Best Investing Apps So You Can Invest Without a Broker
There was a time when the only way to invest in the stock market meant hiring a stockbroker and letting that person manage your investments. Thankfully, the internet created space for platforms that allow you to manage your own investments. Many new investment apps are also great for new investors who want to dip their toes into investments but may not have the funds larger brokerages require. Having the option to purchase just a couple of shares or even going in on fractional shares can help you get into investing today. This is why we love these investing apps.
- Overview of the best investing apps
- The bottom line
Overview of the best investing apps
|Acorns||Starting small with investments|
|Ally Invest||Support for self-directed or hands-off traders|
|Betterment||Goal-based trading support|
|E*TRADE||Managed portfolio options|
|M1 Finance||Seamless financial management|
|TD Ameritrade||Robust app features|
|Wealthfront||Free financial planning services|
Best investing apps
Acorns offers a simple and easy-to-digest approach to investing. This app is a great option for beginners that are curious about investing but maybe aren’t quite ready to dive in head-first. The concept is simple — connect your credit card or checking account, and let Acorns take the “spare change” from each purchase and put it into your account. For each purchase you make, Acorns will round up the purchase to the nearest dollar and puts that extra change into your Acorns account, ready to be invested. Once your Acorns account reaches a balance of $5.00, you’ll be able to start investing with it.
While the Acorns Invest account is what Acorns is primarily known for, Acorns does offer other types of accounts as well. You can enroll in a retirement account called Acorns Later. Acorns can even recommend the IRA and portfolio that best fits your situation. Then you can set up an automatic recurring contribution to keep funding your Acorns Later account without thinking about it.
You can also set up investment accounts with your kids by using the Acorns Early account. This custodial account can be set up and used for anything that will benefit your child. Acorns allows you to add multiple kids to the Early account at no additional cost, so there’s no need to divide up the money across different accounts unless you want to. As with the other products, Acorns makes it easy to set up recurring investments to your Acorns Early account, starting at as little as $5. You can set up these recurring investments in daily, weekly, or monthly increments. By opening an Early Acorns account, you can also benefit from exclusive savings from its partners, including ABC Mouse and Disney+.
Ally Invest is unique because it provides options for every level of investment experience. If you’re a beginner, you may want to consider Ally Invest’s Managed Portfolios. However, if you’re a more experienced investor, you can opt-into Ally Invest’s self-directed trading to take matters into your own hands.
Ally Invest’s Managed Portfolios offer automated investing for the trader that prefers to be hands-off. All you need to get started is $100 to meet the minimum investment requirement set by Ally Invest. Ally Invest will ask you some questions about your investment goals and then use this information to build your portfolio with a diverse mix of exchange-traded-funds (ETFs). You can choose to move forward with the recommended portfolio, or customize the portfolio as you see fit. Unlike some of its competitors, Ally Invest has a team of human specialists on hand to build each portfolio, which may make some investors more comfortable.
After you’ve set up your portfolio, you can sit back and let Ally Invest handle it from there. You’ll be able to access your account and track your goals 24/7 using Ally Invest’s digital tools. You can also trust that Ally Invest will manage and monitor your portfolio daily and rebalance it as needed. This is important because your portfolio will need to be adjusted over time to ensure that it stays aligned with your investment goals. If at any point your goals or financial needs happen to change, you can update the portfolio goals to ensure that Ally Invest can do the best for you. No matter what you choose, Ally Invest does not charge management fees, rebalancing fees, or annual or monthly fees.
Ally Invest’s self-directed trading option allows you to choose from a variety of investment choices that are designed for the DIY investor. You can build your portfolio using commission-free stocks, commission-free ETFs, commission-free options, bonds, mutual funds, and a margin account. There is no account minimum for stocks, ETFs, or options. Options do come with a $0.50 per contract fee. If you choose the self-directed trading option, you’ll have access to in-depth research and market analysis tools to help you choose and manage your investment strategy. You’ll also have access to articles that can help you build your knowledge of investment strategies and market trends.
Betterment offers goal-based investing strategies that are designed to help you save as much as possible on your taxes. After setting up your Betterment account, you can choose to answer some questions to allow Betterment to provide you with a personalized recommendation based on your situation. Or, if you’d rather choose your accounts yourself, you can do that as well.
Betterment’s personalized recommendations can help you start thinking about your financial goals and how to achieve them. After you receive your initial recommendations, Betterment offers the option to add goals such as purchasing a new car, saving for a wedding, or starting a business. Setting up these goals in your profile can help Betterment help you save for these goals.
There are two tiers of Betterment to choose from. The digital plan has no minimum account balance and an annual fee of 0.25% of your account balance. This plan comes with several benefits, including unlimited automatic rebalancing, no additional transaction fees, and no additional fees when you transfer money to or from your Betterment account. You’ll be able to schedule advice calls with financial experts, starting at $99 per call. These financial experts can help you with everything from reviewing your current finances and investment portfolio to saving for your children’s college education.
Betterment’s premium plan can be a good option if you have more money to invest. This plan has a minimum balance of $100,000, and a higher annual fee at 0.40% of your account balance. If you choose this plan, you’ll have access to everything the digital plan has to offer, as well as more in-depth investment advice for investments that you may hold outside of Betterment. The premium plan also gives you access to unlimited guidance from Betterment’s Certified Financial Planners.
In addition to its investment products, Betterment offers a checking account with a debit card, a high-yield cash account, and a retirement plan. It even offers a satisfaction guarantee to ensure that every customer is happy with their experience.
E*TRADE is a popular investment app that offers several investment choices. Like some of its competitors, E*TRADE offers a robo advisor option (Core Portfolios) as well as tools and resources to help you manage your portfolio on your own.
E*TRADE’s brokerage account offers commission-free trades on several investment options, including online US-listed stock, ETF, and options trades. You can also diversify your portfolio with mutual funds, bonds, and futures with E*TRADE. No matter investment choice is right for you, you can expect transparency about the pricing and fees that E*TRADE charges. You can also count on robust resources that can help you better understand investing, including tutorials, articles, videos, and interactive tools.
E*TRADE Core Portfolios offers automated investment management that is customized to your goals and preferences. To open this type of account, you’ll need a minimum of $500 to get started. It also charges a 0.30% annual fee. After your account is open and set up, you can monitor your progress, make updates, and watch real-time alerts all in the E*TRADE app.
In addition to Core Portfolios, E*TRADE offers a few other managed portfolio options:
- $25,000 minimum
- Tailored portfolio of mutual funds and ETFs
- $150,000 minimum
- A diversified portfolio of stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs
- $250,000 minimum
- Custom bond portfolio
E*TRADE also offers several retirement accounts that you can enroll in. This includes:
- Rollover IRA
- Roth IRA
- Traditional IRA
- Beneficiary IRA
- E*TRADE Complete™ IRA
- IRA for Minors
M1 Finance offers investing, borrowing, and cash management all in the same place. For some, you may be able to consider this app your one-stop-shop to managing most or all of your financial needs.
M1 Finance comes with three separate branches. First, you can build your investment portfolio for free. You have the option of building a custom portfolio of the stocks and funds of your choosing. You can also choose 1 of more than 80 expert portfolios if you’re more comfortable with that. To make diversification simpler, you can own stocks and ETFs with fractional shares, no matter what the share price is. M1 also offers individual, joint, IRA, and Trust accounts to fit every need.
After your portfolio value reaches $10,000, you’ll have access to a flexible portfolio line of credit and can use the funds for anything you need. Borrowing from this line of credit can take the place of student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and large and/or unforeseen expenses. You can also use M1 Borrow to add leverage to your portfolio and increase the potential for higher returns. However, there are some things to consider before you take out a loan with M1 Borrow. First, you should know that the interest rate is variable. The risks that come with M1 Borrow can also increase the risk of potential losses in your portfolio.
M1 Spend allows you to keep your money in the same place and makes it simple to transfer money to and from your M1 Invest and M1 Borrow accounts as needed. You can also use your M1 Spend debit card anywhere that Visa is accepted.
Robinhood offers 3 levels of investment accounts that can meet the needs of almost any investor. Of all of the investment apps, this one was particularly popular among Millennials for a time because of its referral program.
The free base level account is Robinhood Instant, which is what you’ll automatically be enrolled in if you sign up. It gives you access to up to $1,000 of instant deposits, as well as extended-hours trading. For $5/month, you can upgrade to Robinhood Gold, which gives you access to greater instant deposits and access to margin investing. You can also downgrade from Robinhood Instant to Robinhood Cash. This account doesn’t offer instant deposits, but you can still place commission-free trades during standard and extended-hours trading sessions.
If you have an Instant or a Gold account, you’ll have access to commission-free options investing. Commission-free cryptocurrency investing is also available to Robinhood customers in qualifying states.
Though Robinhood can be a great investing app, you should be aware that it does have its limits. Robinhood does not offer joint accounts, trusts, IRA products, or custodial accounts at the time of this review.
Stash is a personal finance app that offers plans for every type of financial future. Instead of having to pick and choose your products and accounts, Stash makes it simple by laying out plans for each level of investor.
Stash Beginner is available at $1/month and is recommended for first-time budgeters and investors. It includes a personal investment account, a bank account with no hidden fees, $1,000 of life insurance coverage, and more. This plan also gives you access to budgeting and saving tools, advice, and education, and may even give you access to early direct deposit so you can get paid earlier.
Stash Growth is available at $3/month and is recommended for long-term savers and investors. It includes everything from Stash Beginner, as well as either a Roth or Traditional IRA. If you choose this plan, you’ll also benefit from personalized retirement advice and tax benefits for your retirement investing.
Stash+ is the top-tier plan offered at $9/month. It’s recommended for families, debit card spenders, and savvy investors. This plan includes everything from Stash Beginner and Stash Growth, as well as two investment accounts for kids and an additional $9,000 of life insurance coverage. It also gives you access to monthly market insights reports and exclusive bonus offers.
TD Ameritrade offers an array of investment products and two separate apps to help you take control of your investments.
The TD Ameritrade Mobile App provides access to everything you need to manage your accounts from anywhere. You can track both the market’s performance and your portfolio’s performance with a few simple taps. You can also set up price alerts on equities, ETFs, options, and indices to keep you informed even when you’re not using the app. Secure deposits are available for up to $50,000 per day for non-retirement accounts and $100,000 for retirement account rollovers using this app.
TD Ameritrade also offers a separate app for its advanced trading platform, thinkorswim. You can use the app to access the analyze feature to evaluate your risks and potential profits. The app also gives you access to charts as well as live news to keep you up-to-date on market insights. Best of all, this app gives you access to all of your preferences and settings that were created using thinkorswim on your computer to help you stay on top of trends even when you’re away from home.
TD Ameritrade offers several account types, including retirement accounts, education accounts, and managed portfolios.
Wealthfront makes it easy to optimize your money to make it effortlessly work for you. All you need to do is deposit your check and let Wealthfront automate the allocation of your funds using its software. Wealthfront can pay your bills, build your emergency fund, and even invest your money based on your goals.
Wealthfront’s investment strategy revolves around passive investing to grow your long-term savings. It builds a diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds to maximize your returns within your risk comfort zone. The app’s software also implements tax strategies to help lower your owed taxes. The only fee Wealthfront charges is a 0.25% annual advisory fee based on what you invest.
The financial planning offered by Wealthfront can also help you understand your whole financial picture to help you make better financial decisions. The app will get to know your finances and your aspirations and provide customized recommendations to help you meet your goals. You’ll find out which accounts are best suited for you, how much you should deposit, and how much money you should be saving each month.
Like some of its competitors, Wealthfront also offers a portfolio line of credit to help you fund your more immediate goals. Wealthfront offers a line of credit if you have an individual, trust, or joint investment account of $25,000 or more. You can borrow up to 30% of your account and set a repayment schedule that works best for you. Like other portfolio lines of credit, there are risks involved, including variable interest rates and the possibility that your portfolio value may decrease. However, Wealthfront says that it mitigates your risk by setting a borrowing limit of 30% of your account value.
Summary of the best investing apps
|App||Account/Plan Costs*||Types of investments|
|Acorns||$1 - $5/month||12 ETFs|
|Ally Invest||$0||Commisson-free stocks, ETFs|
|Betterment||0% - 0.40% annual fee||Stocks, ETFs, IRAs|
|E*TRADE||$0||Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, CDs, Futures, Options|
|M1 Finance||$0||Stocks, bonds, investment funds, IRAs|
|Stash||$1 - $9/month||Stocks, IRAs, Options|
|TD Ameritrade||$0||Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, Futures, Options|
|Wealthfront||0.25% annual advisory fee||Stocks|
This does not include individual fees for options, futures, etc.
All are available for Android or Apple thrpugh Google Play and Apple Store.
Can I use an investment app if I’ve never invested before?
Yes! Beginners can benefit from the low costs of investment apps, as well as the automated features that some of them offer.
Are investment apps safe?
Yes; your funds are protected by the SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) with banking connections protected by FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).
What trading options are available on investing apps?
Every investment app is different, so it’s best to carefully review each app to see what trading options it offers before you pick one to use. Most provide ETF trades and individual stocks in the United States, some offer international trades. You can select the options that meet your risk tolerance with these apps offering guidance and customer support to help you.
Why should I use an investing app?
There are several benefits to using an investment app. Creating an account with many investment apps is either free or low-cost, making them a very accessible option even if you’re just starting. There are also plenty of options out there with several different investment strategies to choose from, so there’s bound to be an app that works for you.
Whether you decide to use a robo advisor or manage your portfolio on your own, using a streamlined investment app can help you stay on track no matter how busy you are.
The bottom line
Investment apps are an easy and accessible way to take control of your finances. You can use these apps to manage your investment portfolio, automate your finances, receive financial guidance, and more.
It is important to remember that not every investment app is the same, and not every app will work for you. Be realistic about where you are in your investment journey before you choose an investment app. If you’re a beginner, look for an app that offers an approach and the guidance that you’re comfortable with. If you’re a more experienced investor, you may want to look for an app that will allow you to continue to grow in your knowledge and investment strategies.
Whether you’re a beginner or have been investing for years, investment apps are sure to have something for everyone.