The StockBrokers.com Annual Review (9 years running) sets the official industry benchmarks. Our Head of Research, Blain Reinkensmeyer, is respected by executives as the leading analyst covering online brokers. Learn more.
An online stock broker can offer beginners three essential benefits. The first, and most important, is a user-friendly website and platform. After all, what good is investing online if you can’t figure out how to conduct research or place an order to buy shares of stocks such as Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), or Google (GOOGL)? Second, a robust offering of educational content is crucial. The third benefit is having access to quality research.
In our assessment and ranking of online broker offerings for rookie investors, we scored brokers on 140 different variables and spent endless hours navigating research portals, testing website usability, watching videos and webinars, and even reading client magazines to find a true champion.
The best online brokers for beginners 2019
Here are the top brokers for beginner investors, based on 119 variables.
- TD Ameritrade - Best overall for beginners
- Fidelity - Best website research
- E*TRADE - Best web-based platform
- Charles Schwab - Well-rounded experience
- Robinhood - Easy to use but no tools
What is the best online stock broker for beginner investors? 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.
In fact, TD Ameritrade offers full-feature educational courses for free that used to cost thousands of dollars in years past. Having been a TD Ameritrade customer now for over fifteen years, I find myself returning year after year to learn something new.
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.
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 options trader. It's easy to navigate, fast, and rich with usability upgrades perfect for casual investors.
While Power E*TRADE is a natural winner based on its user-friendliness, its research capabilities are unimpressive. Instead, investors should rely on 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, including stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, and retirement.
Top Finishers at a Glance (Overall)
Best educational features for beginner investors
Over the years the online brokerage industry has realized that ease of use, quality research, and education centers that boast organization, variety, and depth are crucial components of a thorough offering for beginners.
Each attribute is dependent on the other, and while quality education shouldn’t be a beginner investor's only reason to choose a broker, it is a nice complement to the primary offering.
Best Stock Trading Platforms for Beginners 2019
- TD Ameritrade - thinkorswim
- TradeStation - Web Trading
- E*TRADE - Power E*TRADE
- Charles Schwab - StreetSmart Edge
- Fidelity - Active Trader Pro
Beginner Investors: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
You've got questions. I have answers! Let's take a deeper dive into the best brokers for beginners.
Ok Blain, why should I listen to you? Fair question. I've placed over 1,000 individual buys and sells with over a dozen different brokerages since I started trading back in 2001. As head of StockBrokers.com research, part of my job means traveling around the country each Fall and meeting with the product leads at every brokerage (see: How We Test). I get the lowdown on ALL the latest and greatest trading tools and platforms available to investors.
In fact, the longest review meeting I've ever had with an executive team was six hours (proud of that one). I LOVE to immerse myself in the markets on a daily basis and take pride in helping investors learn about stocks. I've been in your shoes. I'm your broker geek.
Below, I am going to answer all your most specific new investor questions. Let's dive in.
Which online trading company 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's the best trading website for a beginner? The best website for beginners is found at Fidelity. Having reviewed Fidelity for over eight years, I find their website the easiest to use and navigate, whether you are researching stocks, placing trades, or reading education articles.
Which trading platform is best 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. When it comes to scale and depth of videos, TD Ameritrade is in a league of its own.
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.
Do any brokerages offer print magazines for learning? Yes, two brokers do. TD Ameritrade offers a quarterly client magazine (print delivery or web) called thinkMoney (image). I've read thinkMoney for years; it leans towards options trading but is still great, regardless of your experience level. Charles Schwab also offers a quarterly client magazine (print delivery or web) called On Investing (image), which is geared towards broader market analysis and retirement education. Compare TD Ameritrade vs Charles Schwab
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 organizes its educational content the best? When we assess brokers for how well they organize their learning centers, we focus on three areas: organization by skill level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), by content type (article, video, webinar, etc), and by topic (stocks, ETFs, options, etc.). Overall, TD Ameritrade takes the crown here, but Fidelity and E*TRADE also do a good job.
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 online brokerages offer archived webinars for video viewing on demand? Yes. Providing access to viewing archived webinars on demand is an industry standard feature offered by more than 60% of firms. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab are standouts in this area.
Which brokerages offer chat rooms for beginners? TD Ameritrade runs the most popular chat rooms through its thinkorswim trading platform. On average, you will see over 1,000 traders using the chat rooms during a given trading day. Through thinkorswim, clients can also share and discuss their trades using the myTrade tool.
Which brokerage is best for researching stocks? I recommend Fidelity for researching stocks. Fidelity offers the most third-party research reports out of all the brokers (12) and excellent research for stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds thanks to Morningstar and its other third-party research partners. For more on research, see our guide to the Best Online Brokers.
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.
Which online broker offers the best trade ticket? For placing regular stock trades, Fidelity's trade ticket is my favorite. It's easy to use, minimalistic and designed with beginners at heart, thanks to the inclusion of a trade cost calculator. Surprisingly enough, less than half the industry offers a basic share cost calculator to customers.
Do any brokerages offer trading contests for beginners? Yes. Through TD Ameritrade University, TD Ameritrade puts on an annual trading simulator contest for college students called the thinkorswim Challenge. Teams from around the country participate each year for a chance to win scholarship money and other prizes.
Which brokers offer a dictionary of investing terminology? Honestly, nearly every broker offers a dictionary of words to know. The quality varies as one can imagine. Instead of using the brokerage websites, I typically Google for definitions and let searches guide me to the best answer.
Which trading platform is the easiest to use? This is a tough one because platforms vary significantly in depth and capabilities. Put simply, the more focused the platform is on active trading / professional trading, the harder it is to use. Overall, I recommend Power E*TRADE and TradeStation Web Trading. Compare E*TRADE vs TradeStation.
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.
Best Online Brokerages for Beginner Investors (Summary)
|Online Broker||Best For||Minimum Deposit||Commissions||Beginner Rating|
|TD Ameritrade||Best overall for beginners||$0||$6.95||5 Stars|
|Fidelity||Best website 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 2019
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