Based in New York, Firsttrade has been around since 1985. But it has only recently become a tier one brokerage firm that is starting to really increase in popularity, mainly due to its competitive rates and a smoother user interface.
Recently, Firstrade migrated to 100% free commissions for both stocks and options, similar to RobinHood and TradeZero. Mutual funds and ETFs are also commission free, meaning this is the cheapest broker available. There are no hidden or ongoing charges, though there are obviously some charges for specific functions. The online discount brokerage has a very transparent pricing structure and a number of bonuses for new users.
As a long-standing brokerage regulated by both the SEC and FINRA, Firstrade is not only cost effective, but also highly secure and trustworthy. Further, Firstrade have highlighted their lightning quick order executions in comparison to other firms. The company claims that orders are executed in 0.068 seconds. They also claim that 99.37% of the firm’s market orders are executed at a price better than the National Best Bid/Offer (NBBO). Execution speed is another area that Firstrade stands out from competing brokers, in tandem with its commission free infrastructure.
Firstrade offers stocks, options, mutual funds, bonds, CDs, and ETFs. There are no FX, cryptocurrencies, future, or Contracts for Difference (‘CFDs’) with this broker.
Firstrade Review Navigation
What can you trade?
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Firstrade are a useful trading platform for stocks, though not the best. They have a margin requirement update window which is very is very useful for volatile stocks. You can also short sell stocks on this platform, a feature which is not available across all platforms. There are no commission on stocks with Firstrade, which is why it is becoming so popular. No commissions, along with no account maintenance or inactivity fees, means that it is an ultra-low cost trading platform.
However, it does cost $19.95 for broker assisted trades. The ability to create watch lists is well designed for traders key an eye on promising stocks. However, Firstrade does lag behind stock offerings in comparison to other brokers. It only covers the US market.
#1 ETF & Commodities
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Firstrade ETFs tracks a number of commodities, as well as the typical stocks dealing with previous metals, oils, gas, and other commodities. Firstrade also has a decent supply of commodity options. It should be borne in mind that commodities are not covered by SIPC, making them a little riskier.
Firstrade Indices Review
Much like its stock offerings, Firstrade does not quite have the comprehensive range of indices in comparison to other brokers. It does have a massive ETF fund offering, consisting of over 2,300 ETFs. They provide over 415 mutual funds, which is about average. Fidelity offers 560 while E-Trade provides 530.
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Firstrade performs excellently in terms of options. Firstrade covers CBOE and other US options exchanges, but does not disclose which ones exactly. They have a fantastic range of tools for analytical insights, creative ideas, charting analysis, economic calendars, heatmaps, profit and loss analysis, etc. They provide an ‘Options Wizard’ which is extremely useful with over 60 technical indicators, strategy checklists, profit/loss simulators, and far more.
What did our traders think after reviewing the key criteria?
Our trading team was very impressed with this online brokerage. They offer the lowest rates out there, with commission free trading and no deposit or withdrawal fees by ACH transfer. It is very hard to beat this, and they are the cheapest of all the online firms. Firstrade is the only broker that offers 0% commission on all mutual funds. What’s more, the platform itself is very easy to use and fully functional, and the applications run smoothly with all the required features.
Firstrade has a 0.1 second execution guarantee for S&P 500 equity market orders. If an order takes longer than a tenth of a second to fill, the commission is waived. From testing on the platform, the orders fill very quickly.
So, what are the disadvantages to this particular provider? For one thing, there is no desktop option. The site and platform are all web-based. As effective as they are, it would be nice to have a desktop option. Firstrade does not offer a solo 401(l) plan unlike many of its competitors.
The mutual fund selection at Firstrade is not huge, but it cannot be described as small either. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Firstrade is that there are no robo-advisor services available. This feature can be seen with most other large brokerages.
Firstrade is an excellent platform for both traders and investors. Day traders might need to use other platforms, but it is ideal for swing traders and active investors. The lack of futures, cryptocurrencies, FX, and contracts for difference is something of a hindrance, coupled with the fact that the list of stocks is limited to the US only.
Firstrade really stands out because of their commission-free structure. Many online brokerages say they are fee free, but come with hidden charges to make up for it. But this is just not the case with Firstrade. They say there are no commission fees, and they mean it. The ability to trade ETFs, mutual funds, stocks, and options for free would not have been thought impossible as little as a decade ago, but is now a reality.
Of course, like all commission-free providers, there are still some charges. It is a commercial platform that has to make money somehow. For trades where the stock share price is under $1, there is a $0.005c (half a cent) surcharge per share for the whole trade order. Mutual funds that are redeemed within a 3-month period will be charged $19.95 for redemption. The sale of less than $500 of a mutual fund will also result in a $19.95 charge. If you want to use a broker to execute a trade over the phone, you have to pay an additional $13. This applies to stocks, ETFs, and options.
IRA conversions and recharacterizations come with a fee of $25. A debit card costs $35 per year, while check writing costs $20 annual fee. These charges are not typical with other brokers. Other fees include Third Party Distribution Notification ($20), DTC Delivery ($50), ACAT Transfer Out ($75), Partial ACAT Transfer Out ($55).
On the plus side, Firstrade does not charge any account maintenance, inactivity, or annual charges, which are practically always seen with other brokerage services.
All major account types are supported with Firstrade. Firstrade allows for international accounts applications from US non-residents. They offer services to citizens of France, Japan, China, Singapore, and the U.K. International accounts must be funded in US dollars and applications must include a completed W-8 BEN tax identification form. It takes 1-3 days to open an account, but there is no demo account feature.
Account opening is digital and user friendly. Firstrade offers the same standard account types that you would find with most U.S. brokers, including taxable accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRA), Roth IRAs, Rollover IRAs, joint accounts, business accounts, and custodial accounts. The standard taxable brokerage account is the one that is most often applied for.
Our review team was more than satisfied with the quality of the Firstrade platform. The platform can be accessed through the website and is rich in analytical features for traders and investors. The Firstrade ‘Navigator’ platform comes with a suite of integrated tools for analysis. Customers can select from a variety of widgets including watch lists, news feeds, scanners, charts, and place them on a customizable workspace.
The charts come with all of the technical indicators that could be expected from a trading tool – Bollinger bands, candle sticks, SMA lines, momentum oscillators, etc. The Navigator platform is perfect for swing traders. In addition to this platform, Firstrade provides an Investor Center for people looking at longer term investments such as retirement goals. There is an education center for people who are new to trading and investing. The Firstrade mobile applications for both IOS and Android are well designed and are excellent on-the-go solutions.
The Firstrade site and platforms are all very smooth and intuitive to use. It is also very functional. The Navigator platform is a one-stop-shop for all trading requirements. With this new Navigator innovation, it’s possible to manage your account, place orders, get market updates and do research, all almost simultaneously in the same interface.
Account opening is easy to complete with Firstrade and approval times are swift. The entire platform is seamless and very well integrated. It is also quite customizable, which is useful for advanced traders. The Firstrade platform allows users to filter for offerings that match their preferred criteria with its helpful screener.
The mobile applications are user-friendly, but they lack two factor authentication (‘2FA’) and you cannot trade mutual funds or bonds through them. Chinese versions of the site are available along with live customer service for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, which is a nice touch and should cater to the growing Chinese market.
Customer support with this brokerage is swift and helpful. They were quick to respond to issues. However, it should be noted that this broker might make it difficult to withdraw funds. This is something that is becoming increasingly common.
Firstrade has no weekend customer service hours. As well as having no weeknight hours,this might be something of a problem. The majority of other brokers provide 24/7 phone service. Such brokers include Merrill Edge, Charles Schwab, and WellsTrade. Firstrade also has no physical branches, while E-Trade has more than thirty. Still, the customer service team are efficient and courteous for the hours that they do operate.
Firstrade customer service can be reached via chat, email or live phone support M-F 8 AM to 6 PM EST. They have a 24/7 AI chatbot named Sammi. Customer service is also available in Chinese.
There are no deposit fees with Firstrade. For deposit, you can use ACH, wire transfer, or check. Credit and debit cards are not accepted with Firstrade, which is something of a letdown but not altogether uncommon in the brokerage industry. ACH transfer takes about 2 business days and there are no withdrawal fees with ACH transfer. It also takes about 2 days to withdraw. However, A debit card facility costs $35 per year, while check writing costs a $20 annual fee.
Firstrade are excellent in terms of special offers. Right now, new customers who deposit over $2,000 can avail of 500 free trades. Cash deposits of $100 are available at $25,000, $200 at $50,000, and $300 at $100,000. It is best to frequently check their home page for the latest promotions.
Regulation and Deposit Protection
Firstrade is a US discount stockbroker regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (‘SEC’) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (‘FINRA’). These are the two largest and most well recognized US regulatory bodies. Firstrade deposits are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (‘SIPC’).
Brokerchooser selected Firstrade as ‘Best broker for Funds’ in 2020, based on in-depth analysis of 57 online brokers that included live testing. This is quite a significant accolade and our review team can understand why this is the case.