- E*TRADE: Best investment app overall
- SoFi Invest: Best fee-free investment app
- Wealthfront: Best investment app for hands-off investors
- Robinhood: Best investment app for active investors
- Acorns: Best investment app for beginners
- Ellevest: Best investment app for goal-driven investing
- Charles Schwab: Best investment app for auto-investing large balances
- Need more information? Scroll down to read more on how and why we chose the winners, how much they cost, and what you should know about each of our picks.
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.
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 money — 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.
Below, check out our picks for best investment apps. Scroll to the bottom to read more about how we chose the winners.
E*TRADE: Best investment app overall
Why it stands out: E*TRADE is a one-stop-shop for investing. Whether you’re an active 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 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. E*TRADE also has a high-yield savings account with a competitive rate to store cash for short-term goals.
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, 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. If you want more flexibility in customizing your portfolio, it may be worth paying for Wealthfront.
Wealthfront: Best investment app for hands-off investors
Why it stands out: Wealthfront has helped bring passive investing to the masses through affordable and easy-to-use technology. It’s here to let you know that you don’t have to be a sophisticated stock trader to build wealth — and if you are, this app probably isn’t for you.
Wealthfront builds an investment strategy around your short- and long-term goals and risk level. Based on your financial needs, the algorithm develops a custom portfolio of low-cost ETFs that won’t require any ongoing management. To buy in, you need at least $500, but automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting come at no additional charge.
Adjacent financial-planning software allows you to link up external bank accounts, track net worth, compare financial tradeoffs, and forecast how changes in the market will affect your goals.
The investment app is unique in that it offers 529 college savings plans in addition to brokerage and retirement accounts. You can also take out a line of credit on up to 30% of your portfolio balance if you need to leverage some cash. Wealthfront offers one of the best high-yield cash accounts to keep money you’re not ready to invest in a safe place earning interest.
Fees: 0.25% annual AUM fee
Account types: Individual, joint, and trust brokerage accounts; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRA (includes rollovers); 529 plans
Look out for: You need at least $500 to get started investing at Wealthfront. Also, some mobile app reviewers pointed out that there’s sometimes a lag in updates for linked bank accounts, which can temporarily affect the accuracy of the financial planning features.
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 will soon open up its no-fee, high-yield cash management account to the public, 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: As fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak sent markets plummeting — and then back up — Robinhood experienced a widespread outage. Users were unable to make trades for a full day and were understandably frustrated. After usage was restored the following day, a Robinhood spokesperson apologized and said the company would compensate customers on a “case-by-case” basis.
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, Airbnb, and Lyft, 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.
To use the most basic version, Acorns Invest, the only fee you’ll see from Acorns is a monthly membership charge of $1. For $2 a month, you can upgrade to Acorns Later and open an IRA to start investing for retirement. The highest subscription tier charges $3 a month and bundles a brokerage account, IRA, and checking account, which comes with a debit card and unlimited ATM fee reimbursement in the US.
- Acorns Invest: $1 for a brokerage account ($5 minimum to start investing)
- Acorns Invest + Later: $2 for a brokerage account and IRA ($5 minimum to start investing)
- Acorns Invest + Later + Spend: $3 for a brokerage account, IRA, and checking account with debit card ($5 minimum to start investing)
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.
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 ETFs (you can opt for a socially responsible allocation, if that’s important to you). Ellevest charges a fee of just 0.25% of your balance for ongoing monitoring and rebalancing. Once your balance reaches $50,000, that fee increases to 0.50%, but you’ll get direct access to personal financial planning and career coaching. Investors with $1 million or more qualify for private wealth management.
Ellevest 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.
- Ellevest Digital: 0.25% AUM fee ($0 minimum balance)
- Ellevest Premium: 0.50% AUM fee ($50,000 minimum balance)
Account types: Individual brokerage; Traditional, Roth, SEP IRAs (includes rollovers)
Look out for: Ellevest offers a free “emergency fund” for investors that’s insured by the FDIC, but the interest is negligible. If you’re keeping cash out of the markets for unexpected emergencies, we recommend a high-yield savings account that earns more than 1% APY. Also, the Ellevest app is not yet available on Android.
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 Schwab experts design a custom portfolio of ETFs that will be rebalanced regularly. 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.
All portfolios include a cash allocation, which is deposited in a Schwab high-yield account. You can open brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, or trust accounts for different goals (the minimum balance requirement is for all accounts combined).
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 — 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 $30-a-month advisory fee (minimum balance of $25,000).
Account types: Individual and joint 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.
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, while Wealthfront’s stays at 0.25%.
- 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 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 portfolios is still higher than some competitors with very similar offerings.
- 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 fund minimums are relatively high.
- Fidelity: Fidelity offers a mix between passive and active investing, but its AUM fee is higher than competitors at 0.50%.
- 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.
Frequently asked questions:
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, and investment options. 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 Wealthfront, 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.
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