How Long Does it Take for Brokers to Confirm a Trade?

When making a trade, the time it takes to receive a confirmation after an order has been placed varies depending on the type of order, the liquidity of the market being traded, and whether a market is open for regular trading or not. Getting your order executed is called a fill, and several considerations go into how quickly you'll get your fills back from your broker.

Key Takeaways

  • A fill is when you receive back the prices and amounts of the trades you've entered with your broker, the timing of which will be impacted by order type and market conditions.
  • Market orders provide for fairly immediate fills, but you cannot control the prices you'll receive on your orders.
  • Limit orders guarantee a price, but may not get filled until the stock price reaches your limit.
  • Once orders are filled, they can take an additional couple of days to go through the clearing and settlement process, although you'll see them in your account pretty much right away. 

Market Orders: Immediate Fills

Orders placed between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Monday to Friday on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq are sent to the market right away. Unless specifying that an order is an extended market order, orders to buy and sell stock placed outside these times sit until the market reopens.

A market order in a liquid stock such as Apple or Meta, formerly Facebook, is almost always filled and confirmed immediately. However, an order for a smaller, less-liquid stock may take longer to fill and receive confirmation from a broker. It's impossible to tell exactly how long; it all depends on if there's an "ask" on the other side of the "bid" (or vice versa) that can fill the trade.

If the trade is a limit order, the trade could take significantly longer to fill—if it's filled at all.

Stock Orders That May Take Longer to Fill

Orders with conditions such as limits, stop-losses, stop-buys and all-or-nothing may sit for an indeterminable amount of time before being filled, or they may never be filled at all. Market orders for large amounts of stock in thinly traded markets may receive several partial fills over a period of time, which varies depending on the amount of stock available.

It is almost always advisable to buy or sell using limit orders, even if the limit is 20 or 30 cents above the market price (for a buy order) to ensure the receipt of a fair fill. There are instances when liquidity may disappear (even in shares such as Apple of Meta) for a short time period, causing investors to get filled with market orders at a much higher or lower price than expected. Orders for large amounts of stock should either be broken up or made using limit orders.

How to Know When a Trade Placed With a Broker Is Confirmed

When placing a trade with a broker online or over the telephone, ensure the trade has been executed and confirmed. 

Online brokers have different trading platforms. Most have an order entry screen and a screen for orders of different statuses: open, filled, partially filled, and canceled. After entering an order, view these screens to ensure the intended action is taken. If you want to cancel an order, check the screen for canceled orders and open orders to ensure that the original order was actually canceled. Make sure it is reflected in the canceled order screen as well.

When investing over the telephone, get verbal confirmation from the broker on the quantity filled and the price. With these details, you can be confident that your broker has carried out your wishes. A few days after you have made the trade over the phone, you should receive confirmation in the mail (or online) from your broker. Ensure that the details of this confirmation match your trading intentions. Usually, trades made by phone are visible on the company's website or trading platform as well, so you can confirm them immediately.

Trade Settlement and Clearing

After a trade is executed, the transaction enters what is known as the settlement period. During settlement, the buyer must make payment for the securities they purchased while the seller must deliver the security that was acquired. Depending on the type of security, settlement dates will vary. For now, most orders in the U.S. settle T+2, meaning they are cleared in your account 100% by the second business day after the trade.

In February 2023, the SEC voted to reduce the settlement cycle to T+1. That means from May 28, 2024, most trades should settle the following business day.

As an example of how settlement dates work, let's say that an investor buys shares of Amazon on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. The broker will debit the investor's account for the total cost of the order immediately after it's filled, but the investor's status as a shareholder of Amazon will not be settled in the company's record books until Wednesday, Jan. 30. At that time, the investor would become a shareholder of record.

Once the trade has settled, and the funds in any sale of stock or another type of security have been credited to your account, the investor may choose to withdraw the funds, reinvest in a new security or hold the amount in cash within the account. For those looking to cash out some of the profits (or what's left from a loss), check to see if your broker offers transfers to your bank account using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) or by using a wire transfer.

Why does it take 2 days to settle a trade?

Some time is required to ensure the trade gets processed correctly. The buyer’s funds need to clear, paperwork needs to be filled out, ownership needs to be transferred, and so forth. Fortunately, technology has greatly sped up this process and, from 2024, this should all soon be doable in one day.

Do all trades take 2 days to settle?

Most trades take two days to settle, although there are some exceptions. For example, government securities and stock options are settled the following business day.

What happens after trade confirmation?

Once your trade has gone through, your broker will issue a document reporting the details of the trade. This document, called a brokerage trade confirmation, confirms the order you placed has been completed. If you sold securities or bought them, this should now be visible in your account.

The Bottom Line

The time it takes for ownership to transfer hands in a trade can vary. Usually, you’ll get immediate feedback from your broker that your request has been actioned. Getting confirmation, however, that it has gone through will take longer and depends on various factors, such as the type of order, the liquidity of the market being traded, and whether the market is open or not.

The standard settlement cycle for most securities is two business days, meaning if you place an order on Monday it should settle on Wednesday. However, there are exceptions. Government securities and stock options are settled the following business day, whereas orders with conditions such as limits, stop-losses, or stop-buys could take longer to fill or might never get filled at all.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Nasdaq. "Stock Market Trading Hours for Nasdaq."

  2. New York Stock Exchange. "Holidays & Trading Hours."

  3. Nasdaq. "Options 3 Options Trading Rules."

  4., U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Settling Securities Transactions, T+2."

  5. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "SEC Finalizes Rules to Reduce Risks in Clearance and Settlement."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.