How to Begin Online Stock Trading

The number of investors that have been drawn to trading stocks online in recent years has risen significantly, and investors that rely on full service brokers have been on the decline. Online stock trading provides self-directed investors the ability to trade stocks for just a fraction of the cost of a traditional full-service broker and most platforms are easy enough to use. The combination has made online trading very popular among investors.

Setting Up Online Trading Accounts
In order to trade stocks online, investors need to open up an account with one of the many online discount brokers. There are a number of good ones to choose from and most firms charge somewhere in the range of $4 to $20 in commissions to execute a trade. To open an account, some basic information must be provided and the account holder must sign several documents accepting responsibility for the activities conducted in the account. To open an account, the holder must be at least 18 years of age and have the legal capacity to enter into a contract.

Funding Online Trading Accounts
Before trading can begin, the account must be funded. There are several ways to fund an account. Traders can simply write a check from another financial institution or one can transfer securities that were being held with another online brokerage into the new trading account. Obviously, the account must have a cash balance of sufficient size to cover any trades.

Online Trading Stock Orders
When buying or selling a security, investors can either place a market order or a limit order. A market order is the current price of the stock while a limit order is a specific price at which the investor is willing to buy or sell the stock. Market orders are almost always executed more quickly than limit orders. Depending on the volatility of a stock’s price and the limit set on the purchase or sale price of that stock, the order can be executed quickly or not at all. Orders that do not get executed expire at the end of the trading day.

Bid and Ask Price
The bid is the price at which someone is willing to pay for a security while the ask is the price someone is willing to pay for the security. In a stock with high volume, the spread between the bid and ask price is usually quite small. If a stock is very lightly traded, the bid and ask spread can be much larger.