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Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2018

Jan. 2, 2018
Brokers, Investing
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

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. Today, most investors place their trades through an online brokerage account. (A little lost? Check out our explainers on what a brokerage account is and how to buy stocks.)

NerdWallet’s top online brokers for beginners 2018

NerdWallet rating

Fees

$6.95

per trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

500

commission-free trades + up to $600 with 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.

Reader favorite

Cons

  • Higher trade commission.

  • Costly broker-assisted trades.

  • High short-term ETF trading fee.

Read full review
NerdWallet rating

Fees

$4.95

per trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

$50

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Ally Invest’s robust trading platform and lineup of free research, charting, data and analytical tools make it a good choice for active traders. But it’s also appropriate for beginning investors who will appreciate that there is no account minimum and no annual fees.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions.

  • No account minimum.

  • Strong web-based platform.

  • Robust research and tools.

Reader favorite

Cons

  • No no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

  • No branches.

Read full review
NerdWallet rating

Fees

$6.95

per trade

Account minimum

$0

Promotion

$100-$600

in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Merrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low 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

  • Robust third-party research.

  • Ongoing promotions.

  • Integrated with Bank of America.

  • Free trades for eligible Bank of America customers.

Reader favorite

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs.

  • Minimum balance requirement for active trading platform.

Read full review

Want to compare more options? Here are our other category winners for best online brokers for beginners:

More resources for new investors

Best brokers for beginners: summary

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing
TD Ameritrade
Overall + Education + Mutual Funds & ETFs
Broad educational content;
no inactivity fees
$6.95
per trade
500 commission-free trades + up to $600 with a qualifying deposit
$0

Ally Invest

Ally
Low costs
Low commissions, free tools and research
$4.95
per trade
$50-$3,500 cash bonus + free trades depending on account size
$0

E*Trade

E*Trade
Education
Large selection; reasonable commissions and fees
$6.95
per trade; volume discounts
60 days of commission-free trades ($10,000+ deposit)
$500
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
Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab
Overall + Customer support + Mutual funds &
ETFs
Among largest selections of commission-free ETFs
$4.95
per trade
$100 cash bonus with a qualifying deposit
$1,000

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