Robinhood vs. the Alternatives

Here's how Robinhood compares to other online brokerages and investment apps.

Chris DavisJul 21, 2021
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For some, Robinhood is synonymous with “investment app.” When the company started offering free trades in 2015, it had an enormous advantage over most major brokerages that were charging customers for every trade. However, Robinhood’s competitors quickly followed suit, and today commission-free trading is standard, not special.

And while Robinhood remains the face of the individual investor movement — and it continues to score well on user experience and low costs in our analysis of online brokerages — other brokers and investment apps surpass Robinhood in other areas and may fit as an alternative or supplemental investment account.

» Open a second brokerage account? Learn when it makes sense and how to do it

When it comes to finding a broker that’s right for you, the key is identifying what your investment goals are and finding a broker that will help you meet them.


Robinhood overview

Robinhood
NerdWallet rating 

on Robinhood's website

Robinhood has been credited for bringing about an enormous change in the brokerage industry: doing away with trade commissions. The app offers a sleek, easy way to trade stocks, options, exchange-traded funds and cryptocurrency, and has been regularly unveiling new products. Most recently, Robinhood added fractional shares, automatic contributions and even IPO access to its offerings.

However, Robinhood has also been the focus of complaints from the Securities and Exchange Commission, lawsuits and public outrage over some of its practices. In June 2021, the company paid nearly $70 million in fines and restitution — the largest financial penalty ever levied by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Account minimum

$0 for brokerage account and for Robinhood Gold account; $2,000 for a margin account (regulatory minimum).

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

$0.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual, inactivity or ACH transfer fees. $75 ACAT outgoing transfer fee. (Robinhood Gold costs $5 a month.)

Tradeable securities

• Stocks.

• ETFs.

• Options.

• Cryptocurrency.

• American Depositary Receipts for over 250 global companies.

• Fractional shares.

Number of commission-free ETFs

All available ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

None.

Trading platform

Web platform is purposely simple but meets basic investor needs.

Mobile app

Mobile trading platform includes customizable alerts, news feed, candlestick charts and ability to listen live to earnings calls.

Research and data

News available from WSJ Markets, Reuters, Barron's, CNBC Business and Cheddar. Gold members have access to research from Morningstar, Nasdaq, Nasdaq Totalview level II Market Data for an additional $5 per month.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Email and social media.

Below are five comparisons discussing how Robinhood’s competitors stack up in various categories.

Alternatives to Robinhood

For beginners: Fidelity

Fidelity
NerdWallet rating 

on Fidelity's website

Fidelity may be one of the largest brokerages in the country — it manages an astounding $10.4 trillion in assets — but that doesn't mean it’s too big for beginner investors. The brokerage tops our list of the best brokerages for beginners because it offers a comprehensive brokerage service that grows with you as your investment needs evolve.

However, you won’t find cryptocurrencies at Fidelity, nor the trimmed-down, sleek user experience Robinhood users have come to love.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

No base commission; $0.65 per contract.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

None.

Number of commission-free ETFs

All ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

More than 3,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Tradeable securities

• Stocks.

• Fractional shares.

• Bonds.

• Mutual funds.

• ETFs.

• Options.

Trading platform

Fidelity.com and Active Trader Pro. Both free for all customers.

Mobile app

Available for iOS and Android; advanced features.

Research and data

Free and extensive.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Phone, email and live chat 24/7; 200 local branches.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

No base commission; $0.65 per contract.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

None.

Number of commission-free ETFs

All ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

More than 3,400 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Tradeable securities

• Stocks.

• Fractional shares.

• Bonds.

• Mutual funds.

• ETFs.

• Options.

Trading platform

Fidelity.com and Active Trader Pro. Both free for all customers.

Mobile app

Available for iOS and Android; advanced features.

Research and data

Free and extensive.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Phone, email and live chat 24/7; 200 local branches.

Among investment apps: Acorns

Acorns
NerdWallet rating 

on Acorns's website

If you’re committed to using a mobile-first investment app like Robinhood but are wondering what else is out there, Acorns ranks second on our list of the best investment apps (just behind Fidelity). However, Acorns is a very different product from Robinhood; it’s mostly geared toward long-term savers. It’s part robo-advisor, part savings account, part full-service brokerage, and offers three tiers of service for three different flat monthly fees.

One of its signature offerings, though, is its round-ups: Use an Acorns debit card (or another linked card) for everyday purchases, and Acorns will “round up” the change and automatically invest it for you.

If you’re looking to invest in individual stocks, though, Robinhood may be the better choice. With Acorns, your only option is to invest in preset portfolios, which the app will help you choose based on your risk tolerance. To be sure, these diversified portfolios are a responsible way to invest long-term, but you won’t have the same investing experience and freedom as you have with Robinhood.

Account minimum

$0 to open account; $5 required to start investing.

Account management fee

  • Lite: $1 a month for taxable investment account.

  • Personal: $3 a month for an investment account plus an IRA and a checking account.

  • Family: $5 a month for all of the above plus investment accounts for kids.

Investment expense ratios

0.03% to 0.18%.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

$50 per ETF to have them transferred to another broker when you close your taxable Acorns account; no charge to sell your investments and have the resulting cash transferred.

Portfolio mix

Portfolio mix is generally well-diversified but lacks significant exposure to international bonds.

Sustainable portfolio available for free.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Sustainable portfolio built with ESG ETFs available for no extra cost.

Accounts supported

  • Individual non-retirement accounts.

  • Roth, traditional and SEP IRAs.

  • UTMA/UGMA accounts for kids.

Tax strategy

Not available.

Automatic rebalancing

Free on all accounts.

Human advisor option

Not available.

Bank account/cash management account

Personal and Family members get access to Acorns Spend, a checking account with a debit card, mobile check deposit and reimbursed ATM fees.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Customer service is available every day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 pm PST through phone and email support.

Account minimum

$0 to open account; $5 required to start investing.

Account management fee

  • Lite: $1 a month for taxable investment account.

  • Personal: $3 a month for an investment account plus an IRA and a checking account.

  • Family: $5 a month for all of the above plus investment accounts for kids.

Investment expense ratios

0.03% to 0.18%.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing)

$50 per ETF to have them transferred to another broker when you close your taxable Acorns account; no charge to sell your investments and have the resulting cash transferred.

Portfolio mix

Portfolio mix is generally well-diversified but lacks significant exposure to international bonds.

Sustainable portfolio available for free.

Socially responsible portfolio options

Sustainable portfolio built with ESG ETFs available for no extra cost.

Accounts supported

  • Individual non-retirement accounts.

  • Roth, traditional and SEP IRAs.

  • UTMA/UGMA accounts for kids.

Tax strategy

Not available.

Automatic rebalancing

Free on all accounts.

Human advisor option

Not available.

Bank account/cash management account

Personal and Family members get access to Acorns Spend, a checking account with a debit card, mobile check deposit and reimbursed ATM fees.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Customer service is available every day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 pm PST through phone and email support.

For crypto: Gemini

Gemini
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

If you’re using Robinhood to trade cryptocurrencies, it’s important to understand that at this time, the app has very limited functionality. With Robinhood, you don’t have access to your crypto wallet, meaning you won’t be able to send or receive the coins you purchase. Cryptocurrency trading on Robinhood still feels like an afterthought; the app’s primary focus is still easy, free stock trading, not cryptocurrencies. Gemini, on the other hand, is all about cryptocurrencies, and you’ll find you have much more control over the coins you buy. For example, you can send and receive coins directly from your Gemini wallet, join liquidity pools that offer a fixed interest rate and explore other decentralized finance applications.

However, if it’s only price appreciation you’re looking for in crypto — and you’re OK choosing from a limited selection — Robinhood still may be the better choice. Crypto trading through Robinhood is completely free, whereas Gemini’s fees are relatively high.

Minimum trade

0.00001 bitcoin/ 0.001 ether.

Trading and transaction fees

Up to 1.49% depending on trading platform; 3.49% for debit card purchases. Other fees may apply.

Number of cryptocurrencies

40.

Crypto-to-crypto trading pairs

19 trading pairs.

Website transparency

Most information easily found on the website.

Can use your own digital wallet?

Yes.

Mobile app

Two highly rated apps for iOS and Android.

Customer service

Email and chat support.

Promotion

None.

Minimum trade

0.00001 bitcoin/ 0.001 ether.

Trading and transaction fees

Up to 1.49% depending on trading platform; 3.49% for debit card purchases. Other fees may apply.

Number of cryptocurrencies

40.

Crypto-to-crypto trading pairs

19 trading pairs.

Website transparency

Most information easily found on the website.

Can use your own digital wallet?

Yes.

Mobile app

Two highly rated apps for iOS and Android.

Customer service

Email and chat support.

Promotion

None.

For retirement savings: Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab
NerdWallet rating 
Read review

Retirement may feel like a long way away, but one of the most important factors in building up retirement savings is actually time itself. So, if you’ve got a lot of time and the ability to put away at least a little money for retirement, you may be in a great place to start investing long-term.

However, Robinhood currently only offers a taxable brokerage account. When it comes to retirement savings, there are much better account types (such as individual retirement accounts) that offer valuable tax benefits. And Charles Schwab is a leader in this space.

Similar to Fidelity, Charles Schwab is big, managing nearly $6.7 trillion in assets as of the end of 2020. But don’t let that intimidate you. Charles Schwab is one of many major brokerages that have kept pace with the evolving fintech space, offering a highly rated app, commission-free stock, options and ETF trades and fractional shares of S&P 500 companies.

But just because you’re funding a retirement account doesn’t mean you can’t supplement your long-term savings with a taxable brokerage account like what Robinhood offers. There’s something to be said for Robinhood’s simplicity, and once you’ve set up and funded a retirement account, Robinhood may still be an appropriate way to dabble in stock trading outside of your core portfolio.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

No base commission; $0.65 per contract.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fee; $50 for full transfer out of assets; $25 for partial transfer of assets.

Number of commission-free ETFs

All ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Over 4,300 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Tradable securities

  • Stocks.

  • Bonds.

  • Fractional shares

  • CDs

  • Mutual funds.

  • ETFs.

  • Options.

  • Futures.

Trading platform

Three platforms offered with no trade minimums or fees: StreetSmart Edge (desktop platform), Schwab.com and StreetSmart Central.

Mobile app

Two mobile apps with above-average capabilities: Schwab Mobile and StreetSmart Mobile.

Research and data

Research from 14 providers including Moody's, Morningstar, Recognia, Credit Suisse and Thompson Reuters, plus more in-house generated commentary and tools.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Phone, email, chat 24/7 in person support available at branches M-F 8am to 5pm. Some branches have Saturday hours.

Promotion

None.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

No base commission; $0.65 per contract.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fee; $50 for full transfer out of assets; $25 for partial transfer of assets.

Number of commission-free ETFs

All ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Over 4,300 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Tradable securities

  • Stocks.

  • Bonds.

  • Fractional shares

  • CDs

  • Mutual funds.

  • ETFs.

  • Options.

  • Futures.

Trading platform

Three platforms offered with no trade minimums or fees: StreetSmart Edge (desktop platform), Schwab.com and StreetSmart Central.

Mobile app

Two mobile apps with above-average capabilities: Schwab Mobile and StreetSmart Mobile.

Research and data

Research from 14 providers including Moody's, Morningstar, Recognia, Credit Suisse and Thompson Reuters, plus more in-house generated commentary and tools.

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Phone, email, chat 24/7 in person support available at branches M-F 8am to 5pm. Some branches have Saturday hours.

Promotion

None.

For overall similarity: Webull

Webull
NerdWallet rating 

on Webull's website

Webull is a relative newcomer, but has quickly earned a spot as an alternative to Robinhood because of how similar the two are. Webull is easy to use, sleek on mobile and offers free trades on stocks, options and cryptocurrency, much like Robinhood. In fact, it’s hard to find a brokerage that beats either Robinhood or Webull on cost. However, Webull offers tools intermediate and advanced traders may appreciate, but won’t find on Robinhood.

That said, Robinhood’s simplicity is a large part of its appeal. If you’re considering using Webull as an alternative, you may have a bit of a learning curve as you make your way around the new tools, charts and overall experience. What’s more, Robinhood gains an edge over Webull when it comes to IPOs. With its new IPO Access feature, retail investors have the chance to buy into IPOs before they start trading on the market.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

$0.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fees; $75 full/partial transfer fee.

Tradable securities

  • Stocks.

  • ETFs.

  • Options.

  • Cryptocurrency.

  • ADRs.

Number of commission-free ETFs

Hundreds of ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

None.

Trading platform

Browser-based and downloadable desktop platforms available with advanced charts, indicators, screeners and customization.

Mobile app

Mobile app offers advanced features including charts and indicators, paper trading, price alerts and voice command.

Research and data

News, research and analysis available from Nasdaq Totalview, Thomson Reuters, Refinitiv, Lipper, OPRA (real-time quotes available free with one or more options trades per month), OTC Bulletin Board

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

24/7 phone and email, chat available in mobile app.

Account minimum

$0.

Stock trading costs

$0.

Options trades

$0.

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

No annual or inactivity fees; $75 full/partial transfer fee.

Tradable securities

  • Stocks.

  • ETFs.

  • Options.

  • Cryptocurrency.

  • ADRs.

Number of commission-free ETFs

Hundreds of ETFs trade commission-free.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

None.

Trading platform

Browser-based and downloadable desktop platforms available with advanced charts, indicators, screeners and customization.

Mobile app

Mobile app offers advanced features including charts and indicators, paper trading, price alerts and voice command.

Research and data

News, research and analysis available from Nasdaq Totalview, Thomson Reuters, Refinitiv, Lipper, OPRA (real-time quotes available free with one or more options trades per month), OTC Bulletin Board

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

24/7 phone and email, chat available in mobile app.

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