Robinhood is an innovative mobile app and brokerage that allows users to buy and sell U.S. stocks and ETFs for $0 commission.
Robinhood is able to accomplish that because the brokerage, including its mobile platform, is slim and efficient, with no services except those that are absolutely necessary. Robinhood has no physical branches, and users shouldn't expect an extensive list of investment products, substantial research and market insight, education resources, or similar features found on some other apps.
The brokerage was founded earlier this decade by Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt, two Stanford University roommates and friends. After discovering that Wall Street firms can place trades at essentially no cost, while average investors have to pay hefty fees per trade, they built an efficient, automated platform. The company also offers Robinhood Gold, an advanced account with access to after-hours trading and other select services, for a monthly fee starting at $6.
In this walkthrough, we'll explore the basic Robinhood platform, covering everything from setting up an account to searching for stocks and making trades.For more information about this broker, you can read our full Robinhood Review.
Homescreen - The Robinhood mobile app lets you buy and sell U.S. stocks and ETFs for $0 commission. In this walkthrough, we’ll look at the platform’s essential features and how to use them.
Sign Up - The process of signing up for a Robinhood account is very straightforward. It can be completed in about four minutes, although it may take longer if you pause to read through the various materials along the way. When you first open the app and arrive at the Welcome to Robinhood screen, you can swipe in the center of the screen to learn more about the brokerage, tap on Sign Up to create an account, or tap Log In if you already have an account.
Email Address - If you’re signing up for a new Robinhood account, the app will walk you through each step, asking for different bits of information. The first thing you’ll need to provide is an email address. Type it into the field in the center of the screen. You’ll want to use an email address that you can access easily, as you’ll need to use it to verify your account in order to have full functionality. When you’ve done that, tap the green Continue to move on to the next step.
Create Password - Now select a password that’s different from your email’s and from any you use for other accounts. For security’s sake, consider a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and other symbols. You’ll be able to retrieve your password later on if you happen to lose it. Tap Continue when you’re done.
Legal Name - When asked for your name, input your full legal first and last names (as opposed to nicknames). Robinhood will use the information you provide for tax reporting purposes and to generate tax forms and other important documents periodically. Tap Continue when you’re done.
Phone Number - Next up is your phone number. The default country code corresponds to the United States, but you can change that by tapping the Change Country Code link just below the phone number field. Input your number, check that it’s accurate, and then tap Continue to move along. If you make a mistake, you can erase it by using the back arrow button in the lower right corner of the screen.
Date of Birth - As the Robinhood app indicates, federal law requires that brokerages collect information on all users’ dates of birth. This is partly a security measure to make sure that customers are of legal age. It is also used in generating tax forms and other documents. Input your date of birth in MM/DD/YYYY format. When you’re done, tap Continue to go to the next screen.
Residential Address - U.S. law also requires brokerages to collect information on users’ residential addresses. As you begin to type in your address, the app will pull up a list of potential addresses. Continue to input information until your address appears, then tap on it. If your address doesn’t appear, you can type your address in full.
Citizenship - Because of governmental concern about the possibility of using a brokerage app for laundering money, Robinhood asks for your country of citizenship when you create an account. The default option is United States, which is listed at the top. To select another country, scroll down on the list in the middle of the screen until you find it, and tap on it. Then tap Continue.
Verify Identity - Brokerages are also required to verify the identities of would-be customers. One way Robinhood does this is by checking your Social Security number. The app states that this information is submitted via encryption to ensure your privacy. To go to the Social Security screen, tap Continue.
Social Security - Input your Social Security number using the number pad at the bottom of the screen. Make sure your number is correct before tapping Continue, as an error on this screen could delay or jeopardize your account activation. Tap Continue when you’re done.
Investment Experience - Robinhood asks about your level of investment experience to get a sense of what kind of user you might be and how the platform can best serve you. This screen lets you select one of four options, ranging from None to I’m an Expert.
Employment Info - The government also requires that you indicate your employment status. Select from Employed, Unemployed, Retired, or Student. If more than one category describes you, pick the one that’s the closest fit.
Additional Employment Info - If you indicated in the previous screen that you’re employed, your next step will be to provide information about your employer. Type your employer’s name into the first blank field, then tap on the second one (labeled Occupation) and describe your type of work. A short description will be sufficient for the purposes of the app.
Shareholder Info - Next you’ll be asked a series of questions about the work you and your family members do, particularly as it relates to publicly traded corporations, brokerages, and similar companies. The first of these questions asks whether you or a family member serves as a senior executive or is at least a 10% shareholder of any publicly traded company. Select No or Yes, as appropriate, to advance to the next screen.
Brokerage Info - If you or a family member works for a brokerage other than Robinhood, tap Yes. If not, tap No to advance to the account review screen.
Review - Assuming you tapped Yes, this is the final portion of the main application. Before you confirm your application, take some time to read through the Review screen. There are links (highlighted in green) to various terms and conditions and related screens. When done, scroll to the bottom and tap Review.
Fund Your Account - Before you can trade on Robinhood, you’ll need to transfer money into your account. It’s easiest to do that from a bank account. Tap Continue to go to the next step in the funding process. To read about SIPC coverage for brokerage accounts, click on the corresponding link in green.
Select Funding Source - Robinhood provides a list of major banks and other financial institutions that you can scroll through to find the one you want to use to fund your account. Once you’ve found it, tap on its icon. (If it isn’t listed, scroll to the bottom to set up your funding.) You’ll be prompted to input your account information and to indicate how much money to transfer into your Robinhood account.
Application Submitted - Once you’ve completed the funding process, you’ll reach the Application Submitted screen. You won’t be able to access the full Robinhood platform until your application is confirmed. In the meantime, you can tap Continue to Robinhood to explore other features of the app.
Smart Notifications - Even before you’ve gained full access to your account, you can set up notifications. You will receive these alerts on your mobile device when important events have taken place (including when your account funding clears and trades are completed). To set up notifications and specify when and how you receive them, tap Yes! Otherwise, tap Not Now. You can always change your mind later.
Set PIN - Your PIN is a secure access code that provides an added layer of protection for your account information. The PIN for your Robinhood account should be four digits. Input them on this screen. After that, you’ll automatically be taken to the next screen, where you’ll be asked to confirm your PIN.
Welcome Screen - If you continue to the app after completing the application process, you’ll arrive at this screen. As the app indicates, you won’t have full access to the platform yet, but you can still look around. Scroll down to see a list of stocks included in your watchlist and search for more stocks to add by tapping the magnifying glass in the upper right corner. Tap on the menu icon in the upper left corner to open up a limited side menu.
Stock Detail Screen - Even before you have full access to the Robinhood platform, you can access the Stock Detail screen by tapping on any symbol on the main screen. Here, you’ll see the current trading price, recent changes, and a performance history that you can customize by time frame. What you won’t be able to do just yet, though, is initiate a trade.
Limited Side Menu - Before your account is confirmed, you’ll also be able to view a limited side menu. Access it by tapping the icon in the upper left corner of the main screen. You’ll see your name, the pending transfer amount, the current buying power of your account, and links to the Settings and Help screens. Close the side menu by tapping the green X in the upper left corner or swipe away from the menu to return to the main screen.
Main Screen - Once your application has been cleared and your fund transfer is complete, you’ll be able to initiate trades. The main screen of the app looks like it did before your account was verified, but now you’ll notice new items relating to your account there.
News Notification - Unlike some other brokerages, Robinhood doesn’t have a dedicated news-and-research section. Instead, important news stories show up on the main screen. The circular green number icon in the mid-upper right corner of the box shows how many news cards there are to view. Tap See More to read any news story in full (which will typically open a new window outside the app).
Personalize Robinhood - One of the first news cards you’ll see when you access the main screen invites you to Personalize Robinhood. If you tap on it, you’ll be asked a few questions about your investment goals and style. If you’d rather do that later, or not at all, simply tap the green X in the upper left corner.
Investment Objective - If you decide to personalize your Robinhood experience, you’ll be asked to indicate your investment objective by choosing from this list of options. After you’ve picked one, you’ll be asked about your income source, level of risk, and more.
Full Side Menu - Once your account is fully up and running, the side menu, accessible via the icon in the upper left corner of the main screen, will offer you some additional items. You can close the menu by tapping on the X or by swiping away.
Free Stocks - A novel Robinhood feature is its Free Stocks offer. Users who refer new customers to the app receive one share of a publicly traded stock free. You can set up the invitation to friends or family members through the Free Stocks link in the main side menu. Robinhood offers various types of stocks in this giveaway, including both popular and expensive stocks like AAPL and less expensive ones.
Account Info - From the full side menu, tap Account to pull up the Account Info screen. There you’ll see a breakdown of your portfolio in terms of stock and cash. Scroll down for information about your buying power, your other holdings, and more. Close the screen with the green X icon in the upper left corner.
Robinhood Gold - Clicking on the Robinhood Gold link from the full side menu screen will bring you here. Robinhood Gold is a paid service, starting at $6 a month, that offers premium features not found on the basic app. Tap Get Started if you want to set up a Robinhood Gold account. Close the screen with the gold X icon in the upper left corner.
Day Trade - Now back to the Account Info screen. Here you’ll scroll down on the Account Info screen for details on your day trade history. (As the app explains, a day trade is “the purchase and sale of the same stock on the same day.”) You’ll also find links to Account Statements and Tax Documents if you scroll down. Scroll back up to access portfolio and holdings information or tap X to return to the main screen.
Pattern Day Trade Protection - Users who are identified as pattern day traders may have restrictions placed on their accounts, such as a requirement that they maintain balances of $25,000 or more. If you occasionally make day trades but don’t want to risk being restricted, you can set up Pattern Day Trade Protection. Read more about day trading by clicking on the Learn About Day Trading link.
Statements - Toward the bottom of the Account Info screen, you’ll find a link to Account Statements. These statements are generated periodically to reflect the balance in your account, and they’re a useful way of tracking your investments and portfolio over time. Because the account created for this walkthrough was brand new, there weren’t any back statements to view. Tap Back to return to the Account Info screen.
Tax Docs - Another link toward the bottom of the Account Info screen that you may find helpful is Tax Docs. Clicking on it takes you to the Tax Docs screen for your pertinent tax information. Note that tax documents won’t appear here until the February after you make a stock sale.
Banking Menu - Back on the full side menu, click on the Banking link to see a separate Banking menu. This is the place to go to transfer funds from your bank to your Robinhood account or vice versa. You can also set up automatic deposits with the corresponding link. Tap Linked Accounts to change the bank account(s) tied to Robinhood.
History - The History link from the full side menu will show you all of the transfers and orders associated with your account. As you become more active with your account and the number of items on the History screen grows, you can use the Filter tool in the upper right corner to help locate particular transactions.
Settings - The Settings option also appears on the full side menu. Because Robinhood is quite streamlined, there aren’t a huge number of settings to play with. You can toggle between a touch ID and a PIN code for added security for your account, or you can add a two-factor authentication procedure. Change your notifications with the link below that and make adjustments to your profile or to your account with the links toward the bottom of the screen. Tap Log Out when you’re ready to exit.
Search Bar - The easiest way to look for a particular stock to view or trade is with the search bar. Tapping on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of the main screen will pull up an empty screen with a search bar at the top. Begin to type a stock symbol into the bar, and a list of stocks and companies will appear below. Tap on any of those to view the corresponding stock-detail screen.
Stock Detail - Once your account is fully functional, you can view an augmented Stock Detail screen. Simply tap on any stock symbol you see on the main screen or in the search bar to view the details for that company. As with the limited-view stock-detail screen, this screen shows you the latest trade price for the stock in question as well as recent changes. You can adjust the time frame of the chart by tapping on the choices immediately below it. To initiate a trade, use the appropriate buttons at the bottom of the screen.
Buy - Tapping Buy on the Stock Detail screen will bring you here. The Order Types link in the upper right corner allows you to specify the terms of the purchase. You can input the number of shares you’d like to buy using the number pad. If you change your mind and want to cancel the order, tap the X in the upper left corner.
Order Type - Tapping on the Order Types link from the Buy screen will pull up a menu with four types of orders: Market, Limit, Stop Loss, and Stop Limit. Tapping on an order type will pull up a corresponding screen. You can return to the Buy screen by tapping on the X in the upper left corner of the screen.
Limit Price - Limit Price, accessed from the Order Type screen, lets you specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a share of the stock in question. You’ll see the current price in green below the empty box. Use the number pad at the bottom of the screen to set your limit price. To return to the Order Type screen, tap on the button in the upper left corner.
Stop Price - You can initiate a trade as a market order on the Stop Price screen by inputting a price above the current price (listed in green). This will convert your order into a standard market order. If you don’t want to initiate a Stop Price trade, just click on the Order Type link in the upper left corner to go back a screen. This is also the easiest way to return to the main Buy screen.
Swipe up to submit - Once you’ve decided on your type of trade and input the appropriate information, including the number of shares and/or price, the Robinhood app will take you to the Confirm Order screen. Here you’ll have a chance to review your order one last time before finalizing. You can find additional information in the Order Summary box or swipe up on the screen to submit your order. Changed your mind? Use the Edit button to move back a step.
News List - As indicated earlier in this walkthrough, Robinhood doesn’t have a dedicated news section. However, from the main Stock Detail screen, you can scroll down below the charts and price information for a list of recent news stories pertaining to that company. Tap on any story to read it in full.
Stats - Scroll even farther down the Stock Detail screen for statistics on that stock. These include open, high, and low price points, as well as 52-week-high and -low figures. You can also see the volume, market cap for the company, and more. Below the Stats list is information on the volatility of that stock.
Performance History - Robinhood provides charts of past performance for all of the stocks on its platform. You can adjust the time frame of a chart by using the choices beneath it. Tap on the chart itself and hold your finger down to pull up additional information. Slide your finger along the length of the chart, and the app will update the screen to show performance data for a particular day or time.
Help Menu - Clicking on the Help link in the full side menu will access the Help Menu. There you’ll have the option of visiting the Help Center or using Contact Support for specific questions. You can also view Robinhood Terms for additional legal information about the brokerage and your account. Return to the full side menu by tapping on the X.
Help Center - The Help Center has useful information about various parts of the platform. This is where to go if you’re looking for assistance with trading, banking, or transferring funds, or if you’d like more details about Robinhood Gold. The Help Center also has guides on how to use the app, information about Robinhood as a company, and a link for inviting friends and family to sign up in exchange for free shares.
Create Ticket - If you can’t find the answers to your questions in the Help Center, tap on the chat icon in the upper right corner of that screen to create a help ticket. This is an email-like message form that you can use to communicate with the Robinhood team.
Support - Have a support-related issue with your account that isn’t answered in the Help Center? Click on the Support link in the main Help Menu. Then choose the relevant category, such as Trading, Banking, or Report a Bug.
Contact Customer Service - Clicking on the Contact Support link in the main Help Menu will pull up a separate email-like message screen. Type in a description of what you’d like help with, and a representative from Robinhood’s customer service should get back to you with assistance. Tap Send in the upper right corner when you’re done, or tap Cancel in the upper left corner to go back without completing the contact form.