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For the average beginning investor, there has never been a better time to get started with investing in the stock market.
Improvements in technology and algorithmic trading over the last 10 years have allowed new types of investment apps and brokerages to emerge.
Many of these apps and brokerages are offered completely free to United States users.
In this article, we are going to outline 10 of the top free investment platforms and apps. Here at Investing Simple, we have done hundreds of hours of research reviewing and testing different investing apps and platforms.
First of all, let's talk about free stuff. What kind of promotions do these brokerages offer?
Each of these apps has a different use case, and as a result our pick for #1 is based on the use case. For example, M1 is our number one pick for dividend investing. On the other hand, Webull is our top pick for active traders.
So, let's discuss the best investing apps for beginners.
M1 Finance is a new type of investing app that allows you to automate your investing 100% for free. They call themselves a hybrid between a robo-advisor and a brokerage.
You can invest in a variety of ETFs and stocks on the M1 platform. Once you build your portfolio and deposit funds, you can sit back and allow your portfolio to be automatically rebalanced by the M1 Finance platform. All you have to do is continue contributions. Your entire stock market portfolio can be put on autopilot!
M1 Finance works by creating a portfolio called a pie. Within each pie, you choose the specific stocks and ETFs that make up your pie.
For example, you could have a pie that is 50% Facebook stock and 50% Netflix stock.
You can have an unlimited number of pies on the M1 Finance platform as well as the option to put 100 holdings within one pie. For example, you could have a growth pie and an income pie on M1 Finance!
M1 Finance also offers expert pies created by securities professionals on their platform. M1 is the only platform we have come across that offers this service on a completely free investing app. These prebuilt pies are designed for specific investment goals. You can invest for your retirement, follow specific industries and sectors, as well as follow your favorite hedge fund managers.
Here is our full review of M1 Finance.
Beyond that, here are the features we love offered by M1...
Pie investing through M1 Finance allows you to maintain a diversified portfolio even if you have a smaller investing account.
One of the problems investors have faced for years is having a well diversified portfolio without having tens of thousands of dollars to invest. M1 Finance has created a solution by allowing you to invest with fractional shares for free!
By purchasing as little as 1/10,000th of a share M1 Finance allows you to remain fully invested.
This is one of M1’s most useful features, giving you the ability to streamline your investments.
When you deposit funds, M1 Finance will buy whatever you are underweight (low) in.
When you withdraw funds, M1 Finance will sell off whatever you are overweight (high) in.
So, they are buying low and selling high on your behalf! Warren Buffett would approve.
Dynamic rebalancing allows you to withdraw and deposit funds knowing that you will always be fully invested and you won’t need to actively buy or sell positions yourself.
M1 Finance allows you to minimize your tax liability by using tax efficient strategies when selling investments. M1 Finance is the only free investing platform we have come across that offers a tax efficient selling strategy.
When you withdraw money from your M1 Finance account, your investments are sold in this order:
Here's our article on how taxes work with M1 Finance.
By using these tax minimization strategies, M1 Finance aims to keep more of your money invested. By doing so, they are saving you money in the long term and allowing for more compounding to build in your account over time.
Within the app, you have the ability to set up recurring deposits or withdrawals into and out of your account.
M1 Finance will automatically invest or sell funds in order to satisfy your cash needs.
When we said you can automate your entire portfolio with M1 Finance, we mean it!
Webull is an investing app that has taken the brokerage industry by storm.
This is a commission free stock, options and ETF trading app that we call a "more robust version" of Robinhood.
This app is designed for the active trader who is looking for a more dynamic, research oriented interface. It has a variety of features that benefit traders such as technical indicators, research agency ratings, financial calendars and free margin trading as well as short selling.
With easy access to margin, research tools, and live data, Webull has built an ideal platform for active traders.
Webull is an app that is for the intermediate trader who already has some experience with the stock market. If you are a complete beginner, you might experience information overload. If you are a somewhat experienced trader, Webull will give you all of the data you will likely need.
Here is our full review of Webull.
Webull has a variety of technical indicators available on the platform.
You can choose from dozens of technical indicators such as moving averages, relative strength indexes and more.
Another great feature is candlestick charts. You can easily switch between regular line charts and candlestick charts within the app!
Webull has a very useful feature called the virtual trading simulator.
This feature lets you create a virtual portfolio with fake money ($1,000,000 to be exact!) to test out strategies before risking real money.
This is an ideal feature for someone just starting out, who may need to gain more investing knowledge and know how before investing real money.
Webull lets you set a variety of alerts for different holdings.
They can send you alerts when a price level is hit, or a rate of change has hit a defined level. There are also alerts for volume levels or changes, this can be useful for traders get a sense of where the stock may be headed in the short term.
The financial calendar feature keeps you informed on all the latest and upcoming financial news.
Important events such as upcoming IPOs, dividend payouts and earnings releases are all provided to you in a calendar format on the Webull app.
Webull allows margin trading on its platform to certain users. You must have a minimum account balance of $2,000 for margin trading approval.
Webull offers after hours and premarket trading for free. You can trade securities from 4 am to 8 pm on the Webull platform offering more flexibility in placing trades.
We all know about the Robinhood app.
It is easy to use and targets the beginner investor who is looking to save money by avoiding commission costs.
Robinhood allows you to trade stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies and options commission free. The Robinhood user interface is simple and digestible and provides a good user experience for a complete beginner.
What you will find after using Robinhood for a while is that the platform becomes very limiting. While it is easy for a beginner to use, you will probably outgrow it in a few months.
The lack of sophisticated charting and technical/fundamental metrics is a common complaint among Robinhood users. On the other hand, Robinhood is a beginner friendly platform.
They also offer new users a FREE STOCK just for signing up!
Robinhood allows users to trade stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies completely free.
All investors benefit from saving money on fees. This is specifically useful for active traders who make frequent day to day trades.
We all know how simple Robinhood is. Its application is easy to use and not overwhelming like other platforms can be.
This may be a benefit for certain investors who are just starting out and would like a simple and easy to use platform.
For investors looking to conduct more research and build trading strategies, you may find the Robinhood platform is fairly limited.
Robinhood offers a subscription service called Robinhood Gold.
In the Robinhood Gold plan, you have the ability to trade pre and post market starting at 9 am and ending at 6 pm. It also gives you access to Morningstar research reports and larger instant deposits. Robinhood Gold lets you trade on margin once your account has a $2,000 minimum balance.
Robinhood Gold costs $5 per month for this service.
Recently, Robinhood announced that they would be rolling out fractional shares. This means that you can buy shares of stocks and ETFs on the platform for as little as $1.
Included with this as well was the ability to automatically reinvest dividends. This feature is great for dividend investors looking to earn compound interest!
Moomoo is an advanced trading app that tailors primarily towards shorter-term traders. The app provides a significant amount of research and data that traders will likely find very useful.
That being said, complete beginner traders may find the app to be somewhat intimidating. The interface is much more complex than simple apps like Robinhood and Public, but advanced traders may find this is exactly what they are looking for.
Within the app, traders have the ability to purchase stocks, ETFs, and options contracts. Traders can also perform short sales and make purchases on margin which may be attractive features depending on your trading strategies.
Paper trading is also offered on Moomoo for beginner investors or those that want to get a feel for the platform before their cash is on the line. With paper trading, Moomoo will give you $1,000,000 in fake money to practice your trading strategies.
Here is our full review of Moomoo.
As a platform that is built for traders, Moomoo offers a collection of features that this audience will likely find significant value in.
On the platform, you will have access to extended-hours trading. This will increase your trading window from the standard 9:30 am - 4:00 pm EST to 4:00 am - 8:00 pm EST. Keep in mind the markets are typically much more volatile outside of standard hours.
Traders will also have the ability to take advantage of Level 2 market data at no additional cost. This provides you with additional information on the buying and selling activity of a particular stock and is useful for individuals looking to take advantage of short-term price movements.
Public is a social investing app that makes it possible to own the companies you believe in, with any amount of money. Its mission is to make investing inclusive, educational and even fun.
Experts designed Public to let members buy slices of stocks and ETFs, follow interest-based themes, and learn from a transparent community of financial experts and other people along the way.
You can invest in stocks and funds, commission-free. One thing that’s unique is that you can also follow other investors, see their portfolios, and exchange ideas and experiences with investing.
Right now, Public does not have any premium features that come with a fee, but as they unveil new products to the platform, they may charge a specified subscription fee.
Public essentially makes the stock market a social endeavor, letting members be part of a community to share collective wisdom.
You start by buying any stock with no minimum on your part required. You can own micro amounts of stock with as little as $5.
Here's our full review of Public.
It’s totally up to you to decide how you want to invest. You can build your own unique portfolio by investing with dollar amounts in fractional shares of stock or buy full shares.
Finding the learning curve steep? You can glean knowledge from other investors, both fledgling and seasoned, within a totally transparent community.
Public is built around conversations about investing. You can start or join group chats to talk about companies and trends. Along with meeting investors at various stages of the game, you’ll be able to talk to people from varying professional backgrounds for a different point of view.
One unique and notable aspect of Public is that you can choose investing “themes.” These reflect industries and trends, and help you support causes you believe in. Via cheerful icons and succinct descriptions, Public lets you select from a wide array of causes to direct money into with your investments.
Choices include companies supporting:
There are also dozens more on this list.
If you sign up now, Public will give you a free $10 stock slice. There is no minimum amount to get this stock. Additionally, you are able to choose which stock you would like to receive from a collection of popular companies like Amazon and Goole.
But there’s more! Now, you can gift your friends with stocks for free. You get to select the stock, send via tweet, text or email, and your friends will receive up to $50 of free stock.
Your friends can only redeem stock gifts by signing up for Public.com. Public created stock gifts to encourage new people to start investing, so understandably current Public members are not eligible to receive gifts. You can send stock gifts to any U.S. resident over the age of 18.
There’s no maximum of gift stocks you can dole out. Send as many gifts as you like; the only limit is one gift received per person.
Another perk for investors: Public has a watchlist so you can track companies that interest you and see the latest news stories about them.
Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. See Public.com/disclosures/.
Betterment is a robo-advisor that helps you grow your money through cash management, guided investing, and retirement planning. They help you prioritize your goals and map out a way to reach them. You can read our full review of Betterment here.
There are two plans offered with Betterment.
The Digital plan carries an annual fee of 0.25% based on your account balance. There is no minimum balance to get started.
Digital offers you:
The Premium plan carries an annual fee of 0.40% and has a $100,000 minimum balance. Again, fees are based on account balance.
Here's our full review of Betterment Premium.
When you open an account, experts will advise you on what your portfolio should include, based on the amount of risk you’re willing to take.
They will choose funds for those of us who are comfortable with the ups-and-downs of risky portfolios, and those who are skittish and prefer fewer fluctuations. All the portfolios are exchange traded funds (ETFs).
Then, Betterment experts will take all the work out of your hands by rebalancing your portfolio and reinvesting dividends, as well as avenues to keep your taxes as low as possible.
Betterment offers advice packages targeted to specific life events.
A $199, 45-minute “getting started” package helps new clients set up their Betterment account, make the most of its tools and features, and start investing.
Additional packages cost $299 for a 60-minute call, with advice geared toward college planning, marriage, retirement and general financial health.
You can also open a high-yield cash account to stow away your savings with Betterment Cash Reserve. This account comes with an above average interest rate. There's no minimum balance requirement and no fees.
Betterment also offers a checking account with no minimum balance, no monthly maintenance fees and no overdraft fees. The company reimburses ATM fees worldwide.
In the past, only people with enviable wealth could afford to invest in real estate. That’s all changed with Fundrise, an online real estate company that offers you a way to pool your money together with other investors to buy into real estate. This is known as real estate crowdfunding.
Fundrise is one of the oldest and largest crowdfunding platform, carrying an astonishingly low minimum of $10 to invest.
Real estate experts want you to know Fundrise isn’t a get-rich-quick avenue. Instead, it is meant to be a long-term investment. If you have a minimum time horizon of approximately five years to put into the deal, Fundrise could be right for you.
The average Fundrise investors are in their 30s, and while the median initial investment is $4,500, you can open the starter portfolio for just $10. Fundrise has picked up over 130,000 individual investors since its inception in 2012, including close to $4.9 billion in real estate investments throughout the US.
On behalf of its members, Fundrise buys into assets with a high potential to grow in value. They buy ahead of major demographic or cultural shifts, understand emerging neighborhood growth, and recognize untapped property potential. That’s where the experts come in.
I have personally invested over $5,000 with Fundrise.
If you have zero knowledge about the real estate market, rest assured. You won’t be figuring out which individual deals to invest in or even choosing from its many REITs (real estate investment trusts) to put your money into.
Depending on which Fundrise plan you go with, your money will be invested in multiple Fundrise REITs. Your money, combined with that of other investors, will be put towards potentially dozens of separate properties.
Another focus is making major improvements to the property to up the sale price. Fundrise puts your investment to work on improvements like building new urban housing, renovating run-down apartments, and renting out viable vacant buildings.
When the spruced-up properties are sold, you can expect to see returns. There is huge demand for real estate developments like new housing. There are many more homebuyers for a fully renovated home than a rundown fixer upper, and more renters for new luxury apartments near a metro area than for the previously vacant land.
How much should you invest? The experts at Fundrise recommend you allocate about 30 percent of your investable assets to alternatives like real estate ventures.
New investors at Fundrise can choose from one of four investment plans: Starter, Supplemental Income, Balanced Investing, and Long-Term Growth – all of which come with their own risk levels and anticipated returns. Some portfolios aim for cash flow and others have a goal of growing the value of the site.
Fundrise charges a fee of 1%. There are also some fees associated with loan origination, but those are one time fees.
They don’t charge any other hidden fees, and there is no front load fee with Fundrise.
Check out our full Fundrise review for more info.
Compared to buying and managing a rental property, Fundrise offers clear advantages, including:
SoFi is an-app based financial company with products ranging from MasterCard debit card, Roth and Traditional IRAs, student loan refinancing, and of course, commission-free investing.
You can start right in trading stocks and ETFs, buy cryptocurrency or set up automated recurring investing. You can design your portfolio yourself or get an automated portfolio that's basically one-size-fits-all.
The company’s philosophy is that you shouldn’t have to pay to invest and trade your own money.
That’s why you’ll pay $0 in SoFi transaction/commission fees on every trade, every time you make a transaction.
Who says you need a ton of money to start investing? SoFi has no account minimums for you to take the leap.
That means you can get into the market for an investment of just a buck or two.
There’s a huge advantage to being able to buy and sell fractional stock shares. Rather than saving up cash to make a stock purchase from a company you’ve been watching, you can buy small percentages of one share.
SoFi calls fractional shares Stock Bits that let you buy only a sliver of a stock from your selected companies. That means you can invest as much or as little as you want, starting at the tiny sum of just $1.
This strategy will help you diversify your portfolio because you can put small sums of money across the board in many companies whose doors would otherwise be shut on you!
Share-based orders are executed immediately during market hours. However, Stock Bits orders are executed once a day on trading days.
This is a decidedly DIY investing app. There is not a 1-800 phone number to call when your stock loses its footing or to help figure out if a particular company has investment-worthy shares.
While SoFi does not ever take commissions, they also were not designed and set up to give investing tips.
They do, however, offer prebuilt, one-size-fits-all portfolios if you find yourself floundering when trying to take your first investment steps.
One new feature SoFi has started offering is the ability to buy crypto currency. This includes Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.
However, this service does not come without profit for the company! SoFi charges a mark-up of up to 1.25% for every crypto transfer you make.
Good news: You won’t need to download or become a member in any other program, you can do it all using the SoFi app. With the one app, you can buy stocks, ETFs, stock bits and buy and sell crypto currency. This is a great advantage and will keep your phone (and mind) less cluttered.
You can do crypto trading 24/7, 365 days a year.
Always keep in mind, however, that due to its volatile nature, crypto trading carries a higher risk than regular stocks and ETFs and can be much more unpredictable.
SoFi is a multi-faceted financial app that will appeal to smaller investors because there are zero minimums and no trading fees.
Acorns is an online robo-advisor that lets you stash away small change that will add up to big bucks over time. In fact, it is probably money you will never miss in your day-to-day life.
Acorns Lite, which comes at a cost of $1 per month, lets you invest your spare change, earn bonus investments, and grow your financial know-how. You can enroll in the Invest the Change app that literally puts pennies into your investment account.
You can enroll in this micro-investing tool in under five minutes.
It’s incredibly simple to use: Acorns will round up cents from your everyday purchases. For example, if you spend $4.50, Acorns will funnel 50 cents into your diversified portfolio. Just turn on automatic round ups to get started.
Acorns invests your money in one of five portfolios that range from very risky to not so risky.
This loose change comes from anything you buy with a linked debit or credit card or even your PayPal wallet. Acorns Lite transfers those spare coins into investments designed for you, diversified across more than 7,000 stocks and bonds that are automatically rebalanced with market ups and downs.
Looking for more? Here's our full review of Acorns.
Just answer some short, simple questions about your lifestyle and financial goals, and let Acorns do the rest. This profile will show whether you are a financial juggler or prefer to be more conservative.
There are no minimums and zero commission fees for Acorns Lite, just a monthly fee of $1.
Acorns Personal has a price tag of $3 per month, and comes with everything in Lite, plus an easy plan to save for retirement, and a checking account that invests for you. You will have your personalized investment account and also your retirement account, known as Acorns Later.
Acorns will keep you posted on the status of your account on a regular basis to help you reach your goals, whether it’s a trip to Paris or a new convertible. Or maybe just putting your kid through college.
Acorns Later helps you put money into a no-fuss, automated retirement account. First, they will recommend an IRA option, then sock money away for you to reach your goals. IRAs allow you to save money without all the tax implications of other investments.
You can set and then forget an automatic monthly contribution, or opt for putting your extra cash - as little as $5 – into the account.
Acorns Spend is a checking account with tons benefits. It paves the way for you to save money with zero account fees and reimbursed ATM fees. It will invest automatically with built-in investment and retirement allocations, and there are ways to earn more with bonus investments.
Acorns Spend is the only checking account with a debit card that invests while you swipe.
You can also expand your financial savvy through teaching sessions and helpful articles designed to nudge you along the path of financial wellness. This wealth of info comes straight from successful financial experts.
With an impressive track record and history, Fidelity is a top option for many and has been since its launch in 1946. They have over 32 million account holders and over $7.3 trillion in customer assets. If you are looking for a brokerage you can trust that has been around for a while, Fidelity may be your best bet.
Fidelity is a great all-around brokerage. In addition to commission-free trades and no account minimums for a retail brokerage account, you also gain access to retirement accounts and more. Let's take a look at a few of their features.
With Fidelity, you have the option to trade stocks, mutual funds (over 10,000 to choose from), ETFs (some with zero percent expense ratios), options, bonds, CDs, and even precious metals. Fidelity also offers investors the ability to purchase fractional shares. This truly allows you to get started with any amount.
Fidelity is well-known for its retirement accounts and ease of signing up. Many employers offer a 401k to employees through Fidelity. You can also open up a Traditional or Roth IRA. Need to rollover a 401k to an IRA? They can help with that too. A massive benefit of their retirement accounts is that there are no account fees!
While the other options mentioned are completely free, accessing Fidelity's Robo-Advisor and Wealth planning services could cost you. Their Robo-Advisor carries with it a 0.35% gross advisory fee for any account over $50,000.
Their wealth planning services are numerous, but they also require higher minimums and fees. Some of these plans require a minimum account value of $25,000 while others require an account value of over $2 million! Check out these plans in more detail in our full Fidelity review.