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How to buy stocks online

Our step-by-step guide on how to buy stocks online with the best stock trading apps on the market.

Step 1: Choose an online stock trading platform

With so many options in the market right now, we’ve narrowed it down to our top selection and laid out the most important features for you to compare.

Our top picks for where to buy stocks online

Best for beginners

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Get up to $1,000 in stock
  • No-cost financial planning and automated investing
  • Trade stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, alternative asset funds
  • $0 commission on stocks, ETFs and options, with no options contract fees

Top pick for advanced traders

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Get up to $5,000 cash
  • Trade options, futures, options on futures, stocks, ETFs
  • $0 commission to close options
  • Pro-grade platform and risk analysis tools

Our pick for cash sweep

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Advanced charts and trading tools
  • Trade stocks, ETFs and equity options without commission and $0 option contract fees
  • Earn up to 8.1% APY on your uninvested cash
  • Get a 1.5% match in cash on transferred assets up to $300 or up to 15 free fractional shares worth between $2 and $2,000

Compare more stock trading apps

1 - 5 of 5
Name Product Ratings Available asset types Minimum deposit Cash sweep APY Signup bonus
SoFi Invest®
Finder Score: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi Invest®
★★★★★
Stocks, Mutual funds, ETFs, Alternatives
$0
0.02%
Get up to $1,000 in stock
Commission-free stocks, ETFs and options, with no options per-contract fees. Plus, a no-cost robo-advisor and complimentary access to certified financial planners (CFPs).
Tastytrade
Finder Score: 4.4 / 5: ★★★★★
Tastytrade
★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Futures, Treasury Bills
$0
N/A
Get $50-$5,000
Competitive, capped options commissions, with a reliable trading platform designed for serious traders.
Moomoo
Finder Score: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Exclusive
Moomoo
★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs
$0
Up to 8.10%
Choose a 1.5% match or up to 15 free fractional shares
No commission stock, ETF and options trades, with $0 equity options contract fees, low margin rates and advanced trading tools.
Public.com
Finder Score: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
Public.com
★★★★★
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Alternatives, Treasury Bills, High-yield cash account
$0
5.1%
Get up to $10,000 and transfer fees covered
Build a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, crypto and alternative assets, with a high-yield cash account and options contract rebates.
Interactive Brokers
Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Interactive Brokers
★★★★★
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual funds, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Futures, Forex, Treasury Bills
$0
3.83% Lite
4.83% Pro
N/A
Zero commission stock and ETF trades, with global market access and pro-grade trading tools.
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How do I choose the right stock trading app for me?

  • Compare features. Think about your level of trading experience and what kind of features are important to you, along with the platform’s ease-of-use.
  • Compare fees. While most brokers don’t charge a stock trading fee, some charge extra for specialized investment products. High-value trades are often charged as a percentage of the total trade value, rather than a fixed fee.
  • Tradable securities. Most brokers offer at least stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Big brokers like Interactive Brokers have the largest lineup of investment options, while newcomer brokers like SoFi® and eToro offer a more simple lineup of stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrency.
  • Research tools. Online brokers usually offer market news, updates and other research tools that will let you investigate the trading history of individual stocks.
  • Customer support. How fast can you get a hold of customer support if you’re having an issue with your investment? The quality of customer support and the ease at which you can contact them is no less important than fees or research tools.

Step 2: Sign up for an account

Brokers, banks and other financial services companies follow a regulatory process known as Know Your Client (KYC), which is a process to verify the identity and other credentials of customers. When you’re applying for a brokerage account, you’re taking part in the KYC process.
Opening an account with an online trading platform is painless and usually takes just a few minutes. While the exact format will vary from broker to broker it must adhere to KYC standards: provide personal information to verify your identity and answer a handful of questions about your investing experience and goals.
Personal information you can expect to provide include:

  • Your name, address and contact details
  • Your date of birth
  • Your Social Security number
  • Proof of ID
  • Employment information

Most brokers use an automatic KYC process, which means your application will often be approved instantly or within a few minutes. Occasionally, a broker may need some time to verify your information. If they can’t, they may ask you to submit proof of ID to verify you are who you say you are.

Step 3: Set up a funding method to pay for the transaction

While you can open an account with most brokers without a minimum deposit, you can’t trade until you have sufficient funds in your account to cover the cost of the transaction.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to link your bank account and transfer funds electronically via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. ACH transfers take between one to three business days to complete, but some brokers offer a feature called instant deposits, which allow you to trade before the funds have settled.
Other funding methods include wire transfer, check deposit and account transfers from other brokerage accounts. Credit cards are typically not permitted as a brokerage account funding method.

Step 4: Choose the stocks you want to buy

A good place to start is with an industry that interests you and then explore the different companies in that space. Identify key players and young companies with potential for growth but also figure out which companies are falling, or have fallen, out of favor. If you want to follow a Warren Buffett saying, “never invest in a business you cannot understand.”
Tools like stock screeners can help you narrow down stocks by sector, industry, price range and more. Search for companies by name or ticker symbol, and if you’re on the fence about a purchase, add the stock to your watchlist to keep an eye on its performance. Analyst research reports can give you valuable insight into companies and guidance as to whether a particular company is a good investment.

Step 5: Place your order

With a stock in mind and funding in place, it’s almost time to invest. But before you buy any shares, you should know how much money you want to invest in any particular stock.
Consider your budget, investment goals and your overall portfolio allocation. With the advent of fractional shares, you no longer need the entire share price to invest. Fractional share trading lets you invest specific dollar amounts in a stock instead of having to buy whole shares. Though not every broker offers this feature.

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Written by

Kliment Dukovski

Kliment Dukovski was a personal finance writer at Finder, specializing in investments and cryptocurrency. He's written more than 700 articles to help readers compare the best trading platforms, understand complex investment terms and find the best credit cards for their needs. His expert commentary has been featured in such digital publications as Fox Business, MSN Money and MediaFeed. He’s also well-versed in money transfers, home loans and more — breaking down these topics into simple concepts anyone can understand. In another life, Kliment ghostwrote guides and articles on foreign exchange, stock market trading and cryptocurrencies. See full profile

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