Robinhood, TradeStation, SoFi: How 3 online brokers compare for crypto trading

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If you’re not investing in cryptocurrencies yet but you’re curious about the digital coin space, welcome to the crypto-curious club. Gemini, one of the biggest crypto brokers, estimates that 63% of Americans are crypto-curious — a cohort that’s more than four times the size of actual crypto investors.

A variety of reasons could be keeping would-be investors on the sidelines, including discomfort with the idea of investing in a relatively new asset class, warnings about fraud, hacks, or scams, and wild price moves in digital coins. For some people, there’s also a more practical hurdle: The logistics don’t yet justify making the leap from crypto-curious to crypto owner.

That’s because cryptocurrencies aren’t yet available at the institutions where a majority of Americans currently invest, including many workplace retirement accounts or many online brokers. While Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade are among brokers that allow customers to trade bitcoin futures, they have yet to embrace trading the cryptocurrencies themselves.

“I’m still shocked that more of them haven’t gotten there yet,” David Siemer, chief executive officer of Wave Financial, says of the biggest online brokers. Many of these companies are looking to adopt crypto trading — fees are “ridiculously” higher than with stock trading, Siemer says, which helps the brokerages. But it could be several months, at least, before that happens, he says . 

Among the relatively few options available to crypto investors who want access to a broad suite of assets, Robinhood, TradeStation and SoFi Invest may fit the bill. Here’s how they compare:

Robinhood

Robinhood moved the needle for the entire stock trading industry by offering zero commission on trades — a policy which also applies to cryptocurrencies. U.S.-based investors can currently trade seven of the biggest cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, and litecoin. The catch is that unlike some crypto brokers (like Coinbase), Robinhood doesn’t offer a digital wallet or a way to move coins unless they’re sold for U.S. dollars. 

Beyond cryptocurrencies, Robinhood supports buying and selling stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and options contracts. While trading is free, Robinhood makes money by routing orders to high-speed trading firms — a practice that came under  scrutiny as the company prepared for its initial public offering (IPO) over the summer. Robinhood makes the cut on Bankrate’s lists of  both best online brokers and best brokers for crypto trading.

TradeStation

TradeStation offers direct trading of cryptocurrencies with its dedicated TradeStation Crypto platform. Crypto trading isn’t commission free; customers must pay a 0.3% fee if their account balance is less than $100,000 — though rates fall to as low as 0.05% with more than $1 million invested. Only a handful of coins are available, including bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, and litecoin. Tradestation does offer commission-free traders on some equities, equity options and futures trades.

TradeStation doesn’t offer a crypto wallet, though you can deposit and withdraw crypto. This broker offers a fairly unique feature that Gemini does, as well: You can earn interest on crypto holdings. For investors looking for a broad suite of assets for their portfolio, TradeStation also offers stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options and futures many of which come with zero trading commissions. 

StockBrokers.com named TradeStation the best trading platform for trading bitcoin, and NerdWallet has recognized TradeStation Securities as a winner of the 2022 best online broker for stock trading platform and research.

SoFi

While SoFi began as a student loan and refinancing company, it has since expanded into nearly every facet of personal finance — though investing still is relatively new. 

Of the three online brokers on this list, SoFi offers the most options for crypto investors with 30 coins including bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, dogecoin and cardano. Crypto trading isn’t commission free; customers must pay up to 1.25% on all crypto transactions. And like TradeStation, SoFi doesn’t offer a wallet for actually using the coins. However, investors may want to start looking for alternatives to SoFi, after the company received regulatory approval in mid-January to become a national bank  — approval that came with the caveat that it must “not engage in any crypto-asset activities or services.” The deal has not yet been completed.

Beyond cryptos, SoFi Invest has offers a broad array of options, including zero-commission stock and ETF trading, IPO investing, a robo-advisor option, and retirement accounts, not to mention other products like savings and checking accounts, loans (student, home and personal) and a credit card. SoFi Invest lands on The Motley Fool’s best-of lists for both beginning stock trading and cryptocurrencies.

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