Recommended for beginners and investors looking for zero-commission trading, focusing on the US market
Firstrade is a US discount stockbroker regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The company was founded in 1985 under the name of First Flushing Securities.
Firstrade is considered safe because it has a long track record and is overseen by top-tier regulators.
We selected Firstrade as Best IRA broker for 2021, based on an in-depth analysis of 70+ online brokers that included testing their live accounts. Check out the complete list of winners.
Firstrade pros and cons
Firstrade offers free stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options trading. Non-trading fees are low. Research is high-quality with a lot of tools, including trading ideas and detailed fundamental data. There are great educational tools, too, such as videos and webinars.
No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets are available for money transfer. The product portfolio covers only the US market. Customer service is slow, support is available only 24/5 and there is no live chat.
|• Free stock, ETF, fund and options trading||• No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfer|
|• Solid research tools||• You can trade only on US markets|
|• Quality educational tools||• No live chat or 24/7 availability|
|🗺️ Country of regulation||USA|
|💰 Trading fees class||Low|
|💰 Inactivity fee charged||No|
|💰 Withdrawal fee amount||$0|
|💰 Minimum deposit||$0|
|🕖 Time to open an account||1-3 days|
|🎮 Demo account provided||No|
|🛍️ Products offered||Stock, ETF, Fund, Bond, Options|
Firstrade has low fees. It offers free stock, ETF, funds, and options trading with low non-trading fees. However, margin rates are high.
|• Low trading fees||• High margin rates|
|• Low non-trading fees|
|• Free stock, ETF, fund and options trading|
|Assets||Fee level||Fee terms|
|US stock||Low||$0 per trade|
|Mutual fund||Low||$0 per trade|
|Inactivity fee||Low||No inactivity fee|
How we ranked fees
We ranked Firstrade's fee levels as low, average or high based on how they compare to those of all reviewed brokers.
To get things rolling, let's go over some lingo related to broker fees. What you need to keep an eye on are trading fees, and non-trading fees.
- Trading fees occur when you trade. These can be commissions, spreads, financing rates and conversion fees.
- Non-trading fees include charges not directly related to trading, like withdrawal fees or inactivity fees.
In the sections below, you will find Firstade's most relevant fees for each asset class. For example, in the case of stock investing, commissions are the most important fees.
We also compared Firstrade's fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, Fidelity and E-Trade. This selection is based on objective factors such as products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc. See a more detailed rundown of Firstrade alternatives.
To have a clear overview of Firstrade, let's start with the trading fees.
Firstrade's trading fees are zero. The fee structure is transparent and easy to understand: only bonds require a bit more attention.
Stock fees and ETF fees
Firstrade offers free stock trading.
If you prefer stock trading on margin, you should check Firstrade's margin rates.
Trading on margin means that you borrow money from your broker and can purchase more shares than you could with just the available cash in your account. You have to pay interest on this borrowed money – the interest rate is called the margin rate. This rate can account for a significant portion of your trading costs.
Firstrade's margin rates are high.
|USD margin rate||8.8%||8.3%||9.0%|
Firstrade's margin rates are volume-tiered. There is a base rate plus a premium depending on the financed amount. The base rate is set at Firstrade's discretion. At the time of our review, the base rate was at 6.75%.
|Debit balance||Rate%||Base rate + / -|
|Under $10,000||8.75%||Base rate + 2.00%|
|$10,000 - $24,999||8.50%||Base rate + 1.75%|
|$25,000 - $49,999||8.25%||Base rate + 1.50%|
|$50,000 - $99,999||7.75%||Base rate + 1.00%|
|$100,000 - $249,999||7.25%||Base rate + 0.50%|
|$250,000 - $499,999||7.00%||Base rate + 0.25%|
|$500,000 - $999,999||5.10%||Base rate - 1.65%|
|$1,000,000 or more||4.50%||Base rate - 2.25%|
The financing rates above are also applied for options trading, not just stocks.
Mutual fund investing is also commission-free.
Firstrade charges a $19.95 selling fee, if mutual fund shares are held for less than 90 days.
Firstrade's bond fees depend on the type of bonds - treasury bills, notes, bonds, municipal bonds, agency bonds, zeros & strips are free, but the charges are net yield based. Here we have tested "regular" treasury bonds.
|US Treasury bond||$0.0||$0.0||$0.0|
There's a $30 minimum commission for primary CDs.
Similarly to stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, options trading is also commission-free.
|US stock index options||$0.0||$6.5||$6.5|
Firstrade has low non-trading fees. There is no account fee or inactivity fee.
There is no withdrawal fee, if you use ACH transfer. However, withdrawals to other domestic banks using wire transfer cost $30, while in case of foreign outgoing wire transfer costs $35. We tested ACH, so we paid no withdrawal fee.
Account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. Firstrade is available for international customers. On the flip side, account opening was slow, it took almost 3 business days for us.
|• Fully digital||• Slow account verification|
|• No minimum deposit|
|• Low minimum deposit|
Can you open an account?
Firstrade is a US broker, but clients from all over the world can open an account.
What is the minimum deposit at Firstrade?
The minimum deposit is $0 for both U.S. and international clients. However, it can be more, if you trade on margin or prefer investing in portfolios.
|Trading preferences||Minimum deposit|
|Day trading account||$25,000|
*You trade with money borrowed from the broker, also called trading on leverage.
Firstrade offers several account types:
|Account type||Short description|
|Regular Investing account (Individual & Joint)||Investing account that is owned by a single or more individuals|
|Retirement accounts (Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, etc.)||Individual retirement accounts, only in the US|
|Business accounts||Account is owned by a legal entity, only in the US|
|Education Savings Account||Savings account for quality educational purposes, only in the US|
|Custodial account||Special accounts for custodial purposes, only in the US|
|Firstrade Cash Management account||Brokerage and banking services consolidated in one place|
|International Accounts||Investing account for Non-US clients|
How to open your account
Account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. The online application took us roughly 15 minutes, but verification is a bit slower. It took 3 business days until our account got verified.
Here we walk you through the eight steps of Firstrade's account opening process:
- Add your personal information and email address
- Choose the account type, state your options and day trading preferences
- Provide more personal information and details for account verification, such as your Social Security Number
- Add your personal phone number and choose a security question
- Disclose your employment and financial information
- Add your investment profile and trading preferences
- Set your funding preferences and connection
- Review and submit your application
We think it is important to underline that there is a minor difference between US and non-US client applications. If you are a non-US client, you have to upload the agreed Online Service Agreement and the W-8 BEN tax form (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting for Individuals) with a copy of your passport. Firstrade does not disclose any specific limitations regarding international account services.
Deposit and withdrawal
We liked Firstrade's user-friendly deposit and withdrawal process. There is no deposit fee and transferring money is easy. At the same time, there is still room for improvement: you can use only bank transfers and a high fee is charged for wire transfer withdrawals.
|• No deposit fee||• Credit/Debit card not available|
|• User-friendly||• Only one account base currency|
|• High outgoing wire transfer fee|
At Firstrade, the only available base currency is USD.
|Number of base currencies||1||16||1|
If you have a personal bank account in a currency other than USD, then you will be charged a conversion fee.
A convenient way to save on currency conversion fees is by opening a multi-currency bank account at a digital bank. These usually offer bank accounts in several currencies with great currency exchange rates, as well as free or cheap international bank transfers. Opening an account takes only a few minutes on your phone.
Deposit fees and options
Firstrade charges no deposit fees. Are you a US client? If yes, you can use checks, ACH payments, and wire transfers for the deposit. Unfortunately, at the time of our test credit/debit cards and electronic wallets were not available.
We tested the ACH transfer and it took 2 business days. You can only deposit money from accounts that were previously linked to your brokerage account.
Firstrade withdrawal fees and options
Firstrade charges no withdrawal fees, if you use ACH withdrawal. US domestic wire transfers cost $30, while international withdrawals cost $35.
How long does it take to withdraw money from Firstrade?
We tested the bank transfer withdrawal and it took 2 business days. You can only withdraw money to accounts in your name.
How do you withdraw money from Firstrade?
You can withdraw money from Firstrade by following these steps:
- Log into the account
- Go to the "Accounts" menu
- Select "Deposit/Transfer"
- Choose the withdraw transfer type and your previously connected external account
- Add the amount you wish to withdraw and set the frequency and date of the withdrawal
- Preview and initiate the withdrawal
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Web trading platform
Firstrade's web platform is simple and easy to use. Even if you are a beginner, you can find your way around with ease. On the negative side, it lacks a two-step login and the customizability of the main sections is quite limited.
|• User-friendly||• No two-step (safer) login|
|• Clear fee report|
|• Good search function|
In our review, we tested Firstrade's own trading platform. The web trading platform is available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Look and feel
Firstrade's web trading platform is user-friendly, provides a good user experience and the design is clear and straightforward. On the negative side, its customizability is limited. You can change the order of the tabs in the dashboard (called Investor Home), but other tabs aren't customizable.
Login and security
Firstrade provides only a one-step login authentication (username, password, PIN). A two-step login would be safer.
The search functions are good. You can search by both company name or asset ticker and the results are relevant.
Firstrade has several order types, including more sophisticated ones, like One-Cancel-Other (OCO):
- Stop limit
- Trailing stop
- One Cancels the Other (OCO)
- One Triggers the Other (OTO)
If you are not familiar with the basic order types, read this overview.
There are also many order time options you can use:
- Good Till 90 days
- Pre Market
- After Market
- Day + EXT
Alerts and notifications
You can set alerts by different criteria:
- $ or % change vs previous close
- Last trade
- Trading volume
The platform notifies you via your preset email. You can find the alerts under the 'Research & Tools' menu.
Portfolio and fee reports
Firstrade provides clear portfolio and fee reports. You can find them under the 'Accounts' menu in 'History'.
Mobile trading platform
Firstrade's mobile platform is user-friendly with a great search function. On the other hand, two-step login and price alerts are not provided and you can't trade mutual funds or bonds.
|• User-friendly||• No two-step (safer) login|
|• Good search function||• No price alerts|
|• Good variety of order types||• Mutual funds and bonds are not covered|
In our review, we tested the iOS version of Firstrade's in-house developed mobile trading platform. It is also available for Andriod devices.
Similarly to the web trading platform, the mobile trading platform is available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
On the mobile trading platform, you can only trade stocks, ETFs and options, which is limited compared to the web trading platform.
Look and feel
Firstrade's mobile trading platform is user-friendly and well designed.
Login and security
Firstrade provides only a one-step login. A two-step authorization would be more secure.
If you have an iOS device, you can enable biometric authentications: both face and touch IDs are available.
The search functions are good, you get relevant results quickly. We liked the integrated third-party analysts' opinions and the news feed.
You can use the same order types and order time limits as in the web trading platform.
Alerts and notifications
Unfortunately, you can't set price alerts on Firstrade's mobile trading platform.
Desktop trading platform
Firstrade does not offer a desktop trading platform.
Markets and products
Firstrade offers a good variety of asset classes, from stocks to options. However, the products cover only the US market and you cannot trade with futures or forex.
Firstrade has an average mutual fund, bond, and option selection, but it lags behind in stock and ETF lineups, compared to all reviewed brokers.
Stock and ETF
Firstrade covers only the US market. Its portfolio is similar to that of E-Trade, but not as wide as Fidelity's selection, which gives access to international stock exchanges, as well.
|Stock markets (#)||5||22||5|
You can trade stocks in 5 different markets.
- OTC Pink
Firstrade provides a lot of mutual funds, but still somewhat less than Fidelity or E-Trade.
|Fund providers (#)||420||550||520|
Firstrade has an average bond selection. It lags behind its closest competitors, Fidelity and E-Trade.
The bonds include both government and corporate bonds.
Firstrade covers CBOE and other US options exchanges, but does not disclose which ones.
Firstrade has great research tools, including trade ideas, interactive charts, screeners, detailed fundamental data, heatmap, P&L analysis and an economic calendar.
|• Good interactive chart||None|
|• Trading ideas|
|• Data on asset fundamentals|
The research tools are under the 'Research & Tools' tab. Similarly to the trading platforms, the research tools are available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Firstrade provides trading ideas for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. We liked the integrated features:
- preset peer group comparison
- plotting of data
The trading ideas are from third-party providers, such as Morningstar.
Firstrade offers a wide range of fundamental data. You will find data on several assets, from stocks to funds.
Fundamental data also includes financial statements for 5 or 10 years, peer group companies, dividend calendar, etc.
Firstrade has good charting tools. You can easily edit the charts and use 32 technical indicators.
The news function could be improved. It is easily readable but lacks visual elements, like charts or pictures. If you find Benzinga, Briefing.com, or Zacks useful, then you will be happy with the Firstrade news channel as its news flow is provided by these third-parties.
Other research tools you will enjoy
There are great and sophisticated screeners for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. You can use a wide range of filters, from basic company information to technical indicators,.
We liked the Option Wizard in the 'Education' menu. It is developed by OptionsPlay.com and is a great tool, if you are into options trading.
Firstrade's phone and chat support are slow and do not provide relevant information most of the time. On the other hand, we received mostly relevant answers in email.
|• Email support||• No live chat|
|• No 24/7 support|
|• Slow support|
|• Irrelevant answers|
|• Phone support didn't connect anyone|
You can contact Firstrade via:
- chatbot (intelligent FAQ)
Firstrade's mail support is average. We got relevant answers via email, but it took them a couple of days to reply.
Firstrade has a chatbot (or an intelligent FAQ), but it can answer only basic questions, like what kind of fees Firstrade has.
The phone support was very slow and they did not connect anybody, who could answer our questions.
We missed 24/7 support availability. You can contact customer support from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm EST, between Monday and Friday.
Are you a beginner or do you believe in life long learning? Then Firstrade is clearly a good match for you. They offer great educational articles, a useful glossary, a bunch of platform videos and webinars. However, there is no demo account.
|• Trading platform tutorial||• No demo account|
|• Educational videos|
We found the following educational tools at Firstrade that might be handy for you:
- Platform tutorial videos
- General educational videos
- Educational articles
The platform tutorial videos are well placed, you can easily notice the relevant videos.
The general educational videos and the archived webinars have good content quality, ranging from stock trading to options trading. In our test, we found it hard to download the materials or to catch a live webinar.
Besides videos, you can also listen to podcasts and read Ebooks. Most of these features are accessible under the 'Education' menu.
Firstrade is regulated by top-tier financial authorities, such as SEC and FINRA. You are also protected by a high investor protection amount of $500,000, which includes $250,000 for cash. On the other hand, negative balance protection is not provided.
|• Majority of clients belong to a top-tier financial authority||• No negative balance protection|
|• High level of investor protection||• Does not hold a banking license|
|• Not listed on stock exchange|
Is Firstrade regulated?
Yes, it is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Is Firstrade safe?
To be certain, we highly advise you to check two facts:
- how you are protected if something goes wrong
- and what the background of the broker is.
How you are protected
Firstrade serves its clients through Firstrade Securities Inc. Firstrade is regulated by the SEC and FINRA, and all customers are covered by the US investor protection scheme, called SIPC.
The SIPC investor protection scheme protects against the loss of cash and securities in case the broker goes bust. The limit of SIPC protection is $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. This amount is substantially higher than the amount most investor protection schemes provide.
Not all investments are protected by SIPC. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment company shares, and other registered securities. It does not cover instruments, such as unregistered investment contracts, unregistered limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, and interests in gold, silver, or other commodity futures contracts or commodity options.
Firstrade was established in 1985 under the name of First Flushing Securities. The longer track record a broker has, the more proof we have that it has successfully survived previous financial crises.
Being in operation for long and regulated by a top-tier regulator are all great signs for Firstrade's safety.
Firstrade is one of the biggest discount US stockbrokers regulated by top-tier regulators.
Firstrade offers free stock, ETF, mutual funds, and options trading. It doesn't charge inactivity and account fees, and there are lots of quality research and educational tools you can use.
There are some drawbacks, though. Firstrade doesn't accept credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money tranfer. The product portfolio covers only the US market. Customer service is only available 24/5 and you can't contact them via live chat.
As it has low fees and no inactivity fee is charged, feel free to try Firstrade.