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The online investment space is no longer reserved only for bulky desktop computers. On the contrary, investors can now access a range of useful investment apps at the click of a button while on the move. Whether you’re looking to place a last-minute trade in response to an important news event or check how your portfolio of stocks is performing, online platforms are now catering heavily to the mass mobile app market.
With that being said, competition in the online investment app space is now fierce, so you’ll need to find a platform that best meets your needs. If this sounds like something you would like to explore further, in this comprehensive article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of what you need to know — such as what specific investment apps allow you to do, who they’re suitable for, fees, and more!
Before we roll out our list, let’s explore what investment apps actually are.
Important Note: Before you start investing, you should really pay off your debt (at least your high-interest debt) and have a solid emergency fund to take care of unexpected costs without derailing your budget.
What Are Investment Apps?
An investment app is simply a mobile app that allows you to access the financial markets. In other words, instead of having to pick up the phone or use a bulky laptop to buy, sell, and trade assets, you can now do this with the click of a button via an investment app. Not only does this make it a more convenient process in placing trades, but it also gives you the option of accessing key markets when out of the house.
For example, let’s say that you are currently holding a number of shares in Apple. However, while on the move, you read a news story that Apple has just reported a major decline in sales. As such, it is likely that the share price of Apple will take a short-term hit. While many of us will have the attitude of simply “letting it ride,” the shrewd investor may want to exit their trade to avoid further losses.
To achieve this, all you would need to do is get your cell phone out, log in to your investment app, and close the trade — all of which can be achieved in a matter of seconds, without needing to be at home. However, it is important to note that investment apps allow you to do much more than just buy and sell investments. With investment apps, you essentially have access to the financial markets on a 24/7 basis. For example, some apps now allow you to set real-time notifications, meaning that you will be notified as soon as a key event happens. This could be a major price movement on a particular stock, or a news event surrounding Federal Reserve interest rates. Moreover, investment apps typically give you all of the same account features as you would find on a standard desktop investment account. This includes everything from depositing and withdrawing funds to contacting customer support and checking the performance of your portfolio. In fact, some investment platforms have decided to go purely app-based, further highlighting the growth of the mobile investment arena.
How Are We Comparing the Apps?
The investment app space is now somewhat oversaturated, which can make it difficult to know which investment app to choose. In order to provide you with an impartial, accurate, and comprehensive overview of apps that we recommend, we’ve focused on a set of key criteria.
First and foremost, the investment app must have a sufficient regulatory standing, and a range of protections in place to ensure your funds are kept safe at all times. We’ve also considered the types of asset classes that you can buy and sell, as well as how many options are available. We’ve also considered the fees associated with using the platform, which includes fees charged to buy and sell individual investments, as well as monthly or annual fees.
Every investor is different, so we’ve also taken account minimums into consideration.
Best Investment Apps
Betterment: Best US Robo-Advisor
Betterment is an investment app suitable for long-term investors who are looking to take advantage of the convenience of a robo-advisor. Betterment is also ideal if you have specific long-term investment goals in mind. If you’re inclined to create a portfolio of stable stocks and leave your portfolio alone for months at a time (or longer), the platform’s robo-advisor can rebalance your portfolio automatically.
Betterment asks you what your investment needs are, and then makes the necessary adjustments when opportunities arise. Betterment offers stocks, bonds, ETFs, and more.
Fees: With no account minimums and a super-low annual fee of just 0.25%, Betterment is perfect for first-time investors. The 0.25% annual fee is all you will pay Betterment if you’re a standard investor, and this is charged on the total size of your portfolio. However, if you opt to invest with a human certified planner, you’ll need to pay an annual fee of 0.40%.
- Low annual fee of 0.25%
- Automatic rebalancing via robo-advisor
- Perfect for long-term investors
- Not suited for DIY investors
Stash: Best For Newbies
Stash is an entry-level investment app that allows you to make investments from just $5. The platform is great if you’re just starting out in the investment space and want to ease your way into investing. Although Stash gives you the option of choosing your own investments, you can also choose a portfolio based on an investment “theme.”
We also like the app’s auto-stash option, which allows you to reinvest dividends automatically. Stash is also perfect for newbies because of its extensive educational content. The content provides simple explanations of key investment terms and strategies.
Fees: Stash offers three main account tiers, each of which comes with a monthly fee. If you’re just looking for the basics, then you’ll pay $1 per month. The highest tier — at $9 per month, offers a number of account features, such as a metal debit card, investment accounts for your kids, and a monthly market insights report. Regardless of which option you go with, Stash does not charge any fees or commissions on stock trades, although you will need to pay a management fee on ETFs.
- Invest from just $5
- Monthly fees from just $1
- No fees or commissions on stock trades
- Investment options are limited
Acorns: Best For Beginners
Acorns is an investment app that focuses on simplicity, which makes it ideal for people who feel intimidated at the thought of buying and selling investments from their phones. The platform specializes in ETF portfolios, so you won’t be able to buy and sell individual stocks. Instead, you’ll choose an ETF portfolio that best meets your long-term investment goals.
We also like the “spare change” feature that comes with Acorns. With it, your debit card purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the balance invested in your portfolio.
Fees: Acorns does not charge any trading fees or commissions. Instead, it offers three account tiers, from $1, $2, or $3 per month.
- Very simple platform to use
- Choose from a number of ETF portfolios
- Monthly fees from just $1
- ETF portfolios only — limited flexibility
Webull: Best For Active Traders
If you’re a seasoned trader that is looking to buy and sell investments on a frequent basis, then it might be worth considering Webull. The platform is best suited for those with a firm understanding of technical analysis. (So if you’re a newbie, Webull is not for you.)
The Webull investment app offers heaps of equities on its platform, and you even have the option of going short.
Fees: In line with the other investment apps we have discussed thus far, Webull does not charge any commissions or fees on trades made. The only fees are those associated with margin trading.
- Ideal for professional traders
- Lots of technical indicators
- No trading fees or commissions
- Not suited for new investors
Stockpile is the ultimate investment app for those that want to buy and sell ultra-low amounts. Through its fractional shares on offer, you can purchase just a small fraction of a stock. For example, instead of having to buy an entire Apple share at $264, you might instead choose to purchase 0.05% of a share.
While you certainly won’t get rich with such a small investment, this does at the very least allow you to experience the ins and outs of stock markets in a real-money setting. Stockpile also allows you to invest in ETFs.
Fees: Stockpile does not charge any monthly fees to use the platform. However, you will need to pay 99 cents on each and every trade that you make. As such, you need to ensure that you are not investing too little, as you’ll end up paying a high fee in proportion to the amount of equity you are buying.
- Buy fractional shares
- No monthly fees — just 99 cents per trade
- Also invest in ETFs
- Collection of stocks and ETFs not extensive
Robinhood: Best for Free Stock and Crypto Trading
Robinhood has built a formidable reputation over the past few years, not least because it was one of the pioneers of fee-free trading. The platform offers a highly comprehensive listing of assets, ranging from stocks to ETFs, options, and even cryptocurrencies.
The ease at which you can get started using Robinhood is also notable, with account setups usually completed on a same-day basis. Moreover, Robinhood is suited for all experience levels, and the platform offers a good selection of educational resources for those who need them.
Fees: Robinhood does not charge any fees or commissions on trades. There is no minimum deposit amount on standard accounts.
- No fees to buy and sell assets
- No minimum account balance on standard accounts
- Good selection of investment options
- $5 per month for enhanced research tools
Wealthfront: Best Low-Cost Investing
Wealthfront is the all-in-one investment app that aims to help you realize your investment goals passively. i The app allows you to connect your everyday accounts so that it can analyze your spending habits.
It will then build a tailored investment plan based on your appetite for risk. This includes a number of pre-packaged ETF portfolios, and the underlying software can rebalance your investments automatically to mirror your needs.
Fees: Although Wealthfront used to offer fee-free investing up to the first $10,000, it no longer runs this pricing structure. Instead, you’ll pay 0.25% per year on your total portfolio.
- Great for passive investing
- Portfolios based on your appetite for risk
- Fees of just 0.25% per year
- No fractional shares
M1 Finance: Best for Automated Investing
If you’re looking for a low-cost investment app that allows you to benefit from automated investing, then it might be worth checking out M1 Finance. Although the platform permits DIY trading, M1 Finance allows you to choose a pre-built portfolio template.
The robo-advisor will then make suitable investments, as well as engage in rebalancing when the opportunity arises. Unlike other robo-advisor apps on the market, M1 Finance gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to manually adjusting the strategy, which is great.
Fees: M1 Finance does not charge any fees to trade, nor will you need to pay an annual maintenance fee to use the robo-advisor service. However, you will need to deposit at least $100 to get started, or $500 if you’re looking to open a retirement account.
- Choose from DIY trading or robo-advisor services
- No fees to trade
- Pre-built portfolios
- Minimum deposit of $100
Wealthsimple: Best Canadian Robo-Advisor
If you’re based in Canada and you’re after a top-notch robo-advisor investment app, then look no further than Wealthsimple. The platform primarily focuses on low-cost ETFs, with the robo-advisor building your portfolio based on your investment goals. We like the fact that Wealthsimple allows you to take a passive role long-term, as you can opt for the robo-advisor to automatically rebalance your portfolio as well as reinvest your dividend payments.
The investment app also offers a roundup service for Canadians, which is where you can have spare change from a debit card purchase invested in a Wealthsimple portfolio.
Fees: Wealthsimple charges an annual maintenance fee, which is based on the amount that you have invested with the platform. For account balances below $100,000, this amounts to 0.50% per year. For everything over that amount, you’ll pay 0.40%.
- Most popular investment app in Canada
- Robo-advisor ETF portfolios
- Automatic investment of debit card spare change
- 0.50% annual fees are slightly high
Fundrise: Best for Real Estate Investors
While all of the investment apps we have discussed thus far focus on traditional stocks and shares, Fundrise specializes in real estate. In a nutshell, Fundrise gives you access to a portfolio of US real estate — in the form of residential and commercial properties.
Your portfolio will grow when rental payments are received, as well as when the underlying properties appreciate in value. However, your Fundrise investment is highly illiquid, meaning that you likely won’t be able to access your funds for at least 3-5 years.
Fees: Fundrise charges 1% per year on your portfolio balance. This consists of a 0.15% maintenance fee, and a 0.85% asset management fee. You can get started with an investment of just $500.
- Access the US real estate market from just $500
- Choose your own investment plan
- Earn income from rental payments and appreciation
- Highly illiquid — investments typically require a minimum of 3-5 years
Which Investing App is Right For You?
As you’ve likely noticed, each platform has its own pros and cons — so you need to determine what you are looking for in an investment app. For example: Are you looking for an entry-level app that allows you to get started with really small amounts? Or is your main priority a platform that lists thousands of assets?
No matter what your interests and goals, no two investment apps are the same. While some investors like to hold accounts with multiple providers, it may be best to stick to just one initially. If you do proceed with a particular provider and decide they are not right for you, you are under no obligation to remain with the platform. Instead, you’re free to move your funds over to a different investment app that best meets your investment goals.
Are Investing Apps Safe? And Are They Legit?
In terms of security, investment apps typically offer a number of protections that ensure your account credentials remain safe at all times. Some will even offer the option of installing two-factor authentication, meaning that you’ll need to enter a unique code that is sent to your phone or email every time you perform key account functions. You will also have the luxury of relying on your standard phone screen lock to prevent unauthorized account access.
When it comes to the legitimacy of the investment app provider, you will need to ensure that the platform holds the required regulatory status. It should be noted that investment platforms are required to meet and comply with regulations set by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Do I Need a Financial Advisor?
Some investment apps on the consumer market typically operate on a “DIY” basis, meaning that you will be responsible for choosing your own investments. As such, you’ll need to perform lots of independent research prior to buying and selling assets, rather than relying on investment advice from a human investment professional. If you prefer talking to and working with a person, then robo-advisors may not appeal to you — though robo-advisors can fill the role of a traditional advisor if you’re a set-it-and-forget-it kind of investor, and you only need to rebalance your portfolio occasionally.
An investment app is something that all modern-day investors should consider. Not only will you have the option of trading while on the move, but you’ll also have access to key market data at the click of a button, and you can check your investment portfolio with ease. This ease of access has led to tremendous growth the investment app market.
You still need to ensure that you are choosing an investment app that best meets your long-term investment goals. Consider the number of assets listed by the provider, or the fees that you need to pay in order to trade. Before making a decision, spend some time assessing the ins and outs of the investment apps that may best for you before opening an account.
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Founder of The Modest Wallet, Ricardo is an entrepreneur and investor who enjoys working out, spending time with his family and friends, travelling and creating great content. He’s passionate about helping others achieve their financial goals.