Firstrade ReviewOpen an Account
Easy-to-use website; straight-forward client-side navigation.
X-Stream real-time watch list software only allows 20 stocks max; platform lacks quality research tools; extra fees for penny stocks and positions greater than 5,000 shares.
Investors seeking a simple way to trade.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2013 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
|9th||Commissions & Fees|
|N/R||Platforms & Tools|
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
With its $6.95 trades and a website that provides a little bit of everything for everyone, Firstrade puts up a respectable fight with the leaders in the industry. The question is, however, does that make them a legitimate consideration to park an investment portfolio? Or is Firstrade a broker not worth the trouble?
This review will break down the facts and reveal the answer.
Commissions & Fees
When it comes to trades, Firstrade keeps things simple, offering investors flat-fee stock trades for $6.95 each. Options trades run $6.95 + $.75 per contract.
On the equities side, Firstrade competes most closely with Scottrade, whose trades run $7 per trade or $.05 more per. And for options trading, it is no coincidence that TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Charles Schwab and Fidelity all charge $.75 per contract, plus their normal base fee.
Firstrade has the advantage with mutual funds, charging less than its big brother competitors. However, matched up against discount brokers such as TradeKing and OptionsHouse, Firstrade is right in line.
Lastly, Firstrade does offer 10 commission-free ETFs, which is a plus. Unfortunately though, this is not many when compared to Fidelity, ETRADE or TD Ameritrade, which all offer more than 100.
|Mutual Funds ($)||$9.95||$17.00||$9.95||$15.00||$49.99|
As far as research goes, Firstrade's offering is strongest with stocks, while ETFs and mutual funds research lags. The depth of coverage overall is below average, however, when compared to other brokers that charge similar commissions.
Firstrade offers one third-party research report for stocks, and none for ETFs or mutual funds. Scottrade, which charges just $.05 more per trade, provides its clients with three third-party research reports for stocks, one for ETFs and one for mutual funds. Lastly, pay just $1 more per trade and investors can have access to the 13 third-party research reports offered by Fidelity for equities alone.
Even discount broker competitor TradeKing Group, which charges only $4.95 per trade, has a deeper research offering. Compare the two head-to-head, and the thoroughness of TradeKing's ETFs and mutual funds research is superior, while the equities research is arguably much closer.
All in all, no matter how the comparisons are drawn up, Firstrade fails to provide a quality research offering for the price it charges per trade.
Ease of Use
If there is one area where Firstrade shines, however, with its research, tools and website in general, it is in the category of ease-of-use.
Firstrade's website is not only well designed, but also easy to navigate. It just works. The primary navigation menu is well labeled and takes advantage of primary links with sub-navigation below, a proven format that yields happy clients. The broker also boasts a site-wide quote bar with real-time streaming quotes. Top that off with a well laid out research area, and it is a recipe for success.
Even the client dashboard is well constructed, clean and customizable. Customizable dashboards are becoming increasingly popular with clients, offering them a clear view of everything important to them upon login. While Firstrade's client dashboard is no ETRADE 360 (our personal favorite on the web), the broker made an effort.
Firstrade does not offer a desktop-based platform. Instead, its website and Java-based X-Stream Watchlist tool make up its platform. This leaves Firstrade at a disadvantage when trying to attract even remotely active traders, as there is a distinct lack of depth on the whole.
Charting, for example, is okay for a website, but without a platform, the lack of customizations becomes very noticeable. Less than 20 technical indicators are available, and even basic customizations cannot be made to any of them. Also not available: virtual trading, chart notes, trading off the chart or advanced drawing tools such as Fibonacci retracements.
For clients who can't live without Level II quotes or more advanced charting, Firstrade does offer an X-Stream Level II service for $19.95 per month. However, we advise saving the money.
On the mobile trading front, Firstrade offers a basic iPhone app but not an iPad or Android app as of yet.
While Firstrade offers a well-organized and easy-to-use website, the broker lacks the depth to compete with not only the big full-service brokers, but also those that are nearly identical in price.
Until Firstrade can improve its research and develop an active trader platform, investors will have a hard time making the broker their official home for investments.
Compare Firstrade to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$6.95||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$6.95||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$16.95||Options Exercise Fee|
|$16.95||Options Assignment Fee|
|$9.95||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$26.95||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Bond Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Treasury Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Certificate of Deposit (CD) Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone Trade Fee|
|$0.00||IRA Annual Fee|
|$50.00||IRA Closure Fee|
|$26.95||Forced-Margin Sellout Fee|
|$35.00||Returned ACH Fee|
|$0.00||Returned Wire Transfer Fee|
|$100.00||Stock Certificate Processing Fee|
|$0.00||Stock Certificate Delivery Fee|
|$2.00||Paper Statement Fee|
|$1.00||Paper Confirmation Fee|
|$30.00||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$40.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
Commission NotesFirstrade is another broker that offers flat fee commissions for both stocks and options. Alongside regular ETFs, the broker also offers 10 commission free ETFs. NASDAQ level II streaming quotes can be purchase for $19.95 per month.
Stock Trades - $6.95 flat fee per trade. For stocks under $1.00 and trades over 5,000 shares, the broker charges an extra .005 cent per share.
Options Trades - $6.95 + $.75 per contract. Excercise & assignments are $16.95.
Mutual Funds - All mutual funds cost $9.95 per trade. Additional fees may apply depending on the fund.
Firstrade was reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer on 2013-02-19 with an overall rating of 3 Stars.
2013 Review Results - Firstrade was rated 4.5 stars for Ease of Use. Read the 2013 Broker Review.
Misc. Account Information
|Apex Clearing||Clearing Firm|
|10||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|0||No. of Retail Locations|
|5938||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|507||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|1||No. of 3rd Party Research Report Providers|
|2||Max. No. of Legs (Complex Options)|
|No Minimum Deposit|
|No Maintenance Fees|
|Online Trader Community|
|Live Chat Support|
|24/7 Customer Support|
|Long Term Trading|
|Credit Card Accounts|
|Debit Card Accounts|
Trading Platform Features
|Web Browser Platform|
|Windows Desktop Platform|
|Mac Desktop Platform|
Active Trading Features
|Direct routing offered to clients|
|Broker receives payments for order flow|
|Broker internalizes trades|
|Clients receive rebates for adding liquidity|