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 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 regulated by top-tier regulators.
We selected Firstrade as Best broker for funds for 2020, based on an in-depth analysis of 57 online brokers that included testing their live accounts.
Firstrade pros and cons
Firstrade offers free stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options trading. The non-trading fees are also low. The research is high-quality and covers a lot of tools, including trading ideas and detailed fundamental data. There are good quality educational tools, from educational videos to webinars.
It doesn't provide credit/debit cards and electronic wallets as for money transfer. The product portfolio covers only the US market. The customer service is only 24/5 and there is no live chat provided.
|• 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 and 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. The non-trading fees are low too. However, the 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||$100 inactivity fee applicable only after several years inactivity|
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 the most relevant fees of Firstrade 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 free. The fee structure is transparent and easy to understand, only the bonds require more attention.
Stock fees and ETF fees
We have good news for you. Firstrade offers free stock trading.
If you prefer stock trading on margin or short sale, you should check Firstrade financing rates.
Financing rates or margin rate is charged when you trade on margin or short a stock. This basically means that you borrow money or stocks from your broker to trade. For this borrowed money/stock you have to pay interest. This is the financing rate. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.
Firstrade financing rates are high. For stocks, the financing rates vary based on the base currency of your margin account.
|USD margin rate||9.3%||9.8%||10.5%|
Firstrade's financing rates are volume-tiered. It applies a base rate plus a premium depending on the financed amount. The base rate is set by its discretion, at the time of the Firstrade review the base rate was 7.25%.
|Debit balance||Rate%||Base rate + / -|
|$1,000,000 or more||5.00%||Base rate - 2.25%|
|$500,000 - $999,999||5.60%||Base rate - 1.65%|
|$250,000 - $499,999||7.50%||Base rate + 0.25%|
|$100,000 - $249,999||7.75%||Base rate + 0.50%|
|$50,000 - $99,999||8.25%||Base rate + 1.00%|
|$25,000 - $49,999||8.75%||Base rate + 1.50%|
|$10,000 - $24,999||9.00%||Base rate + 1.75%|
|Under $10,000||9.25%||Base rate + 2.00%|
The financing rates above are also applied for options trading, not just stocks.
The mutual fund investing is also commission-free.
Firstrade charges a $19.95 selling fee if mutual fund shares are held less than 90 days.
Firstrade has high bond fees. The bond fees vary based on the bond type you buy. We calculated the fees for Treasury bonds.
|US Treasury bond||$40.0||$0.0||$0.0|
There is a $40 minimum commission for treasury, corporate, municipal, agencies, and zero bonds, while $30 for secondary CDs.
Similarly to stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, options trading is also commission-free. It's better than at the competitors.
|US stock index options||$0.0||$6.5||$6.5|
Firstrade has low non-trading fees. There is no account fee and inactivity fee, but if you don't use the account for many years, there is a $100 dormant account processing fee.
On the other hand, we discovered, that in the case of legal entities such as corporations, LLCs, or partnerships, there is a $100 fee for account opening and a $200 annual account fee.
There is no withdrawal fee if you use ACH transfer. However, the withdrawals to other domestic banks using wire transfer cost $30, while in case of foreign outgoing wire transfer costs $50. We tested ACH, so we had no withdrawal fee.
The account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. Firstrade is available for US and some non-US customers. On the flip side during the test we experienced a slower account opening, that took almost 3 business days.
|• Fully digital||• Slow account verification|
|• No minimum deposit|
|• Low minimum deposit|
Can you open an account?
Firstrade targets mainly the US clients, but there are some non-US countries they also accept: China, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan.
What is the minimum deposit at Firstrade?
The required Firstrade minimum deposit is $0 for both U.S. and international clients. The minimum deposit 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|
|Individual||Account is owned by a single individual|
|Joint accounts||Account is owned by two 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|
How to open your account
The account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. The online application took us roughly 15 minutes, but the verification is a bit slower. All together it is 3 business days until your account gets verified.
Here we walk you through the 8 Steps of Firstrade account opening process:
- Add personal information and email address
- Choose the account type, state your options and day trading preferences
- Continue with some more personal info, and details for later verification of the account like Social Security Number
- Add your personal phone number (which will your phone for the further registration process and contact point), and choose a security question
- Disclose your employment and financial info
- Give your investment profile and trading preferences
- Set your funding preferences and connection
- Review and submit your application
We think it is important to state clearly that there is a minor difference between the 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 with a copy of your passport. Firstrade does not disclose any specific limitations regarding international account services.
Deposit and withdrawal
We liked a lot 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 transfer and a high fee is charged for wire transfer withdrawals.
|• No deposit fee||• Credit/Debit card not available|
|• User-friendly||• High outgoing wire transfer fee|
Deposit fees and options
Firstrade charges no deposit fees. Are you a US client? Then you can use check, ACH, and wire transfers for the deposit. Unfortunately at the time of our testing Credit/debit cards and electronic wallets were not available.
We tested ACH transfer and it took 2 business days. You can only deposit money from accounts that are 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 $50.
How long does it take to withdraw money from Firstrade? We tested the bank transfer withdrawal and it took 2 business days.
You can only withdraw money to accounts in your name.
How do you withdraw money from Firstrade? You can withdraw money from Firstrade by following these steps:
- Log into the account
- Go to the "My accounts"
- Select the "Deposit/Transfer" menu, select "Withdraw from Firstrade"
- Choose the transfer type, your Firstrade account, and your previously connected external account
- Add the amount you wish to withdraw and set the frequency and date of the withdrawal
- Preview and initiate the withdrawal
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Web trading platform
During our testing, we found Firstrade's web platform is simple and easy to use. If you are a beginner, then you can easily navigate it. On the negative side, it lacks a two-step login and the customizability is limited.
|• User-friendly||• No two-step (safer) login|
|• Clear fee report|
|• Good search function|
|Web||4 / 5 stars||Yes|
|Mobile||3 / 5 stars||Yes|
In our review, we tested Firstrade's in-house developed trading platform. You can find it under the name Firstrade Investor Center.
The web trading platform is available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Look and feel
The Firstrade web trading platform is user-friendly, provides good user experience and design. On the negative side, its customizability is limited. You can change the order of the tabs in the Investor Home, but other tabs aren't customizable.
Login and security
When you enter the web trading platform you can see that Firstrade provides only a one-step login authentication. Base on our industry research, a two-step login is more secure.
The search functions are good. You can search by typing both a company's name or asset's ticker, the results are relevant.
You can use the following order types:
- Stop limit,
- Stop trailing ($, %),
- Stop limit trailing ($, %)
If you are not familiar with the basic order types, read this overview.
There are also order time limits you can use:
- Good Till 90 days,
- Pre Market,
- After Market,
- Day + EXT,
- All or Nothing (AON)
Alerts and notifications
You can set alerts by giving different criteria, and 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 'My accounts' menu Position" and '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 inhouse developed mobile trading platform. It is also available for Andriod handsets.
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
After installing it, you can see that the Firstrade mobile trading platform is user-friendly and well designed.
Login and security
While Firstrade provides only a one-step login. A two-step login login would be most secure.
If you have an iOS mobile you can enable the biometric authentications: both face and touch ID 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 offered products cover only the US market and you cannot trade with futures or forex.
Firstrade has an average mutual fund, bond, and options selection, but it lags behind in stock and ETF lineups when we compare to all reviewed brokers.
Stock and ETF
In our test, it came clear that Firstrade covers only the US market. It is similar to E-Trade but less than Fidelity's selection, which gives access to international stock exchanges as well.
|Stock markets (#)||5||29||5|
You can trade with stocks in 5 different markets. Namely: NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, OTCBB, OTC Pink.
Firstrade provides a great number of mutual funds, but it's a bit less than the number of fund providers at Fidelity or E-Trade.
|Fund providers (#)||415||560||530|
Firstrade has an average bond selection. It lags behind its closest competitors, Fidelity and E-Trade.
The bonds cover both government and corporate bonds.
Firstrade covers CBOE and other US options exchanges but does not disclose which ones exactly.
Firstrade has great research tools. You can use many tools, including trading 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|
You can find research tools under the 'Research& Tools menubar. 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 were delighted by the integrated features:
- preset peer group comparison
- plotting of data
The trading ideas are from third-party providers, like Morningstar.
Firstrade offers a good range of fundamental data. You will find data for different assets, from stocks to funds.
Just to mention a few of them, you can see the financial statement for 5 or 10 years, peer group companies, dividend calendar, etc.
Firstrade has good charting tools. You can easily edit the charts and use 50 technical indicators.
In our opinion, the news function could be still 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. Their news are provided by the earlier mentioned third-parties.
Other research tools you will enjoy
There are great and sophisticated screeners for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. From the basic company information to technical indicators, you can use a wide range of filters.
We liked a lot the Option Wizard under the 'Education' menu. OptionsPlay.com developed Option Wizard, which is a great tool for you if you are into options trading.
Firstrade's support team provides relevant information and is available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. On the flip side, there is no 24/7 support and live chat is missing.
|• Phone support||• No live chat|
|• Relevant answers||• No 24/7 support|
You can contact Firstrade via:
- chatbot (intelligent FAQ)
Firstrade's phone support works well. They gave relevant and helpful answers within a short time.
Firstrade has a chatbot (or intelligent FAQ), but it can answer only to the basic questions such as what kind of fees Firstrade has.
On email, we got mostly relevant answers, but it took them a couple of days to answer.
We missed 24/7 support availability, you can contact them from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm EST, between Monday and Friday.
Are you a beginner or you believe in life long learning? Then Firstrade is clearly a good match for you. They offer good quality educational articles, a useful glossary, a bunch of platform videos and useful webinars. However, a demo account is missing.
|• Trading platform tutorial||• No demo account|
|• Educational videos|
We found the following ways at Firstrade, that might be handy for you:
- Platform tutorial videos
- General educational videos
- Quality educational articles
The platform tutorial videos are well placed, you can easily notice the relevant videos.
The general educational videos and the archive webinars have good content quality, ranging from stock trading to options trading. During the test we found hard to download the materials or catch a live webinar.
Besides videos, you can listen to podcasts and read Ebooks. Most of these features are accessible from your account 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, $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 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 does not provide negative balance protection.
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 a 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.
It offers free stock, ETF, mutual funds, and options trading. It doesn't charge inactivity and account fees and there are a lot of quality research and educational tools you can use.
To provide an unbiased picture we have to mention some drawbacks though. Firstrade doesn't provide credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for transferring money. Are you interested only in U.S. market products? If yes, then you will be delighted. Otherwise, you might find insufficient that the product portfolio covers only the US market. The customer service is only 24/5 and you can't contact them via live chat.
As there are low fees and no inactivity fee is charged, feel free to try Firstrade.