Penny "Psyche" Skinner is an avid tech user who provides advice with functionality with frugality in mind.
This article will not make any recommendations about what kind of stocks or other financial assets you should invest in. Instead, it describes how the different no-trading-fee apps currently operate and which ones are best for different types of investors. I base my comments upon the terms of service and my experiences using each app. I continue to use RobinHood, M1 Finance, and Alfa Invest, and I have previously used Stash and Webull.
Why Pay When You Can Trade for Free?
Until a few years ago, the only way to buy a stock or fund was to pay a trading fee for each purchase or sale. This fee is typically between five and ten dollars and not affected by the number or value of stocks being bought or sold. These fees are a substantial cost for less wealthy investors who may want to acquire stocks in small amounts as they put aside the necessary funds.
A number of companies have attempted to attract these customers by using different methods of monetization and eliminating trading fees entirely. These companies typically support trading through a simple app and provide a simplified service with limited options and customer support. Each of these apps works differently, so each is best suited to a different kind of customer.
M1 is an app that will allow a disciplined investor interested in high value and expensive stocks to maximize their profit. Ask yourself:
- Am I interested in stocks that I cannot easily afford (such as Apple) at around $2000 a share
- Do I already have a clear idea of how much of my income I plan to invest and no trouble putting this money aside?
If so, then M1 will be your best choice. It allows you to buy fractions of shares at a time and automatically divide each deposit you make between your chosen stocks according to a set percentage. You will need $100 to start and $10 or more per deposit.
The real leader in this area is RobinHood. Their app is popular and generally less buggy than the others. Ask yourself:
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- Does buying and tracking one stock at a time motivate you to invest more?
- Do you want to be able to automate buying and selling when stocks hit a target price?
- Do you have intermediate or better knowledge of stock trading?
If so, RobinHood might be the app for you. As a better-established app, it is also well-supported with peer-to-peer forums and Facebook groups. Qualifying accounts also have access to trading cryptocurrencies and options. However, not being able to buy fractions of stock may limit the diversity of your portfolio, make volatile penny stocks more attractive, and lead to lower profits for less-experienced traders.
- Do you want to follow the investment patterns of famous and successful investors?
Alfa's trading app is not especially easy to use nor fully functional, but the information they offer about the portfolios of famous investors like Warren Buffet is hugely beneficial to investors starting out. If you don't have the time, skill, or interest in becoming a stock expert, it makes sense to copy those who are. The Alfa app brings this information directly to users in an easy-to-understand format.
- Do you just want your money invested with little or no effort?
Stash is easy to use but has limitations that will annoy most people with an actual interest in companies and stocks. With Stash, you can easily invest in diversified funds with various themes. The funds have some variation in risk and reward but are all fairly safe for the novice investor. You can also buy shares or portions of shares of specific stocks. Not all publically-traded companies' stock is offered on the platform, however. There is a monthly $1 fee that may be excessive for very small-time investors.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.