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Best Trading Platforms for Beginners 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Oct 04, 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.

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
Overall

Best overall for beginners

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

Get up to $375 and trade commission-free

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

Pros

  • Excellent education for beginners.
  • thinkorswim platform suite is our top desktop platform for 2021.
  • Futures and forex trading available.

Cons

  • $6.95 fee per trade for penny stocks.
  • No access to international stock markets.
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Get up to $375 and trade commission-free

Fidelity
Overall

Excellent research and education

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

Trade at Fidelity.1

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

Pros

  • Excellent mobile app for investors.
  • Our top pick for order execution, no payment for order flow (PFOF).

Cons

  • Margin rates can be higher than peers'.
  • No custom screening on mobile.
  • Banking services offered via a third party.
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Trade at Fidelity.1

Robinhood
Overall

Easy to use but no tools

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

For investors looking to conduct the bare-bones basics, Robinhood gets the job done well, notably via the excellent Robinhood Snacks newsletter and podcast. That said, Robinhood provides little to no market research or trading tools to help beginners make informed investing decisions. Read full review

Pros

  • "Robinhood Snacks" is our fav market newsletter for 2021.
  • Easy-to-use app.

Cons

  • Limited phone support.
  • Lacks trading tools and market research offered by competitors.
  • Controversial order practices.
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E*TRADE
Overall

Best web-based platform

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

Open & fund, get $600 w/ code: BONUS21 Advertisement

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

  • Excellent web and mobile platforms; Power E*TRADE.
  • Our top pick for options trading.

Cons

  • $1,000 minimum for streaming data.
  • Range of educational materials is limited compared to peers.
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Open & fund, get $600 w/ code: BONUS21 Advertisement

Merrill Edge
Overall

Great research tools

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

Invest in a new account and get up to $600.

Merrill Edge offers $0 trades with industry-leading research tools (especially ESG research) and customer rewards, alongside excellent customer service. Learning about investing is also a pleasant experience thanks to the interactive Morningstar Investing Classroom. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent tools for ESG research.
  • Robust rewards program for current Bank of America customers.

Cons

  • Penny stocks and OTC securities are not available.
  • Fractional share trading is not available.
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Invest in a new account and get up to $600.

Other Trading Platforms

In addition to our top five trading platforms for beginners in 2021, we reviewed six others: Charles Schwab, Interactive Brokers, Ally Invest, Firstrade, TradeStation and Webull. Here are our high-level takeaways for each. To dive deeper, read our reviews.

Charles Schwab
Overall

Great all-around website

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

$0 Online Trade Commissions. Advertisement

Charles Schwab offers $0 trades, excellent stock research, a diverse selection of trading tools, and an industry-leading offering of financial planning services. For beginners, Schwab's Learning Center covers all investing topics, from stock trading to retirement. Read full review

Pros

  • Our top pick for stock and market research.
  • Fractional shares available.
  • Multiple financial planning services.

Cons

  • Mobile app lacks alerts, streaming quotes and options chains.
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$0 Online Trade Commissions. Advertisement

Interactive Brokers
Overall

Web-based Client Portal

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

EXCLUSIVE: New clients, special margin rates.

Interactive Brokers offers numerous options to learn about trading and investing within its Traders' Academy portal. For casual investors, Interactive Brokers provides $0 stock and ETF trades plus thorough research via its web-based Client Portal. Read full review

Pros

  • Web-based client portal great for casual investors.
  • Offers access to global markets.
  • Robust mobile app.

Cons

  • TWS desktop platform best suited for professionals, not beginners.
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EXCLUSIVE: New clients, special margin rates.

Ally Invest
Overall

Current Ally 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 is a convenient solution. But as a standalone broker, Ally Invest trails industry leaders in educational offerings. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent banking via Ally Bank.
  • Universal account management.

Cons

  • Trading tools lag behind leading bank/brokers.
  • Limited education and stock research.
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Firstrade
Overall

Chinese-speaking investors

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

Commission-Free Trading on 700+ ETFs

While Firstrade is easy to use and terrific for Chinese-speaking investors, its overall offering struggles to stand out against brokers who also offer $0 stock trades. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent for Chinese-speaking clients.

Cons

  • Firstrade Navigator trading platform requires at least $10,000 in your account.
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Commission-Free Trading on 700+ ETFs

TradeStation
Overall

YouCanTrade courses

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

Trade Stocks, Options, Futures, & Crypto. Advertisement

Casual investors will appreciate the TradeStation Web Trader platform, thanks to its simplicity and ease of use alongside $0 trades. TradeStation offers free and paid educational courses through its YouCanTrade subsidiary; however, content is hosted on a separate website. Read full review

Pros

  • Excellent desktop and web-based trading platforms.
  • Great for professionals.
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading.

Cons

  • Research trails industry leaders.
  • Educational content split between two sites.
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Trade Stocks, Options, Futures, & Crypto. Advertisement

Webull
Overall

Easy to use, limited education

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

Get Your 2 Free Stocks Today

Webull offers a unique community experience and easy-to-use stock app that will satisfy most young investors. Unfortunately, Webull can't compete with the vast amount of trading tools, research, and education provided by traditional full-service brokers. Read full review

Pros

  • Easy to use trading platforms.
  • Offers cryptocurrency trading.

Cons

  • Trails the best brokers in trading tools, research, and education.
  • No phone support offered.
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Get Your 2 Free Stocks Today

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
Visit Site
Fidelity
Visit Site
Robinhood
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 Trade 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
Visit Site
Fidelity
Visit Site
Robinhood
Education (Stocks) Yes Yes Yes
Education (ETFs) Yes Yes No
Education (Options) Yes Yes Yes
Education (Mutual Funds) Yes Yes No
Education (Bonds) Yes Yes No
Education (Retirement) Yes Yes No
Retirement Calculator Yes Yes No
Investor Dictionary Yes Yes Yes
Paper Trading Yes No No
Videos Yes Yes No
Webinars (Monthly Avg) 500 15 0
Webinars (Archived) 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).

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.

What is the best stock 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.

How do I start trading for beginners?

To start trading as a beginner you must have a trading platform, an investment strategy and an expected time horizon to hold. Scan the market for trading ideas while taking baby steps to size your trades appropriately.

Trading platform: A demo or virtual account from a broker is a great way to learn the trading software you are using and understand how order types can help manage risk while entering and exiting positions.

Trading strategy: After opening a brokerage account, there are several decisions you will need to prepare for when trading as a beginner, such as what and when to trade and how much money to budget.

Time frame: Whether investing for the long term as a passive investor or trading more actively, you must focus on present market conditions and recent price activity when deciding how long you want to hold.

Baby steps: Fractional shares are another way to ease your way into the world of stock trading while taking less risk, focusing on percentage returns before increasing your trading budget.

Interested in more stock trading education, dive deeper with StockTrader.com's 10 Great Ways to Learn Stock Trading .

How do beginners trade stocks?

Here are common steps for beginners when learning how to buy stocks online:

1. Account setup: Open a self-directed brokerage account.

2. Navigate platform: Learn how the trading software works (website, mobile app or desktop).

3. Budget: Decide on a monthly amount you can afford to risk.

4. Strategize: Develop an investing style, such as buy and hold or short-term trading.

5. Manage risk and reward: Incorporate rules using order types (stop and limit orders).

6. Set goals: Focus on percentage returns and decide on your time horizon.

7. Find stocks to trade: Analyze news and research to find trading opportunities.

8. Avoid concentrated positions: Don’t put too much into a single position.

9. Index funds: Consider incorporating low-cost index funds such to gain broad market exposure.

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 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.

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:

Also explore educational content for various topics at our sister sites :

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.

1 Fidelity Sell 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.

*Webull Disclaimer View Disclaimer.

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