You used to actually have to know about the stock market to become an investor. Or, you’d have to employ an in-person financial manager to do the work for you.
Today, you can download an app on your phone and start making moves. Mobile trading is appealing in several ways. The most obvious is the convenience factor.
The other key benefit is that many of the apps out there don’t require a ton of personal capital to get started. Many popular investing apps allow you to open an account for $5, so investing is accessible even if you’re on a budget.
The downside is, you’re more or less on your own when it comes to making decisions. That means it’s easy to get caught up in a risky decision or enrolling in an account that doesn’t make sense for your financial goals.
If jumping into the investing game interests you, we picked some of our favorite apps to get you started.
5 best mobile investment apps
TD Ameritrade is one of the biggest names in the financial sector. They’ve got name recognition even among those who have no clue what a brokerage account does.
The TD Ameritrade app is free to download, and there’s no account minimum needed to get started. This app is unique in that it’s easy for beginners to get started, yet still brings the options and features that advanced traders have come to need.
Where TD Ameritrade falls short is, it doesn’t necessarily offer the lowest trading costs. You’ll pay a $6.95 flat rate commission on all equity trades.
However, you do get a lot of bang for your buck — access to third-party market research that allows you to plan your trading strategy. You’ll also get access to 24/7 phone support and access to a wide range of investment options.
E-Trade is another popular option in the digital investing game. The platform works across all devices from iPhones to Androids, to your desktop computer. What’s nice is they offer a ton of educational materials. You can arm yourself with the knowledge needed to customize your investment portfolio.
For the set-it-and-forget-it types, you can go ahead and sign up for an E-Trade Core Portfolio. It is managed by a robot-advisor at a 0.30% rate. To enroll in this program, you’ll need to invest $5,000 — which of course, may be a barrier for some would-be investors.
Some of the rates seem a little high, especially for infrequent traders. Fidelity and Charles Schwab provide a similar service and portfolio lineup. They only charge $4.95 commissions, while E-Trade charges $6.95.
Acorns is an investment app perfect for beginners. To get started, you’ll need to transfer just $5 and select a portfolio type. Portfolios range from conservative to aggressive, and the account management fees are a whopping $1 a month.
Where Acorns really shines is in its ability to help you save money without thinking about it. Hook up your debit and credit cards to your account and the roundups will round purchases up to the nearest dollar. You can add a multiplier to increase the automated transfer amount. Additionally, you can make lump sum transfers on a weekly, monthly, whatever basis.
Acorns isn’t necessarily the best app for those looking to make the most out of their money. Its hands-off approach works for saving some spare change outside of an account where you might otherwise be tempted to spend that money. We should also mention that the portfolio is quite small, made up of low-cost Vanguard and iShare exchange-traded funds.
Ellevest operates on an interesting concept. Founded by veteran finance leader Sallie Krawchek, Ellevest is an investing app that targets women. The idea is that traditional investing tools have long left women out of the equation. They use sports terminology and other types of gendered language to talk about financial products.
Ellevest is easy to use, and you don’t have to be a woman to invest. What we like about it is their fiduciaries, meaning, the advice offered in the app is legally obligated to have your best interests at heart. It forecasts even for things like taxes and downturns. You’ll have a realistic picture of what’s in store for your money.
Inside the app, you can easily set goals and plan for the long-term. Set up recurring deposits or make one-time contributions as you work toward your investment goal. You can update your deposits, timeline, recurring contributions, and targets. There are no minimum balance or withdrawal penalties.
Named after the famed character known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Robinhood is a favorite among Robotraders. Robinhood is a web app that aims to make playing the stock market accessible for people from all income levels and experience.
The main selling point with Robinhood is the app is no frills. By frills, we mean, they’ve done away with a lot of the fees associated with investing. There are no account minimums, stock trading is free, and you’ll have your pick of over 2,000 ETFs. Robinhood presents an opportunity to dabble in crypto-trading without having to deal with the ins and outs of sites like Coinbase.
The downside is that Robinhood does not offer access to mutual funds or bonds. Your only account option is an individual taxable account, also known as a brokerage account.
The best advice we can give for getting into investing is to start slow and work your way up. (And, statistically, you’re better off with a low-cost index fund, rather than individual stocks.) You don’t need to invest a large amount of capital in order to enter this field. Also, you should not invest a large amount of capital until you know what you’re doing.