Investing > Best Investment Apps

Best Investment Apps

This guide outlines the best investment apps available, regardless of what you'd like to trade or which strategy you wish to employ.

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Are you looking to invest easily?

Investing often seems like a tough game to get into. Finding a stock brokerage, learning what all the different asset types mean, sifting through charts and data… It can be frustrating, time-consuming, or downright impossible, especially if you don’t have a lot of cash to start with.

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired many to try out fintech (financial tech) mobile platforms to include investment apps. Never before have more people found that investing is not only within their reach but is actually easier than ever thanks to these apps’ easy-to-use interfaces and robo-advisors.

The truth is, in our current age of technology, anyone can use modern investment apps to develop a portfolio and join the stock market as a serious player.

Even better, many of the best investment apps have low account minimums, little-to-no fees, and a huge number of assets available. If you’re thinking about investing from your smartphone, you’ll want to start with one of the leading investment apps outlined below.

Top Investment Apps

We’ve ranked the best investment apps based on features, user-friendliness, fees, and more:

1. Robinhood
Best No-Hassle Free Stock Trading App
2. Betterment
Best Robo Advisor
3. Acorns
Best for Students
4. Stash
Best Investor Education
5. Personal Capital
Best for High Net Worth Investors
6. M1 Finance
Best for Free Automated Investing
7. SoFi Invest
Great Overall Investment App

The Best Investment Apps in 2020

The best investment app for one person might not be the best for everyone else. Still, we feel that these seven investment apps are great choices overall. Each has a specific focus that we think indicates who would benefit from a given app’s offerings the most, however.

1. Robinhood – Best No-Hassle Free Stock Trading App

Robinhood Banner White

Pros

  • Standard plan is completely free for all users
  • Features a simplistic and easy to understand interface
  • Very easy to sign up and use
  • Provides good overview stats and charts
  • No account minimum

Cons

  • Doesn’t allow trades for a variety of asset types
  • No educational or advisory tools
Visit Robinhood on Robinhood’s website

Robinhood, as its namesake would want, is a free stock trading app without any extra commission costs or fees regardless of the type of asset used to trade. Of course, there is a downside in that you can’t trade beyond stocks and ETFs, so their asset range is somewhat limited compared to many other investing apps.

Still, there’s a lot to like with this investing platform. Robinhood’s real-time trading interface is super easy to understand and user-friendly. Despite its simplicity, you can also use tools on the app to schedule recurring deposits or set up trades in the future, among other things.

Understanding the risks and benefits of your upcoming trades is also fairly easy, as the app provides a series of simplistic charts and stats. Getting a birds-eye view of your investment portfolio is only a button press or two away.

Robinhood is a seamless app that’s great for investors who like to play the stock market on the side and don’t mind doing their market research themselves. The platform doesn’t have any research tools or robust, in-depth data available. It’s an app where you make it or break it yourself, overall, as there isn’t a robo-advisor option to benefit from, either.

Still however, the usability and completely free nature make Robinhood stand out from its peers. We say Robinhood is the top stock trading app you can find.

Is Robinhood Really Free?

Robinhood is totally free across the board. Even other so-called “free” investment apps usually charge small commission fees on certain types of trades, but there are none of these to be seen with this particular platform.


2. Betterment – Best Robo Advisor

Logo of Betterment

Pros

  • Very effortless once you set up your account
  • Your advisor’s decisions are based on a personal profile
  • You can contact the financial expert if you have questions
  • Low fees for the basic account
  • Hands off from start to finish

Cons

  • Very limited control once your portfolio gets going
  • May be frustrating if the algorithm makes a decision you don’t understand
Visit Betterment on Betterment’s website

If you are more interested in a dedicated robo-advisor app experience, Betterment might be the perfect investment app for you. They do let you choose from several personalized investment options, but then they automate the actual investing process from beginning to end.

Basically, you put together an account by answering several key questions that Betterment’s algorithms turn into a portfolio that is supposed to represent your ideal investment template. You’ll be able to review your finances, lifestyle, goals, and monetary needs and tweak your account portfolio to your liking. Then you give it over to the app’s advisors and you’re set.

You do get to decide how much you want to invest, of course. The app also lets you link its account with your bank account if you want to make regular contributions. But overall, all the big financial decisions are made using Betterment’s algorithms, so it’s as hands-off as you can get with modern investment apps.

Betterment also offers human financial guidance, which is a nice touch in the world of automated investing. This expert can help you understand why the algorithm might have made a decision it did and help you change things if you don’t like the way your portfolio is shaping up.

All of this puts Betterment in the #1 spot in our top robo advisors report.

Betterment’s Fees

There’s no minimum account balance but there is a 0.25% annual fee for the standard account — which is much cheaper than using a human financial advisor. If you want a premium account (with more asset options), you’ll need a $100,000 minimum and have to endure a 0.40% annual fee.


3. Acorns – Best for Students

Acorns Investment Page

Pros

  • Puts your spare change to good use
  • Has some educational materials
  • Very easy to set up auto investing
  • No minimum balance required
  • All portfolio options are theoretically safe

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide big returns in most cases
  • Fees can be high depending on account balance
Visit Acorns on Acorns’website

Acorns is a “spare change” investment app that’s ideal — and free — for students, as such investors are unlikely to have big chunks of change they can throw the stock market. It also operates a little differently compared to many other platforms you can join.

In a nutshell, Acorns let you choose from different portfolios all pulled from a selection made by a Nobel prize-winning economist. You then invest your spare change or other small amounts for hopefully larger returns over time.

Signing up for the app is super easy and you can link either your credit or debit card to the account. Once linked, Acorns can round up any spare change in those linked accounts to the next dollar and invest that money from the available portfolio options.

You can use this to automatically invest extra change over time; for instance, you can have Acorns invest an additional $.50 if you buy a soda worth $4.50. This can theoretically add up to significant returns over time.

It’s a somewhat unique spin on the traditional robo-advisor-assisted model that many other investment apps use these days. Of course, all of these small amounts necessarily mean you can only expect a small return in most cases, so it’s not an app if you want to get rich off the market.

The hands-off nature and cheap cost of the app make Acorns a great choice for students and other budget-conscious investors. However, they do have several fees to keep in mind (which vary based on the account type you hold or use). They can also charge a relatively high fee compared to what these small-change accounts might have at any time. 

What Are Acorns Fees?

Acorns charges $1 per month if you pick up a basic account, $2 per month for a retirement account, and $3 per month if you also use the app’s bank account for automated investing of spare change.


4. Stash – Best for Investor Education

Stash Logo on White Background

Pros

  • Very easy to get started
  • Low costs in general
  • Has tons of excellent financial education tools
  • Provides personal financial advisor access and assistance
  • Lets you invest in low-risk fractional shares

Cons

  • Costs can add up over time if you have a small account balance
  • Small portfolio diversity
Visit Stash on Stash’s website

Stash is another example of a spare change investing app, requiring only a minimum account balance of one cent. Interestingly, Stash lets you invest in fractions of traditional shares, so there is an argument to be made that it’s a great choice for beginners. Indeed, anyone looking to educate themselves on stock market investment will find a lot to like here.

You’ll be able to choose from a bit under 2000 single stock or ETF assets. Even better, Stash provides a ton of educational advice and assistance to help you manage your portfolio capably. Don’t know what socially responsible investing is? Stash can explain it.

Their specialists can help you learn the ropes of the app or the market at large; these financial advisory services are great for beginners, although they aren’t necessary if you have a bit of investing experience already.

Their pricing tiers differ significantly, as well. The Beginner plan is fairly simple, but the next plan (called Growth) offers additional tax benefits if you set up a retirement investing account. The third subscription tier (called Stash+) also comes with a debit card and monthly market insights for added value.

All in all, Stash is a remarkably easy app to use with a low barrier to entry. But the financial educational materials are largely what set it apart from the pack. However, between it and Acorns, the latter is likely a slightly better spare change app overall if you want consistent and mostly-automated investing action.

Stash Invest Fee Structure

There is a one-cent minimum account balance for everyone, and three plans to choose from. The Beginner plan is $1 per month, the Growth plan is $3 per month, and the Stash+ plan is $9 per month.


5. Personal Capital – Best for High Net Worth Investors

Personal Capital Logo Banner

Pros

  • All available assets are preselected for security/low taxes
  • Helps you consolidate all financial data
  • Provides tons of financial advice and financing tools
  • All accounts get a financial expert
  • Pretty easy to set up and navigate

Cons

  • Restricted to high net worth investors
  • Investment customization is limited
Visit Personal Capital on Personal Capital’s website

Many of the above apps are better for budget-conscious investors. But if you already have a high net worth, this investment app might be a great choice. They provide a plethora of free financial tools and wealth management services in addition to several good investment opportunities.

It’s essentially an asset management service overall. For instance, you can link all of your financial accounts together for the app to summarize your finances overall. This will, in turn, allow you to make broader financial decisions and budget for your investments while seeing all your account balances at once, which is a lot easier than switching from app to app.

You’ll then be able to invest your money in preselected portfolios of special ETFs and individual securities. These assets are picked out to minimize added taxes or expenses: key considerations if you want to preserve your net worth for future growth or the next generation.

You can take a more hands-on approach and invest your money in the available assets yourself, or use some algorithmic assistance from the app. Furthermore, every Personal Capital account receives a dedicated advisor for financial assistance and any questions. 

What Are Personal Capital’s Fees?

There’s a 0.89% fee for every $1 million or less you deposit. An account minimum of $100,000 is required to begin using the app, as well.


6. M1 Finance – Best for Free Automated Investing

M1 Finance Logo Banner

Pros

  • Blends robo-advising and personal investment choice
  • Has a simplistic and user-friendly interface
  • Is mostly free
  • Has a good selection of different stock and ETF assets
  • Has some free design portfolio templates for beginners

Cons

  • Lets you make one trade every day
  • Design can be a bit confusing for some
Visit M1 Finance on M1 Finance’s website

M1 Finance straddles the line between a truly automated investment app and a more hands-on experience. Basically, they let you invest in pre-selected portfolios while also letting you pick and choose your stock or ETF investments if that’s more your speed. You can even mix-and-match to some extent.

In a nutshell, it’s a great app if you like being able to automate your investments but don’t want a robo-advisor or the app’s algorithms to totally take control of your investment future. To this end, you’ll also be able to pick and choose your investment choices and then let the automated algorithms run their course.

In this way, you’ll control the beginning and end of your investment decisions and let the app take care of everything in the middle.

We also like that M1 Finance provides preset investment portfolio templates if you’re a beginner. This makes it easy to take advantage of their automated algorithms. Since the algorithms don’t control everything, you can gradually ease up on the automated controls and make more independent investing decisions as you gain experience.

M1 Finance is a free investing app with the exception of some account minimums. We do admit that it’s not the easiest app to understand, however, and many beginners have probably been drawn in thinking it’s totally automated, only to be disappointed.

You’re also limited to a single trade per day. Still, it may be a good middle-ground option for somewhat experienced investors who like the idea of automated investing.

How Much Does M1 Finance Cost?

No charges except for a $100 minimum balance for a personal account and a $500 minimum for a retirement account.


7. SoFi Invest – Great Overall Investment App

Sofi Logo

Pros

  • Very good for beginners
  • Offers plenty of educational materials
  • App also has other banking and financial tools available
  • Offers self-directed or managed portfolios
  • Decent spread of asset types

Cons

  • Not great for retirement investing
  • Research tools are a bit lacking
“>Visit SoFi Invest on SoFi Invest’s website

SoFi Invest is part of the broader SoFi financial institution, which originally covered student loans but now provides banking, lending, and investment services all from a single mobile hub. As a result, it’s a great investment app choice if you already use SoFi’s services for any other financial endeavors.

It’s also a particularly good choice if you’re a beginner. In the app, you’ll find a plethora of investment educational materials you can use to become a better stock trader over time. Speaking of stocks, SoFi allows you to invest in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies, so there’s a decent spread of asset options available to sate more experienced investors as well.

But SoFi is an even better choice for beginners since it lets you start off with so-called “fractional shares”, called Stock Bits. These are lower risk but work the same way as regular stocks: a perfect way to learn the rules of the stock market game without risking too much. Check out our SoFi review to learn more.

Beyond these aspects, SoFi requires a low $1 minimum investment and offers a managed portfolio product if you want some professional help running your account from one of their financial experts. This product comes with no added investment management fees, too. They don’t offer bonds or mutual funds, unfortunately, so it’s not the best choice if you’re saving up for retirement.

SoFi Invest Fees

SoFi only demands a low $1 minimum to get started, and they also don’t charge commission fees in many cases. They do charge a 1.25% markup for any cryptocurrency transactions and some ETFs.


Why Use an Investment App?

In a nutshell, an investment app lets you participate in stock market trading and financial planning from the comfort of your own home on your favorite mobile device. They’re platforms that let you invest your money without needing to use another investor or a traditional stockbroker.

Before, you needed to physically call a stockbroker or firm in order to make any trade on the stock market. You’d also have to pay a commission to the trader or firm that brokered the trade.

These days, investment apps allow you to pick up your smartphone and trade almost instantaneously. While many apps also include commission fees, these are relatively low compared to what you would have to pay in bygone decades.

Ultimately, the point of an investment app is to bring instant trading to your fingertips. The variety of available investment apps also allows you to choose a platform that is tailored to your experience level or your desired level of control.

How Do Investment Apps Work?

Investment apps still act as intermediaries between you and the stock market, though to a much lesser extent than a traditional stockbroker. They let you begin investing in a matter of minutes since you usually only need to set up an account and fund it by connecting it to a bank account.

The sign-up and login process for most investment apps is usually pretty simple. You’ll need to provide some personal information, in addition to personal details like your Social Security number, in some cases.

This is all to confirm your identity and make sure you’re of the legal age to begin investing in the market in the first place. You’ll then be asked to link your new app account to a bank account so you can wire funding and begin trading. 

Upon funding your account, you’ll be able to start setting up an investment portfolio. Depending on the investment app in question, some of them may provide you with tutorials or other training wheels to help you set up your portfolio with a minimum of experience.

Others might not be designed for beginners and might instead offer greater control if you already have some experience trading on the stock market.

Regardless, you’re free to trade as you will after you set up your account. Many investment apps have limits on when and how much you can withdraw if you do make money on the app, though these are usually just to stop people from withdrawing money after they’ve already committed to a trade.

What Assets Can Be Traded with an Investment App?

The available assets to be traded on a given investment app depends on the app itself. For instance, Robinhood is primarily focused on letting you buy and sell stocks, while apps like Acorns will only let you trade ETFs. Other apps like SoFi provides stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies.

Overall, any asset you can trade on the real stock market can be traded on at least one investment app.

What Is a “Spare Change” Investment App?

This is another name for investment apps that have very small investment minimums for any of their users and that primarily deal in cents-level stocks. They’re designed for millennials and other adults who don’t feel they have enough money to start investing in the stock market.

Stash is a good example, as it only demands an investment minimum of one cent. It also lets you use the spare change in your account for investing, so you can eventually grow your portfolio slowly but surely. Acorns is another spare change app.

Spare change apps are great if you want to learn the ropes of the stock market and get a hang of things. But they’re also good if you’re young, but don’t have a lot of cash to begin investing.

They usually don’t offer very big returns, however. You may need to switch investing apps when you have more experience and more disposable income.

Investment App Benefits

Investment apps provide several benefits compared to using a traditional brokerage or talking to a stockbroker on the phone.

Easy to Use

For starters, investment apps are extremely simple and intuitive to use almost as a rule. Even those not particularly user-friendly in comparison to the best investment apps for beginners are still arguably easier to use and understand than getting on the phone with a stockbroker. Most apps provide tutorials or instructions to help you easily set up an investment account, too.

Plenty of them also provide financial advice depending on your income level and your experience level. Furthermore, some of the most advanced investment apps will provide top-notch robo-advisors, which can point out potentially lucrative trades that you might not recognize on your own.

Others may provide more automated tools so you can set up an investing account and mostly (or totally) let it run by itself, earning you money over the long-term with a minimum of day-to-day effort.

Is Investing with an App Cost-Effective?

Compared to traditional stockbrokers and other investing pathways, investment apps are extremely cost-effective. Human advisors are replaced by algorithms for all these apps, meaning that the programmers spend less money on app upkeep and, thus, demand lower fees for their services.

This is also why some apps offer free trading – they can afford such a thing because of how cheap it is for them to run the app in the first place.

As such, investment apps provide a window into the stock trading world that even those on a very tight budget can utilize.

Always Up and Available

Human stockbrokers have to eat, sleep, and have social lives. Investment apps do not.

You can use these investment apps to access your information, buy or sell, or make other adjustments anytime you like so long as you’re connected to the Internet. This allows day traders or investors that like to constantly fiddle with their portfolio to do so whenever they please.

These apps are also good if you just want to keep a close eye on your portfolio, particularly during economically uncertain times.

How Much Money Do I Need to Open an Investment App?

Very little, although the actual minimum, again, depends on the individual investment app. Certain micro-investing apps like Acorns only demand small minimums since they invest change. Stash also only has a one cent minimum account requirement.

Other apps that are not micro-investing options have higher minimums. Sometimes, apps will demand initial minimums of around $100 or so, but others may well be cheaper. Again, some apps (like Robinhood) are also totally free.

Besides the account minimum, the only money you need to get started trading is the value of the stocks or other assets you want to buy or sell. Stock share prices can range from a few dollars to hundreds or thousands of dollars per share, so this range is quite variable.

Are Funds on an Investment App Insured?

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC, plays an administrative role in the stock trading and investing industries.

They insure any money you have in your brokerage account up to $500,000 (this also counts if you have a robo-advisor-run account). Of that $500,000, $250,000 can be applied toward any cash that you haven’t invested yet, essentially helping you save money in the future if a coming deal is impacted.

Of course, this insurance only protects you if your account or the app is hacked, or if something goes wrong with the stocks or other assets you invest in themselves. Something illegal has to occur for the insurance to kick in in most cases. In other words, any money that you lose through honest investing will not be covered by the insurance.

How Do Beginners Invest with an App?

Beginners to the stock market might invest in dramatically different ways based on their knowledge of the market. Those who are confident might go a little overboard and invest in risky but potentially lucrative stocks and blow through their savings in a week. Others might be a little too conservative and not make any substantial gains even after a few months.

For our money, we’d recommend starting with Acorns or Stash if you’re a true beginner and you don’t have a lot of cash to play with on the market. These apps focus on ETFs, but can still result in valuable returns for super low startup funding. SoFi is another good choice due to its educational materials, fractional stock options, and low costs.

Ultimately, most beginners will want to educate themselves on the stock market and its intricacies heavily, as well as continually tweak their portfolios as they gain experience. Eventually, and as you gain more wealth through the stock market, you can take on riskier and potentially better trades and move on to stocks, currencies, and even options (which are among the riskiest assets to trade!).  

What Is the Best Investment App for Beginners?

This largely depends on how much money you want to invest. In general, apps that provide educational material are great choices for beginners since they let you become a better investor (if you take advantage of them, that is). All in all, if you’re a beginner, look for:

  • low minimums and fees
  • fractional stock options
  • low investment risk and costs
  • educational materials
  • investment advisors or specialist help

New to the world of investing? See our top stock brokers for beginners.

Wrap Up

Ultimately, the best stock trading apps are usually those that combine smart design and user-friendliness. They should also have enough asset variability to provide good investment opportunities for their users.

We think the above seven investment apps are good representations of what the industry currently has to offer, though we’re excited to see what new investment apps spring up in the near future.

Have you ever used an investment app before? Let us know what your favorite(s) are and give us your opinion on our top choices in the comments section below.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on tokenist.com. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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