Brokerage accounts are a type of financial account used to buy stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, and other investments. These accounts come in several forms, including traditional taxable accounts and tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! Read on to find the best online brokerage account for you and your finances.
Overview of the best online brokerage accounts for beginners
|Webull||No commissions or recurring fees|
|You Invest||In-person support|
|E*TRADE||Wide range of available investments|
|TD Ameritrade||Active trading platform|
|Personal Capital||Human investment advising|
|Charles Schwab||Brokerage and bank combo|
Webull is a newer brokerage with no commissions for any trades and no account minimums. currently supports stock, ETF, and options trades.
While that’s a limited set of investment options, it should be just fine for beginners. With no trade fees, it’s a perfect place to learn the ropes with limited risk.
Webull charges no commissions for buying or selling stocks, ETFs, and options. There are no recurring account fees.
Webull charges for margin borrowing and subscriptions to high-end data services for active traders. Typical beginner traders won’t need these advanced trading products and won’t pay any fees for regular activity.
Webull accounts can trade stocks, options, and ETFs. Cryptocurrencies are shown on the Webull website as coming soon with planned support for bitcoin, ethereum, bitcoin cash, and litecoin.
You can trade on Webull using its web and mobile platforms. The trading platforms contain advanced charting and tools suitable for advanced and expert traders.
Research tools are geared more toward active traders. If you prefer long-term, passive investments, you’ll probably have to do some outside research to understand company fundamentals.
Ease of use
With so many advanced and expert trading tools available, Webull isn’t the easiest beginner brokerage to use. If you’re willing to spend a little time learning to navigate the platform, however, entering trades is simple and straightforward.
You Invest is a newer brand name, but the company behind it is one of the largest and oldest financial institutions in America: J.P. Morgan Chase.
You Invest is an online brokerage, but if you need extra help you can always swing by one of Chase’s over 5,000 branches to ask basic questions.
Disclosure – INVESTMENT PRODUCTS: NOT A DEPOSIT • NOT FDIC INSURED • NO BANK GUARANTEE • MAY LOSE VALUE
You Invest charges no commissions for online stock or ETF trades and has no recurring fees for regular account activity on self-directed accounts. Managed portfolios have a $500 minimum balance and charge an annual fee of 0.35% of your account balance.
Self-directed accounts can trade stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, and fixed-income investments (bonds).
The You Invest platform is great for beginner traders. It doesn’t have all of the active trading bells and whistles some advanced traders look for, but it has a depth of information on each investment and makes it easy to manage your account.
J.P. Morgan is known for high-quality investment research and analysis. This well of knowledge is offered to You Invest account holders at no extra charge.
Ease of use
You Invest is easy to navigate and use. Existing Chase customers will find the platform very intuitive, as it integrates with other bank, credit card, and loan accounts on the same dashboard.
E*TRADE is the oldest online brokerage and has great platforms for both beginners and experts. The easiest place to manage your account for beginners is the mobile app or web-based platform.
As your investing chops improve, Power E*Trade is the professional-level platform that active traders will love.
E*TRADE has no fee for stock or ETF trades. Options have no base fee and a 0.65 cent per contract charge (this drops to .50 cents with 30 or more trades per quarter).
Futures cost $1.50 each and secondary market bond trades are $1 each with a $10 minimum. Mutual funds cost $19.99 for trades if they not on the no-load, no-transaction-fee fund list.
E*TRADE supports a ton of different investments. In addition to common assets like stocks, bonds, and funds, you can trade futures at E*TRADE. Futures allow you to trade riskier assets like commodities, foreign currencies, equity indices, and Bitcoin. There are over 4,400 mutual funds on its no-load, no-transaction-fee list for you to explore.
E*TRADE has a solid education section to learn more about investing and trading. It has some good information on the investments in your account, but it is not the most in-depth of all major discount broker’s offerings.
Ease of use
E*TRADE has the most experience of any other online trading platform. They were the pioneer in the industry, after all. E*TRADE is straightforward and easy to use.
Fidelity is one of the largest discount brokerage firms in the U.S. It is known for its family of low-fee investment funds and focuses on helping investors reach a successful retirement.
Beginners will enjoy low fees and tools designed to help you with long-term investments.
Fidelity is among the best when it comes to pricing for retirement investments. In addition to commissions for stocks and ETFs, you can trade all of Fidelity’s mutual funds for free. It was the first brokerage to come out with mutual funds with zero expense ratio, which means no annual fund fees.
Fidelity supports virtually all of the most popular types of investments. It even supports international stocks on foreign exchanges as well as options in the commodity and forex markets. It has over 3,500 commission-free mutual funds.
Fidelity is built with long-term investing at the forefront. It’s trading systems for beginners are top-notch, however, some experts and advanced traders may find the options lacking.
Fidelity is a standout when it comes to research. The brokerage gives customers access to a wide range of data and analyst reports on stocks and other investments.
Ease of use
This brokerage is great for beginners. It’s easy for anyone to navigate, understand, and use. You can try things out by signing up for guest access to test things out for a month at no cost.
TD Ameritrade is a large discount brokerage that is perfect for beginners looking to become experts.
This brokerage offers multiple investment platforms for the web, desktop, and mobile. Its basic TD Ameritrade app is great for newer investors. As you gain more experience, you’ll want to upgrade to the powerful thinkorswim trading platform.
There’s no fee for stocks, ETFs, and no base fee for options at TD Ameritrade. Mutual funds outside of its 4,200 no-transaction-fee (NTF) list cost $49.99 to trade, which is pretty steep. Futures cost $2.25 per contract.
TD Ameritrade makes most types of investments available. Those include futures, foreign currencies, and a few types of fixed income securities.
If you want the best active trading platform, TD Ameritrade is at the top of the list. Its Thinkorswim platform gives you the same professional-level tools as Wall Street traders. For beginners, though, that’s probably overkill.
TD Ameritrade has great research available on-par with other large brokerage firms. It includes third-party reports from Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, and CFRA.
Ease of use
TD Ameritrade has a platform for everyone. Its online trading platform and mobile apps are great for beginners and easy to use.
New investors who want the help of a seasoned professional should consider Personal Capital. Personal Capital offers a free personal finance and investment tracking platform that I recommend to any investor.
You can upgrade to the paid investment service and work with a dedicated advisor if you have at least $100,000 to invest.
Personal Capital has a free investment analysis service that’s great for anyone to use, even if you don’t use its paid investment management service. The premium service, which includes access to a human financial advisor, is available to investors with at least $100,000 and costs 0.89% of your portfolio value per year for portfolios up to $1 million.
Personal Capital advisors follow Nobel-Prize winning Modern Portfolio Theory. Wealth Management clients end up with a portfolio made up of diverse ETFs.
You don’t need to buy and sell your own funds with a Personal Capital wealth manager behind the scenes. The online platform, however, is one of the best around to get information about your investments.
Research is focused on the fees and projected performance of your portfolio. It doesn’t have a depth of information on each investment like some major brokerage firms.
Ease of use
If you’re willing to pay for an advisor, it’s about as easy as investing can get. They handle everything for you once your account is funded.
Charles Schwab offers excellent brokerage accounts that fit just about anyone’s needs. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned investor, you’ll find that Schwab’s tools and investment options are likely a good fit.
With the pending acquisition of TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab is on track to become one of the biggest brokerage firms in the world. It was a leader in moving to no cost for stock and ETF trades. Mutual funds off of the NTF list cost a high $49.95 per trade. Futures are $1.50 each.
You can trade most popular securities as well as some more popular just for active traders. Overall, beginners shouldn’t find anything lacking at Schwab.
Schwab’s mobile and web platforms are easy and great to use. The professional-level trading platform, StreetSmart Edge, doesn’t have a native version available for Mac computers but does work through your web browser.
Schwab is in the top-tier of brokerages for research availability. It isn’t the very best, but gives you a ton of data and reports from CFRA, Reuters, Ned Davis, Argus, and Schwab’s own analysts.
Ease of use
Schwab is great for beginners and pros alike. It is easy to navigate and get started with everything under one roof.
Summary of the best online brokerage accounts for beginners
|Webull||$0 stock/ETF/options||No commission trading and no minimum balances.|
|You Invest||$0 stock/ETF/mutual funds||Easy to use for newer active traders. Great bank/investment combo.|
|E*TRADE||$0 stock/ETF, $19.99 mutual funds||Oldest online brokerage firm with multiple trading platforms to choose from. Many available investments.|
|Fidelity||$0 stock/ETF, $49.95 mutual funds||Great for retirement investing, low costs, and mutual funds with no expense ratio (annual fee).|
|TD Ameritrade||$0 stock/ETF, $49.99 mutual fund||Excellent active trading platform. Might be merged into Schwab platforms after pending merger closes.|
|Personal Capital||Starts at 0.89% of account value per year||Free investment analysis tools. Human financial advisor for an annual fee.|
|Charles Schwab||$0 stock/ETF, $49.95 mutual fund||Low costs and a great bank/investment combo.|
How I came up with this list
This list of brokerage firms came from a look at the features that are most important to a beginner investor. Those include:
- Pricing and fees.
- Available investments.
- Investment platforms.
- Customer service.
- Research and education availability.
- Overall investing experience.
Because brokerage products are often quite similar, pricing and online platforms were major differentiators that helped brokerage firms make their way onto this list.
Why you need a brokerage account
Virtually every American adult should have a brokerage account. You need one to invest, it’s that simple. Without a brokerage account, ETFs, mutual funds, stocks, and bonds are out of reach.
Many people get their first brokerage account through their employer as a 401(k). But it’s important to save and invest outside of work as well. With your own brokerage account, you’re in full control of your investments and can limit the costs and fees charged in an employer-sponsored retirement account.