The most important metrics that you need to consider are what markets the stock trading platform supports, fees and commissions, payment, and regulation.
In this guide, we review the best stock trading platforms for 2021. We also discuss some core stock trading and risk-management principles and walk you through the process of getting started today.
In This Guide
Below you find which top stock trading platforms made the cut. You can scroll down to read a full review of each platform to see which ones fit your personal trading goals!
We spent countless hours reviewing the most prominent free stock trading platforms in the online arena. The research process focused on everything from supported stock markets and trading commissions to licensing and customer support.
As such, below you will find a selection of the very best stock trading platforms to consider in 2021 and beyond.
We had no hesitation in choosing eToro as our number one free stock trading platform for 2021. The stock broker – which offers heaps of markets, a user-friendly interface, and a strong regulatory standing – is now home to over 17 million active traders.
You can buy, sell, and trade over 2,400 stocks from 17 international markets. On top of major exchanges like the NYSE, NASDAQ, and London Stock Exchange – you can also trade companies listed in Germany, France, Sweden, Hong Kong, and many others. Best of all, this top-rated stock trading platform is commission-free.
This means that you won’t be charged a cent when you place buy and sell orders – nor is there an annual maintenance fee of any kind. At eToro, the minimum stock trade is just $50, too. This is the case irrespective of how much the shares are trading for, as eToro supported fractional ownership.
eToro also makes our number one stop as it is perfectly suited for first-time stock traders. The platform is simple to use, it takes just minutes to open an account, and it even offers automated trading services. At the forefront of this is the platform’s innovative Copy Trading feature. As the name implies, this allows you to copy the portfolio of an experienced stock investor.
This Copy Trading feature can be accessed at a minimum of $200 per investor and comes with no additional charges for online trading. In terms of funding, eToro supported debit cards, credit cards, bank transfers, and e-wallets like Paypal and Neteller. Finally, in terms of regulation, eToro is licensed with the FCA, ASIC, and CySEC, and registered with FINRA in the US.
To learn more about eToro, check out our expert eToro review.
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Robinhood is a US-centric free stock trading platform that is now home to over 10 million American investors. The main attraction of Robinhood is that it allows you to trade over 5,000 stocks without paying any commission.
Apart from a small selection of foreign companies, all stocks hosted at Robinhood are US-listed. This means that you can trade some of the largest stocks in the world without breaking the bank.
After all, Robinhood supports fractional ownership, meaning that you can invest just a few dollars into your chosen stock. Outside of the core stock trading department, Robinhood also offers financial products such as ETFs, cryptocurrency assets, and even options. A lot of Robinhood users will trade online, albeit, the platform also offers a fully-fledged mobile app.
This is great for trading stocks on the go. We also like the fact that there is no minimum deposit policy at Robinhood. Again, this will appeal to those of you that are looking to trade small volumes.
The main drawback with Robinhood is that it does not support debit/credit cards or e-wallets. Instead, you'll need to make a transfer from your US bank account. Finally, it goes without saying that as a US-based brokerage account firm - Robinhood is heavily regulated.
If you are a seasoned stock trading pro - then Interactive Brokers is like to be up your street. This is because the desktop platform comes packed with an abundance of supported markets and trading tools.
Regarding the former, Interactive Brokers gives you access to more than 135 markets in 33 countries. This means that you can trade stocks that are listed in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and more.
In other words, if there is a low-cap international stock that you wish to trade, there is every chance that you will find it on this top-rated platform. On top of stocks, Interactive Brokers also allows you to trade ETFs, mutual funds, and more. In terms of stock trading fees, you can invest in US-listed stocks on a commission-free basis.
If your chosen market is based overseas, then you will pay a commission that varies depending on the market. When it comes to safety, Interactive Brokers has an excellent reputation. Not only was it first launched in the 1970s, but it is heavily regulated by several US-based authorities.
In a similar nature to International Brokers, TD Ameritrade is an established online brokerage firm that has been operational since the 1970s. The platform is now home to every tradable asset class imaginable.
On top of a huge stock trading library, this also includes thousands of ETFs and mutual funds, as well as bonds and digital currencies. In terms of what stocks you can trade, TD Ameritrade supports tens of thousands of shares across dozens of marketplaces.
In fact, this popular trading platform also gives you access to initial public offerings (IPOs) - both in the US and overseas. If you decide to trade stocks listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ, TD Ameritrade will not charge you any commission.
This is also the case for US-listed ETFs and options. International stock markets come with different commission rates depending on the exchange. TD Ameritrade is also useful if you are looking for an abundance of research and analysis tools. This includes real-time quotes, third-party stock reports, and a super-advanced trading platform that comes packed with technical indicators.
As is often the case with so-called old-school brokers, TD Ameritrade only supports bank account transfers - so no debit/credit cards or e-wallets. With that said, bank transfers are typically processed very quickly at this free stock trading platform - so you won't need to wait long before you can start placing orders.
IG is a UK-based trading platform and online broker that was first launched in 1974. This popular platform accepts account registrations from most countries - which has resulted in a global customer base of over 239,000 traders.
On top of forex, commodities, cryptocurrencies, and ETFs - IG allows you to trade stocks at the click of a button. This includes markets in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Asia, and heaps of European exchanges.
In terms of trading commissions, this will depend on where you are based. For example, some countries benefit from commission-free trading on US and UK stock CFDs, while others will pay a small commission that averages 0.10%. Each specific marketplace usually carries a variable commission that comes with a minimum charge.
This means that IG is best suited for those of you trading larger volumes. We also like that IG offers two trading platforms. This includes its own proprietary platform and MT4, where you can do mobile trading as well.
The latter is great for advanced traders that want access to the best technical indicators and chart drawing tools, as well as the ability to deploy an automated robot. Depending on your location, you'll likely be offered leverage on your stock trading endeavors. Finally, IG is regulated in several jurisdictions, so you should have concerns regarding safety.
If you are a complete newbie in the world of online stock trading, Trading 212 might be the right platform for you. It takes just minutes to open an account and you don't need to have any prior experience to navigate around the trading arena.
This top-rated broker allows you to invest in over 10,000 global stocks and ETFs - all on a commission-free basis. Best of all, as Trading 212 supported fractional ownership, the minimum investment is just £1 (or currency equivalent).
This makes it ideal if you want to trade stocks for the first time without risking too much money. In terms of supported exchanges, Trading 212 focuses on the UK, US, and several European markets. What we also like about Trading 212 is that you also have the option of trading stock CFDs.
This comes with the added benefit of being able to short-sell your chosen stock as well as apply leverage. Regarding the latter, stock CFD leverage is typically capped at 1:5 on Trading 212, meaning you can trade with five times your current account balance. On top of stock CFDs, you can also trade forex and commodities.
In terms of funding your account, you can make an instant deposit with a debit/credit card or e-wallet. There are no fees to deposit or withdraw funds, which is great. The main drawback with Trading 212 is that you will be charged a 0.5% FX fee on CFD instruments that are not priced in your primary account currency.
While most stock traders will look to buy and sell shares on a short-term basis, some of you might be more interested in a long-term investment strategy. This means that you will be buying stocks and keeping them in your portfolio for several years.
If this is the case, Fidelity is a great option to consider. The popular US-based trading platform covers stock markets in over 25 countries - giving you ample opportunity to diversify. You can also invest in newly-listed US IPOs, which is ideal if you want to buy shares in a company that is just starting its corporate journey.
Fidelity is also a great trading platform if you want to invest in mutual funds and ETFs - as thousands of instruments are supported. In terms of pricing, Fidelity has since jumped on the commission-free bandwagon. This is the case with all US-listed stocks, ETFs, and options.
International shares will come with a dealing fee that will vary from exchange to exchange. Fidelity is also a useful option if you want to trade stocks on margin. Although most investors using Fidelity usually have a bit of experience in the stock trading scene, the platform has no minimum deposit policy in place.
This means that you can get started with a few dollars and test out the waters before making a larger financial commitment. Finally, Fidelity is a good option if you are based in the US and looking to combine your stock trading endeavors with a long-term IRA retirement plan.
If you are a seasoned stock trader, then you will know the importance of having access to the financial markets 24/7. That is to say if you need to enter or exit a trade at the click of a button - you'll want to be able to do this no matter where you are located.
As such, if you're looking to trade stocks on your mobile phone in conjunction with an online platform - Charles Schwab could be the best option on the table. The established online brokerage firm allows you to trade thousands of stocks.
This covers US-listed companies as well as those based overseas. Through the Charles Schwab 'Stock Slice' feature, you can trade your chosen shares from just $5 upwards. Charles Schwab is also one of the very few retail client platforms that allow you to access the OTC (Over-the-Counter) markets.
For those unaware, this is where you will find the majority of US-listed volatility penny stocks as penny stock trading platform. When using the Charles Schwab stock trading app, you will find it simple to find your chosen market. On top of a search facility, you can also narrow the stock library down via the built-in filter.
Crucially, the Charles Schwab app has been fully optimized for both iOS and Android. We really like the research tools offered by Charles Schwab, too. For example, you can access real-time financial news throughout the day - which is provided by the likes of Morningstar and Thompson Reuters.
So there you have it - a selection of the very best online stock trading platforms available today. With that said, there might come a time when you come across a trading platform that we haven't discussed on this page.
If so, you'll want to perform lots of research to ensure the platform is right for you and your stock trading goals.
To point you in the right direction, below you will find a list of key metrics that need to be explored before choosing a free stock trading platform.
Even in 2021, you would be surprised by just how many unregulated stock trading platforms are active in the online arena. The key problem is that unsuspecting traders are lured in by the offering of low fees and commissions - so often bypass the need to check whether the platform in question is safe.
But, make no mistake about it - you should never use a free stock trading platform that isn't licensed by at least one reputable financial body.
The keyword here is reputable, as you won't have much in the way of investor protection if the broker is licensed offshore. Instead, the best stock trading regulators include the likes of the FCA (UK), FINRA (US), CySEC (Cyprus), and ASIC (Australia). These financial bodies - although located in different jurisdictions, have many things in common.
Some of the demands they have on the online stock trading platforms they regulate include:
Crucially, all of the best trading platforms that we reviewed on this page are heavily regulated by reputable financial bodies.
Once you have confirmed that your trading funds are safe at the platform in question, it's then time to explore what assets are supported. In most cases, the best free stock trading platforms cover the NYSE and NASDAQ in the US. This means that you can trade stocks like Facebook, Amazon, Visa, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon, and Tesla.
The London Stock Exchange, as well as several European marketplaces, are also typically offered by the best stock trading platforms. eToro, for example, allows you to trade over 2,400 stocks from 17 international marketplaces. This is great in terms of creating a diversified portfolio.
You also need to check whether the stock trading platform offers traditional shares or stock CFDs. If it's the former, this means that you are buying the stocks outright and will retain full ownership until you decided to cash out. It also means that you will receive dividends if and when the respective company makes a quarterly distribution.
If, however, your chosen stock trading platform specializes in CFDs, this means that you won't own the shares. But, this does allow you to apply leverage as well as engage in short-selling. Stock CFD sites are also known to offer really competitive spreads, too. This makes them ideal for short-term day traders that target smaller profit margins.
Stock trading platforms - even though offering a commission-free service, will always charge a fee of some sort. They are business to make money, so this makes sense.
The main fees that you need to consider are are follows:
Most stock trading platforms charge a commission when you enter and exit the market. This is usually a variable commission that is multiplied against your stake.
You need to be mindful of whether the free stock trading platform charges a minimum commission. While this won't make a difference to those trading large amounts, it will if you are a low-level investor.
The good news is that eToro - our top-rated stock trading platform of 2021, allows you to trade without paying a single cent in commission.
When trading stocks online, you need to have a firm grasp of how the 'spread; works. In its most basic form, this is the difference between the 'bid' and 'ask' price of the stock you are trading.
The bid price is the highest price a new buyer will pay for the stock, while the ask price is the lowest amount a seller will accept. While at first glance this might seem inconsequential, this gap in pricing is how stock trading platforms ensure they make a profit.
The best way to calculate the spread when trading stocks is to see what the bid/ask price difference works out at in percentage terms.
In simple terms, if the spread amounts to 0.19%, this means that you need to make gains on your stock trade of 0.19% just to break even.
If you want to trade stocks online with leverage, then you will be required to do so via a CFD instrument. This is fine, but it is important to note that leverage CFD products attract 'overnight financing' fees. As the name suggests, this is a few for each night that your stock trade remains open.
The amount that you will pay on overnight financing when trading stock CFDs can vary depend on on the:
This is why leverage stock CFDs are much more conducive for a short-term strategy. That is to say, paying leverage for a few days is going to work out at an inconsequential amount. However, a leveraged position that remains open for months on end is going to work out costly.
On top of commissions, spreads, and overnight financing - there are several other fees that your chosen stock trading platform might charge.
As per the above, having a full understanding of what fees your chosen stock trading platform charges is a crucial part of the research process.
There can be a vast disparity in what trading tools online platforms offers. For example, while some platforms offer an abundance of features that can enhance your trading experience, others provide a skin and bones service.
Nevertheless, some of the most notable features that the best trading stock platforms offer include:
Unless you have a substantial amount of capital at your disposal, it's probably best to stick with free stock trading platforms that offer fractional ownership. As we briefly discussed earlier, this allows you to trade a 'fraction' of one stock.
This is particularly important when trading major tech stocks like Amazon, Tesla, and Apple - which can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to enter the market.
The solution to this is choosing a stock trading platform that allows you to invest with small amounts. For example, the minimum stock trade at eToro is only $50 across all of its 2,400+ share markets.
The idea of making a full-time living by trading stocks online is a tempting proposition. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. After all, you need to have a firm grasp of trading strategies, technical analysis, risk management, fundamental research, and more. These metrics can take many years to fully master - which is why so many entry-level stock traders end up losing money.
The good news is that there is a simple solution to this lack of stock trading knowledge - Copy Trading.
The best thing about the eToro Copy Trader tool is that you still retain full control over your portfolio. For example, although you might be happy with the performance of the trader, you might also decide to add a few stocks that you like the look of!
The stock markets will always go through trends - both northwards and southwards. As such, the best stock trading platforms will give you the option of going long and short on your chosen market.
Going long simply means that you think the stocks will increase in price. As such, this is no different from buying shares in the traditional sense. But, going short means the opposite, insofar that you think the stocks will decrease in price.
This allows you to profit from the stock trading markets irrespective of whether prices are going up or down. As we noted earlier, if you want to option of going short, you will need to use a stock trading platform that supports CFDs.
Stock trading platforms don't care whether you make or lose money - as they generate profits from commissions and spreads. As such, the best platforms in the space will provide you with all of the tools that you might need to succeed.
At the forefront of this is a full suite of educational materials that can take your stock trading endeavors to the next level.
This might include:
In addition to educational resources, the best free stock trading platforms come packed with research and analysis tools. Regarding the former, this might include financial news stories that can be accessed directly on the platform.
Charles Schwab, for example, has integrated its platform Morningstar and Thompson Reuters. Then you have eToro, which offers an abundance of in-house market research. This includes everything from Wall Street sentiment and price targets to EPS ratio and dividend yields.
If you are a day trader or swing trader, then you will want to choose a platform that offers chart reading features. This should include a good selection of technical indicators and drawing tools. If the platform is compatible with MT4, then you will have all of the technical analysis tools that you will need.
Don't forget to explore what the user experience is like at your chosen stock trading platform. After all, while some are tailored to newbies with little experience in buying and selling stocks, others are more geared towards seasoned investors. It can be somewhat difficult to determine what the user experience is like without first testing the platform out.
In many cases, this will require a deposit upfront - which isn't ideal. This is why we like eToro - as the broker allows you to test its platform out from top to bottom via a stock trading demo account. Not only does this mirror real-world trading commissions, but you will have $100,000 of paper funds to trade with.
In terms of what to look out for, you'll want the platform to make the process of finding your desired market a breeze. This should be achieved through a simple search facility or a stock library that can be filtered down by the exchange or industry. Additionally, placing buy and sell orders should not be challenging and ultimately - free from overly complex jargon.
Even if you are planning to facilitate most of your stock trading endeavors via your main desktop computer - having access to a mobile app is paramount. After all, there might come a time where you need to enter or exit a trade while on the move.
Or, you might want to check the value of your portfolio or the status of pending orders. Either way, all of the best online stock trading platforms discussed on this page offer a native mobile app that is available on iOS and Android devices.
With that said, you still need to check the user experience of the app itself - much like we discussed in the section above. This is because the stock trading platform might be easy to use online, but somewhat cumbersome when opting for the app. Finally, the stock trading app gets extra bonus points if it allows you to fund your account directly within the application.
Some of the best online stock trading platforms discussed on this page only support bank transfer deposits and withdrawals. While this might be fine for some of you, it won't if you want to start trading straight away. This is because bank transfers can take a few days to hit your stock trading account.
This is why we like eToro - as the regulated platform allows you to deposit funds with a debit card, credit card, and even e-wallets like Paypal, Skrill, and Neteller.
On top of checking what payment methods the stock trading platform supports, you need to explore:
You can usually check the above metrics by visiting the stock trading platform's website before signing up.
The best stock trading platforms operate in a smooth and burden-free manner - meaning that there is little chance you'll need access to customer support. However, there might come a time where you need assistance on your account- for example, to check the status of a deposit or to verify a specific trading fee.
As such, be sure to explore what times the customer support team operates. This is usually 24/5, although some stock trading platforms offer support 7 days per week.
And of course, you need to check what support channels are offered. The best option in this respect is live chat - as this is both free and instant. Some stock trading platforms also offer telephone support, albeit, this is usually reserved for traditional brokerage firms.
If, however, the only support option is email and an FAQ section, this can lead to a frustrating experience if you need urgent help.
If you've read this ultimate guide on the best stock platforms of 2021 up to this point - you're likely ready to get started. With that said, if this is your first time trading stocks online - you might be looking for a bit of guidance.
If so, the walkthrough below will show you how to start trading stocks online at commission-free platform eToro in less than 10 minutes!
You will first need to open an account with eToro. To do this, visit the platform's homepage and look for the 'Join Now' button.
You will then be prompted to enter some personal information - such as your name, address, and date of birth. eToro also needs to collect some contact details - including your mobile number and email address.
eToro will now ask you to upload a copy of your:
This is because the platform is heavily regulated and thus - it must comply with domestic and regional anti-money laundering laws. As soon as you upload the above documents, your eToro account will be verified.
Note: You can upload the above documents at a later date. But, this needs to be done before you can make a withdrawal or you attempt to deposit more than $2,250.
Now that you have opened an account, you can practice your stock trading endeavors on the eToro demo account - which comes pre-loaded with $100,000 in paper funds.
If, however, you are ready to start trading stocks with real money - you will need to make a deposit. You can choose from the following payment types:
eToro offers over 2,400 stocks across 17 international markets. As such, if you know which stock you want to trade, it's best to search for it. As per the example below, we are searching for 'Visa' stocks.
Alternatively, if you don't know which stocks you want to trade, click on the 'Trade Markets' button. This allows you to browse what stocks are on offer by the exchange or industry.
Once you click on the 'Trade' button next to your chosen stock, you will be presented with an order box like the screenshot below.
Here, you need to enter fill in the following fields:
Once you have checked the information entered, click on the 'Open Trade' button to place your commission-free stock trading order!
Note: If the market you are looking to trade is closed, click on the 'Set Order' button. eToro will execute the trade when the market reopens.
With so many stock trading platforms striving for your business, there is no need to sign up with the first provider that catches your eye. On the contrary, consider spending some time researching the many platforms active in this space. In doing so, you are sure to find a stock trading platform that is suited for you and your needs.
If, however, you don't have time to research the many hundreds of platforms on offer, we would suggest considering eToro. This hugely popular trading platform offers over 2,400 stocks across 17 international markets - all on a commission-free basis. Plus, the platform is heavily regulated and allows you to open an account and deposit funds in a matter of minutes!
67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.
If this is the first time that you will be trading stocks online, it's crucial to stick with a beginner-friendly platform. In our view, eToro is the best stock trading platform for beginners. The platform is really simple to use and requires no prior trading experience to be able to place buy and sell orders.
eToro is arguably the most cost-effective stock trading platform in the online space. Not only can buy and trade stocks without needing to pay any commission, but spreads are very competitive, too.
The number and type of stock markets offered by your chosen platform will vary. For example, while eToro covers 17 international markets, the vast majority of stocks available on Robinhood focus on US-listed shares.
In most cases yes - stock trading platforms are safe to use. However, the platform in question must hold a brokerage license with a reputable body to be deemed safe. Such bodies include the likes of the FCA, FINRA, and ASIC.
Much like traditional brokerage firms, the best stock trading platforms make money by charging fees. This might come via trading commissions and/or the spread. Some stock trading platforms also make money by charging deposit/withdrawal fees, overnight financing fees, and inactivity fees.
More and more new-age stock trading platforms are beginning to accept e-wallets like Paypal. eToro, for example, supports Paypal, Skrill, and Neteller.
The easiest way to short stocks online is to use a trading platform that supports CFD instruments. This means that you simply need to place a sell order on the stock you wish to speculate against.
Kane Pepi is a British researcher and writer that specializes in finance, financial crime, and blockchain technology. Now based in Malta, Kane writes for a number of platforms in the online domain. In particular, Kane is skilled at explaining complex financial subjects in a user-friendly manner. Kane has also written for websites such as MoneyCheck, InsideBitcoins, Blockonomi, Learnbonds, Buysharesand the Malta Association of Compliance Officers.
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