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Penny stocks, companies whose shares trade for under $1, are risky investments. The vast majority of time, companies trade for pennies per share because of poor financial metrics, which results in an uncertain future and more risk. In fact, according the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), "The term 'penny stock' generally refers to a security issued by a very small company that trades at less than $5 per share."
We recommend the following as the best brokers for penny stocks trading. None of these brokers charge any additional fees associated with stocks less than $1. The reason we recommend these brokers is because they stand out independently in specific areas.
Best Online Brokers for Trading Penny Stocks
Here are the best brokers for trading penny stocks, based on 29 variables.
- TD Ameritrade - $6.95 per trade
- Fidelity - $4.95 per trade
- Charles Schwab - $4.95 per trade
- Interactive Brokers - $.005 per share
- TradeStation - $5 per trade
$6.95 per trade - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Trade free for 90 days + get up to $600 cash.
The extra cost of trading with TD Ameritrade is worth every cent – the brokerage delivers fantastic platforms, research, mobile apps, education, and customer service. This outstanding all-round experience makes TD Ameritrade our No. 1 overall broker in 2019. Read full review
$4.95 per trade - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Get 300 commission-free trades and 2 years to use them.
From industry-leading research to excellent trading tools, mobile apps, and retirement services, Fidelity defines “value” and provides investors with everything they need to succeed, and more. Read full review
$4.95 per trade - Open Account
Current Offer: $4.95 online equity trades + $0.65 per options contract.
For those seeking access to low costs, excellent research, quality trade tools, and professional planning for the future, Charles Schwab will not disappoint. Read full review
$.005 per share - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate.
While Interactive Brokers is not suitable for casual investors, it leads the industry in international trading and low-cost commissions desired by professional traders. Read full review
How to calculate penny stock trading costs
For penny stock trading, first and foremost, select a broker that offers flat-fee trade commissions with no gimmicks. Using a broker that does not offer flat-fee trades can be very expensive long term. Typically, these brokers charge a base rate with an additional fee per share which is terrible since penny stocks are low priced and can result in trades of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of shares. Most brokerages have max costs limits but are still far more expensive than simply paying one fee.
Cost Example 1:
TD Ameritrade charges a flat-rate $6.95 per trade. You buy $5,000 worth of penny stock XYZ at a price of $.13 per share, totaling 38,461 shares (5,000 / .13). Your cost to buy the shares is then $6.95.
Cost Example 2:
Interactive Brokers charges $.005 per share with a max cost of 0.5% of the trade value. You buy $5,000 worth of penny stock XYZ at a price of $.13 per share, totaling 38,461 shares (5,000 / .13). Your cost to buy the shares is then $25 ($192.31 using per-share method or $25 cap, thus capped at 0.5% of trade value).
|Feature||TD Ameritrade||Fidelity||Charles Schwab||Interactive Brokers||E*TRADE|
|Stock Trade Fee (per trade)||$6.95||$4.95||$4.95||N/A||$6.95|
|OTCBB / Pink Sheets||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
How to buy penny stocks
Penny stocks typically trade Over the Counter (OTC), meaning they are not listed on a formal exchange like the NASDAQ. Instead, they are instead listed as a Pink Sheet or trade on the OTC Bulletin Boards (OTCBB). If a company listed on the NASDAQ trades below $1 for a certain period of time (or fails to meet other quality metrics), the company can be delisted and forced to convert to a OTCBB or Pink Sheet listed security.
That said, not all companies that trade OTC are penny stocks. Some are legitimate companies growing their business with the goal of one day being listed on a major exchange such as the NASDAQ or NYSE. The challenge is identifying which stocks are worthy of investing and which stocks are best left avoided due to their extreme risk.
Penny Stock Risks
Here are five important tips to remember when buying penny stocks:
- They are risky - Penny stocks trade for less than $1 per share for a reason.
- Be aware of fraud - Watch out for pump and dump schemes.
- Be aware of paid promotions - Ignore emails claiming amazing returns, they are fake.
- Do your own research - Research the company before you buy.
- Be aware of costs - Select a broker with flat-fee trades.
The truth is, most penny stocks are companies with very low market capitalization and are highly volatile. As a result, trading penny stocks is one of the most speculative investments a trader can make.
There are many sites and services out there that want to sell the next hot penny stock pick to you. So before buying penny stocks, consider the following dangers.
Manipulation of Prices. Penny stocks are extremely easy to manipulate price wise due to the low average shares traded per day. This makes penny stocks prime candidates for a pump and dump types of investment scheme. Very often on message boards, in emails, newsletters, etc. pumping (or promotion) of a penny stock can be seen to attract investor capital. Once the stock jumps in price, the promoter/s sells out completely, with tanks the stock price and leaves the remaining investors with significant losses.
Unregulated exchanges. Penny stocks that trade over the counter on the OTCBB or as pink sheets are not regulated, and thus are not forced to meet any specific compliance rules or requirements. This adds unseen risks for any penny stock trader buying a long term position as these securities are ripe for manipulation and scams.
Lack of financial statements. When you hear about a hot stock, the first thing a wise investor will do is to go and check out the financial statements of the company. Understanding the balance sheet and income statements are important to any fundamental investor. Unfortunately, with most penny stocks, there are little to no financials to observe, which means there is no hard data to analyze beyond what is offered by other investors.
Lack of liquidity. While not the case with all penny stocks, most are not liquid. For example, some stocks may only see $10,000 - $50,000 in share value exchanged per day. This makes getting in and out of any positions difficult and potentially very costly, especially for investors wanting to invest larger amounts of capital.
Avoiding penny stocks fraud
Since most penny stocks trade for pennies a share for good reason, institutions avoid these companies. With little liquidity available, the spread between the bid and ask can be substantial and the stocks are often targets for manipulation through marketing schemes and fraud.
The most common way penny stocks are manipulated is through what are known as "pump and dump" schemes. The company will pay penny stock promoters to blast hundreds of thousands of emails and post on social message boards fake news and falsified information about the company to generate excitement and encourage unknowing investors to buy. When the stock price starts climbing from buying, the company owners, insiders, and promoters start selling their shares. Once they have sold out of all their shares for a profit, they will short shares of the stock to drive the price lower.
Common penny stock myths
With penny stocks, it is a common misconception for investors to think they are getting "more for their money" by buying shares of stock for pennies per share instead of dollars per share. This is completely false. Stocks that trade for pennies are actually much more risky, as highlighted above, and stocks that trade for $10, $50, $100, or higher per share are companies with financials strong enough to support institutional ownership alongside, more importantly, a listing on a major stock exchange such as the NYSE.
While the risks associated with trading penny stock trading are high, investors can make money, which is why they are still traded each and every day. Retail investors will forever be attracted to cheaper share prices alongside the dream of buying a stock for pennies a share and watching it surge to dollars per share, yielding dramatic returns. Sadly, this is very rarely the outcome for penny stocks. Instead, the majority end of up eventually going bankrupt and shareholders lose everything.
Best Brokers for Trading Penny Stocks (Summary)
|Online Broker||Trading Platform||Minimum Deposit||Commissions||Overall Rating|
|TD Ameritrade||thinkorswim||$0||$6.95||4.5 Stars|
|Fidelity||Active Trader Pro||$0||$4.95||4.5 Stars|
|Charles Schwab||StreetSmart Edge||$0||$4.95||4 Stars|
|Interactive Brokers||Trader Workstation (TWS)||$0||$0.005 per share||4 Stars|
|TradeStation||TradeStation 10||$500||$5.00||4 Stars|
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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. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Learn more about how we test.
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