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Written by Kevin Mercadante on July 3, 2021
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7 Best Brokerages For College Students In 2021

Have you started investing, even though you’re a college student? If not, give it some serious thought. You have an opportunity to gain valuable investment experience before you land that first career job. And since there are plenty of investment brokerages that allow you to get started with just a few dollars, there’s no reason you can’t start now.

To help you get started, we’ve created this list of the seven best brokerages for college students. Each allows you to open an account with no money, and to begin investing with as little as $1.

This is your chance to get a jump on the investment game; will you take advantage of the opportunity?

What to Look for in Brokerages for College Students

To compile this list of the seven best brokerages for college students, we used objective criteria. We focused on brokerages that are most accommodating to the specific investment needs of college students.

For example, since college students are unlikely to have more than a few dollars to invest, we favored brokerages with no cash or low initial cash requirements. Virtually all the brokerages on our list require no money to open an account, and no more than a few dollars to begin investing.

We also looked at brokers that offer fractional shares, and six out of the seven do. This is another important feature for college students. You may not be able to afford to purchase a $200 stock. But if the brokerage offers fractional shares, you can invest $2 to purchase 1/100th of a share in that stock.

We also considered the types of accounts offered. Most give you the option of either a taxable brokerage account or a retirement account. A taxable brokerage account gives you the advantage of being able to access your money at any time. But just in case you’re thinking of starting your retirement savings as soon as possible, we also favored those brokerages that offer IRA accounts.

The types of investments available are also important criteria. As a college student, you’re most likely to invest in individual stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), or mutual funds. But we also included some that offer options trading, and even cryptocurrencies. The point is to be sure you have choices in exactly how you’ll invest.

Tools and Resources

Beyond the criteria above, we also looked at the availability of customer service, as well as investment tools, resources, and educational material. In some cases, you may want to go with a brokerage that’s strong in those categories. But if you’re feeling confident in your own abilities to invest, we’ve also included brokerages that provide less support, but other advantages.

With that in mind, here are the seven best brokerages for college students:

1. SoFi Invest

Best for: Best all-around brokerage for college students.

Why SoFi Invest is one of the best brokerages for college students: SoFi Invest is the best all-around brokerage for college students in no small part because it was designed specifically for the group. Or more particularly, for those needing to refinance student loans. The company started out that way, and it’s still the product they are best known for. But they’ve branched into virtually all areas of financial management.

That includes investing. SoFi provides two options here, SoFi Active Investing and SoFi Automated Investing. Active Investing, as the name implies, is for active—or self-directed—investing. There you can invest in individual stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), and even cryptocurrencies. Best of all, you can begin trading with as little as $1, with no commissions on your stocks or ETFs.

If you prefer professional management of your investments, you can have it through SoFi Automated Investing. It’s SoFi’s own robo-advisor, that both creates and manages a portfolio for you. And like SoFi Active Investing, you can begin investing with as little as $1, and there are no advisory fees charged for the service.

SoFi Invest Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None, but minimum of $1 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Individual and joint taxable investment accounts; plus, traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs; as well as Keogh plans.
  • Investments available: Stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes, through “Stock Bits.”
  • Fees: None on stocks and ETFs.
  • Customer support: Phone, email and live chat, Monday through Thursday, from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Fridays, 5:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Pacific time.

SoFi Invest Pros:

  • No minimum initial investment required to open an account, and you can begin investing with as little as $1.
  • No trading commissions charged on stocks and ETFs.
  • You have a choice of self-directed investing through SoFi Active Investing or take advantage of professional investment management through SoFi Automated Investing.
  • You can also refinance your student loans through SoFi, which is what the company is best known for.
  • Participate in the SoFi community, where you can share investment ideas and strategies with other investors.
  • You’ll get access to certified financial planners at no additional cost.

SoFi Invest Cons:

  • Not all stocks are available for fractional investing through Stock Bits.
  • No investment advice is provided with SoFi Active Investing.

2. M1 Finance Expert Pies

Best for: Choose your own investments, then have them professionally managed free of charge.

Why M1 Finance Expert Pies is one of the best brokerages for college students: M1 Finance Expert Pies isn’t a brokerage, at least not in the traditional sense. But it is something of a hybrid between a traditional brokerage and a robo-advisor. With M1 Finance, you select the investments you want to hold, then the platform provides automated management of your portfolio. You should also know that there are no fees to purchase the investments you’ll hold, nor is there a management fee of any kind.

The investment process revolves around “pies.” This is the name M1 Finance gives to the portfolios you’ll hold in your account. Each pie can hold as many as 100 individual stocks and ETFs. Those securities can either be chosen by M1, or you can choose them yourself. You can even build pies around specific themes, like green energy or biotechnology. And you can create as many pies as you like. No money is required to open an account, but you will need at least $100 to create a pie.

M1 Finance Expert Pies Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None to open your account, but you’ll need at least $100 to begin investing.
  • Available accounts: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, rollover, and SEP IRAs.
  • Investments available: ETFs and individual stocks.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes
  • Fees: No annual advisory fee and no trading commissions.
  • Customer support: Phone, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Central time.

M1 Finance Expert Pies Pros:

  • You can choose the investments in your pies, then have them professionally managed by M1 Finance.
  • No minimum initial investment required, though $100 is required to begin investing.
  • No trading commissions or advisory fee.
  • Choose from one of 80 prebuilt pies or create your own custom pies.

M1 Finance Expert Pies Cons:

  • Investment options are limited to stocks and ETFs—there are no bonds or mutual funds offered.
  • Stocks cannot be actively traded the way you would in a traditional brokerage account.

3. Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab logo

Best for: Mutual fund investors and for customer service.

Why Charles Schwab is one of the best brokerages for college students: Charles Schwab is the largest brokerage firm in the world, which means it’s suitable for investors at all levels. But it may be especially attractive to college students because it offers more than 4,000 no-load mutual funds. And because it’s a very large and well-established firm, it offers plenty of customer support and investor tools and resources.

Charles Schwab Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None.
  • Available accounts: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts; trusts; traditional, Roth, rollover, SIMPLE, and SEP IRAs.
  • Investments available: Individual stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and futures.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes
  • Fees: No commissions on stocks and ETFs; $0 commissions, plus $0.65 per contract for options; more than 4,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • Customer support: Phone and live chat, 24/7.

Charles Schwab Pros:

  • No trading fees on most investments, including a large selection of mutual funds.
  • Plenty of investor tools, research resources, and investor education.
  • Professional portfolio management offered through Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.
  • Customer service is available on a 24/7 basis and is among the best offered in the industry.

Charles Schwab Cons:

  • Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios requires a minimum initial investment of $5,000—if you prefer the managed portfolio option.

4. Fidelity

fidelity logo

Best for: ETF investors and for customer service.

Why Fidelity is one of the best brokerages for college students: Fidelity is the second largest brokerage and provides options and services comparable to Charles Schwab. But what they specialize in is low-cost and no-cost ETFs. Since these are one of the preferred investment vehicles in recent years—and those low fees translate into higher returns—Fidelity is one of our top picks.

They also offer fully diversified investment options, plenty of investment tools and resources, and top-notch customer service. They also offer a robo-advisor option with Fidelity Go, complete with no advisory fee on accounts under $10,000.

Fidelity Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None
  • Available accounts: Individual taxable investment accounts; and traditional, Roth and rollover IRAs.
  • Investments available: Individual stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and futures.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes
  • Fees: No commissions on stocks and ETFs; $0 commissions, plus $0.65 per contract for options; more than 3,000 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • Customer support: Phone support 24/7, plus 140 branches nationwide.

Fidelity Pros:

  • No trading fees on most investments, including a large selection of mutual funds.
  • May have the largest selection of low-fee and no-fee ETFs in the brokerage industry.
  • Wide range of investor tools, research resources, and investor education.
  • You can take advantage of professional portfolio management through the Fidelity Go robo-advisor.
  • Customer service is available on a 24/7 basis and even includes 140 local branch offices.

Fidelity Cons:

  • None.

5. Robinhood

Best for: Cryptocurrency trading.

Why Robinhood is one of the best brokerages for college students: Robinhood is a brokerage app that’s especially popular among college students. And it’s easy to see why. It’s an easy-to-use trading app, providing commission-free trades of stocks, ETFs, and options. You can also trade cryptocurrencies, which is only getting more popular all the time. In fact, Robinhood was one of the first brokerage platforms to offer trading in cryptos.

Robinhood Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None
  • Available accounts: Individual taxable investment accounts only.
  • Investments available: U.S. stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies. Limited trading of foreign securities through American depositary receipts (ADRs).
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes
  • Fees: No commissions on U.S. stocks or ETFs.
  • Customer support: Email only.

Robinhood Pros:

  • No minimum initial investment required.
  • No transaction fees for stocks, ETFs, or options.
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading.

Robinhood Cons:

  • Does not offer mutual funds or individual bonds.
  • No IRA accounts.
  • Very limited customer support.

6. Webull

Best for: Options trading.

Why Webull is one of the best brokerages for college students: If you prefer investing in options instead of stocks, Webull is the investment broker for you. Not only does the app emphasize options, but they charge no fees. That means no commissions, and no per-contract fees! That will both minimize losses and increase gains.

But be aware that, like Robinhood, Webull is a limited trading platform. Compared to brokers like Schwab and Fidelity, it’s light on investment tools, research, education, and customer service. But it’s an excellent trading platform if you have enough investment experience for fully self-directed investing.

Webull Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None.
  • Available accounts: Individual taxable investment accounts; traditional, Roth, and rollover IRAs.
  • Investments available: U.S. stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes
  • Fees: No commissions on stocks or ETFs. No commissions or contract fees on options.
  • Customer support: Email only.

Webull Pros:

  • Not only are there no commissions on options, but there are no contract fees either.
  • Perfect broker for quick, easy trading.
  • No minimum balance requirement.
  • No trading fees on stocks or ETFs.

Webull Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer mutual funds or individual bonds.
  • Very limited investment tools, research, and educational resources.
  • Customer service by email only.

7. Public

Best for: Fractional shares.

Why Public is one of the best brokerages for college students: Fractional share trading and investing are important to college students, who typically have limited investment capital. While most other brokerages on this list offer fractional shares, Public stands out because they specialize in it. They even have a special name for them—Slices. They enable a college student with limited funds to invest in a fully diversified portfolio. And if you like dividend-paying stocks, they offer free dividend reinvestment.

Public Basic Features:

  • Minimum Initial Investment: None, but at least $1 required to invest.
  • Available accounts: Individual taxable accounts only.
  • Investments available: More than 5,000 individual U.S. stocks and ETFs.
  • Fractional shares available?: Yes, referred to as “Slices.”
  • Fees: No trading fees.
  • Customer support: Phone or live chat, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Public Pros:

  • Specializes in fractional shares.
  • Participates in the Public investment community.
  • Free dividend reinvesting on dividend-paying stocks.
  • No minimum account size.
  • No commissions on trades.

Public Cons:

  • Limited investment options.
  • Does not offer retirement accounts.
  • Little in the way of investor tools and research.
  • Very limited customer service.

Bottom Line

Any of the brokerages in this guide will help you be a more successful investor as a college student. Choose the one you feel will be the best fit for you, then get started as soon as possible.

When it comes to investing, starting early is an incalculable advantage. You have an opportunity to gain that advantage, while you’re still in school, rather than waiting until after graduation.

Article written by Kevin Mercadante
Kevin Mercadante is a freelance professional web content writer for hire, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has extensive backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. In fact, it was his career crash-and-burn from the mortgage business in 2008 that led him into blogging and freelance professional web content writing. Kevin and his family live in New Hampshire, after long stints in New Jersey and Georgia.

Platform Reviews

Power Your Investing

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Robinhood
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Fundrise
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