It’s easier than ever for the do-it-yourself (commonly known as “self-directed”) investor to chart their own course through an increasingly complex and confusing market landscape. Thanks to essentially commission-free trading platforms like Robinhood and Webull, which cater exclusively to self-directed investors, it’s also cheaper than ever.
Contrary to popular belief, self-directed portfolios are not only for active, risk-taking day traders. They’re also appropriate for buy-and-hold investors with long time horizons, relatively low tolerance for market risk, and intense distaste for fees and commissions.
Both Robinhood and Webull appeal to DIY investors of all skill levels. Robinhood was a pioneer in the commission-free trading realm, its model now copied by most major brokerage platforms serving American investors. Though newer and not as well known, Webull is an excellent alternative for cost-conscious investors and traders. Before deciding what best suits your needs and objectives, evaluate Webull and Robinhood on their respective merits.
Robinhood and Webull share some key similarities, including relatively low investing costs and rich feature lineups catering to DIY investors. However, they’re divergent enough to warrant a close examination of their respective differences in pricing structure, available account types, value-added services, and bonuses and promotions (or lack thereof).
Account Opening Bonus
Robinhood and Webull offer attractive account opening bonuses to new customers who sign up and complete certain qualifying activities. In fact, Webull offers two. These offers are subject to change at any time.
Robinhood’s Account Opening Bonus
Open a new Robinhood account and to get up to $200 in free stock — possibly more, depending on the valuation of available stocks when you make your application. Follow these steps:
- Apply for a new Robinhood brokerage account and get approved.
- Robinhood adds one free share of stock worth between $2.50 and at least $200 per share, chosen randomly from its inventory of settled shares, to your account. You should receive your stock within a week.
- You can hold the share indefinitely or sell it after two trading days.
Bear in mind you may not receive the same stock as other applicants, and your share’s value may fluctuate with market movements. Also, your likelihood of receiving a lower-priced stock is far higher than that of receiving a higher-priced stock. The identity of the stock is always a surprise until it lands in your account.
Webull’s Account Opening Bonus No. 1
First up is an opportunity to earn a free stock worth up to $250 per share when you open a new Webull account during the offer period.
Begin your account opening process by June 30, 2020, and finish within 24 hours of starting to receive a free stock valued between $2.50 and $250 per share.
As with Robinhood’s bonus, the odds of receiving a stock valued at the lower end of this range are very high. You must claim your free stock within 30 days after your initial deposit settles, which typically takes no more than five business days. If you don’t claim your free stock, the offer expires, and you lose the promotional value. If you do claim your free stock, Webull deposits the share into your new account within seven days.
You can sell the awarded stock at any time and use the proceeds to purchase other shares of stock. Alternatively, withdraw the funds from your Webull account no sooner than 30 days from the sale date.
Webull’s Account Opening Bonus No. 2
Webull’s second account opening bonus, known as its deposit bonus, has even more potential value.
Open your Webull account by June 30, 2020, then make an initial deposit in any amount to your new account. If you claim it within 30 days after your initial deposit settles, you receive a free stock valued between $12 and $1,400 per share.
As with the first opening bonus, the likelihood of receiving a stock valued on the lower end of the value range is very high.
Robinhood and Webull offer enticing referral bonuses to current (referring) and new (referred) users. These offers are subject to change at any time, however.
Robinhood’s Referral Bonus
Existing account holders can qualify for up to $500 (cumulative) in free stock each year when they make qualifying referrals.
To get started, activate this promotion in the Robinhood app. Tap the “Invite friends, get free stock” icon in the app, and choose which contacts to invite. You receive one free stock valued between $2.50 and $200 per share with each qualifying referral. Stock valuation is based on the price at the most recent market close.
As with the new account promotion, your likelihood of receiving a lower-priced stock is very high. According to Robinhood’s offer page, there is a roughly 98% chance that any given free stock will be valued under $10 per share. Shares are chosen randomly, you’re not guaranteed to receive the same stock as the referred party, and you must claim your own stock reward within 60 days. Robinhood imposes a strict limit of one qualified referral and one referred account per referred client.
Webull’s Referral Bonus
Existing Webull account holders can earn up to nine free stocks worth up to $1,400 per share (each) with three successful new customer referrals to Webull. You must make your referrals by July 30, 2020.
A successful referral is defined as a new customer who has never had a brokerage account with Webull. A newly referred customer who opens both taxable and tax-advantaged individual retirement accounts (IRAs) with Webull counts as one successful referral only. The referred party must use your unique referral link to sign up for Webull, open a brokerage account, and then make an initial deposit of at least $100 within 30 days of sign-up.
You have 30 days to claim your free stock, after which you can sell the awarded stock at any time. Use the proceeds to purchase other shares of stock or withdraw the funds from your Webull account no sooner than 30 days from the sale date.
Available Account Types
Webull offers three IRA options as well: traditional, Roth, and rollover. The rollover IRA is appropriate for new account holders who wish to migrate existing IRAs or employer-sponsored retirement accounts, such as 401(k) accounts, to Webull.
Available Asset Types & Pricing
Robinhood and Webull both offer commission-free stock, ETF, and options trading. Robinhood offers access to cryptocurrencies, which Webull plans to roll out soon as well.
Robinhood’s Asset Types & Fee Structure
Robinhood offers the following asset types to investors. Unless otherwise noted, all trades are commission-free:
- Stocks. Robinhood offers access to thousands of stocks traded on United States exchanges. Once limited to whole-stock purchases, regardless of share price, Robinhood is now in the process of rolling out fractional share investing in increments as low as $1.
- ETFs. Robinhood offers access to hundreds of U.S.-traded exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which offer exposure to specific market indices, industries, sectors, and market trends. Robinhood is rolling out fractional share investing (also starting at $1 per increment) for ETFs as well.
- Options. Robinhood offers binary option trading with no commissions or contract fees. Despite the platform’s general novice-friendly bent, Robinhood enables advanced options-trading strategies for experienced investors — though it’s important for less experienced investors to understand that these strategies are risky and can magnify losses if they go south.
- Cryptocurrencies. Robinhood offers exposure to the top cryptocurrencies on the market right now, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin. It’s one of the first mainstream investing platforms to do so. Given their volatility, cryptocurrency investing isn’t for everyone, but it’s nice to see Robinhood offer it to risk-tolerant investors.
Webull’s Asset Types and Fee Structure
Webull offers the following asset types, all of which trade commission-free unless noted otherwise:
- Stocks. Webull offers access to thousands of U.S.-listed stocks. However, it doesn’t support fractional share purchases.
- ETFs. Webull supports hundreds of U.S.-listed ETFs — again, without fractional share trading.
- Options. Webull’s options offering is similar to Robinhood’s, with a range of beginner-friendly to advanced strategies available. Again, while Webull makes options trading fairly straightforward for nonexperts, it’s vital to understand the risks before getting started.
- Cryptocurrencies. Webull is in the process of rolling out cryptocurrency trading on its platform. The offering’s details aren’t set yet, so check back here or with Webull for updates.
Robinhood and Webull both have value-added services and capabilities worth mentioning, including stock screeners, trading tools, and educational resources.
Robinhood’s Value-Added Services
Robinhood’s value-added services and features include:
- Robinhood Gold. Robinhood Gold is a premium membership tier that costs $5 per month after a 30-day risk-free trial period. Its main benefits include $1,000 in interest-free margin trading, after which borrowing on margin carries a flat 5% annual interest rate; access to Level II market data, which includes multiple bids and asks in real time (a vital source of market visibility for serious traders); and professional-grade research tools and reports.
- Extensive Knowledge Base. Robinhood has a trove of detailed, exceedingly helpful articles, like “What Is the Stock Market?”, geared toward investing novices. If Robinhood is your first foray into the world of self-directed investing, you’ll appreciate these resources.
- Stock Screener and Charting Options. Robinhood has a nice variety of stock screening tools and chart views. It’s not the leader of the pack on this front by any means, but its assortment should be adequate for most beginning and intermediate traders.
Webull’s Value-Added Services
Webull has some notable value-added services as well:
- Full Extended-Hours Trading. Webull offers two extended-hours trading sessions each nonholiday weekday: premarket trading from 4am to 9:30am Eastern time and after-hours trading from 4pm to 8pm Eastern time.
- Stock Screener and Charting Options. With more than 50 screening criteria and a dozen charting options, Webull’s stock screeners and chart views are more extensive than Robinhood’s.
- Margin Trading. Webull allows investors with more than $2,000 in their investment accounts to trade on margin. Annual rates range from 3.99% to 6.99%, depending on margin balance (with higher balances qualifying for lower rates).
The Verdict: Is Robinhood or Webull Better for Your DIY Investing Strategy?
Is Robinhood or Webull right for you? Your decision depends on your investing strategy, the types of assets you’d like to incorporate into your portfolio, and which value-added features you find useful.
You Should Invest With Robinhood If…
Robinhood is a better fit if:
- You’d Like a Cash Management Account to Go With Your Brokerage Account. Robinhood’s cash management account pays a respectable (though variable) yield on deposited funds. If you prefer to keep at least some cash in an interest-bearing reserve — but close enough at hand to take advantage of intraday market movements — this is a big perk for you.
- You’d Like to Be Able to Invest in Fractional Shares. Robinhood is rolling out a fractional share investing feature that lets account holders purchase stocks and ETFs in increments as low as $1. If your present financial status forecloses constructing a diversified portfolio with whole shares alone, this feature could be a godsend.
- You Want a Premium Investing Product. Robinhood offers a premium investing product known as Robinhood Gold. For $5 per month, it promises the ability to trade on margin. It delivers two essential features for serious traders: Level II market data (which, among other things, shows multiple bids and asks in real time, conveying a level of insight that isn’t available through normal trading platforms) and professional-grade research used by professional money managers and financial advisors.
You Should Invest With Webull If…
Webull is a better fit if:
- You Want to Invest Through an IRA. Unlike Robinhood, Webull offers three tax-advantaged retirement account options: traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and rollover IRAs. If you have yet to open an IRA or wish to transfer an existing IRA or qualifying employer-sponsored plan to a new self-directed brokerage, Webull is the clear choice between the two.
- You Want Full Extended-Hours Trading. Thanks to two extended-hours trading sessions, Webull offers market access 16 hours per day on every nonholiday weekday: 4am Eastern time to 8pm Eastern time. If you prefer to get your orders in before or after heading to your 9-to-5 job, Webull shines.
- You Want a Powerful Desktop Trading Setup. Webull has a powerful desktop trading platform with over 50 technical indicators, 12 charting options, and an active trade widget that makes it easy to adjust pricing and cancel orders on the fly. These features are more than enough for the casual day trader to research and execute trades quickly.
Both Are Great If…
Both Webull and Robinhood are great if:
- You’d Like a Free Stock (or More) When You Open Your Account and Refer Customers. Both Webull and Robinhood have attractive bonuses for new and existing account holders. All bonuses promise free stock rather than cold cash, which is a double-edged sword: the upside is really high, but the likelihood of receiving a low-priced stock is much greater. Still, stock in hand is better than none at all.
- You Want to Trade on Margin. Both platforms allow margin trading, a useful feature for experienced investors looking to capitalize on sharp market movements or magnify their purchasing power. Don’t trade on margin without thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the risks.
- You Hate Commissions. Both Webull and Robinhood are largely commission-free. If you plan to stick to stocks and ETFs or even branch out into options, you’ll pay virtually nothing to trade on either platform.
But don’t make the mistake of assuming that Robinhood, Webull, and their commission-free peers are interchangeable. Each platform exists thanks to talented, hardworking teams toiling anonymously to deliver the features and performance users demand. In turn, those teams rely on continued patronage from those users — and they’re willing to work overtime to keep loyal investors. That they do so for far less than most types of financial advisors charge is a true bargain.
Do you invest and trade with Robinhood or Webull — or neither? If you’ve used both in the past, which do you prefer?