When we tried to open a Jellifin account, one of the first things we noticed is you need a credit card to sign up. We have over a dozen brokerage accounts in the US, and NONE of them require a credit card to complete your application. With Jellifin, you can download the mobile trading app, but you can’t login and test it out without submitting your credit card info.
To us, this is pretty sleazy. Brokerage account applications sometimes take several days or weeks to open and verify. In this time, you will have already paid your $9.99 monthly dues. Typically, in the brokerage world, if there are monthly recurring fees (for market data or trading platforms), the total monthly fee is simply deducted from the clients account balance. This way, the fee doesn’t begin until your account is funded. Using a credit card to pay a monthly fee for a brokerage account is simply weird.
What is even weirder about Jellifin is the lack of transparency with the service it advertises. In the Apple App store, Jellifin literally advertises itself as a broker to “trade without fees.” However, not only will Jellifin charge you a fee of $9.99 per month to trade, but you will still have to pay the exchange fees for every options contract, stock, and ETF that you buy and sell. For reference, index options contract fees can be as high as $0.51 for SPX options, some of the most popular index options in the world.
Another reason why the monthly fee paid via credit card is unscrupulous is that it would be very easy to forget about the $9.99 per month fee, even after you close your account. Since your brokerage account is not connected to your credit card. Furthermore, it is suspicious that Jellifin recently reduced their fee from $20 per month to $9.99.
Why Free Online Brokers Failed
We can’t forget about the infamous “free” broker Loyal3. Never heard of it? That’s because Loyal3’s lifespan was very short lived. It tried to offer free online trading and ultimately failed.
Robinhood, which is not our favorite broker by a long-shot, has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funding and had millions of active users that should keep the lights on, at least for the foreseeable future.
The same cannot be said for Jellifin. The whole idea behind offering trades for free is actually based on a dirty, hidden premise. The idea is to take the client orders and essentially sell them to the highest bidder, i.e., sell them to third-party market makers and liquidity providers, who only fill the orders if it’s to their direct benefit. Both the broker and the market maker in this situation do not care about giving the client the best executable price possible. The broker cares about receiving a rebate from the exchange/liquidity provider it directs the order to, and the exchange cares about profiting from the spread. The retail trader’s interests are not included.
From the retail trader’s perspective, the differences in order execution by brokers engaging in this practice are virtually imperceptible. Perhaps orders will be filled for pennies or fractions of pennies at worse prices than they otherwise would have been filed at. Most traders never notice, and are not cognizant that there would have been a difference. However, the market makers and liquidity providers notice, because when they lock in profits of pennies tens of millions of times each day, it adds up. This is how firms like Virtu Financial can make billions of dollars and go several years without having a single losing day in the market.
Jellifin App Reviews by Current Users
These are some of the very alarming (and recent) reviews from the app store:
“A few problems that I noticed within my first day of trading are that the prices for both options and stocks is way behind what actual market prices are, order execution times are way too slow; and as soon as I buy and sell a stock buying power is not instantly returned to me, I understand that there is a settlement time for funds but almost ALL other trading platforms/apps restore buying power immediately after a stock is sold.”
This should be enough to make all traders run for the hills. From Jellifins site, it appears that market data is provided by IEX, and brokerage services are provided by Third Party Trade. IEX is it’s own exchange, which has tried to neutralize the playing field among retail traders and algorithmic market makers and liquidity providers. Ironically, IEX is now controversially engaged in selling orders to the highest bidder. Since IEXis it’s own exchange, the prices on IEX can theoretically be different than the prices on the NYSE, ARCA, or NASDAQ.
“They have a lot of glitches. I had an option pop in the morning, tried to sell it, and I couldn’t.”
Again, this is a scary review. Since Jellifin isn’t actually executing the trades, they are just responsible for building a front-end application that connects to Third Party Technologies’ API, the main job Jellifin has is to provide a mobile trading app that works and works without latency. As evidenced by this review and others like it, it seems Jellifin is struggling to do this.
Jellifin Doesn’t Offer Free Trades
The fact that Jellifin doesn’t actually offer free trades is quite interesting. Unlike Robinhood, Jellifin doesn’t offer trades for free. To open an account, you have to enter your credit card number and agree to be billed $9.99 per month.
So for $9.99 per month (which is typically around 20 trading days), you get unlimited free stock and options trades. However, this arguably is a lousy deal, depending on how much you trade.
Traders typically fall into one of two categories:
- Very active (10+ trades a week)
- Casual (1 trade a week)
Jellifin misses the boat on both of these groups. For the very active traders, who making their living by trading in the market everyday, they need the best software, price execution, and the ability to trade different assets unrestricted. Jellifin doesn’t offer any of these things. For the infrequent traders, Jellifin doesn’t economically make sense.
With tastyworks, for example, options trades are just $1.00 per contract, and all closing trades are $0.00. The effective per-contract rate here is $0.50. This means you can trade up to 20 contracts a month with tastytrade and still pay the same price as Jellifin.
However, Jellfin doesn’t offer anywhere near the same level of trading software and platforms that tastyworks does. Plus, if you don’t feel like trading one month (perhaps because the market is moving against you and you want to sit on all cash), you will still have to pay $9.99 per month with Jellifin.
Popular Alternatives to Trade Options for Cheap
$4.95 per stock
$4.95 + $0.65 per option
$5 per stock
$1.00 per option
At the end of the day, there are far better online brokers than Jellifin. With the issues of how Jellfing is structured aside, $9.99 per month for unlimited trading isn’t worth having to deal with a brokerage service that might potentially fail.
After reading some posts on Elite Trader, where users were discussing how the owner of Jellifin (its only employee who is not a software engineer) is not registered with any regulatory agencies in the US and was once sued by a credit card company for failing to pay his bill, this only raises more red flags.
After a thorough Jellifin review, we don’t see a compelling argument to use Jellifin. The technology isn’t stellar. It’s not free. Order execution isn’t a priority. There is absolutely no information on what types of options trading strategies are permitted. And above all, Jellifin isn’t even a licensed US broker-dealer.
Our recommendation is to stay away – seriously.