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How to buy stocks online

A step by step guide to buy and sell stocks online through a broker.

There are very few barriers to setting up your own stock trading account and making trades online yourself, and you’ve got more online brokers available than ever to choose from. While buying and selling stocks online can seem intimidating at first, the process is straightforward.

How to buy stocks online in 5 easy steps

  1. Choose an online stock trading platform. Choose from our Top Picks below, use our comparison table or jump straight to the best stock trading apps of 2023.
  2. Sign up for an account. Provide your personal information and sign up.
  3. Set up a funding method to pay for the transaction. Deposit funds into your account by linking your banking information.
  4. Choose the stocks you want to buy. Search for the stock by name or ticker symbol.
  5. Place your order. Buy the stock. It’s that simple.

Buying stocks online at a glance

  • Buying stocks online is simple and quick and can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Compare investment options, fees and features of different brokers to narrow down your search. You may ultimately need to open an account with several brokers to see which is right for you.
  • Online brokers employ professional-level security measures to keep your personal information and financial information secure.

Finder exclusive bonus with eToro

  • Get a guaranteed bonus of $25 when you sign up and deposit $100
  • $0 stock trading fee
  • Winner for Best Trading Platform for Beginners

Step 1: Choose an online stock trading platform

Big brokers Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and E-Trade still dominate the trading and investing scene, with client assets exceeding a staggering $13.5 trillion as of 2023. But they’re not the only brokers worth considering. Finder reviews at least 18 brokers to help readers understand where each stock trading platform shines and falls short. The point is, you’ve got options.

The increasing competition over the past few decades has transformed the way everyday investors access the stock market — and it’s been for the better. Today’s traders and investors have access to a lengthy list of user-friendly platforms that offer convenient, uncomplicated access to the market, and it’s greatly driven down costs.

Our top picks for where to buy stocks online

Best for beginners

  • Min. deposit: $0
  • Stock trade fee: $0
  • Sign up bonus: Get up to $1,000 in stock when you fund a new account within 30 days

Best for options trading

  • Min. deposit: $0
  • Stock trade fee: $0
  • Sign up bonus: Get $100-$5,000 when you open an account with $5,000 to $1,000,000+

Best for social investing

  • Min. deposit: $0
  • Stock trade fee: $0
  • Sign up bonus: [FINDER EXCLUSIVE] Get a $25 bonus when you sign up and deposit $100

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. If a broker is unable to verify your information, you may be asked to submit proof of ID.

A photo of matthewmiczulski

Matt's tip on signing up with a broker

You are not confined to just one broker. If you're between two investing platforms and can't decide, open an account with both! This will not only let you take advantage of multiple sign-up bonuses (if available) but will also let you enjoy the benefits and features each broker has to offer.

— Matt Miczulski, Editor, Investments.

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” or “instant buying power,” which let trade up to a certain amount 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

How do you choose the best stocks to buy?

A good place to start is with an industry that interests you, and then explore the different companies in that space. Identify the industry’s biggest companies and key players, along with 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 may be a good investment at this time.

At the end of the day, you should perform as much in-depth research as possible until you’re comfortable investing.

Step 5: Place your order

With a stock in mind and funding in place, it’s time to invest. But before you buy any stocks, 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 share trading, you no longer need to pay the entire share price to invest. Fractional shares lets you invest much smaller dollar amounts in a stock — $1 with many brokers — instead of having to buy whole shares. Not every broker offers this feature.

How many stocks should I purchase?

The ideal number of stocks for your portfolio depends on your investment goals and level of desired diversification. Renowned value investor Benjamin Graham put this number between 10 and 30 stocks. New investors may hold fewer stocks, while experienced traders may feel comfortable monitoring a wider range of securities.

Types of stock orders

There are two main ways to buy stocks online: placing a market order or placing a conditional order.

  • Market orders. Place a market order when you want to buy a stock immediately at the best price currently available. If you’re buying shares of a volatile stock, the price at which your order is executed can be different (higher or lower) than the last traded price.
  • Conditional orders. Place a conditional order, such as a limit order or stop order, when you want a stock to meet specific conditions before you invest. For instance, a limit buy lets you set a maximum purchase price for your order. If that price becomes available within your specified time, the broker executes your trade. But if the condition is never met, your order will go unexecuted.

Once you’ve entered your transaction specifics, including the type of order you’d like to execute and the number of shares you’d like to purchase, submit the order.

WATCH: How to Buy Stocks Online: Step-by-Step Guide

How do I choose the right stock trading app for me?

  • Compare features. Consider your investing experience and what features are important to you, along with the stock trading app platform’s ease-of-use.
  • Compare fees. Most brokers no longer charge a stock trading fee, but some still charge commissions for other investment products. Other fees to consider are inactivity fees, paper statement fees and fees to transfer your account to another broker. Pretty much any fee for doing business.
  • Tradable securities. Most brokers offer at least stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Bigger brokers like Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab and Interactive Brokers have the largest lineup of investment options, while newcomer brokers like SoFi Invest and eToro offer a more simple lineup of stocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrency.
  • Research tools. Online brokers usually offer charts, market news, real-time quotes and research tools to some extant to help you analyze companies to find potential investment opportunities.
  • Customer support. The best online brokers offer accessible and prompt customer support for when you’ve got a question about your account or are unsure about a particular platform feature.

What about using a robo-advisor?

If you want to buy stocks online but would rather outsource portfolio management than do it yourself, then a robo-advisor might be an option. Robo-advisors use algorithms to automatically invest in ETFs of stocks and bonds according to your investing experience, risk tolerance and timeline. This passive investing approach can save you time and worry, as you don’t need to research stocks and can take the emotion out of investing and managing your portfolio.

How much does it cost to buy stocks online?

The cost to buy stocks depends on each specific trading platform. Some online brokerages like SoFi Invest, Robinhood and Public charge no commissions to trade stocks while others require a minim deposit just to open a trading account. Before Robinhood pioneered commission-free stock trading, brokers charged anywhere from $5-to-$10 per trade.

But the overall cost to buy stocks online will include both trading costs and account fees. The best online trading apps charge no commissions and the fewest miscellaneous fees.

What happens after I buy a stock?

Once the broker executes your order, you’re a shareholder. Now just follow your investing plan.

The typical buy-and-hold investor holds on to stocks in the hopes that the shares will eventually increase in value. They may hold a stock for months or years before they decide to sell it — hopefully at a profit.

Active traders, on the other hand, may offload a stock quickly. Specifically, day traders engage in intraday trading, which involves buying and selling a stock over a single trading day. The aim here is to take advantage of sudden changes in a stock’s price. This type of trading is complex, fast-paced and requires a comprehensive understanding of the market. It’s not a suitable trading strategy for beginners.

Ultimately, what you do with the assets in your portfolio depends on your investment goals, strategy and risk tolerance. Make sure to check in occasionally on your investments to track their performance and ensure your portfolio still aligns with your investment goals.

When should I sell my stocks?

The process of selling your stocks is equally as important as buying them. But not every investor follows the same playbook.

Some experts say you should consider selling your stocks if the company’s fundamentals change for the worse or if the competitive landscape changes. For instance, you may decide to sell your stock in a company whose earnings continue to steadily decrease or whose performance has dramatically weakened compared to industry peers. Another reason to sell might be that you need the money for a more attractive investment.

In an ideal situation, investors want to sell at the point in time in which it will be most profitable. But timing the market is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, and can be costly. This is why it’s important to develop a strategy and stick to it.

What are the benefits of buying stocks online?

  • Lower fees and faster trades. Online trading is cheaper and faster than broker-assisted trades, which can cost upwards of $25 per trade.
  • Convenience. Sign up for an account in minutes and trade from your phone, laptop or anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Complimentary research and trading tools. Many online brokers provide free educational resources and research tools that can help you better understand the markets and investing.
  • Real-time updates. Monitor asset prices, stock market news and your portfolio from your phone, tablet or laptop.

Is it safe to buy stocks online?

Generally speaking, yes, it’s safe to buy stocks online. Most online trading platforms employ safety measures like 24/7 infrastructure monitoring and two-factor authentication as standard protocols along with maintaining a membership or good standing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). But, like with anything on the internet, there are still some things to watch out for:

  • Technical problems. Your ability to trade and invest depends on the underlying platform, its software and its servers. If you can’t access your account because of a server outage, you could miss an opportunity to buy or incur losses if you can’t sell.
  • Security concerns. Hackers constantly target online brokers, and a breach could result in the theft of personal and financial information.
  • Making rash investment decisions. Emotional investing and unfettered access to the market can lead to impulse trading, which can be costly. Traders can also get caught up in the excitement of fast-moving markets, investing too much too quickly and without first taking the proper time to understand the stock.

Compare more online stock trading platforms

1 - 6 of 6
Name Product Ratings Available asset types Minimum deposit Stock trade fee Signup bonus
SoFi Invest
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi Invest
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
Get up to $1,000 in stock
when you fund a new account within 30 days.
Finder Rating: 4.75 / 5: ★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Futures
Get $100 - $5,000
when you you open and fund an account with $5,000 to $100,000+
Highly commended for Best Derivatives Trading Platform award.
Finder Rating: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
FINDER EXCLUSIVE: Get a guaranteed $25 bonus
when you sign up and deposit $100
Not available in NY, NV, MN, TN, and HI.
Finder Rating: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
Stocks, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Art, Treasury Bills, Collectibles
Get up to $300 in either stocks or crypto
when you use code FINDERUS to sign up and fund a new account.
2.5% fee applies to all alternative asset transactions.
Finder Rating: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
Get a free stock
when you successfully sign up and link your bank account.
Make unlimited commission-free trades, plus earn 5% interest on uninvested cash in your account with Robinhood Gold. Subscription fees apply.
Finder Rating: 4 / 5: ★★★★★
Stocks, ETFs
Get a $50 bonus
when you fund your first taxable Automated Investing Account.
Automated stock and bond ETF investing with the ability to trade individual stocks for as little as $1 apiece.

Paid non-client promotion. Finder does not invest money with providers on this page. If a brand is a referral partner, we're paid when you click or tap through to, open an account with or provide your contact information to the provider. Partnerships are not a recommendation for you to invest with any one company. Learn more about how we make money.

Finder is not an adviser or brokerage service. Information on this page is for educational purposes only and not a recommendation to invest with any one company, trade specific stocks or fund specific investments. All editorial opinions are our own.

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