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Firstrade Review

Open Account on Firstrade's website

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2019 review (9th annual) took six months to complete and produced over 30,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

Founded in 1985, Firstrade is a deep-discount online broker that 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)

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. Firstrade offers Morningstar research; however, its trading platform struggles to stand out against industry leaders.


  • 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

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
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

Web Platform Yes
Desktop Platform (Windows) No
Watch Lists - Total Fields13
Charting - Drawing Tools5
Charting - Indicators / Studies58
Option Chains - Total Columns8
Streaming TV No
Paper Trading No
Platforms & Tools 2 Stars
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

Research - Stocks Yes
Stock Research - Reports1
Research - ETFs Yes
Research - Mutual Funds Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB Yes
Research - Fixed Income Yes
Research - Futures No
Research - Forex No
Research 4 Stars
View all 60 data points

Customer Service

Rank: 11th (of 16)

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

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

iPhone App Yes
Android App Yes
Apple Watch App No
Watch List Syncing Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields No
Charting - After Hours No
Mobile Trading 3.5 Stars
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

Stock Trading Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets Yes
Options Trading Yes
Complex Options Max Legs2
Options Exercising (Web) No
Options Exercising (Phone) No
Bonds (US Treasury) Yes
Bonds (Corporate) Yes
Bonds (Municipal) Yes
Futures Trading No
Forex Trading No
Mutual Funds (No Load)5234
Mutual Funds (Total)12603
Advisor Services No
Offering of Investments 3.5 Stars
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.

2019 Review Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com ninth annual best online brokers review published in February 2019, a total of 4,544 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: Blain Reinkensmeyer 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 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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