menu
Open an account today. Get Started
Overall

While Firstrade lacks a feature-rich platform, the broker maintains a clean website and offers its clients the basics to maintain a long-term portfolio.

Commissions & Fees
Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
View More
Best in Class
  • Ease of Use
arrow_drop_down arrow_drop_up

By Blain Reinkensmeyer on February 16th, 2016 | Last updated: December 2nd, 2016

Dislikes
  • Website lacks quality trading tools
  • Weak options capabilities
  • X-Stream tool extremely outdated, with limited functionality
Special Offer Trade free for 30 days + get up to $2500 - Learn More


Firstrade Review

February 16th, 2016: This Review has been updated to reflect the latest research and results from the 2016 Review.

With its $6.95 flat 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. However, we must ask whether that makes them a legitimate choice 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 tends to keep things simple, offering investors flat-fee stock trades for $6.95 each. Options trades run at $6.95, plus $.75 per contract. Stocks less than $1 also come with higher fees.

On the equities side, Firstrade competes most closely with Scottrade, whose trades run at $7 per trade or $.05 more per trade. 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 a lot compared to Charles Schwab, ETRADE, or TD Ameritrade, which all offer more than 100.

FirstradeScottradeTradeKingTD AmeritradeFidelity
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$6.95$7.00$4.95$9.99$7.95
Options Base Fee$6.95$7.00$4.95$9.99$7.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.75$0.70$0.65$0.75$0.75
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$9.95$17.00$9.95$49.99$49.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$19.95$32.00$20.00$44.99$32.95
Commissions & Fees 3/5 2/5 4/5 1/5 2/5
Overall 3.5/5 4/5 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5

Research

As far as research goes, Firstrade significantly improved its experience for clients after it migrated to Morningstar as its primary provider in 2013. Morningstar is the most popular research provider in the industry, and for good reason – its quality data and unique variables are top notch.

Under Morningstar, Firstrade offers its clients thorough research for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. Firstrade extended its offering by adding a new Video Commentary section in 2015, which provides market analysis from Morningstar. Having said that, however, Firstrade still has room for improvement.

Firstrade stock quote

Firstrade offers only 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. See:  Best Brokers for Research.

Ease of Use

One area in which Firstrade shines is in 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 and a quick trade ticket built in. Top that off with a well laid out research area, and it is a recipe for success.

Firstrade Quote Bar

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 Trade Source from Charles Schwab (our personal favorite on the web), the broker has done a good job.

Logging in now also a straightforward and secure process. Our one gripe with Firstrade’s website used to be the login process, which took a turn for the worrisome in 2013 when the broker released its new state-of-the-art “Security Ring” PIN login. The patented method for entering your account pin was tedious, not intuitive, and more or less annoying. Heeding our advice, Firstrade updated its login PIN to match a standard keypad found at your everyday ATM.

Finally, Firstrade really impressed us in 2015 with a completely revamped online account application. The new application is entirely mobile friendly with clean, easy-to-read instructions alongside a seamless ACH funding process at the end. In fact, depending on your bank, the traditional micro deposits to establish the account link are not required.

Platforms & Tools

Firstrade does not offer a desktop-based platform. Instead, its website and Java-based X-Stream Watch list tool make up its platform. This leaves Firstrade at a massive disadvantage when trying to attract even remotely active traders, as there is a distinct lack of depth overall.

Charting, for example, is okay for a website, but without a platform, the lack of customizations becomes very noticeable. While 31 technical indicators are available, the industry average is over 80, and unfortunately, only the most basic customizations can be made to any of them. Also not available: virtual trading, chart notes, trading off the chart, viewing greeks in option chains, options analysis, or sound alerts. The list is long, especially in the options functionality area. See: Best Brokers for Platforms & Tools.

Firstrade stock chart

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. The tool runs off Java, language most modern browsers, including Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, don’t support. We had to load up Mozilla Firefox just to run it; needless to say, it’s not worth the hassle, even for the non-paid version.

Firstrade X-stream

Mobile Trading

On the mobile trading front, Firstrade offers an iPhone and Android smartphone app, but not an iPad or Android tablet app. Despite the fact that Firstrade’s iPhone app does not support all devices, our test left us fairly impressed, particularly with its ease of use.

Thanks to updates in 2015, Firstrade’s mobile app now supports Touch ID (fingerprint login) and real-time streaming quotes throughout the app. Options chains were cleaned up and charting was also improved in 2015 with the addition of 19 technical studies. Thanks to these improvements, Firstrade took its mobile experience from just, “ok” to “good” in our 2016 Review.

Firstrade mobile stock quote

Looking ahead at 2016, our wish list for Firstrade’s mobile experience is that it adds alert functionality, the ability to view charts in horizontal landscape mode, and mutual funds trading support. See: Best Brokers for Mobile Trading.

Other Notes

Firstrade’s customer service is entirely hit or miss. Our testing found that Firstrade’s phone support was very poor, finishing 12th out of 13 brokers in our 2016 Review. However, Firstrade’s email support finished second overall and live chat support came in at a respectable sixth place. See: Best Brokers for Customer Service.

Closing Thoughts

While Firstrade offers a well-organized website and quality research, the broker lacks the depth to compete with the big full-service brokers. The price paid per trade simply does not match the value delivered by its key competitors.

With that said, for clients who are looking for an all-round easy-to-use broker with a very “homey” type feeling, Firstrade could be a great fit.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format six years ago which is respected by broker executives as the most thorough in the industry. Currently maintaining funded accounts with more than a dozen different US regulated online brokers, he's executed thousands of trades through his career and enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

Best in Class

2016
 9

Overall
  • Ease of Use
2015
11

Overall
  • Ease of Use
2014
12

Overall
  • Ease of Use
2013
11

Overall
  • Ease of Use

Commissions & Fees

Commission Notes

Firstrade 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, the broker charges the lesser of: A. $6.95 + $0.005 x numbers of shares and B. Share price x numbers of shares x 5%.

Options Trades - $6.95 + $.75 per contract. Exercise & assignments are $14.95.

Mutual Funds - All no-load mutual funds cost $9.95 per trade. There is no commission for load-funds and NTF (no transaction fee) funds. Additional fees may apply depending on the fund.




Trade Commissions Breakdown

Stock Trade Fee (flat)* $6.95
Stock Trade Fee (per share)* N/A
Options Base Fee* $6.95
Options Per Contract Fee* $0.75
Options Exercise Fee $16.95
Options Assignment Fee $16.95
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $9.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $19.95
Minimum Deposit $0.00

Margin Rates

Under $24,999.99 7.75%
$25,000.00 to 49,999.99 7.50%
$50,000.00 to $99,999.99 7.00%
$100,000.00 to $249,999.99 6.50%
$250,000.00 to $499,999.99 6.00%
$500,000.00 to $999,999.99 5.00%
Above $1,000,000.00 4.50%

Miscellaneous Fees

Bond Trade Fee Varies
Treasury Trade Fee Varies
IRA Annual Fee $0.00
IRA Closure Fee $50.00
Returned ACH Fee $50.00
Returned Wire Fee $50.00
Stock Certificate Processing Fee $300.00
Stock Certificate Delivery Fee $300.00
Paper Statement Fee $5.00
Paper Confirmation Fee $3.00
Domestic Wire Fee $30.00
International Wire Fee $50.00


Account Features

Offering of Investments

Advisor Services help
No
Bonds (Corporate) help
Yes
Bonds (Municipal) help
Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) help
Yes
CDs help
Yes
Clearing Firm help
Apex Clearing
Commission Free ETFs help
12
Direct Market Routing - Stocks help
No
Direct Market Routing - Options help
No
DRIPs help
Yes
# of Easy to Borrow Stocks help
4200
Forex Trading help
No
Futures Trading help
No
Member FINRA help
Yes
Member SIPC help
Yes
Mutual Funds help
Yes
Mutual Funds (Load) help
7335
Mutual Funds (No Load) help
4928
Mutual Funds (NTF) help
473
Mutual Funds (Total) help
12191
Mutual Funds Phone Trades help
Yes
Mutual Funds Web Trades help
Yes
No Fee IRAs help
Yes
No Inactivity Fees help
Yes
No Minimum Deposit help
Yes
Options Exercising (Phone) help
No
Options Exercising (Web) help
No
Options Trading help
Yes
Options Trading (Mini) help
No
Options Trading (Weekly) help
Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets help
Yes
Stock Trading help
Yes

Customer Service

Phone Support help
Yes
Email Support help
Yes
Live Chat (Current Clients) help
Yes
24/7 Support help
No

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform (Windows) help
No
Desktop Platform (Mac) help
No
Web Platform help
Yes
Active Trading Platform help
NA
Auto Investing help
No
Charting - Display Corporate Events help
Yes
Charting - Drawing Tools help
7
Charting - Notes help
No
Heat Mapping help
Yes
Ladder Trading help
No
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks help
No
Level 2 Quotes - Options help
No
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time help
No
Option Analysis - P&L Charts help
No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Email help
Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Sound help
No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Text SMS help
No
Streaming Time & Sales help
Yes
Streaming TV help
No
Trade Hot Keys help
No
Virtual Trading help
No
Watch Lists - Streaming Real-time Quotes help
Yes

Research

Research - ETFs help
Yes
Research - Mutual Funds help
Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB help
Yes
Research - Fixed Income help
No
Equity Research - Research Reports help
1
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings help
Yes
ETF Research - Morningstar Style Box help
Yes
ETF Research - Research Reports help
Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports help
No
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown help
Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis help
Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings help
Yes
Screener - Stocks help
Yes
Screener - ETFs help
Yes
Screener - Mutual Funds help
Yes
Screener - Options help
No
Screener - Bonds help
No

Education

Has Education - Stocks help
Yes
Has Education - ETFs help
No
Has Education - Options help
Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds help
No
Has Education - Fixed Income help
No
Has Education - Retirement help
Yes
Investor Dictionary help
Yes
Client Webinars help
No
Live Seminars help
No
Videos help
Yes
Retirement Calculator help
Yes
Community Forums help
No

Mobile Trading

iPhone App help
Yes
iPad App help
No
Apple Watch App help
No
Android App help
Yes
Android Tablet App help
No
Mobile Site help
Yes
Quotes (Real-time) help
Yes
Quotes (Streaming Real-time) help
Yes
Watch List Syncing help
Yes
Market Movers (Top Gainers) help
No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Push Notifications help
No
Customizable Homescreen help
No
Stream Live TV help
No
Trading - Stocks help
Yes
Trading - Stocks (After-Hours) help
Yes
Trading - Simple Options help
Yes
Trading - Complex Options help
No

Banking

Member FDIC help
No
Checking Accounts help
Yes
Savings Accounts help
No
Debit Cards help
Yes
Credit Cards help
No
Mortgage Loans help
No
Mobile Check Deposit help
No
ATM Fee Reimbursement help
No
No Fee Banking help
No
Retail Locations help
2

Active Trading

Receives Payment for Order Flow (Equities) help
Yes
Client Liquidity Rebates help
No
Financial Information Forum (FIF) Participant help
No

Compare Firstrade

Select one or more of these brokers to compare against Firstrade.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/16/2016 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.




arrow_drop_upBack to top