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Find the best online stockbrokers for beginners

Compare costs, services and features

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The days of investing from a broker's office in your hometown are mostly gone. Now, the best online brokers for beginners can do everything you need without you having to leave home.

Take a look at some of the best online trading options below to find one that’s right to help you get started investing.

Our online stockbroker picks for beginners

Based on our recent analysis of verified customer reviews, our picks for online brokers for beginners are:

Our pick for good mobile experienceRobinhood
  • Investment products: Stocks and funds, options, gold and cash management
  • Year founded: 2013

Robinhood is a solid option if you’re looking for a broker that’s focused on mobile app users. It offers commission-free trading with no account minimums.

Robinhood has some educational materials for new investors, but access to research reports is exclusive to Robinhood Gold, its paid subscription tier. Other features, like investing on margin and larger instant deposits, are also only available to Gold users.

Pros

  • Commission-free trading
  • One free stock for new users
  • Instant deposits up to $1,000 for free users

Cons

  • Some features require a paid subscription
  • Limited research materials
Our pick for wide range of optionsAmeriprise Financial
  • Investment products: Stocks, exchange-traded products (ETPs), mutual funds and more
  • Year founded: 1894

Ameriprise Financial has been in business for more than 125 years, making it one of the oldest full-service investment companies in the U.S. It has multiple features and tools to help you start investing.

Fees vary based on the services you utilize — Ameriprise also offers financial advising services beyond acting as a broker. There aren't many educational materials on the company's website for those who would rather not use an advisor, though.

Pros

  • Local branch network available
  • Wide range of investment options
  • Offers ongoing customer support and advice

Cons

  • Limited educational materials for beginners
  • Can cost more than discount brokerages
Our pick for convenient investing and bankingCharles Schwab & Co.
  • Investment products: Stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, index funds and more
  • Year founded: 1971

Charles Schwab is a full-service brokerage that also offers investment management from human professionals and robo-advisors. It supports plenty of investment options, and it has various resources for training and education. Clients can link their investing and banking, and local branches can offer support for beginners when needed.

Charles Schwab has $0 commissions on stocks and ETFs, and its base commission on options is $0 per trade plus a 65 cent fee per contract. It has no trade or account minimums, and the company offers a satisfaction guarantee that refunds commissions and fees for unhappy customers.

Pros

  • $0 commissions for online trades
  • Local branch network available
  • Lets you link investment and bank accounts

Cons

  • Can cost more than discount brokerages
  • Variety of services may be intimidating
Our pick for proprietary productsVanguard
  • Investment products: Stocks, ETFs, ESG, mutual funds and more
  • Year founded: 1975

Vanguard is an established company that offers competitive costs and a wide selection of investment options. It’s a full-service brokerage firm with services for financial advising and retirement planning.

Vanguard’s costs are reasonable, but it does have a $1,000 account minimum for mutual funds. Its benefit structure also favors larger accounts, which makes it more difficult for new investors to get full access to all it has to offer.

Pros

  • Commission-free trades
  • Wide range of investment options
  • Proprietary fund products

Cons

  • Limited research and data
  • Tiered benefits favor larger accounts
Our pick for no account investment minimumsTD Ameritrade
  • Investment products: Stocks, options, ETFs, Forex and more
  • Year founded: 1975

TD Ameritrade is a full-service firm that helps clients, including those who are younger and inexperienced, start investing. Its website is easy to navigate, and it features information to help you get a good idea of what your investment options are.

The company's trading platform is also robust enough to accommodate your needs as you become more comfortable investing.

Pros

  • Solid education for beginning investors
  • Local branch network available
  • No minimum account investment

Cons

  • $2,000 deposit required for margin trading
  • Lower interest rates on uninvested cash
Our pick for helpful educational resourcesE*TRADE
  • Investment products: Stocks, options, mutual funds, ETFs and more
  • Year founded: 1982

E*TRADE is a well-known online brokerage offering a few key benefits that make it a good option for beginners, including a simple-to-use mobile app and an intuitive website. This company offers multiple investment options, such as stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

E*TRADE has competitive pricing and no account minimums, but some prices change depending on how many trades you make per quarter. Its Power E*TRADE platform is also potentially overwhelming for new investors, although it may be a nice option to have as you become more comfortable with investing.

Pros

  • Solid education for beginning investors
  • Two trading platforms
  • No additional fees

Cons

  • Only one platform is suited to new users
  • Tiered pricing can be confusing

Types of brokerage accounts

A brokerage account lets you buy and sell stocks and other securities. The Securities and Exchange Commission divides brokerage accounts into two main types:

  • Cash accounts, the most common non-retirement option, let you purchase investments with your own money.
  • Margin accounts involve your broker lending you cash in order to buy investment products. Those investments then serve as collateral. There are often additional costs associated with buying on margin, and it comes with additional risks as well.

A variety of account types fall under these two broad categories, including many proprietary options. Because there are so many account types available and brokerage offerings are always changing, it’s a good idea to compare individual account types once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential brokerages.

If a standard brokerage account isn’t right for you, consider working with an automated robo-advisor or opening a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or IRA. These other investment accounts offer different features and functions. For example, retirement accounts often come with tax benefits. You can also get IRAs backed by gold or Bitcoin. For more, read our article on individual retirement accounts.

Full-service brokerage vs. discount brokerage

It's up to you to decide what type of account is best suited for your needs:

  • A full-service online brokerage provides a higher level of individualized service and guidance. It may offer more products to invest in and personalized services to help you with investments. However, it also typically costs more.
  • A discount brokerage may be a good option if you want to save money and you’re fine doing more of the work yourself. Many online brokerages lean towards this model.

For more, read our guides to find the best investment company or financial advisor.

How to choose a brokerage account

Here are some tips to help you choose the right brokerage account:

  • Determine what you wish to invest in and make sure your online broker offers that. If you’re not sure what you want to invest in yet, consider an account with a brokerage that has a variety of investments available.
  • Look for a brokerage account that has a simple-to-use platform and ample research material.
  • Be sure the account you choose does not require a higher minimum investment than you're comfortable with. Also, consider your plans for the future. It might be wise to allow for some wiggle room if you might want to pull out some funds or try another brokerage down the road.
  • Research and compare fees, platform features and any other limitations or costs. As a new investor, you might not know what’s normal in the industry, but comparing options from leading brokerages gives you a benchmark for what’s acceptable.

Many brokerages offer multiple types of accounts, so it’s a good idea to compare the tiers and see what level of account you need. For more on what you should consider about trading platforms, read our guide to find the best online broker for you.

What you need to open a brokerage account

Opening a brokerage account takes just a few minutes most of the time. You typically need to provide some information to the company, such as:

  • A copy of your ID
  • Your contact information
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your annual income
  • Your current net worth
  • Your employment status and occupation

Frequently asked questions

What are stockbrokers?
Stockbrokers facilitate the process of purchasing and selling stocks on the stock market. They make it possible to buy and sell.
How do brokerage accounts work?
Accounts work differently, and you can choose how much support you need during this process. You can have a financial advisor make recommendations for you if you have a larger account, but it’s more common for people to use an app or website to pick and choose the investments they wish to make.
What is a brokerage fee?
To provide services, most brokers charge a brokerage fee. This is often a flat fee, but it may also be a percentage of the money you invest.
Can I withdraw funds from a stockbroker account?
Yes, as long as the funds aren’t tied up in an investment. Depending on the type of account, this process may require paying taxes upfront. You may incur fees for some types of withdrawals, too.
Are my funds safe in a stock brokerage account?
It depends on what you mean by safe. If you work with a reputable online brokerage, your money should be safe from third-party interference. However, all investments carry some risk that your broker is not responsible for.

Bottom line: What are the best online stockbrokers for beginners?

The right broker for you will vary based on your situation and your personal preferences. However, the best online brokers for beginners typically prioritize educational tools, a simple-to-use platform and app, and outstanding customer service. As a new investor, you want a broker that has a low barrier to entry (minimal fees and account minimums) and enough options and resources to let you test the water, see what you prefer and grow along with your portfolio.

Methodology
We started with a list of 17 popular online brokers. To narrow our list, we first considered the verified reviews and ratings on our site. Only companies with a minimum overall satisfaction rating of 3.5 were eligible to be one of our top picks. We also eliminated brokers with more 1-star reviews than 5-star reviews published on our site over the last year.
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The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.