Stockpile offers a great alternative for parents (or anyone) looking to give a gift of stock to a young person, helping them to discover the world of investing. That’s the main use case for this niche broker, even if you can set up your own account and invest. But Stockpile makes it super easy to get started and perform the basic investing tasks, though it doesn’t offer many other features. Again, those looking to give stock will find it remarkably easy to do so, and that may be enough.

Stockpile may not offer enough even for beginning investors, but this group can find useful tools, education and features at other investor-friendly brokers such as Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. Both offer custodial accounts, too, so you can still make investing a learning experience for that younger relative.

Best for

  • Gifting shares of stock
  • Introducing younger relatives to investing
  • Buy-and-hold investing

Stockpile at a glance

Category Stockpile
Minimum balance: $0
Securities tradable: Stocks and ETFs
Cost per trade: No fees for trading or for purchasing gift cards. No fees for debit cards.
Customer service: Via email
Account fees: No activity fees; $75 transfer-out fee
Mobile app: The Stockpile mobile app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store
Promotion: None

Pros: Where Stockpile stands out

Easy to give stock

Stockpile’s biggest hook is the ability to give stock, and you can literally charge stock – or at least a gift card for stock – to your debit card. You can buy physical gift cards ranging from $25 to $100, while e-gift cards can be loaded with value from $1 to $2,000. It doesn’t cost any additional fees to purchase gift cards for stock, and the recipient doesn’t pay anything to redeem the gift card.

With physical cards, options include a branded gift card (say, to buy shares of Apple or Disney) or an unbranded one. Either way you go, your recipient can buy whichever stock they want – no worries about getting the wrong gift! Your recipient can redeem the gift card on Stockpile by setting up an account and buying a stock or stocks. Then they’re a legitimate stockholder.

And if you’re giving stock to a child, Stockpile can be a great way to teach them about investing and why it’s valuable to own stock. In fact, this is one of the reasons that Stockpile landed on Bankrate’s list of top investment apps.

Fractional shares

Stockpile’s gift cards and its regular brokerage offering allow you to purchase fractional shares in stocks. So you don’t need to put enough credit on a card to buy a full share, which sometimes runs into the hundreds of dollars. Even if you give a $50 card, the full amount will be used to buy stock, whether that’s a full share or less than one.

And if you’re using Stockpile as your regular broker, you can take advantage of the same perk. It’s a good way to make sure that all your cash is working for you in the market.

Easy to set up and trade

While it focuses on gift cards, Stockpile allows anyone to apply for an account and trade stock. So if you want to use Stockpile as your broker, its easy-to-use interface makes that a snap. Trades are free, and you can use a debit card to fund the trade at no additional expense.

It’s surprisingly easy to set up your Stockpile account and get started. After a standard sign-up process asking for your personal details, you’ll be asked to link your bank account. From there you’re taken to a dashboard with a few options: buy stock, link a bank account and set up auto-deposit. A few links on the side allow you to redeem gift cards, invite friends and more.

The mobile app mimics much of the same process, and its clean layout makes it so easy to navigate. You can set up a watchlist quickly, search through available securities, read through the educational sections and buy gift cards. It’s super intuitive to use and explore.

To place a trade, you click “buy stock,” search through the available stocks and click on its icon. That brings up an info page with some of the stock’s vital details such as charts, financial info, a news feed of recent articles and a brief company profile. Click through that and then you’re asked to select the dollar value of your trade. Click “checkout” and your trade is done. Almost.

Stockpile doesn’t purchase (or sell) your stock right when you place the order, as a traditional broker would. Instead, it places all orders at one time in the market day to reduce its expenses. So you can’t set your trading price, and you’ll take the price on offer when the trade is made.

Nevertheless, it’s surprisingly easy to set up your account and trade with Stockpile, and children just starting out should have no problem finding what they want and buying it.

Access to custodial accounts

For some brokers, a custodial account is something of an afterthought, if they think of it at all. A custodial account allows a parent or guardian to own stock on behalf of a child until the child reaches the age of majority. It’s a convenient and quick way to get a child recipient set up with an account and legally have the stock held in their name.

Selection of stocks

Often in niche services like this, you’ll be stuck with a narrow range of stocks, so that you may not be able to buy the newest stocks. But Stockpile offers thousands of stocks and ETFs, so you’re likely to find what you’re looking for. You can quickly scan through the list of stocks and ETFs offered, or search by company name, stock ticker symbol or company industry.

Even if you don’t find a stock at first, you can request that it be added to the list of available stocks. So even that new hot tech stock will likely be available. However, Stockpile doesn’t add stocks trading below $3, penny stocks, cryptocurrency and other more obscure things.

Cons: Where Stockpile could improve

Limited account types

Stockpile offers just two account types – individual taxable accounts and custodial taxable accounts. Given that Stockpile is focused on giving stock to beginners, that’s probably not a drawback. But investors looking to open other accounts (such as IRAs) have no options here.

Virtually every other major brokerage offers these and many other account types.

Limited functionality

The good news is that it’s actually easy to buy stock (or ETFs) on Stockpile, and you can virtually point and click your way to a trade with any dollar amount, as described above. The flip side of that ease comes at the cost of functionality and sophistication. So things you won’t find at Stockpile include:

So you can easily get a trade done here, but you may find other options such as Robinhood just as easy without all the drawbacks. Again, Stockpile is geared toward beginners and that’s reflected over and over in what’s on offer here.

Lack of features and tools

Stockpile is a fun way to help children start paying attention to investing. The clean layout of the site and the mobile app make it easy to navigate and otherwise use. The educational components on the app offer basic investing lessons, albeit still useful.

While these resources may suffice for a child, adult investors looking for more robust education and other tools will need to look elsewhere. Fidelity and Charles Schwab are both exemplary in their educational features and Merrill Edge offers an excellent educational package, too.

Bottom line

It’s important to remember that Stockpile is focused on a specific niche and is trying to cater almost exclusively to that subgroup, so it won’t offer the same functionality as a typical online broker. On this basis, it will likely deliver what you – or your child – is looking for, especially if you’re just getting started on an investing journey or trying to instill the value of investing.

For other beginners, particularly those looking to ramp up their investing in the near term or those looking for an IRA, Stockpile won’t be enough. Good alternatives include Schwab and Fidelity if you’re looking for a “do anything” broker. Meanwhile, E-Trade makes for a good all-around option, while Robinhood is a solid pick for its easy-to-use mobile trading app.

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