New to Investing? Explore the Basics of Trading Stocks Online

Explore the basics of online stock trading. As a beginner, you'll want to learn the basic fundamentals of trading stocks online, such as buying and selling stocks and monitoring positions. the online trading experience
3 min read
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Key Takeaways

  • TD Ameritrade clients have a wide variety of “how-to” videos available for free under the Education tab
  • The Research & Ideas tab offers a variety of self-guided research tools for both technical and fundamental analysis
  • As you build a portfolio, you can monitor positions in real time and track your profit and loss

Flash back to the 1990s, when early adopters of online stock trading made their first online stock investments.

Son: “I just made my first online stock trade.”
Father: “How did you do that?” 
Son: “I just logged in, picked a stock, filled in the boxes for stock ticker, price, and quantity, and clicked the green button.”  
(Father scratches his head.)

It’s no wonder Dad was confused. Investing online, trading, or even being able to monitor a portfolio in real time was foreign to a generation that had to meet face-to-face with brokers to buy stock. But today, thanks to technology, it’s easier and more convenient than ever to trade stocks online. And new bells and whistles are being added each year to enhance the online investing experience.

So if you’re new to stock trading online or need a refresher, here are a few basic tools and how to access them.

Stock Trading Online for Beginners Starts with the Education Tab

If you're just starting out, the logistics of buying and selling may be intimidating. But if you take a moment to learn the process, you might find your comfort zone. TD Ameritrade clients have a wide variety of “how-to” videos available for free under the Education tab. New to or the thinkorswim®  platform? This might be the place to start. See figure 1.

Trading online tool demos, education

FIGURE 1: GETTING STARTED. The Education tab offers dozens of videos and training modules. Learn investing basics, advanced concepts, and everything in between. Image source: For illustrative purposes only.

Doing Your Research

Although pre-trade logistics start with education, stock trading online typically commences with an idea. Seeking potential trade candidates? You might start by looking at companies whose products and services you already use. Once you’ve identified a few ideas, log in to your account at, head to the Research & Ideas tab, and then select Stock Profile. You’ll find a wide variety of tools to help you learn more about each company and decide which one(s) you might want to trade. See figure 2.

Research stock trade ideas
FIGURE 2: GENERATING TRADE IDEAS. Self-guided research for online stock trading includes company news, fundamental and technical analysis, social sentiment, analyst reports, and more. It's all available at your fingertips. Image source: For illustrative purposes only.

If you don’t have any ideas, you can look for some on the Research & Ideas tab. Select Ideas, then Trade Ideas. In this section, you can read daily commentary about the overall state of the market, as well as detailed third-party research reports about individual stocks that are making headlines.

As you find stocks that interest you, follow them by adding them to your personal watch list (which you can create by going to the My Account tab and selecting Watch Lists). From your watch lists, you can pull up charts, news, earnings estimates, fundamental research, and much more on any particular stocks that pique your interest.

Pulling the Trigger

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, you’ll want to decide what criteria you’ll use to initiate a trade. But don’t worry—this doesn’t have to be a complex process. In fact, sometimes the simplest strategies can be the most powerful.

You might start by pulling up charts on your stocks for a graphic representation of how they trade. In the the Upper Indicators box, select SMA (simple moving average) to pull up the default 10-day and 50-day moving averages (see figure 3). Some traders use these technical indicators to identify potential stock trends. For example, you might decide to trade a stock when it rallies above one of those moving averages. Or you could draw horizontal lines on the chart to connect areas of resistance or support and then trade stocks that break through resistance or bounce off support.

FIGURE 3: TECHNICAL ANALYSIS. Ease your way into technical analysis by applying a couple of simple moving averages (SMAs). There are plenty of indicators to explore. Image source: For illustrative purposes only.

If you want to learn more about technical analysis and strategies for trading stocks, go back to the Education tab on your dashboard and select Stocks to find a wide variety of video lessons as well as entire courses. Whether you’re a buy-and-hold investor or an active trader, chances are you’ll be able to find a style and strategy that works for you.

When you’re ready to trade, all you have to do is hover over any symbol in your watch list. That will bring up a trade box where you can buy or sell with just a few clicks. As you build up a portfolio of stocks, you can monitor them in real time and track your profit and loss by going to the My Account tab and selecting Positions.

Whether you follow the market from your desktop, laptop, or on the go via mobile app, you can’t beat the power and flexibility that an online stock trading account provides.

Investing in stocks involves risks, including loss of principal.


Key Takeaways

  • TD Ameritrade clients have a wide variety of “how-to” videos available for free under the Education tab
  • The Research & Ideas tab offers a variety of self-guided research tools for both technical and fundamental analysis
  • As you build a portfolio, you can monitor positions in real time and track your profit and loss

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Content intended for educational/informational purposes only. Not investment advice, or a recommendation of any security, strategy, or account type.

Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Clients must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before trading.


Market volatility, volume, and system availability may delay account access and trade executions.

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