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Best investment apps for beginners

Start investing today with these easy-to-use apps

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Experienced investors may know what they need from an investment app. But for a beginner, it’s not so straightforward. Whether you’re interested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other securities, it’s important to select an investment app that you’re comfortable with and that offers guidance for your investment journey.

The best investment apps for beginners are easy to use, full of educational resources and don't weigh you down with fees, making it easier to start investing right away and keep more of your earnings in your account.

Our top 6 picks for best investment apps

To make our top picks for the best investment apps, we gathered a list of nearly 20 apps and outlined what each app offers, how easy each one is to use and the features each app provides. We also looked at the apps’ account options, supported asset classes and pricing. We then selected our picks based on how they ranked against each other in those areas.

Our picks may be Authorized Partners that compensate us. This does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may affect the order in which the companies appear.

SoFi
  • CA user rating:2.2
  • Free to use
  • Easy-to-learn investment platform
  • Portfolio management available

SoFi’s app is a solid option for beginner investors. You only need $1 to open an Automated Investing account, and there’s no minimum for the Active Investing account. The app itself is easy to use, letting you invest in various securities, including stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The company does not charge Active Investing customers commissions for stock and ETF trades, and Automated Investing customers won’t pay an advisory fee.

Another nice feature of SoFi is that it offers a lot of information and resources on its website to help you understand what you are investing in and how the process works. However, this info is not as detailed as what some other platforms provide.

What we like
Several aspects of SoFi’s app make it appealing to investors:
  • It’s free to use.
  • It offers both managed portfolios and self-directed trading.
  • There’s either no minimum opening balance requirement or a $1 minimum requirement to get started, depending on which account type you choose.
  • It’s an intuitive investment app.
What to consider
Some of SoFi’s drawbacks include:
  • Information isn’t as detailed as the information offered by some other platforms.
  • Some securities, like mutual funds and bonds, are not tradable with an Active Investing account.
What reviewers say
Sheila from Minnesota appreciates the smooth user experience and investing resources offered by SoFi. “I am new to investing (at 68 years old). I started very small. SoFi.com is seamless, and the site points to many helpful tools. I am getting a great education on a very small level,” she said.

However, Stephanie from California reports that a large sum of money was transferred from her bank account to her SoFi account without her authorization. She said: “SoFi gave me $5 in a stock of my choice. I did that [and] later allowed a biweekly withdrawal of $20 from my bank account to use to invest. Suddenly, over $3,000 was withdrawn without my permission. I called immediately. They accused me of allowing someone to access my account and that I had not only done that but also given someone my password as well.”

TD Ameritrade
  • CA user rating:2.5
  • No commissions on stock, ETF and option trades
  • No account fees or minimums for self-directed accounts
  • Managed accounts available

TD Ameritrade actually offers two mobile trading apps: the TD Ameritrade Mobile App and thinkorswim mobile. However, the TD Ameritrade Mobile App is a better option for beginners.

TD Ameritrade has no commissions for stock, ETF and option trades that you make yourself and no account fees for self-directed accounts.

Managed accounts, however, do require a minimum balance of at least $25,000. But if you want to invest without help, there are no minimum account requirements.

What we like
TD Ameritrade stands out as an investment app for a number of reasons, including:
  • It doesn’t charge commissions for stock, ETF or option trades.
  • There are no account fees or investment minimums for self-directed accounts.
  • You can trade a wide variety of securities.
  • Its fee structure is transparent.
What to consider
TD Ameritrade won’t suit every investor’s interests and experience level, given that:
  • You can’t use TD Ameritrade to trade individual cryptocurrencies.
  • The amount of education and research materials that TD Ameritrade provides may overwhelm a new investor.
What reviewers say
Shelia from Mississippi said: “I have been with TD Ameritrade for over 25 years, and I love it. The website is user friendly. The support is always immediate, no matter how they are contacted. The agents are knowledgeable and friendly. The trades could not possibly go more smoothly.”

However, multiple ConsumerAffairs readers cited frustrations with TD Ameritrade when an error or unusual transaction activity occurred within their account. Some also complained about high fees. Ingrid from Florida said: “I have had an account open with them from early 2007. Last year + they keep reorganizing securities seems like every month. As soon as they charge you $38, and you pay it, they find another reorganizing fee to charge you with.”

E*TRADE
  • CA user rating:1.7
  • No account minimums
  • No commissions on US-listed stock, ETF, mutual fund or option trades
  • Educational materials for new investors

E*TRADE offers two mobile trading platforms: the E*TRADE Mobile app and the Power E*TRADE app. However, new investors probably won’t be able to take full advantage of the Power E*TRADE app yet.

The E*TRADE Mobile app is easy to use, and it offers numerous investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, futures, options and ETFs. E*TRADE also provides similar benefits to our other picks: no account minimums, $0 commissions for a number of different security types and frequent promotional offers to encourage you to sign up.

What we like
Some of E*TRADE’s most attractive features are:
  • It doesn’t have account minimums.
  • There are a variety of investment options.
  • You can trade some of the most popular types of securities without paying commissions.
  • The platform offers quality educational materials for new investors.
What to consider
E*TRADE does have some weaknesses, including:
  • You can’t use the platform to directly trade cryptocurrencies.
  • There’s a $75 fee to transfer all of your funds to another brokerage.
What reviewers say
Many ConsumerAffairs readers have expressed frustration with the E*TRADE app, but a few positive reviews stand out. For example, Greg from California said he’s had good experiences with an E*TRADE customer service representative who “actually cares and is effective.”

However, other reviews point out negative experiences, such as system glitches and mistaken account restrictions. Nan from Texas said: “Since Morgan Stanley took over E*TRADE, I have had issue after issue. The glitches, where I keep being taken to the wrong section when I try to access personal investing vs. retirement, are bad enough. But now I'm locked out of my account completely after about six years of no prior problems.”

Robinhood
  • CA user rating:1.2
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • No commissions on stock, option or ETF trades
  • No account minimums

Unlike some other investment companies, Robinhood is focused on mobile users. With its app, you can invest in options, ETFs and stocks (including fractional shares) without paying commissions. And accounts do not have an asset minimum, so you can get started investing with as little as $1.

Premium accounts will cost you a $5 monthly fee, but beginners likely don’t need the in-depth features and research that a premium account provides.

What we like
A few of Robinhood’s greatest strengths as an investing app are:
  • It’s easy to use.
  • It doesn’t charge commissions on stock, ETF or option trades.
  • There’s no account minimum.
What to consider
Some of Robinhood’s limitations include:
  • You can’t use it to trade mutual funds, bonds or foreign stocks.
  • Educational materials are meager compared with the materials offered by some competitors.
What reviewers say
Benaiah from Pennsylvania highlights Robinhood’s ease of use: “I love that Robinhood allows ordinary people to invest in the stock market and have a chance at earning on their own there. I love the insights the company gives and how easy the platform is to use. I loved how easy it was to set up.”

But other readers have mentioned frustrations with customer service and random account lockouts that have led to issues with trading. A reader from New Jersey said: “I have been trying to get my account verified for over 11 days. Their email support seems to be misleading and not secure at all. They send emails every other day from a different person asking to send **, and when you send you get another one.”

Acorns
  • CA user rating:1.4
  • Automated investments
  • Flat monthly fee

Acorns is a good choice for beginners who want a simple way to invest. Once linked to your credit cards or checking accounts, this app rounds up your spending to the nearest dollar and invests the change in an ETF portfolio. You can also set up recurring investments starting at just $5 per month.

While there is no minimum amount required to open an account, Acorns does charge fees:

  • The Personal tier costs $3 per month.
  • The Personal Plus tier costs $5 per month.
  • The Premium tier costs $9 per month.

Acorns is a relatively unconventional investment app, but its hands-off approach is probably ideal for some beginners. Just familiarize yourself with its features and services before signing up.

What we like
Acorns is a great app for new investors because:
  • It helps you automate your investments.
  • It puts your spare change to good use.
  • The flat monthly fee is cheap for large account balances.
What to consider
Some investors interested in using Acorns may be disappointed by these shortcomings:
  • Investment options are limited to ETFs.
  • The flat monthly fee may be expensive for small account balances.
What reviewers say
Some ConsumerAffairs readers like Acorns for its simplicity. Nathaniel from New York said: “It's easy to use and doesn't require much work or effort. You just have to sign up with an account, and it will round up to the nearest dollar and invest the change. It hasn't been a noticeable amount, but it's nice to see it add up over time.”

However, multiple ConsumerAffairs readers have experienced frustrations with the Acorns app. For example, Kumar from North Carolina noted: “Even if you have used the service for years and have paid the monthly $3 fee that goes to who knows what, if you try to move money into your Acorns account for the first time in a while, your account will get locked. It's not as simple as calling them up to unlock it.”

Betterment
  • CA user rating:1.1
  • Automated investing
  • Minimum opening deposit of $10
  • Mixed fee structure

Betterment is a more complex app, but new investors should be able to manage it. While this company also helps with cash management and retirement planning, we’re focusing on its automated investing product here.

Betterment’s automated investing capabilities are a little more robust than those of some of its competitors. In a basic sense, Betterment’s robo-advisor allows you to invest in one of its prebuilt ETF portfolios. You can start investing with as little as $10, and the company charges either a flat monthly fee or a percentage-based fee depending on how and how much you invest.

You’ll pay a fee of $4 per month, which can be expensive for those with small account balances. However, if you set up recurring monthly deposits of at least $250 or reach a combined balance of at least $20,000 across all your Betterment accounts, your fee structure will switch to 0.25% of your investing account balance.

What we like
Betterment is a great app for investors who favor:
  • Automated investing
  • A broad selection of prebuilt portfolios
  • A low minimum opening deposit
What to consider
New investors should keep the following in mind when considering Betterment:
  • The $4 monthly fee is relatively expensive if you don’t meet the recurring deposit or minimum balance requirements for a percentage-based fee.
  • You’ll need a $100,000 minimum balance to access financial advisors, and your fee will increase to 0.4% of your balance if you go that route.
What reviewers say
Jeffrey from Florida said: “Their website is extremely user friendly, and you can make changes or withdraw your money at any time. I read the other reviews posted and have never had any problems with Betterment not wanting to transfer withdrawals to my bank account. I am a CPA, and I have never seen anything that would make me think they are not trustworthy.”

However, some ConsumerAffairs readers noted that they had difficulties getting in touch with Betterment’s customer service team. Jaeson from California said: “They make it very difficult to manage individual account funds, and it’s nearly impossible to get a live agent to speak with. They seem to be able to provide services with smaller fees, but you end up paying more in the long run.”

How investment apps work

Investment apps are a great way to start investing without needing a large deposit, but they can seem a bit overwhelming at first. How exactly do they work?

After reviewing our recommendations, download the app of your choice on your smartphone or tablet. Once downloaded, you’ll need to link a funding source, such as a checking or savings account. You may be able to transfer money to the app in a few ways, typically via an electronic funds transfer, a check in the mail or possibly from another brokerage account.

Once you transfer funds over, you can start selecting which securities to invest in. Some apps let you build your own portfolio by choosing individual securities; others offer prebuilt portfolios based on your risk tolerance and investment horizon. An investment app may also offer both approaches.

» MORE: What is a good investment?

Pros and cons of investment apps

Mobile investment apps may put the world of investing at your fingertips, but there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider before you download an app and fund an account.

Pros

  • Fees are lower than what you would pay to work one-on-one with a financial advisor.
  • Most apps are open to investors of all skill levels and financial means.
  • Most apps provide a variety of educational resources.
  • It’s usually easy to check your portfolio and make trades with an investment app.

Cons

  • You usually make financial decisions on your own.
  • The tools offered by apps may be too basic for experienced investors.
  • The range of securities an app allows you to invest in may be limited.
  • Apps require a degree of digital know-how and comfort.

What to look for in an investment app

You’ll quickly notice that there are many investment apps out there. You can differentiate them by paying attention to these features as you browse:

  • Fees: Review the fee schedule for the app and make sure it’s one you’re comfortable with and that stays within your budget. Some apps may charge a flat fee per month or per trade, while others charge a percentage of your account balance or trade amount.
  • Ease of use: Look for a clean interface that doesn’t require a great deal of technical knowledge to navigate. The app should be easy enough for almost any beginner to work with.
  • Investment options: Supported securities vary from one app to the next. Some apps may only allow you to invest in stocks and ETFs and not mutual funds, bonds or other securities.
  • Customer support: Technical or financial questions may pop up during your investing journey, so take a look at an app’s customer service options before making a choice. Some apps may only offer support via email or chat; others offer phone service as well.

» MORE: What is an ETF? Learn more about exchange-traded funds

FAQ

How much money do I need to start investing?

The amount of money you need to start investing depends on the platform you use. Some investing platforms allow investors to start with just $1.

At what age can I sign up for an investment app?

Most investment apps are available to people ages 18 or older. Some online stockbrokers for beginners may allow teens to invest via a custodial account, which is usually managed by a parent or grandparent of the minor investor.

What assets can you trade with an investment app?

Not all apps allow users to trade the same assets. An app with a broad range of supported securities should allow you to buy and sell stocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds.

Are investing apps safe?

Any investment carries risk, including the risk of losing the money you invested. The same is true of using an investing app. From a technical standpoint, apps may offer high levels of security, such as two-factor authentication and additional encryption for sensitive data. Some apps’ brokerage firms may also belong to the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, which provides up to $500,000 worth of protection against lost securities and up to $250,000 worth of coverage for lost cash.

Bottom line

An investment app is one of the best ways to start investing. Platforms for beginner investors are typically easy to use and have low barriers to entry, but some investment companies and online brokers also offer premium services that allow you to pay a bit more for financial advice or advanced features.

The right app for you depends on your needs and preferences, so learn as much as possible about an app before using it. This should help you know what to expect once you deposit your money and start trading.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Securities Investor Protection Corporation, “ What SIPC Protects .” Accessed July 6, 2023.
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