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SCAM WATCH

Investment schemes involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.

Common types of investment scams

Investment cold calls

A scammer claiming to be a stock broker or portfolio manager calls you and offers financial or investments advice. They will claim what they are offering is low-risk and will provide you with quick and high returns, or encourage you to invest in overseas companies. The scammer’s offer will sound legitimate and they may have resources to back up their claims. They will be persistent, and may keep calling you back.

The scammer may claim that they do not need an Australian Financial Services licence, or that that they are approved by a real government regulator or affiliated with a genuine company.

The investments offered in these type of cold calls are usually share, mortgage, or real estate high-return schemes, options trading or foreign currency trading. The scammer is operating from overseas, and will not have an Australian Financial Services licence.

Share promotions and hot tips

The scammer encourages you to buy shares in a company that they predict is about to increase in value. You may be contacted by email or the message will be posted in a forum. The message will seem like an inside tip and stress that you need to act quickly. The scammer is trying to boost the price of stock so they can sell shares they have already bought, and make a huge profit. The share value will then go down dramatically.

If you invest you will be left with large losses or shares that are virtually worthless.

Investment seminars

Investment seminars are promoted by promising motivational speakers, investment experts, or self-made millionaires who will give you expert advice on investing. They are designed to convince you into following high risk investment strategies such as borrowing large sums of money to buy property, or investments that involve lending money on a no security basis or other risky terms.

Promoters make money by charging you an attendance fee, selling overpriced reports or books, and by selling investments and property without letting you get independent advice. The investments on offer are generally overvalued and you may end up having to pay fees and commissions that the promoters did not tell you about. High pressure sales tactics or false and misleading claims are often used to pressure you into investing, such as guaranteed rent or discounts for buying off the plan.

If you invest there is a high chance you will lose money.

Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart for more information about investment seminar scams.

Superannuation

Superannuation scams offer to give you early access to your super fund, often through a self-managed super fund or for a fee. The offer may come from a financial adviser, or a scammer posing as one. The scammer may ask you to agree to a story to ensure the early release of your money and then, acting as your financial adviser, they will deceive your superannuation company into paying out your super benefits directly to them. Once they have your money, the scammer may take large ‘fees’ out of the released fund or leave you with nothing at all.

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You cannot legally access the preserved part of your super until you are between 55 and 60, depending what year you were born. There are certain exceptions such as severe financial hardship or compassionate grounds – but anyone who otherwise offers early access to your super is acting illegally.

Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart for more information about how super works.

Warning signs

  • You receive a call, or repeated calls, from someone offering unsolicited advice on investments. They may try to keep you on the phone for a long time, or try and transfer you to a more senior person. You are told that you need to act quickly and invest or you will miss out.
  • You receive an email from a stranger offering advice on the share price of a particular company. It may not be addressed to you personally, and may even give the impression it was sent to you by mistake.
  • An advertisement or seminar makes claims such as ‘risk-free investment’, ‘be a millionaire in three years’, or ‘get-rich quick’.
  • You are invited to attend a free seminar, but there are high fees to attend any further sessions. The scammer, posing as the promoter, may offer you a loan to cover both the cost of your attendance at the additional seminars and investments.
  • You see an advertisement promising a quick and easy way to ‘unlock’ your superannuation early.

Protect yourself

  • Do not give your details to an unsolicited caller or reply to emails offering financial advice or investment opportunities – just hang up or delete the email.
  • Be suspicious of investment opportunities that promise a high return with little or no risk.
  • Check if a financial advisor is registered via the ASIC website. Any business or person that offers or advises you about financial products must be an Australian Financial Services (AFS) licence holder.
  • Check ASIC’s list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that called you is on the list – do not deal with them.
  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions about your money or investments and never commit to any investment at a seminar – always get independent legal or financial advice.
  • Do not respond to emails from strangers offering predictions on shares, investment tips, or investment advice.
  • If you feel an offer to buy shares might be legitimate, always check the company’s listing on the stock exchange for its current value and recent shares performance. Some offers to buy your shares may be well below market value.
  • Never commit to any investment at a seminar – always take time to consider the opportunity and seek independent financial advice.
  • If you are under 55, watch out for offers promoting easy access to your preserved superannuation benefits. If you illegally access your super early, you may face penalties under taxation law.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

Scams that relate to financial services can also be reported to ASIC.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

Pay Attention to These 7 Bitcoin Scams

Bitcoin – the possible Pandora’s Box of the currency world – has never been short of controversy. Whether it be aiding the black market or scamming users out of millions, bitcoin is no stranger to the front page.

Still, the jury is out on the legality and usefulness of bitcoin – leaving it in a proverbial grey area. Bitcoin’s price has fluctuated throughout its history, falling and rising, currently hovering near $10,000. Perhaps you’ve found bitcoin while it looks to be on the rebound and find yourself interested in it as an investment.

However, there have been several legitimate bitcoin scams that have become infamous, and you need to know about them – but, what are the top 7 bitcoin scams? And how can you avoid them?

What Is a Bitcoin Scam?

For most cases, it may be pretty obvious what a scam is – but with bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, things become murkier. Bitcoin itself is an unregulated form of currency that essentially is a mere number that is only given value because of an agreement. It’s basically like a moneybag with a lock on it – the code of which is given to the recipient of the bitcoin (an analogy drawn by Forbes in 2020).

Bitcoin scams have been famously criminal and public in nature. With no bank as a middleman in exchange, things become more complicated; so hackers and con men have had a heyday.

Top 7 Bitcoin Scams

There have been (and undoubtedly will be) nearly countless bitcoin scams, but these frauds make the list of the top 7 worst bitcoin scams to date. Take note.

1. Malware Scams

Malware has long been the hallmark of many online scams. But with cryptocurrency, it poses an increased threat given the nature of the currency in and of itself.

Recently, a tech support site called Bleeping Computer issued a warning about cryptocurrency-targeting malware in hopes of saving customers from sending cryptocoins via transactions, reported Yahoo Finance.

“This type of malware, called CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers, works by monitoring the Windows clipboard for cryptocurrency addresses, and if one is detected, will swap it out with an address that they control,” wrote Lawrence Abrahams, computer forensics and creator of Bleeping Computer.

The malware, CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers (which reportedly manages 2.3 million bitcoin addresses) switches addresses used to transfer cryptocoin with ones the malware controls – thus transferring the coins to the scammers instead. And, according to Asia Times, even MacOS malware has been connected to malware scams involving cryptocurrency investors using trusted sites like Slack and Discord chats – coined “OSX.Dummy.”

2. Fake Bitcoin Exchanges – BitKRX

Surely one of the easiest ways to scam investors is to pose as an affiliate branch of a respectable and legitimate organization. Well, that’s exactly what scammers in the bitcoin field are doing.

South Korean scam BitKRX presented itself as a place to exchange and trade bitcoin, but was ultimately fraudulent. The fake exchange took on part of the name of the real Korean Exchange (KRX), and scammed people out of their money by posing as a respectable and legitimate cryptocurrency exchange.

BitKRX claimed to be a branch of the KRX, a creation of KOSDAQ, South Korean Futures Exchange, and South Korean Stock Exchange, according to Coin Telegraph.

BitKRX used this faux-affiliation to ensnare people to use their system. The scam was exposed in 2020.

3. Ponzi Scheme – MiningMax

“Ponzi bitcoin scam” has got to be the worst combination of words imaginable for financial gurus. And, the reality is just as bad.

Several organizations have scammed people out of millions with Ponzi schemes using bitcoins, including South Korean website MiningMax. The site, which was not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, promised to provide investors with daily ROI’s in exchange for an original investment and commission from getting others to invest (basically, a Ponzi scheme). Apparently, the site was asking people to invest $3,200 for daily ROI’s over two years, and a $200 referral commission for every personally recruited investor, reports claim.

MiningMax’s domain was privately registered in mid-2020, and had a binary compensation structure. The fraudulent crypto-currency scam was reported by affiliates, resulting in 14 arrests in Korea in December of 2020.

Korea has long been a leader in technological developments – bitcoin is no exception. However, after recent controversy, it seems as though this is changing.

“But a lot of governments are looking at this very carefully,” Yoo Byung-joon, business administration professor at Seoul National University and co-author of the 2020 research paper “Is Bitcoin a Viable E-Business?: Empirical Analysis of the Digital Currency’s Speculative Nature,” told South China Morning Post in January. “Some are even considering putting their currencies on the blockchain system. The biggest challenge facing bitcoin now is the potential for misuse, but that’s true of any new technology.”

4. Fake Bitcoin Scam – My Big Coin

A classic (but no less dubious) scam involving bitcoin and cryptocurrency is simply, well, fake currency. One such arbiter of this faux bitcoin was My Big Coin. Essentially, the site sold fake bitcoin. Plain and simple.

In early 2020, My Big Coin, a cryptocurrency scam that lured investors into sinking an alleged $6 million, was sued by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a CFTC case filed in late January.

The CFTC case further details that the suit was due to “commodity fraud and misappropriation related to the ongoing solicitation of customers for a virtual currency known as My Big Coin (MBC),” further charging the scam with “misappropriating over $6 million from customers by, among other things, transferring customer funds into personal bank accounts, and using those funds for personal expenses and the purchase of luxury goods.”

Among other things, the site fraudulently claimed that the coin was being actively traded on several platforms, and even mislead investors by claiming it was also partnered with MasterCard, according to the CFTC case.

Those sued included Randall Carter, Mark Gillespie and the My Big Coin Pay, Inc.

5. ICO Scam – Bitcoin Savings and Trust and Centra Tech

Still other scammers have used ICO’s – initial coin offerings – to dupe users out of their money.

Along with the rise in blockchain-backed companies, fake ICOs became popular as a way to back these new companies. However, given the unregulated nature of bitcoin itself, the door has been wide open for fraud.

Most ICO frauds have taken place through getting investors to invest in or through fake ICO websites using faulty wallets, or by posing as real cryptocurrency-based companies.

Notably, $32 million Centra Tech garnered celebrity support (most famously from DJ Khaled), but was exposed for ICO fraud back in April of 2020, according to Fortune. The company was sued for misleading investors and lying about products, among other fraudulent activities.

The famous DJ wrote his support in a caption on Instagram back in 2020.

“I just received my titanium centra debit card. The Centra Card & Centra Wallet app is the ultimate winner in Cryptocurrency debit cards powered by CTR tokens!” Khaled wrote.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission even issued a warning in 2020 about ICO scams and faux investment opportunities, brought on by a slew of celebrities who promoted certain ICOs (like Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to name a few).

“Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion,” the SEC wrote in an Investor Alert in 2020. “A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.”

Another example is Bitcoin Savings and Trust, which was fined $40.7 million in 2020 by the SEC for creating fake investments and using a Ponzi scheme to scam investors. According to Coin Telegraph, Trenton Shavers, the organization’s leader, allegedly scammed investors into giving him 720,000 bitcoins promising a 7% weekly interest on investments – which he then used to pay back old investors and even fill his personal bank accounts.

6. Bitcoin Gold Scam – mybtgwallet.com

Nothing catches the eye of the naïve quite like the promise of gold – bitcoin gold, of course.

That is exactly what mybtgwallet.com did to unsuspecting bitcoin investors.

According to CNN, the bitcoin gold (BTG) wallet duped investors out of $3.2 million in 2020 by promising to allow them to claim their bitcoin gold. The website allegedly used links on a legitimate website (Bitcoin Gold) to get investors to share their private keys or seeds with the scam, as this old screenshot from the website shows.

Before the scam was done, the website managers (slash scammers) was able to get their hands on $107,000 worth of bitcoin gold, $72,000 of litecoin, $30,000 of ethereum, and $3 million of bitcoin, according to CNN.

Bitcoin Gold, the site’s wallet used in the scam, began investigating shortly after, but the site remains controversial. Still, firm released a warning to bitcoin investors.

“It’s worth reminding everyone that it will never be truly safe to enter your private key or mnemonic phrase for a pre-existing wallet into any online website,” Bitcoin Gold wrote. “When you want to sweep new coins from a pre-fork wallet address, best practice is the same as after other forks: Send your old coins to a new wallet first, before you expose the private keys of the original wallet. Following this basic rule of private key management greatly reduces your risk of theft.”

7. Pump and Dump Scam

While this type of scam is certainly not relegated to just bitcoin (thank you for the education, “The Wolf of Wall Street”), a pump-and-dump scam is especially dangerous in the internet space.

The basic idea is that investors hype up (or “pump up”) a certain bitcoin – that is usually an alternative coin that is very cheap but high risk – via investor’s websites, blogs, or even Reddit, according to The Daily Dot. Once the scammers pump up a certain bitcoin enough, skyrocketing its value, they cash out and “dump” their bitcoin onto the naïve investors who bought into the bitcoin thinking it was the next big thing.

Bittrex, a popular bitcoin exchange site, released a set of guidelines to avoid bitcoin pump-and-dump scams.

While “stackin’ penny stocks” may sound like an appealing way to earn an extra buck (thanks to its glamorization by Jordan Belfort), messing in bitcoin scams is nothing to smirk at.

How to Avoid Bitcoin Scams

With the inevitable rise of bitcoin in current and coming years, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and be on the lookout for bitcoin scams that could cost you thousands. As more people become interested in Bitcoin, more people are also likely to try and pull off a scam.

There is no one formula to avoiding being scammed, but reading up on the latest bitcoin red flags, keeping information private, and double checking sources before investing in anything are good standard procedures that may help save you from being duped. Cryptocurrency can be a confusing topic even for the experienced Bitcoin enthusiast, so the more you read up on the world of Bitcoin, the more prepared you can be. After all, knowledge is power.

10 Best Investment Apps of 2020

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

You can do just about anything on your phone — including invest, thanks to a variety of investment and stock trading apps.

All of the brokers on our list of best brokers for stock trading have high-quality apps. But if mobile trading is most important to you, these 10 investing apps are NerdWallet’s picks for the best of 2020. (Need more info to get started? Read our primer on how to buy stocks.)

Summary of Best Investment Apps of 2020

Broker NerdWallet Rating
Commissions Promotion Account Minimum Learn More

cash credit with a qualifying deposit or transfer

on E*TRADE’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

no promotion available at this time

on Robinhood’s website

cash credit to invest with qualifying deposit

on Stash Invest’s website

no promotion at this time

on Acorns’s website

on E*TRADE’s website

E*TRADE

cash credit with a qualifying deposit or transfer

on E*TRADE’s website

cash credit with a qualifying deposit or transfer

Large investment selection.

Excellent customer support.

Access to extensive research.

Advanced mobile app.

Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Website can be difficult to navigate.

on TD Ameritrade’s website

TD Ameritrade

cash credit with qualifying deposit

on TD Ameritrade’s website

cash credit with qualifying deposit

Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

High-quality trading platforms.

No account minimum.

Good customer support.

Large investment selection.

Costly broker-assisted trades.

on Robinhood’s website

Robinhood

no promotion available at this time

on Robinhood’s website

no promotion available at this time

No account minimum.

No retirement accounts.

No mutual funds or bonds.

Limited customer support.

on Stash Invest’s website

Stash Invest

cash credit to invest with qualifying deposit

on Stash Invest’s website

cash credit to invest with qualifying deposit

Educational content and support.

Values-based investment offerings.

No investment management.

High ETF expense ratios.

on Acorns’s website

Acorns

no promotion at this time

on Acorns’s website

no promotion at this time

Automatically invests spare change.

Cash back at select retailers.

Educational content available.

Small investment portfolio.

High fee on small account balances.

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Brokerage app FAQs

How much money do I need to get started?

Shockingly little. Thanks to micro-investing apps like Acorns and Stash, you can kick-start an investment portfolio with small amounts of money — just your spare change, in fact. Acorns, for example, sweeps a linked credit or debit card account, rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the change. Stash offers a similar opt-in feature that rounds up purchases to deposit money in a user’s account.

Beyond the micro-investing apps, the amount of money you’ll need to begin investing after you open your account depends on the assets you intend to buy. Individual stock shares range from as little as a few dollars to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per share. Mutual funds often have minimums of $1,000 or more, but exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are essentially mutual funds that trade like a stock, and they can often be purchased for less than many mutual funds. Don’t forget, too, that some brokers charge trading fees every time you buy or sell an investment. The good news there is that many brokers now offer free trades.

Many of NerdWallet’s picks for best apps have account minimums of $5 or less, so you can open an account right away and over the internet. Here’s more on what a brokerage account is and how to open one.

Which investment app is best for stock traders?

In the summary table above we’ve categorized our best investing apps based in part on price (trading costs and account fees), mobile platform features and account minimums.

What is the best investment app for beginners?

For new investors just learning the ropes, Acorns and Stash are worthy contenders for your first investing dollars. One reason is that their services focus on ETFs instead of just individual stocks, although Stash also offers about 150 stocks.

While the idea of buying individual stocks might be exciting, building a portfolio of stocks requires a fair amount of research and discipline. ETFs offer instant diversification in that they contain shares of multiple companies (dozens, even) like a mutual fund, but trade like individual stocks. (Check out this full explainer on ETFs.)

Although all the other brokers allow investing in ETFs through their apps, Acorns takes a different approach by steering investors towards pre-built portfolios that contain multiple ETFs, diversifying your investment dollars across a collection of stocks and bonds. Portfolios are based on your tolerance for risk — based on your age, goals and time horizon — and automatically rebalanced when the stock market fluctuates. Acorns uses a handful of ETF portfolios that range from aggressive to conservative. Stash doesn’t offer pre-built portfolios but helps investors choose specific ETFs based on themes (e.g., “Clean and Green” is an ETF that holds environmentally responsible companies).

If buying individual shares of companies is something you’d like to do, see our guide on How to Buy Stocks.

What assets can I trade on these apps?

The mobile trading experience varies by broker — and so do the range of available assets. Among the picks for best apps, Acorns offers only ETFs, while TD Ameritrade’s offerings include individual stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, options and currency (or forex).

Is my money insured?

Just as FDIC insurance insures bank accounts, SIPC insurance insures the money you have in your brokerage account (or robo-advisor account) up to $500,000. $250,000 of that total can be applied to protect cash that you haven’t yet invested. All of NerdWallet’s picks for best apps are members of the SIPC.

However, it’s important to note that investments you make in your account can potentially fall in value or even decrease to zero, and investment losses are not covered by any type of insurance. (Here’s more on SIPC insurance and what it does and doesn’t protect.)

BITHOLDER Review: is bitholder.io a Scam or Legit Investment?

An official website of the United States government

Here’s how you know

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Ask questions. Fraudsters are counting on you not to investigate before you invest. Fend them off by doing your own digging. It’s not enough to ask for more information or for references – fraudsters have no incentive to set you straight. Take the time to do your own independent research. For more about information see Ask Questions.

Research before you invest. Unsolicited emails, message board postings, and company news releases should never be used as the sole basis for your investment decisions. Understand a company’s business and its products or services before investing. Look for the company’s financial statements on the SEC’s EDGAR filing system. You can also check out many investments by searching EDGAR.

Know the salesperson. Spend some time checking out the person touting the investment before you invest – even if you already know the person socially. Always find out whether the securities salespeople who contact you are licensed to sell securities in your state and whether they or their firms have had run-ins with regulators or other investors. You can check out the disciplinary history of brokers and advisers for free using the SEC’s and FINRA’s online databases. Your state securities regulator may have additional information.

Be wary of unsolicited offers.Be especially careful if you receive an unsolicited pitch to invest in a company, or see it praised online, but can’t find current financial information about it from independent sources. It could be a “pump and dump” scheme. Be wary if someone recommends foreign or “off-shore” investments. If something goes wrong, it’s harder to find out what happened and to locate money sent abroad.

Protect yourself online. Online and social marketing sites offer a wealth of opportunity for fraudsters. For tips on how to protect yourself online see Protect Your Social Media Accounts.

Know what to look for. Make yourself knowledgeable about different types of fraud and red flags that may signal investment fraud.

Red flags for fraud and common persuasion tactics

How do successful, financially intelligent people fall prey to investment fraud? Researchers have found that investment fraudsters hit their targets with an array of persuasion techniques that are tailored to the victim’s psychological profile. Here are red flags to look for:

If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Watch for “phantom riches.” Compare promised yields with current returns on well-know stock indexes. Any investment opportunity that claims you’ll receive substantially more could be highly risky – and that means you might lose money. Be careful of claims that an investment will make “incredible gains,” is a “breakout stock pick” or has “huge upside and almost no risk!” Claims like these are hallmarks of extreme risk or outright fraud.

“Guaranteed returns” aren’t. Every investment carries some degree of risk, which is reflected in the rate of return you can expect to receive. If your money is perfectly safe, you’ll most likely get a low return. High returns entail high risks, possibly including a total loss on the investments. Most fraudsters spend a lot of time trying to convince investors that extremely high returns are “guaranteed” or “can’t miss.” They try to plant an image in your head of what your life will be like when you are rich. Don’t believe it.

Beware the “halo” effect. Investors can be blinded by a “halo” effect when a con artist comes across as likeable or trustworthy. Credibility can be faked. Check out actual qualifications.

“Everyone is buying it.” Watch out for pitches that stress how “everyone is investing in this, so you should, too.” Think about whether you are interested in the product. If a sales presentation focuses on how many others have bought the product, this could be a red flag.

Pressure to send money RIGHT NOW. Scam artists often tell their victims that this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer and it will be gone tomorrow. But resist the pressure to invest quickly and take the time you need to investigate before sending money.

Reciprocity. Fraudsters often try to lure investors through free investment seminars, figuring if they do a small favor for you, such as supplying a free lunch, you will do a big favor for them and invest in their product. There is never a reason to make a quick decision on an investment. If you attend a free lunch, take the material home and research both the investment and the individual selling it before you invest. Always make sure the product is right for you and that you understand what you are buying and all the associated fees.

Where can I go for help?

If you have a question or concern about an investment, or you think you have encountered one of these frauds, please contact the SEC, FINRA, or your state securities regulator to report the fraud and to get assistance.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Office of Investor Education and Advocacy
100 F Street, NE
Washington, DC 20549-0213
Telephone: (800) 732-0330
Fax: (202) 772-9295

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
FINRA Complaints and Tips
9509 Key West Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Telephone: (301) 590-6500
Fax: (866) 397-3290

North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA)
750 First Street NE
Suite 1140
Washington, DC 20002
Telephone: (202) 737-0900
Fax: (202) 783-3571

The 8 Best Investment Apps of 2020

Make and save money with these must-have apps

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2020

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Investment apps are growing to become one of the top options for new investors looking to become involved in the stock market. With convenient apps that offer a variety of services at low fees, even experienced investors may find opportunities to save money and improve their portfolios with an investing app.

While you used to have to pick up a phone and call a stockbroker to make a trade, not to mention the steep commission the broker would charge, you can now pick up your phone and tap your screen a few times to trade instantly—either for free or at a relatively low cost.

Whether you want to buy your first stock or you’ve been doing it for years, consider these top investment and stock market apps that are poised to be top performers in 2020 and beyond. The apps are broken down by their approach and specialty so that all kinds of investors can find an option that best suits them. Some apps are designed to remove the barriers to individual stock trading, while others will help you save for retirement or passively build wealth through an automated investor.

The 8 Best Investment Apps of 2020:

  • Robinhood: Best for Free Stock Trades
  • Acorns: Best for Automated Investing
  • Stash: Best for Learning About Investing
  • Vault: Best for Retirement
  • Stockpile: Best for Stock Gifting
  • Clink: Best for Microinvesting
  • TD Ameritrade Mobile: Best for Features
  • Wealthfront: Best for College Savings

Best for Free Stock Trades: Robinhood

Sir Robin of Locksley, better known as Robin Hood, became a famous character for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. If you like the idea of empowering everyone to get into the stock market, Robinhood is an option worth exploring.

Robinhood offers free stock trades. And “free” doesn’t mean “free, but with fees and other costs.” Trades have zero commission. Just download the app, connect to your bank, fund your account, and you can truly trade fee-free. For extended trading hours and margin accounts, you can upgrade to Robinhood Gold for a fee.

Robinhood is essentially a no-frills online stock brokerage. Because they don’t have fancy offices around the country, they can run a lower-cost operation and pass on the savings to investors like you. The company makes money from Robinhood Gold users, as well as from the interest earned on account cash balances.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best stock trading apps.

Best for Automated Investing: Acorns

If you don’t want to think much about your investments but want to contribute regularly, Acorns is a top option. Link a debit or credit card to the app and Acorns will “round up” your transactions to the next dollar and invest the “spare change” you would have received had you paid in cash. Acorns invests your funds automatically in one of five professionally managed exchange-traded fund (ETF) portfolios.

Accounts with a balance up to $5,000 pay just $1 per month and accounts with a balance over $5,000 pay a competitive 0.25% annual fee. For college students with a .edu email, you can use Acorns for free for up to four years from the date of registration.

The existing portfolios focus on low-cost exchange-traded funds that offer you diverse investments without a giant starting investment. A few dollars here and there adds up, and Acorns makes it easy to invest in small amounts.

Best for Learning About Investing: Stash

Similar to Acorns, Stash offers a low-cost method to build a diverse portfolio. But where Acorns invests for you automatically, Stash can help you learn how to make the best investment decisions yourself.

The Stash app includes educational content customized to your investment preferences. You can choose between values-driven portfolios focused on different investing themes, or you can build a custom portfolio. Funding your account can be done manually whenever you want, or you can set up an “Auto-Stash” plan for recurring investments.

For any beginning investor, all of the terms, acronyms, and phrases of the investment world can be overwhelming. Stash does not give the depth of research on companies that many stock brokerages do, but it makes it easy to understand what exactly you’re buying when you put money in the market. If you don’t yet speak the language of investing, you have to start somewhere. Stash is an excellent choice for a starting point.

Stash accounts start at $1, though you may be subject to fees from the individual investments you choose.

Best for Retirement: Vault

If you’re a self-employed freelancer, you won’t have access to an employer 401(k) plan and will have to put together your own retirement plan. There are many options for the self-employed to invest, but one of the coolest around is Vault.

Vault allows anyone to open an IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP-IRA account for their investments. For freelancers, the SEP-IRA option is particularly useful, since that type of retirement account is specifically designed for self-employed workers. But whatever form of IRA you want, Vault gives you the ability to invest based on a specific percentage of your income.

When you get paid from a freelancing job and the money is deposited into your bank account, the Vault app gives users a notification to approve depositing your chosen paycheck percentage to your IRA account at Vault. You can also choose to invest your percentage automatically without requiring manual approval. Vault uses the same pricing model as Acorns and Stash.

Best for Stock Gifting: Stockpile

Stockpile offers a unique approach to buying and selling stocks. You can buy fractional shares of nearly any company through Stockpile. Alternatively, you can fund an account with a stock gift card that gives the lucky recipient shares of stock starting at $5.

There are no monthly fees and all trades are $0.99. This app is especially exciting for parents or grandparents looking to get kids or young adults interested in investing and the stock market. Instead of giving a gift card that they will blow shopping, you can give them $20 of your favorite stock.

Stockpile offers over 1,000 investments, including single stocks and ETFs. For example, you can gift shares of a stock like Disney or Apple, or give a basket of stocks in an ETF from the likes of Vanguard, iShares, and other institutions. You can give an e-gift card, a physical gift card, or fund an account through a bank transfer. This is a gift that literally pays dividends.

Best Binary Options Brokers 2020:
  • Binarium
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  • Binomo
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