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How to use Robinhood, the popular app that lets you trade stocks without paying any fees

Nathan McAlone
Robinhood stock trading app


Robinhood is an app built around one single promise: no-fee stock trading. 

Robinhood launched in December 2014 and quickly became a favorite among younger people looking to invest without paying $7 per trade. Since its launch, Robinhood has amassed hundreds of thousands of users, and facilitated over $1 billion in trades, according to TechCrunch

The app itself is stylish and simple, a big part of why it won an Apple Design Award. It makes stock trading cheap, intuitive, and mobile.  

This past week, I tested out the app with a nominal amount of cash (Business Insider journalists are forbidden from playing the market by policy — so I’m donating the $1.26 I made to charity). It’s ease of use was refreshing, and the only complaint I had was lag times while moving money around. 

Here’s what it’s like using Robinhood, the app that wants to democratize stock trading.  

This is what the Robinhood icon looks like on an iPhone.

If you have one of the last few models of the iPhone, you’ll be able to choose whether to log in with your fingerprint or a password.

To start trading with Robinhood, first you have to link you bank account.

You can set up a one-time transfer, which takes up to 3 business days to process. These funds will remain in your Robinhood account until you transfer them back.

You can also schedule periodic deposits into your Robinhood account, if you know you want to invest your money as soon as possible.

After that, you’re ready. This is what Robinhood’s home screen looks like. It shows you your total money in the center (stocks and cash), and how much you’ve made today (below in green or red, depending). You can also select to view different time periods along the bottom.

To trade a specific stock, you can search for it by clicking on the magnifying glass. If you want to add it to your “watch list,” you click the check mark on the right. The example we are going to use is Groupon (GRPN).

When you click on the stock, this screen comes up. It shows you that Groupon is currently trading at $2.71 per share. To buy shares in Groupon, you just click the buy button on the bottom.

If you scroll down on that page, you can also read relevant news about the stock that Robinhood has pulled from the web.

Once you’ve clicked the buy button, you are taken to the Market Buy page.

You type in the number of shares of Groupon you want to buy (at $2.71 per share). Then you click review.

This view will pop up, and you swipe up to submit your trade. You can even buy stock before the market is open, and Robinhood will complete it when the market opens. You can tell if the market is closed because Robinhood’s background will appear black (as it does now).

When the market opens, the background switches to white. And when a stock trade is completed, Robinhood will send you a notification that looks like this.

If you want to get rid of your Groupon stocks, you can go back to the stock’s main page. If you own stock, a sell button will appear next to the buy button.

The selling interface is similar to the buying one. You choose how many shares you want to sell (at $2.72).

Once you’ve sold your stock, you get a notification like this.

If you want to see an overview of your money, you can go to the account page. It shows you how much cash and stocks you have, as well as how much “buying power” you have. Buying power means how much money you can spend on stocks this second.

One of the drawbacks of Robinhood is that you have to wait for the money you’ve made selling stock to be “settled” before you can reinvest it and buy a different stock. You can see how much money is still waiting to clear in the “Unsettled Funds” category. This usually takes a few business days.

If you want to cash out of Robinhood, you can easily transfer the funds back to your linked account by going clicking “Transfer To You Bank” from your account page.

This also takes up to three business days to complete, which is standard for apps that hold money, like Venmo.

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