Best Free Trading Apps

Trading apps with 0% commission… How true and where?

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Forbes ran an article on the fact that there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” – and financial products that claim to be free make their money elsewhere, less transparently.

Forbes’ article mentioned one study, from the SEC, that claimed the Robinhood platform resulted in poorer deals on pricing for its customers.

They said the firm’s customers paid more than £25 million more compared to brokerage firms that charge outright fees. How true is this?… It’s hard to say, because the SEC may have its own motivations.

*Plus500 Disclaimer: 80% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

ProviderScoreDetails
*1. Plus500★★★★★Click Here
2. Vanguard★★★★★Click Here
3. Interactive Investor★★★★★Click Here

At a Glance, pros and cons

‘Free trades’ sound like a great deal. It’s all the rage with the younger crowd. But is it the right choice for you? If you want a frank, to-the-point summary of the advantages and disadvantages of free trading apps, this is the section for you.

Pros

Appealing to younger investors. Apps like Robinhood seem to revolutionise the way that securities and commodities or bought by getting rid of trading and purchase fees. The latter name even sounds like taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. 

Approachable interfaces. Because these apps often target hobbyist traders who might be doing all of their investments exclusively from their mobile phones, many of these free trading apps tend to be very user-friendly, offering more attractive and intuitive interfaces than something like Meta Trader.

Less starting capital needed. Even if the platform’s fees are hidden in and amongst the prices that are set by the platform for the various securities and commodities, you can still potentially get started for less upfront.

Cons

No broker is altruistic. Altruism means concern with the welfare and happiness of your fellow person even if it’s to the detriment of yourself. This, however, is not how business works. So any trading platform will at some point in the process find a way to make a profit from its users.

Auctioning structure. According to the Forbes article, mentioned in the intro, certain apps like Robinhood app allegedly profit by auctioning customer trades off to the company whoever will pay them the most money. This leads to the worst possible pricing deal for the customer – you. Allegedly. 

Premium stocks. If the article mentioned above is correct, this ironically means that apps like Robinhood, which by its name implies taking money from the rich to give to the poor, in fact, earn their cut by subtly adding it to the stock price. This is the opposite of being transparently priced. Allegedly. 

Top free trading apps – Reviews

Without further ado. Let’s get started with the leading 0% commission trading apps. Each broker mentioned in this guide is fully licensed to operate in Britain. They meet the standards of financial regulators like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

1. Plus500 – Popular free (to download) trading app for contracts for differences 

The younger crowd is especially attracted to commission-free trading apps because they are looking for ways of getting into the markets without needing to have a lot of starting capital.

Plus500 is not suitable for beginners. Plus500UK Ltd is authorized & regulated by the FCA (#509909). 

80% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Leverage

An aggressive strategy can be applied to any entry in this guide of the top trading platforms. However, contracts for differences act differently to trading stocks directly or buying bitcoin directly. When you use contracts for differences, you are essentially taking debt in order to carry out an investment.

Unless you are a seasoned professional investor with success under his belt and a deep understanding of the markets, using platforms like Plus500 will be risky.

And because, with each position that you place, you are using mostly somebody else’s money, your positions can quickly drain your account funds faster than with traditional stock investments. CFDs are sensitive to even the smallest market movements.

So this platform, which is headquartered in Israel should be approached very cautiously. It’s particularly precarious to use your mobile phone to trade because that convenience quickly changes, especially for those who are not highly disciplined, it can easily spiral out of control, leading to a lot of money being lost quickly.

Pros

✔️ Simple free (to download) trading app

✔️ Magnify your trades

✔️ Commission-free, regulated 

✔️ YouTube video guides

Cons

❌ CFDs are very dangerous

❌ Best suits professional traders

2. Vanguard – Top free trading platform for mutual funds

This first example has a very basic trading platform but it suits holding the value of your cash. 

This mutual fund is actively managed. The term mutual fund means that your money is pooled together with other investors. The investment isn’t in any single stock or instrument. Rather, you’re gaining a certain proportion of potential ROI investment in a basket of instruments: stocks in many different countries, across indices and – potentially – many other instrument types like bonds and commodities.

Mutual fund managers need to pay attention to world events and the trajectory of economic and geopolitical power. Interestingly enough, Ray Dalio, who has played a significant role with the Vanguard Group leadership, relatively recently released a book discussing this trajectory.

He mentioned the growing significance of emerging markets (EM) powers and the inevitable wane and decline of much of Europe and the US.

Fund managers need to keep in mind dynamics like this. So, if you’re looking for a free trading app (one that does not charge a commission upfront for entering the markets), if you are looking for a passive way to invest, and also if you want a long-term investment designed to hold the value of your capital at a time when cash is inflating in many countries – then this top, free trading platform could be a good choice.

This isn’t a platform that is designed to get you rich. Instead, it’s a way to diversify your capital, by putting part of your savings into the hands of money managers who are specialists at allocating that money strategically.

Nonetheless, if there is an overall market crash, then your mutual fund will be impacted in some form. So always invest in practical, useful things such as a backup power generator, extra food supplies and paying off debt.

Pros

✔️ Simple, top free trading app 

✔️ Money managers handle your portfolio

✔️ Well-regulated for Britain

✔️ Diversified approach to trading

Cons

❌ Long-term investment

❌ The app is very basic and passive

3. Interactive Investor – Well-known, leading free trading app

Interactive Investor is a well-known retail investment broker that’s been on the scene since the mid-90s. It actually began as a communications app focused on helping retail investors by offering certain communication services.

But it’s since become a full-blown trading app. Reportedly last we checked, more than 300k users are on Interactive Investor.

And although it’s probably wise to be wary of the authenticity of reviews on the big review sites, they do have quite a few positive entries in certain corners of Internet land. And they follow USP, by offering commission-free trading on the front end – although they make up for this on the backend.

No exit fees

Interactive Investor doesn’t seem to charge exiting fees for migrating money from one account to another. And in terms of security, Interactive Investor has been a well-known industry player in this space for quite some time. The first under FCA regulations, holding a licence to operate in Britain.

Your data is electronically stored according to the data handling rules of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

This oversight is designed to facilitate the reimbursement of clients in the event of an emergency such as a company needing to liquidate itself. Account funds are segmented from the companies on finances. And clients are insured up to limits set by the FSCS.

All in all, Interactive Investor is not permitted to dip into your finances. Additionally, every digital transaction must adhere to high levels of encryption standards. The trading app has gained a fair reputation. And they do try to minimise upfront fees.

Pros

✔️ Do stock trading

✔️ Operational since 1995

✔️ Commission-free 

✔️ Regulated by the FCA

Cons

❌ Backend fees may be hidden

❌ Possibly less passive investment options

Best free trading apps – Buying Guide

This section is a handy accompaniment for readers who are looking to learn more about how the popular trading apps work and more. 

Death of the trading floor, a brief history 

In fact today, the bulk volume of trading happens electronically…

The term “stock exchange” probably brings to mind a busy trading floor with high ceilings full of businessmen in suits and other items from the haberdashery all shouting and gesturing to one another while furiously scribbling notes or calling on the phone. In fact today, the bulk volume of trading happens electronically.

Before the days of Paypal, this was, to some degree, how many of the exchanges used to operate. Gradually, however, the floor trader became more of a relic of the past while exchanges went digital and traders migrated from the trading floor to computer machines and office phones.

Today, almost all of the volume happens electronically – meanwhile, the number of people operating on the trading floor is decreasing.

History of outcry trading

The open outcry was what it sounds like. Trading on an exchange was literally a person talking to or yelling at another person, in order to make a deal.

In fact, this type of stock and commodities trading is older than telecommunications; older than the phone, the telegraph and certainly the computer, by centuries. Face-to-face human trading was the standard of business for a long while.

Certain exchanges were simply gatherings of the local businessmen representing their businesses. A blacksmith, a farmer of chicken eggs, a gains supplier – each of these would buy and sell goods and items.

With time, however, the exchange model became more sophisticated and particular. National and international rules and procedural processes were formed. This reached a zenith with the creation of the “open outcry” market for exchanging financial instruments and derivatives such as stocks, bonds, futures and options.

Each exchange had its own particular arrangement of walls but each had a trading floor (alternatively referred to as a “pit”) where businessmen set about on a day of exchanging.

In fact, trading and the world of money began as a relatively genteel process that happened in an orderly way – businessmen were seated at desks and would walk across to traders in order to carry out business – but as volume increased, the nature of the interaction transformed…

Until the desks were cleared and calm trading became at times frenetic yelling, with specific hand signals for making a purchase, sale and in what quantity.

Traders turn into cyborgs

The Rise of the Financial Machines predated the release of the first Terminator movie. 

Today, we are not impressed with the idea of digital and technological innovation. We live in a time of unprecedented innovation, so much so that it does not seem remarkable. (Britain may see all of its physical bank branches close by 2025, for instance).

The mayhem of the open trading floor was a messy and chaotic environment. However, it worked well for the most part. However, as the power of personal computing machines and networks grew and became more apparent, firms and clients naturally saw the benefits that technology could provide.

Seeking quicker execution speeds and decreased errors, major electronic exchange alternatives came to the market. Instinet was one of the first major providers, which formed in 1967. It let company-employed traders skip the trading floor and trade with each other privately.

This company did not take off right away – it wasn’t until the 1980s that it became a large-scale player, together with names like Archipelago and Bloomberg.

In 1971, the NASDAQ was formed. However, this wasn’t really a full-fledged electric trading system, just an automated way of getting quotes so that brokers and traders could see the live prices of other firms on offer.

Trades were still handled via the phone. Soon enough, NASDAQ added capabilities such as automated trading. After the 1987 crash, when some moneymakers wouldn’t even answer the phone, the electronic system grew even further.

More were added over the years. Soon, clients showed a preference for electronic systems rather than the phone. This became the preferred method. And so the majority of the world’s exchanges slowly converted to them.

The London Stock Exchange was one of the first major exchanges to convert, in 1986. Tokyo’s exchange followed in 1997 as well as Toronto’s two years before that. A major exchange for Italy had converted in 1994.

The United States is one of the few countries where the open outcry exchange is still practised. This is perhaps why the trading floor is so iconically associated with the US. Indeed, major-scale options and commodity exchanges such as NYMEX and Chicago’s Options Exchange still use open outcry.

Even the New York Stock Exchange uses open outcry. Almost across the board, however, electronic versions are available for customers to use, and these systems handle the bulk of exchange volume. The US’ London Metal Exchange is the biggest exchange still practising open outcry.

Which one wins, apps or the trading floor?

Today, where more and more normal business happens remotely, the natural and obvious assumption might be that electronic trading must be superior to the face-to-face trading floor system of out-crying.

But is this true? Do trading apps win?

There’s no doubt that computers are faster processing and they can do it more cheaply, more efficiently and with greater accuracy where routine trading is concerned – although you might be surprised by how low the error rate with open outcry trading is.

But you also have to consider that computers also increase the level of data tracking and data trails that regulators can oversee to filter out money laundering and other black-market dealings.

Nevertheless, electronic trading has its own flaws and open outcry contains some rare advantages. Due to the face-to-face contact, traders can get a first-hand sense of who they are doing business with.

In an idealistic world, this can increase the number of high-trust networks and give traders more information to work with in terms of the character of the person who they are dealing with.

In some ways, face-to-face human interaction is the best choice for complicated trades. A good number of trades that go to the open floor involve lots of complexities or massive volumes of money being exchanged.

By “working the room”, experienced traders can wrangle a better deal; this would not be possible to that degree through the impersonal electronic system. 

The growth of electronic trading app markets does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon – it offers too great of an advantage to the everyday hobbyist trader. A massive percentage of stock trades by professionals are also handled electronically and there is resistance to returning to the old floor process.

Top free trading apps: The Verdict 

Can there be such a thing as a free trading app?… I wouldn’t wager it. As per the example given in the introduction to this guide, at some point, the platform you are using to invest will need to capture some profits. Remember, a broker purchases instruments on your behalf – that service costs time and energy. Reimbursement is necessary for the firm to survive; the service offered is a business, not a charity.

However, it should be said that these commission-free trading apps – while not actually being commission-free – do offer a smooth upfront process to enter the markets. And greater adoption by the public has spawned certain providers, to provide more consumer-friendly services such as passive investment and copy-trading.

Just know your motivations and apply common sense.

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