Earn $10 when you view your rate on a personal loan *
Bonus deposited into a SoFi Money® account. See terms.

How to Open a Brokerage Account

By Austin Kilham · May 24, 2021 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

How to Open a Brokerage Account

Most investors use brokerage accounts to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other investments.

When you open a brokerage account with a brokerage firm, you transfer money into the account that you can use to start investing. While some brokerage accounts may set an account minimum, there is typically no limit to how much you can deposit or when you can withdraw your money.

Here’s a look at common questions and concerns regarding how to open a brokerage account and the factors to consider to choose the right account for you.

How Do I Open a Brokerage Account?

There are a few simple steps to opening a brokerage account. We’ll dive deep into each one below.

1.   Choose a brokerage provider.

2.   Sign up for an account.

3.   Transfer money.

4.   Start trading.

Step 1: Choose a Brokerage Provider

There are several kinds of brokerage accounts, and the type you choose will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish.

•  Full-service brokerage firms not only allow clients to trade securities, they may also offer financial consulting and other services—though the price may be steep, compared to the other options here.

•  Discount brokerage firms typically charge lower fees than full-service, but as a result clients don’t have access to additional financial consulting or planning services.

•  Online brokerage firms are typically online-only, allowing clients to sign up, transfer money, and make trades through their website. These firms typically offer the lowest fees.

The accounts above are known as cash accounts: You must buy securities with funds you put in your account ahead of time. You may also encounter other more complicated types of brokerage accounts known as margin accounts, which allow you to borrow money from your brokerage to make investments, using your case account as collateral. These accounts tend to be for sophisticated investors willing to shoulder the risk that investments bought with borrowed funds will lose value.

Before working with an individual investment advisor or a firm, it can be a good idea to run a check on their background. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers online broker checks where you can enter a broker’s name, or the name of a firm, to learn whether a broker is registered to sell securities, offer investment advice, or both. And you can learn about a broker’s employment history, regulatory actions, and whether there are past or current arbitrations and complaints.

Step 2: Sign Up for a Brokerage Account

Most brokers of all kinds allow you to open and access your brokerage account online. When you open the account, you will likely be asked to provide your Social Security number or taxpayer identification number, your address, date of birth, driver’s license or passport information, employment status, annual income and net worth. You may also be asked about your investment goals and risk tolerance.

For the most part, they should not charge you a fee for opening an account. While some may require account minimums, others allow you to open an account with no minimum deposit.

There is no limit on the number of brokerage accounts you can open, and you may be able to hold multiple accounts with multiple brokerage firms.

Step 3: Transfer Money

You will need to fund your new brokerage account before you can purchase any securities. You can deposit money in a brokerage account like you would in a traditional bank account.

Step 4: Start Trading

Many brokerage firms will offer a way for you to earn interest on uninvested funds so that your money continues to work for you even when not invested in the market.

How Do Brokerage Accounts Work?

The brokerage firm with which you hold your account maintains the account and acts as the custodian for the assets you hold. In other words, they safeguard your assets from being lost or stolen.

However, you own the investments in the account and can buy and sell them as you wish. The brokerage firm acts as a middleman between you and the markets, matching you with buyers and sellers, and executing trades based on your instructions.

For example, if you place an order with your brokerage to buy a certain number of shares of stock, the brokerage will match you with a seller looking to sell those shares and make the trade for you.

What’s the Difference Between Brokerage Accounts and Retirement Accounts?

Brokerage accounts are also known as taxable accounts, because profits on sales of securities inside the account are potentially subject to capital gains taxes. Generally speaking, these accounts offer no tax advantages for investors.

Retirement accounts, on the other hand, offer a number of tax advantages that may make them preferable to taxable accounts if you’re planning to save for retirement. Retirement accounts place limits on how much money you can contribute and when you can withdraw funds.

If retirement planning is your main concern, you may consider saving as much as you can in both a 401(k) if your employer offers one, and a traditional or Roth IRA. If you have funds left over, you may choose to invest those in your taxable brokerage account.

Is My Money Safe in a Brokerage Account?

The money and securities held in a brokerage account are insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) . The SIPC protects against the loss of cash and securities held at failing brokerage firms. If your brokerage firm goes bankrupt, the SIPC covers $500,000 worth of losses, including $250,000 in cash losses.

The SIPC only provides protection for the custody function of a brokerage firm. In other words, they work to restore the cash and securities that were in a customer’s account when the brokerage started its liquidation proceedings. The organization does not protect against declines in value of the securities you hold, nor does it protect against receiving and acting upon bad investment advice.

It is important that any investor realizes and accepts that investment comes with a certain amount of risk. While security prices may gain in value, it is also possible that you could lose some or all of your investment.

The Takeaway

Opening a brokerage account is a simple process that allows you to invest in securities. The account you choose will depend on your objectives and whether you want to take a hands-on approach to investing or let other experts take the wheel.

If you’re ready to start investing, the SoFi Invest® brokerage app offers active investing accounts with no commission fees, as well as automated investing accounts that build and manage a portfolio for you. No matter which account fits your investing style, you can manage it all from the convenient mobile app.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOIN19052

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender