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Firstrade Review

The annual review (9 years running) takes six months to complete and produces over 30,000 words of research each year. Here's how we test.

Founded in 1985, Firstrade has a long history of providing value for its customers. Known for its easy-to-use website, Firstrade offers $0 stock and options trading.

Although Firstrade trails behind the largest brokerages, such as TD Ameritrade and Fidelity, in key areas such as research and trading tools, among others, those brokers charge more across the board. Compared to similar deep discount brokers, Firstrade provides value throughout the experience.

Review Summary

Rank: 8th (of 16)

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


  • Commission-free trading.
  • Easy-to-use website.


  • Firstrade Navigator is only available to Premier customers.
  • Options capabilities are hit and miss.

Special Offer:

Commissions & Fees

Rank: 3rd (of 16)

When it comes to trades, Firstrade keep things simple, offering investors free stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options trades.


  • $0 trades.


  • Like other $0 brokers, Firstrade’s order routing relies heavily on payment for order flow (PFOF) to generate revenue.
  • Looking at Firstrade’s closest competitors, only two do not accept PFOF: Fidelity and Merrill Edge. This means they pass along any savings back to the customer, resulting in better executions (a higher price for each share sold or a lower purchase price for each share bought).
  • Broker-assisted phone trades cost $19.95 for stock trades and $19.95 + $.50 per contract for options trades.
  • Bond trades are subject to a markup or markdown instead of a simplified, flat rate per bond charge.

Further Reading

Fees Comparison

FeatureFirstradeFidelity TD AmeritradeCharles SchwabE*TRADE
Minimum Deposit$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$500.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade)$0.00$4.95$6.95$4.95$6.95
Options Base Fee$0.00$4.95$6.95$4.95$6.95
Options Per Contract Fee$0.00$0.65$0.75$0.65$0.75
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$0.00$49.95$49.99$49.95$19.99
Commission-Free ETFsall500313503295
View all 23 data points

Platforms & Tools

Rank: 14th (of 16)

Despite requiring a $10,000 balance to unlock the Firstrade Navigator platform, Firstrade delivers a simple, easy-to-use trading experience which delivers value for its $0 trading customers.


  • The OptionsPlay tool is excellent for options trade ideation and is provided to all customers, regardless of their account balance.


  • 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.
  • The streaming watch list is easy to use; however, there are no optional fields to customize the experience.
  • Focusing on tools and functionality alone, Firstrade, like other $0 brokers, scores poorly.


Further Reading

Tools Comparison

FeatureFirstradeFidelity TD AmeritradeCharles SchwabE*TRADE
Web Platform Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Desktop Platform (Windows) No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields1391514108125
Charting - Drawing Tools522221533
Charting - Indicators / Studies5816641141118
Option Chains - Total Columns826334130
Streaming TV No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paper Trading No No Yes No Yes
View all 59 data points


Rank: 6th (of 16)

Firstrade offers customers a well-balanced research experience, thanks to its use of Morningstar as its primary provider, an offering that surpasses those made by its deep discount competitors.


  • Firstrade offers only one third-party research report for stocks, one for ETFs, and none for mutual funds. Compared to other deep discount brokers, Firstrade shines, as its competitors provide none.


  • While Firstrade provides a foundation for quality research most investors will find sufficient, compared to its large (more expensive), full-service competitors, weaknesses are quite apparent.


Research Comparison

FeatureFirstradeFidelity TD AmeritradeCharles SchwabE*TRADE
Research - Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stock Research - Reports112784
Research - ETFs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Research - Mutual Funds Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Research - Fixed Income Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Research - Futures No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Research - Forex No No Yes No No
View all 60 data points

Customer Service

Rank: 11th (of 16)

To score Customer Service, partners with customer experience research group Confero to conduct phone tests from locations throughout the United States. For our 2019 Broker Review, 300 customer service tests were conducted over ten weeks.


  • Average Connection Time: <1 minute
  • Average Net Promoter Score: 7.3 / 10
  • Average Professionalism Score: 6.9 / 10
  • Overall Score: 7.42 / 10
  • Ranking: 11 th (16 brokers)
  • View Infographic

Mobile Trading

Rank: 9th (of 16)

Firstrade’s mobile apps are easy to use and met our expectations for what we would expect of a broker charging $0 for trades.


  • Firstrade’s mobile app supports Face ID secure login and real-time streaming quotes throughout the app.
  • Options chains and charting provide a clean experience; 19 technical studies are available for stock charts.
  • Watch lists sync with the website.


  • Stock charts cannot be viewed in horizontal landscape mode.
  • No alerts functionality.
  • Advanced order types, including complex options, are not supported.


Further Reading:

Mobile Apps Comparison

FeatureFirstradeFidelity TD AmeritradeCharles SchwabE*TRADE
iPhone App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Android App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Apple Watch App No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Watch List Syncing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields No Yes Yes No Yes
Charting - After Hours No Yes Yes No Yes
View all 52 data points

Offering of Investments

Rank: 8th (of 16)

Firstrade provides a diverse offering that meets the industry standard.


  • Stocks, ETFs, options (including complex options strategies), mutual funds, and bonds are all offered.


  • Limited capabilities for active trading. For example, direct market routing is not offered, neither are certain advanced order types such as multi-contingent orders.

Further Reading

Offering Comparison

FeatureFirstradeFidelity TD AmeritradeCharles SchwabE*TRADE
Stock Trading Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Options Trading Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Complex Options Max Legs24444
Futures Trading No No Yes Yes Yes
Forex Trading No No Yes No No
Mutual Funds (No Load)52344031518558466266
Advisor Services No Yes Yes Yes Yes
View all 40 data points

Other Notes

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.

Final Thoughts

Rank: 8th (of 16)

While Firstrade offers a well-organized website, user-friendly tools and quality research, the broker lacks the depth to compete with the higher priced big 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.

For our 2019 Review we assessed, rated, and ranked 16 different online brokers over a period of six months. How we test.

Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: Blain Reinkensmeyer As Head of Research at, 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 New York Times, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 02/18/2019 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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