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?
Sign Up Incentives
Webull - Get 2 Free Stocks valued up to $2.50 to $250 and $12 to $1,400 when funding an account with $100.
M1 Finance - Free Pre-built portfolios built by professionals.
Robinhood - Get 1 Free Stock valued from $2.50 to $200 when opening an account.
Acorns - Get $5 Free to invest with.
Betterment - Get up to 12 Months managed for free.
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 these free investing apps in depth.
1. M1 Finance App
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...
- $100 minimum to open an account, or $500 for retirement accounts.
- Portfolio level dividend reinvestment.
- Fractional shares allow you to remain fully invested.
- Free Roth IRA available.
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.
Built In Tax Efficiency
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:
- Losses that offset capital gains.
- Securities or groups of securities that result in long term capital gains (lower tax rate).
- Securities or groups of securities that result in short term capital gains (higher tax rate).
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!
2. Webull App
Webull is an investing app that has taken the brokerage industry by storm.
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.
Free Stock Promotion
If you sign up via our link, you will get two free stocks! All you have to do is open the account and fund it with $100 or more on your initial deposit.
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!
Virtual Trading Simulator
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.
After Hours Trading
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.
3. Robinhood App
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!
Commission Free Trading
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!
4. Acorns App
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.
5. Public App
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.
What Can You Invest In?
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:
- Growing Diversity
- Fighting Disease
- Green Power
- Women-Owned Businesses
- Reuse And Reduce
- Genetic Therapy
- Home and Garden
There are also dozens more on this list.
If you sign up now, Public will give you a free stock valued up to $50. There is no minimum amount to get this stock.
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 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.
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:
- Personalized financial advice like knowing how much to invest, your recommended diversification, and other info.
- Low-cost, globally diversified investment portfolios letting you invest in funds chosen to help maximize your money at varying levels of risk.
- Automatic rebalancing to maintain your target goal when the market shifts.
- Sync all your external accounts to get a clear, organized snapshot of your money.
- Advanced tax-saving strategies letting you automate and increase your after-tax returns.
- Reliable customer service.
The Premium plan carries an annual fee of 0.40% and has a $100,000 minimum balance. Again, fees are based on account balance.
- All of the benefits of the Digital plan.
- Detailed advice on investments within Betterment and outside of Betterment.
- Help creating a plan for managing 401(k)s, real estate, and individual stocks.
- Unlimited access to financial professionals for guidance on life events like getting married or saving for a down payment.
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.
Checking & Savings Accounts
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 $500 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 $500. 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.
Passive Real Estate Investing
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:
- You will not need to handle any day-to-day responsibilities. Teams of experts manage the properties for you.
- You will know ahead of time what you’re getting into. Each potential project is thoroughly researched so investors have the info they need to make wise decisions.
- You’ll receive tax benefits. Real estate crowdfunding allows investors to receive certain tax breaks, such as depreciation, that normally apply to owning an investment property.
Ellevest is an online investing platform launched to help women reach their financial goals today, tomorrow and into the future. Its goal is to help close the gender money gaps, but not to exclude men.
They welcome clients of all gender identities and gender expressions, and in fact have many fathers, husbands, brothers, friends, and partners who invest with Ellevest.
Ellevest gives each member a personal investment plan designed for them that includes low-cost ETFs and funds like stocks and bonds for the highest return.
They focus on diversification, which reduces overall risk and offers an umbrella of protection against what investors can’t look into a crystal ball and foresee. The Ellevest online platform offers 21 different asset classes across their investment portfolios.
There are no minimums or ongoing commitments, and no charges for withdrawals. Once you set up a deposit, Ellevest uses your money to buy deals that will make up your diversified investment portfolio. The platform is designed to increase personal wealth, and while you invest in Ellevest, your portfolio is adjusted to stay in line with your savings plan.
You can make one-time deposits or schedule them over weeks or monthly. Ellevest Digital and Ellevest Premium were created to help women do more with their money and careers at every stage of their lives.
For Ellevest Digital, the advisory fee is 0.25% per year of the total amount you’ve invested. There is no minimum investment.
As an Ellevest Digital client, investing algorithms is applied to match you with each different type of investment (stocks, bonds, and alternatives). The algorithms factor in things like women’s longer life spans and unique salary structure, the goal and the time frame you’ve chosen, how much you have already saved towards the goal, and more.
On top of that, once you’re invested, Ellevest will monitor your portfolio, rebalancing as needed and minimizing taxes where possible.
The Ellevest Concierge Team will give you unlimited text and email support when you enroll in Ellevest Digital. They can help you consolidate IRAs and old 401(k)s; customize your Ellevest accounts, investment plan, and goals; and answer any account-related questions you may have.
For Ellevest Premium, the fee is 0.50% per year, and there is a $50,000 minimum balance.
With Ellevest Premium, you get all of the benefits of Ellevest Digital, plus financial and career guidance from professionals who understand your goals. When you want to talk frankly about money and your life, you can schedule one-on-one sessions with a Certified Financial Planner to discuss a range of financial topics, from buying a home to retirement savings to managing money through life and career transitions. Afterwards, they will suggest steps for how your account can be adjusted for you to meet those milestones.
There are also personal executive coaching sessions with a member of the Ellevest Career Team, organized to help you gain an edge in your career. This could include brushing up on negotiation skills, making strategic choices to advance your career, and navigating other workplace situations.
9. Qapital App
The personal finance Qapital App works with your banking accounts to help you build savings toward a specific goal that you hope to reach. It’s an interesting, creative app.
The company bills itself as a new banking experience that empowers people to magnify their well-being by saving, spending, and investing with their goals in mind. By blending behavioral psychology with technology, Qapital provides people with the tools they need to make managing money easier and maybe even enjoyable.
The fee to use Qapital ranges from $3 to $12 per month.
- Automated savings aligned with your personal goals, created to help you save money without thinking about it.
- Checking account without traditional bank fees for a low balance, overdraft or foreign transaction fees.
- The Qapital Visa debit card is linked with your checking account so you can save while you spend. As you swipe, Qapital will round up the change and sock it away towards a savings goal.
- Investing in pre-built portfolios that are ideal for people without experience or any understanding of the market. You’ll get personal recommendations based on your risk profile. Qapital will monitor your investment account, reinvest dividends and rebalance your portfolio for you.
- Budgeting easier by setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings on payday.
- Spending tracker, a smart money manager that helps you decode your spending habits. Figure out how you spend, and you'll learn where to save.
Qapital encourages clients to set up savings goals to bring a sense of purpose to socking money away. Studies have shown that people tend to save more money if they have a specific goal for it.
It will help you set savings goals that you want to reach in the near future, and investment targets for long-term goals, taking advantage of compounding and market gains.
How Qapital Works
Qapital was built to help you spend more mindfully, with tools that balance the money for everyday expenses with your lifelong goals. They want you to understand your behavioral approach to money.
For example, most people will not be motivated to skip a cab and take the subway to put the saved money into a savings account. But it they know that subway ride will save them $18, and the slush fund could be the down payment towards a first home, there’s more motivation.
The app applies certain “rules” to help people ferret out savings, such as the “Spend Less Rule,” that works by letting you save the difference when you come in under your budget. Select the merchant that you would like to set a budget for (your budget can be either weekly or monthly), and Qapital will help you save the difference toward your goals if you spend less than what you budgeted for.
Another is the “52 Week Rule” that helps you painlessly build your saving habits over 365 days. Save $1 week 1, $2 week 2, and so on. Do this every week for a year, and you can save $1,378.00!
Qapital zaps you with alerts and notifications of important actions with your accounts, such as your current balances and recent purchases.
10. SoFi Invest
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.
Zero Account Minimums
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.
Learn As You Go
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.
Crypto trading can be done 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.
Which App Is The Best?
At the end of the day, the investment app you choose will be based on your individual investment preferences.
- If you are looking to trade stocks commission free, consider Robinhood, Webull or Public.
- Dividend investors love the features of M1 Finance including automated rebalancing, portfolio level DRIP and fractional share.
- Those looking for a hands off approach with investment guidance should check out the Betterment or Ellevest robo-advisors that charge a small fee.
- If you are bad at saving money or remembering to invest, consider the spare change round up app called Acorns. Or, Qapital is great for automating and investing your savings.
- Lastly, for investments outside of the stock market, Fundrise is a great option for private real estate investing.
You may find that the best option is to use multiple different apps, as each serves a different purpose.