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Firstrade Review

Open Account on Firstrade's website
Rank: 9th (of 15)

Firstrade offers $0 stock, ETF, and options trades, and is best known for its easy-to-use website, alongside its Chinese language services. While Firstrade offers Morningstar research and a variety of tools, its overall offering struggles to stand out against household name brands who are also priced at $0.

Top Takeaways for 2020

After spending five months testing 15 of the best online brokers for our 10th Annual Review, here are our top findings on Firstrade:

  • For Chinese-speaking investors, Firstrade is terrific. Firstrade's support for Chinese-speaking customers goes beyond 24/7 customer service. The broker also offers a fully translated customer experience, and foreign customers can easily renew their Form W-8BEN certificates entirely online through the website.
  • While Firstrade's is outdated by current web standards, it's mobile app offers a clean experience thanks to a 2019 redesign, and the website remains easy to use.
  • In our testing, we found that Firstrade trails other $0 industry leaders in multiple areas including, customer service, active trading, research, and mobile trading.

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Overall Summary

FeatureFirstrade
Overall 4 Stars
Commissions & Fees 4.5 Stars
Offering of Investments 4 Stars
Platforms & Tools 2.5 Stars
Research 4 Stars
Education 3 Stars
Mobile Trading 3.5 Stars
Customer Service 3.5 Stars
Ease of Use 5 Stars

--> View Firstrade Features List

Commissions & Fees

Rank: 8th (of 15)

When it comes to trades, Firstrade keep things simple, offering investors free stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options trades. Like other $0 brokers, to make money, Firstrade’s order routing relies on payment for order flow (PFOF).

Firstrade pricing summary:

FeatureFirstrade
Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade)$0.00
ETF Trade Fee$0.00
Options Base Fee$0.00
Options Per Contract Fee$0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$0.00
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$19.95
Commission-Free ETFsall

Platforms & Tools

Rank: 13th (of 15)

Firstrade's website delivers a simple, easy-to-use trading experience for its customers. For example, the OptionsPlay tool is excellent for options trade ideation and is provided to all customers, regardless of their account balance. However, focusing on tools and functionality alone, Firstrade scores poorly compared to other $0 brokers such as TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE, and TradeStation.

Firstrade Navigator: Firstrade's web-based trading platform, Firstrade Navigator, is available only to Firstrade Premier customers, which means having an account balance of at least $10,000. Even without Premier status, however, customers can still access the platform's streaming real-time quotes watch list through the website. While the streaming watch list is easy to use, unfortunately, there are no optional fields to customize the experience.

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Research

Rank: 7th (of 15)

Thanks to its use of Morningstar as its primary provider, Firstrade offers everyday investors a well-balanced research experience. Firstrade provides one third-party research report for stocks, one for ETFs, and none for mutual funds.

While Firstrade's research experience will satisfy most casual investors, compared to its large full-service competitors, including Charles Schwab and Fidelity, weaknesses are widespread.

Gallery

Customer Service

To score Customer Service, StockBrokers.com partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2020 Broker Review, 280 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.

Results

  • Average Connection Time: 2 - 3 minutes
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 7.2 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 6.2 / 10
  • Overall Score: 6.80 / 10
  • Ranking: 14 th (14 brokers)

Mobile Trading

Firstrade’s mobile app is easy to use, includes watch lists that sync with the website, and real-time streaming quotes are provided throughout the app. Options chains and charting also provide a clean experience, where an impressive 81 technical studies are available for stock charts.

Drawbacks include a lack of alerts functionality, and stock charts do not include after-hours activity. Also with charting, the default view includes a background symbol watermark that obstructs the chart itself. I removed it, but it took me a minute to figure out how. I recommend Firstrade disables this default feature.

Overall, for everyday investors, Firstrade provides a reliable experience that will satisfy the majority.

Gallery

Offering of Investments

Rank: 8th (of 15)

Firstrade provides a diverse offering that meets the industry standard. Stocks, ETFs, options (including complex options strategies), mutual funds, and bonds are all offered.

Final Thoughts

While Firstrade offers a well-organized website, user-friendly tools, and quality research, the broker lacks the depth to compete with larger full-service brokers.

That said, investors looking for a low-cost, well balanced, all-round easy-to-use broker will find Firstrade a great fit. And, for Chinese-speaking investors, Firstrade is a winner.

About Firstrade

Founded in 1985, Firstrade is a deep-discount online broker that offers $0 stock and options trades. Firstrade's focus on supporting Chinese speaking Americans is a standout attribute.

2020 Review Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com tenth annual best online brokers review published in January 2020, a total of 3,540 data points were collected over six months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and provided executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 18 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/20/2020 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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.

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