Class A and Class B shares are identical in many respects. Both are common stock classifications, both typically trade within a close price range and both typically have the same rights to profits and company ownership. The most significant differences lie in the voting and conversion rights associated with each class of shares.
To Vote or Not to Vote
Companies that issue common stock are free to offer shares having different voting rights. Commonly referred to as voting and non-voting shares, the issuer decides how much voting power, if any, each classification holds. Because of this, Class A and Class B shares in a company might entitle an investor to one vote and 10 votes per share, while shares in another company might entitle Class A stockholders to one vote per share and designate Class B shares as having no voting rights at all. Refer to the company stock prospectus to find this information.
Other differences pertain to availability and conversion rights. Not every company trades both stock classes publicly. Some trade the class with the most voting rights privately. However, some private share issues include a conversion option that permits an investor to convert Class B shares to Class A shares to allow for public trading. Public share issues do not include a conversion option.