Exploring OTC Stocks: What Are They and How to Buy?

By Duncan Ferris


Beyond the NYSE and NASDAQ, there is a whole world of OTC stocks to invest in. Find out what makes these equities different and how you can get involved!

Blurred image of stock market graph on computer screen.
Photo by Nicholas Cappello on Unsplash

When it comes to the world of investing, most people are familiar with stocks traded on major exchanges like the NYSE or NASDAQ. However, there's a lesser-known corner of the stock market that offers a unique set of opportunities and risks.

This is Over-the-Counter (OTC) stocks!

In this article, we'll delve into the world of OTC stocks investing. We will explore what they are, how they differ from traditional stocks, and whether they might be a suitable addition to your investment portfolio.

What Are OTC Stocks?

OTC stocks are securities that don't trade on a centralized exchange. Instead, they are bought and sold directly between parties, typically through electronic trading platforms. OTC stocks encompass a wide range of companies, from small startups to international conglomerates. Some OTC stocks have become household names, while others remain obscure.

Key Differences from Traditional Stocks:

  • Listing Requirements - Traditional stock exchanges have stringent listing requirements, ensuring that companies meet specific financial and governance standards. OTC stocks, on the other hand, have lower entry barriers, making them accessible to smaller companies.

  • Lack of Regulation - OTC markets are less regulated than major exchanges. This means that OTC stocks often have less stringent reporting standards and may not provide as much information to investors.

  • Liquidity - OTC stocks typically have lower trading volumes than their exchange-listed counterparts. This can lead to wider bid-ask spreads and potentially higher trading costs.

  • Investor Access - OTC stocks are not linked to major exchanges. This means they are less accessible to investors. Instead of being reached through exchanges like the NYSE or NASDAQ, OTC investors buy and sell OTC stocks through a broker-dealer network.

What is a Broker-Dealer Network?

A broker-dealer network is a system or organization that connects various brokerage firms and dealers within the financial industry. These networks facilitate the buying and selling of financial securities, such as stocks, bonds, and other investment products.

Overall, broker-dealer networks play a vital role in the functioning of financial markets. They connect buyers and sellers, provide access to various investment opportunities, and help ensure the efficient and orderly execution of trades while adhering to regulatory requirements.

These networks are a fundamental part of the modern financial ecosystem. They enable the smooth flow of capital and investment activities.

OTC Stock Categories

Stocks traded over the counter used to be called "pink sheets". While some people still use the term, the collective group of stocks were named Pink OTC Markets in 2008 and then OTC Markets Group in 2011.

But not all of these stocks fit into the same neat category.

That's because of the OTCQX and OTCQB. These are market tiers that carry more stringent reporting requirements than the Pink Open Market.

The former is often referred to as the "OTCQX Best Market." The OTCQX market is designed for established, investor-focused companies that meet certain eligibility criteria and are committed to providing transparency and investor protection. For example, the tier is not open to so-called "penny stocks" as any member must have a share price of at least $5.

Meanwhile, the OTCQB stands for "Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board". This is designed for early-stage and developing companies that are looking to provide more transparency and access to trading for their securities. Even so, they are required to share financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Both of these market tiers can serve as stepping stones towards the NYSE or NASDAQ exchanges. They are also open to stocks from the US as well as foreign companies.

How to Buy OTC Stocks

Investing in Over-the-Counter (OTC) stocks can be done through various brokerage accounts, both online and traditional. Here are the steps to invest in OTC stocks:

  1. Choose a Reputable Brokerage: Start by selecting a brokerage that offers access to OTC markets. Many online brokerages provide this service. Ensure the brokerage is reputable, offers good customer service, and provides the tools you need for research and trading.

  2. Open an Account: Follow the brokerage's account opening process, which usually involves providing personal information, proof of identity, and financial details.

  3. Fund Your Account: Deposit funds into your brokerage account. The amount you deposit will determine how much you can invest. Most brokerages offer various funding options, such as bank transfers or electronic funds transfer (EFT).

  4. Research OTC Stocks: Before investing, research the OTC stocks you're interested in. Look at financial statements, news, company profiles, and any other relevant information. Due diligence is crucial, especially for OTC stocks, which can be riskier.

  5. Place an Order: Once you've done your research and are ready to invest, log in to your brokerage account. Use the brokerage's trading platform to place your order. You'll need to specify the stock's ticker symbol, the number of shares you want to buy, and the type of order (e.g., market order, limit order).

  6. Monitor Your Investments: After buying OTC stocks, it's essential to keep an eye on your investments. Monitor news related to the companies you've invested in, review financial statements regularly, and stay informed about market developments.

  7. Consider Investment Goals and Risks: Determine your investment goals and risk tolerance. OTC stocks can be more volatile and speculative than those listed on major exchanges, so assess how much risk you're comfortable with.

  8. Diversify Your Portfolio: Don't put all your money into OTC stocks. Diversify your investment portfolio by spreading your funds across different asset classes and industries. This helps manage risk.

  9. Stay Informed: Keep learning about investing and the OTC markets. Stay up-to-date with changes in regulations, market conditions, and economic trends that might impact your investments.

  10. Be Cautious: OTC stocks can be riskier due to lower liquidity and potentially less available information. Beware of pump-and-dump schemes and stocks with limited trading volume. Exercise caution and avoid investing money you can't afford to lose.

  11. Consider Professional Advice: If you're new to investing or uncertain about OTC stocks, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor or professional who specializes in these markets.

For more on how to buy OTC stocks, CLICK HERE.

The Risks and Rewards of OTC Stocks

As with any investment in stocks, share prices can go up or down. But it's worth noting that investing in OTC stocks comes with a unique set of pros and cons.

On the positive side, these stocks can offer the potential for significant gains. Many well-known companies, including Apple and Microsoft, started as OTC stocks before being listed on major exchanges. For investors with a keen eye and a high tolerance for risk, OTC stocks can provide opportunities to get in on the ground floor of emerging businesses. In short, there are OTC market opportunities out there.

However, the risks are substantial. OTC stocks are often more volatile and susceptible to market manipulation. Due diligence is crucial, as the lack of regulation can make it easier for fraudulent companies to operate in OTC markets. Additionally, the lower liquidity of OTC stocks can make it challenging to buy or sell shares at desired prices.

There are no secret OTC investment strategies to guarantee a big win, and investors might wish to stick with strategies that serve them well on major exchanges.

Should You Invest in OTC Stocks?

Deciding whether to invest in OTC stocks depends on your risk tolerance, investment goals, and level of experience. If you're a seasoned investor looking to diversify your portfolio and are willing to put in the time for research, OTC stocks may be worth considering.

However, if you're new to investing or risk-averse, it's advisable to start with more traditional, well-regulated stocks. Always make sure to do your due diligence before making any investment decision.


OTC stocks represent a unique and often overlooked segment of the stock market. While they offer opportunities for substantial gains, they also come with increased risks and uncertainties. As with any investment, thorough research and careful consideration of your financial goals are essential. If you're intrigued by the prospect of investing in OTC stocks, it's wise to consult with a financial advisor or conduct extensive due diligence before taking the plunge into this distinctive investment landscape.

What you should read next:

Explore more on these topics:



This article does not provide any financial advice and is not a recommendation to deal in any securities or product. Investments may fall in value and an investor may lose some or all of their investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

Duncan Ferris does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the above article.

Duncan Ferris has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Digitonic Ltd, the owner of ValueTheMarkets.com, does not hold a position or positions in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the above article.

Digitonic Ltd, the owner of ValueTheMarkets.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Sign up for Investing Intel Newsletter