You Can Get Free Money From These Online Brokerages. Here’s How to Get It and Start Investing

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When you’re signing up for a new investment account, you have dozens of options to choose from. And it’s not uncommon for online brokers to create incentives to make their platform stand out amongst the rest. One of the ways they do that is through welcome and referral bonuses.

Online brokerages make investing accessible to everybody. You deposit the money you want to invest, and you tell the brokerage firm what to buy. Nowadays, just simply saving your money is not enough due to rising costs and inflation. To really grow wealth, investing your money in the stock market is a surefire way to beat inflation. Many of these online brokerages have no minimum deposit to get started, and many offer free tools and resources to help you get started. 

To help you find your next brokerage firm, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite investing sign-up and referral bonuses. We’ve also shared a few tips to help you make the most of the bonuses you earn.

Current Investing Welcome Bonuses

Bonuses can come in a variety of forms, including flat-rate bonuses when you fund your account, free stock up to a certain value, or a bonus that’s based on the amount you deposit into your new brokerage account.

“It’s very common for investing welcome bonuses to have tiered payouts – the more cash you deposit or transfer in, the more you can earn,” said Matt Bundrick, the cofounder of BankBonus.com.

Investing sign-up bonuses are fairly common, and you can find them with many different brokerage firms. Below we’ve rounded up our favorites.

Pro Tip

The welcome or referral bonus is just one factor to consider when signing up for an investment platform. You should also consider fees, investments available, the user-friendliness of the platform, and other factors.

Fidelity

The popular brokerage firm Fidelity (and these experts’ favorite online broker) offers a simple sign-up bonus when you open a taxable brokerage account, cash management account, Roth IRA, or traditional IRA. You’ll get a flat bonus of $100, and all you have to do is deposit at least $50 in your account when you sign up.

Fidelity also offers a sign-up bonus for its Fidelity Youth Account, which is an account where your teen can save, spend, and invest. The bonus is $50, but you’ll also need to have a Fidelity account for your teen to be eligible.

Ally Invest

Ally Invest has one of the most impressive welcome bonuses on the market, and you’ll be eligible when you open an Ally Invest Self-Directed account.

Ally’s sign-up bonus is a tiered one, meaning the bonus you receive is based on the amount you deposit into your account after signing up. Ally’s thresholds for each bonus level are quite high, meaning it’s difficult to achieve the maximum bonus. But if you have a large amount to deposit, you’re eligible for a higher sign-up bonus than you’ll find with other brokerages. 

Here’s what you can earn:

  • $100 bonus when you deposit between $10,000 and $24,900
  • $250 bonus when you deposit between $25,000 and $99,900
  • $300 bonus when you deposit between $100,000 and $249,900
  • $600 bonus when you deposit between $250,000 and $499,900k
  • $1,200 bonus when you deposit between $500,000 and $999,900
  • $2,000 bonus when you deposit between $1 million and $1.99 million
  • $3,000 bonus when you deposit at least $2 million

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab has one of the most popular sign-up bonuses on the market, but there’s just one catch: you’re only eligible for the bonus if you sign up with a referral link from a friend or family member.

Like Ally Invest, Schwab has a tiered bonus structure that allows you to earn between $100 and $1,000 when you sign up and fund your brokerage account. Here’s what you can earn:

  • $100 when you deposit between $25,000 and $49,900
  • $300 when you deposit between $50,000 and $99,999
  • $500 when you deposit between $100,000 and $499,900
  • $1,000 when you deposit at least $500,000+

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade is another investment platform where you can earn a generous sign-up bonus, but only when you sign up from a friend’s referral bonus. The company’s sign-up bonus is structured similarly to others, where bonus amounts are tiered based on the amount you initially deposit into your account. Here’s what you can earn:

  • $100 when you deposit between $25,000 and $49,999
  • $300 when you deposit between $50,000 and $99,999
  • $500 when you deposit between $100,000 and $499,999
  • $1,000 when you deposit at least $500,000

Current Investing Referral Bonuses

Another way you can earn bonuses from your brokerage firm is by referring other friends to sign up and start investing. Referral bonuses aren’t as common as sign-up bonuses, but can be a way for both you and the friends you refer to earn a bit of extra money to invest, either when they sign up for or fund their account.

“Sometimes the sign-up is enough, other times that new customers will also need to fund their account with a certain amount to count,” Bundrick said. “You’ll see language like, ‘Refer a friend and you’ll both receive $50 when they make their first deposit.’”

SoFi Invest

SoFi Invest offers a referral bonus that allows both you and the friend you refer to earn extra money in your brokerage account. To earn the bonus, share your referral link with a friend. If they open an account and deposit at least $100 within two weeks, you’ll both get a referral bonus.

Through the SoFi referral program, as the referrer, you will get $50 in random or mystery stock into your account. The friend you refer will get $25 of a stock of their choice.

One downside of SoFi’s referral bonus over some of other brokerages is that you can’t choose what stock or fund to invest your bonus into. Instead, you’ll receive whatever random mystery stock the company chooses. That being said, the $50 value still makes it worth the referral if you’re already a SoFi Invest customer.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance allows you and a friend to both earn a flat-rate bonus when you refer them to the site.

“M1 Finance’s referral program is great for entry-level investors,” Bundrick. “They provide both the referrer and referee with $50 after completing a $100 minimum deposit.”

As soon as a friend signs up through your link and deposits at least $100, you’ll both get your money. If they’ve opened an individual retirement account (IRA), they must deposit $500 for you to get the bonus. Then your bonus will appear in your account within as little as one week.

Acorns

Acorns offers a simple referral program that allows customers to earn anywhere from $5 to $1,000 for referring friends and family.

The basic Acorns referral program allows both you and the friend you refer to get $5 in your account. But the company frequently runs bonuses that allow you to earn significantly more when you refer multiple friends. For example, the company’s February 2022 referral bonuses included $300 for referring two friends, $600 for referring three friends, and $1,000 for referring five friends.

“This is great for young and first-time investors who are looking to score several hundred dollars with minimal cash and effort,” Bundrick said.

Betterment

If you’re a customer of the popular robo-advisor Betterment, you can get free investment management services by referring friends and family. Each time you refer a friend, you’ll get $5,000 of assets managed free for one year. Betterment allows you to earn this referral bonus for up to five friends.

So how much is this bonus really worth?

Betterment charges a management fee of 0.25% per year. With $5,000 of free assets under management, the referral bonus is worth $12.50. But if you take advantage of all five referrals, you’ll save yourself up to $62.50 in management fees.

While free management is great for robo-advisor users, the big downside of this referral bonus is that it isn’t worth as much as some of the others on the market, especially since you can only stack five referrals per year.

How To Maximize Bonuses

While you won’t get rich from investing welcome and referral bonuses, it can be a great way to boost your portfolio. And there are a few things you can do to maximize your bonuses even more.

First, because many platforms have tiered bonus structures for their sign-up bonuses, it’s important to pay attention to the different levels. The goal is generally to get the highest bonus possible.

“Investors, particularly those with large amounts of cash or transfers, should definitely pay attention to the tiers if they’re trying to maximize bonuses,” Bundrick said. “If that’s the goal, then it’s best to deposit the minimum amount required to earn that tier.”

In general, you’ll get the most bang for your buck by depositing all of your funds into a single account. However, you can do the math and compare different offers to see if you can maximize rewards by signing up for more than one brokerage account.

However, getting the highest bonus isn’t always the most important factor, especially if it means sacrificing lower fees or other features you want from a broker.

Investing Your Bonus

Once you’ve earned your welcome or referral bonus, you’re left with the decision of how to invest it. In some cases, a broker will pay your bonus in the form of a specific stock, but in most cases, it’s simply a deposit into your account that you can invest however you want.

In general, there are two different approaches you could take when investing your brokerage firm bonus. First, invest your bonus just as you would other funds in your portfolio: with a long-term goal in mind.
“In my opinion, the smart thing to do is to reinvest their bonus in step with the rest of their portfolio,” Bundrick said. “I’m an index investor, so I’d put it into an S&P 500 fund.”