Robinhood lures digital coin traders from Coinbase with a free service

Robinhood Markets is now offering a service called Robinhood Crypto for the commission-free trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum digital currencies. The company is currently rolling out its Robinhood Crypto platform in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, and New Hampshire and plans to launch the service in other states in the near future.  

Founded in 2013, the California-based company provides means for investors to purchase stock and trade investment funds without the need to pay a commission. In return for using this service, Robinhood Markets generates revenue from interest earned from margin lending and cash balances. To reduce its overhead, the company doesn’t provide customer-facing offices or analytical tools. 

“We believe that the financial system should help the rest of us, not just the wealthy,” the company says. “We’ve cut the fat that makes other brokerages costly, like manual account management and hundreds of storefront locations, so we can offer zero-commission trading.” 

Robinhood provides a mobile app for Android, Apple Watch, and iPhone to purchase and sell stocks listed on U.S.-based exchanges. It’s also rolling out a web-based version with a current waiting list of 1,088,614 potential users, and a free options trading service with a current waiting line of 578,290 potential customers. Both are rolling out in waves throughout 2018. 

According to Robinhood, around four million individuals use its free service, saving more than $1 billion in commission costs. But the company also serves up a “gold” version that lends out money strictly for purchasing stock; cryptocurrency is not an option. It’s a margin account, thus your gains and losses increase. And while you’re not charged for transactions, interest, or other fees, you are required to pay a monthly fee to pay for the money you borrow. 

Robinhood’s current foundation powers its new cryptocurrency trading service. And while Robinhood Crypto only enables trading of Bitcoins and Ethereum in just five states, you can pull up the mobile app and track the market data of 16 cryptocurrencies. For instance, you can see that the current price for a Bitcoin is $9,910.44, down around six percent over the last 24 hours. 

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm towards Robinhood Crypto and are excited to contribute to the cryptocurrency community in a meaningful way,” the company said. 

In addition to Robinhood Crypto, the company also introduced Robinhood Feed, a means to chat with other Robinhood-based investors in real-time regarding market swings, news, and cryptocurrencies. But like the new Crypto platform, the rollout is limited. Only a small number of people can use the platform, for now, to provide feedback and help evolve the real-time chat client for a wider release. 

Robinhood and other online brokers are causing ripples across the stock-trading market. Due to their commission-free trading, Charles Schwab reduced its per-trade commission to $5 after Fidelity’s per-trade fee fell from $8 to $5. Meanwhile, Interactive Brokers charges a $1 fee per trade, one of the cheapest trading fees you will find on the internet. Before brokers like Robinhood began offering free transactions, the per-share trade fee averaged around $7. 

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