Investing in stocks is a great way to grow your money. It can seem like a daunting task for the uninitiated. There are a lot of stock apps to from your mobile, but some are better than others. It’s not easy to figure out where to start, who to trust, and how much money you need when starting from scratch. If you’re just starting out, you want an app that’s easy to set up and sign in. You also need to figure out who has the lowest fees and commissions and the best access to markets. That’s why we have put together this list of the best stock apps available in the USA and Australia. These apps will help make investing in stocks and building wealth a lot easier and you can do it on the go!
In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to use stocks apps for investing on the go:
- What are stock apps
- What should you look for in a good stock app
- Choosing the right type of stock app – bank or fintech
- Bank apps – pros and cons
- Fintech apps – pros and cons
- How to vet a stock app before investing your dough
- Top 3 stock apps – USA
- Top 3 stock apps – Australia
We’re bringing wealth building straight to your mobile phone, so it’s even easier to get on that road to financial freedom!
What are stock apps?
Stock apps are apps that allow you to buy and sell stocks and invest in different financial products, directly from your phone. You can use these apps on Android or iPhone. There are two categories of stock apps each with their own benefits and trade offs:
- Bank and broker stock apps
- Fintech stock apps
We’ll go into the pros and cons of each of these below.
What should you look for in a good stock app?
The good news is there is a lot of competition to win your custom and that’s great for you as an investor. It means you should expect more from your stock app than just trading stocks. It can also mean decision fatigue when you’re getting started because there are so many apps to choose from! Don’t worry, we know your time is precious and we’ve go you covered!
A great stock app will have these features:
- high levels of trust and authority
- easy to set up and use
- low commission and fees
- Good research and market access
- Responsive customer support
- investment portfolio ‘bells and whistles’ to help manage your money
Some apps even offer rewards and incentives to invest and use the app!
Let’s look at each of these features in turn.
Trust and authority
Trust and authority comes from the legitimacy of an app, its history and user base. It’s easier to trust apps from companies that are regulated and licensed where required.
Trust and authority also comes from the company longevity and whether it has built a strong, satisfied and growing user base. If an app has all of these things, we would put our trust into the company and our money into the app.
Easy set up and use
Gone are the days where it takes two weeks and a mountain of paperwork to set up a brokerage account! Fintech has upped the game here. It should be easy to set up your account. In some cases – like with Stake app – you’ll be able to do it in minutes. The app should also be intuitive to use and simple to navigate. The apps on this list are clean, simple and even fun to interact with.
Low commissions and fees
There’s loads of competition in this space, which lets us really nail down the best of the best. It’s not a matter of find the lowest commission and fees per se. It’s more about whether you’re getting value for your commission and fees. There are zero brokerage apps in our list. But it’s ok to pay brokerage if you need good research and analysis to inform your investing decisions and the app provides that. We just don’t want you to pay high fees and get little value in return.
Just remember, companies have to make money so do expect some fees always. If you can’t find them, be suspicious! In the US there are also regulator fees for securities transactions to consider.
Research and market access
You should expect your stock app to provide access to investment news at a minimum. If you’re paying more in brokerage, the app should provide access to research reports and company performance metrics.
Market access is about the diversity of investment opportunities in the app. It should cover plenty of different stocks and provide choice of investment. This might be through the markets you can access or the range of portfolio options and companies covered within them.
Responsive customer support
This is a biggie if something goes wrong. You need to be able to trust the company and get in touch with a human sometimes. This one factor has made us really pair back our list. The fact is, some of the really big Fintech stock apps out there have terrible customer service. You can see it reflected in frustrated App Store reviews and when you do a Google search on the app. We’ve stayed away from those apps and so should you.
Investing bells and whistles
These apps will often market on added extras for investors. Feature’s like automated investing, fractional investing, retirement fund investing, tax optimization and so on.
Off all of these services, we like fractional investing the most. This means you can buy a slice of some of the best companies (and most expensive stocks) around without having to have enough money to buy 1 whole share. It opens wealth building up to everyone, even if you’re starting with just a little, and we love it!
Incentives and rewards
You might find incentives to sign up with a stock app, like a free stock or a small dollar value amount towards your first stock buy. Cashback rewards for credit card purchases is another popular in-app reward. Some stock apps also have referral programs that pay you in stock or money when a friend you refer signs up an account and buys their first stock.
Choosing the right stock app – bank or fintech?
As we said at the beginning, there are two types of stock apps – bank stock apps and Fintech stock apps. Each type offers trade offs against the other, so you need to make sure you start with picking which type you prefer based on what you value This will make selecting the app easier.
Bank and broker stock apps
These are stock apps developed by existing banking and brokerage services that allow you to invest in stocks from your mobile. The names of these apps may be familiar to you. For example if you are in the US there is xxx. If you are in Australia, there is the Commsec Mobile app, which is an offshoot of the Commonwealth Bank.
High trust and authority.
Bank stock apps generally rate very highly for trust and authority. Especially if the app is from the investment arm of a big bank or broker (Like Wells Fargo or JP Morgan). They’re from institutions that have been around forever, are regulated and licensed, and have government consumer protections in place. They’re a known quantity, and you’re used to dealing with them!
Research and analysis.
Because they’re spin offs of existing financial institutions with big pockets, these apps can feature great research, analysis and company performance metrics to inform your investing.
Links to bank accounts. The benefit of bank stock apps is that they link pretty seamlessly with existing bank accounts if you’re a customer of the bank already.
Paperwork and process
On the cons, big banks mean big bureaucracy and this extends to their stock apps in a few ways.
Firstly, bank stock apps are from big bricks and mortar banks that have existing overheads to cover, so they’re not cheap to use. Fees and commissions are higher per trade as these institutions have focussed on large net worth customers. If you’re starting out with small amounts, you’ll be paying high fees.
It also takes time (days!) to apply for an account to trade from with apps. In addition, the paperwork is often done by snail mail and needs to be ‘processed’. More time. I recently applied for a Commsec international trading account. It takes Commsec 7 days to process your application and send you tax forms, which you then return by post. It’s another 5 business days from there to activate your account.
Transactions are also pretty slow with these apps – it takes 2 or 3 days for your money to settle for example.
No in app rewards or incentives
Bank’s just aren’t used to doing this!
Fintech stock apps
Fintechs are companies that operate in the finance and technology space. Usually, using better technology to bring users new and innovating financial products and services. Some of the big name Fintech’s have built their brand on financial services apps.
Low or no commission.
A lot of these apps have targeted their app products to lower net worth and younger investors. As a result, they often provide a platform for people looking to invest money into the market with minimum start up capital. To do so they have to offer low per trade brokerage commissions. They do have fees though – they have to make their money some how!
Digital wallet capabilities.
Many Fintech stock apps are actually all in one personal finance apps that offer both banking and investing. You can get bank cards with some apps, linking your investing and banking all in one place.
Access to cryptocurrency.
These apps are more likely to let you trade both stocks and cryptocurrency, if that’s what you’re after. A word of warning however, the crypto supported will be limited and the fees on transactions are not the best you can find. If you want to invest in crypto, we suggest you do it with a crypto mobile wallet.
Banks are not into crypto so you won’t find this service with them.
Rewards and incentives.
Fintech companies often offer in-app incentives, rewards and referral programs to grow their business. They’ve perfected the gamification of investing because their targeted audience is younger. We think this is a fun feature, and if it gets your to invest more in great assets then we’re big supporters!
Trust and authority score is lower than the big banks.
Some apps come with a warning in the App store that investments are “not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed and may lose value.”
The FDIC is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Being FDIC-insured means that up to $250,000 of your money is protected in the event of a company failure. The FDIC covers the traditional types of bank deposit accounts – including checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts (MMDAs), and certificates of deposit (CDs). Investment products that are not deposits, such as mutual funds, annuities, life insurance policies and stocks and bonds are not covered by FDIC deposit insurance.
If the company does not have FIDC insurance it should at least offer SIPC insurance. SIPC is the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting customer assets. SIPC insurance protects you up to $500,000 or $250,000 in cash if the company goes bankrupt.
Of course, if you lose money on a bad investment, you’re not covered by any insurance!
Customer support can be dismal.
Customer support with Fintech stock apps can be hard to nail down. Dealing with customer support in a big bank can be a pain in the proverbial but at least they have this service. If anything goes wrong with a Fintech app, you may have a bit of battle on your hands to fix it.
How to vet a stock app before investing your dough
We are writing this post because we don’t just want you to put your dough anywhere. It’s important that your money is safe! Here’s how to go about vettingn a stock app before you hit download:
- Check for FDIC insurance or SIPC insurance. Look for a statement in their app description in the App Store or on Google Play. Then double check this with SIPC or FDIC look up.
- Do a similar check to see if they are regulated by FINRA. Or in Australia, by ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission).
- Google the name of the app and see what people are searching on. If it’s all about how to contact their customer support or solve some other problem – red flag!
- Read their website to know exactly what fees you’re up for. They have to make their money somehow! Fintech apps often have a different business model than banks which means they don’t make their money from you in brokerage fees. It can be more difficult to track down what fees they do charge. Look for their FAQs and financial services guide on their website!
- Check out the reviews on Google Play or the App store. Read them, especially the most recent ones.
Top stock apps – our pick
Top 3 stock apps – USA
Public is a social investing app with more than 1 million downloads that’s also brokerage firm. It’s a straight forward stock investing app without lots of bells and whistles but with a social twist.
Because they are a brokerage, Public is regulated by FINRA and also carry SIPC insurance.
Features we love
Welcome to social investing!
Social investing means you can see what others are investing in and learn about stocks that way. You can also set up investing chat groups or join them in the app. You can follow investors and companies, so that information about them will come up in your feed to inform your investing decisions.
Public is straight forward and transparent investing, which means it doesn’t have the retirement accounts and other bells and whistles of some apps on this list. Public does give referral rewards however! As an incentive to refer friends, you can get a free stock worth up to $70. T&Cs apply – your friend has to make a deposit into their account first. You get to pick from 1 of 9 different stocks and a portion of that stock is then randomly picked deposited to your account.
So what about their fees? Firstly, unlike Acorns or Stash there are no subscription fees. This means you can start with really small amounts and invest and hold for the long term and you won’t pay proportionately high fees.
Public doesn’t make money through Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), which is where a brokerage firm receives rebates on trades routed through its clearing house. Its view is that this type of fee structure does not align its interests as broker with the interests of its customers. We commend this, and it’s one of the reasons they make our top five list. Instead Public makes money from:
- tips (yes you can tip them optionally if you love the app!)
- 0.2% on uninvested cash balances in the app.
- when their clearing house lends shares to other investors and institutions. This doesn’t impact your trades however.
Betterment has built their app around cash management, guided investment and retirement planning. They excel in automated and ‘hands off’ investment products. If you want a ‘set and forget’ service without the hassle of stock picking yourself, then check them out. To achieve this, they create a portfoilo of investments for you that are primarily based on ETFs. You set a money goal when you sign up, and Betterment customises a portfolio for you based on your time horizon and risk tolerance. You answer a few questions about yourself up front for them to do this.
Betterment is a member of the SIPC providing you with SIPC insurance protection. Their Cash Reserve Account and Checking Accounts are also FIDC insured and protected.
Features we love
If you hate paying tax, you’ll love Betterment. The app stands out for its automated tax tools, which help you avoid paying unnecessary taxes. They manage tax outcomes in your portfolio across all included legal accounts, using your dividends and withdrawals to improve asset location (the type of account your money is held in). They invest assets that they believe will be taxed at a higher rate in your tax-advantaged accounts (IRAs and 401(k)). They maintain assets in your taxable account that they expect to be taxed at lower rates. They also rebalance when they see chances to do so without incurring taxes.
Alongside your investment options, Betterment offers banking with rewards. With Betterment, when you spend from your Checking account or using their Debit Card, you get cashback rewards on some big name brands – like 5% cash back from Adidas and 2% from Walmart. They also reimburse ATM fees and foreign transaction fees worldwide and have completely cut out overdraft fees and minimum balances for their Checking accounts.
Betterment fees are straight forward – 0.25% of assets under management. They also make money through their Premium Plan which charges 0.4% in fees. Their advice packages another source of revenue. They also make money from merchants when you use their Visa Debit Card.
We love their transparent and simplicity – and the app is super easy to use as well.
Webull is a free mobile app that helps you invest on the go. It’s the most diverse stock app we have on our list. Webull is a US based company and the app offers commission-free stock and ETF investments from USA markets and 40 other countries worldwide.
Your money is insured as with Webull – like other apps on this list, you get up to $500,000 in protection against any bankruptcy of their brokerage firm partner (in this case Merrill Edge). They also offer an FDIC insurance guarantee for your checking and savings accounts with Webull Federal Bank.
Features we love
There are no minimum deposits to open a Webull account and Webull offers fractional investing. You can buy $5 worth of Apple stock if that’s all you have. You can also invest with margin loans if that’s your risk tolerance (we don’t do it!). 🙂
With Webull you can open cash and margin accounts as well as Traditional, Roth and Rollover IRAs.
Webull’s product offering is targeted at the active instead of the armchair investor. As a result you get access to better investment resources. In the app you can view various explanation videos and articles about how markets work and how to invest. In a nutshell, you’ll find better trading and market analysis tools on Webull than the other apps on this USA list.
Webull has a refer-a-friend program that offers free stock for qualifying referrals.
Webull makes it’s money from stock loans, interest on free credit balances, margin interest and payment for order flow. They don’t charge commission on trades. Certain types of deposits and withdrawals like by Wire Transfer will also attract a fee (a hefty one!) so make sure you stay away from those. It costs $75 to transfer a stock out of Webull, so once you buy with them you’ll need to stay there until you sell up or be prepared to pay up!
Top 3 stock apps – Australia
According to their webiste, more than 200,000 Australian’s are already investing with Spaceship. The app allows you to invest passively and to manage your investments. It also features som investment related news and editorial content.
You can open a Superannuation (retirement fund) account with Spaceship which comes with it’s own fee structure so make sure you look at the Super financial services guide if you’re into this product.
Spaceship has an Australian financial license and is regulated by ASIC.
Features we love
Spaceship makes investing easy and pretty fun. They have three investment portfolio options based on investing themes – Spaceship Universe, Spaceship Origin and Spaceship Earth. It takes 3 to 5 days to fund your account. Once your account is funded, Spaceship will issue you units in the fund of your choice. And that’s it! A super simple experience if you’re first getting into investing.
Their fee structure is also simple to understand, which we like. They charge zero fees on investments up to $5000. This a much better structure for investors with small amounts than the monthly subscription options from the likes of Acorn (in the US) or Raiz (in Oz). They charge 0.05% to 0.1% above $5000. So if you had $10,000 invested you’d be paying $5 a year.
Commsec mobile and Commsec pocket
We’re bundling these two together even though, annoyingly, they’re separate apps. It seems like the Commonwealth Bank has made an app for it’s existing brokerage customers (Commsec mobile) and has created Commsec Pocket to compete with the low commission Fintech apps like Acorn or Robinhood.
Commsec Mobile app is an all-in-one app for investing developed by the investment arm of the Commonwealth Bank. It’s free to download and easy to use.
There are no automated investing options or robo investing portfolio options here. It’s all about investing direct in listed market products.
Set up is easy using just your Netbank (Commonwealth Bank banking app) if you are an existing customer. A word of warning though, if you link it to a standard CBA account you’ll be hit with their $4 per month account keeping fee, which means using the app is more expensive than other options. Commsec say the fee can be waived but good luck making that happen. If you set up a Commsec CDIA (Commonwealth Direct Investment Account), there’s no account charges.
Features we love
Like Webull, Commsec mobile is designed for the active Australian investor. If you’re someone who knows about stock investing, has a good amount of capital to invest, and can make use of the full service research and analytics products, then this is a great stock app for you. These things are important to weigh up because you are going to be paying for their full featured investment research in brokerage fees which are not cheap if you’re investing small amounts.
Commsec Mobile features stock trading on both Australian and international markets. You can trade in the US, UK or Australia with Commsec – so if you’re looking to invest globally, it’s a good option. If you have an existing brokerage account you’ll be able to link it up too.
Commsec has a separate app called the Commsec Pocket. It’s designed for stock investors with smaller investing amounts – minimum $50 investment amounts apply. It’s basically straight forward ETF investing on autopilot with Commsec Pocket. You can invest in 7 themes like tech, sustainability and others. You also have access to investing tips and articles.
With both these apps you get the best customer support if anything goes wrong and just about the highest trust and authority score on the planet. There’s no bigger bank for Aussies than CBA…
Commsec mobile makes money from brokerage and from margin interest and other fees. Fees are specific to the type of product you’re trading, so check out their fee schedule here.
With Commsec Pocket, trades below $1000 cost $2 and you pay a fee of 0.2% for trades above this amount.
Third on the list of Aussie investing apps is Stake app. Stake started originally as a cheap way for Australians to invest directly in international markets. They charge zero brokerage fees (but they make their money in other ways).
You can set up stake in just 3 minutes and it takes a 2 days to fund your account. They have a long list of US stocks, ETFs and other investment vehicles you buy into directly. The app is easy to use and they have a refer a friend bonus program.
Stake has focussed singularly on the US markets up until now but they have Stake ASX (Australian market) coming soon. It’s currently in Beta mode and trades will cost $3. If you join their waitlist you get free brokerage until 2022.
Features we love
We’ve done a full review of Stake app right here that explains their fees, how they are set up and regulated, cool features and our experience using the app.
If you read this and then want to set up an account with Stake, use our link and we both get a free stock! Huzzah!
Where to next for your investing?
So you want to invest from your mobile and you’re looking for the best stock apps to do it. But what kind of investor do you want to be? If it’s the passive type, perhaps choose something like Spaceship (for Oz) or Betterment (USA). If you’re an ethical investor and want your app to be aligned with that, then Public has a customer centric philosophy. If you’re an experienced stock investor and just want more mobility, then Webull and Commsec (Oz) are for you. Whatever you chose, your money just got mobile. May you invest it wisely!