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Best Stock Trading Platforms for Beginners of 2024

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Written by Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Steven Hatzakis
Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer

July 01, 2024

Are you ready to start investing, but aren’t quite sure where to begin? It’s easier than ever to get started with your first broker account. Brokers continue to roll out or enhance beginner-friendly features such as fractional shares, practice accounts (also called paper trading or simulated trading), and basic investor education.

I opened accounts and entered trades at 17 online brokers and chose the top five that I recommend the most for beginners. All the online brokers on this list are easy to use and offer great investor education. But, after spending a year testing, I’ve found they each have unique strengths that will appeal to different investors. Here are my faves for 2024 and why they made it onto my shortlist.

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Best Trading Platforms for Beginners

  • Fidelity - Best overall for beginners
  • Merrill Edge - Best research for beginners
  • E*TRADE
    - Best trading app for beginners
  • Charles Schwab
    - Outstanding market research
  • Interactive Brokers
    - Best for global investors
  • Robinhood - Best for Ease of Use
  • Ally Invest - Best for Ally Bank customers
Fidelity
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best overall for beginners

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Fidelity is a winner for beginners, thanks to its plethora of educational resources that includes a Learning Center stocked with videos, infographics, and even podcasts. Fidelity also offers an innovative Youth Account – a first-of-its-kind brokerage account for teens aged 13 to 17. Read full review

Pros
  • Excellent research and mobile app
  • Top-notch education
  • Decades of reliable client service
Cons
  • No dedicated mobile app for active trading
Merrill Edge
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best research for beginners

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools and customer rewards. Learning about investing is a pleasant experience, thanks to excellent organization, quality and in-house curated content. Its Stock Stories and Fund Stories do phenomenal jobs presenting information in a friendly way. Read full review

Pros
  • Portfolio Story, Dynamic Insights, and the Stock and Fund Stories are groundbreaking features
  • High-quality proprietary research
Cons
  • Some site elements slow to load
  • No crypto, futures, forex or penny stocks
E*TRADE
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best trading app for beginners

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Earning a recommendation based on its trading platform alone, E*TRADE is great for any beginner stock trader. Power E*TRADE is easy to use and offers features including paper (practice) trading and note-taking. Its educational content, though plentiful, can be a challenge to navigate. Read full review

Pros
  • Watch lists are the best in the business
  • Smooth mobile navigation
  • High-quality high-net-worth Morgan Stanley proprietary research
Cons
  • Cryptocurrencies not currently available
  • Margin rates are high compared to other brokers
Visit Site

Open and fund & get up to $1,000.

Charles Schwab
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Outstanding market research

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Charles Schwab is a terrific all-around choice for everyday investors that offers a thorough educational experience and support for beginners, with its Choiceology podcast a standout. Paper (practice) trading is not available, however. Read full review

Pros
  • TD Ameritrade’s excellent thinkorswim trading platforms now available
  • Trading-friendly app and browser enhancements
  • Exceptional high net worth services
Cons
  • No cryptocurrency trading
  • Mutual fund fees are complex
Visit Site

Trade with thinkorswim®, now at Schwab.

Interactive Brokers
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best for global investors

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

Beginners and foreign stock aficionados will enjoy using Global Trader, which allows fractional stock trades, options trading and convenient access to foreign shares. Everything is clearly laid out and easy to operate. I’d rank Global Trader above many apps from beginner-focused brokers. Read full review

Pros
  • Astounding array of customizable tools
  • Allows trading in foreign markets
  • Convenient apps for individual investors
Cons
  • Restrictive trading permissions
  • Main platforms might feel cold
Visit Site

New clients, special margin rates.

Robinhood
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Best for Ease of Use

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.00

Robinhood is very easy to use and its educational content is a joy to read. But, in today’s competitive market for your investing dollars, there are several more compelling options among brokerages. Read full review

Pros
  • Famously easy to use
  • Extensive crypto support with zero commissions and no markups or markdowns
  • Learn section has some excellent writing
Cons
  • Charges $5 monthly fee for data and research that’s free at many other brokers
  • Limited investment choices
  • Not enough tools for active trading
Ally Invest
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Best for Ally Bank customers

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.50

For current Ally customers looking to invest in stocks, Ally's universal-accounts experience and easy-to-use website offer a convenient solution. Its website is far stronger than the mobile app. Read full review

Pros
  • Excellent banking via Ally Bank
  • Universal account management
  • $0 stock and ETF trades alongside a $0 minimum deposit
Cons
  • Trails industry leaders in areas including platforms, tools, research, and education

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Winners Summary

Best overall for beginners - Fidelity

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Options (Per Contract) Offers Visit Site
Fidelity logoFidelity $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 Read Review

Why Fidelity is best overall for beginners: My testing found that Fidelity has two beginner-friendly mobile apps, an extensive investor education library, and high-quality independent research. Fidelity is easy to use and allows fractional trades of stock and ETF shares. It also offers a Youth account, which netted our Best Innovation award in 2022. Read review.

Screenshot tour of Fidelity's market research

Screenshot tour of Fidelity's educational resources

Best research for beginners - Merrill Edge

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Options (Per Contract) Offers Visit Site
Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 Read Review

Why Merrill Edge is the best for research for beginners: If you’re interested in investing in individual stocks or funds, my testing found that Merrill Edge’s Stock Stories and Fund Stories do phenomenal jobs presenting highly relevant info in a friendly way. I don’t think there’s a better way for everyday investors to learn how to research stocks than starting with Merrill’s Stock or Fund Stories. If I had these available when I taught stock investing at a business school, I would have used them in my class.

Once you’ve mastered the Stories and are ready to take a deeper dive into the numbers, Merrill has an extensive selection of Bank of America Securities and third-party research at the ready. Read review.

Screenshot tour of Merrill Edge's market research

Screenshot tour of Merrill Edge's educational resources


The Stock Story feature on the Merrill Edge mobile app.


View more

Best trading app for beginners - E*TRADE

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Options (Per Contract) Offers Visit Site
E*TRADE logoE*TRADE $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 Open and fund & get up to $1,000. Visit Site

Why E*TRADE is the best trading app for beginners: Not only does E*TRADE have the best trading app for beginners, it also has one of the best trading websites, too. New investors will appreciate the intuitive layouts and well-organized menus of portfolio and market information.

The same can’t be said for its investor education, which we found to be a mixed bag in our testing. E*TRADE does not allow clients to buy fractional shares but does offer paper trading on its advanced trading platform, Power E*TRADE, at no cost. Read review.

Screenshot tour of E*TRADE's market research

Screenshot tour of E*TRADE's educational resources

Pricing and fees comparison

Here's a comparison of pricing across beginner trading platforms. To compare all our collected data side by side, check out our online broker comparison tool.

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Broker Assisted Trade Fee Penny Stock Fees (OTC) ETF Trade Fee Mutual Fund Trade Fee Options (Base Fee) Options (Per Contract) Futures (Per Contract)
Fidelity logoFidelity $0.00 $0.00 $32.95 $0.00 $0.00 Varies info $0.00 $0.65 (Not offered)
Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge $0.00 $0.00 $29.95 N/A $0.00 Varies info $0.00 $0.65 (Not offered)
E*TRADE logoE*TRADE $0.00 $0.00 $25 $6.95 info $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 $1.50
Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab $0.00 $0.00 $25 $6.95 $0.00 Varies $0.00 $0.65 $2.25
Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers $0.00 $0.00 $30 $0.00 $0.00 $14.95 $0.00 $0.65 $0.85
Robinhood logoRobinhood $0.00 $0.00 N/A N/A $0.00 N/A $0.00 $0.00 (Not offered)
Ally Invest logoAlly Invest $0.00 $0.00 $20 $4.95 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.50 (Not offered)

Beginner education comparison

Here's a comparison of the most popular educational features offered by beginner trading platforms. To compare all our collected data side by side, check out our online broker comparison tool.

Company Education (Stocks) Education (ETFs) Education (Options) Education (Mutual Funds) Education (Bonds) Education (Retirement) Retirement Calculator Investor Dictionary Paper Trading Videos Webinars (Archived) Progress Tracking Interactive Learning - Quizzes
Fidelity logoFidelity Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Robinhood logoRobinhood Yes No Yes No No No No Yes No No No No No
Ally Invest logoAlly Invest Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes No No
View More

Trading platforms tested, data findings

As part of our research process, we create a list of features, set strict definitions for each so our testing is uniform, collect the data, then extrapolate the resulting data to see how common each feature is across the industry as a whole. Here's our findings. To compare all our collected data side by side, check out our online broker comparison tool.

Feature % of trading platforms that offer each feature
Education (Stocks) 80%
Education (ETFs) 52%
Education (Options) 68%
Education (Mutual Funds) 40%
Education (Bonds) 36%
Education (Retirement) 48%
Retirement Calculator 36%
Investor Dictionary 60%
Paper Trading 42%
Videos 60%
Webinars (Archived) 56%
Progress Tracking 24%
Interactive Learning - Quizzes 28%

FAQs

What is a trading platform and how does it work?

A trading platform, otherwise known as an online brokerage account, allows you to buy and sell investments via computer or mobile app. The brokerage holds your investments and deposited cash for you and provides activity reports and account statements. It also credits any interest accrued and dividends to your account. To open an online broker account in the United States, you will need a Social Security number and you will be required to enter basic financial information such as your name, address, phone number, and trading experience.

In the United States, brokers are regulated by both FINRA and the SIPC. The SIPC insures $500,000 per account including up to $250,000 in cash against theft or the firm going belly-up. It’s important to remember, however, that insurance does not protect any investor against losses due to market fluctuations.

Which type of trading is best for beginners?

Beginners should consider learning the ropes first by buying and holding stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds. Delving immediately into day trading or complicated investing strategies like options before getting the hang of basic order types is a recipe for disaster. Wait until you have more experience before using options, short selling, and buying on margin.

Practice first: It is always a great idea to try out any new trading strategies or learn more about your trading platform in the completely risk-free environment of a demo account, also known as paper trading. Offered by most brokers, paper trading accounts allow you to use fake currency in a simulated trading environment, usually using real-time stock charts and prices. While you should be wary of using the results of trades made in such an account to judge the success or failure of any one strategy, it will give you invaluable experience in the logistics of implementing those trades.

Can I teach myself how to trade?

Yes, you can teach yourself to trade, provided you have realistic expectations and stay at it through a full market boom-and-bust cycle. Don’t invest more than a fraction of your trading capital at once, and keep a trading journal noting why you entered and exited each trade and how well that trade performed. Most traders fail because they focus on chasing the upside more than managing risk. Dive deeper: Learn more about trading journals for stock trading on our sister site, investor.com.

Can I buy stocks without a broker?

There are two types of stock brokers. Online stock brokers, meaning companies like E*TRADE and Fidelity, allow you to buy and sell stocks. Traditional stock brokers — individuals who pass a series of exams and work at brokerages — buy and sell stocks on behalf of clients. Traditional stock brokers often work for corporations and may earn commissions on the products they sell you (they are salespeople), and that may affect their advice.

If you are looking to buy and sell stocks on your own, you are looking for an online broker. When you open an account with a regulated brokerage, you can deposit money and make investments in the stock market.

If you want someone to manage your money for you, you will want to hire a financial advisor. We prefer registered investment advisors who are paid a predictable fee over registered representatives who charge commissions. To get started finding a registered investment advisor, search our sister site, investor.com.

Can I start trading with $100?

Yes. Nowadays, most online brokers require no minimum deposit to open an account, commission-free stock and ETF trades, as well as the availability of fractional shares. As a result, new traders can start trading with a small investment such as $100.

To compare features and pricing, use our online broker comparison tool.

What is paper trading?

Paper trading, or virtual trading, is a trading platform feature that enables the trading of stocks, ETFs, and options with virtual currency (fake money). This helpful learning tool is popular with beginners and is a great way to practice stock trading without risking real money. Dive deeper: Best brokers for paper trading.

What are fractional shares?

A fractional share is a portion of a full share of a publicly traded company. Fractional shares enable investors with smaller budgets to buy a stake in companies with high stock prices. For example, instead of spending over $87 to buy one Amazon (AMZN) share, a trader could purchase a $10 fractional share – and then own a proportional fraction of that share. A real-world example is Charles Schwab's Schwab Stock Slices, which are fractional shares of any company in the S&P 500 and carry a minimum purchase of $5. Other brokers that offer fractional trading include Fidelity, Interactive Brokers, Webull, SoFi Invest, and Robinhood.

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. A good rule of thumb is to never invest more than you can afford to lose or that you might need within the next three months. Start with a small amount of money, read investing books, and keep it simple by buying and holding for the long term rather than trying to time the market.

Our Research

Why you should trust us

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT, formerly a lead writer for StockBrokers.com, has over 30 years of investing experience and actively trades stocks, ETFs, options, futures, and options on futures. He's held roles as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and journalist. He holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) designations and served on the board of directors of the CMT Association.

Blain Reinkensmeyer, head of research at StockBrokers.com, has been investing and trading for over 25 years. After having placed over 2,000 trades in his late teens and early 20s, he became one of the first in digital media to review online brokerages. Blain created the original scoring rubric for StockBrokers.com and oversees all testing and rating methodologies.

For this guide:

  • Whenever possible, we used our own brokerage accounts for testing. For several brokers, we used a test account that was provided to us.
  • We collected more than 3,000 data points (196 per broker).
  • We tested each online broker's website, browser-based trading platform (where applicable), downloadable desktop trading platform (where applicable), and of course, the mobile app (or apps in the case of several brokers).

How we tested

Our research team rigorously tests the most important features sought by beginning investors and traders, including the quality and variety of educational resources, ease of use of any available trading platforms and the availability of of market research and commentary suitable for novices. We also looked at which brokers offer unique features like webinars, live seminars, videos, progress tracking, paper trading (aka a stock market simulator) and interactive educational elements such as quizzes.

StockBrokers.com uses a variety of computing devices to evaluate trading platforms. Our reviews were conducted using the following devices: iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, MacBook Pro M1 with 8 GB RAM running the current MacOS, and a Dell Vostro 5402 laptop i5 with 8 GB RAM running Windows 11 Pro. In testing platforms and apps, our reviewers place actual trades for a variety of instruments.

As part of our data check process, we sent a data profile link to each broker summarizing the data we had on file and the data they provided us last year, with a field for entering any data that had since changed. For the brokers that filled out these profiles, we audited the information for any discrepancies between our data and the broker’s data to ensure accuracy.

As part of our review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones in a live meeting that took place in the fall. Meetings with broker teams also took place throughout the year as new products rolled out. Insights gathered from these calls helped steer our testing efforts to ensure every feature and tool was assessed.

Trading platforms tested

We tested 17 online trading platforms for this guide:

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About the Editorial Team

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Sam Levine has over 30 years of experience in the investing field as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and writer. He also taught investing as an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University. Sam holds the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Chartered Market Technician designations and is pursuing a master's in personal financial planning at the College for Financial Planning. Previously, he was a contributing editor at BetterInvesting Magazine and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder and other media outlets.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is managing editor for Reink Media and the lead editor for the StockBrokers.com Annual Review. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Steven Hatzakis
Steven Hatzakis

Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.

Blain Reinkensmeyer
Blain Reinkensmeyer

Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 2,500 trades placed during that time. He heads research for all U.S.-based brokerages on StockBrokers.com and is respected by executives as the leading expert covering the online broker industry. Blain’s insights have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.

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