Trading apps are a relative newcomer to Wall Street. In times past, the idea of buying and selling stocks on the go was limited to a select group of traders. Today, anyone can trade on the stock market right from their smartphone.
Top 10 Best Trading Apps
- Charles Schwab
- Ally Invest
The basic premise of a trading app is simple. You download an application onto your phone, just like you would in order to manage online banking or browse social media. Trading apps are typically free to download, and the developer will send push notifications to make sure the app is secure and up to date.
Trading apps allow you to search through available securities that can be bought and sold through the app. Many of these trading apps will display basic metrics, such as a stock price, daily highs and lows, 52-week highs and lows, price to earnings ratio (PE), market cap, volume, and dividend yield. There are often charts that provide a visual representation of the stock’s market movement over the course of one day, one week, one month, three months, one year, and five years. In some cases, you can get a more complex range of metrics, but the majority of traders using these apps will not need more detailed data.
History of Mobile Stock Trading
The idea of retail investors browsing securities and placing their trades certainly seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few decades ago. If someone was interested in buying or selling a particular stock, they would have to call their stockbroker to execute the trade on their behalf. Most investors would not dream of taking such an active approach to managing their stock portfolio, instead relying on the broker or financial advisor to select and execute trades. In fact, most retail investors still are not active traders—they just allocate a fixed portion of their paycheck into something like a 401(k) or IRA. This is actually a great way to invest and grow money, since the stock market grows at a steady rate over the course of decades, and most stock traders do not typically beat the market in terms of growth.
However, some people just really want to manage their money themselves, and the internet made that a possibility in 1992 with E*Ttrade, the first consumer facing online brokerage. Of course, other major financial institutions were quick to follow, and it wasn’t long before most national and regional banks offered their banking customers a platform for executing stock trades.
Electronic trading platforms had already been in use since the 1970s, but they were only used by brokers and financial advisors. The consumer-facing online platforms allowed individuals to avoid commissions taken by stock brokers by placing trades themselves.
Within the past few years, electronic trading has gained popularity due to the boon of mobile phone culture. You no longer need to log onto a website to place electronic trades—you just need to open an app on your phone and scroll through the options before buying or selling stocks, ETFs or cryptocurrency. You can even execute trades on the derivatives market, like an options trade, although this feature is restricted on some apps.
If you meet certain thresholds for equity invested on the app, you may even be able to trade on margin to amplify your gains (but hopefully not losses).
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Top 10 Best Trading Apps
Now that we’ve covered how the smartphone revolutionized the stock trading industry, let’s talk about some of the best trading apps available for mobile download:
1. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab is an established name in the stock market and investing world. The Charles Schwab app allows you to take your trading account data on the go—such as checking the balance for your checking account, savings account, retirement account, and brokerage account.
The trade screen is broken into three tabs, which allow you to trade stocks, ETFs, options, or mutual funds. In terms of trading securities, you can buy, sell, and even short sell (if your account is approved for such activity). The short selling feature provides a little more flexibility in terms of stock trading strategies than the typical stock market app. The Schwab app also has an intelligent assistant that can recognize verbal commands, so you can perform a variety of functions without touching your phone. There are no fees to download and use the app, but in order to place trades with a brokerage account you need to have a minimum of $1k invested.
When you sign up for WeBull, you’ll receive two free stocks. And when you deposit your first $5, you’ll get another free stock.
WeBull charges zero fees on trades for stocks and options, and you can purchase fractional shares of most securities. This means that instead of paying the entire price to own a share of stock, you can invest whatever you can or want to invest and get a fractional share. For example, if Amazon stock is priced at $3k per share and you only have $30 to invest, you can use WeBull to purchase one percent of a single Amazon share.
The fractional share feature is not unique to WeBull, but the layout of the WeBull app might appeal more to certain users than other similar apps, such as Robinhood. In any case, WeBull also has a desktop interface, so if you prefer using a computer instead of a phone, this might be the right brokerage platform for you.
Fidelity is another trusted name in banking and investing, and their stock trading platform reflects their prestige. The Fidelity app provides a customizable experience with news and tailored content, along with real-time metrics applicable to your portfolio.
Fidelity Investment provides the necessary tax forms, and even send push notifications when your activities might trigger additional tax forms. If you need technical support, you can connect with a real person on the phone. The app works on iPhone, Android, iPad, and even integrates with the Apple Watch. You can also manage your other Fidelity accounts from the app and perform tasks. like depositing checks and controlling your debit card.
Fidelity is constantly adding new features to the app, and if you talk with stock market day traders, you will likely find that many of them enjoy the complex range of metrics the Fidelity app provides, such as heat maps and comparative charts.
Since Fidelity is a brick-and-mortar financial institution, investors also have the opportunity to work with a full-service broker who can provide expert trading advice.
4. Ally Invest
Ally Bank is one of the biggest names in automobile loans, but they offer other financial products as well, including the Ally Invest app. You can select from two options to either manage a self-directed brokerage account or enjoy the ease of a managed portfolio.
If you select the managed portfolio option, you can get started with as little as $100. Roughtly 30 percent of your portfolio is always invested in cash that accrues interest as a buffer against market volatility. There are no advisory fees or annual charges, and the portfolio is periodically rebalanced to account for your personal financial goals.
The self-directed trading option allows you to place trades for no fees on domestic securities (stocks and ETF). There is a charge for executing options contracts, but it’s only 50 cents per contract. No matter your preference, for both managed and self-directed accounts, you can tailor your investments toward ethical investing, tax optimization, minimized risk, or income production.
This app is named after the folk hero who stole from the rich and to give to the poor. And while the Robinhood app doesn’t exactly do that, it does allow you to invest in the stock market with the bare minimum due to the fact that you can purchase fractional shares of most securities. This means you can purchase a percentage of a single stock share.
The Robinhood app does offer basic metrics about each stock, but you can opt in to receive more data by upgrading to Robinhood Hold for just $5 per month. This gives you access to in-depth stock research reports from Morningstar.
Robinhood did take a bit of a reputation hit during the GameStop Short Squeeze, when Reddit investors and the Wallstreetbets Slang of their memes drove GameStop stock higher than it has ever been before. Robinhood cut off trading GameStop on their app—a move many believe helped benefit large institutional investors, such as hedge funds, who needed the price of Gamestop to keep falling in order to maximize profits. In any case, Robinhood still remains one of the most popular trading apps, in large part due to its excellent, easy-to-use mobile layout.
You can invest in stocks, options, and mutual funds with E*Trade, also known as the original online brokerage. The company has come a long way since its launch, and now features a mobile app.
The self-proclaimed goal of E*Trade is to make investing simple for investors of all skill levels. Trades are commission free. You can also perform other banking functions, such as depositing checks, paying bills, and transferring money. TouchID and faceID are available options for protecting your account if you desire an extra level of security.
You can also get an E*Trade debit card and make cash withdrawals for free at any of the ATMS in E*Trade’s network. Though E*Trade operates under its own name, it is actually owned by Morgan Stanley, a multinational trading firm based in New York City.
If you’re a Bank of America customer, then you know that Merrill Lynch is the investing arm of one of America’s largest consumer-facing banks.
Merrill Lynch has an incredible app that allows you to manage your portfolio on the go, placing trades and conducting research on the next security to buy or sell. The app also integrates with the Bank of America app so you can quickly move between the two, transferring money and conducting personal banking activity.
A simplified dashboard shows basic portfolio information, such as total value, growth, and a chart tracking its historical total value. Overall, the MerrillEdge app is easy and convenient to use, and it is regularly updated to maximize functionality and security.
Almost all of the trading apps we’ve previously discussed are for purchasing stocks, an ETF, and sometimes bonds or shares of mutual funds. But what if you want to engage in day trading cryptocurrency from your smartphone? This is where the Coinbase app comes in.
While some trading apps, like Robinhood, do offer a very small list of crypto options to buy or sell, you do not actually own any coins or fractions of a coin on these apps. But apps like Coinbase allow you to purchase digital coins and store them, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin, as well as lesser-known coins that have just entered the crypto marketplace.
Coinbase is a secure option for trading crypto, and it’s the largest crypto marketplace with more than 56 million users across 32 different countries. You can easily link a bank account or debit card to use fiat currency to purchase digital coins. If you are new to trading cryptocurrency, there are updates and features built into the app that can help you get started. As an added bonus, Coinbase awards users $5 in Bitcoin just for signing up.
Acorns is a little different than the other apps listed. That’s because Acorns works by connecting your debit card, and every time you make a purchase, the change is rounded up to the nearest dollar to be deposited into your Acorns account at the end of the week. You can also elect to make regular deposits on a biweekly or weekly basis.
You do not get to do any trading on the Acorns app because it’s all managed by a robo advisor. However, you can select the type of investment strategy in which you’d like to engage, based on risk level. The most aggressive option will see your money invested in stocks, while the least aggressive option invest your money into government bonds, cash, and other low risk asset classes. While choosing the aggression of your portfolio is about as actively involved as you can get on Acorns, it is an excellent way to snowball your pocket change into a sizable nest egg—which you can easily deposit into your everyday checking account.
Sofi is a lender turned discount broker. The trading app allows you to trade stocks and cryptocurrency, while also allowing the user to explore loan options. There are no commissions or fees for stocks and ETFs, and you can get cashback and points when you spend using your Sofi card.
Sofi does not require a minimum account balance in order to have a checking account. It also offers traders the opportunity to purchase fractional shares—but only with a minimum investment of $5. The Sofi app also lets you monitor your credit score and track your spending—comparing actual spending against personal goals that are categorized for your analysis and review.
Overall, the Sofi app is not just about investing in the stock market with an online broker, but about managing your overall financial health which sets it apart from other popular trading apps.
Can You Make Money on Stock Trading Apps?
You can absolutely make money with a stock trading app. The only catch is that it’s not the mobile trading app that will make you money—you still need to do your own research to make solid trading choices.
An investing app that serves as a trading platform with lots of bells and whistles is a useless trading tool for an active trader who can’t read technical indicators or understand the difference between PE and EPS. Such a beginner investor is better off avoiding day trading apps that facilitate the buying and selling of individual stocks, and instead exploring automated investing options. Active trading can get especially risky when a new investor dabbles in advanced strategies, like options trading.
There is no harm in taking some pocket change and dabbling in the fun of being a day trader. For instance, an investing app that lets you purchase fractional shares of stock will let you take $200 and buy and sell stock to your heart’s content—especially because most of these apps don’t have trading commissions or trading fees. Just remember that experimenting on retail investor accounts is not a good way to skillfully learn about the stock market because mistakes cost real money. A better option is to learn about stocks as an investment option, and how to tell if a stock is a good buy.
Most individuals actively involved in trading stock are not just using trading apps. They are using complicated, expensive software to analyze past market movements and predict the future—something out of reach for the average investor. Knowledge is power, though, and you may get there one day. Until then, slow and steady contributions into a retirement account is the way to go.
Trading Apps are a Great Tool for Investing in the Future
As you can see, there are lots of different options for trading apps, but while the ease of trading has certainly increased, knowledge about trading has not necessarily kept pace. And while most people are better off using the automated features of these apps, those who are up for the challenge of learning the ropes of the stock market have more opportunity that ever (without having to go through a middle-man stock broker).
If you’re up for the challenge of learning the ins and outs of the stock market, you’ll find it helpful to sign up for an Infinity Investing membership. Our financial experts host a weekly stock trading room for beginners, and provide professional insight into the top performing stocks each quarter. This isn’t some “get-rich-quick” gimmick—it’s a powerful platform that teaches investors real-life strategies to grow their portfolio.
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