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How to buy stocks online

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

Very few barriers stand in the way to setting up your own stock trading account and making trades online yourself. More online brokers are available than ever to choose from and the costs of trading stocks have essentially disappeared.

While buying and selling stocks online can seem intimidating at first, it’s a straightforward process you can complete in just a few steps.

How to buy stocks online in 5 easy steps

  1. Choose a broker. Consider usability, fees, available investment options and anything else that’s important to you as a trader or investor.
  2. Sign up for an account. Provide your personal information and sign up.
  3. Set up a funding method. Link a bank account or transfer assets to fund your account.
  4. Research and choose your stocks. Do your due diligence on potential stocks, considering your time horizon, risk tolerance and investing goals. Search for the stock by name or ticker symbol.
  5. Place your order. Buy the stock. It’s that simple.
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Step 1: Choose a broker

Big brokers Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab and E-Trade still dominate the trading and investing scene, with client assets exceeding a staggering $20 trillion as of 2023.(1,2,3) But they’re not the only brokers worth considering. Finder reviews at least 17 brokers to help readers understand where each stock trading platform shines and falls short. The point is, you’ve got options.

When choosing a broker to invest in stocks online, consider what’s most important for you. If you want an uncomplicated, click-to-invest type platform, a beginner-friendly broker like SoFi Invest, Cash App Investing or Acorns might be worth a look.

If advanced charts, in-depth research and analysis tools and a wider selection of tradable assets is something you’re after, any of the big brokers mentioned earlier won’t disappoint.

To help narrow down a stock trading platform, choose from our Top Picks below or use our comparison table to review brokers by available assets, minimum deposit and fees.

Most brokers let you sign up for free and without any minimum opening deposit, so there’s no harm in creating accounts with multiple brokers to get a feel for some different platforms. However, you may need a minimum deposit if you want to take advantage of a broker’s signup bonus.

Our top picks for where to buy stocks online

Best for beginners

Go to site
Commission-free stock trading
  • No-cost financial planning and automated investing
  • $0 commission on stocks, ETFs and options
  • Get up to $1,000 in stock when you fund a new account within 30 days

Top pick for new account bonus

Go to site
$200 in US stocks
  • Trade options, futures, options on futures, stocks, ETFs
  • $0 commission to close options
  • Get $100-$5,000 when you open an account with $5,000 to $1,000,000+

Top pick for interest on uninvested cash

Go to site
Easy access to diverse assets
  • Trade stocks, bonds, options, ETFs, crypto, Treasurys, collectibles, royalties
  • Earn 5.1% APY on your cash
  • Earn a $0.18 rebate on options, with no commissions and no per-contract fees

Step 2: Sign up for an account

Brokers, banks and other financial services companies follow the Know Your Client (KYC) regulatory process, which lets them 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

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 lets you trade up to a certain amount before the funds have settled.

Other funding methods include wire transfer, check deposit and account transfers from other brokers. Credit cards are typically not permitted as a brokerage account funding method.

Step 4: Choose your stocks

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 use watchlists to track potential investment opportunities. 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 though.

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.

How much does it cost to buy stocks online?

The cost to buy stocks depends on each specific trading platform. Some online brokerages like 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.

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 Webull 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.

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.

How to buy stocks online without a broker

A broker is needed to buy most stocks online, though some companies offer direct stock purchase plans. For instance, stock transfer company, Computershare, lets you new and existing shareholders purchase stocks in companies like Nike (NKE), Coca-Cola (KO) and Walmart (WMT) directly without a broker. Here’s how to buy stocks online without a broker using Computershare:

  1. Go to Computershare’s US website and select Make a stock purchase.
  2. Select a company to invest in and review that company’s direct stock purchase plan details. Select Invest Now when ready to invest.
  3. Complete the investment details by providing the frequency of your investment, amount and withdrawal schedule. Select Next.
  4. Enter personal information such as your name, Social Security number and contact information to create a new user profile. Select Next.
  5. Choose your tax status, provide your bank account information and choose a dividend reinvestment frequency.
  6. Review your information and submit

Bottom line

Buying stocks online is simple and quick and can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Look at investment options, fees and features when comparing brokers to narrow down your search. You may ultimately need to open an account with several brokers to see which is right for you.

Compare more online stock trading platforms

1 - 6 of 6
Name Product Ratings Available asset types Minimum deposit Stock trade fee Cash sweep APY Signup bonus
SoFi Invest®
Finder Score: 4.1 / 5: ★★★★★
SoFi Invest®
★★★★★
Stocks, Mutual funds, ETFs, Alternatives
$0
$0
Get up to $1,000 in stock
when you fund a new Active Invest account
Tastytrade
Finder Score: 4.6 / 5: ★★★★★
Tastytrade
★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Futures, Treasury Bills
$0
$0
N/A
Get $100-$5,000
when you open and fund an account with $5,000 to $1,000,000+
Highly commended for Best Derivatives Trading Platform award.
Public.com
Finder Score: 4.1 / 5: ★★★★★
Public.com
★★★★★
Stocks, ETFs, Cryptocurrency, Art, Treasury Bills, Collectibles
$0
$0
5.1%
N/A
2.5% fee applies to all alternative asset transactions.
Robinhood Gold
Not rated yet
Robinhood Gold
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
$0
$0
5%
N/A
Try Robinhood Gold for 30 days risk-free upon signup and earn a 5% APY on your uninvested cash, a 3% match on IRA contributions, up to $50,000 in instant deposits and more. Accounts are auto-downgraded after the trial period.
Moomoo
Finder Score: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Exclusive
Moomoo
★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs
$0
$0
5.10%
Choose a 1.5% match or 7 free fractional shares
when you open a new account and meet funding requirements
No commission stock and ETF trading, with a chance to get a 1.5% cash reward match or 7 free fractional shares.
Robinhood
Finder Score: 4.3 / 5: ★★★★★
Robinhood
★★★★★
Stocks, Options, ETFs, Cryptocurrency
$0
$0
1.5%, or 5% with Robinhood Gold
Get a free stock
when you successfully sign up and link your bank account.
Try Robinhood Gold for 30 days risk-free upon signup and earn a 5% APY on your uninvested cash, a 3% match on IRA contributions, up to $50,000 in instant deposits and more. Accounts are auto-downgraded after the trial period.
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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.

Frequently asked questions

How do I start buying stocks online?

The process to start buying stocks online is quite simple and starts with opening an account with a brokerage. With an active account, research and choose the stocks you want to buy, fund your account and place your order.

What stocks can I buy online?

All types of stocks are available online, but the access to those stocks will depend on the asset types your broker offers. For instance, US exchange-listed stocks from popular indices like the S&P 500 are available on most platforms, but not every broker offers access to over-the-counter and penny stocks or, say, foreign-listed stocks.

How do beginners start buying stocks?

Beginners can start buying stocks online by setting up an investment account with a brokerage firm. Brokers that offer fractional share trading let you invest with as little as $1 or $5.

Can I buy stocks with $100?

Yes, you can absolutely buy stocks with $100. As of August 3, 2023, at least 227 S&P 500-listed stocks traded for under $100, according to Finviz data. With fractional share trading, you can buy slices of stocks often for as little as $1.

Can I change or cancel my order?

You can change market orders any time prior to submission. Once executed, you cannot reverse a market order. Investors can change or cancel standing orders, such as a limit order, any time before the order has been filled.

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