Updated September 28, 2019

Robinhood Review: Is it Safe?

Read more about Robinhood
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Robinhood lets you trade stocks commission-free and has no account minimums. Is it safe? Are there hidden fees? Read on for the pros and cons.

Overall Score

4.0

Stock Trading

5.0

Options Trading

4.0

Mobile App

4.0

Commissions and Fees

5.0

Ease of Use

5.0

Research

1.0
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • Commission-free trades
  • No minimum
  • No IRAs
  • Limited research
  • No mutual funds & bonds

Bottom Line

Free option to trade stocks with limited bells and whistles

What Is Robinhood?

Robinhood is a free trading app that lets you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrency 100% commission-free. It's great for traders who want to cut down costs. However, this very simple app lacks research, tools, and account options.

It's marketed as the brokerage for those "other than the wealthy." They don't offer physical branches, banking, or manual account management options. This is how they cut the fat.

The app makes it simple and walks you through the trading process, but you won't get any investing guidance.

Pros & Cons

PROS:

  • Completely 100% commission free
  • No minimum to start
  • User friendly app
  • Real time market updates
  • Free extended trading hours
  • SIPC protected

CONS:

  • Limited research and tools
  • Only individual taxable account available
  • No mutual funds or bonds
  • No fractional shares
  • Weak customer service

Who Robinhood is Good For

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Originally, Robinhood was invented to help Millennials get started investing without giving up a majority of their earnings to commissions. But Robinhood could also be good for:

  • Beginners without a lot of capital to invest.
  • Active stocks, ETFs, and options traders.
  • Those who want to try trading cyptocurrency.

If you don't require a great deal of research and are confident to make investments on your own, Robinhood could be a great way to get started.

Is Robinhood good for beginners? Robinhood is good for beginners in the sense that trades are free and there is no minimum requirement. This allows anyone to invest without worrying about fees. The app is also simple to use. However, it does not provide any guidance, so you still need to do some research to select your own investments.

Pricing & Fees

Robinhood has:

  • No trade commission fees
  • No account maintenance fees
  • No inactivity fee
  • No bank transfer fees (incoming or outgoing)
  • No account transfer fee (incoming)

Not that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) do charge a small fee for stock sell orders. These fees are:

  • SEC: $20.70 per $1,000,000 of principal (rounded up to the nearest penny).
  • FINRA Trading Activity Fee: $.000119 per share (rounded up to the nearest penny and up to $5.95).

Some account fees you may encounter are:

  • $75 account transfer fee (outgoing)
  • $9 returned check, ACH, wire & recall/stop payments
  • $25 domestic wire
  • $50 international wire
  • $5 paper statements

How does Robinhood make money?
How does Robinhood even exist if they don't charge commissions? Robinhood generates revenue in these ways:

  • From their paid Robinhood Gold account, which is their margin trading service. This starts at $5 a month.
  • From interest earned on your cash balances.
  • Rebates from market makers and trading venues

Investments & Account Options

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Robinhood only has these trading options:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options (new this year)
  • Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and 5 more)

The only account you're able to open is an individual taxable account. There are no retirement accounts or college savings options.

If you're looking for a more robust brokerage, check out these promotions.

Is Robinhood Safe?

Robinhood is legitimate. Your investments are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). The SIPC insures the stocks and options investments in your account up to $500,000 (including $250,000 for claims for cash) if Robinhood fails. It does not protect against investment losses from the market.

Robinhood is also a SEC-registered broker-dealer, and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Note: Robinhood Crypto is not a member of FINRA or SIPC. Any cryptocurrency investments will not be protected by SIPC.

3 Types of Accounts

Robinhood offers 3 types of accounts. Each one is designed to suit different investing needs.

Robinhood Instant (free):
You will automatically start with the Instant account when you sign up. This account gives you:

  • Instant deposits up to $1,000 (instead of having to wait the usual 5-6 days for ACH to clear)
  • Instant access to funds after selling
  • Extended trading hours

Robinhood Gold ($5/month, $2,000 minimum):
This is Robinhood's premium margin trading service. You get more buying power depending on your account size and larger instant deposit amounts. Read more below.

Robinhood Cash (free):
This account does not have instant deposits or instant access to funds. However, there are no restrictions on day trading. And you cannot invest on margin.

How do I get my money out of Robinhood?
You can withdraw your funds into your bank account, up to $50,000 per business day. From your account options, just select "Transfer" and then "Transfer to Your Bank" to initiate the withdrawal. There is no fee to withdraw.

Here are some withdrawal rules:

  • After a sale, you must wait for the funds to settle before being able to withdraw. The settlement period is the trade date + 2 trading days.
  • After a deposit, you can only withdraw funds to the bank account from which they were deposited for the first 60 days.

App Features & Tools (Free)

Robinhood does not have as much tools as other more robust brokerages, but it has enough for the basic investor. Here are some features the app has.

  • Extended trading hours. You can trade 30 minutes before the market opens and 2 hours after it closes - from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

  • Market orders: Execute orders including limit, stop limit, and stop orders.

  • Collections: This feature organizes stocks by sector. Sort and compare stocks side-by-side.

  • Price Paid: View the average price per share that Robinhood investors paid. This helps beginners judge if the stock is a good buy or not.

  • Market updates: Get real-time updates on stocks in your watch list.

  • Charts: See candlestick charts and indicators for stocks and cryptocurrencies.

  • Day trading: Perform up to 3 day trades in a five trading day period. Cash account users or those with $25,000 account balance have no limitations.

  • Instant deposit: Bank transfers up to $1,000 are instantly available for investing (for Instant and Gold account users).

Robinhood Snacks: This is Robinhood's daily newsletter. It distills down the top financial news into just a 3-minute bite-sized read. Robinhood also has a daily podcast, where it says 3 business stories in 15 minutes.

Robinhood Gold (Paid)

Robinhood Gold is the premium margin account (which means you can trade with borrowed money). You can try it for free for 30 days. The fees and minimums are:

  • $2,000 minimum investment
  • $5/month account fee
  • 5% annual interest based on how much margin you use

Your first $1,000 of margin is included. If you borrow more than that, you'll pay 5% yearly interest on the amount you use above $1,000.

Investing on margin is risky and you can lose more than you borrowed if you're unlucky with your selections. This should only be done by more advanced investors who have done their own research and are comfortable with risk.

Some premium features of this account includes:

  • Increased buying power. You get up to 2x buying power. For example, if you have $10,000 in cash, you can get up to $10,000 margin for a total of $20,000 buying power.

    You can also set a margin limit so you only borrow what you're comfortable with.

  • Bigger instant deposits. Your instant deposit limit is based on your account balance.

    • Up to $5,000 for all Gold users
    • Up to $10,000 for balances over $10k
    • Up to $25,000 for balances over $25k
    • Up to $50,000 for balances over $50k

  • Morningstar research. Get in-depth research reports from Morningstar on 1700 stocks.

  • Level II market data. See real time bids from Nasdaq.

Customer Service

Robinhood's customer support is very limited. There is no phone support or live chat available. Once you're a Robinhood user, you can only contact them via email.

Robinhood does have an extensive FAQ section in their Help Center on the site. That may be enough if you're okay with finding answers on your own. If you prefer full customer support, then perhaps look into one of the larger brokerages.

How It Compares

Robinhood vs E*TRADE:
E*TRADE is a full service brokerage. It offers a wide array of investment products and account options (including IRAs). It also has two robust platforms along with plentiful research, whereas Robinhood is more bare-bones.

Combining the services of the two brokers, though, can give you the best of both worlds. You can save for retirement through E*TRADE and save on commissions on your stock trades through Robinhood.

 

Robinhood

E*TRADE

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$0
$0 per trade
Options Trading $0 per trade + $0.65 per contract
$0 per trade + $0.50 per contract if you make 30+ trades a quarter
Minimum Deposit
$0
$500 for brokerage accounts
No account minimum for retirement accounts
Mutual Fund Trading $0 for no-load, no-transaction-fee funds
$19.99 for transaction-fee funds
Commission Free ETFsall U.S. listed ETFs250+ including ETFs from WisdomTree, Global X Funds, and db-X Deutsche Bank
Penny Stocks 
Broker Assisted Trades
$10
$25 + Regular Commission
Customer Service
Monday-Friday 9am - 6pm ET
800-387-2331
Inactivity Fee
$0
$0
Maintenance Fee
$0
$0
Banking
No
Checking account offers no minimum balance requirements, free online bill pay, and unlimited debit card and check transactions.
Mobile App
Yes
Desktop App
Yes
E*TRADE Pro (requires you execute at least 30 trades during a calendar quarter or maintain brokerage account balance of at least $250,000)
Futures Trading $1.50 per contract, per side + fees (excluding bitcoin futures)
Locations
No
30
Online Community
No
ETrade Community lets you exchange trading and investing ideas with other ETrade customers.
Seminars
No
Live events and educational seminars at local branches.
Virtual Trading
No
 
Stock Trading
Options Trading
Mobile App
Commissions and Fees
Ease of Use
Research
Banking
Online Community
Trading Platform

Blank fields may indicate the information is not available, not applicable, or not known to CreditDonkey. Please visit the product website for details.

Robinhood: Pricing information from published websites as of 12/07/2019.

E*TRADE: Pricing information from published website as of 12/07/2019.

Robinhood vs Acorns:
Acorns aims to help young adults save more and invest their spare change. You link your bank and credit cards to the account, and every time you make a purchase, Acorns rounds up the purchase and invests the change.

Acorns automatically selects your investments and manages your portfolio for you. You don't get choose to the stocks like you would with Robinhood. Another advantage is that it supports fractional shares, so you can invest in a share of a stock even with a few dollars.

There is a monthly fee of $1 per month, but if you usually have trouble saving and don't know much about investing, then that could be worth it.

 

Acorns

Robinhood Promo

Stock TradingPart of service fee. Free for college students for 4 years. No add-on trading fees.
$0
BankingAcorns Spend checking account comes with a debit card and has no minimum balance requirement, no overdraft fees, and unlimited free or fee-reimbursed ATMs nationwide. $3/mo for Acorns + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend.
No
 Visit SiteLearn More

Acorns: Pricing information from published website as of 07/11/2019.

Robinhood: Pricing information from published websites as of 12/07/2019.

Robinhood vs Stash:
Stash offers thematic investing options by letting you choose stock and ETF categories that matter to you. It's aimed towards beginners and will guide you into making smart investment choices for you. But it is not a robo-advisor and will not manage your portfolio.

Stash requires a $5 minimum opening balance and costs $1 per month for taxable accounts and $2 per month for retirement accounts. Stash allows you to purchase fractional shares, which lowers the amount you need to start investing.

 

Stash

Robinhood

SPECIAL OFFER
Open Stash Account and Get First Month Free - Learn More

SPECIAL OFFER
Invite Friends, Get Free Stocks - Learn More

 

Benefits and Features

Stock Trading
$0
Minimum Deposit
$0
$0
Banking
Yes
No
Mobile App
Yes
Yes

Stash: Pricing information from published website as of 08/14/2019

Robinhood: Pricing information from published websites as of 12/07/2019.

Bottom Line

Is Robinhood the only app you should use, even as a beginning investor? We don't think so, but we do think it could be a great way to supplement your investments with other brokers. Without a commission fee, you do stand to save some money on your investments.

If nothing else, it's a great way to get your feet wet and learn how the stock market works without breaking the bank in fees. As always, you should invest with caution, conducting as much research as possible before choosing your investments.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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