For the right investor, Firstrade is a dream come true. For others, there can be some drawbacks.
- No trading commissions on stocks, exchange-traded funds, options and mutual funds
- No minimum account size
- $200 in transfer fee rebates
- International account capability
- No trading of futures, forex or cryptocurrency
Firstrade was born in 1985 as First Flushing Securities before transforming into Firstrade.com in 1997, becoming one of the first online stock brokers. Throughout the 2000s, the firm won numerous plaudits for being one of the best online brokers, particularly with its fast trade execution for self-directed investors.
In 2018, the firm unveiled a new, streamlined application process that allowed customers to begin trading the same day they signed up for an account. Notably, 2018 also saw the firm switch to a no-commission trading model, helping make Firstrade one of GOBankingRates’ Best Online Brokers in 2021.
For a quick overview of how Firstrade works, take a look at the following:
|Firstrade at a Glance
|Yes; every ETF transaction is fee-free
|Zero Transaction-Fee Mutual Funds
|Yes; over 11,000 mutual funds available fee-free
|Stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, fixed income
|24/7 live chat; phone lines Monday-Friday 8 a.m. EST to 6 p.m. EST
|Yes, with face ID and fingerprint recognition; advanced trading strategies capability
|News and Research
|Yes; partners with Morningstar
|– $30 for outgoing domestic wire transfers
– $50 for outgoing international wire transfers
– $75 to transfer account out
|$200 in transfer fee rebates for deposits of at least $2,500
Firstrade earns 4.7 out of 5 stars in this GOBankingRates review. The features that stand out the most are:
Firstrade has no account or trade minimums. In terms of investment commissions, Firstrade is tough to beat. Stock, option and mutual fund trades all cost $0. If you call in for a broker-assisted trade, you’ll be charged just $19.95, plus an additional $0.50 per options contract. When it comes to the cost of trading, Firstrade has few competitors.
Because Firstrade has no commissions or account fees, the broker ranks as extremely low-cost overall. Fees investors might trigger include the $30 fee for sending domestic wire transfers — $50 for international wire transfers — and the $75 fee for transferring out of Firstrade.
But these fees are fairly standard, and they won’t be triggered by many customers. Margin loan rates are about in line with the rest of the industry as well. For the average customer who just wants to trade stocks, ETFs and mutual funds, Firstrade stands tall when it comes to low total costs.
The investment selection at Firstrade is a mixed bag. On the plus side, anything that a traditional investor would want to purchase is available, from stocks and bonds to ETFs and over 11,000 mutual funds. Bonds and fixed income investments are likewise readily available and easy to trade. The firm also offers a dividend reinvestment program.
Firstrade was originally designed for stock traders, and it understands the importance of rapid execution of trades. The company proudly touts its 0.06 second execution speed right on its website. A blind comparison report conducted by S3 Matching Technologies indicated that Firstrade had the fastest trade execution in the industry in 2018.
The firm also consistently gets better prices for its customers, in what is known as price improvement. Firstrade customers placing market orders received a better price than the National Best Bid/Offer, or NBBO, 99.37% of the time.
For most customers, the Firstrade trading interface does what it needs to do. Trades can be completed quickly and cleanly, and the dashboard, which is completely customizable, provides all relevant account information at a glance.
Because the platform is entirely self-directed, with limited customer service help, it can be more difficult for beginning traders to enter complex option orders or use more sophisticated strategies, particularly on the mobile app. But those types of trades are usually best left to advanced traders who might not need as much help to complete their own trades.
Overall, the platform is relatively easy to use and access. Firstrade also offers extended-hours trading on eligible stocks from 8:00 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. EST and 4:05 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST.
Firstrade uses industrial-strength firewalls and encryption technology to keep client data secure. Trades are placed through a secure portion of the website using Secure Sockets Layer technology. Digital certificate services and PIN authentication provide additional layers of security.
If unauthorized activity occurs in your account, Firstrade will cover 100% of any losses that occur due to that activity, as long as you follow the security steps outlined on its website.
How Firstrade Stands Out
Firstrade scores high points for usability, as customers can breeze through the online application and be up and running within minutes. Options investors benefit from autofilled trade execution screens. The firm has both web-based and mobile applications to serve customers, in addition to the Firstrade Navigator, a more feature-rich platform for advanced traders.
Firstrade is also one of the only firms to accept international customers from 10 approved countries.
There are plenty of brokerages to choose from. A couple of the most popular comparable options include:
Like Firstrade, Schwab does not charge commissions and has no account minimums to get started. Plus, Charles Schwab has over 300 physical branches compared to Firstrade’s online-only model.
For more frequent traders and individuals with a sizable portfolio, opening a Schwab brokerage account can earn you 500 commission-free online equity and options trades for two years with a $100,000 deposit.
If you have a large chunk of money to invest, Charles Schwab offers the better signup bonus. Otherwise, Firstrade’s offer of up to $200 in transfer-fee rebates is a good start.
E-Trade’s bonus of up to $600 in cash with a qualifying deposit is more lucrative. However, you’ll need to get started with at least $500 to open a brokerage account, compared to no minimum with Firstrade.
E-Trade has fewer mutual funds available at 4,400 compared to Firstrade’s 11,000. However, all 4,400 funds are low cost, no-load.
How to Open a Firstrade Account
There are three ways to open an account with Firstrade:
- Complete the online application and fund the account.
- Call 800-387-2331
- Mail in an application with a check to fund the account.
Who Firstrade Is Best For
Firstrade is an online-only brokerage that aims to make trading sleek, easy and low-cost for self-directed investors. Although the firm is not backed by a bank or full-service brokerage, like some other online investment houses, Firstrade still provides research and other capabilities to help traders in their quest to generate profits.
Firstrade is a great broker to go with for the following features:
- Commission and fund expenses
- Trading experience
- Account and investment minimums
Firstrade might not be the most publicized name in the online brokerage world, but it provides a compelling package for certain investors.
Unlike most of its big-name competitors, Firstrade charges no commissions on stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds. That alone is enough to put it miles ahead of most competitors. This is particularly true for smaller investors, as commissions at other firms can eat up a significant portion of investment capital.
- Is Firstrade legitimate?
- Firstrade is a legitimate investment institution providing free self-directed investing. It's one of GOBankingrates' picks of ten best online brokerages.
- Is Firstrade a Chinese company?
- Although Firstrade provides Chinese-language support, the brokerage was founded and is still headquartered in New York.
- Does Firstrade have fees?
- Firstrade is a low-cost option for online, self-directed investors. There are no account or trade minimums and no fees for self-directed stock, option and mutual fund trades.
- Which is better, Robinhood or Firstrade?
- Although both platforms are extremely popular, Robinhood is more controversial. The brokerage was recently fined over $70 million for power outages that left customers exposed to security lapses, as well as for misleading customers. It's the largest fine imposed to date by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Firstrade. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Firstrade.
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- The New York Times. 2021. "Robinhood is fined $70 million over misleading customers and system outages.."