Just like finding the right stockbroker, the right stock trading app can be just as key.
Trading is a personal endeavor, right? What works for one trader doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. I know every trader faces different challenges in the journey to becoming a self-sufficient trader.
I prefer to trade from a laptop and recommend you do the same. But I know it’s not always possible…
Some need to manage trades on the go. Or maybe you start a trade on your laptop then need to watch it from your phone throughout the day. These are just two cases where apps can be useful.
So today I’ll look at some of the top trading apps available. I want you to succeed. That means you gotta find the tools that work for you.
I list the apps in this post by category. Some show up in more than one category, some only show up once. All these apps have excellent uses for some traders. But of course, not all of them will be suitable for everyone.
Keep in mind your situation, your trading style, and your current account size.
Before I dive in, I gotta note that I’m in no way affiliated with these brokers or app developers — with the exception of StocksToTrade (which I proudly helped develop).
Now, let’s explore some of the top stock trading apps for 2020.
Top Stock Trading App for Beginners
Too many newbie traders take on too much too fast. Fortunately, some apps can help newbies learn trading and market basics. Some can also help if you’re saving up for a trading account.
Most of my students who start with one of these apps upgrade down the road. I’ll review some options for that in a bit.
Robinhood’s a well-known commission-free broker. It actually started as a mobile app. The desktop interface came much later.
Robinhood’s default is to start every new account as a margin account subject to the pattern day trader (PDT) rule. That means you can only trade three times every five days. Personally, I think the PDT is a good restriction when you’re learning to trade.
Also, despite forcing you into a margin account, it doesn’t allow you to short stocks. I also don’t think newbies should short. It’s a risky strategy — you can blow up your account with one trade.
But Robinhood has some big limitations: its executions and customer service. Plus, you can’t trade OTCs. Read my full review of Robinhood day trading here.
This is another commission-free firm. It’s not as popular as Robinhood, but it has a few advantages…
You can link Acorns to your bank account. Every time you make a purchase, it rounds up the purchase to a whole dollar amount. The difference goes into a brokerage account.
Once you have some cash saved, you can use the app’s built-in feature to help you build a portfolio … That might include stocks, bonds, or ETFs (exchange-traded funds). Better yet, you can let the cash build and make your own trades later.
It also offers individual retirement accounts (IRAs). This app is fine for passive investors, but I don’t recommend Acorns for active traders.
I think its real advantage is its savings features. If you want to get started but don’t have any cash, you need to start saving. It offers several tools to help you stash away cash for your future trading account or a rainy day.
There are apps better designed for learning to trade. Let’s cover those next…
Top Stock Trading Apps for Learning
On your trading journey, your needs will change and evolve. While you’re learning, it’s smart to understand the concepts before you risk any capital. How? Paper trading.
If you want to start with real money but limit your costs, there’s an option for that too.
No matter where you are on your journey, there’s an app for that. Let’s look at some picks.
Stock Market Simulator
This app can be great for traders who aren’t quite ready to risk actual money. And it can be a great companion to Acorns. As you save cash to start trading, you can learn the concepts. So when you’re ready to dive in, you have a better idea of what you’re doing.
Learning to trade penny stocks? Read “The Complete Penny Stock Course” by my student Jamil. It’s a thorough overview of everything I teach.
(Hint: see chapter I.8 Tools of the Trade, page 85. Also, check out chapter I.9 StocksToTrade, the Ultimate Trading Tool, page 91. Those two chapters go into more detail about tools to help you succeed.)
You can get a one-week free trial of Stock Market Simulator. After that, there’s a small monthly fee.
But don’t risk real money if you don’t know what you’re doing. Learn the basics. You can do that by paper trading. StocksToTrade has a great paper trading feature. Check it out on a trial basis with this awesome deal.
But if you can’t be at a computer while you trade, a mobile app may be the way to go. The Stock Market Simulator app provides just that. An app with no real risk.
When you’re ready, you can move on to real trading. But you gotta be prepared for the emotions that can come with putting real cash on the line…
So take it slow. Develop a process and the right mindset. Build watchlists. Learn to cut your losses quickly.
Somehow, this is the second time this app is on this list. Some of my students make their first trade on Robinhood.
Again, I’m not a fan of Robinhood. I’ve heard too many horror stories about awful executions and bad customer service. So do your research and be careful.
And don’t overextend yourself. With so many different trading styles, it’s tempting to try them all at once. Definitely try different things, but follow a process to find what works for you.
Top Free Stock Trading Apps
Commission-free trading is all the rage now. In 2019, the concept became mainstream. Several online brokers dropped commissions to $0 per trade. Read more about commission-free brokers here.
Do your research when you choose a broker. (For the record, these are the brokers I use). A broker that offers a phone app for trading can be great if you need that.
But make sure you choose a broker that’s established, has a strong track record, is highly regulated, and fully insured. You don’t want to worry about your broker shutting down overnight and your money disappearing. Yep, it’s happened.
I’ve used Thinkorswim in the past before TD Ameritrade bought it. It was my all-time favorite for customer service. But after TD Ameritrade acquired it, the borrows weren’t as good. (I was still a short-biased trader at the time.) Some of my top students use it, like Tim Lento.
Schwab recently acquired TD Ameritrade, so that could affect the app and trading platform in the future. But as of now, it can be a decent trading platform once your account is in the $2,000 range.
With Thinkorswim, you get free access to Level 2 data, customizable scanners, and solid executions.
But nothing’s perfect, right? Of course it has some disadvantages. There are a limited number of shares available for shorting. If shorting is your go-to style, this won’t be the best fit for you.
If you’re a long-biased trader who mainly trades listed stocks, this can be a good choice for you.
Need a little more? Keep reading…
Many consider E-Trade to be the original place to trade online. It’s been around as long as online trading.
I’ve had an account open at E-Trade for over 20 years. If you haven’t read it yet, get a copy of my bestselling book “An American Hedge Fund.” E-Trade was one of the brokers I used to make my first six-figure trade back in 2000. Heady days…
In 2019, it also went to commission-free trades with the rest of the big brokers. But only for stocks listed on the NYSE or Nasdaq. You’ll still pay commissions on stocks that trade on the OTC exchanges. Those commissions typically range from $4.95–$6.95.
It has more shares available for shorting than Thinkorswim. But if your main strategy is shorting penny stocks, keep reading.
Top Penny Stock Trading Apps
So far, we’ve covered several apps you can use to start trading. But you’ll likely need more from your broker as you gain trading experience.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to open new accounts. Most money transfers go through in a few days for free.
When trading penny stocks, like I do, some brokers offer more than others. And not every broker has a great app to go along with a desktop trading platform.
If your lifestyle requires you to trade on the go, you need an app that works for you.
Even though it recently dropped a lot of its commissions to zero, E-Trade still charges commissions on some trades. Read the fine print. Know which trades will cost you something. Expect to pay a commission when trading OTC stocks, which are primarily penny stocks.
E-Trade also includes access to all the data you need to trade. That includes access to Level 2 data on every stock without delay — both listed and unlisted. There’s a fee for Level 2 but it’s money well spent. If you’re serious about trading you need access to Level 2 data.
E-Trade’s fees are reasonable but don’t take them on unless you’re ready. Also, it has limited access to borrows for shorting. So if you have a short bias, the next app could be a better fit.
Interactive Brokers is also a brokerage I currently use. The main drawback is its $10,000 minimum initial deposit. Not the best choice for small accounts.
It has a zero-commission option. It’s long been an industry leader for established traders and anyone who primarily short sells. (And if you’re a newbie, I don’t recommend you short anyway — it’s dangerous.)
If you have a small account, Interactive Brokers won’t be your best option. There are still plenty of great options out there. Check out some of the other apps we’ve already discussed.
Top Stock Tracking Apps
Sometimes you just need a quick quote. Or maybe you’re not ready to take on the markets just yet. Yep, there’s an app for that.
Let’s look at a few apps that don’t require a deposit.
These apps can give you a ton of info about the markets and individual stocks. They can also be a great option when using public Wi-Fi … They don’t store much banking or personal info.
Yahoo! Finance carved out a niche for itself in the finance world. You can find other resources out there … but none come close to Yahoo!’s interface.
With the tap of your finger you can pull up the current price, the float, the short float, recent news, SEC filings, and so much more.
You can also easily keep up with market trends. The app sends alerts throughout the day about broader market trends and big news events. It’s easy to create a watchlist and get custom alerts when a stock on your list makes a big move.
Yahoo! recently added a paid option, but I haven’t tried it. If I need to do further research, I wait until I’m back at my laptop and use StocksToTrade. It’s the premier trading software designed by traders for traders.
StocksToTrade is still developing an app, but it’s not ready yet. I hear the programmers are working hard on it. It should roll out soon. Stay tuned to this blog and follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.
The last app we’ll look at can provide tons of information on individual stocks and lots of cool scans too.
It’s not a trading app. It uses a freemium model to track stocks, provide lots of alerts, and track the alerts it issues for a stock over time.
I’ll be honest … I’m not much of a swing trader. So I don’t use this app.
The paid version offers more alerts and the ability to customize scans. I’d say try out the free version first and see where it goes from there.
If you’re serious about trading, treat it like a business. That means you gotta be smart about the tools you use. And sometimes, you gotta spend money to make money. Find what works for you.
Technology is changing everything. These days, you don’t need to be tied to a desk to trade. Yes, you need solid tools. But what’s really key? The right education and the right mindset.
Apps can certainly help, but they won’t make or break your trading career. But you can think about it this way … Most of us carry around powerful machines all the time. We’re tied to our smartphones. So why not use them to better our lives and trading?
Do your research. Find the tools and apps that work for you. The apps that I use may not be the best fit for you.
But it’s so easy to try. Installing an app takes little time and usually costs nothing. Try out as many as you need to find the best fit for you.
An app won’t teach you to become a smart, self-sufficient trader … not yet anyway. If you’re ready to push yourself and learn the markets from the ground up, come join me! Apply for my Trading Challenge today.
What’s your favorite stock market app? Let me know — leave a comment below!