The best stock trading apps are no longer fallback options.
Don’t get me wrong. The best stock apps are still less powerful than desktop platforms. But they’ve grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years.
The best trading platform is the one you use most. If you’re trading on the go, you need a powerful trading app.
I still wouldn’t advise you to make these your primary trading platform. If you’ve got a trade open and you have to leave your computer, these are your options.
Let’s look at the Robinhood app first. It’s not my favorite platform…
But it’s largely responsible for the mobile trading revolution.
Other brokers have adopted Robinhood’s $0 minimum balance and no-commission trading. But Robinhood is still one of the biggest names in day trading.
Why? Because it’s easy.
Robinhood lacks the tools of some of the other apps on this list. That’s intentional. Robinhood was designed to be mobile first. It puts ease of use before power.
But why would you want to cut yourself off from trading possibilities? Especially if you’re looking to cut trading costs.
For traders looking for a bit more, there’s a Robinhood Gold upgrade. I still like the Robinhood alternatives on this list more for serious traders.
E-Trade has two mobile apps. There’s the regular E-Trade app and the Power E-Trade app.
The regular app is cleaner, less complicated.
The Power E-Trade app steps up the charting quite a bit. It’s connected with the Power E-Trade web-based platform. It has most of the tools that professional traders are looking for…
E-Trade bought rival broker OptionsHouse in 2016. It’s since integrated this suite of options tools into the Power E-Trade app.
Fidelity’s trading app is the first we’ll look at from a traditional ‘big broker.’
What does this mean for traders? In terms of order execution, not much. All brokers must provide the ‘best execution’ when routing your orders.
Fidelity is the only major broker that doesn’t accept payment for order flow…
Once you read “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis, this might be a big attraction!
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Fellow big broker Schwab has said this isn’t the full story…
Fidelity still accepts payment for order flow on options trades. And it routes many of its trades through Citadel. Citadel is a big market maker that pays other brokers for their order flow.
It’s complicated, but a lot of traders like Fidelity. Their full suite of broker services might make a difference to you.
Interactive Brokers (IBKR)
Like much of the industry, IBKR moved to a zero-commission model in the past few years. Like E-Trade, they split their offerings between a beginner’s model and a paid pro option…
IBKR Lite is the free version, while you pay to trade with IBKR Pro. The fee structure is complicated, but that’s because IBKR offers so much.
IBKR serves traders in more than 200 countries. All of them have their own associated fees.
IBKR Pro gives traders access to better order routing. Better order routing makes for better executions…
If you trade a lot, IBKR Pro might be worth it.
IBKR also has a second app — IMPACT. This app focuses on ethical investing…
It has the same IBKR engine and a clean layout. If you’re not just trading the day’s biggest gainers, this might be a solid option.
Schwab Mobile/StreetSmart Mobile
Schwab is one of the biggest brokers out there…
It’s so big, it acquired the next big broker on this list, TD Ameritrade, in 2020.
As of now, Schwab and TD Ameritrade still have separate apps. That means that Schwab traders are stuck with Schwab’s clunkier suite of apps for the time being…
Schwab traders will soon get access to thinkorswim. That will make the choice less about technology and more about the broker itself.
Who to choose? Check out our guide to choosing a broker here.
TD Ameritrade Mobile/Thinkorswim
TD Ameritrade is another broker with split offerings. This might get even more complicated as Schwab integrates TD’s offerings to its own. Stay tuned…
TD Ameritrade Mobile is the basic portal to the broker and thinkorswim is the power app.
Thinkorswim has long been known as one of the best brokerage apps out there. It’s one to consider using if charting is important to you. (Hint: It should be.)
TradeStation is another power platform, in the mold of Interactive Brokers. They adapted to the zero-commission standard in much the same way…
They split their services between TS Go and TS Select accounts. There are a lot of small differences. One of the biggest is that TradeStation’s web platform is only free for TS Select users.
The catch? TS Select requires a $2,000 account minimum.
If you’re only trading through the app, you might find TS Go a solid option. Both accounts give you access to TradeStation Mobile. It’s easy to use and has some power under the hood.
TradeZero recently established a U.S. presence and has a slick app to match.
It’s part of the new breed of trading apps that are easy to access with top-notch user experience.
Where they outshine some of the others is their trading tools and 24/7 customer support. Check out our special TradeZero offer here.
StocksToTrade Mobile App
StocksToTrade Mobile is an app I can unreservedly recommend.
It works with your at-home StocksToTrade account perfectly. That’s what you want out of an app — integration with the desktop version. Ideally, you want to be doing most of your trading on a bigger screen and only using apps to fill in the gaps.
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Best of all, STT Mobile comes included with your StocksToTrade subscription.
Choosing an App
There’s a reason that there are so many options out there…
They’re for traders with different needs!
How do you find the trading app that’s right for you? First, ask yourself these questions…
#1. What’s My Trading Strategy?
This is the biggest question — and not just for picking an app, but for all trading.
If you’re a day trader, you’ll be looking for the smoothest trading experience. If you’re just checking positions, charting might be most valuable to you.
Ideally, your trading app will be good at giving you both. But it shouldn’t be an IQ test. The app that fulfills your needs best is the one you should go for.
#2. How Much Will Fees Impact My Bottom Line?
With no-commission trading, fees are less of an issue than before. But be careful. Fees can still sneak up on you — especially if you’re a short seller.
Brokers vary on borrow fees, margin rates, and availability of shares to short. That can make a big difference in how you trade.
Check out the fine print beforehand — and don’t be afraid to try multiple brokers.
#3. Do I Want to Trade OTC Stocks?
Does trading shaky penny stocks appeal to you? There’s a whole group of markets for them that Robinhood and Webull can’t access.
Some brokers charge fees to trade OTCs. This is one of the big differences between brokers.
#4. What’s the At-Home Experience Like?
You should be using a trading app as a supplement for the at-home experience.
That means you’ll be spending more of your time on the desktop version. That’s where your choice of broker should start.
How Safe Are Mobile Trading Apps?
Any time you put your personal information out there, you’re increasing your hacking risk. That goes double for trading apps, which are connected to your bank account.
In 2021, Robinhood suffered a big hack that exposed the personal information of seven million users.
The good news is that major brokers will reimburse funds lost to hackers.
Here’s the caveat — you need to have taken appropriate safety measures. That means a unique username and password, antivirus ware, and quick reporting of any fraud.
If you or your kid makes a bad trade on your account, you’re still on the hook.
Social Trading Networks
Trading isn’t the only thing that happens on apps! As trading becomes more mainstream, so has talking about it…
The following networks are the main places for sharing trading intel.
Reddit forum WallStreetBets was behind the great GameStop craze of 2021. It started the year with one million members. One year later, it’s approaching 12 million.
Most have a mix of both.
Speaking of stock pumps, Twitter practically invented them!
If you’re looking for stubborn short sellers, this is the place to find them.
Fintwit short sellers when they cover for a 125% loss after being down 400%+ pic.twitter.com/TW0NMeJpv8— Timothy C. Bohen 🇺🇸 (@tbohen) March 24, 2021
Here’s what I do to get the most out of the platform: Follow good traders and build your community.
Never copy another trader’s moves. This goes double for a platform that seems to encourage it like Twitter.
TradeHero has a great concept — a paper trading app crossed with social media.
I don’t love apps that gamify trading. But I think of TradeHero more as an educational resource.
Its charting is great for a non-trading app. With virtual portfolios tied to the market, it’s a solid option for learning about the market.
Listen, I’m a fan of StockTwits founder Howard Lindzon. We had him on the SteadyTrade podcast back in 2020, and he had a lot of wise and funny things to say…
That doesn’t mean I can wholeheartedly endorse StockTwits. It has the good parts of Twitter, as well as the bad…
Give it a try — but the same warnings apply!
The SteadyTrade Team is the best trading community I’ve ever been a part of. It’s your one-stop shop for strategy and market breakdown.
You’ll also get access to my thoughts on the market twice a day!
But that’s not why I’m talking about it now. The SteadyTrade Team’s social strength is its community.
I think we’ve got the best chat room on the internet. Our traders are all about getting better. They’re not sharing stock tips, instead, they’re sharing strategies…
What can I say? I taught them well!
Profit.ly is a different kind of trading network … It’s a place where traders actually share their trades — wins and losses. That transparency is important.
If you’ve been around traders long enough, you know sharing both winning and losing trades is unique. Traders, like gamblers, often lie. But you probably know to not trust a gambler who says to put it all on black.
It’s important to know who to trust in trading. Profit.ly can show you the good and the bad.
The Bottom Line
There are no simple answers in trading. The best I can do is tell you the steps to take to figure it out yourself.
Trading apps might be your entry into the trading world. Or they might be a way to pick your kids up from school.
Find what works for you. If it doesn’t work, keep looking.
What do you think about this trading apps breakdown? Do you already have a go-to app? Let me know in the comments!