The StockBrokers.com annual review (9 years running) takes six months to complete and produces over 30,000 words of research each year. Here's how we test.
The best trading platforms for beginners offer three essential benefits. The first, and most important, is a user-friendly website and overall trading experience. Second, they provide a strong variety of educational materials. Third, they provide access to quality market research.
In our assessment and ranking of online broker offerings for rookie investors, we spent endless hours navigating research portals, testing website usability, watching videos and webinars, and even reading client magazines to find a true champion.
Best Online Brokers for Beginner Stock Traders
- TD Ameritrade - Best overall for beginners
- Fidelity - Great education and research
- E*TRADE - Best trading platform for beginners
- Charles Schwab - Well-rounded experience
- Robinhood - Easy to use but no tools
Here's a breakdown of some of the best online stock brokers for beginners.
Best overall for beginners - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Trade free for 90 days + get up to $600 cash.
Based on 1,820 data points, our top pick for beginners is TD Ameritrade. New investors have access to a user-friendly website, hundreds of monthly webinars, videos, and free premium courses and quizzes. TD Ameritrade is the only broker to gamify the entire learning experience, offering customers a points system tied to progress tracking, and even badges to encourage continued learning. Oh, and customers can practice trading with fake money. The account minimum at TD Ameritrade is $0 and fees are $6.95 per trade. Read full review
Great education and research - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Get 300 commission-free trades and 2 years to use them.
Our second pick, Fidelity Investments offers new investors an easy-to-use website and quality on-site education. While Fidelity's learning center is impressive, the broker does a fantastic job with its in-house market research and financial educational articles, Fidelity Viewpoints. Of all the brokers, I share and bookmark Fidelity Viewpoint articles the most. As far as subject matter goes, the broker's retirement education is exceptional. The account minimum at Fidelity is $0 and fees are $4.95 per trade. Read full review
Best trading platform for beginners - Open Account
Promo Offer: Trade Free for 60 Days & Get Up to $600.
In third place, earning a recommendation based on its platform alone, is E*TRADE. E*TRADE's web-based trading platform, Power E*TRADE, is a great environment for any beginner stock trader. It's easy to navigate, fast, and includes usability upgrades perfect for new investors like paper (practice) trading. Use E*TRADE's website to conduct research, watch educational videos, and read a large selection of articles covering the full spectrum of investment-related topics. The account minimum at ETRADE is $500 and fees are $6.95 per trade.Read full review
Well-rounded experience - Open Account
Current Offer: $4.95 online equity trades + $0.65 per options contract.
Alongside an excellent selection of market research alongside low trading costs, Charles Schwab delivers a thorough educational experience that will satisfy beginners. Schwab's specialty is retirement, which makes it ideal for investors who want to take a long term approach to understanding the stock market. The account minimum at Charles Schwab is $0 and fees are $4.95 per trade. Read full review
Easy to use but no tools
For investors looking to conduct the bare bones basics, Robinhood gets the job done well. It's mobile app is easy to use and ideal for newbies. That said, it is also a very poor experience in that there is little to no research or trading tools to help beginners make better informed investing decisions. Read full review
Beginner Platform Features Comparison
As a new investor, education is by far the most important aspect to focus on. Saving money on trades won't do you any good if you can't learn the basics of how to trade stocks online.
Here at StockBrokers.com, we maintain the largest database covering the online brokerage industry. Some features we track include broader education topics such as stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and retirement. We also track whether brokers offer unique features like webinars, live seminars, videos, progress tracking, and even interactive education, e.g. quizzes.
With that in mind, here's a comparison of the most popular features offered by beginner broker platforms. To compare 150+ features and fees side by side, check out our online brokerage comparison tool.
|Feature||TD Ameritrade||Fidelity||E*TRADE||Charles Schwab|
|Has Education - Stocks||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has Education - ETFs||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has Education - Options||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has Education - Mutual Funds||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has Education - Fixed Income||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Has Education - Retirement||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Webinars (Monthly Avg)||500||8||12||50|
|Interactive Learning - Quizzes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
What is a Stock Broker?
When it comes to investing in stocks, you can either buy and sell shares yourself (self-directed investing) or you can use an advisor and have your money managed for you (managed investing). Way back when (early 1900s), you had to use a licensed professional known as a stock broker to place stock trades on your behalf. Thanks to the Internet, investors around the globe now invest for themselves using an online brokerage account. Today, "stock broker" is just another name for an online brokerage account.
How to Open a Brokerage Account
To trade stocks online, you must open a brokerage account with an online stock broker. To select a broker we recommend using this guide along with our comparison tool to follow each of the steps listed below.
- Decide what to invest in - Do you want to trade stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, or forex? While all online brokers allow you to trade stocks and options, they differ in other tradeable securities such as mutual funds, bonds, and forex.
- Determine what features are important - What brokers offer the features you need to trade successfully? Reading reviews of different brokers will give you an understanding of where each broker excels. First-time traders typically look for brokers with good education, alongside competitive research, platforms and tools, mobile trading, customer service, and trading fees.
- Compare costs between brokers - Once you find a few brokers that offer the features you desire, it's important to compare trading fees. Trading fees are what you pay to a broker to buy and sell securities.
- Fill out an online application - Once you have selected a broker, you must apply to open an account. Signing up for a brokerage account can be done entirely online or via mobile application in about 10 - 15 minutes. To open an account, all you need is information about yourself (name, address, employment information,) and your bank details if you want to queue a deposit immediately after your application is submitted.
- Fund the account - This is the last step to opening a brokerage account. Once your online application is approved, your online broker will prompt you to enter your bank information to an initial deposit. After depositing funds, which takes typically two business days to clear, you will officially be ready to start researching securities and placing trades!
Which online broker is best for beginners? TD Ameritrade is the best all-around choice for beginners because it provides the best combination of ease of use, educational content, and research tools new investors need to succeed. TD Ameritrade is more expensive ($6.95 per trade), but when it comes to new investors, you pay for what you get.
What is the best trading platform for beginners? My favorite trading platform for beginners is Power E*TRADE. It is web-based, meaning it runs in the browser, and strikes the right balance between ease of use and offering a rich selection of trading tools.
Which brokerage offers the best educational videos? TD Ameritrade, hands down. TD Ameritrade's educational video library is made entirely in-house and provides hundreds of videos covering every investment topic imaginable, from stocks to ETFs, mutual funds, options, bonds, and even retirement. Progress tracking is also part of the learning experience.
Which broker offers the best education in a mobile app? For beginners looking to learn through their mobile app, I'd recommend Fidelity or TD Ameritrade. Fidelity has done an excellent job integrating mini-courses into its app, which include quizzes too. Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade does a great job making its video library available with simple filtering by topic. Compare TD Ameritrade vs Fidelity.
Can I Learn About Stock Trading Without Opening a Real Money Account? If you don’t have funds for an account or want to practice trading, some brokers offer virtual trading, or demo accounts, that allow you to place trades with fake (paper) money. Other great resources to learn about stock trading before opening an account include Yahoo Finance (free quotes, analyst recommendations, charts), CNBC (market news), and reading books by great investors such as The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (Jack Bogle), The Intelligent Investor (Benjamin Graham), and The Alchemy of Finance (George Soros).
Which brokers offer virtual trading to practice with fake money? Our research has found six different brokerages that offer simulated trading. Of those best suited to beginners, I recommend the TD Ameritrade thinkorswim platform and TradeStation's desktop platform. Compare TD Ameritrade vs TradeStation.
Which brokerage offers the most webinars? TD Ameritrade offers the most webinars each month, several hundred in fact, thanks to its offering of daily swim lessons and its own TV Network. Next to TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab offers around 50 per month and TradeStation around 30.
Do any brokers offer interactive learning, such as quizzes or similar? TD Ameritrade and Fidelity are both outstanding for providing unique, handcrafted courses that include individual lessons and roadmaps for learning about the markets. Quizzes to test your knowledge are scored and even tracked so you know if you've completed them or not. No other brokers come close to challenging TD Ameritrade and Fidelity in terms of interactive learning.
What is a market order? A market order is an order to buy or sell a security at the current market price. Market orders are the most common type of order because they are easy to place. Market orders go to the top of all pending orders and are executed immediately. When markets are receiving lots of trading volume, the market price paid or received may be different from the quoted price when the order was initially placed. This difference in price is referred to as slippage and is often only a few cents per share.
Investors tend to use market orders when they want to quickly purchase or sell a position. If an investor thinks a stock is going to go up multiple percentage points due to company news, he/she might place a market order to purchase shares of the company. In this instance, having the shares of the company outweighs the small price fluctuations that may come with placing a market order.
What is a limit order? A limit order is an order to buy or sell a security at a pre-specified price or better. A limit order helps lock in a set price in times of volatility. Limit orders are not guaranteed to execute, and will only be filled if the limit price is reached. Limit orders help traders avoid overpaying for a stock. They also help traders lock in a price when selling a stock.
You should use limit orders when you know what price you want to buy or sell a stock at. Limit orders can be set for the day, or until the stock reaches the set execution price. Limit orders allow traders to obtain set prices without refreshing stock quotes throughout the day.
Best Brokers for Beginners Summary
|Online Broker||Best For||Minimum Deposit||Commissions||Beginner Rating|
|TD Ameritrade||Best overall for beginners||$0||$6.95||5 Stars|
|Fidelity||Great education and research||$0||$4.95||5 Stars|
|E*TRADE||Best web-based platform||$500||$6.95||4.5 Stars|
|Charles Schwab||Well-rounded experience||$0||$4.95||4.5 Stars|
|Robinhood||Easy to use but no tools||$0||$0||4.5 Stars|
- Best Online Brokers
- Best Brokers for Beginners
- Best Brokers for Discount Trading
- Best Brokers for Day Trading
- Compare Brokers
For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. We take pride in StockBrokers.com data quality because it is 100% verified by the industry itself. As part of our process, we hand check and validate each data point to ensure its accuracy.
This rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.
Still aren't sure which broker to choose? Ask us a question! Whether you are a beginner investor learning the ropes or a professional trader, we are here to help. Email us your online broker specific question and we will respond within one business day. It is our satisfaction guarantee.