For decades, companies have been giving away free stuff to get you to try their service.
Brokers, like E*Trade, would offer hundreds of free trades within a fixed window whenever you signed up. Their latest advertised offer seems to be 60 days of commission-free trades. It's a nice offer, but what if I don't want to trade like a madman? What if I just want to try them out and perhaps get a few free shares of stock?
That's where the new crop of brokers comes in. Much like how online banks broke traditional banks, with high-interest rates and no fees, a new crop of brokers seeks to upend the traditional model.
Their first step? Free stock.
Here are some brokers who offer free shares of stock when you sign up:
Every company on this list is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). SIPC is the FDIC equivalent of deposit insurance with limits up to $500,000 ($250,000 for cash). Never use a broker that is not covered.
Webull is another commission free broker and is accessible by app only. The app itself, which I've had for a couple months, is more technicalbut the shares of stock they gift are just as real.
When you open an account within 24 hours of starting the process, you'll get a share of stock worth $5 – $500. Then, deposit $100 or more and get another stock valued at $12 – $1400. In each case, the company will have a market cap of at least $2.5 billion and be traded on the NASDAQ or NYSE.
The stocks they give will most likely be a small share but from time to time you'll get something wild and crazy. For example, I received many shares of ABEV before randomly one day getting a share of AAPL.
Webull Financial LLC is based out of New York City with CRD# 289063 and SEC# 69978.
Summary of the deal: You get a free share of stock valued between $4 and $1,000 but chances are yours will be between $4and $6. There are no other requirements, no minimum deposit amount, and trades are free.
RobinhoodRobinhood is the most well-known startup on this list (don't feel bad if you've never heard of them, they're still relatively new). They were founded in 2013 by two veterans from the high-frequency stock trading world.
Robinhood is a broker that lets you buy and sell shares of stock and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without paying a commission. Whereas other brokers charge you a fee, like Ally Invest charging $4.95 per trade, Robinhood does it for free. They do not charge a maintenance fee either.
They were the first to aggressively market themselves by giving away free stock and you can still get yours if you act quickly. Robinhood Financial LLC is based out of California with CRD# 165998 and SEC# 69188.
Summary of the deal: You get a free share of stock valued between $5 and $150, with the average being around $10. There are no other requirements, no minimum deposit amount, and trades are free.
Public is one of the few zero commission brokerages that lets you buy stock with any amount of money. Yes, that means you can buy partial shares with as little as $5 invested with real-time settlement (not batched, like what they used to do back in the day). They've also integrated a social component where you can see what other people have invested in (when they make it public) and you can see what their strategies are. If you wish, you can also follow investment strategies like investing in Tech Giants (most influential tech companies), American Made (US Manufacturing), The Future is Female (S&P 500 companies with female CEOs), and many others. You can buy ETFs too.
They are SIPC insured up to $500,000 and they even pay interest on your uninvested cash (2.53% APY on up to $10,000 as of 1/30/2020)
When you sign up with our link (on your desktop), you can get $10 of stock from one of the following 9 companies – Alphabet (Google), J&J, Facebook, Apple, Visa, Chase, Microsoft, Amazon, or Alibaba. Once you click through, enter your phone number and they'll send you a text message with the instructions.
Spelled by someone who hates vowels, but pronounced “investor,” NVSTR gives free stock valued at $20 to $500. There are a few conditions with this offer, such as you cannot withdraw the funds for 1 year and you must place a trade within 1 year.
Unlike Webull and Robinhood, NVSTR is not a commission-free trading app. They charge $4.50 per trade, which is lower than most brokers and on par with Ally Invest. There is a simulated portfolio feature so you can use their collaboration and optimization tools without putting real money on the line.
It was founded in 2015 by Bernard George and Patrick Aber. George has a hedge fund and engineering background with a Physics degree from Harvard. Aber was designing investment strategies at Tower Research Capital and The Carlyle Group after studying Applied Math and Economics at Harvard.
Nvstr Financial LLC is based out of New York City with CRD# 269966 and SEC# 69642.
Summary of the deal: You actually get free cash between $20 and $500. There is no minimum deposit and you must hold the amount in your account for a year and make one trade within a year to keep the bonus. Trades are $4.50 each and there are no monthly fees, no membership fees, no account opening or closing fee, and no fund transfer fees.
Stash is a roboadvisor / investment app that helps you invest through “themes.” You choose the investments and they offer guidance, plus an app that helps you save money. If you want a closer look at the service, we take a brief look while comparing the best investing apps.
They don't give you free stock but they're an investment app that gives you $5 to start.
Summary of the deal: You get $5 free. There is no minimum deposit and no holding requirements, but there is a monthly fee that starts at $1 per month. You can get $50 if you set up a direct deposit of at least $300 in a 30-day period.
What About Taxes?
You will get a Form 1099 for the value of the stock that you receive from any of these brokers. You'll be responsible for including that on your tax return for next year and it'll likely be taxed like bank interest. The moment you get the shares, the value is recorded and the broker will record that as miscellaneous income.
When you sell the shares, you'll owe capital gains tax if you sold for a capital gain. You can deduct capital losses if you sell for a loss. The cost basis is the value of the share when you received it.
For example, you get a share of Wallet Hacks LLC valued at $100. The broker will issue you a Form 1099 at the end of the year for $100. If you sell the stock for $110 sometime during the year, you'll owe taxes on $10 of capital gain. You'll be taxed at ordinary income tax rates on the $100 and then capital gains tax rates on the extra $10.
If you sell the stock for $90 and take a loss of $10, then you'll still owe ordinary income tax rates on the $100 but you can deduct $10 of capital loss from any capital gains you have. If you don't, you can take that $10 off your ordinary income (up to the limit).
So, don't forget to set aside cash for taxes when you go on your free stock spree!