Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2019-2020

Here are the best online brokers if you're a beginning investor.
Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2019-2020

Choosing the right stock broker can put new investors on the fast track to creating wealth and financial security. For this second annual Best Brokers rankings, GOBankingRates determined the Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners. The list is tailored toward newer investors, so brokerages that focus on advanced trading support might not have scored as highly as those providing better educational tools for novices.

Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners 2019-2020 Guide:

Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners at a Glance

Refer to this table to quickly compare the Best Online Stock Brokers’ fees, minimums and promotions:

Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners — At a Glance
BrokerCost To TradeAccount MinimumPromotions
Merrill Edge$6.95$0
  • Up to $600 when you invest in a new Merrill Edge self-directed account
E-Trade$6.95$500
  • Up to $600 plus 60 days of commission-free trades
charles schwab logoCharles Schwab$4.95$0
  • 500 commission-free online equity and options trades, good for two years
Fidelity$4.95$0
  • Up to $30 off TaxAct
  • Up to $20 off H&R Block
  • Up to $20 off TurboTax
TD AmeritradeTD Ameritrade$6.95$0
  • $100 bonus when you fund your account with $25,000-$99,999
  • $300 bonus when you fund your account with $100,000-$249,999
  • $600 bonus when you fund your account with $250,000-$999,999
  • $2,500 bonus when you fund your account with $1 million
  • Trade commission-free for 60 days when you deposit $3,000 or more
Interactive Brokers$1.00$0
  • Up to $1,000 of commission credits for the first 1 million new customers as of July 1, 2019
Firstrade$0.00$0
  • Up to $200 in transfer fee rebates when switching to Firstrade from another broker
  • $25 wire transfer fee rebate when wiring funds from your bank
  • $50 for each friend referral to Firstrade
TradeStation$5.00$500
  • Trade commission-free through Dec. 31, 2019 with six or more trades per month
wells fargo logoWells Fargo$5.95$0
  • Discounted rate of $2.95 per online trade when you link your Wells Fargo Advisors WellsTrade brokerage account to your Portfolio by Wells Fargo program.
SogoTrade$2.88$0
  • None currently

Up Next: Do You Need a Broker To Buy Stocks?

[Back to top]

In-Depth Look at Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners

The Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners have low trading fees and commissions. All 10 listed here have low or no account minimums, so that you can get started with very little money. Special incentives make trading even more affordable.

Merrill Edge

Merrill Edge is the self-directed investment platform of Merrill Lynch, which is now a Bank of America company.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: At $6.95 per trade, fees aren’t the cheapest of the online brokers, but in return, you get the backing of one of Wall Street’s most legendary firms, with no account minimum. Although the Merrill Edge account is self-directed, customers still have access to extensive financial education programs, both online and via a financial advisor.

Pros:

  • Backing of two of America’s most prestigious financial firms — Merrill Lynch and Bank of America
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Up to 100 commission-free trades per month with Preferred Rewards

Cons:

  • No commission-free exchange-traded funds
  • Not as slick and user-friendly as other, newer firms

Promotions: Currently, new customers can earn up to a $600 bonus for opening an account through Merrill Edge. Although the full bonus requires a deposit of at least $200,000, even a $20,000 deposit qualifies for a $100 bonus.

Fees and Costs: $6.95 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Merrill Edge, visit its website.

Find Out: Pros and Cons of Online Trading

[Back to top]

E-Trade

E-Trade is one of the pioneers of online trading.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: E-Trade’s easy-to-use online interface and two mobile apps make it a top online broker for beginners. Fees and minimums aren’t the lowest in the industry — E-Trade charges $6.95 per trade and requires a $500 minimum to open an account. But your commission drops to just $4.95 if you make 30 or more trades per quarter.

Pros:

  • Commission reduction for active traders
  • Intuitive online and mobile interfaces
  • Access to financial advisors and other products beyond trading

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive on a per-trade basis

Promotions: Currently, you can get up to 500 free trades if you deposit at least $10,000 into a new account. Larger deposits might also qualify for a cash bonus.

Fees and Costs: $6.95 per trade; $4.95 with 30 or more trades per quarter

Account Minimum: $500

To learn more about E-Trade, visit its website.

[Back to top]

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab lands in this the survey of online stock brokers on the strength of a $0 minimum balance requirement and a $4.95 trade commission.

charles schwab logoWhy It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: Schwab has always made it a priority to put customers first. The firm offers numerous services on top of client-directed online trading, including an automated investing platform and access to financial advisors. Charles Schwab also offers over 500 commission-free exchange-traded funds and access to no-load, no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Pros:

  • Commission-free ETFs and mutual funds
  • Good sign-up offer
  • Access to financial advisors and automated investing

Cons:

  • Trade commissions not the lowest

Promotions: Depositing $100,000 into a Schwab account qualifies you for 500 commission-free online stock or option trades over the next two years.

Fees and Costs: $4.95 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Charles Schwab, visit its website.

[Back to top]

Fidelity

Fidelity is one of the oldest and most well-established firms on Wall Street.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: Fidelity is a low-fee broker that doesn’t charge anything for transactions that cost money at other firms, such as transferring out of your account or having insufficient funds. In addition to its well-known line of mutual funds and zero-expense-ratio index mutual funds, Fidelity has an online trading program for investors that charges $4.95 per trade, with no account minimum.

Pros:

  • No account fees or minimums
  • Index funds with zero expense ratio
  • Limited fees
  • Access to advanced asset management for an additional fee
  • No cost to buy Fidelity funds and hundreds of additional other funds

Cons:

  • Fees for additional services can get high

Promotions: Currently, customers get $20-$30 off various tax preparation programs, such as TurboTax and TaxAct.

Fees and Costs: $4.95 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Fidelity, visit its website.

[Back to top]

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade, one of the largest online brokers, acquired Scottrade in 2017, making a formidable combination.

TD AmeritradeWhy It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: TD Ameritrade offers more than 550 ETFs on a commission-free trading basis, and it has trading platforms for investors at every level — from novice to experienced. The broker’s $5.95 commission fees for online stock trades are higher than usual, but there are no account or trade minimums.

Pros:

  • Commission-free ETFs
  • Multiple trading platforms
  • No account minimums
  • Extensive network of branches across America

Cons:

  • Relatively high trading commissions

Promotions: Earn 60 days of commission-free trading when you open an account with at least $3,000. A deposit of $250,000 or more pays you a $600 cash bonus.

Costs and Fees: $5.95 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about TD Ameritrade, visit its website.

Learn More: Must-Have Things the Best Brokers Have in Common

[Back to top]

Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers has an advanced trading platform for experienced traders, but it also offers advantages for beginners.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: With Interactive Brokers, commissions are only $0.005 per trade, with a minimum of $1 and a maximum of 1% of the trade value. Interactive also has its own roster of commission-free ETFs from a variety of fund families.

Pros:

  • On-demand learning about Interactive Broker’s products and services
  • Advanced trading platform for when customers move past the beginning stage
  • Very low commission costs

Cons:

  • Inactivity fee

Promotions: Up to $1,000 of commission credits for the first 1 million new customers as of July 1, 2019

Costs and Fees: $1 minimum; maximum of 1% of the trade value

Account Minimum: $0

To learn more about Interactive Brokers, visit its website.

Understand: What Is a Stock Brokerage Fee?

[Back to top]

Firstrade

Firstrade might not be a household name when it comes to online brokerages, but that could be changing.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: No account minimums and commission-free stock trades might spark the interest of investors looking for the broker that lets you keep the most money. Using either the website or the user-friendly app, you can buy and sell stocks, ETFs, options, fixed income funds and over 11,000 mutual funds free of charge. But Firstrade is more than a bare-bones trading vehicle — it also provides research from noted industry experts like Morningstar.

Pros:

  • Commission-free trading
  • Access to industry-leading research
  • Slick mobile app interface

Cons:

  • No opportunity for a managed portfolio or robo-advisor platform

Promotions: Firstrade will pay you a bonus of up to $200 for transferring your account from another broker.

Costs and Fees: None

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Firstrade, visit its website.

[Back to top]

TradeStation

Originally designed for professional traders, TradeStation’s platform is now open to investors of all levels of experience.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: There’s still a $500 minimum to open an account, and trades cost $5 each to execute, so the firm isn’t a low-cost, low-minimum leader. But if you open a TradeStation account now, you could qualify for no-commission trading through the end of the year.

Pros:

  • Advanced trading tools for active investors using both mobile app and the web
  • Free trading through the rest of 2019 under current promo
  • Extensive market research and insights available for free

Cons:

  • No commission-free ETF or mutual fund trading

Promotions: Trade commission-free through 2019 when you make at least six trades per month.

Costs and Fees: $5.00 per trade

Account Minimum: $500

To learn more about TradeStation, visit its website.

[Back to top]

Wells Fargo

Although Wells Fargo is a stalwart of the traditional banking industry, it’s also at the forefront of the online brokerage movement.

wells fargo logoWhy It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: There’s no minimum to open an online brokerage account, and the $5.95 fee for individual trades is lower than some others in this roundup. As one of the biggest banks in the country, Wells Fargo’s comprehensive roster of products and services — including market insight and commentary, mutual fund screeners and other investor resources and tools — can be particularly helpful for newer investors.

Pros:

  • Extensive research and basic financial information suitable for beginning investors
  • No account minimums
  • Access to Wells Fargo financial advisors if you need additional assistance

Cons:

  • One of the more expensive online trading options

Promotions: Get a discounted rate of $2.95 per trade when you link your Wells Fargo Advisors WellsTrade brokerage account to your Portfolio by Wells Fargo program.

Costs and Fees: $5.95 per trade

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about Wells Fargo, visit its website.

[Back to top]

SogoTrade

SogoTrade’s relative affordability earns it a spot in the Best Online Brokers for Beginners list.

Why It’s a Best Online Broker for Beginners: SogoTrade has several trading platforms that you can customize based on your own personal trading acumen. There’s no account minimum, and you get discounts for being an active trader and purchasing trade bundles in advance.

Pros:

  • 100 commission-free trades
  • Relatively cheap commissions
  • Advanced mobile and web platforms

Cons:

  • Limited support for newer traders
  • No commission-free ETFs

Promotions: None

Costs and Fees: $4.88 per trade; $3.88 per trade with the purchase of a multitrade bundle; $2.88 if you make at least 150 trades per quarter

Account Minimum: None

To learn more about SogoTrade, visit its website.

Related: How To Find a Broker and Start Investing

[Back to top]

How We Picked the Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners

GOBankingRates determined the Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners by analyzing 23 of the largest and up-and-coming online brokers, using the following criteria:

  • Cost to trade equities, such as stocks and ETFs
  • Opening minimum investment requirement
  • Access to financial advisor
  • Available promotional offers
  • 24/7 phone customer service
  • Live chat with human representative
  • Mobile app availability
  • Educational resources, such as webinars, blogs and courses that teach investing and trading
  • Research and tools, such as multiple trading platforms, in-depth market analysis, and screener tools for stocks, ETFs and bonds

Each broker was scored based on these individual categories, which were then summed up for a final score. Because these online brokers are meant for beginners, cost to trade, minimum opening investment requirement, educational resources and research tools were weighted double for the final scoring.

[Back to top]

Online Stock Brokers FAQs

Here a few questions that are common around the topic of online stock brokers — and answers to them:

What Is a Stock Broker?

A stock broker is a person or a company that buys and sells securities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments on behalf of clients.

Do You Need a Lot of Money To Use a Stock Broker?

No. Some brokers have a $0 account minimum, and many even offer free trades.

What Do You Need To Open a Brokerage Account?

Although requirements vary from firm to firm, at the very least, you should expect to provide identification and basic personal and financial information like your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, employment status, annual income, net worth, investment profile and a trusted contact person.

What Are Brokerage Account Fees?

Brokerages can charge fees like commissions on trades, mutual fund sales loads and account transfer fees, among others. The best brokers charge minimal fees.

Is My Money Safe in a Brokerage Account?

All legitimate brokerage firms are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC, which insures customer accounts up to $500,000 if a firm fails. Of that $500,000 in protection, up to $250,000 in cash, is insured.

Can You Cash Out a Stock Brokerage Account?

You can cash out a brokerage account at any time, but you might have to pay commissions to sell your securities, plus a fee to transfer the money out. These terms vary from broker to broker.

[Back to top]

More Best Brokers of 2019-2020 

John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry for 18 years as a registered investment adviser and Certified Financial Planner, first for a major Wall Street firm and then as the owner-operator of a boutique investment firm. He now serves as an investment writer for various major publications.

Andrew DePietro contributed to the reporting for this article. He is the lead researcher for GOBankingRates and a finance writer with years of experience covering investing, taxation, Social Security, entrepreneurship, real estate and housing markets.

Methodology: To determine the Best Brokers of 2019-2020, GOBankingRates analyzed 47 active U.S. brokerages and investment companies across eight categories: (1) Best Online Brokerages, (2) Best Online Stock Brokers for Beginners, (3) Best Robo-Advisors, (4) Best Investment Apps, (5) Best IRA Providers, (6) Best Roth IRA Providers, (7) Best Brokers for Day Traders, (8) Best 401(k) Companies.

Data for Best Brokers was compiled from and verified against the individual institutions’ websites between July 1, 2019, and Aug. 2, 2019. Costs, terms and conditions are subject to change at the discretion of the individual financial institutions. Some information might reflect short-term or promotional offers only, and it is possible additional terms and conditions must be met in order to obtain any benefits mentioned. Availability might vary by region, minimum investment amounts and other factors. Please verify terms and conditions before opening an account.

GOBankingRates is a personal finance website owned by ConsumerTrack Inc., an online marketing company serving top-tier banks, credit unions and other financial services organizations. Some brokerages mentioned in Best Brokers are clients of ConsumerTrack Inc., which serves more than 100 national, local and online financial institutions. Rankings are completely objective, and no institution, client or otherwise, paid for inclusion or specific placement. For more information, see the complete methodology for the rankings