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8 Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners of October 2019

Kevin VoigtOctober 18, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

on Merrill Edge's website

Fees

$6.95

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

Pros

  • Robust third-party research.
  • Ongoing promotions.
  • Integrated with Bank of America.
  • Free trades for eligible Bank of America customers.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.
  • Minimum balance requirement for active-trading platform.
Read full review
TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

on TD Ameritrade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.
  • Large investment selection.

Cons

  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review
E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

on E-Trade's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.
  • Large investment selection.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Access to extensive research.
  • Advanced mobile app.
  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate.
Read full review
Fees

$7.00

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros

  • Large mutual fund selection.
  • Over 50 commission-free ETFs.
  • Leader in low-cost funds.
  • Helpful customer support.

Cons

  • High trade commissions.
  • No trading platform or tools.
  • Limited research and data.
Read full review

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Summary of Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners of October 2019

BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge Logo

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

$6.95

per trade

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade Logo

E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Schwab Brokerage Logo

Schwab Brokerage

$0

per trade

None

No promotion at this time

$0

Read review
Fidelity Brokerage Logo

Fidelity Brokerage

$0

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Robinhood Logo

Robinhood

$0

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Vanguard Brokerage Logo

Vanguard Brokerage

$7.00

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Ally Invest Logo

Ally Invest

$0

per trade

$50 - $3,500

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.

$0

Read review
BrokerCommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Merrill Edge Logo

Merrill Edge

on Merrill Edge's website

$6.95

per trade

300

$0 online stock and ETF trades, no minimum deposit required

$0

on Merrill Edge's website

TD Ameritrade Logo

TD Ameritrade

on TD Ameritrade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with qualifying deposit

$0

on TD Ameritrade's website

E-Trade Logo

E-Trade

on E-Trade's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$0

on E-Trade's website

Schwab Brokerage Logo

Schwab Brokerage

$0

per trade

None

No promotion at this time

$0

Read review
Fidelity Brokerage Logo

Fidelity Brokerage

$0

None

No promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Robinhood Logo

Robinhood

$0

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Vanguard Brokerage Logo

Vanguard Brokerage

$7.00

per trade

None

no promotion available at this time

$0

Read review
Ally Invest Logo

Ally Invest

$0

per trade

$50 - $3,500

in cash bonus with qualifying deposit.

$0

Read review

More resources for new investors

Last updated on October 19, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners of October 2019

Frequently asked questions

It doesn’t take a lot of money to get started; many stockbrokers allow you to open an account for $0. Many brokers also will waive any minimum investment requirements if you sign up for regular monthly contributions of $100 or more.

If you don’t have a lot of cash but want to try your hand at do-it-yourself investing, using commission-free exchange-traded funds can be a cost-effective way to begin building your portfolio. (Have $500? Learn how to invest it.)

To buy and sell assets like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, you need to open an investment account through a stockbroker. That account is called a brokerage account, and it holds the cash you’ll use to buy and sell investments, as well as the investments themselves once you own them.

» Learn more: How brokerage accounts work

If you have a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement account, you already have one kind of investment account. Many investors find it beneficial to open additional stock brokerage accounts when:

  • Saving for retirement. If you want or need to save for retirement in an account separate from your employer, you can open an IRA. These come in two flavors, a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. (Read more about the differences here.) One thing to note about both: Contributions are limited to $6,000 a year ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older).
  • Investing for other goals. If you’re saving for a goal other than retirement — or you’ve topped off your 401(k) and IRA contributions — a taxable brokerage account is a good option. As the name implies, this doesn’t carry the tax advantages of retirement accounts. You will have to pay taxes on any capital gains each year.

On the plus side, you don’t face any of the restrictions for withdrawals that come with tax-advantaged accounts. If you need money in a hurry, a taxable account would be your first line of defense before dipping into retirement accounts and potentially paying early withdrawal penalties.

A brokerage fee is charged by the stockbroker that holds your account. Brokerage fees include annual fees to maintain the brokerage account or access trading platforms, subscriptions for premium research, or even inactivity fees for infrequent trading. You can avoid or reduce brokerage account fees by choosing the right broker.

» Learn more: Understanding investment fees

The difference between a full-service stockbroker and a discount stockbroker comes down to the level of service and how much you want to pay for that service.

Traditional full-service stockbrokers do more than assist with the buying and selling of stocks or bonds. They often offer a wide array of services and products, including financial and retirement planning, investing and tax advice and regular portfolio updates. But they can charge substantial fees and transaction costs that can erode long-term investment gains.

If you have more money than time, a full-service broker may be for you. For most investors, however, it can pay to look at discount stockbrokers. These brokers allow you to buy investments online through their website or trading platforms. You'll pay less in trading commissions and fees at a discount broker.

Other brokers, called robo-advisors, offer a combination of access to financial planners and automated investing technology. Companies in this category include Betterment and Personal Capital, and they build your investment portfolio for you for a fee. If you want a service to make investment decisions for you, robo-advisors are a good option.

Yes, but it will take more time than getting cash from your ATM, often a few business days. Your broker will need to sell securities (like stocks, bonds or mutual funds) equivalent to the amount you want to withdrawal, so it’s not as simple as removing cash from a savings account.

If you're taking all of your money out — whether transferring to a different stockbroker or cashing out to move to Tahiti — there may be account closing fees.

The rules for withdrawal of retirement accounts like an IRA are different, depending on your age. Most withdrawals carry a 10% penalty before the age of 59½ and will be taxed as ordinary income the year you cash out. (Roth IRAs, which are funded with after-tax cash, are more forgiving of early withdrawals.)

Yes, insofar as the cash is insured up to $500,000 by the nonprofit Securities Investor Protection Corporation. But this protects you only in the event your stockbroker fails. Any losses and gains of your investments carry no protections.