Summary

Recommended for traders interested in algorithmic stock trading

Alpaca Trading is a commission-free API stockbroker founded in 2015. Alpaca is based in San Mateo, CA, and is only available to US residents. It is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), both top-tier regulators that bolster Alpaca Trading's safety for investors and traders.

Alpaca provides access to US stock markets, historical data, and fundamental data through their API. Alpaca's founders believe their software allows retail traders to capitalize on the machine learning and automation that historically only institutional investors have been able to use. Coders have the opportunity to build their own algorithms and contribute to the Alpaca developer community. Alpaca founders have expressed interest in eventually opening up pre-made algorithms to non-coders, but for now, their platform also includes capabilities for manual order-entry and research.

 

Best broker for API trading

We selected Alpaca Trading as Best broker for API trading for 2021, based on an in-depth analysis of 70+ online brokers that included testing their live accounts. Check out the complete list of winners.

Overall Rating
4.6
Fees
4.9
Account opening
4.8
Deposit and withdrawal
1.8
Trading platform
3.9
Markets and products
2.0
Research
5.0
Customer service
1.9
Education
4.0

Alpaca Trading pros and cons

Alpaca Trading provides great API tools for algorithmic trading, zero-commission stock and ETF trading, and great charting tools through a web platform. Users dedicated to learning how to use the API and the programs will find that Alpaca provides a unique service.

On the other hand, Alpaca Trading relies heavily on its GitHub/Slack/other community forums for user support, as there is only extremely limited customer service. Furthermore, deposit or withdrawal is only possible via bank transfer. Finally, the product selection covers only US stocks and ETFs.

Pros Cons
Great API trading service Customer support limited to email
Free stock & ETF trading Limited deposit and withdrawal options
Fantastic charting tools Only US stocks and ETFs available
Alpaca Trading main features and highlights
🗺️ Country of regulation USA
💰 Trading fees class Low
💰 Inactivity fee charged No
💰 Withdrawal fee amount $0
💰 Minimum deposit $0
🕖 Time to open an account 1 day
🎮 Demo account provided Yes
🛍️ Products offered Stock, ETF

Author of this review

Nicole Conrad

Author of this review

Nicole is an intern content contributor for Brokerchooser. She comes to Brokerchooser with experience and certification in Accounting, and she currently is pursuing graduate studies in Economic Policy. Nicole writes broker reviews to provide transparency for customers: highlighting brokers’ exceptional services and holding them accountable for questionable practices.

Nicole Conrad

Broker Analyst

Nicole is an intern content contributor for Brokerchooser. She comes to Brokerchooser with experience and certification in Accounting, and she currently is pursuing graduate studies in Economic Policy. Nicole writes broker reviews to provide transparency for customers: highlighting brokers’ exceptional services and holding them accountable for questionable practices.

Everything you find on BrokerChooser is based on reliable data and unbiased information. We combine our 10+ years finance experience with readers feedback. Read more about our methodology

Alpaca Trading review
Fees

4.9
To find out more about its trading and non-trading fees, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca Trading offers zero-commission stock and ETF trading and low margin rates. Non-trading fees are also competitive as no fee is charged for inactivity or most withdrawals.
Pros Cons
Commission-free Stock and ETF Trading None
No inactivity fee
No withdrawal fee
Alpaca Trading fees snapshot
Assets Fee level Fee terms
US stock Low Commission-free stock trading
EURUSD - Not available
Mutual fund - Not available
Inactivity fee Low No inactivity fee

How we ranked fees

We ranked Alpaca Trading's fee levels as low, average or high based on how they compare to those of all reviewed brokers.

To get things rolling, let's go over some lingo related to broker fees. What you need to keep an eye on are trading fees, and non-trading fees.

In the sections below, you will find the most relevant fees of Alpaca Trading for each asset class. For example, in the case of stock investing the most important fees are commissions.

We also compared Alpaca Trading's fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, TD Ameritrade and Robinhood. This selection is based on objective factors such as products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc. See a more detailed rundown of Alpaca Trading alternatives.

To have a clear overview of Alpaca Trading, let's start with the trading fees.

Alpaca Trading trading fees

Joining an increasing number of US stockbrokers, Alpaca Trading charges zero commission for US stock and ETF trading.

Stock fees and ETF fees

Alpaca Trading offers zero-commission stock and ETF trading, similarly to US stockbrokers TD Ameritrade and Robinhood. None of these brokers offer international stocks, though.

Alpaca Trading stock and ETF commission of a $2,000 trade
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
US stock $0.0 $0.0 $0.0

If you prefer stock trading on margin, you should check Alpaca Trading financing rates.

The margin rate is charged when you trade on margin. This basically means that you borrow money or stocks from your broker to trade. For this borrowed money/stock, you have to pay interest. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.

Alpaca Trading's margin rates are low.

Alpaca Trading annual margin rates for stocks
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
USD margin rate 3.8% 9.5% 5.0%

Non-trading fees

Alpaca Trading has low non-trading fees. There are no fees for inactivity or account maintenance, and deposits are also free.

ACH withdrawals are free of charge, but wire withdrawals will cost $25 for domestic and $50 for international transfers.

Alpaca Trading non-trading fees
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
Account fee No No No
Inactivity fee No No No
Deposit fee $0 $0 $0
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

Alpaca Trading review
Account opening

4.8
To experience the account opening process, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Opening an account with Alpaca is quick, and requires no minimum deposit. Integrating your account with third-party softwares can be tricky, but Alpaca offers great guidance.
Pros Cons
Fast Bit complex process for integrating third-party tools
Fully digital
No minimum deposit

Can you open an account?

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As a general rule, Alpaca Trading is available only for US residents.

Having said that, there is a beta live trading account available on a limited basis for non-US residents. These invite-only beta accounts require a $30,000 initial deposit, and you can only deposit via wire transfer. You can read more here.

What is the minimum deposit at Alpaca Trading?

The required Alpaca Trading minimum deposit is $0 for individual accounts. This is great for those wanting to try out the broker first before committing large sums of money. 

Business Trading Accounts require a minimum deposit of $30,000.

In addition, if you would like to trade on margin or short sell, you need to maintain a balance of $2,000, as per US regulations on margin trading.

Account types

Alpaca Trading provides different account types based on the account's ownership:

  • Individual Account - account is owned by an individual.
  • Business Trading Account - account is owned by a legal entity. This account type is in beta version; you can read about business accounts in detail here.

Unfortunately, tax-advantaged accounts, like IRA, are not available.

How to open your account

Alpaca Trading's account opening is easy and quick. Our account was verified within 1 business day. On the other hand, setting up various third-party tools is a bit cumbersome.

To open your Alpaca account, you need to go through the following steps:

  1. Enter your email and chosen password.
  2. Verify your email address with Alpaca's six-digit code.
  3. Click whether you are a US resident or not (providing access to the available accounts by residence).
  4. Fill in additional information, including social security number, home address, phone number, etc.
  5. Your account is opened, you can go ahead and fund it.
  6. Setting up your account requires authorizing IFTTT and downloading TradingView.
Alpaca Trading review - Account opening

Alpaca Trading review
Deposit and withdrawal

1.8
To find out more about the deposit and withdrawal process, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Bank transfer deposit/withdrawal is easy and free, but like other US brokers, Alpaca doesn't support multiple currencies or credit/debit card funding, and wire withdrawal is costly.
Pros Cons
Free withdrawal Credit/Debit card not available
No deposit fee Only one account base currency
User-friendly High withdrawal fee for wire transfers

Account base currencies

At Alpaca Trading, you can hold your cash only in USD.

If you have a personal bank account in a currency other than USD, then you will be charged a conversion fee.

A convenient way to save on currency conversion fees is by opening a multi-currency bank account at a digital bank. These usually offer bank accounts in several currencies with great currency exchange rates, as well as free or cheap international bank transfers. Opening an account only takes a few minutes on your phone.

Compare digital banks

Deposit fees and options

Alpaca Trading charges no deposit fees. Like at other US brokers, credit/debit cards and electronic wallets are not accepted. 

Alpaca Trading deposit options
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
Bank transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No

A bank transfer can take several business days, and you can only deposit money from accounts that are in your name.

Once you deposit funds, 6 business days must pass before you can withdraw them.

Alpaca Trading review - Deposit and withdrawal - Deposit

Alpaca Trading withdrawal fees and options

Alpaca Trading charges no withdrawal fees for ACH withdrawals. If you prefer wire withdrawals, it will cost $25 domestically and $50 internationally.

Similarly to deposits, withdrawal to credit/debit cards and electronic wallets is not supported.

Alpaca Trading withdrawal fees and options
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
Bank Transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No No No
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

How long does it take to withdraw money from Alpaca Trading? We tested the bank transfer withdrawal and it took less than 3 days.

You can only withdraw money to accounts that are in your name.

How do you withdraw money from Alpaca Trading?

  • Navigate to your Alpaca Homepage.
  • Choose the banking icon from the left navigation panel.
  • Make sure your bank account is linked; if not, fill in your username and password and allow your bank to authorize Alpaca.
  • Choose 'Transfer Money'.
  • In the pop-up box, select 'Withdrawal'.
  • Fill in the amount you would like to withdraw; your total withdrawable balance is shown in the right side of the box.

Compare to other brokers

Alpaca Trading review
Web trading platform

3.7
To try the web trading platform yourself, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca's web trading platform feels safe, user-friendly, and visually pleasing. However, it does not allow customization, there are no price alerts, and the search function is limited.
Pros Cons
User-friendly Poor search function
Two-step (safer) login Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)
Modern design No price alerts
Alpaca Trading platforms to choose from
Trading platform Score Available
Web 3.7 stars Yes
Mobile 4.2 stars Yes
Desktop - No

Alpaca's web trading platform functions as a 'side-kick' to the Alpaca API. It is simple and easy to use. When you implement trades using code, you can easily check on them, cancel them, or duplicate them on the web platform.

Alpaca focuses on simplicity for its web platform, which is balanced by the many uses and complex functions that the API provides. The web trading platform is available in English.

Look and feel

The Alpaca Trading web trading platform is user-friendly. The navigation bar on the left lists all relevant pages, and there are links to the Alpaca Slack channel and the Alpaca developers' community on GitHub. However, the platform itself is not customizable.

Alpaca Trading review - Web trading platform

Login and security

Alpaca Trading provides a safe two-step login that can be activated using codes from a mobile device.

Because Alpaca provides an API, the platform keeps users signed in unless they manually sign out, which is useful from the API standpoint. However, users on public devices should make sure to always sign out manually.

Search functions

The search functions are OK. You can only search by ticker symbol, so you must first search for the stock's ticker on the web if you only know the company name or industry. We wish there were options to search by name and industry on Alpaca's page.

Furthermore, once you navigate to a stock, the name of the stock is only shown in the bottom description. It would be more convenient if the stock name was in the title so that users could tell if they've searched for the right instrument. 

Alpaca Trading review - Web trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the following order types:

  • Market
  • Limit
  • Stop Limit
  • Stop
  • OCO (one-cancels-the-other) with TradingView integration

To get a better understanding of these terms, read this overview of order types.

There are also order time limits you can use: Good 'til Canceled, Fill or Kill, Immediate or Cancel, At the Open, At the Close.

Alpaca Trading review - Web trading platform - Order panel

Alerts and notifications

You cannot set price alerts and notifications. Instead, there is a 'Watchlist' that you can add stocks and ETFs to that will allow you to quickly see daily changes in the stock price. Futhermore, by using the API you can push market data through to your algorithm. We still wish that there were price alerts in the web platform itself.

Portfolio and fee reports

Alpaca Trading has clear portfolio and fee reports. You can access them by clicking 'Account Activities'.

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Alpaca Trading review
Mobile trading platform

4.2
To try the mobile trading platform yourself, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
The mobile platform is even simpler than the web platform. It is similarly easy to use, but likewise has a poor search function and no price alerts. Logging in can also be complicated.
Pros Cons
User-friendly Poor search function
Two-step (safer) login No price alerts
Order confirmation No Touch/Face ID login

Similarly to Alpaca Trading's web platform, you can use Alpaca Trading's own mobile trading platform. The app is available for both iOS and Android. In this review, we tested it on iOS.

Overall, the app is designed to be paired with the API. There are emergency buttons, for example to stop all trades, that are helpful for users using codes to execute trades automatically.

Look and feel

The Alpaca Trading mobile trading platform is user-friendly and very simple. You will easily find all features.

Alpaca Trading review - Mobile trading platform

Login and security

Alpaca Trading provides a safe login with 2-step authentication. Signing in is not easy; the app directs you to the mobile website to fill in your username and password, which is not saved for subsequent logins. However, once you sign in on your device, you remain signed in as long as you don't manually sign out. 

You can't log in using biometric authentication. Providing this feature would create a more convenient login experience.

Search functions

The search functions are OK; you can only search by ticker symbol. On the app, it is even harder to tell which stocks are which, because there is less information on each page compared with the web platform.

Alpaca Trading review - Mobile trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the same order types and order terms as on the web trading platform.

Alpaca Trading review - Mobile trading platform - Order panel

Alerts and notifications

You cannot set alerts and notifications on the Alpaca Trading mobile platform.

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Alpaca Trading review
Desktop trading platform

Alpaca Trading does not offer a desktop trading platform.

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Alpaca Trading review
Markets and products

2.0
To dig even deeper in markets and products, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca Trading currently only provides access to US stocks and ETFs. Other asset classes, like options or bonds, as well as international market coverage, are not available.
Alpaca Trading asset classes
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
Stock Yes Yes Yes
ETF Yes Yes Yes
Forex No Yes No
Fund No Yes No
Bond No Yes No
Options No Yes Yes
Futures No Yes No
CFD No No No
Crypto No No Yes

Unlike at its closest competitors, there are only stocks and ETFs available at Alpaca Trading.

Stocks and ETFs

You can invest in stocks and ETFs listed on the biggest US markets, like the NYSE or NASDAQ. This selection is similar to Alpaca's main competitors.

Alpaca Trading stock and ETF selection
  Alpaca Trading TD Ameritrade Robinhood
Stock markets (#) 5 5 5
ETFs (#) 2,300 2,300 2,300

Alpaca Trading review
Research

5.0
To check the available research tools and assets, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca provides a highly capable API and great charting tools. You can also find some fundamental data, but unfortunately no trading recommendations.
Pros Cons
Access to highly functional API No trading ideas
Great charting tools
Data on asset fundamentals

Overall, we felt that Alpaca Trading provides excellent research tools because of the capabilities of the API and the information on the web platform. 

Alpaca's API (Application Programming Interface)

Alpaca was among the first to open up space for retail traders to use technology to create their own algorithms that institutional traders have had access to for years.

The Alpaca API allows users to integrate market data using the Polygon API, and to backtest using Blueshift. It is easy to use your paper trading (demo) account to test Alpaca capabilities, and there is plenty of good documentation available about how to begin. The Alpaca API is available in programming languages Python, Javascript, C#, and Golang.

Alpaca Trading review - Research - API

Most users that come to the Alpaca API will have some coding experience, which helps greatly because a lot of learning will need to be done to master the API's wide-ranging functionalities and learn the fundamentals of algo trading. 

When we tested the Alpaca API using Python, we used web resources as well as official Alpaca documentation to set up basic functions. We found that grabbing basic historical data and implementing trades were simple and easy. Overall, we felt that especially for users using Python, Alpaca provides an excellent platform. 

Some competitors of Alpaca's API include Interactive Brokers API for R, Python, or C++ users; Quantopian for Python users; or QuantConnect for Python and C#.

Fundamental data

Alpaca Trading review - Research - Fundamental data

Fundamental data is also provided through coding, but you need to use Polygon's API, which is provided for free. Eventually, Alpaca aims to provide fundamental data through its API directly, but for now, users need to use a combination of the two for research capabilities, which requires reading and learning from multiple documentations.

Note: For users with Paper Trading (demo) accounts, Alpha Vantage's API provides fundamental and historical data instead of Polygon. This may cause minor disruption, since users will usually need to train their algorithm using paper trading and then change the code when using their real-time trading account.

Charting

Alpaca Trading has high-quality charting tools on the web platform, provided by TradingView. You can use about 90 technical indicators.

Alpaca Trading review - Research - Charting

News feed

Alpaca only provides news headlines and stories through Polygon. It would be useful to have these capabilities on the web platform as well.

Trading ideas

Alpaca Trading does not provide trading ideas. However, Alpaca instead has a community of algo-traders on Slack and GitHub, who are often available to recommend strategies or stocks to one another.

Compare research pros and cons

Alpaca Trading review
Customer service

1.9
To find customer service contact information details, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca Trading has great user community forums where developers can easily get help, but its own email support is mediocre, while phone support and live chat are missing entirely.
Pros Cons
Great Slack and community forums No phone support
No live chat
Mediocre email support

You can contact Alpaca Trading only via email. In addition, you can use Alpaca's Slack or other community forums, where users can easily get help from one another.

In email, we got quick and OK answers.;If you are looking for detailed responses, this is not the best channel for you, as it is mostly limited to sorting out technical issues.

When we asked for more general investing help and questions about their service, responses were short and not always useful. We were pointed to general links like Alpaca's FAQ page and the API Documentation page, which didn't necessarily have the relevant information.

Alpaca Trading review - Customer Service

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Alpaca Trading review
Education

4.0
To check the available education material and assets, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca offers videos and step-by-step guides for investing, algorithm trading and use of their API, including detailed manuals and FAQs for beginners. We missed webinars, though.
Pros Cons
Demo account No webinars
Trading platform tutorial
Educational videos

Alpaca Trading may not provide decent customer support, but they are investing in thorough and helpful API Documentation, educational videos, and FAQ pages. This is especially helpful for self-starters.

Alpaca also provides a very useful paper trading (demo) account, not only for US residents but for anyone worldwide. The paper account can help test your algorithm and train it before risking your money.

At Alpaca Trading you can learn in the following ways:

  • Demo account
  • Platform tutorial videos
  • General educational videos
  • Quality educational articles
Alpaca Trading review - Education

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Alpaca Trading review
Safety

To find out more about safety and regulation, visit Alpaca Trading

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo
Alpaca Trading is overseen by top-tier US regulators and comes with strong investor protection, but its lack of a banking license or a public listing means less transparency.
Pros Cons
Majority of clients belong to a top-tier financial authority Does not hold a banking license
High level of investor protection Not listed on stock exchange
Financial information is not publicly available

Is Alpaca Trading regulated?

Yes, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Alpaca Trading is based in the US and was founded in 2015.

Is Alpaca Trading safe?

To be certain, we highly advise that you check two facts:

  • how you are protected if something goes wrong
  • what the background of the broker is

How you are protected

At Alpaca Trading, all customers are served by Alpaca Securities LLC and covered by the US investor protection scheme, called SIPC.

The SIPC investor protection scheme protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. This amount is substantially higher than what most other investor protection schemes provide.

Alpaca Trading does not provide negative balance protection. If the balance on your account goes into negative, you will not be protected. This is important because Alpaca provides margin trading, which means that if your investment falls too much, your account can be wiped out and you can potentially end up owing more money than you initially invested.

Background

Alpaca Trading was established in 2015. The longer track record a broker has, the more proof we have that it has successfully survived previous financial crises. 

Find your safe broker

Alpaca Trading review
Bottom line

Visit Alpaca Trading if you are looking for further details and information

or
Compare to its best reviewed alternative: moomoo

Alpaca Trading is a great broker for traders looking to build their own algorithms and focusing on the US market.

Its API tools are outstanding, and fees are low: zero stock/ETF commission, and no inactivity or deposit fees. In addition, Alpaca provides free access to software such as Polygon, Alpha Vantage and TradingView, all of which have great research capabilities.

On the negative side, Alpaca has limited customer support, meaning that users must often turn to GitHub and other community forums for suggestions or peer help to debug code. Among other shortcomings, you can use only bank transfer to deposit or withdraw, while Alpaca only provides access to US stocks and ETFs.

Overall, Alpaca is an up-and-coming broker that is unique in its current space and provides a great product for traders from all experience levels who are interested in algo trading. If you are looking for a strong and savvy API stockbroker, try Alpaca and see what the hype is about.

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