One of the best ways to build wealth over time is to learn how to invest money. When you invest, you put your money to work for you. The right investment platform could help you earn passive income — a return on your money — without you needing to take much action.
Remember every investment comes with risk. This is not investment advice, be sure to do your own research if you're going to invest.
If you’re looking for the best investing app to achieve your financial goals, here are some excellent options and who they’re right for.
- Best investment apps and who they’re right for
- Best investing app for beginners: Stash
- Best app for micro-investing: Acorns
- Best app for learning about investing: Public
- Best investing app for free stock trades: Robinhood
- Best investing app for 401k rollovers: Betterment
- Best app for socially-responsible investing: Wealthsimple
- Best app for automated investing: M1 Finance
- Best investing app for saving for college: Wealthfront
- Best investing app for diversification: Masterworks
- Best app for low-cost real estate investment: Diversyfund
- Best investment app for experienced real estate investors: Crowdstreet
- Best investment app for beginner real estate investors: Fundrise
- How to choose the best investment app for you
- Frequently asked questions
Best investment apps of December 2020
Best investing app for beginners: Stash
Stash is designed with new investors in mind. It allows you to invest money into the stock market for as little as $1 per month, and it also helps you learn about investing so you can make more informed choices.
It’s simple to sign up for an investment account with Stash, and the process takes just two minutes. Its easy-to-use investment tools and educational materials also make building a portfolio that will hopefully earn money effortlessly over time simple for even the most novice of investors.
If you’re just getting started with investing and looking for a platform that’s flexible and easy to understand, Stash is an excellent option. It offers low fees and unique opportunities to learn about investing that other platforms may not provide.*
Best app for micro-investing: Acorns
Acorns bills itself as the only micro-investing platform that allows you to invest spare change — and this platform lives up to its promise. It offers an automated approach to investing, automatic portfolio rebalancing, and a unique round-up feature that makes it ideal for micro-investing.
For as little as $1 a month and a minimum investment of $5, Acorns Invest users can choose to link up their Acorns debit card or another card and take advantage of the platform’s round-up feature. Acorns will review purchases from your linked account and automatically round them up to the nearest dollar. You’ll then have the option to invest the spare change.
If you’re interested in micro-investing and prefer to take a hands-off approach, Acorns may be the ideal platform for you.
Best app for learning about investing: Public
- Start with $10 in free stock when your account is approved*
- Invest in 1000s of stocks and ETFs with fractional shares—no account minimums
- Follow friends in a social feed and learn from a diverse community of investors
- * Free stock offer valid for U.S. residents 18+. Subject to account approval.
If you’re a new investor that’s interested in learning from more experienced investors, Public is a great place to start. Unlike other investment platforms, Public makes the stock market social by allowing its users to connect and interact with other investors who are active on the platform. Its goal is to make investing inclusive, educational, and fun.
Public users can invest any amount of money in individual stocks or index funds. There’s no minimum buy-in, and you don’t need to be an accredited investor to use the platform. With Public, you can invest in fractional shares of stock for as little as $5, and there are no commission fees. Users can choose to learn about and invest their money in major companies like Tesla, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Netflix.
Public also offers unique social features like group messaging and virtual events that allow users to learn from each other. If you’re interested in learning about investing at a low cost, Public could be a fantastic option for you.
Best investing app for free stock trades: Robinhood
Robinhood bills itself as a pioneer of commission-free investing. The platform offers unlimited free trades in stocks, ETFs, and options. Plus, Robinhood users have the opportunity to invest in fractional shares with as little as $1, making it an attractive option for many novice investors.
While Robinhood’s competitors typically allow users to invest solely in stocks, bonds, and ETFs, this platform offers more diverse investment options. Robinhood users can choose to invest in stocks, bonds, ETFs, options, cryptocurrency, and gold.
Robinhood requires no account minimum, offers free stock trading, and provides diverse investment opportunities. You can also sign up for an account and start investing in mere minutes. If all that sounds appealing to you, this trading app is worth a look.
Best investing app for 401k rollovers: Betterment
Betterment has made it easy for investors to roll over an existing 401k into an IRA account. With just a few clicks, you’ll receive simple, step-by-step instructions via email on how to complete your rollover.
While other investment platforms may require you to submit paperwork or undergo a complicated process to move money, Betterment gives you all the information you need to complete your rollover easily and in as little as 60 seconds. And unlike some of its competitors, Betterment offers personalized investment recommendations based on your needs and priorities, plus automatic investment portfolio rebalancing.
If you’re looking for a hassle-free way to roll over a 401k to an IRA, Betterment is an excellent option.
Best app for socially-responsible investing: Wealthsimple
If socially-responsible investing is a top priority for you, Wealthsimple is worth a look. It offers its users the option to open an SRI portfolio and invest in socially-responsible companies committed to reducing their environmental impact and improving the lives of others.
In addition to offering socially-responsible investment options, Wealthsimple also has convenient features like personalized recommendations and automatic portfolio rebalancing. As a Wealthsimple investor, you also have the option to work with human advisors if you need professional investment advice. The ability to work with a human advisor sets Wealthsimple apart from many of its competitors.
If you’re committed to socially-responsible investing, Wealthsimple is an easy-to-use platform worth considering.
Best app for automated investing: M1 Finance
If you’re seeking an investment platform with automated features that allow you to ‘set it and forget it, M1 Finance could be precisely what you’re looking for.
M1 is an active investing/robo-advisor hybrid. While it does give you the option to pick individual stocks, it also offers many automated features, including pre-built portfolios and dynamic rebalancing. Its intelligent tools can help you avoid the headache of manual trades. With M1, you can also set up automatic deposits from your bank account or paycheck, making it easy to pay yourself first.
For those that prefer a hands-off approach to investing, M1 Finance is an excellent option.
Best investing app for saving for college: Wealthfront
While Wealthfront is similar to many other investment apps on this list, it offers a unique feature that sets it apart from competitors. In addition to its investment platform, Wealthfront offers a 529 plan that can allow families to plan for the future.
If you’re interested in opening a college savings account for your child, Wealtfront’s all-in-one planning option makes it simple to get started. Wealthfront works with you upfront so you understand how much college is likely to cost and how much you’ll need to save. Based on your individual situation, it recommends a few different savings scenarios, and you can choose the one that most closely aligns with your needs.
If you’re interested in saving for your child’s college tuition, Wealthfront’s intuitive platform can help you establish and meet your savings goals.
Best investing app for diversification: Masterworks
Masterworks is a first-of-its-kind platform that allows users to invest in blue-chip artwork. Blue-chip artwork is defined by Artprice as the top 100 best-performing paintings in the art market, according to past auction sales. Historically, investments in blue-chip artwork have outperformed the S&P 500 by 250%.
To select the artists on its platform, Masterworks analyzes data from one million past auction sales. Their research team then identifies artists that have had the most favorable risk-reward profile in the past. They also consider historical appreciation and the ability to resell a painting in their decision-making process. Currently, Masterworks users can purchase shares of artwork from famous artists like Claude Monet, Joan Mitchell, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol.
You don’t need millions of dollars to get started with Masterworks. Because the platform offers fractional shares of artwork to its users, you’ll only need a minimum of $1,000 to start investing. Masterworks does charge a 1.5% annual management fee, plus 20% of the profit from future artwork sales.
While Masterworks does charge a management fee and take a percentage of future sales, historical returns on blue-chip artwork have been favorable. If you’re looking to diversify your portfolio, Masterworks offers a unique opportunity to invest in artwork — and you don’t have to be a millionaire to start.
Best app for low-cost real estate investment: Diversyfund
If you’re interested in getting started with real estate investing but your budget is limited, Diversyfund may be a good option. Unlike its competitors, which charge annual management fees as high as 0.85% and advisory fees as high as 0.15%, there are no fees to use Diversyfund.
Billing itself as a fintech platform designed for the average investor, Diversyfund allows users to invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs) with as little as $500. The Diversyfund platform is unique in that it specializes in multifamily property investment, as opposed to other platforms that offer more varied real estate investment options, including commercial real estate and land. The company website indicates that multifamily properties typically offer high returns, even during times of recession. Diversyfund investors saw average annualized returns of 18% in 2017 and 17.3% in 2018.
If you’re looking for a relatively low-cost way to get started with real estate investing, Diversyfund could be the right option for you.
Best investment app for experienced real estate investors: Crowdstreet
If you have some real estate investing experience, Crowdstreet may be an excellent platform to explore. Crowdstreet lets accredited investors add several different property types to their portfolios for a $25,000 minimum investment. While the platform does let you invest in properties for under $10,000, there are currently no low-cost options available.
To become an accredited investor with Crowdstreet, you need to meet one of two criteria. Your net worth must be at least $1 million, excluding the value of your primary residence. Or, your net income as an individual must have exceeded $200,000 in each of the last two years (or $300,000 if you and your spouse plan to invest together.)
Unlike Diversyfund, Crowdstreet offers the option to invest in multiple property types, including multifamily, retail, hospitality, office, industrial, self-storage, and more.
While the Crowdstreet website provides a wealth of data about each available property as well as helpful investing advice, it may be difficult for a novice real estate investor to navigate and understand. This complexity, the fact that you need to be an accredited investor, and the high minimum investment requirement make this platform a better option for more experienced investors.
Best investment app for beginner real estate investors: Fundrise
If you’re just getting started with real estate investment, Fundrise may be a valuable platform for you. The company was founded with one goal: to use technology to make high-quality real estate investments available to everyone at a low cost.
Like Crowdstreet, Fundrise also allows users to invest in several different property types, including single-family, multifamily, retail, apartment, commercial, and new construction. However, Fundrise differs from Crowdstreet in some important ways. The Fundrise platform is easier to navigate, and you don’t need to be an accredited investor to get started. Users can sign up in a matter of minutes and start investing with as little as $500.
While you can expect to pay a 0.15% annual advisory fee and a 0.85% annual management fee when you invest with Fundrise, the company is dedicated to keeping those fees low. By comparison, similar companies charge up to 0.85% annual advisory fees, 1.25% annual management fees, and additional fees like sales commissions.
If you’re a novice real estate investor seeking an easy-to-understand platform with a relatively low buy-in and fees, Fundrise could be an excellent option for you.
How to choose the best investment app for you
As you consider your options, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Your investment budget
First, it’s important to understand your investment budget. Your budget should consider how much it will cost to invest, as well as required account minimums. Realize, too, that passive investing is a long-term financial commitment. Avoid investing money that you think you’ll need in the near future.
The good news is that you can invest no matter how little you have. For example, some platforms like Stash require no account minimums and allow you to invest for as little as $1 per month. Other platforms, however, require a larger initial investment. If you have some money to get started with, it can make sense to use a platform with a higher minimum so you get access to the passive income tools you prefer.
Available asset classes
Next, when evaluating the best investment apps, consider what types of assets you want to invest in. Different apps offer different options. For example, some make it easy to build a portfolio out of stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and bonds.
However, other platforms offer you access to different opportunities. For instance, some apps, like Fundrise, Crowdstreet, and Diversyfund, focus on real estate investing. Others like Masterworks allow you to purchase shares of artwork.
Remember, though, that a diversified portfolio might help you manage some of your investment risks. Consider one or more platforms that allow you to invest in different asset classes so you aren’t overly exposed in one area.
Figure out what types of accounts you want access to. For example, some investment platforms offer a wide variety of accounts, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and trust accounts, in addition to personal taxable investment accounts.
If you’re trying to increase the tax efficiency of some of your passive income, it can make sense to look for a platform that offers you the ability to open an IRA account. For example, if you’re interested in real estate opportunities, certain platforms offer you the option to hold some of your portfolio in traditional, Roth or simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs. You can also open a taxable investment account as well.
Look at your portfolio holistically to determine which assets should be kept in tax-advantaged accounts, and which should be kept in taxable accounts. This approach can save you money over time.
Investment management fees
Many investment platforms charge fees, so it’s important to be aware of this when you’re deciding where to invest. Some platforms charge a monthly account fee based on the features you want to access. Others charge an annual fee based on the assets in the account.
Your deposit might also determine what extra services you have access to. For instance, if you deposit less than $100,000 with a certain platform, you’ll get access to a personalized portfolio and investment advice, but you might pay a 0.5% annual fee. With an account balance of more than $100,000, though, you could pay a lower annual fee and get access to financial planning sessions.
Consider your needs and expectations, and the types of services you expect as you compare investment platforms to determine which will work best for you.
Don’t forget to look into security. You want to make sure your transactions are encrypted. Check to see whether the platform is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and see what clearinghouse it uses. For example, some platforms use Apex Clearing for their transactions, which means they have Securities Investor Protection Corporation insurance and are a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Check to see which memberships the platform has as a way to determine whether it’s properly regulated. If you plan to download and use a mobile app, ensure that it offers security features like two-factor authentication, TouchID, and more.
The companies we chose for our best investment apps list are current or past FinanceBuzz partners. We did not review all companies in the market. When evaluating these companies, we considered factors such as investment types, account minimums, management fees, platform features, and ease of use to determine which platforms best align with different investment goals and styles.
Frequently asked questions
How do I start investing with little money?
The good news is that you can start investing with spare change. Look for an investment platform like Acorns that has no minimum required deposit, and that will let you set up an automatic transfer of a small amount. For example, you might be able to set up a transfer of as little as $5 per week, which makes it easy to start investing even if you don’t have a lot of money. Some platforms also allow you to set roundups, so you can round up your purchases and automatically invest the difference.
Look for platforms that allow you to use this type of micro-investing to get started.
What are asset classes?
Asset classes are types of investments. They share similar characteristics to each other and broadly move similarly in response to various economic and market factors. Some common asset classes include:
- Real estate
What are the safest types of investments?
Any investment comes with the risk of loss. Cash is generally considered one of the safest investments, but even with that, you have the chance of losing value through inflation. Bonds, especially U.S. Treasuries, are also considered among the safer investments because you’re supposed to get your principal at the end of the term, though there’s a chance of default.
The safest investments don’t generally offer the highest returns, though. In most cases, the lower the risk of loss, the lower your potential return. The right options for you will depend on your risk tolerance and personal finance preferences, as well as other factors.
How should beginners start investing?
Beginners should start by figuring out how much they can set aside each week or month to help them reach their goals. It can be a small amount to start. Additionally, for many beginners, it helps to start with investments that offer instant diversity, such as index mutual funds and index ETFs. Find a trading platform that aligns with your needs and goals as a new investor. As you learn more about investing, you can branch out to individual stocks and bonds, or look into alternative investments.
Realize, though, that in order to make the most of your money over time, you might have to increase your contributions. You aren’t likely to see high enough returns investing a few dollars a week. Over time, build your portfolio using the best investment tools and you’ll get closer to reaching your goals.
Miranda Marquit also contributed to this page.