5 ways to buy stocks for free or very cheap

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Coming in May 2017: Motif Investing will charge a $10 semi-annual platform fee on low-balance accounts with little trading activity. See below for full details.

When it comes to investing, keeping costs low is the name of the game. That’s because management fees, annual expenses and so forth can take a big bite out of your money. In fact, paying just 1% more in annual fees can mean you’ll have $80,000 less in retirement!

Clark has long advocated investing in index funds over individual stock picks. But if it’s the latter that interests you, there are some free and cheap ways to buy or sell stocks that will let you get part ownership in of some of the most respected companies out there!

Read more: Clark’s investment guide

Buy and sell stocks for free

Over the years, there have been many attempts to offer free stock trading. Commissions on stocks have long been rumored to be going away, but what really happened is they just got really cheap. It’s now routine to pay under $10 a trade through Etrade, Schwab, Fidelity and others. That’s down from hundreds of dollars for a trade back in the old days.

But today is a new day and it’s now possible to pay ZERO commission or fees for stock trading through at least two players.

Robin Hood

3 ways to buy stocks for free or very cheap

Robin Hood is the latest to try zero-commission stock trading by offering free trades from your smartphone (both iPhone and Android).

How does Robin Hood make money? They make money one of three ways: On the money you have on deposit with them in your online brokerage account; if you borrow (leverage) to trade; and by moving orders through particular platforms.

Buy and sell stocks for cheap


3 ways to buy stocks for free or very cheap


With Stash, you can buy ETFs — one of Clark’s favorite kinds of investments — for as little as $5 because you’re buying fractional shares. That’s setting the bar for entry really low when you consider some ETFs can have a minimum investment of $1,000!

So, for example, there’s an ‘American Innovators’ ETF that includes Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet, Intel, and IBM, among others.

The ‘Clean and Green’ ETF includes Solar City, China Everbright International Limited, Vestas Wind Systems and Enel, among others.

The ‘Roll With Buffett’ ETF includes the Oracle of Omaha’s wholly owned companies like Geico, Business Wire, Helzberg Diamonds, Benjamin Moore and Dairy Queen. Plus it also includes his largest equity investments like Kraft Heinz, American Express, Wells Fargo, IBM, and Coca-Cola

Stash makes its money by charging $1 a month for balances under $5,000. So if you truly are a small investor, your money will get eaten up pretty quickly. For those with balances of $5,000 or more, Stash only charges 0.25%. That’s competitive, but nothing to write home about; it’s possible to pay as little as .04% to .05% so consider carefully before jumping at this one.


Acorns lets you invest small dribs and drabs of change from larger purchases. Here’s how it works: You give Acorns your log-in info for your credit or debit card accounts, and then the app rounds up every time you make a purchase so they can invest your small change for you over time.

So let’s say you buy something for $3.24. Acorns will automatically round the purchase up to $4. Then they take that extra 76 cents and put it in savings. Every time you hit the $5 threshold in your account, they take it and invest it for you.

How does Acorns make its money? There is an annual fee of $12 to use the service. At $12 a year, the reality is your money may go backwards in the early years. But if you stick with Acorns for years to come, it might be a good way to turn your spare change into a little nest egg. Go to Google Play or the App Store to download the app.


3 ways to buy stocks for free or very cheap

Stockpile gives you access to a universe of roughly 900 stocks and ETFs. Each buy or sell trade is just 99 cents.


Apart from their online brokerage business, Stockpile has another interesting business model: They allow you to buy gift cards that when redeemed give you a fractional share of stock in a company.

That makes Stockpile gift cards a possible consideration if you’re giving a gift to young kids!

If you’re interested in the gift card model, look for them at Buehler’s, Giant Eagle, Kmart, Lowe’s, Office Depot/OfficeMax, Safeway, SuperValu, Toys R Us and Wegmans.

Motif Investing

Similar to Stash, Motif Investing takes its name from what they do best: Selling you bundles of stocks grouped thematically at $9.95 a pop.

Each ‘motif’ they curate has around two dozen stocks. There are motifs for everything from Precious Metals to Social Networking to Shale Gas to Cyber Security to Casino Gambling and so many others.

If you’re interested in buying individual stocks rather than motif bundles, you can do that too for a buy or sell fee of $4.95.

UPDATE: As of May 15, 2017, Motif is instituting a $10 semi-annual platform charge on accounts with a low balance and little trading activity.

There are four ways to avoid the fee:

  • Fund your trading account with a minimum of $10,000
  • Make at least one commission trade every six months
  • Set up a recurring ACH to fund your account
  • Subscribe to the Motif Blue premium service

Read more: 66% of Americans don’t understand this crucial financial concept: Here’s how it works

Borrowing from your 401(k) could cost you!