If you are a new investor, you might be intimidated by the number of options available for online trading. After all, there are many trading platforms that provide different benefits to traders. How can you decide which one is the best choice for you?
Some stock brokers offer educational materials to introduce new investors to the basics of the stock market, while other stock trading platforms let you jump into the deep end. Either way, you definitely don’t want to pick a trading platform before understanding what opportunities it holds.
There are many online trading platforms available to newcomers. However, If you don’t know where to start with stock trading, or you want to learn what each platform has to offer before you open a brokerage account, here is a guide that will familiarize you with some of the best online stock brokers and help you choose the right trading platform.
What Is a Stock Broker?
Stocks (or shares) are securities that give stockholders proportional ownership over a corporation’s assets and earnings. If you want to invest in stocks, you need to find the right trading platform to be able to buy and sell stocks. These are known as stock brokers, trading platforms that facilitate the exchange of securities such as stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Stock brokers are sometimes referred to as brokerages, too.
The first step to buying and trading stocks is to open a brokerage account at a stock broker. Once you have a brokerage account on a trading platform, you can buy and sell stocks. Stock brokers charge you commissions and fees for the service.
Are There Different Types of Online Stock Brokers?
There are different types of stock brokers that offer different services and fee schedules. The two main types of stock brokers that you can find online are discount brokers and full-service brokers.
Discount brokers are online stock broker platforms for buying and selling securities. These online brokerage firms don’t have offices or person-to-person interactions, but most do offer customer support for troubleshooting. Users are in charge of their investments, though they can take advantage of the platform’s useful features for directing their trades.
Some discount brokers offer commission-free stock trading but might charge a certain fee for their services. Others have lower commission rates compared to full-service brokers, so they are still often preferred. In a nutshell, discount brokers are the best stock trade platforms for new investors thanks to their cheap prices.
If you want to take advantage of discount brokers’ low commission rates, you should educate yourself on the basics of trading securities. There are trading platforms that offer their own educational resources, but there are also many guides online that you can benefit from.
Full-service brokers are more traditional than online brokers. These brokerage firms have brick-and-mortar locations to offer in-person services, such as investment advice and financial planning. True to their name, full-service brokers provide a wide range of services for their customers, though their prices are much steeper. Corporations and big investors often work with full-service brokers.
Full-service brokerage firms employ professional stock traders that help customers manage their investment portfolios. Thanks to the proliferation of online brokers and the increased competition on the market, even full-service brokers have relatively cheaper prices compared to the past. Still, a full-service broker might be too costly for new investors.
What Type of Stockbroker Is the Best Option for You?
For most new investors, picking a low-cost online broker is the best option to start investing in financial products. You can open a trading account at a discount broker and quickly start commission-free trading. Most online trading platforms offer a wide range of financial products and built-in trading tools that help customers learn the basics of trading as well.
How to Choose the Best Online Broker
There are some important factors to consider when choosing an online trading platform. The best trading platforms offer low-cost fee structures, multiple financial goods, different trading options, and high-quality customer service. We consider user-friendly interface and educational resources as important metrics as well, especially for new investors.
Here is a detailed rundown of the most important factors to take into consideration that will help you find the best online stock broker suited to your specific needs.
Compliance With Official Regulations
Unlike crypto markets, traditional financial goods and services are heavily regulated to ensure the security of customers. Different countries have different regulations and organizations in charge of overseeing the conduct of trading platforms and brokerage firms. For example, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is responsible for protecting the fairness of the securities market in the US. In Australia, the responsibility rests with ASIC, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (not to be confused with ASIC cryptocurrency miners).
It’s a good idea to pick an online trading platform that is regulated by ASIC, as regulations ensure that these companies provide the best protection for your funds.
Variety of Assets Offered by the Online Trading Platform
It’s important to pick a stock broker that allows you to invest and trade in the asset class of your choosing. Some stock brokers allow you to trade only in individual stocks, but that can be a research- and time-intensive option. If you are eager to explore the many opportunities provided by trading securities, you should pick a trading platform that offers trading opportunities for multiple assets such as stocks, exchange traded funds (ETFs), CFDs, cryptocurrencies, and Forex.
If you are more interested in building a long-term investment portfolio, a trading platform that offers individual stocks can be a good choice. However, if you want to explore day trading in order to make a profit, a trading platform that offers CFDs and cryptocurrencies will suit you better.
Trading Platform Fees and Trading Commissions
Online brokers have different fees for different financial products and services. For example, most online brokers offer commission-free trading for the stock market and ETF trades, but they might charge commissions for CFDs, mutual funds, options trading, and Forex trading.
Some trading platforms charge fixed investment fees for stocks and ETFs, both for the buying and selling of assets. Some online trading platforms also charge a percentage-based annual fee.
If you want to trade CFDs and Forex, you generally pay a variable commission to the platform based on how much you are trading. Since CFDs and Forex are both leveraged products, trading platforms also charge overnight fees for keeping your positions open from day to day. If you want to keep your trades open for more than a day, trading platforms charge a percentage-based commission.
Finally, most trading platforms charge an inactivity fee. If you have an account balance that you don’t use, you might end up paying fees when you decide to start trading again. Active traders don’t have to worry about an inactivity fee.
Some online brokers require a minimum deposit before you can open a brokerage account. Minimum deposit amounts are lower on online trading platforms compared to traditional platforms and there are several online brokers that don’t have account minimums.
Trading Tools and Features
If you are looking to open a simple investing account, you don’t have to look for complicated trading tools to open an online brokerage account. However, if you want to explore more complex trading and investment strategies, picking the right trading platform is of paramount importance.
A good online broker can help you learn about building and maintaining your portfolio, and support you to make good financial decisions. These trading platforms have multiple tools that are beneficial for both active traders and new investors. For example, you can buy fractions of expensive stocks to diversify your portfolio if you’re on a tighter budget on a trading platform that supports fractional shares.
Many trading platforms employ robo-advisors. Robo-advisors can take the pressure off of you, and trade in your stead based on your specific financial goals.
The best trading platforms provide trading tools like charting and research tools for you to manage your own trading accounts. Many trading platforms offer real-time pricing charts, automated technical analysis, and automated investment advice.
Another important feature to look for is the availability of educational materials suited to the needs of new investors, such as guides and webinars.
Most online brokers accept debit and credit card deposits, but some of them only accept deposits from bank accounts. Deposits from bank accounts might take a couple of days to appear in your trading account balance.
Mobile App Availability
Mobile trading is becoming the norm as technology advances. There are trading platforms that offer mobile apps that allow you to make trades on the go. Mobile platforms are very convenient and are perfect for traders who don’t want to spend hours in front of their computers.
Trading platforms that offer live chat customer services are the best. Troubleshooting through phone support and email might take hours or days – precious time for traders.
These are some of the most important factors to think about when picking an online trading platform. If you are a new investor or trader, picking an online brokerage firm that fulfills all these recommendations will definitely help you trade securely at a lower cost.
What Is the Best Online Trading Site for Beginners?
While there are many good trading platforms suited to new investors with limited trading experience, you have to be based in the United States to be able to access most of them. These include famous platforms such as E*Trade, Robinhood, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade.
There is no need to worry, though, as you are still in good hands if you are outside of the US and in Australia.
eToro is a popular online broker for both traditional assets and more advanced instruments, including digital assets. There are some great online trading platforms that offer low fee structures and great trading options for new investors, but eToro combines both of these benefits and thus, it’s our top pick as the best trading site for beginners.
eToro offers a great variety of assets from stocks to ETFs and cryptocurrencies. You can also trade CFDs with Forex. You are not charged commissions for your trades or required to pay a maintenance fee, while the deposit fees are minor.
You can take advantage of eToro’s copy portfolios feature to make investment decisions without stressing over research. You can also copy the trades and strategies of other active traders thanks to its Copy Trader Tool.
eToro accepts deposits from bank accounts, credit and debit cards, and online payment processors such as PayPal.
This is an ASIC-regulated, commission-free trading platform where you can trade stocks, ETFs, and digital assets along with other markets. Plus, it has an intuitive, user-friendly interface and it’s the perfect choice for beginners thanks to its copy tools.
eToro doesn’t provide technical analysis tools suited to more experienced traders, but if you don’t have a lot of trading experience, you don’t need to worry about that.
A Few Words Before You Go…
Decisions regarding personal finance can be hard, especially when there are so many options on the market. However, whether you are seeking to become an active trader or simply looking to open an individual retirement account (IRA), you need to open an account at a reputable and secure trading platform. We offered a small guide on how online trading platforms work in order to explain the important features in picking a good online broker. eToro is a commission-free and user-friendly trading platform for investing and trading assets that all beginners can take advantage of.