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By Julia Glum
July 1, 2021
Close-up of Robinhood app on a phone screen
Money; Shutterstock

When Robinhood filed paperwork Thursday for its long-anticipated initial public offering, the investing app revealed a lot of information about its inner workings — including how much money it makes off of each customer in its ever-expanding user base.

The answer? $137 a year.

That amount only covers the first three months of 2021, and it's annualized, meaning Robinhood analysts generated it by multiplying a March 31 data point by four to get a figure that would represent the whole year. But it's still a significant jump from the $83 in average revenue per user Robinhood was earning in March 2020.

You can probably guess what happened between then and now.

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Robinhood had possibly the biggest pandemic glow-up of us all, thanks to a perfect combination of market volatility, boredom from stay-at-home orders and extra cash from government stimulus checks. According to its SEC filing, it has 18 million funded accounts with nearly $81 billion in them. Its transaction-based revenues ballooned 340% between March 2020 and March 2021.

"Increased interest in personal finance and investing, and several high-profile securities and cryptocurrencies, encouraged an unprecedented number of first-time retail investors to become our users and begin trading on our platform," it wrote in the filing.

On that note: Robinhood makes roughly 80% of its revenue from transactions, with about 40% of its overall revenue stemming from options trades and 26% from stock trades. That means if you only trade stocks, and don't trade that often, chances are Robinhood is earning less than $137 from your account — but more than that from someone else's.

Even so, you should pay close attention. Investing is usually a zero-sum game. Whatever a middle-man like Robinhood earns in fees, usually comes out of your investment returns. Robinhood doesn't charge brokerage commissions. But it does make money from bid-ask spreads, small discrepancies in the difference between prices at which investors buy and sell. Even if you make your stock trades for "free" on platform like Robinhood, these small premiums can put a drag on your returns over time.

Robinhood's IPO filing comes a day after the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, directed it to pay $70 million in fines and restitution for harming customers with misleading information and system outages. It is aiming to debut on the Nasdaq with the symbol "HOOD."

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