Top Investing Sites for Beginners

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated February 21, 2020

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April 3, 2015

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

With the Dow more than doubled since 2009 and now at record highs, some first-time investors are concerned that it might be too late to jump into stock trading. The truth is that no investment comes with a guarantee, and experts disagree about where the market will go next.

When it comes to investing, strategy matters. For first-time investors, that strategy includes choosing an online trading site that makes trading easy and gives them the help and support they need.

The best investing sites for beginners:

  • Provide educational tools
  • Offer features that simplify the trading process
  • Give real-time support through chat, phone and email communications

Here are some of the best online trading sites for beginners based on our research:

M1 Finance Investing

M1 Finance website

M1 Finance Investing image
  • Best for: Overall investing. With minimal fees and options such as fractional trading, M1 Finance is an option for the future, leaving traditional online investing companies like E*Trade in the dust.
  • Price: Like many new tech-focused investing companies, M1 Finance offers commission-free trading. It also does not charge an advisory fee for robo-advisor portfolios, which puts it above other popular robo-advisors like Betterment. It does charge a fee if your account is under $20 or if you have had no trading activity within 90 days.
  • Features: M1 Finance utilizes “pie” investing, which presents you with a recommended pie that divides up your investment options, and you can adjust the pie however you wish. It allows you to have complete control over your investments and invest in companies that you believe in.
  • Fractional shares: M1 Finance offers fractional shares, which allows you to invest in partial shares, making it easier to invest for less.
  • Customer service: In order to get ahold of M1, you will need to go through a dedicated phone number or email service.

Betterment Review

Betterment website

Betterment Review image
  • Best For: Automated Investing. Betterment is the lazy man’s best friend and is also great for anyone just starting out since it automates trading for you. All you do is fund your account and answer questions about the types of investments you want, and Betterment will do all the heavy lifting for you. You can sign up for Betterment here.
  • Price: The benefit of Betterment is there are no complicated fees, just a percentage charged depending on how much you’ve invested. It’s 0.25 percent annually, no minimum required. For the premium service you must invest at least $100,000, the fee for this is 0.40 percent annually.
  • Features: Since Betterment is an automated service, it doesn’t offer a lot of options when it comes to investing. Its main platform invests in both stock and bond ETFs to create your portfolio. You can also set up various forms of IRAs through Betterment, which will then tailor your investments based on your goals.
  • Other highlights: You can currently get a year of free management, all dependent on the amount you invest. If you invest between $15,000-$999,999 you’ll receive one month for free, If you invest, $100,000-$249,000 you’ll receive 6 months of free management, and if you invest anything over $250,000 you will get an entire year of free management. 
  • Customer Service: Since Betterment does all the heavy lifting for you, of course there are going to be questions, which Betterment is more than capable of answering. You can also get financial planning advice via Betterment.

Acorns Review

Acorns website

Acorns Review image
  • Best For: Automatic investing, people new to investing and those looking to increase their savings but not necessarily make a great deal of money. You can sign up for Acorns here.
  • Price: Depending on the services, Acorns costs $1, $2 or $3 monthly.
  • Features: You link credit cards and bank accounts to the Acorns app, and it automatically invests small sums of money on occasion. You can choose from among five portfolios, each with a different risk-reward ratio.
  • Other Highlights: The platform will rebalance your portfolio as needed and reinvest your dividends. Plus, Acorns lets you turn off the automatic investing function and make manual investments if you prefer.
  • Customer Service: Acorns doesn’t employ financial advisers, but its staff will answer your questions via phone, email or live chat.

Coinbase Review

Coinbase website

Coinbase Review image
  • Best for: Overall cryptocurrency needs.
  • Price: Coinbase charges hefty fees compared to some of its competitors, which you can do when you are the #1 name in cryptocurrency options. A bank transfer will run you 1.49% of your payment. If you want to use a debit or credit card, it will cost you 3.99% of your payment.
  • Options: Coinbase offers three services to use: a brokerage, cryptocurrency exchange and a wallet. The brokerage allows you to purchase your Bitcoins. The exchange allows you to trade Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. The wallet holds your currency in a secure environment to keep it safe. Most exchanges and brokerage sites are not as secure as a cryptocurrency wallet.
  • Pros: Coinbase is the biggest Bitcoin brokerage currently available. Its interface is very easy to use and especially designed for beginners to cryptocurrency. It also offers higher buy limits than its competitors.
  • Cons: Since Coinbase is so popular, it can charge more for its services, which it does. It also only allows two methods of payment, while competitors offer more options.

E*TRADE garners top awards from review sites for some very good reasons that make it a smart choice for beginners. Their E*TRADE 360 platform is extremely easy to use and lets users see relevant account information on a single screen. The mobile app looks and works almost exactly like the web-based platform, eliminating confusion. Both let users deposit checks into their accounts and provide real-time quotes and live news about the market.

Beginning investors are likely to have lots of questions, and E*TRADE provides quick answers through informative educational and support tools such as online tutorials, articles, and real-time customer service. In addition, E*TRADE sponsors a helpful online trader community where beginning investors can chat with other investors.

E*TRADE requires a $500 deposit to open an account and charges $9.99 for each stock or options trade.

TD Ameritrade offers three trading platforms to accommodate traders with varying levels of experience, including their web-based platform ideal for beginners. Their mobile trader app helps first-timers test their skills and gain confidence with virtual trading.

One of Ameritrade’s chief benefits is the slate of educational tools they offer to new investors. Those tools are extremely well-organized in categories like “understanding the basics,” “selecting an account type” and “selecting investment products.” They also have an extensive video library focusing on topics like investing basics: stocks, trading tools, and portfolio diversification.

TD Ameritrade does not offer cryptocurrency options. If you are interested in cryptocurrency, check out our top cryptocurrency app reviews.

Like E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade charges $9.99 for stock and options trades. They require no minimum deposit to get started.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, and no one can predict with certainty where the Dow will be a year from now. Beginning investors can minimize their risk by trading on sites that offer outstanding customer support, intuitive platforms, and comprehensive educational resources to make trading easy and profitable.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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