The Best Trading Platforms for Beginners

Investing and stock-related app searches on Google have more than doubled in just a year, underscoring the popularity of trading and financial planning as a viable means to grow income. So, if you are searching for the best trading platform for beginners, our list of choices is here to help. Our rigorous method of evaluation and comprehensive reviews are likely to prove handy to seasoned investors as well, so read on.

The Best Trading Platforms for Beginners

Robinhood Logo

Robinhood

Commission-free stock trading & investing.

With over 30 million users, Robinhood is a California-based financial services company that revolutionized the online trading business with its zero-commission offering. While many other competitors have begun offering equally affordable services, Robinhood maintains its position as a top trading choice courtesy of its ease of use.

  • Asset classes: Stocks, ETFs, Options, Cryptocurrency
  • Cost per trade: $0
  • Account fees: $0
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Margin rate: 2.5%
  • Licenses: FINRA, SIPC
  • Research tools: Good (with Robinhood Gold)
  • Portfolio analysis tools: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Demo account: Yes
  • Security: Strong
  • Customer service: Good
eToro Logo

eToro

Crypto, stocks & beyond! The power of social investing.

The Israel-based pioneer of social trading, eToro has millions of users worldwide and most US states. It offered mainly cryptocurrency trading to US investors until recently; however, select investors can use it now for stock trading. eToro’s user-friendly platform and mobile app make it a top choice for both beginners and advanced traders.

  • Asset classes: Stocks, ETFs, CFDs, Forex, Cryptocurrency
  • Cost per trade: Spread mark-up between 0.75% and 5%
  • Account fees: $10/month inactivity fee (after 12 months of not logging in) 
  • Account minimum: $50
  • Margin rate: 1.55% to 2.59%
  • Licenses: FINRA, SIPC, FinCEN
  • Research tools: Limited
  • Portfolio analysis tools: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Demo account: Yes
  • Security: Strong
  • Customer service: Good
Firstrade Logo

Firstrade

Trade smarter, faster with Firstrade.

One of the oldest online brokerages, NY-based Firstrade offers trading in stocks, mutual funds, and options to investors in the US and nearly 30 other countries. The platform’s affordability and ease of use mean that it’s an excellent option for all aspiring traders.

  • Asset classes: Stocks, ETFs, Bonds, Options, Mutual funds
  • Cost per trade: $0
  • Account fees: $0 ($75 full outgoing transfer fee, $55 for partial transfer)
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Margin rate: 4.5% to 8.75%
  • Licenses: FINRA, SIPC
  • Research tools: Good
  • Portfolio analysis tools: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Demo account: No
  • Security: Strong
  • Customer service: Average
Ally Invest Logo

Ally Invest

Invest the way you want. We can show you how.

Part of Ally Financial, Ally Invest ticks the right boxes on pricing and usability and is particularly handy for existing Ally Bank customers. Its affordable commissions, however, have proven appealing to newbies, experienced investors, and everyone in between.

  • Asset classes: Stocks, ETFs, Options, Mutual Funds, Bonds, Forex
  • Cost per trade: $0 (stocks), $0.50/contract (options)
  • Account fees: $0 ($50 full outgoing transfer fee)
  • Account minimum: $0
  • Margin rate: 3.25% to 7.75%
  • Licenses: FINRA, SIPC
  • Research tools: Good
  • Portfolio analysis tools: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Demo account: No
  • Security: Strong
  • Customer service: Good
Lightspeed Logo

Lightspeed

Trade stocks, options and futures.

Known for exceptional order execution thanks to a well-designed platform, the US-headquartered Lightspeed is an excellent option for both beginners and experienced traders. Its unique features also make it the go-to provider for trading in options and futures.

  • Asset classes: Stocks, ETFs, Options, Futures, Mutual funds 
  • Cost per trade: Between $2.50 and $4.50 (stocks), $1.29 (futures), $0.20 to $1.79 (options) 
  • Account fees: $130 for the desktop platform (reduced by commissions generated)
  • Account minimum: $10,000 to $25,000
  • Margin rate: 5.0% to 7.5%
  • Licenses: FINRA, SIPC
  • Research tools: Good
  • Portfolio analysis tools: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Demo account: Yes
  • Security: Strong
  • Customer service: Average

How We Searched for the Best Trading Platform for Beginners

As we do for all of our “Best of” articles, we put ourselves in the shoes of the primary audience—in this case, beginner investors. This helped us comprehensively evaluate the platforms on how well they fulfill the needs of such users. Let’s look at the chief factors that guided us in preparing this list.

Security & Compliance

We start with the fundamentals, which are not ranking criteria, but rather conditions for inclusion. For a service to be considered for our best trading platform for beginners list, it needs to provide secure transactions, hold memberships and licenses with relevant regulatory bodies, and properly handle the personal information of its users. After we verify that is indeed so by conducting thorough research, we move on.

Interface & Accessibility

While usability is a factor in any case, it is absolutely essential for beginners. Then, an interface with a steep learning curve can intimidate beginners or lead to early errors. So, a user-friendly interface that allows an intuitive understanding of the various tools earned points when evaluating the best online trading platform for beginners.

Apart from the ease of use, several other factors earned extra points, such as flexibility across multiple devices, easy signup and log-in, seamless transactions, and so on. Another critical feature for a beginner is the ability to practice trading without having to use real money right away, so we ranked higher platforms that offer trading in demo mode.

Fees & Commissions

Brokerage fees can have several components. How customers are charged also varies across platforms. So, to compare different platforms, we analyzed the average charges for a range of trades at different values. The resulting data gave us a clear idea of the expenses for different trading styles and assets. Note that a lower fee is not sufficient for a service to rank as the best trading platform for beginners. We acknowledge that slightly higher fees are justified if the corresponding features are helpful from a beginner investor’s perspective. We also prefer platforms that clearly mention all the fee components instead of letting users discover hidden charges after signing up.

Educational & Analytical Resources

Educational resources are again a must-have for a beginner. Therefore, we have favored platforms with ample training and educational content. While going through the entire database for each platform isn’t feasible, we did verify the quality of content by trying to find answers to some usual queries beginners would have. The best online trading platform for beginners must also feature suitable analytical tools to help users make informed investment decisions. Most platforms today have handy research and charting tools, but we were equally interested in the ease of use of these tools. The source of the research made available to users and the timeliness of updates were the other factors we considered in this category.

Customer Support

The kind of customer support we expect for a new investor is markedly different from that for someone used to online investing. Given the monetary stakes involved, prompt support is anyway necessary with trading platforms; however, we were looking for greater hand-holding while evaluating platforms. Vendors that offered multiple and high-quality support options were likelier to be included in our best trading platform for beginners list. Some of the aspects we considered included 24/7 availability, prompt response, provision of online chat for an immediate response, availability of FAQ for self-help on basic issues, and tech support quality.

Customer Reviews

We have always considered user reviews a valuable resource when evaluating any service. We rely on a few respected review sites for independent customer feedback. In the case of trading platforms, reviews are particularly handy for aspects like usability, ease of transactions, and support.

Of course, customer feedback has to be taken with a pinch of salt, which is why a couple of negative reviews wouldn’t necessarily disqualify a platform. That said, if a particular aspect is consistently criticized across several reviews, the platform’s score in that area takes a beating.

The Best Trading Platform for Beginners Reviews

Robinhood

Robinhood remains a great option for trading for beginners because of its low-cost, easy-to-understand offering. While zero commission or account minimum has become common with stock trading, Robinhood’s affordability extends to options trading, outperforming rivals that charge on a per-contract basis.

Pros

Cons

Often touted as the best online stock trading platform for beginners, Robinhood allows trading in 5,000+ stocks and ETFs on US exchanges, along with over 650 stocks on global exchanges. It, however, also supports options, cryptocurrencies, and gold.

Many investors, especially beginners, do not always have the entire amount needed to buy a stock. This is where fractional shares come in handy—even if you have $1 in your trading account, you can buy a small fraction of a share that may cost $500. It helps you spread your funds, even if they are limited, over a more diversified portfolio. Of course, if you are short on cash, Robinhood is also arguably the best penny stock trading platform for beginners.

Other notable positives are the quick funding process and the cash management feature. Robinhood uses instant verification with leading banks, meaning your funds will be available for trading almost immediately. The useful cash management feature earns you returns on existing interest rates on uninvested funds. You can withdraw this cash at any time with no ATM fees across the US.

Another advantage of this platform is its intuitive mobile app, making this one of the best, if not the best stock trading platform for beginners who feel at home investing through a smartphone. While you won’t get some of the bells and whistles of a few other well-known trading apps, the features you need to execute trades quickly, such as support for market and limit orders, are all there.

On the negative side, our most significant concern is the regulatory issues Robinhood has been facing. The GameStop trading frenzy in 2021 and some other missteps have meant intense public scrutiny. However, the company has taken steps to rectify at least some of the issues.

This might also not be the best day trading platform for beginners who are interested in a well-rounded portfolio with mutual funds, bonds, or forex. Robinhood currently doesn’t offer these products. You also get only taxable brokerage accounts; for retirement or tax-advantaged investing accounts, you are better off elsewhere.

Finally, a critical issue with Robinhood is the lack of free educational resources. For high-quality research from Morningstar, you need to subscribe to Robinhood Gold at $5/month. Additional benefits of joining Robinhood Gold include access to Nasdaq Level II quotes and margin loans.

eToro

Until recently, eToro wouldn’t have even had the chance to be in the running for the best online stock trading platform for beginners as its US offering was limited to cryptocurrencies. However, the platform’s stock trading is available stateside now in beta, with select investors already buying and selling shares.

Pros

Cons

While eToro is still unavailable to residents of a handful of states such as New York, New Hampshire, and Delaware, investors in much of the US will soon be able to use the platform’s well-reviewed features to trade in stocks. eToro’s enhanced offering in the US also means that it might just be the best binary options trading platform for beginners.

The two main reasons for eToro’s popularity in the US, as of now, are cryptocurrency trading and social trading. For the former, US investors can trade in close to 20 currencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and XRP. The minimum account balance required is $50, while the minimum trade amount is $20.

The platform doesn’t charge “commissions,” but it makes money through fees on spreads that can vary from 0.75% to 5%, depending on the underlying cryptocurrency. Note that these are costs for crypto trading; there’s no commission for long positions on stocks. There’s also a 5% fee for converting a cryptocurrency to regular currency. All this may sound complex to new investors, but eToro’s pricing is straightforward enough to make this the best binary options trading platform for beginners who don’t know the ropes yet.

The web and mobile interfaces are nearly identical, helping beginners move from one device to another. Users can create watchlists and convert from one currency to another; however, crypto-to-crypto trading isn’t available to US customers at the time of writing.

Then, there’s social trading, eToro’s USP. Through its CopyTrader feature, you can quickly mimic the trades carried out by other high-performance traders. You need to indicate the amount you want to invest, and the platform automatically allots the funds in proportion to the trader you want to emulate. You can copy any number of traders at a time, and there’s no fee for social trading. Research and portfolio analysis is one area that keeps eToro from being the very best stock trading platform for beginners. It does have some features in this regard, such as charting, technical analysis, newsfeed; however, there is limited customization or organization. Beginner investors would be equally interested in educational tools. Again, the features are more comprehensive for non-US customers, with webinars, podcasts, and video tutorials. As the platform extends its offering stateside, these are likely to become available for US investors, too.

Firstrade

Investors interested in conventional securities like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds will find much to like about Firstrade. It is also among the best option trading platforms for beginners as it doesn’t charge a per-contract fee and has excellent research and education features for options.

Pros

Cons

Firstrade goes beyond other online brokers that have made online trading affordable by removing commissions for stocks and ETFs. There are even fewer fees and commissions here, including no per-contract fees for options and zero-commission mutual funds (with some exceptions). The platform’s charges for broker-assisted trades ($19.95) for all securities are also comparatively low. Note, however, that if you are looking for the best forex trading platform for beginners or if you are interested in futures or cryptocurrencies, you will have to look elsewhere.

There are two negatives on the money front too, though. The rates to borrow funds for margin trading are higher, starting from 8.75% and decreasing as you borrow more significant amounts.

Then, like many other platforms, Firstrade makes money through order flow, that is, by letting third-party market makers route trades through their systems. Since market makers can use this information to invest before users’ trades are executed, you could get a worse price than you would normally.

The primary Firstrade desktop platform looks a bit dated, so it’s not the best option trading platform for beginners who value a slick look. It, however, makes up for that with its streamlined design, clear account and market information, and the option to customize and place conditional orders. For advanced features, experienced investors can also use the Options Wizard and Firstrade Navigator. The former helps narrow down investment choices by categories and analyzing options trading strategies.

The mobile app, available for Android and iOS devices, has undergone a recent overhaul, enhancing usability. It offers a clean dashboard, instinctive swipe actions, and good research and charting capabilities. It also syncs automatically with the desktop and browser-based system. This makes Firstrade possibly the best stock trading platform for beginners who like to invest on the go.

With Firstrade, you get research from several third parties along with market reports on its YouTube channel. The educational content covers the basics well, but it could be more comprehensive. Overall, the platform’s education and research features score much better for options.

Regarding customer support, Firstrade users can choose from email, automated chatbot, and phone (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET). Reviews on the platform’s customer support, however, are almost consistently negative, frequently citing waiting times on phone calls.

One final aspect worth mentioning is that Firstrade is the best online trading platform for beginners with Mandarin or Cantonese as their first language. Apart from offering live customer support in these languages, the platform has also translated its website and tools into Chinese characters.

Ally Invest

Like most prominent trading platforms today, Ally Invest offers commission-free trades for those interested in stocks and ETFs. The platform further offers a wide selection of portfolios, including automated, managed by a team of investment specialists.

Pros

Cons

Ally Invest has no base commission fees for options, and even the per-contract fee of $0.50 is affordable, making it another candidate for the best options trading platform for beginners. There are no zero-transaction-fee mutual funds on offer, but the $9.95 commission charged on no-load funds is considerably lower than the competition.

While there’s no account minimum or account fee, you will be charged $50 for a full or partial transfer of your securities from your account. The platform doesn’t offer demo accounts, but it allows opening self-directed accounts to test the tools. Ally Invest also offers better margin rates than many competing platforms; of course, you get better rates with higher margin amounts.

The securities offered for trading on Ally Invest cover a good range. Apart from being great for options, it is also arguably the best forex trading platform for beginners. However, futures or fractional shares are still not available on the platform. Crypto traders will also have to give Ally Invest a miss, even though some crypto-based OTC products (e.g., Bitcoin trusts) are available.

The Ally Invest platform is primarily a browser-based one, designed for trading on computers from home or work. The overall look-and-feel is dated, but even beginners will find it easy to figure out. The primary website leads you to the Live platform, which has better functionality and offers streaming quotes.

The mobile version’s design is better and what you would expect from the best online trading platform for beginners. However, as with the Live platform, some of the features you get on the primary website are missing. For instance, in our test, the screeners were absent in the mobile interface. Several tools, such as those for options trading and profitability graphing, are also not there. These differences could confuse some users when switching across devices and platforms; however, the overall navigability is top-notch, and most tools work smoothly.

On the other hand, the trading experience is a crucial area where Ally Invest loses out to some other platforms. Contingent orders, order routing, automated trading, and customized orders are what you would expect from the best online stock trading platform for beginners, but these aren’t available with Ally Invest.

If investing-related education is an essential criterion for you, Ally Invest will probably not impress you. The platform features a drop-down menu with topics divided by security type, experience level, and market outlook. These links lead you to the community page, where the content is helpful but not well-organized or as in-depth as the menu makes it appear.

The research and analysis tools are significantly better. Apart from the screeners mentioned above, you get helpful calculators and trading idea generators to aid you in planning a strategy. Ally Invest needs to work on its news and third-party research features, though, to get a shot at being the best online trading platform for beginners who want to do informed investing.

On the whole, Ally Invest is a good option for beginners, but it will probably have greater utility if you are already part of the Ally ecosystem. Existing Ally Bank customers can easily track their finances from a single platform, particularly useful for a new investor.

Lightspeed

If you are looking for high-volume trading or day trading, this niche platform might be just the thing you need. While it’s more geared toward experienced traders with its high account minimums, its options and futures affordability will appeal to newbies as well, making it a solid entry for the best option trading platform for beginners.

Pros

Cons

For regular stock and ETF traders, Lightspeed can prove costly with its commission of $4.50 per trade and a high account minimum of $10,000. There are also fees if the account balance falls below a specified minimum, along with charges for retirement accounts, closing fees, and annual fees.

That said, if you are specifically looking for the best day trading platform for beginners, you will find the commissions very affordable as your effective per share expense could be as low as $0.0010. Lightspeed also offers competitive pricing for options. For fewer than 500 contracts per month, the contract fee is only $0.60/contract. This fee gets even lower—about $0.20 per contract—if you are a high-volume options trader. Moreover, Lightspeed is among the few platforms that offer strong support for futures trading, charging $1.29 per trade.

In addition to Lightspeed Trader, customers can also use the rest of the services under the Lightspeed umbrella — Lightspeed Web Trader and Sterling trader, as well as third-party ones like RealTick Pro (equities), Livevol X and Derivix (options), and CQG and NinjaTrader (futures). While this might make the service a bit complicated to be the best trading platform for beginners, experienced traders would appreciate the range.

Lightspeed Trader’s key advantage is its many hotkeys to place lightning-fast trades. You also get other advanced functionality, such as direct market access, level 2 quotes, and basket order entry. However, this desktop-based platform doesn’t offer much beyond execution and stability. It’s not intuitively designed, while the charting and analytical tools are very basic. Lightspeed Web Trader is the browser-based counterpart with a similar design but lacking several handy features available on the desktop platform.Lightspeed also isn’t the best online trading platform for beginners who want to use education tools. At the same time, it has some unique features that even beginners would appreciate. For instance, it offers several video tutorials on trading features, including setting alerts, creating custom orders, and designing customized hotkeys. Users have access to free year-round trading webinars and can even download past webinars as MP4s. The options trading course is especially impressive, covering everything from basics to complex strategies.

How to Find the Best Trading Platform for Beginners for Your Needs

As you delve deeper into the exciting world of investing, you’ll realize that different trading platforms are designed for different types of investors. To help you figure out your needs, we’ve prepared a list of steps.

Figure Out Your Requirements

Given that you are likely to be using your hard-earned money to invest, selecting the right platform will involve a fair bit of homework. The first step covers several questions that only you can answer.

What is your investment experience?

The best trading platform for beginners will need fundamental educational resources (including video tutorials), prompt support from the platform’s staff, and a practice feature that allows mock trades without using real money. As you get more experienced, features such as access to analyst reports, technical data, advanced charting, margin trading, and a wider variety of asset classes will matter more.

Are you a passive or an active investor?

Active traders, such as day or swing traders, need to quickly close their buy or sell positions. So, they require features such as automated analysis and trading. Passive traders invest for a more extended period and require little day-to-day interaction with the platform. So, the best day trading platform for beginners in this regard will depend on your understanding and risk appetite.

How much help do you want?

Many investors just need a platform to execute trades the DIY way, while others prefer more active support from a broker to identify assets. Even if you want to trade yourself, you may need resources and staff to guide you, depending on where you are on the learning curve.

What asset classes interest you?

Many beginner investors start with stocks and then move on to forex, commodities, derivatives, ETFs, and other classes as they gain more experience. However, it depends on your understanding of different securities. You could just be looking for the best options trading platform for beginners with multiple assets.  Or, like many first-time investors these days, you might prefer going the crypto way. Then, if you want to trade binary options exclusively, for example, consider the best binary options brokers. Not all platforms offer the best features in all asset classes, so consider only those supporting the assets you want to trade.

What are your investing goals?

You could be investing to supplement your regular income and would probably be spending not more than a few hours a week on your investments. Or you could be intending to become a full-time investor in some time. There could be a particular upcoming expense that you want to fund through your returns. Or you may be trying to build a nest egg for when you retire. Either way, the best trading platform for beginners for you will support this goal. For example, some vendors offer traditional retirement accounts and allow rolling over an existing 401k. Others even allow managing retirement accounts for your employees. If you have family members dependent on you, offering a custodial account could be helpful.

Do Your Due Diligence

The previous step will help narrow down the field remarkably. The next step is to ensure the platforms you consider fulfill certain essential criteria that all reputable names should. Let us consider the most important among these criteria.

Regulatory Memberships

Trading platforms or online brokers allowed to operate in the US usually need to be registered with a few regulatory bodies, most notably the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The best online trading platform for beginners will mention these memberships on its homepage. You can also check if a brokerage is a member at the websites of SIPC and FINRA.

Insurance

As SIPC members, brokerages must provide a per-customer coverage of $500,000, of which $250,000 are marked for cash claims. In fact, the best brokerages provide coverage beyond this bare minimum.

Additionally, if the company offers certificates of deposit, checking accounts, savings accounts, or money market deposit accounts, it should be backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC backing is not needed for investment products (e.g., stocks, bonds, options) where the investment value is not guaranteed.Online transactions are susceptible to fraud, and the best online trading platform for beginners should provide protection against such events. You should check if the vendors you are considering will reimburse you for any losses because of fraud and how cumbersome the process will be to get said reimbursement.

Account Protection

Related to the last point above is the online security provided by the platform to its customers. Account protection is vital on any online forum where your personal details are available; however, it is particularly critical for a trading platform. Some of the factors you should check for include the provision of two-factor authentication, the type of encryption used by the site, third-party tracking and advertising, and, of course, the extent of information collected. The best trading platform for beginners will mention all these points clearly in their privacy policy and other disclosures.

Understand the Investment Fees

For some investors, the different expenses associated with trading would probably be the chief criterion that decides which platform they choose. Others may not mind paying a bit of a premium if superior features are offered. In any case, it helps to have a clear idea of all the costs involved.

Account Fee

There can be several different ways trading platforms charge you. Some have a fee for opening an account, while others charge you for using their trading system. In some cases, there might be an account maintenance fee or charges related to advanced trading and better tools and resources. Naturally, the best trading platform for beginners is the one you can afford.

Account Minimum

Some trading platforms have this requirement, making it important for you to figure out any fees you may incur if your balance goes under the lower limit.

Trading Fee

Your trading style could impact the commission you pay the platform. For stock trading, some platforms charge a fee per share, while some charge a flat fee per trade, regardless of how many shares are involved. Some may even increase or decrease their commission for trades exceeding a specific number in a given period.Then, if you are looking for the best options trading platform for beginners, there could be a base fee, a per contract fee, and an exercise fee. For mutual funds, even if you are trading in a fund with no transaction fee, there could be other hidden charges, such as an early redemption fee. Plus, platforms may charge for advisory services or for broker-assisted trades, where you place an execution order via phone.

Margin Trading Fee

If you are a beginner investor, we would not recommend getting into margin trading. However, what margin trading means is that many platforms allow you to borrow funds to increase your position on a particular asset. These loans incur an interest fee until they are settled.

Try Out the Platform

The next step towards finding the best trading platform for beginners for you is some hands-on experience. In most cases, you should be able to take it for a test drive without paying. Here’s a list of questions to make the trial experience more productive:

Answering these questions will bring you much closer to the best trading platform for beginners for your needs. We are sure the detailed steps for zeroing in on the right platform will make this selection process hassle-free. So, what are you waiting for? Give these platforms a try and set out to discover the joys of investing.