Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2017

Brokers, Investing

NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions. The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent.

We spent over 300 hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. And to help you find the one that’s best for you, we’ve highlighted their pros, cons and current offers.

When you’re a beginner investor, the right brokerage account can be so much more than simply a platform for placing trades. It can help you build a solid investing foundation — functioning as a teacher, advisor and investment analyst — and serve as a lifelong portfolio co-pilot as your skills and strategy mature.

What is a stock broker?

A stock broker is a person or an institution licensed to buy and sell stocks and other securities via the market exchanges. Back in the day, the only way for individuals to invest directly in stocks was to hire a stock broker to place trades on their behalf. But what was once a clunky, costly transaction conducted via landline telephones now takes place online, in seconds, for a fraction of what full-service brokers used to charge for the service. (A little lost? Here’s some background on the stock market.)

NerdWallet’s top online brokers for beginners

Show online brokers that offer

Showing 9 of 9 online brokers

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesNo account minimumLive help 24/7Free researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

TD Ameritrade makes up for higher-than-average trading commissions with better-than-average service, research and trading tools that will make everyone from beginner investors to active traders happy.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Large investment selection.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commission.
  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesNo account minimumLive help 24/7Free researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100cash bonus or up to $500 in free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Ally Invest may be a deep-discount broker, but its robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools puts it in line with some of its more well-known — and higher-priced — competition.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions.
  • No account minimum.
  • Strong web-based platform.
  • Robust research and tools.

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.
  • No no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesNo account minimumLive help 24/7Free researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low commissions and fees. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions and fees.
  • 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

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesLive help 24/7Free researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$1K
Promotion
$100cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Charles Schwab has earned its strong reputation: The broker offers high-quality customer service, two robust trading platforms and a wide selection of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No inactivity fees.
  • Two platforms with no minimum or fees.
  • Above-average mobile app.
  • Extensive research.
  • Strong customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commissions.
  • Higher account minimum.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesNo account minimum

Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

Vanguard is the king of low-cost investing, making it ideal for buy-and-hold and retirement investors. But active traders will find the broker falls short, with no trading platform and increased commissions for frequent trades.

Show pros & cons

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

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesLive help 24/7Free researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$2.5K
Promotion
300commission-free trades with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Fidelity may be known for its retirement accounts, but active traders shouldn’t overlook the brokerage’s low trade commissions, wide investment selection, large scope of research and strong trading platform. It’s a well-rounded broker suitable for nearly all investors.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions
  • Large selection of research providers
  • Strong customer service

Cons

  • High account minimum
  • Trade minimum for active trading platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesFree researchSign-up promotionMobile-friendly

Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$2.5K
Promotion
50commission-free trades with a deposit of $10,000 or more

The bottom line

Scottrade offers the kind of hand-holding that beginner investors need to get started, including a breadth of educational resources, in-person support and free investor seminars. Its research offerings make it appealing to more advanced traders, as well.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low trading costs
  • Customer service
  • Large lineup of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Cons

  • High brokerage minimum
  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Fee for advanced trading platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesMobile-friendly

Fees
$0
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

Robinhood is truly free: There are no hidden costs here. You’ll give up a few things in exchange for free trades — trading tools, research, education, investment options beyond stocks and ETFs — but if limiting costs is your No. 1 concern, Robinhood is a solid choice.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No commissions
  • No account minimum
  • Streamlined interface

Cons

  • Streamlined interface
  • No retirement accounts
  • No trading platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating

In a nutshell

Low trading feesNo account minimumMobile-friendly

Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

Motif’s service is unique, offering investors the ability to trade 30 stocks or ETFs for one low commission. The company is a solid brokerage option for values-based investors and small account balances.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Fractional shares
  • Portfolio trades of up to 30 stocks or ETFs
  • Theme- and values-based guidance

Cons

  • No dividend reinvestment
  • Minimal trading tools
Read full review

More resources for new investors


Best brokers for beginners: summary

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing
TD Ameritrade
Overall
Broad educational content;
no inactivity fees
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0

Ally Invest

Ally
No account minimum
Low commissions, free tools and research
$4.95
per trade
$100 cash bonus or up to $500 in free trades with a qualifying deposit
$0
Merrill Edge
Merrill Edge
No account minimum + Customer support
Breadth of research reports
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0
Scottrade
Scottrade
Customer support
High level of support: online + 500 branches
$6.95
per trade
700 free trades or up to $2,500 cash bonus for qualifying deposits
$2,500
($0 for IRAs)
Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab
Overall
Among largest selections of commission-free ETFs
$4.95
per trade
$100 referral award for first-time clients
$1,000
Vanguard
Vanguard
Mutual Funds & ETFs
Low-cost index funds and ETFs
$7
for first 25 trades/year, $20 for later trades
None
$0; $1,000+ fund minimums
Fidelity
Fidelity Investments
Mutual Funds & ETFs
24/7 live support; free investing seminars
$4.95
per trade
300 commission-free trades with deposit of $50,000 or more
$2,500
($0 for IRAs)
Robinhood
Robinhood
Low cost
No-frills, free trading app for beginners
$0
per trade
None
$0
Motif
Motif
Low cost
Low commissions, availability of fractional shares
$4.95
per trade; $9.95 per motif
1 month free trial of Motif Blue
No minimum, but $300 balance to invest in a motif

Dayana Yochim is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website: Email: dyochim@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @DayanaYochim.

Updated June 30, 2017.