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What’s the only thing better than putting your money to work in the stock market? Not paying anyone a dime in fees to do it.

Believe it or not, that’s a pretty easy goal to achieve. For years, brokerage companies have been undercutting one another on fees, to the point where zero-cost investing has become the gold standard. In fact, the best free investing apps nowadays offer far more than “just” free investing—they deliver research, screeners, news, even social features, too.

Of course, it’s not practical to trade across numerous investment apps, so if you’re thinking about making the plunge, you’ve got quite a decision on your hands:

Which app do you go with?

We’ll hopefully help you decide with our guide to the best free investing apps. We’ve narrowed down dozens of possible choices to a select few top-tier options—apps that can please a range of investors, from check-the-portfolio-once-a-year buy-and-holders to veteran active traders. Read on as we dig into these investing accounts, explore their pros and cons, and explain what kind of investor might get the most out of each one.

Free Investment Apps—Our Top Picks


Best Investing App for Beginners
Best Stock Trading App for Beginners
4.6
4.5
Get your $85 account signup and net deposit bonus.
Commission-free trading. Robinhood Gold: $5/mo., free 30-day trial.
Best Investing App for Beginners
4.6
Get your $85 account signup and net deposit bonus.
Best Stock Trading App for Beginners
4.5
Commission-free trading. Robinhood Gold: $5/mo., free 30-day trial.

Best Free Investment Apps to Trade Stocks, Mutual Funds, ETFs and More


1. Plynk (Best Free Investing App for Beginners)


plynk signup

  • Available via Apple iOS and Android App on Google Play.
  • Price: Free, but certain features may require a fee in the future.
  • Sign up here

Plynk™ is an app designed to help you start investing and learn along the way, and they’re currently offering a $10 account signup and $75 net deposit bonus ($85 combined).

The Plynk app helps investors put their money into an investment portfolio. You can invest with as little as $1, and trade stocks, funds, and crypto commission-free**—all in one app.

The platform uses straightforward, easy-to-understand language to explain investing concepts. No jargon. No complex charts and tables. Just simple-language tips and how-tos.

Navigate investment ideas with tools to help you explore and choose. With Plynk Explore, just answer a few questions, and the app will display stock, ETF, and mutual fund investments that mesh with your investment comfort zone.

To assist with building your financial literacy, Plynk offers complete lessons and courses on financial education, including tips, educational content and how-tos.

The Plynk app enables you to make use of a powerful investing technique called dollar-cost averaging through participating in recurring investments. By continuing to buy a fixed dollar amount of investments over time, whether the market is up or down, you can build a disciplined investing habit and lower the stress that can come from market movements.

One of Plynk’s most interesting features involves, of all things, gift cards. Specifically, you can redeem unused gift cards for money that you can use to buy stocks in your favorite companies.

If this sounds interesting to you, consider opening an account with Plynk. To make it more worth your while, they have a few special offers.

Simply open an account and link your bank account to get a $10 signup bonus. Plynk is also offering a special bonus promotion through Feb. 15, 2024. If you make a deposit, Plynk will double it up to $75. Customers must have a minimum of $25 in net deposits during the promotional period to receive a match. That means you may be eligible for up to $85 in signup bonuses from Plynk by taking qualifying actions.

Read more in our Plynk review.

Related: How to Invest Money: 5 Steps to Start Investing w/Little Money

2. Robinhood (Best Simple Stock Trading App for Beginners)


robinhood signup new2

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Robinhood is a pioneer of commission-free trading, jumping into the investing public’s consciousness in 2013 when they rolled out commission-free trading. They remain a standout option for cost-minded investors thanks to their continued $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, and options, as well as for its fractional trading, which allows people to invest with as little as $1.

More importantly, though, Robinhood has evolved from a bare-bones app appealing to mostly beginner investors to a fuller-featured account suitable for a wider range of experience levels.

For instance, Robinhood now offers individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs via Robinhood Retirement. Functionally, it comes up short compared to many other IRA providers because of its investment options. It offers just stocks and ETFs; like with its brokerage account, mutual funds aren’t available. Options aren’t currently available, though Robinhood has explicitly stated that options will be made available soon.

However, Robinhood Retirement still stands out from the pack because it’s the only IRA provider that offers matching funds. If you open up an IRA with Robinhood Retirement, Robinhood will match 1% of any IRA transfers, 401(k) rollovers, and annual contributions to your account—and 3% if you pay for the Robinhood Gold service ($5 per month)—typically almost immediately after you make your contribution. Better still: Any matches made on annual contributions don’t count toward your contribution limit.

(Friendly message from your WealthUp tax expert: The reason the IRA match doesn’t count toward your annual IRA contribution limit is because Robinhood treats it as interest income in your IRA.)

You can choose your IRA investments yourself, but Robinhood’s Portfolio Builder can also provide you with a custom recommended portfolio made up of five to eight ETFs.

Robinhood has long catered to younger investors with its gamified interface and growing library of educational content. But over the years, it has added a boatload of other features for new and experienced investors alike. Advanced Charts, for instance, provides simple and customizable charts with a variety of technical features. Robinhood’s Options Strategy Builder simplifies the options-trading process by helping you build a strategy based on what you expect your target stock or ETF will do in the future. Robinhood also offers 24/7 commission-free cryptocurrency trading with Robinhood Crypto (though you’ll still have to pay a spread), allows extended-hours trading, and lets users earn interest through stock lending.

Robinhood Gold, which I mentioned above, is a monthly subscription service that offers several more features mostly geared toward advanced traders. Benefits include Level II market data provided by Nasdaq, a lower charged rate on margin investing than regular accounts, higher interest on uninvested brokerage cash via the cash sweep program, and bigger Instant Deposits.

If you want to keep your banking and investing close together, you can also add a Robinhood spending account. This FDIC-insured account includes a Robinhood Cash Card issued by Sutton Bank—however, if you don’t want this physical debit card, you do have the option of having a virtual debit card only. The Cash Card is compatible with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, and also provides you with access to fee-free withdrawals from more than 90,000 ATMs. The card allows you to round-up purchases and invest the money into your brokerage or crypto account.

Sign up for a Robinhood brokerage account or Robinhood retirement account today.

Related: Best Platforms to Day Trade

3. Firstrade (Ideal for Beginner Investors + Traders)


firstrade sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Beginners, traders looking for low options fees
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Firstrade might not have the same name recognition among younger investors as platforms such as Robinhood and Acorns. But if you’re just beginning to invest, it could very well be your best investment account option regardless.

For one, Firstrade has some of the best trading fees among all free stock trading apps.

On the investing front: $0 commissions on stock and ETF trading are par for the course. But where Firstrade stands out is mutual funds, offering free trading of no-load mutual funds, load mutual funds, and no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds. It’s also pretty friendly to beginner traders: Firstrade goes a step above the zero-commission options trading offered at other apps by also not charging contract fees nor assignment fees.

Firstrade also allows investors to buy and sell roughly 40 digital currencies—a better selection than some other beginner investing apps, though not as robust as some higher-powered platforms. Crypto trading is technically commission-free, too. But like other brokers, it adds a markup (Firstrade charges 1%) on both sides of each crypto trade.

The mobile apps, for iOS and Android, are user-friendly; features include Face ID login, charting, and real-time streaming quotes. But users should know that the mobile experience is pared down compared to the primary web experience.

Firstrade also offers a scaling cash bonus for new accounts depending on how much money you use to fund your account. The brokerage account deposit bonus promo states cash bonuses are up to $4,000, but that’s for a deposit of more than $1.5 million. Cash bonuses for more common beginner-investor sums include:

  • $50 on a deposit of at least $5,000
  • $100 for at least $10,000
  • $300 for at least $25,000
  • Firstrade also will provide up to $200 to cover any transaction fees

Looking for a comprehensive solution for all of your investing needs without an account minimum to start? Learn more about Firstrade’s easy-to-use platform by signing up today.

Related: 11 Best Stock Advisor Websites & Services to Seize Alpha

4. Webull (Ideal for Intermediate Investors + Traders)


webull sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Self-directed investors and intermediate traders
  • Platforms: Desktop app (Windows, Mac, Linux), web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Webull first hit the investing world in 2018 and made a splash by offering free stock trading, as well as commission-free trading of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and options. And since then, it has become one of the best free stock trading apps for intermediate traders and investors, though many of its features are helpful to beginners as well.

For one, Webull remains friendly to wallet-conscious traders today. It costs nothing to open a Webull account. Stocks, ETFs, and options still trade commission-free. Many options have $0 contract fees. And Webull has no deposit or account minimum. On top of that, it offers fractional shares, which allows investors to start buying for as little as $1. So beginners working with small dollar amounts can still easily diversify across numerous investments.

Newer investors can also learn trading skills through the courses in Webull’s education center, and even practice their skills via Webull’s paper trading service.

And Webull is available across just about every platform, allowing you to research, trade, and track your stocks on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

Why choose Webull for trading stocks?

Webull provides investors with several useful features and tools, including:

  • Customizable screeners for both stocks and ETFs
  • Preset lists–including Top Gainers, Top Losers, Most Active, and Best-Performing Industries—investors can use to identify opportunities
  • Voice commands: Simply speak to buy, sell, or look up information about a ticker
  • “Big Button Mode”: Populates giant buttons on your screen that allow you to quickly make trades with just a push.
  • Charting tools
  • Free real-time stock quotes and stock alerts

We’ll point out that while Webull allows for many types of commission-free trades on their easy-to-use platform, other costs will still apply to a few transactions. For instance, a 55-cent contract fee applies to certain options trades. And Webull doesn’t directly charge fees for trading cryptocurrencies; however, it does build a 1-percentage-point markup into the price of cryptocurrency when you buy or sell crypto.

One particularly noteworthy shortcoming for investors is that you can’t buy mutual funds on Webull. Yes, ETFs offer a wide array of diversified strategies, but the mutual fund world offers some cheap index funds and many successful actively managed strategies.

Regardless, Webull remains one of the best, and most cost-friendly, investment accounts to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, options, and crypto you can come across. And on top of all the free features mentioned above, the Webull stock trading app also runs frequent promotions that allow investors to collect free stocks.

Read more in our Webull review, or sign up at Webull today.

Related: 14 Best Stock Picking Services, Subscriptions, Advisors & Sites

5. E*Trade (Ideal for Beginner and Intermediate Investors + Traders)


etrade signup invest

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Beginner and intermediate investors
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

E*Trade has long been seen as a leading stock investment app for retail investors. E*Trade provides investors access to educational resources that assist you with conducting investment research and analysis and diversifying your portfolio.

E*Trade, like most of the best stock investing apps, offers zero-commission stock, ETF, and options trading. It also has a leg up on some platforms by offering $0-commission mutual fund trading. Options still incur a 50- to 65-cent contract fee, however.

E*Trade has two platforms, both of which are free, and both of which have web and mobile versions:

Power E*Trade

Power E*Trade is designated for more intermediate-to-advanced traders. Features include:

  • Advanced charting that includes intraday and historical options; more than 100 studies; over 100 drawing tools; and the ability to automatically identify technical patterns
  • Snapshot Analysis, which lays out risk-reward probabilities in your options trading
  • Powerful stock and trade scanner; use preset filters or customize as you wish
  • Paper trading to test out strategies without putting your money at risk
  • Ability to design exit strategies

Like with the Power E*Trade web platform, the Power E*Trade app is a more powerful version of its basic counterpart. This app allows you to use preset scans, work with interactive charts, place complex options trades, and more.

E*Trade

The “basic” E*Trade web platform might be more suitable for beginning-to-intermediate traders and investors, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on features.

E*Trade’s main web platform includes everything you need to keep up to date on your portfolio, including real-time quotes, charts, market commentary, and stock news. The latter includes free access to Thomson Reuters and TipRanks research. Meanwhile, you’ll have ample tools at your disposal, including stock, mutual fund, bond, and ETF screeners; trade optimizers; backtesters; and more.

E*Trade also touts its educational resources, which includes articles, videos, and classes, as well as monthly webinars and live events. But we will note that its educational content is difficult to sort through.

Visit E*Trade to learn more or sign up today.

 

6. SoFi Invest (Best for Personal Finance-Focused Investors)


sofi invest free stocks

  • Available: iOS, Android, Web
  • Best for: Traders looking for an all-in-one personal finance experience
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

SoFi is a multi-faceted financial company that offers everything from credit cards and insurance to student loans and mortgages … and they also allow you to trade and invest through its SoFi Invest app.

With SoFi Invest, you can invest as actively or as passively as you’d like.

The Active SoFi Invest Brokerage Account has no required minimum balance, offers commission-free stock, ETF, and options trades, and its options trading is free of contract fees, too. SoFi does offer 24/7 cryptocurrency trading, too, but it charges a 1.25% markup on transactions. If you’re here for the crypto trading, there are better options for active traders.

The interface is still very much geared toward younger, less experienced investors—everything is focused on simplicity and ease of use, rather than an expanse of sophisticated tools. SoFi also offers budget-friendly features such as fractional shares, which allow you to invest for as little as $1. And SoFi even provides a social element, such as bringing SoFi members together at exclusive events.

Want to put your portfolio on autopilot? SoFi’s robo-advisory services will create a portfolio for you free of charge (that can be designed to address one or several goals) and auto-rebalance it for you as necessary over time.

And unlike many brokerage companies with limited offerings, SoFi’s app allows you to manage a much wider range of financial services and products, such as banking, student loans, insurance, and mortgages.

SoFi also occasionally has sign-up bonuses attached to its brokerage accounts and/or its crypto trading services, which you can read more about below. You can also visit SoFi to learn more or sign up today. You can also download the app for iOS and Android.

 

7. Public.com (Investing App With Alternative Assets)


public signup new2

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: New investors with limited capital
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Public.com is a commission-free investing app, geared toward Millennials and Gen-Zers, that as of late has built up the types of assets available to its users. On Public, users can invest in not just stocks and ETFs, but also more than 25 different cryptocurrencies—and more recently, alternative assets from art to sneakers.

That last point is worth a callout. Alternative assets are a relative rarity among investing apps. They can be difficult to research (and thus difficult to properly invest in), but they can provide uncorrelated returns compared to the stock and bond markets, so many savvy investors like to diversify into these assets.

But while the number of tradable assets on Public.com is growing, it’s still somewhat limited: It doesn’t offer mutual funds, options, bonds, or futures. New users are also limited to individual investment accounts (no IRAs or other tax-advantaged investment account options).

The “Public” part of the name nods at the platform’s social aspect. For one, you can make your portfolio holdings open to other users, and conversely, you can look through other Public users’ portfolios. Investors can also connect with corporate founders and CEOs through live “Town Hall” meetings.

Public also acts as a micro-investing app, allowing you to invest in fractional shares with as little as $1.

Users can also upgrade their experience with the $10/month Public Premium subscription.

Public Premium offers some features that are included in some free investing apps’ services, but other features help to justify the cost. For instance, Premium offers extended-hours trading (8 to 9:30 a.m., and 4 to 8 p.m. EST) and stock price alerts—several competitors, such as TradeStation and E*Trade, offer these services at no charge. However, Premium also provides:

  • Advanced data on companies—Public.com’s examples include Tesla quarterly deliveries by model or Apple’s annual sales by continent
  • Institutional-grade research provided by Morningstar
  • Members-only analysis about events including major economic report releases, earnings announcements, and more
  • Exclusive audio programming by Public.com’s expert analysts

What makes Public.com different?

Unlike other commission-free stock trading apps found on this list, Public.com does not monetize its trading activity through receiving payment for order flow (PFOF). PFOF, in brief, is money that a market maker pays a brokerage firm for routing trades through that market maker.

Some investors have called out this practice as harmful to everyday investors, providing them with worse trade-execution prices than they would otherwise get—and this call grew louder amid the GameStop market mania in early 2021. In the wake of this event, Public.com announced a change in its revenue model, breaking with how many free stock apps generate income. Instead, it makes money off interest on cash balances, securities lending, and even tipping—users can choose to (but are not required to) tip Public when submitting trade orders. Public also will make money off its Premium subscription product.

By doing this, Public.com believes it’s better aligning its financial incentives with the best interests of its customers.

If you’re interested, you can sign up today and receive a free “slice of stock.” Or, if you’re transferring funds from a different brokerage account, Public.com will provide you with a cash bonus. While Public says it will pay out up to $10,000, that’s on an account transfer of $5 million plus. More common payouts include $150 for transfers of between $5,000 and $24,999, and $250 for transfers of $25,000-$99,999. (And at the very least, if you transfer at least $500, Public will reimburse you up to $100 per transfer for any fees charged by your original brokerage firm.)

Read more in our Public.com investing app review.

For Public.com disclaimer, please see the fine print at the bottom of this article.

Related: The 7 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) to Buy

8. J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing (Best Investment App From a Major Bank)


jpmorgan self-directed investing sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Self-directed investors, Chase customers
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing acts as an investing solution offered from Chase and is accessible through the Chase Mobile® app or Chase.com.

You can use this investing app to make unlimited commission-free trades in thousands of investment options, including a wide range of stocks, ETFs, fixed income, mutual funds and options.

The investing app allows you to utilize tools to build your portfolio including screeners and watchlists—both useful for building diversified portfolios and staying on top of market activity.

The app provides personalized news and J.P. Morgan research and market analysis to empower informed investment decisions. You can leverage these resources to design your own target allocation for your investments.

Consider using J.P. Morgan’s Self-Directed Investing platform if you’d like the flexibility to invest as much as you want without paying any commissions on equity and options trades. Some regulatory fees and fund expenses may apply.

You can choose an account that’s right for you: an individual taxable account, Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. All carry a $0 minimum.

Open your J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing account today and get up to $700 when you open and fund an account with qualifying new money:

  • $50 when you fund with $5,000-$24,999
  • $150 when you fund with $25,000-$99,999
  • $325 when you fund with $100,000-$249,999
  • $700 when you fund with $250,000 or more

Learn more by visiting J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing’s website to see if it’s the right fit for your needs.

Related: 9 Best Portfolio Analysis Tools [Portfolio Analyzer Options, 2023]

9. TD Ameritrade/Schwab (Great for All Experience Levels)


tdameritrade sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: All levels of trading experience
  • Platforms: Desktop (Windows, Mac, Linux), web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

TD Ameritrade is among the best investing apps for people of all experience levels. But some massive changes are afoot that would-be new TD users should know about before diving in.

Charles Schwab announced in 2019 that it would acquire TD Ameritrade, and it closed on the deal in 2020. While it has allowed the TD Ameritrade system to operate independently since then, Schwab announced that in 2023, it would be migrating existing TD accounts over to Schwab—which means if you open a TD account now, you’ll be using Schwab’s platform by the end of the year.

One thing that will stick around is TD’s popular Thinkorswim—an advanced trading platform also available across desktop, web, and mobile. Schwab does have an equivalent—StreetSmart Edge, which simultaneously isn’t as powerful but is more streamlined and user-friendly—but for now, it appears Schwab will offer both products once it has fully merged with TD, allowing them to meet the needs of a much wider range of trading experience.

Otherwise, TD and Schwab’s primary offerings have a lot of similarities, especially on pricing. Both have zero commissions for stock and ETF trades. Both charge 65 cents per contract on options trades, and $2.25 per contract on futures trades. Both offer desktop apps, mobile apps, and web interfaces. Schwab and TD both offer robo-advisory products. They both have 24/7 customer support. They even share a similar drawback: neither directly offers cryptocurrency, just Bitcoin futures.

TD Ameritrade users might feel the switch is a downgrade if they access their brokerage account on multiple platforms—TD’s experience is more similar and consistent through all of its platforms compared to Schwab. But they’ll get a couple of upgrades, too, including a larger selection of no-load, no-fee mutual funds (more than 20,000 at Schwab vs. more than 3,600 at TD), and more initial access to international exchanges. And for advanced traders, Schwab does feature higher-than-average margin rates, but that’s still better than TD, which typically has some of the highest margin rates among popular brokerages.

For now, you can still sign up for TD Ameritrade and get to learn Thinkorswim. Just don’t get too attached to TD’s main account interface, because that will be changing.

Related: 7 Best Stock Portfolio Management Software Tools + Apps

10. M1 Finance (Customizable Robo-Advisor for Passive Investors)


m1 finance sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Passive investors
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

M1 Finance is something of a hybrid between self-directed (you manually choose what to invest in, and determine when to buy and sell) and automated investing (AI helps make decisions for you and manages your account). The result is effectively a highly customizable robo-advisory service—one executed so well that it’s our favorite robo-advisor service.

M1’s investing platform is based around Pies. Your portfolio is represented as a Pie (a pie chart); every stock and ETF you decide to buy becomes a slice of that pie—and because M1 supports fractional shares, you can add virtually any stock or ETF to your portfolio. From there, you set each holding’s “weight”—what percent of your Pie each slice should account for, so, say ETF X will always be 25% of your portfolio, while Stock X should always be just 5%.

After that, whenever you fund your M1 account, it will automatically invest your money based on these targets. You can take the automation even further by setting up recurring deposits into your M1 account.

From there, M1 can automatically rebalance your portfolio for you, or you can go in and manually change how small and large each Pie slice is. If you really want to put it on autopilot, you can invest in M1’s Expert Pies—professionally pre-built portfolios designed for different investment goals. (And if you want something in the middle, you can even combine Expert Pies with your own custom choices.)

One major callout before going any further, however, is that while M1 Finance offers pre-made portfolios aligned to several investing goals, the company is not an advisory service.

Also worth noting is that, unlike traditional online brokers, you cannot trade stocks and ETFs throughout the trading day. At 9:30 a.m. every day the New York Stock Exchange is open, M1 processes all of the orders it has received since the previous trading session.

That’s something of a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, on the rare occasion you would need to jettison a position immediately during the trading day, you couldn’t do that with M1. And that single window is an extreme hindrance to people who want to trade stocks. But for truly buy-and-hold investors, that single window won’t stop you from achieving your goals—and it could actually stay your hand from panic-selling in the middle of the day.

M1 Plus

M1 Finance also offers a paid subscription tier, M1 Plus, that provides additional offerings not just for investors, but those who bank with the service. M1 provides a generous 90-day free trial, after which the service costs $10 per month or $95 per year.

Among the benefits:

  • 24/7 cryptocurrency trading, though you’re limited to 10 trades per month
  • Two trading windows (AM and PM)
  • Margin loans
  • Access to custodial accounts
  • Higher annual percentage yield (APY) on the M1 Plus High-Yield Savings Account
  • Enhanced cash-back rewards (up to 10%) on M1’s Owner’s Rewards Credit Card
  • Cash-back rewards can be automatically invested into your M1 Pies

People looking for a simple investing experience and nothing else will do just fine with the Basic M1 individual brokerage account, and they can even pair it with the M1 Spend checking account with 1% cash back on the M1 Spend Visa Debit Card.

But if you’re looking for a more complete financial solution that ties in with your investments and enhances your rewards, the M1 Plus subscription might be worth considering.

Consider opening an investment account with M1 Finance, or read more in our M1 Finance review.

Related: 7 Best Fundamental Analysis Tools to Find Value Stocks

How Do These Free Investment Apps Compare?


AppApple App Store Rating
+ Best For
FeesPromotions
plynk logo transparent text thinPlynk™ Invest☆ 4.6 / 5
Beginners
Commission-free trades**$85 in signup and net deposit bonuses
firstrade logo transparent text thinFirstrade☆ 4.6 / 5
Beginner traders
Commission-free tradesFree account bonus commensurate with contributed funds
Webull logo thinWebull☆ 4.7 / 5
Intermediate traders
Commission-free tradesSix to Twelve free stocks with $5 deposit, valued between $18 - $36,000
etrade logo thineTrade☆ 4.6 / 5
Options traders
Commission-free tradesFree account bonus commensurate with contributed funds
sofi logo transparent text thinSoFi Invest: iOS, Android and Desktop☆ 4.8 / 5
Personal finance-focused investors
Commission-free tradesFree stock with $10 deposit ($5-$1,000 value)
public logo transparent text thinPublic.com☆ 4.7 / 5
Traders seeking traditional and alternative investments
Commission-free tradesFree account bonus commensurate with transferred funds
jpmorgan wealth management logo transparent text thinJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing☆ 4.8 / 5
Self-directed investors and Chase customers
Commission-free tradesFree account bonus commensurate with contributed funds
TD Ameritrade logo thinTDAmeritrade☆ 4.5 / 5
Traders of all experience levels
Commission-free tradesFree account bonus commensurate with contributed funds
m1 finance logo color thinM1 Finance☆ 4.7 / 5
Passive investors
Basic: Commission-free trades. M1 Plus: $10/mo. or $95/yr.None
Robinhood logo thinRobinhood☆ 4.2 / 5
Beginners
Commission-free tradesFree stock with signup and linked bank account ($5-$200 value)
*Apple App Store Rating as of October 12, 2023

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Are Free Investing Apps Inferior to Paid Investing Apps?

Savvy consumers will naturally raise an eyebrow when something markets itself for free. That’s because often, “free” means “inferior,” or at the very least, it’s a foot in the door to make you pay for the features you actually want.

That said, whether an investment app is free or not doesn’t really have much bearing on its quality: Some free investing apps are better than paid investing apps, and some paid investing apps don’t hold a candle to their free competitors.

Here’s what to look for:

If an investing app charges fees for features that most other apps give away for free, you’re probably not getting any real bang for your buck. However, trading apps targeting more advanced investors commonly charge for high-octane upgrades (advanced data, AI trade assistance, backtesting, etc.) that make a significant difference to traders who can get real mileage out of those features. In that case, paid might very well be superior.

What Can You Do With Free Investing Apps?

Depending on which free investing app you’re talking about, there’s not much you can’t do.

Take TD Ameritrade. With TD’s free brokerage account, you can buy and sell stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds. You can trade options. You can trade futures. You can trade futures options. You can get into foreign exchange (forex). And you can even get access to some initial public offerings (IPOs). Many of these appeal to advanced investors, but you can see how free investing apps that offer not only commission-free stock and ETF trades, but a plethora of other free investment options can easily handle most investing needs.

Most free investment apps don’t have that wide a selection, of course. The point is that the “free” part of the app isn’t really a limiting factor—investment choices vary from app to app, so just make sure to find an account that’s as wide (or narrow!) as you need it to be.

How Do Free Investing Apps Make Money?

Free can only get a company so far if they’re in it to make a profit. That means they need to find some way to earn revenue for the investment apps and platforms they offer to customers.

In recent years, that has largely come from a practice known as “payment for order flow,” or PFOF for short.

In a nutshell, when a broker receives orders from investors on its platform, it sends them to market makers for execution. Think of these parties as large clearing houses that stand between brokerages and a stock exchange—a middle man of sorts. They place trades at the prices displayed on the exchanges’ trading systems with the goal of profiting from the difference between bids (prices paid for securities) and asks (prices demanded for selling securities), called the bid-ask spread.

Effectively, the quoted price differs from where the trade ultimately settles. The difference goes to the market maker for providing this liquidity to the market. Because market makers hold significant amounts of securities on their own books, capturing a portion of the bid-ask spread compensates them for the risk that comes from buying assets largely meant for resale.

When you trade securities in your brokerage account, these orders can route through an exchange, but also through a market maker for execution. However, to prevent your orders from going directly to the exchange, these market makers need to offer some incentive for the broker to route orders to them and not the exchange. They do so in the form of discounts and rebates. These go to the investment apps while you pay the quoted amounts. While seemingly small on a per trade basis, ranging anywhere from dollars to fractions of a cent, accumulated over the entire trading volume of their user base—the amount can be substantial. This arrangement allows you to trade almost everything commission-free.

While PFOF is the largest share of revenue for free investment apps, it isn’t the only means for earning income. Other common ways for the best investment apps to earn buck include:

  • Paid subscriptions. Offering paid subscriptions for additional features such as stock research, advanced analytics, real-time data, and more.
  • Securities lending. Lending out clients’ securities and earning interest from borrowing investors.
  • Cash sweep accounts. Offering cash sweep accounts to place customer funds in member-bank accounts, keeping a portion of the interest income for themselves and passing along the rest to users.
  • Debit card interchange fees. Interchange fees from debit cards linked to the investment account or cash management account.
  • Margin loans. Interest income from margin loans offered to advanced and active traders.
  • Banking services. Providing other banking services as a bolt-on set of features to the account, such as high-yield checking accounts, credit cards or other loan products.

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Public.com Disclaimer

This does not constitute investment advice. Investing involves the risk of loss, including the potential loss of principal. Brokerage services for US-listed, registered securities available on Public are offered by Open to the Public Investing, Inc. (OTTP), a member of FINRA & SIPC, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Public Holdings, Inc. Brokerage services for alternative investments are offered by the Dalmore Group, LLC, a member of FINRA & SIPC. Alternative investments are over-the-counter equity securities that have been issued pursuant to Regulation A of the Securities Act of 1933. Cryptocurrency trading is provided by Apex Crypto LLC (NMLS ID 1828849). Apex Crypto is licensed to engage in the virtual currency business by the New York State Department of Financial Services. New customers of OTTP receive free stock valued between $3 – $1,000 (0.3% receive the maximum value).

Plynk Disclosures

Google Play Store and Apple Store Ratings are as of the date referenced (06/22/2023) and provide an average rating of users and do not reflect the experience of an individual customer.
About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of WealthUp (previously Young and the Invested). He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.