Interactive Brokers

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    Securely through Interactive Brokers’ website
    Best For:
    Active and Global Traders
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Interactive Brokers is an award-winning platform that is designed to serve everyone from a professional trader to a student who is saving for the first time. You can trade in over 90 markets and in more than 200 countries. Plus, you can take advantage of a range of tools on the site as you learn to invest like the Trader Workstation (TWS) desktop platform, a web-based Client Portal, and various mobile applications including IBKR Mobile, GlobalTrader, and IMPACT.

You can choose from IBKR Lite if you want to save money, or you can step up to the IBKR Pro account. Stocks and ETFs can be traded without commissions, and you can keep margins low, avoid high fees and even save money with a high APY on this platform.

Pros

  • The platform has more options, tools and educational items than the competition
  • You can learn a lot more about investing as you try to build a portfolio

Cons

  • You may feel overwhelmed using this platform

Best for Casual Investing: Stash

  • securely through Stash's website
    securely through Stash's website
    Best For:
    Casual investors
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    1 Stash Banking services provided by Stride Bank, N.A., Member FDIC. The Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard® is issued by Stride Bank pursuant to license from Mastercard International. Mastercard and the circles design are registered trademarks of Mastercard International Incorporated. Any earned stock rewards will be held in your Stash Invest account. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value

Stash is an investing app that prioritizes regular, consistent investments held over the long term. You can open an account with Stash with a $5 initial investment, which is ideal for college students who don’t have much money to invest. Stash’s fees are also low enough that anyone can use the platform, beginning at just $1 a month.

Stash’s most unique investing tool is its Auto-Stash feature. With Auto-Stash, you can authorize Stash to set automatic investing and savings intervals, allowing the app to invest on your behalf according to your instructions. This feature can be ideal for busy college students — and you can adjust your intervals and investments whenever you need to in order to fit your changing finances. 

Pros

  • Fees and pricing are very low to help you save money
  • You can start with an extremely low minimum of $5, which is good for students or those just barely getting into the market

Cons

  • The platform may be too casual for some traders

Best for Investors Who Maintain a Significant Margin Balance: TradeUP

  • securely through TradeUP's website
    securely through TradeUP's website
    Best For:
    Investors Who Maintain Significant Margin Balances
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    Read Review

The TradeUP App, provided by TradeUP Securities, Inc., is a cutting-edge mobile trading platform that empowers investors to trade U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options without incurring any commission or contract fees. Additionally, TradeUP boasts an incredibly competitive flat margin interest rate of 1.99%, which remains advantageous, especially in the current high borrowing cost environment where some competitors are charging up to 10%.

As a part of their dedication to building a vibrant investor community, TradeUP extends attractive incentives to new investors, friend referrals and account transfers.

TradeUP boasts a user-friendly, multi-platform application that supports not only mobile apps, but also desktop versions (compatible with Windows and Mac download) and a web version. Plus, users get:

  • The option to purchase fractional shares, investing with as little as $1 on big-name stocks
  • No account minimums or hidden fees
  • Paper trading that allows you to practice before committing your funds to investments

TradeUP Securities, Inc. is a proud member of organizations like FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation), OCC (Option Clearing Corporation), NYSE (New York Stock Exchange), CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange), and DTCC (Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation), reflecting the platform’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards and adherence to industry regulations. 

Pros

  • You can get started as cheaply as possible
  • You can practice on this platform instead of spending your own money

Cons

  • The platform may be user-friendly, but it may not offer the investment instruments you were looking for

Best for ETF and Mutual Fund Investing: Vanguard

One of the largest names in retirement saving, Vanguard can be a strong choice for college students with an eye toward the future. Vanguard is best known for its low-cost mutual funds, which have lower expense ratios than competitors. ETF investors also enjoy lower expense ratios as well, allowing you to see a larger return on your investments by limiting the amount of money that you pay to your broker in exchange for maintaining your account.

Like its desktop platform, Vanguard’s mobile app is clean, straightforward and easy to operate. Though Vanguard’s platform is not suitable for active trading, its retirement investing options are top class.   

Pros

  • Vanguard offers a range of proprietary instruments that could help simplify your investing process
  • It’s very easy to diversify with this platform

Cons

  • Though Vanguard has its own investment instruments, they may not work for you

Best for Trading Ideas: Public.com

If you’re looking for an active way to invest and you need the freedom to withdraw and deposit regularly, you might want to consider opening an account with Public.com. Though Public.com does not offer retirement account options (like IRAs or 401(k)s), its cash accounts provide you with a one-stop-shop to invest in stocks, funds and cryptocurrencies.

Public.com breaks its stock offerings down into “themes.” Investing in a theme allows you to diversify your investment funds between multiple companies within the theme’s sector. For example, Public.com’s “self-driving cars” theme includes investments in Uber, Intel, IBM and Delphi Technologies. If you have an idea of the sectors you want to invest in but you don’t want to select individual stocks and funds to buy and sell, these themes can be a helpful resource. 

Pros

  • Themed investing can simplify the process for you
  • You can save money and invest on your level, no matter how little you have

Cons

  • Public.com may not offer the specific investment options that you were looking for
  • Retirement investments are not available

Best for Insurance Hub Services: Marble

  • securely through Marble's website
    securely through Marble's website
    Best For:
    Insurance Hub Services
    Rating:

While Marble isn’t a traditional investing app, it does have a pathway to investment and reminds college students that they must invest wisely in insurance protection. Even if you just rent an apartment and walk to class—you need insurance.

Managing your insurance policies can be difficult because you require quite a bit of coverage and it can get confusing. Marble creates a single account that houses all your insurance information, making it easier for you to track policies, payments, renewals and your coverage.

You can shop for new policies from the app, learn about insurance using the app and you can even earn points when using the app. The Marbles (rewards) that you earn in the app can be exchanged for gift cards from some of your favorite retailers. Plus, you can use those marbles to give to a list of charities supported by the app. You can even convert your marbles into cryptocurrency.

Linking all your accounts to the app is easy, your personal information is secure and you will even learn more about handling your insurance policies in one place. Plus, it’s all free to use at any time.

Pros

  • You can access insurance information and manage policies so that you don’t get them confused or allow them to lapse
  • The app allows you to collect rewards through several actions

Cons

  • Some users may not like the rewards that are available

Benefits of Investing as a College Student

College students are notoriously broke. As a college student, you’re probably working only limited hours (if at all) and cutting expenses wherever you can. Is it really worth investing your money when funds are so tight? 

While investing as a college student can be tough, it’s far from impossible — and investing early comes with a number of benefits. Some of the benefits that you may be able to take advantage of when you start investing in college include the following. 

Saving for emergencies: If you open a taxable brokerage account, you can largely buy and sell assets whenever you want. When you invest your money through one of these accounts, you have the option to sell your assets and withdraw your funds if you run into an emergency or unexpected expense. 

Building a nest egg: If you don’t run into emergency expenses, you can use your investing strategy to watch your money grow over time. Over the course of years, this small initial investment can potentially become a major nest egg you can use to start your working life or save for the future. 

Potentially getting out of debt: Smart investing can help you compound your money, especially when compared to the low interest rates you’re likely to receive when you keep your funds in a savings account. When you graduate college, you can use a portion of your investment funds to pay down some of your outstanding loans. 

Saving for retirement: If you’re like most college students, you’re probably more concerned about passing your midterms than you are about passing into your golden years. However, when you begin investing for retirement early, you’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of more years of compounding interest. Investing just a little money while you’re in college can make a massive difference in your retirement savings later on in life. 

Possible inspiration for a new career: College is a time when many students discover new passions and finalize their career choices. Learning more about investing and the markets can be great for your wallet — and you might discover that a career in investing appeals to you. 

Learning about finances: At times, you might feel like college isn’t teaching you anything, and most people who are not business majors will never come close to learning about finances in college. You can teach yourself quite a bit and learn from online platforms so that you’re more educated when you graduate. This could help you, your family, your friends or even your future spouse learn how to manage money more effectively.

Investments College Students Should Avoid

While investing in college can be a great opportunity to grow your wealth, some investments require a higher level of insight and research. If you’re getting started in the market for the first time, you may want to avoid the following asset classes until you have a strong understanding of the investment sphere. 

Options: Options contracts are agreements between two parties to conduct a transaction to buy or sell shares of stock in the future. More than a third of options contracts expire worthless, which means that you can potentially lose your investment. A loss like that is unlikely to happen when investing in more stable assets, which is why you’ll likely want to avoid options when you first start investing. 

Futures: Futures contracts are agreements between two parties to buy or sell assets or commodities at a fixed price in the future. Like options contracts, futures contracts can be difficult to understand and profit from, which is why they’re considered to be poor investments for college students

CFDs: A contract for difference (CFD) is an agreement for two parties to exchange the price difference of an asset or commodity between the opening and closing dates of the contract. There are multiple types of CFDs, each of which requires its own in-depth research and strategy. The U.S. currently prohibits CFD trading for citizens.  

Anything that confuses you: Never, ever invest in something you don’t understand. If all you can do at first is buy a couple ETFs and sit on them, do that. Don’t be enticed by friends or family who want to get you in on “what’s hot” right now. If you don’t get it, steer clear until you feel you understand it will enough to make a wise choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

How can a college student invest?

A

As long as you’re at least 18 years of age, you can invest freely as a college student. An easy place to begin exploring the market is with an intuitive investing app with low minimum deposits like those listed above. 

Q

How much should college students invest?

A

The answer to this question varies depending on your unique circumstances. While you can invest as much money as you want, investing just $5 a week can make a huge difference for college students over time. Consider your budget for room and board, tuition, lab fees, meals, textbooks and other college-related expenses before you decide how much you can afford to invest. 

Q

What are the best investing apps for college students?

A

Check out the article above to find Benzinga’s list of the best investing apps for college students.

About Sarah Horvath

Sarah is an expert in the insurance, investing for retirement and cryptocurrency space.