Picking the best investment app can be a tough decision. After all, there are a lot to choose from.
From micro-investing mobile apps that buy fractional shares with your spare change to active trading platforms equipped with advanced trading tools and market commentary, there’s an investment app for every skill set and budget.
Each of our top picks offer $0 account minimums, low account fees, retirement accounts and educational resources.
All of these apps are good for beginners, but some offer users more control, customization and investment selection than others.
When choosing an investment app, it’s important to consider if you want a passive portfolio or a self-directed portfolio.
The first manages your investments day-to-day for you. The second puts you in the driver’s seat: You’re responsible for picking and managing your own investments — and gauging your personal risk tolerance.
We tend to favor robo-advisors because they’re affordable, easy to use and don’t require much ongoing maintenance.
Below, you’ll find our full list of the best investment apps along with answers to frequently asked questions and insight from financial experts about how to pick the right investment app for you.
The 6 Best Investment Apps
Best for passive, automated investing: Betterment Digital
Best for new investors: Stash
Best for frequent and active traders: E*TRADE
Best for access to real life financial advisors: SoFi Automated Investing
Best for low cost investment management: Fidelity Go
Best for intermediate investors: Webull
Bank account with debit card
Betterment uses a hands-off investment strategy to get your money in the market. You can’t buy or trade stocks with this investing app: Rather, Betterment automatically invests your money into diversified ETFs. It picks the ETFs inside your portfolio based on your risk tolerance and financial goals.
Customers with a $100,000 minimum balance in their investment accounts can opt into the Betterment Premium plan for an account management fee of 0.40%.
Premium customers get more in-depth financial advice and unlimited access to phone calls with a financial advisor.
For more details on the app’s features and offerings, check out our full Betterment app review.
At $9 per month, Stash+ offers users two UGMA/UTMA custodial accounts for kids.
Stash is popular with beginner investors because it lets you buy fractional shares with just $5.
The micro-investing app can create a diversified investment portfolio for you, or you can pick from more than 3,000 stocks, ETFs and bonds if you want a more hands-on approach.
However, Stash’s flat monthly fee is unlike some other robo-advisors, which charge a management fee as a percentage of your portfolio balance.
This can make Stash’s price a drawback for users with low account balances.
For more details on the app’s features and offerings, check out our full Stash app review.
Wide array of investment options
4,400 no-load, fee-free mutual funds
Advanced trading tools
E*TRADE’s sleek mobile app makes it easy to buy and trade stocks on the go.
The company also offers a more advanced platform called Power E*TRADE, where experienced and intermediate traders can utilize more than 145 charting tools, options strategies, risk-reward analysis and a live-streaming Bloomberg TV feed.
The Power platform also includes a paper trading feature, which lets you hone your investing skills and test strategies without committing real money.
Power E*TRADE isn’t a separate brokerage account — just a different platform with its own mobile app. Like the original platform, there’s no trading costs or account management fees.
For more details on the app’s features and offerings, check out our full E*TRADE app review.
SoFi Automated Investing
Access to a financial advisor
No annual management fee
SoFi Automated Investing is a robo-advisor platform that offers users a rare combination: A low-cost robo-advisor with free access to real-life financial advisors.
SoFi also offers an attractive platform for more experienced traders: SoFi Active Investing.
It provides an almost unbeatable fee structure: No account minimums, no annual advisory fees and free stock and ETF trades. It also offers fractional share investing.
Active Investing users can trade 30 different cryptocurrencies for a flat fee of 1.25% per trade.
However, the platform lacks access to some fundamental investment types, including bonds and mutual funds. It also lacks some advanced trading options, such as options trading.
No fees for small account balances
No investment expense ratios
Integration with other Fidelity accounts
With Fidelity Go, investors have a choice among 14 portfolio options — half are retirement portfolios, and the rest are taxable. No matter which you choose, they’re created from Fidelity Flex funds.
These funds have holdings across four asset classes including U.S. stocks, international stocks, domestic bonds, and short-term securities. Keep in mind there are no assets such as commodities, real estate investment trusts and international bonds to choose from. Still, you can get a decent amount of diversification if you’re not bothered by the lack of these additional choices. Keep in mind that this robo-advisor doesn’t offer tax loss harvesting.
For more details on the app’s features and offerings, check out our full Fidelity Go app review.
Advanced investing tools
Webull is best for active traders comfortable placing their own stock and ETF trades.
While the Webull platform features a thriving user community, its traditional education resources are slim. It also lacks access to some common securities, like bonds and mutual funds.
Webull is most appealing for its advanced features, including margin accounts and options trading. In fact, Webull is one of the few online brokers to offer free options trades with no commissions or contract fees.
Other key features include real-time market quotes, full extended-hours trading and commission-free crypto trading.
For more details on the app’s features and offerings, check out our full Webull app review.
Best Investment Apps: Features Summary
Account Minimum Balance
$4 per month or 0.25%
$3 to $9 monthly fee
0% to 0.30%
Frequent, active traders
SoFi Automated Investing
No annual or monthly fee
$0 for accounts below $25K; 0.35% over $25K
No annual or monthly fee
How Much Money Should You Invest?
The good news is that you can invest almost any amount you want considering many brokerages offer low or no investment minimums (including the ones on our list). As in, if you can’t afford to put a good chunk of your paycheck just yet, you don’t have to — the important step is to start.
Given that, many experts recommend investing at least 10% to 15% of your income. For example, if you make $45,000 per year, your goal would be to invest at least $4,500 to $6,750 annually.
However, this common rule of thumb isn’t always the best fit for everyone. You can invest more or less depending on your goals and whether you have the financial means. That means you need to have enough to pay off existing debts, set aside money towards an emergency fund, other short-term savings goals, and your daily expenses before increasing the amount you put into investments.
If you have an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k), it might be a good idea to start there and aim for that 10% to 15%. Depending on your plan, your employer should match a percentage of your contributions — think of this as “free” money and part of the perks of the job.
Don’t fret if you think that you’re not doing enough. Investing is meant to be a long-term endeavor, so think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. If you find it hard to stay motivated, plenty of robo advisors or investment apps have tools to help you visualize your financial goals.
For instance, Betterment has visual tools to show you things like projected retirement savings for certain time horizons, and you can even play around with how much that amount can go up if you invest different amounts. Being able to estimate how much you’ll have for retirement may be a great motivator to invest more or more often.
What Assets Can You Trade on an Investment App?
You can invest in virtually all types of securities on an investment app.
Stocks (domestic and international)
Bonds (domestic and international)
Although you have plenty of options, the types of assets you can trade will depend on the brokerage account you use. For example, you can trade crypto on Webull, but not Fidelity Go. Before opening an investment account, check to see what types of assets you can invest to ensure the types you want are available.
In addition to the types of securities you can invest in, don’t forget to check the account types. For example, do you want an IRA or taxable account? What about the option to open an investment account for your children or grandchildren?
Understanding what you want in an investment account is key because it’ll ensure you find a good fit for your financial goals. Taking the time to do your research (including looking at the ones on our list) is well worth the effort.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Investing Apps
There are a lot of questions about investing apps and we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked so you can decide if this is the right move for you.
We think robo-advisors are generally the best investing apps for beginners. These companies use advanced software and algorithms to build a tailored, diversified portfolio based on your risk tolerance, time horizon and financial goals.
They keep costs low while offering robust financial planning tools that give you a better understanding of your entire financial situation.
Meanwhile, self-directed accounts are best for more advanced investors who understand the complexity and risk involved.
Putting your money in an investment app featured on our list is just as safe as investing at a traditional brokerage firm.
Even in the unlikely event an investment app goes under, your money is still safe and insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) for up to $500,000.
These investment apps also use bank-level security features, including encryption and two-factor authentication, to protect your data and privacy.
You can either download the company’s mobile app on your smartphone or open an account online from your desktop or laptop.
You fund your portfolio by linking a bank account and transferring money. You can make one-time lump-sum deposits to your investment account or set up recurring transfers.
Once your account is funded, you can explore your investment options, make stock and ETF trades, or let a robo-advisor manage an investment portfolio for you.
Expert Advice on Choosing the Best Investment App for You
We asked two financial experts at The Penny Hoarder what they had to say about investment apps.
What Are the Biggest Benefits of Using an Investment App?
Molly Moorhead, Certified Financial Planner:
Apps bring investing and financial planning to the place where you manage so much else of your life nowadays: your phone. If you’ve put off opening an IRA or becoming more educated before investing real money, all the tools and information you need are in your hands.
Robin Hartill, Certified Financial Planner:
Many investment apps make it easier than ever for beginners to get started. Some apps will let you buy fractional shares — which allow you to invest as little as $1 in top stocks — rather than saving up hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a full share.
Others will round up your purchases and let you invest the spare change.
Another benefit is that you can get an instant snapshot of how your investments are performing.
What Are the Drawbacks of Using an Investing App?
Molly Moorhead, CFP:
If you’re inclined to check your 401(k) every day or watch how a stock you bought is doing, investment apps can exacerbate that habit.
The vast majority of us don’t need to follow the markets every day, and we definitely don’t need to buy or sell investments based on short-term movements.
We’re in it for the long haul, so don’t let whatever app you choose become a temptation to make hasty investment choices.
Robin Hartill, CFP:
If you’re prone to panicking after the stock market has a bad day, an investment app may not be the best choice.
Likewise, if you’re an impulse buyer, be careful with investment apps. Long-term investing is what builds wealth.
Also, some apps have substantial fees that may not look like a lot. But if you invested $100 in a lump sum and your app charges a $1 monthly fee, that amounts to a 12% annual investment fee.
How Can I Learn More About the Investment Choices an App Offers?
Molly Moorhead, CFP:
Most apps will steer you toward stock ETFs. By purchasing shares in these funds, you’ll own small pieces of many different companies across an array of sectors.
If you’re curious, log into your investment account, find the stock symbol for the companies in the fund and check out their historical performance.
You’ll find that they likely all have ups and downs, but because your money is spread across multiple industries, no single company’s stock will hurt you much if it drops.
Robin Hartill, CFP:
Look at online reviews to see whether users are satisfied with their investment choices and whether there are any limitations.
Once you find an investment you’re interested in, do your homework.
If it’s an individual stock, you need to understand how the company makes money and why you think it can be profitable in the future.
Most people don’t need a ton of investment options. An S&P 500 index fund is one of the most surefire ways to build wealth over time.
How Much Money Can You Make with Investing Apps?
Molly Moorhead, CFP:
To state the obvious, it depends how much you invest.
Micro-investing apps that let you round up the change on your purchases and invest that money for you won’t make you rich.
But if you can set aside a fixed amount of money every month to automatically invest in a diversified portfolio, your money will grow over time and provide you with a nice nest egg.
Robin Hartill, CFP:
Of course, your returns depend on how much you invest and what you invest in.
But keep in mind: Past results don’t guarantee future returns. Just because people made huge returns using an app to invest in an obscure crypto or hot stock doesn’t mean you should expect the same result.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. Freelance writer Sarah Li-Cain contributed to this report.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.