Many years ago, companies that promised free stock trades were living on borrowed time. High volume traders plus no commissions meant bankruptcy for the likes of Zecco (eventually acquired by TradeKing, which was itself acquired by Ally Bank).
But Robinhood has shown us that a brokerage offering free trades can work. They've figured out you can earn interest on cash balances, transaction volume rebates, and premium memberships. This has opened the door for new companies and these companies are competing very aggressively.
When companies compete, you win.
The latest entrant into this world of free trading apps is a company called Webull Financial.
You might be wondering if Webull is legit. You've never heard of them. Their name is a little strange… but they have their ducks in a row.
Webull is a brokerage based out of New York City and regulated by FINRA (BrokerCheck). This means your funds are protected by SIPC insurance. You'll note their age is quite new, having been established in May 2017, but they're not nearly that young.
Webull is the broker-dealer arm of a Chinese company called Hunan Fumi Information Technology Co, which itself was founded in early 2016 with an angel round of funding led by Xiaomi, a mobile electronics company.
Regardless of its roots, it is regulated by FINRA and does have SIPC insurance so as a broker it's legit.
Webull Free Stock Referral Offers
If you took advantage of our Robinhood referral, this one will sound very familiar.
When you sign up using a referral link, you and the existing account holder will both get a share of stock valued between $3 and $1,000. The free stock reward is chosen “randomly by algorithm from Webull's Reward Program Inventory of settled shares.” You'll get a stock with a minimum market cap of $10 billion and listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ, so it'll be easy for you to sell whenever you want.
The odds of the value you get in stock is implied as follows (from their terms & conditions):
- $4 – $6 per share, approximately 1:1.1
- $10 – $20 per share, approximately 1:24
- $50 – $100 per share, approximately 1:200
- $150 – $250 per share, approximately 1:333
- ~$1,000 per share, approximately 1:1,000
The process is very easy:
- Sign up for a new Webull account using a referral link.
- After registering, download the Webull app for your phone.
- Open the app, click on “Trade” at the bottom of the app to set up an account. This opens an account opening screen where you'll enter in personal information to actually open an account.
- Go back into the app, then to the menu to see the “My Free Stock” offer.
- On the “My Free Stock” page, press “GET” button at the top to see what you get. The screenshot is to the right.
- The stock will be worth between $3 and $1,000 and credited within 5 trading days.
- Sell the stock! You will be given a tax form indicating the promotional value was given to you.
I did this earlier and I got a stock that a lot of folks seem to have gotten, ABEV (parent company to Anheuser-Busch), valued at $4.335 a share. Not bad… it's not a thousand bucks but who am I to complain about an extra $5 I didn't have before. 🙂
The signup process is fast – you just sign up with a phone number or email address. You download their app, available on iOS as well as Android, and then provide all the typical brokerage account information – name, address, social security, employment and investing experience. You will have to provide your address too including a way to identify you – like a passport or driver's license (plus you'll need to take a photo of it).
After entering my information, my account was available in a few minutes.
What's remarkable about the process is that you don't need to deposit money, complete a trade, or link up an account to get the free share of stock. You simply need to open an account and once it is approved, you can get your free share.
There is no minimum account balance requirement for a regular cash account. If you opt for a margin trading account, you'll have to maintain at least a $2,000 balance.
Webull as a Brokerage
As a brokerage account, Webull has some limitations but these are not uncommon.
First, there are no commissions on trades but there still are fees. The SEC and FINRA both charge a fee and Webull passes those on. The SEC charges $23.10 per $1,000,000 of principal on a sale with a minimum of a penny. FINRA charges a Trading Activity Fee (TAF) and the TAF is $0.000119 per share on sells with a penny minimum and $5.95 maximum. So on each transaction, you will still have to pay a minimum of a penny each – one to the SEC and to FINRA.
You can trade over 5,000 stocks and ETFs but you can't trade options, over the counter stocks, mutual funds or bonds. You are also limited to market, limit, stop and stop limit orders with a “good for today” deadline (so no GTC). There is extended hours trading, both pre-market (4AM-9:30AM) and after-hours (4PM-8PM).
Customer service is good too with a live chat feature as well as a phone call if you prefer talking over typing.
For a free trade brokerage, it's a fairly comprehensive feature set if you want more than the free share of stock. It's comparable but not nearly as robust as Robinhood, likely because they're newer, but they do have the functionality if not the polish.