By Blain Reinkensmeyer
February 18th, 2019
Last Updated: April 17th, 2019
The StockBrokers.com annual review (9 years running) takes six months to complete and produces over 30,000 words of research each year. Industry leaders trust us because our proprietary testing methodology is completely independent and unbiased.
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.
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.
- Commission-Free Trading on 700+ ETFs Learn More
Commissions & Fees
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.
|Stock Trade Fee (flat)||$0.00|
|Options Base Fee||$0.00|
|Options Per Contract Fee||$0.00|
|Mutual Fund Trade Fee||$0.00|
Platforms & Tools
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.
|Desktop Platform (Windows)||No|
|Watch Lists - Total Fields||13|
|Charting - Drawing Tools||5|
|Charting - Indicators / Studies||58|
|Option Chains - Total Columns||8|
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 - Stocks||Yes|
|Stock Research - Reports||1|
|Research - ETFs||Yes|
|Research - Mutual Funds||Yes|
|Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB||Yes|
|Research - Fixed Income||Yes|
|Research - Futures||No|
|Research - Forex||No|
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 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
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.
|Apple Watch App||No|
|Watch List Syncing||Yes|
|Stock Alerts - Basic Fields||No|
|Charting - After Hours||No|
Offering of Investments
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.
|OTCBB / Pink Sheets||Yes|
|Complex Options Max Legs||2|
|Mutual Funds (No Load)||5234|
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 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.