Fractional Shares: Meaning, How to Buy, Advantages & Limitations

Fractional Shares
Fractional Shares

Investing in the stock market has traditionally been seen as a venue for those with substantial capital. However, the advent of fractional shares has democratized access to equity investments, allowing individuals with limited funds to participate in the financial markets. This article explores what fractional shares are, how they can be acquired, their advantages, and the limitations that investors should consider.

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What are Fractional Shares?

Fractional shares represent ownership in a company that is less than one full share. These shares often arise through specific corporate actions, such as stock splits, dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs), or mergers and acquisitions. Unlike traditional stock purchases, which require buying at least one whole share, fractional shares allow investors to own a piece of a stock with a much smaller investment.

Understanding a Fractional Share

Fractional shares can be obtained through several means, each offering unique opportunities and benefits:

  1. Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs): These plans allow investors to use their dividend payouts to purchase additional shares of the stock, often resulting in the acquisition of fractional shares if the dividend amount does not align with the price of a full share.
  2. Stock Splits: In events like a 3-for-2 stock split, shareholders receive additional shares that may not always result in whole numbers, thus creating fractional shares. For example, owning five shares before such a split could result in receiving 7.5 shares.
  3. Mergers and Acquisitions: When companies merge or one buys another, the stock of the acquired company is often converted into the acquiring company’s stock at a predetermined ratio, potentially resulting in fractional shares.

How to Buy Fractional Shares

Purchasing fractional shares is increasingly accessible thanks to online brokerage platforms and investing apps. Here’s how you can start:

  1. Choose a Brokerage: Select a brokerage that offers the option to buy fractional shares. Not all brokerages provide this service, so it’s important to verify this before setting up an account.
  2. Set Up an Account: Follow the broker’s process to open an account. This will typically involve providing personal information and possibly linking a bank account.
  3. Start Investing: Once your account is set up, you can begin purchasing fractional shares. Many platforms allow you to specify the dollar amount you want to invest in a particular stock, and you will receive the equivalent in fractional shares.

Advantages of Fractional Shares

Fractional shares come with several significant benefits:

  1. Accessibility for Beginners: They allow new investors to start small and gradually build their investment portfolio.
  2. Portfolio Diversification: Investors can purchase fractional shares of several stocks, enabling diversification even with limited funds.
  3. Dollar-Cost Averaging: Fractional shares facilitate this investment strategy, where small, regular investments can mitigate the risk of market volatility.

Limitations of Fractional Shares

Despite their advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider:

  1. Limited Selection: Not all stocks are available for fractional share purchasing, which can limit investment choices.
  2. Liquidity Issues: Selling fractional shares can be more complicated than selling whole shares because brokers often need to aggregate fractional orders.
  3. Reduced Shareholder Rights: Some brokerages may restrict voting rights to those who own whole shares.
  4. Dividend Allocation: Dividends on fractional shares are also fractional, which may affect the expected income from dividends.


Fractional shares are a compelling option for investors looking to enter the stock market with limited capital. They offer the flexibility to invest smaller amounts in high-priced stocks, enhance portfolio diversification, and make regular investing more accessible. However, the potential limitations, particularly concerning liquidity, stock selection, and shareholder rights, should be carefully weighed. Understanding both the opportunities and constraints of fractional shares can help investors make informed decisions and strategically build their financial portfolios.

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