I haven't traded yet online but I wanted to try, just to see. I'm in Europe and I'd like to buy 4 shares of Apple (it's about $344 as I write this, so I would invest about $1376).

Can I just open up, say, a KeyTrade account, and send $1500 on my KeyTrade account and buy only 4 shares?

Would the fee be terribly bad if I were to buy such a small amount of shares?

I don't really care about the money: it's the principle that I'm interested in. I'd like to understand better how it works and I figured out buying a few stocks would be one way to "get it".


8 Answers 8


Yes you can. it's called Odd Lot

  • 8
    In South Africa, an annual report called Who Owns Whom, is run by a chap who buys a single share in every listed company on the SA bourse. That entitles him to get the annual shareholders report and ask questions at the shareholders meetings. Then he puts together his book.
    – Turukawa
    Apr 20, 2011 at 20:11
  • Yeah, similarly with Stephen Mayne in Australia.
    – poolie
    Apr 21, 2011 at 0:31
  • I don't think this would really count as an odd lot. As I understand it, that refers to parcels with really small monetary values, like having four of a $3 share. A parcel worth $1376 is small but not an odd lot. After all, consider BRK.A shares which each cost over $100,000.
    – poolie
    Apr 21, 2011 at 0:34
  • @poolie It's almost always the case that trading shares in anything but increments of 100 is an odd lot. It is not related to the price. The 'lot' refers to the number of shares only. Apr 21, 2011 at 12:38
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    Who exactly uses the stock floor these days? Don't we have excessively fancy computers running 95% of the show? :)
    – user296
    Apr 25, 2011 at 5:29

Simple answer: Yes

A better question to ask might be "Should I invest all my savings to buy 4 shares of a single stock." My answer to that would be "probably not". If this is your first venture into the world of owning publicly traded companies, then you're better off starting with some sort of mutual fund or ETF. This will start your portfolio with some amount of diversification so you don't have all your eggs in one basket. If you really want to get into the world of picking individual stocks, a good rule of thumb to follow is to invest $1 in some sort of indexed fund for every $1 you invest in an individual stock. This gives you some diversification while still enabling you to scratch that itch of owning a part of Apple or whatever other company you think is going in the right direction.


I'm not sure it is the best idea, but you can buy only 4 stocks generally. As you alluded to, you should take notice of the fees. Also note that many stocks trade at significantly lower prices than Apple's per shares, so you might want to factor that into your decision. You could probably get a better feel for transactions if you bought say 50 shares of a $30 stock; then it might be easier to see what it's like to sell some, etc.

Note that specific trading sites might have various limits in place that would pose as barriers to this sort of behavior though.


Open an account with a US discount online broker, or with a European broker with access to the US market. I think ETRADE allow non-resident accounts, for instance, amongst others. The brokerage will be about $10, and there is no annual fee. (So you're ~1% down out of the gate, but that's not so much.)

Brokers may have a minimum transaction value but very few exchanges care about the number of shares anymore, and there is no per-share fee.

As lecrank notes, putting all your savings into a single company is not prudent, but having a flutter with fun money on Apple is harmless.

Paul is correct that dividend cheques may be a slight problem for non-residents. Apple don't pay dividends so there's no problem in this specific case. More generally your broker will give you a cash account into which the dividends can go.

You may have to deal with US tax which is more of an annoyance than a cost.


The least expensive way to buy such small amounts is through ING's Sharebuilder service. You can perform a real-time trade for $9, or you can add a one-time trade to their investment schedule for $4 (transaction will be processed on the next upcoming Tuesday morning). They also allow you to purchase fractional shares.

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    Note that ShareBuilder lets you buy stocks (including fractional shares) on the cheap, but you don't get to pick the exact date/time/price you pay for them, and they charge a full commission price on any stock sales. (They basically work by batching together a bunch of orders.)
    – user296
    Apr 24, 2011 at 18:20

Take a look at FolioFN - they let you buy small numbers of shares and fractional shares too. There is an annual fee on the order of US$100/year. You can trade with no fees at two "windows" per day, or at any time for a $15 fee.

You are better off leaving the stock in broker's name, especially if you live overseas. Otherwise you will receive your dividends in the form of cheques that might be expensive to try to cash. There is also usually a fee charged by the broker to obtain share certificates instead of shares in your account.

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    That's a ridiculously high annual fee, considering most brokers charge none at all. I would recommend you steer well clear.
    – poolie
    Apr 21, 2011 at 0:37
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    No its not, as you save a lot more than $100 in commissions using their window trade system. There's no commissions on window trades.
    – Paul
    Apr 21, 2011 at 1:51
  • OK, fair enough: it's a good deal if you want to trade often enough to get $100 worth of brokerage, but not so often that the limit of two trades per day bites you. Given Scotttrade is $7/trade, he would need to buy more than once per month to break even.
    – poolie
    Apr 21, 2011 at 2:32
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    Actually, here is FolioFN's pricing and it's just a $15/quarter minimum, so it's not all that bad, though not necessarily the best deal.
    – poolie
    Apr 21, 2011 at 2:35

One of my university professors suggested doing this systematically to get access to shareholder meetings where there is typically a nice dinner involved. As long as the stock price + commission is less than the price of a nice restaurant it's actually not a bad idea.


I have done this last year. Just open an account with an online brocker and buy a couple of Apple shares (6 I think, for 190$ each or something like that :) ). If this is just to test how stock exchange works, I think this is a good idea.
I am also in Europe (France), and you'r right the charge to buy on NasDaq are quite expensive but still reasonnable.

Hope this helps.

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