How To Buy Stocks Online For Free: Where To Invest

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Deciding to invest in stocks is an exciting time in your financial life. Whether you’re a beginner to the world of stocks or have been trading for years, there’s no denying there’s a lot to learn.

There’s a reason a growing number of millennials are playing the stock market. Doing so is easier than it’s ever been before. Technology has created a low barrier to entry, especially for beginners. This means that people of all ages are developing knowledge of stocks and investments, and using this knowledge to make wise financial moves with the power to impact their future.

But it wasn’t always like this. There is a long-standing misconception that investing in stocks is difficult. Some think it’s too expensive or that they’ll never be able to earn the type of income that allows them to invest in their financial future. This just isn’t the case. With today’s wide variety of stockbrokers, beginners can embark on their investments journey with as little as $1. And from that $1 can grow an incredible amount of opportunity. This is what excites so many people about the stock market.

If you’re wondering how to get started investing in stocks, you’re not alone. Many people look to the web to access this type of education, and there’s more than enough to go around. But a growing number of brokers are offering this education to customers, too. This makes many of today’s online brokers a one-stop-shop for trading and learning about stocks.

How to buy stocks online for free

When looking for the right place to buy stocks online, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. You can start by finding a reliable broker that will make the process easy for you. Luckily, there are plenty on the market design for every unique kind of investor.

Free Stock Trading Platforms

Here are the options to consider:

Robinhood

5.0
5/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

Commission-free investing.

ACCOUNTS

Brokerage account includes access to a debit card to pay bills or withdraw cash from.

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Ability to buy and sell bitcoin or other crypto.

If you’ve ever researched purchasing stocks online, you’ve likely come across Robinhood.

Plenty of brokers tout free trading among their offerings, but in reality, only a few can really back this up. Robinhood is one of them. In fact, Robinhood was among the first online brokers to offer free trades. It’s one of the most trusted sources for free investing, and for good reason: this platform has made it possible for everyone, no matter income, to dabble in stocks without much risk.

Robinhood does a lot of other things right, too. In addition to free trading on stocks, options, ETFs, Robinhood also lets users trade cryptocurrency, which is a big benefit for investors looking for a one-stop shop for all of their trading needs. And where ease-of-use is concerned, Robinhood shines. It maintains one of the most user-friendly platforms on this list. This is because Robinhood targets beginning investors, and its platform reflects this. But just because Robinhood was designed for beginners doesn’t mean it’s useless to active traders.

And that’s not all. Last year, Robinhood began offering a cash management account accompanied by a debit card and free withdrawals from more than 75,000 ATMs. This makes it a great option for customers hoping to simplify their financial lives.

Webull

5.0
5/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

Commission-free investing.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Rapid response times with a great customer service team.

TOOLS

One of the best free apps with tons of tools such as trading simulators, better graphs & indicators, industry research and news.

While platforms like Robinhood are great for beginners, they don’t carry a wide variety of benefits for the intermediate, active trader. Webull, on the other hand, offers plenty to keep this group interested. Before it was a trading app, Webull was meant for industry research. This means its research tools are far superior to others in its class, allowing users to keep well informed about industry trends and other important headlines. Webull users can access the data in real-time via the free mobile app. There is even a premium subscription available for investors looking for global market data in real-time.

In addition to free trading and robust research capabilities, Webull also employs a trading simulator that allows investors to practice their trading skills without gambling with real money. This risk-free simulator is a valuable tool for beginners hoping to build up their confidence while trading. And speaking of confidence, customer service is another thing Webull does well. Users can expect a rapid response from Webull’s customer service team. Many beginners can attest to the fact that good customer service carries a lot of weight when making those first few trades.

Fidelity

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

$0.00 commission applies to online U.S. equity trades, ETFs and Options (+ $ 0.65 per contract fee)

MINIMUM BALANCE

No minimum initial deposit

These days, it’s not enough for platforms to simply offer investing. There are dozens that do that. The truth is that today’s investors are in it for the long game, meaning education is important and not something to be taken for granted. In this regard, Fidelity definitely has you covered.

Beginners are sure to enjoy Fidelity’s wide variety of educational tools and resources. These are all part of its user-friendly platform that makes navigating both the website and mobile app a breeze. And when it comes to research, Fidelity doesn’t skimp. Whether forecasting stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs, research is key for finding investment ideas and trading wisely. Fidelity employs a number of research tools to help investors on their path. Plus, its desktop trading platform, Active Trader Pro, gives active traders everything they need to thrive.

But, what about cost? Fidelity passes that test, too. Users will enjoy commission-free trading on U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options. It also offers zero expense ratio index mutual funds directly to investors – an industry first.

Fidelity has some features other brokers don’t. For instance, Fidelity allows users to organize important documents for free with FidSafe®. This can be used to store and share valuables like birth certificates, Social Security cards, wills and other legal and financial documents. This is just another reason to seriously consider Fidelity when looking for a free trading platform with extras.

M1 Finance

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

BEST FOR

The DIY investor

FEES

none; commission-free investing

ACCOUNT MINIMUM

$0

NOTE

High-yield checking and low-interest borrowing

M1 hasn’t been around as long as some other online platforms, but don’t let that deter you. This platform is still a great option for those hoping for a means of free investing. M1 Finance allows users to invest commission-free, meaning you’ll enjoy all the benefits of investing in stocks and ETFs at no cost.

While M1 Finance makes good on its promise for commission-free investing, that’s not its only perk. F Far from it. Another benefit of M1 Finance is its fractional shares. This opens the door for more beginner investors, as it doesn’t require purchasing full shares in order to invest. Through M1, investors can invest in dozens of fractional shares.

Many beginners wonder whether robo-advisors are a wise choice for their foray into stocks. The answer is: it depends. As a robo investor, M1 Finance makes it easy for users to invest with confidence. It allows you to design your ideal portfolio and contribute automatically. Just set it and forget it. Another strong suit of M1 is its rebalancing capabilities. M1’s “pie” layout helps users envision their investments more clearly, which is helpful in building a robust, long-term portfolio.

To be clear, M1 Finance isn’t the only platform to offer some of these things. It does, however, take things a step further with M1 Spend, its FDIC-insured checking account that pairs seamlessly with the M1 Finance app. You can choose from two different tiers: M1 Spend and M1 Plus, a premium service. M1 Spend, the free tier, is included in all M1 accounts and allows users to do things like receive paychecks, use a debit card, and pay bills. Unfortunately, you won’t find all the bells and whistles with M1 Spend. It offers 0% APY on checking and no cash back. But you do have the option to upgrade to M1 Plus, which earns 1.5%APY, 1% cashback on all purchases, and other perks, like access to M1 Borrow, which can be used to a secure lower APR for loans.

TradeStation

4.0
4/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

Commission-free trading

FOR TRADERS

Built with the active trader in mind, tradestation offers immense value with their easy-to-use desktop personalization

STRATEGIES

Boasts 270+ indicators and over 90 years of market data

Less popular than its competitors, TradeStation is an excellent option for active traders who have been around the trades block. With TradeStation, you’ll find a high-quality trading platform that offers free trading on stocks, ETFs, and options, as well as a variety of advanced tools ideal for seasoned investors.

Although TradeStation is designed for active traders, it sits near the height of user friendly. Its desktop platform, which is available to TradeStation’s Select clients, offers users things like automatic trade execution, direct-market access, the ability to automate custom trading strategies, and so much more. Customization is key here, where users are able to personalize their desktops with a wide variety of colors to segment and highlight important data.

Another benefit of doing business with TradeStation is the TradeStation Simulator. Here, users can practice trades by testing new investing strategies in real time. The TradeStation 10 platform boasts over 270 indicators and more than 90 years of market data, and even alerts users for earnings announcements and other news. These advanced research techniques, combined with educational e-books, free video tutorials, and articles, put TradeStation a cut above many.

E*TRADE

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

$0 commissions for online US-listed stock, ETFs, and Options

MINIMUM BALANCE

No minimum initial deposit

There’s no denying the star power of a broker like E*TRADE. This tried and true trading platform is one of the oldest in the game and still carries a reputation for good service. With E*TRADE, there’s a little something for everyone. Users will enjoy commission-free trading and an assortment of added perks. Beginners, for instance, will find value in E*TRADE’s awesome educational resources. Active traders will find comfort in its strong trading platform and large investment selection.

These days, a trading app is only as good as its technology allows. For E*TRADE, the sky is the limit. With its mobile app, users will find advanced, easy-to-use tools. And its three free trading platforms — E*TRADE Web, Power E*TRADE, and E*TRADE Pro all have their own unique benefits to attract investors. E*TRADE Web, for instance, provides free market data, live market commentary, real-time quotes, and other research tools. Plus, its dashboard allows you to do everything from make trades to track your accounts and even create watch lists. And for those looking to do some serious trading, there is Power E*TRADE, which offers users real-time data, over 30 drawing tools, and other high-level tools to delight active traders.

Merrill Edge

4
4/5

DollarFlow rating

FEES

Unlimited free stock and ETF trades

MINIMUM BALANCE

$0

Merrill Edge has earned rave reviews from users. This award-winner provides ample guidance by way of 24/7 customer service on your investments journey, providing the tools needed to invest with purpose.

In this day and age, convenience is always a factor. Merrill Edge goes above and beyond to put your ease above the rest. Merrill Edge makes it easy to move money between your Bank of America account and Merrill investing account. Through its mobile app, you’ll find features like interactive charts, heat maps, and a customizable dashboard. From checking your balances and transactions to accessing the latest quotes and news headlines, Merrill Edge’s app is designed to do everything you need it to do and more.

Another one of Merrill Edge’s biggest benefits is its rewards program. Merrill Edge investment balances can help users earn through Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. This allows users to gain access to perks like credit card rewards bonuses, banking fee waivers, and discounts on home and auto loans, to name a few.

Before You Invest

But before you decide where to buy stocks it helps to evaluate your goals. Some traders are on the hunt for short-term gains while others are committed to investing for the long-haul. Other investors are focused solely on retirement and diversifying their portfolio. Being clear about your goals for investing will make it that much easier to find a broker that can satisfy your needs and offer exactly what you’re looking for. 

There are a few key factors you should look for if you are hoping to invest in stocks for free. These 3 things can make or break a good investing platform:

Education

Are you new to stocks? Are you hoping to hone your skills before making that first trade? If you’ve got a lot to learn about investing, you’re likely in need of resources that can help you make sense of things. A trading platform that does double duty by educating you as you invest can go a long way in making the entire process more enjoyable.

Ease-of-Use

Trading can be confusing, especially if you have little to no knowledge beforehand. Add a complicated platform to the mix and things can go downhill quickly. This is why it’s crucial that you choose a trading platform that’s designed for ease-of-use. No one wants to sift through endless pages of text to get where they are going. Ease-of-use is something to definitely be on the lookout for as you research different investing platforms.

Cost

If you’re investing in stocks in the first place, it’s likely because you are hoping to eventually make some money. Management and trading fees can put a damper on your profits if you’re not careful. If a platform says it’s free, make sure it really is free before signing on. Always read the fine print.

Whether you’re a beginner investor or someone who has been actively working on your skills for quite some time, it’s important that you weigh the pros and cons of a platform before signing up. Trading through the wrong platform can make the process more complicated, which is the last thing you want to do if you’re hoping to build your portfolio in the long run.

Final word

Whether you are serious about investing or just looking to test the waters, research is crucial before commitment. Choosing the wrong investing platform can cost you, so don’t be afraid to take your time when shopping around. Think carefully about how your trading platform will serve you both now and in the future. First, evaluate your goals for trading and decide how actively you want to approach your investing. Doing this will ensure you find the best possible free trading platform for you.

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