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Investing feels more accessible than it’s ever been.
Whether you prefer a hands-off approach or love to pour over market research and make trades — or fall somewhere in between — the right investment app can make it that much easier to reach your goals.
Editor’s rating (out of 5)
0.30% AUM fee;
0.65%-1.25% AUM fee for higher balances
|Fee-free trading and low-cost automated investing|
No AUM fee
1.25% markup on cryptocurrency
|Fee-free automated investing and active trading|
0.35% AUM fee
No fund fees
|No-frills automated investing|
|Robinhood||3.57||$0 trading||Active investing|
|Acorns||4.0||$1/month – $5/month||Beginners|
|Ellevest||4.5||$1/month – $9/month||Goal-driven investing|
|Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios||4.0|
No AUM fee;
$300 one-time + $30/month for higher balances
|Automated investing large balances|
In our search for the best investment apps, we considered what might be important to different types of investors, not the least of which is cost. You often need to spend money to make money, but it’s possible to minimize fees and still maintain a quality investment strategy.
Our list skews toward so-called robo-advisers — which use an algorithm to manage your investments — because, in many ways, they feel most accessible to average investors; fees and balance minimums are generally low and your big-picture goals can help create an individualized and diverse portfolio that doesn’t require much ongoing maintenance.
E*TRADE: Best investment app overall
Why it stands out: E*TRADE is a one-stop-shop for investing. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a beginner, you’ll find what you’re looking for. E*TRADE recently eliminated all stock and ETF trading fees and offers over 4,000 no-load, no transaction-fee mutual funds.
If you’re not interested in self-directed investments, E*TRADE’s Core Portfolios are a great option. After you fill out a risk profile to share your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance, you’ll get a recommended tax-sensitive portfolio of ETFs.
You can further customize your portfolio as “socially responsible,” which shifts your allocation to include an ETF with companies that have progressive social, environmental, and corporate practices, or “smart beta,” which favors growth stocks in an attempt to outperform the market. To start investing, you’ll need at least $500.
If you’re investing $25,000 or more, E*TRADE’s Blend, Dedicated, and Fixed Income Portfolios are worth considering. In addition to a more customized portfolio, these plans include one-on-one advising with a financial consultant.
Through E*TRADE’s two mobile apps, you can access your accounts, make trades, view charts and research, and watch Bloomberg TV.
- For the active investor: $0 stock, ETF, and options trading
- For the passive investor: 0.30% annual AUM fee for a Core Portfolio (minimum balance of $500)
- For the high net worth investor: 0.65% to 0.90% annual AUM fee for a Blend Portfolio (minimum balance of $25,000); 0.95% to 1.25% annual AUM fee for a Dedicated Portfolio (minimum balance of $150,000); 0.35% to 0.75% annual AUM fee for a Fixed Income Portfolio (minimum balance of $250,000)
Account types: Individual, joint, and custodial brokerage accounts; traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs (includes rollovers)
Look out for: While you’re able to open an account and choose a Core Portfolio with $0 down, you’ll need to fund the account with at least $500 to get started investing.
SoFi Invest: Best fee-free investment app
Why it stands out: You won’t be charged any advisory fees, stock or ETF trade fees, or subscription fees to invest with SoFi.
For those with a set-it-and-forget-it attitude, SoFi’s automated investing platform will recommend a portfolio made up of ETFs, based on your risk tolerance. Once you decide which portfolio is appropriate, you can get started investing with as little as $1.
You won’t have to bother rebalancing your portfolio since SoFi will do it for you at least once a quarter, but if your goals or overall financial situation changes, you can adjust your portfolio and even set up an appointment with a SoFi financial planner at no extra cost. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay fees to the funds you’re invested in within your portfolio.
Active investors don’t pay transaction fees when buying and selling fractional shares, stocks, or ETFs. You can also invest in cryptocurrency but SoFi charges a markup of 1.25% on those transactions.
SoFi Money (Member FDIC), a checking/savings account hybrid with a competitive interest rate, a debit card, and unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, can store money you’re not ready to invest yet.
Fees: $0 for automated investing and stock and ETF trades; 1.25% markup on crypto transactions.
Account types: Individual and joint brokerage; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs (includes rollovers)
Look out for: There are only five portfolio options available for passive investors, ranging from conservative to aggressive. Despite no advisory charges, you’ll still incur fees from the ETFs included in your portfolio.
Fidelity Go: Best investment app for hands-off investors
Why it stands out: Fidelity Go is an easy-to-understand investment app for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time or incur too many fees building wealth.
After answering a set of questions about your age, risk tolerance, and goals, a team of experts will select an appropriate portfolio made up exclusively of Fidelity Flex mutual funds, none of which charge additional management fees or fund expenses. That means you pay a flat 0.35% advisory fee, regardless of what you invest in.
You only need $10 to get started investing, and the professionals behind Fidelity Go — not an algorithm — will rebalance your portfolio periodically. You can change your investment strategy at any time from seven different allocations ranging from conservative to aggressive.
Fees: 0.35% annual AUM fee
Account types: Individual and joint brokerage accounts; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs (includes rollovers)
Look out for: There is customer support, but no option to connect with a human adviser one-on-one for financial planning. No tax-loss harvesting, which can be especially valuable for higher balances. Investments are limited to Fidelity Flex mutual funds, which may be limiting.
Robinhood: Best investment app for active investors
Why it stands out: Robinhood is as simple as a commission-free trading app can be. Investors can buy and sell US-exchange listed stocks and ETFs (and fractional shares of both), options, and cryptocurrency without paying any fees. The minimum amount required to invest is just $1, but you need at least $25,000 in your account to day trade.
For access to larger instant deposits, research reports from Morningstar, and NASDAQ market data, investors can upgrade to Robinhood Gold for a 30-day free trial and then $5 a month after that. The membership includes up to $50,000 in instant deposits, plus $1,000 of margin and a 5% interest charge on any excess margin used.
Robinhood also has a no-fee, high-yield cash management account, which comes with a debit card and up to $1.25 million in FDIC insurance.
Fees: $0 for daily trading of stocks, ETFs, options, and crypto; $5 for Robinhood Gold membership
Account types: Individual brokerage
Look out for: Robinhood has faced intensified public scrutiny throughout the coronavirus-induced market chaos. The New York Times reported that the app’s gamelike interface encourages young and inexperienced investors to take too-big risks, often through “behavioral nudges and push notifications.” After the suicide of a 20-year-old user who expressed confusion about the negative six-figure balance in his account after a complex options transaction, Robinhood announced a slew of changes, like adding more educational content around sophisticated options trading and hiring a specialist to assist users.
Acorns: Best investment app for beginners
Why it stands out: A “micro-investing account” that lets you build your stake in the market a few cents and dollars at time, Acorns is one of the most approachable investment apps available.
Portfolios are built around Modern Portfolio Theory to help investors achieve maximum returns at an appropriate risk level. As such, there are five pre-built portfolios, ranging from conservative to aggressive risk tolerance. Each includes up to seven ETFs from companies like BlackRock and Vanguard and is automatically rebalanced to maintain proper asset allocation.
When you link your debit or credit card, Acorns will automatically round up each purchase to the nearest dollar and invest the unspent change in your portfolio. Through Acorns Found Money, an additional percentage of each purchase at select brands, including Walmart, Nike, and Airbnb, will be deposited into your investment account. It’s like cash back, but the money goes directly toward your investments.
For most people, those round-ups and additional retailer contributions don’t add up to much, however, so we’d recommend supplementing with direct or recurring transfers to get the most out of Acorns.
- Acorns Lite: $1/month for a brokerage account ($5 minimum to start investing)
- Acorns Personal: $3/month for a brokerage account, IRA, and checking account with debit card ($5 minimum to start investing)
- Acorns Family: $5/month for a brokerage account, IRA, investment account for kids (UTMA/UGMA), and checking account with debit card ($5 minimum to start investing)
*Note that Acorns recently restructured its subscription tiers, eliminating the $2 a month option. If you signed up for a $2 a month account prior to May 20, 2020, you will continue to pay that fee unless you change plans.
Account types: Individual brokerage account; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs; individual checking account
Look out for: Acorns isn’t as customizable as some of the other automated investing platforms. If you’re looking to create your own portfolio so you can invest in specific companies or sectors, this investment app probably isn’t right for you. Also, the monthly subscription fees may not seem high, but they could represent a hefty portion of your assets if you keep a small balance.
Ellevest: Best investment app for goal-driven investing
Why it stands out: Ellevest encourages you to build an investment philosophy around your goals, whether that’s starting a business, having kids, splurging on a vacation or other big purchase, buying a home, retiring on time, or simply building wealth.
Then, this female-forward online adviser takes it a step further and considers your gender, lifespan, and earning potential to create a custom portfolio of mostly ETFs. You can also opt for a socially responsible allocation, if that’s important to you.
As a fiduciary, Ellevest automatically rebalances and regularly updates your performance forecast, taking into consideration fees, taxes, and the occasional market crisis to show you whether you’re on track to meet each of your goals — and what you can do to make up for it if you’re not. The app also provides financial and career coaching and workshops — both within the membership offerings and à la carte — and most recently, banking accounts.
Ellevest recently changed its pricing model and now charges a monthly membership fee ranging from $1 month to $9 a month. There are no additional investment advisory fees on top of the monthly membership, but there are underlying fees charged by the ETFs in your portfolio.
- Ellevest Essential: $1/month for a brokerage account, a no-fee checking account with a debit card, a no-fee savings account, and 20% off financial and career coaching sessions.
- Ellevest Plus: $5/month for everything included in Ellevest Essential, plus access to retirement planning specialists and help with account rollovers and 30% of coaching sessions.
- Ellevest Executive: $9/month for everything included in Ellevest Plus, in addition to up to six customized investment accounts for different goals, 50% of coaching sessions.
Investment account types: Individual brokerage; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs (includes rollovers); checking and savings accounts.
What to look out for: You’ll have to spring for the higher-tier offerings if you want more specific guidance for your goals beyond “build wealth.” Ellevest does not offer automated tax-loss harvesting, which can be valuable for investors with higher balances. As with any investment app that charges monthly fees rather than per-account advisory fees, it’s important to note how much of your balance they represent.
Charles Schwab: Best investment app for auto-investing large balances
Why it stands out: You’ll find any type of investment you’re looking for at Charles Schwab, from self-directed stock trading to mutual funds to retirement accounts, but it’s the Schwab Intelligent Portfolio, the brokerage’s robo-adviser, that ultimately outshines competitors.
The Premium version requires a minimum investment balance of $25,000, but combines automated investing with ongoing financial planning. Your risk tolerance profile will help experts design a custom portfolio of Schwab ETFs that will be rebalanced regularly. All portfolios include a cash allocation, which is deposited in a Schwab high-yield account. A free add-on feature called Schwab Intelligent Income can help you generate a monthly paycheck from your brokerage or retirement accounts.
You’ll pay an initial planning fee of $300 to meet with a certified financial planner and a flat $30 a month for ongoing guidance whenever you need it, but no asset under management fee. Once your balance reaches $50,000, free tax-loss harvesting is available.
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There are also comprehensive online financial planning tools available that let you to link up various accounts to track your progress toward goals and forecast different scenarios on your own.
- Schwab Intelligent Portfolio: $0 advisory fee, but requires a minimum balance of $5,000 and does not include financial planner access
- Schwab Intelligent Portfolio Premium: $300 one-time financial planning fee and then $30 a month (minimum balance of $25,000)
Account types: Individual, joint, custodial brokerage accounts; Traditional, Roth, SEP, SIMPLE, and rollover IRAs; trust accounts.
Look out for: Minimum balance requirements disable anyone with less than $5,000 from investing in Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. As with any investment, you’re responsible for paying the underlying fees in the ETFs in your portfolio.
Others we considered and why they didn’t make the cut
- Betterment: Betterment comes up short on financial planning tools available to the average investor and its advisory fee increases for account balances of $100,000 or more.
- Wealthfront: Wealthfront combines financial planning tools and robo-investing for a flat 0.25% advisory fee, but it also requires a $500 minimum balance to start investing, whereas Fidelity requires $10 and doesn’t charge underlying ETF fees.
- M1: A good option for active or passive investors who want fee-free trading, fractional share investing, or custom portfolio building, but its research and guidance is not as intuitive or robust as some of the others.
- Wealthsimple: This investment app may be ideal for passive investors who want to invest in socially responsible companies, but the options are limited to three portfolios and the advisory fee is higher than competitors at 0.50% for balances under $100,000.
- TD Ameritrade: An incredibly research-rich investment app that recently slashed all trading fees, TD Ameritrade has a lot to offer, but its AUM fee for Essential Portfolios — its robo-adviser — is slightly higher than Wealthfront with the same investment minimum.
- Stash: Stash bundles a checking account, retirement accounts, and investments accounts together through a subscription model. It does make investing more accessible through fractional shares and customizable portfolios, but there are more cost-effective options for beginners.
- Ally Invest: This bank offers commission-free trading, but for portfolio investing there’s a 0.30% advisory fee unless you keep at least 30% of your holdings in cash at all times.
- Vanguard: An undeniable leader in investing, Vanguard is a worthy competitor to E*TRADE and a few other stalwarts, but it doesn’t have as many clear options for passive investors who want to create a portfolio to match their goals, and its investment minimums are relatively high.
- Stockpile: A fine option if you want to invest in small amounts to start, but trades cost $0.99.
- Merrill Edge: A convenient option for Bank of America users, but the lowest tier of managed portfolios command an annual fee between 0.30% and 0.45% on a minimum balance of $5,000.
Why trust our recommendations?
Personal Finance Insider’s mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that “best” is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product, we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don’t have to.
How did we chose the best investment apps?
People may have varying risk capacities and financial goals they’re working toward, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t prefer a cheaper way to invest. For that reason, cost was a huge factor in determining our list.
To find the best investment apps, we set out to identify the companies that offer platforms that keep fees to a minimum (generally below 0.50% of assets under management, or AUM, for balances under $100,000) and offer a high-quality experience. In some cases, that means access to free financial planning tools — or financial planners themselves — and clear and easy-to-understand investment options.
We compared nearly two dozen brokerages, placing heavy weighting on their advisory and trading fees, investment philosophy, investment options, and types of accounts available. User experience is also important, so we also looked at each brokerage’s accompanying mobile app and scoured reviews on the Apple Store and Google Play to find out what regular users think of the product.
Finally, we cross-referenced our research against popular comparison sites like Bankrate, the Balance, and NerdWallet to make sure we didn’t miss a thing.
What is the best investment app for beginners?
In most cases, the best investment app for beginners is a robo-adviser that customizes a portfolio for you based on your goals and risk tolerance while keeping costs low, such as Fidelity, Acorns, or Ellevest. If you’re just starting out investing, we don’t recommend trading individual stocks and funds, unless you have guidance from an expert or a high capacity for risk.
What is the best free investment app?
SoFi Invest is a fee-free investment app accommodating both passive and active investors. There are no transaction fees on stock and ETF trades and no advisory fees for portfolio management. Investing through SoFi also gives you access to a financial planner at no additional charge. Keep in mind that you will pay fees to the funds you’re invested in within your portfolio.
Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is a candidate for the CFP® certification.
Disclosure: TD Ameritrade is a partner of Insider, Inc.’s business development team, which is separate from its editorial department. We may receive a commission if you open an account.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.
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