Before online banking became a thing, people often complained about “banker’s hours." That term refers to the fact that banks typically don’t open until 9:00 AM, and then close their doors by 5:00 PM.
Since those are the hours most people are at work, access to a bank branch was extremely limited – you usually had to take time off work to get your banking done. But that changed with online banking.
The same is true of the stock exchanges. They open at 9:30 AM, and closed by 4:00 PM, which is even more restrictive than banker’s hours. For that reason, many brokerage firms now offer both pre-market trading and after-hours trading.
The combination of the two extends the trading day to accommodate the work schedules of the majority of people.
And in the process, it may even give you an edge in trading more profitably. That is, if you know how to take full advantage, and you’re working with a broker that provides extended hours trading.
Pre-market trading – and it’s end-of-day cousin, after-hours trading – are collectively referred to as extended trading hours.
Since the stock exchange is open, Monday through Friday, from 9:30 AM through 4:00 PM, Eastern time, pre-market trading gives you the ability to place trades before the market opens. And at the end of the day, after-hours trading allows you to place trades after the market is closed.
Many brokers offer extended trading hours, but there are wide differences in starting and ending times. For example, some brokers are open for trading as early as 4:00 AM, while others offer only a narrow window before opening, with pre-market trading, beginning at 9:00 AM.
The situation is similar with after-hours trading. Some brokers allow you to trade as late as 6:00 PM, and others going all the way to 8:00 PM.
Both pre-market and after-hours trading are important for two significant reasons:
Two examples are earnings releases and economic news, like GDP, employment, and retail sales. The Federal Reserve often makes major announcements between the market close on Fridays and market opening on Monday mornings.
All can have a major impact on the direction of the market or on individual securities. Extended hours trading will give you the ability to react to those announcements, either before the market opens or after it closes.
With that information in mind, below is a list of what we believe to be the six best brokerages offering pre-market and after-hours trading.
Robinhood as an on-the-go trading app, enabling you to trade securities commission-free and on-the-fly.
Its major specializations include short term trading and investing in cryptocurrencies. The app has proven itself to be especially popular among investors in their 20s and 30s, who are most comfortable with the mobile emphasis. However, it’s an investment app for experienced, self-directed investors, since it offers little in the way of investment tools and resources, and very limited customer service.
Pre-market trading begins at 9:00 AM, and after-hours trading continues until 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday, Eastern time.
Webull is a trading app designed specifically for younger users. But it’s also directed primarily at self-directed investors, who don’t need broker assistance or a large number of educational resources.
It’s primarily for trading stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptos, though foreign stocks are available through American depositary receipts (ADRs). The app also allows margin trading.
Webull offers pre-market trading from 4:00 AM to 9:30 AM, and after-hours trading from 4:00 PM 8:00 PM (all times Eastern).
Given that Charles Schwab is pretty much good at everything, it’s not possible to identify specifically what they do best.
If it’s possible to say, it may be in the area of customer support. They offer 24/7 live support, as well as a network of branches in and around major cities across the country. Schwab offers virtually unlimited investment options, and is suitable for both self-directed investors, as well as anyone interested in a managed portfolio option.
Pre-market trading is available from 7:00 AM to 9:25 AM, and after-hours trading runs from 4:05 PM until 8:00 PM, all times Eastern.
As the second-largest investment brokerage firm in the world, and Schwab’s primary competitor, the two platforms are just about equal in almost every regard.
Fidelity can accommodate investors at all levels, but is also well suited to both self-directed investors and those looking for managed investment options. And again, like Schwab, they offer top-notch customer service, 24 hours a day, seven days per week. They have a network of several hundred branches around the country, in case you like good old-fashioned face-to-face contact with your investing activities.
Pre-market trading is available from 7:00 AM to 9:28 AM, and after-hours trading runs from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM, all times Eastern.
Firstrade is another highly rated investment platform.
It provides comprehensive research from some of the top providers in the financial industry, including Morningstar, Zacks, and Benzinga. But what might be the most outstanding feature of this platform is that they offer trading in over 11,000 mutual funds, commission-free. Most other brokers charge fees on mutual funds.
It’s also an excellent platform if you want to trade options, since it’s one of the few brokerages that charge no contract fee, in addition to being commission-free.
Firstrade offers pre-market trading from 8:00 AM to 9:25 AM, and after-hours trading from 4:05 PM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Friday, Eastern time.
TradeStation is widely acknowledged to be one of the top investment platforms for both advanced and active traders.
Part of that reputation owes to the fact that TradeStation was designed specifically for professional and institutional traders. They offer all types of investment options, including cryptocurrencies. And if you like trading mutual funds, their commissions are among the lowest in the industry.
TradeStation offers pre-market trading, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM, and after-hours, from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM, all times Eastern.
Given that so much information that could have a material effect on the markets and on individual securities takes place before the stock exchanges open, or after they close, it’s practically a necessity to hold your investments with a broker that offers extended-hours trading.
Whether it’s to better accommodate a tight work schedule or to give you time to react to off-hours news, extended hours trading can have a direct impact on your investing profits.