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Best Trading Platforms for Beginners 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Apr 13, 2021

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2021 review (11th annual) took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

As a new investor, the best trading platform for beginners offers three essential benefits. First, the trading platform is easy to use. Second, the platform provides a variety of educational materials to encourage learning. Third, the best platform includes access to quality stock market research.

For our 2021 Review, we tested and scored 11 trading platforms, focusing on features that are essential for beginning investors. In addition to in-depth testing of each learning center, we also looked at which brokers offer unique features like webinars, live seminars, videos, progress tracking, and interactive educational elements (e.g., quizzes).

Best Trading Platforms for Beginners 2021

StockBrokers.com 2021 Review

Here are the best online stock trading sites for beginners:

  • TD Ameritrade - Best overall for beginners
  • Fidelity - Excellent research and education
  • Robinhood - Easy to use but no tools
  • E*TRADE - Best web-based platform
  • Merrill Edge - Great research tools
TD Ameritrade Logo
TD Ameritrade

Best overall for beginners

Minimum Deposit $0
Stock Trades $0
Options (Per Contract)     $0.65

TD Ameritrade delivers $0 trades, fantastic trading platforms, excellent market research, industry-leading education for beginners, and reliable customer service. This outstanding all-around experience makes TD Ameritrade our top overall broker in 2021. Read full review

Exclusive Offer: Get up to $375 and trade commission-free with TD Ameritrade. Open Account

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Fidelity Logo
Fidelity

Excellent research and education

Minimum Deposit $0
Stock Trades $0
Options (Per Contract)     $0.65

Fidelity is a value-driven online broker offering $0 trades, industry-leading research, excellent trading tools, an easy-to-use mobile app, and comprehensive retirement services. Serving over 32 million customers, Fidelity is a winner for everyday investors. Read full review

Trade Commission-Free: No commissions to trade online U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options.1
Open Account

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Robinhood Logo
Robinhood

Easy to use but no tools

Minimum Deposit $0
Stock Trades $0
Options (Per Contract)     $0

Robinhood used to shine thanks to its easy-to-use mobile app and $0 trades. However, today, all of the largest online brokers offer free stock and ETF trades. As a result, it is much more difficult for Robinhood to outduel the competition. Read full review

Get Started with Robinhood Today!
Open Account

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E*TRADE Logo
E*TRADE

Best web-based platform

Minimum Deposit $0
Stock Trades $0
Options (Per Contract)     $0.65

Founded in 1982 as one of the first online brokerages in the United States, E*TRADE highlights include $0 trades, two excellent mobile apps, and the Power E*TRADE platform, which is great for beginners, active trading, and options trading. Read full review

Limited Time Offer: Open and fund an E*TRADE account & get $600 or more w/ code: BONUS21
Open Account

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Merrill Edge Logo
Merrill Edge

Great research tools

Minimum Deposit $0
Stock Trades $0
Options (Per Contract)     $0.65

Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools (especially ESG research) and excellent customer service. Better yet, for current Bank of America customers, Merrill Edge's Preferred Rewards program provides the best rewards of any bank broker we tested in 2021. Read full review

No current offers available.

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Best Trading Platforms Pricing Comparison

Here's a comparison of pricing across TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Robinhood, E*TRADE, and Merrill Edge. For more comparisons, use the online broker comparison tool.

Feature TD Ameritrade
Open Account
Fidelity
Open Account
Robinhood
Open Account
Minimum Deposit $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Stock Trades $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
ETF Trade Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $49.99 $49.95 N/A
Options (Base Fee) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65 $0.65 $0.00
Futures (Per Contract) $2.25 N/A N/A
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $44.99 $32.95 N/A

Best Trading Platforms Beginner Education Comparison

Here's a comparison of the most popular educational features offered by beginner trading platforms. To compare 150+ features and fees side by side, check out our online broker comparison tool.

Feature TD Ameritrade
Open Account
Fidelity
Open Account
Robinhood
Open Account
Education (Stocks) Yes Yes Yes
Education (ETFs) Yes Yes No
Education (Options) Yes Yes Yes
Education (Mutual Funds) Yes Yes No
Education (Fixed Income) Yes Yes No
Education (Retirement) Yes Yes No
Paper Trading Yes No No
Videos Yes Yes No
Webinars (Monthly Avg) 500 15 0
Webinars (Archived) Yes Yes No
Live Seminars Yes Yes No
Progress Tracking Yes Yes No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes Yes Yes No

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. Better yet, stock trades are free ($0).

What is paper trading?

Paper trading, or virtual trading, is a trading platform feature that enables trading stocks, ETFs, and options with fake money. Popular with beginners (and helpful!), paper trading is a great way to practice stock trading without risking real money. The two top-rated brokers that offer paper trading are TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE.

Which trading platform is best for beginners?

The best trading platform for beginners is Power E*TRADE. E*TRADE offers Power E*TRADE as both a browser platform and mobile app. Power E*TRADE is excellent for beginners because it provides paper trading, HTML5 charts with automated technical analysis, and screening tools for both stocks and options.

How do you buy stocks online?

To buy stocks, first, you need to open and fund an online brokerage account. Next, research which stock you want to buy. Last, go to the order ticket, enter the stock symbol along with the number of shares you want to buy, then place your trade.

What is the best trading app for beginners?

For beginners, our favorite trading apps are Fidelity and TD Ameritrade. Fidelity provides the best market research and stock analysis, alongside an in-depth learning center. Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade offers the most thorough selection of trading tools and provides access to its entire educational video library for beginners, easily searchable by filtering by topic.

What are fractional shares?

A fractional share is a portion of a full share of a publicly-traded company. Fractional shares allow you to invest in shares of a company you might not otherwise be able to afford. For example, instead of needing over $2,000 to buy one Amazon (AMZN) share, a trader could purchase a $100 fractional share (1/20th of a share). Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Interactive Brokers, and Robinhood are the only online brokers that offer fractional shares trading.

What is a market order?

A market order is an order to buy or sell a security (e.g., stock) at the current best-available market price. Market orders are the most common type of order because they are the fastest and easiest way to buy and sell shares.

What is a limit order?

A limit order is an order to buy or sell a security at a pre-specified price or better. Since limit orders are fixed to a pre-specified price, they will only fill when the limit price is reached. Limit orders are best when you know the exact price at which you want to buy or sell a stock.

Is online trading safe?

Online trading is safe if you use a regulated online stock broker and never invest more than you are willing to lose. Trading stocks online is inherently risky. Start with a small amount of money, read investing books, and keep it simple by buying and holding for the long term instead of trying to time the market.

Summary

To recap, here are the best trading platforms for beginners.

Best options trading platforms 2021

Read Next

Explore our other online trading guides:

Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com 11th annual best trading platforms review published in January 2021, a total of 2,816 data points were collected over three 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 offered executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our 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.


About the Author

Blain Reinkensmeyer

As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Fast Company, among others.



All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/19/2021 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and StockBrokers.com are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. View terms.

1Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal.

Options trading entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Certain complex options strategies carry additional risk. Before trading options, please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options. Supporting documentation for any claims, if applicable, will be furnished upon request.

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