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Finding an Online Brokerage App That Helps You Invest Smarter

Choosing an online investment platform is not a decision you should be taking lightly. As any investor knows, the right app can help you turn a substantial profit, make intelligent trade decisions, and save you from catastrophic choices that lead to significant losses. So, what goes into a good quality investment application? Below, we've listed several of the key features that a service needs in order to rank as a top quality online investment app, so have a look and learn a thing or two about buying stocks online.

Research and Education

Whether you know a lot about trading in the stock market or not, research is a must. In fact, the more you begin to learn, the more you understand that looking into the common trends, social signals, and market fluctuations is imperative to making good trade decisions. How much research an investment app allows and assists you with will make the difference between smart trading decisions and anything less than that. Since this will heavily influence your overall investment experience, investors should put a lot of weight into the research factor of an investment service.

Look into what types of research platforms and information a service offers. Search out reports (where are they getting the reports, how many reports are provided?). TD Ameritrade is an excellent example of what investors can do with the right research tools. This app offers members equity social, equity metric, equity reports, social comparisons, and metrics, along with ETF and mutual fund reports. TD Ameritrade’s social trends indicators include brand-relevant tweets and most tweeted brands, and its peer comparison charts are something that you won’t find anywhere else. Fidelity also has excellent research tools for investors.

Education is equally important, particularly if you are new to the trading markets. If you’re just starting out, seek out platforms like Acorn that provide in-depth educational materials and resources such as terminology dictionaries, help videos, and trading resources that explain what moves you can make and why or when to make them. These tools will allow you to make educated decisions based on knowledge of the industry, rather than whims.

Customer Service

Customer service is important for most software you buy, but it is particularly crucial for an investment platform that could impact your livelihood. After all, if you can’t figure out a feature on your photo editing app or your video streaming site stops streaming temporarily, not too much damage will be done.

This is not the case with an online investment application. Even a moment’s glitch in the system can result in significant repercussions that could amount to major losses or missed opportunities in trading deals. So, a good customer service staff is imperative.

Choose a trading service that offers courteous, knowledgeable, and available customer service staff. TD Ameritrade is known for exceptional phone service. Available 24/7, these representatives are friendly and know what they’re talking about. Betterment and Charles Schwab also offer ever-ready customer support staff.


For many, trading is not an enjoyable pastime, and the less they have to deal with their options the happier they are. That’s why many online investment platforms offer automation tools that will take care of the trading, analysis, and distribution without any input from a human being (least of which, the account owner). Bots will make calculations, corrections, and decisions based on market trends, social cues, and other indications that are designated when you sign up for an account. Automation is the ideal feature for anyone who doesn’t know enough about the stock market or doesn’t have an interest in participating in the behind the scenes, nitty gritty, hard number crunching aspects of the business.

A few services on the market stand out for this feature. Acorn is a little guy in the industry, but it also helps the little guys get a foot up in this niche. Offering free management for college students, Acorn takes your savings and invests it in the most practical and profitable ways possible for your financial situation. Betterment does it one better by factoring in all of your various financial indicators and choosing the best trade options for you. It even includes taxes! Finally, WealthFront has a set and forget feature that literally takes care of everything from A to Z.

Trade Costs

Pricing will fluctuate depending on the kinds of trades you make and the services you require. One thing worth noting is that value for money can sometimes outweigh a lower price per trade. For example, Robinhood is a totally free platform, but you are definitely giving up on some of the quality that comes from services that charge. You'll settle for fewer investment options, significantly less research and educational options, and trading tools.

On the other hand, TD Ameritrade has higher trading prices than some of the competition. However, the value you are getting with superior services, exceptional research, and unparalleled trading tools makes up for the increase in price. Depending on how serious you are about the progress of your trading, you can decide if you want to upgrade your trading to a higher quality service that comes with a higher price tag, as well.

An interesting middle ground many people might consider is using a service like Acorn in conjunction with another service. With great automation and excellent savings tools, this service is only a dollar a month. So, you won’t feel the addition, but you’ll certainly appreciate the savings.

And, then there is WealthFront, a totally unique option. It will provide free wealth management up to $10,000 and only charge .25% annually after that. This service has a few other factors that make it unique, though, so look into it thoroughly before deciding if it’s the best option for you.

Trade Options 

Possibly the biggest deciding factor, which trade options a service provides will determine how much flexibility and availability you are given in the realm of trading. Investment options range from IRA, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, stocks, bonds, international investing, and more, and not all services will cover each of these categories. For example, Robinhood offers limited trade options when compared to larger services like Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Alternatively, Scottrade and Interactive Brokers offer international investing, a rarer trade option. If you are involved in this type of trading, you should opt for one of those.

Mobile App

A good mobile app is a godsend for active traders. If you are only doing this once in a while, it may not be as important to you. For investors who frequently deal with their investments, though, mobility is crucial. Look for a service like ETRADE which has a great mobile app for beginners. The app has rich explanations, integrates with many devices including Apple Watch, delivers real-time alerts, and has CNBC on demand. The Scottrade mobile app integrates with your Scottrade bank account or lets you transfer funds to another bank of your choice. And, of course, the all-powerful Interactive Brokers has an incredibly strong mobile platform on offer.

Ease of Use

Naturally, the easier a system is to use, the more people will enjoy their experience with the software, so ease of use is a pretty important factor, as well. Different applications will have varying ways to make the user experience smoother and more pleasant, offering an assortment of features, tools, and design layouts to accommodate this end. Most customers enjoy the customization that you’ll find with services like TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, and Charles Schwab which all have highly customizable desktops.

Tools are also handy when it comes to trading, so weigh these into your equation. It’s also nice when the service has multiple trading platforms to cater to the different types and levels of investors out there.

Transform trading from a tedious task to a real revenue source with the right online investment app for you.

How we created this
Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.