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What is after-hours trading and how does it work?

Regular stock market hours are weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, but this isn’t the only time you can trade stocks.

After-hours trading lets investors trade outside normal market hours, but it comes with risks, such as increased price volatility and lower liquidity. If after-hours trading interests you, understand the risks and where you can do it, because not all brokers offer this feature.

What is after-hours trading?

First introduced by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1991, after-hours trading, also known as extended-hours trading, lets individuals trade stocks outside regular trading hours.(1) Regular trading hours for stocks traded on exchanges are from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. After-hours trading starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. ET. There is also a trading session before the markets open called pre-market trading. Pre-market trading hours are from 4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET.(2)

Extended-hours trading takes place when stock exchanges are closed, so orders are placed within computerized trading systems. These can include electronic communications networks (ECNs), alternative trading systems (ATSs) and exchanges with electronic trading platforms.(3)

Not all brokers offer after-hours trading, and the duration of after-hours trading can vary between brokers. Some brokers such as Robinhood, Charles Schwab and E*TRADE offer trading for select securities 24 hours a day, five days a week.

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How to trade after-hours

The process of trading after-hours varies by broker, but it’s typically similar to placing a trade with a broker during regular trading hours.

However, unlike during normal trading hours, when you can use a variety of order types, you can typically only place after-hours trades using limit orders. A limit order is an order to buy or sell a stock at a predetermined price that only executes at the limit price or lower. Other limitations include order size restrictions, lower liquidity and fewer tradable securities.

Regular market trading vs. after-hours trading

There are a few differences to consider when trading during normal business hours or after-hours trading sessions.

Regular market tradingAfter-hours trading
Trading session timesFrom 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ETFrom 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
Exchanges where trading takes placeNYSE and NasdaqECNs, ATSs or exchanges with electronic trading systems
Limits on order sizesNo limit on order sizes25,000 shares in a single order
Available order typesAll order types are availableOnly limit orders
Available securitiesMany security typesMost listed equities, including stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
Trading volumeHigher trading volumeLower trading volume

Potential risks of after-hours trading

After-hours trading can be beneficial because it offers a way to capitalize on news events outside normal trading hours and convenience for those unable to participate in the markets during regular trading hours. But after-hours trading also has unique risks to consider:

  • Variable or low liquidity. Since you’re trading after-hours, you may see less trade volume. This can increase the spread between the bid and ask — the highest price offered by buyers and the lowest price offered by sellers — and make it more difficult for orders to execute.
  • Price uncertainty. There may be a difference in security pricing before, during and after normal trading hours.
  • Lack of market orders. Only limit orders are available. If the price of the security never reaches your limit price, your trade won’t execute.

After-hours trading can make sense for certain investors and situations but not others. For example, while extended-hours trading might be convenient for investors who can’t place trades during regular market hours, day traders, who typically don’t hold positions overnight and need liquidity, may not trade after-hours.

Which brokers offer extended-hours trading?

Since not all brokers offer after-hours trading, here’s a quick comparison of where different popular brokers stand concerning this feature:

BrokerPre-market sessionAfter-hours session24/5 trading availability
Robinhood7–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ET8 p.m. ET Sunday– 8 p.m. ET Friday
SoFi Invest9–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
Fidelity Investment7–9:28 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
Charles Schwab7–9:25 a.m. ET4:05–8 p.m. ET8 p.m. ET Sunday– 8 p.m. ET Friday, only on thinkorswim
E*TRADE7–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ET8 p.m. ET Sunday– 7 a.m. ET Thursday
Public8–9:30 a.m. ET 4–8 p.m. ETNone
Moomoo4–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
tastytrade7–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
Webull4–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
eToro6:30–9:30 a.m. ET4–7 p.m. ETNone
TradeStation8–9:30 a.m. ET4–8 p.m. ETNone
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed InvestingNoneNoneNone
VanguardNone4:30–5:30 p.m. ETNone
Interactive Brokers4–9:30 a.m. ET for Pro accounts and 7–9:30 a.m. ET for Lite accounts4–8 p.m. ET8 p.m. ET Sunday– 3:50 a.m. ET Friday

Bottom line

After-hours trading offers a window for investors to trade outside of normal market hours. However, while the additional trading windows may be convenient and offer an opportunity to trade on market news outside normal trading hours, after-hours trading comes with risks. These can include price uncertainty, order restrictions and illiquidity. If you’re interested in trading after hours, review the best stock trading apps to determine which broker is right for you.

Frequently asked questions

How does after-hours trading work?

After-hours trading is a type of trading that happens after normal trading hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET. You execute trades through your broker as you normally would when placing a trade, but trades are executed on computerized trading systems versus major stock exchanges.

Who is allowed to trade after hours?

Anyone with a compatible broker can trade after hours.

Why do stocks spike after hours?

Stocks might spike after hours due to sudden market news or simply due to higher bid and ask spreads. This means since there are fewer active market participants at this time, you may have to pay larger amounts for security than normal hours.

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Written by

Editor, Investments

Matt Miczulski is an investments editor at Finder. With over 450 bylines, Matt dissects and reviews brokers and investing platforms to expose perks and pain points, explores investment products and concepts and covers market news, making investing more accessible and helping readers to make informed financial decisions. Before joining Finder in 2021, Matt covered everything from finance news and banking to debt and travel for FinanceBuzz. His expertise and analysis on investing and other financial topics has been featured on CBS, MSN, Best Company and Consolidated Credit, among others. Matt holds a BA in history from William Paterson University. See full bio

Matt's expertise
Matt has written 190 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Trading and investing
  • Broker and trading platform reviews
  • Money management
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Writer

Dhara Singh was a freelance personal finance writer at Finder specializing in loans. Formerly she was a top 10 journalist at Yahoo Finance with more than 38+ million content views where she covered retirement and mortgages. She has also written for Bankrate, and CNET and continues to write for a variety of outlets, such as Investopedia and Worth magazine. Her articles focus on equipping readers with the right information and data so they can make the most informed decisions related to their finances. Dhara previously worked as an insights analyst for Finder’s PR team, where she started the Deadliest Cities to Drive series in 2018, connecting interesting data analysis to a suite of car insurance products. When she’s not writing, Dhara coaches small business owners through her Stories to Sales programs and empowers them to use their life experiences to help other people. She has also self-published a poetry book on Amazon called Tell her She’s Lovely. Dhara holds a B.S. in Finance and Supply Chain Management from Rutgers University and a M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. See full bio

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