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Firstrade Review 2019

4.5 5 stars · Jul 2019
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Firstrade logo

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.

Recommended for beginners and investors looking for zero commission and focusing on US market.

Pros
  • Free stock, ETF, fund, and options trading
  • Solid research tools
  • Quality educational tools
Cons
  • No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfer
  • Only US market covered
  • Slow customer service and no 24/7

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 could be faster and the 24/7 availability is missing.

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Firstrade review
Fees 5 stars

Firstrade offers free stock, ETF, fund, and options trading. The non-trading fees are low too. On the negative side, the fees for bonds are average and the financing rates are high.
Pros
  • Low non-trading fees
  • No withdrawal fee
  • Free stock, ETF, fund, and options
Cons
  • High financing rate
  • Average bond fees
Firstrade Fees snapshot
Assets Fee level Fee terms
US stock fee Low $0 per trade
EURUSD fee - Not available
US tech fund fee Low $0 per trade
Inactivity fee Low $100 inactivity fee applicable only after several years inactivity

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 relating to broker fees. What you need to keep an eye on are trading fees, financing rates, and non-trading fees.

We also compared Firstrade's fees with those of two similar brokers we selected, Fidelity and E-Trade. This selection is based on factors like products offered, client profile, fee structure, etc.

Let's start with the trading fees.

Trading fees

Firstrade trading fees couldn't be more favorable, they are free zero except in case of bonds. The fee structure is transparent and easy to understand, only the bonds require more attention. 

Stock fees and ETF fees

Firstrade offers free stock trading.

Stock fees of a $2,000 trade
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
USA $0.0 $5.0 $7.0

ETFs' early redemption is also $0, which is usually charged at competitor brokers.

Fund fees

The mutual funds are also commission-free. 

Fees for a $2,000 fund purchase
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
USA tech fund buy $0.0 $50.0 $20.0

A total of ~9.400 zero commission funds are available. However, Firstrade applies $19.95 fee for if mutual fund shares are held less than 90 days.

Bond fees

Firstrade has generally average bond fees. The bond fees vary based on the bond type you buy. We calculated with the fees for Treasury bonds.

Fees of a $10,000 bond trade
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
USA $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.

Options fees

Similarly to stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, options trading is also commission-free. 

Stock index options fees of 10 contracts
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
USA $0.0 $11.5 $14.5

Financing rates

Firstrade financing rates are generally high.

Financing rates are charged when you hold your leveraged positions for more than a day. It can be a significant proportion of your trading costs.

Firstrade annual financing rates
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Apple financing rate 9.5% 15.0% 10.8%

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 7.50%.

Firstrade - annual financing rates
Debit balance Rate% Base rate + / -
$1,000,000 or more 5.50% Base rate - 2.00%
$500,000 - $999,999 6.25% Base rate - 1.25%
$250,000 - $499,999 8.00% Base rate + 0.50%
$100,000 - $249,999 8.25% Base rate + 0.75%
$50,000 - $99,999 8.75% Base rate + 1.25%
$25,000 - $49,999 9.25% Base rate + 1.75%
$10,000 - $24,999 9.50% Base rate + 2.00%
Under $10,000 9.75% Base rate + 2.25%

Non-trading fees

Firstrade has low non-trading fees. There is no account fee. There is no inactivity fee, but if you don't use the account for many years, there is a $100 dormant account processing fee. 

However, 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.

Firstrade non-trading fees
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Account fee No No No
Inactivity fee No No No
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

Firstrade review
Account opening 4 stars

The account opening is fully digital and user-friendly. Firstrade is available for non-US clients from selected countries. However, the account opening and verification takes a bit longer, 2-3 business days.
Pros
  • Fully digital account opening
  • No minimum account balance
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • 1-3 business days account opening

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 US and international clients. The minimum deposit can be more if you trade on margin or prefer investing in portfolios.

Firstrade minimum deposits by account types
Trading preferences Minimum deposit
Brokerage account $0
Margin account* $2,000
Day trading account $25,000

*You trade with money borrowed from the broker, also called trading on leverage.

Account types

Firstrade offers several account types:

Firstrade 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 which are only available for US clients
Business accounts Account is owned by a legal entity which are only available for US clients
Education Savings Account Savings account for quality educational purposes which is only available for US clients
Custodial account Special accounts for custodial purposes which is only available for US clients

In this review, we tested the Individual Brokerage Account without additional margin and option levels.

How to open your account

The account opening fully digital and user-friendly. The online application takes roughly 15 minutes, but the verification is a bit slower. It took 3 business days until our account was verified.

8 Steps at Ally Invest to open an account:

  1. Add personal information and email address
  2. Choose the account type, state your options and day trading preferences
  3. Continue with some more personal info, and details for later verification of the account like Social Security Number
  4. Add your personal phone number (which will your phone for the further registration process and contact point), and choose a security question
  5. Disclose your employment and financial info
  6. Give your investment profile and trading preferences
  7. Set your funding prefrences and connection
  8. Review and submit your application

There is a minor difference between the US and non-US client application. Non-US clients have to upload the agreed Online Service Agreement and the W-8 Ben tax form with the copy of the passport. Firstrade does not disclose any specific limitation regarding the international account services.

Firstrade review - Account opening

Firstrade review
Deposit and withdrawal 2 stars

Firstrade deposit and withdrawal can be improved. You can use only bank transfer, there is only USD as a base currency, and a high fee is charged for wire transfer withdrawals. As a plus, there is no deposit fee and transferring money is easy and user-friendly.
Pros
  • No deposit fee
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • Credit/Debit card deposit and withdrawal not available
  • Only one account base currency
  • High outgoing wire transfer fee

Account base currencies

Firstrade offers only USD-based trading accounts. It lags behind Fidelity, but the same as at E-Trade where only USD is provided as a base currency.

Base currencies at Firstrade vs similar brokers
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Number of base currencies 1 16 1

Why does this matter? Two things. First, if you fund your account in the same currency as your bank account, you won't be charged a currency conversion fee. Second, if you trade assets in the same currency as your account base currency, you will not have to pay a conversion fee.

A convenient way to save on the currency conversion fees can be to open a multi-currency bank account. Revolut or Transferwise both offer bank accounts in several currencies with great currency exchange rates as well as free or cheap international bank transfers. The account opening only takes a few minutes on your phone.

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Deposit fees and options

Firstrade charges no deposit fees. US clients can use check, ACH, and wire transfers for the deposit. Credit/debit cards and electronic wallets are not provided. This is similar to competitors.

Firstrade deposit options
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Bank transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No Yes No

We tested ACH transfer and it took 2 business days. You can only deposit money from accounts which are previously linked to your brokerage account. 

Firstrade review - Deposit and withdrawal - Deposit

Withdrawal fees and options

Firstrade charges no withdrawal fees if you use ACH withdrawal, but US domestic wire transfers cost $30, while international withdrawals cost $50.

Firstrade withdrawal fees and options
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Bank Transfer Yes Yes Yes
Credit/Debit card No No No
Electronic wallets No Yes No
Withdrawal fee $0 $0 $0

How long does it take to withdraw money from Firstrade? We tested the ACH 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

Compare to other brokers

Firstrade review
Web trading platform 4 stars

Firstrade's web platform is simple and easy to use. Even beginners can easily navigate it. On the negative side, it lacks two-step login and the customizability is limited.
Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Clear fee report
  • Good search function
Cons
  • No two-step (safe) login
  • Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)
Firstrade Platforms to Choose From
Trading platform Score Available
Web 4 / 5 stars Yes
Mobile 3 / 5 stars Yes
Desktop - No

Firstrade has an in-house developed trading platform, called Firstrade Investor Center.

The web trading platform is available in English, Mandarin, Cantonese.

Look and feel

The Firstrade web trading platform is user-friendly, provides good user experience and design. On the negative side, it is customizability is limited. You can change the order of the tabs in the Investor Home, but other tabs aren't customizable.

Firstrade review - Web trading platform

Login and security

Firstrade provides only a one-step login authentication. A two-step login would be more secure.

When you set up your account for the first time you have to choose two security Q&As and a 4 digit PIN code. After the registration, you can access your account using your regular ID and password combo.

Search functions

The search functions are good. You can search by typing both a company's name or asset's ticker, the results are relevant.

Firstrade review - Web trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the following basic order types:

  • Market
  • Limit
  • Stop
  • 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 + Extension
  • All or Nothing (AON)

Firstrade review - Web trading platform - Order panel

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 has clear portfolio and fee reports. You can find them under "My accounts" menu Position" and "History".

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Firstrade review
Mobile trading platform 3 stars

Firstrade's mobile platform is user-friendly and has a great search function. On the other hand, it could be improved in a way to cover the whole product range and to be able to set alerts and two-step login.
Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Good search function
  • Good variety of order types
Cons
  • No two-step (safe) login
  • No price alerts
  • Mutual funds and bonds are not covered

Firstrade has an in-house developed mobile trading platform. It is available both on iOS and Android. We tested it on iOS.

Similarly to the web trading platform, the mobile trading platform is available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

We didn't like that you can trade only with stocks, ETF, and options, it lacks bonds and mutual funds.

Look and feel

The Firstrade mobile trading platform is user-friendly and well-designed.

Firstrade review - Mobile trading platform

Login and security

Firstrade provides a one-step login, a two-step authentication would be safer. However, you can enable the biometrics: both face and touch ID are available. 

Search functions

The search functions are good, you get relevant results quickly. We liked the integrated third-party analysts' opinion and the news feed. 

Firstrade review - Mobile trading platform - Search

Placing orders

You can use the same order types and order time limits as in the web trading platform.

Firstrade review - Mobile trading platform - Order panel

Alerts and notifications

You can't set alerts on the Firstrade mobile platform, however, you can enable push notifications.

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Firstrade review
Desktop trading platform

Firstrade does not provide a desktop trading platform.

  

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Firstrade review
Markets and products 2 stars

Firstrade offers different asset classes, from stocks to options. However, the offered products cover only the US market and you cannot trade with futures or forex.
  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Stock Yes Yes Yes
ETF Yes Yes Yes
Forex No No No
Fund Yes Yes Yes
Bond Yes Yes Yes
Options Yes Yes Yes
Futures No No Yes
CFD No No No
Crypto No No No

Firstrade' has an average mutual fund, bond, and options offer. It lags behind in stock and ETF offers.

Stock and ETF

Firstrade covers only the US market. It is similar to E-Trade but less than Fidelity's offer which gives access to international stock exchanges as well.

  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Stock markets (#) 5 29 5
ETFs (#) 2,200 2,200 2,300

You can trade with stocks on these stock exchanges: NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, OTCBB, OTC Pink. 

Fund

Firstrade has average mutual fund coverage. It's less than at E-Trade and Fidelity.

  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Fund providers (#) 415 561 530

You will find funds from the biggest fund providers like BlackRock or Vanguard and from smaller ones too.

Bond

Firstrade has an average bond offer. It lags behind the competitors.

  Firstrade Fidelity E-Trade
Bonds (#) 38,500 113,000 88,000

The bond offer covers both government and corporate bonds.

Options

Firstrade covers CBOE and other US options exchanges but not disclose which ones exactly.

Firstrade review
Research 5 stars

Firstrade has great research tools. You can use many tools, including trading ideas, screeners, and detailed fundamental data.
Pros
  • Analyst recommendations for stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Data on asset fundamentals
  • Good set of analytical tools
Cons
None

Firstrade's research tools can be found under the "Research&Tools" menu. Similarly to the trading platforms, the research tools are available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Trading ideas

Firstrade provides trading ideas for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. The ideas are from third-party providers like Morningstar or Gold. We liked the integrated features, such as the preset peer group comparison and the plotting of the data.

Firstrade review - Research - Recommendations

Fundamental data

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 review - Research - Fundamental data

Charting

Firstrade has good charting tools. You can easily edit the charts and use ~50 technical indicators.

Firstrade review - Research - Charting

News feed

The news is OK. It is easily readable but lacks visual elements, like charts or pictures. It is provided by third-parties, like Benzinga, Briefing.com, or Zacks.

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.

Under the Education menu, you can find the Option Wizzard provided by OptionsPlay.com, which is a great tool for options trading.

Firstrade review - Research - Options Wizzard

Compare research pros and cons

Firstrade review
Customer service 3 stars

Firstrade's support team provides relevant information and available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. On the flip side, there is no 24/7 support and the speed of the customer service is slow.
Pros
  • Phone support
  • Relevant answers
  • Available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese
Cons
  • Slow support
  • No 24/7 support

You can contact Firstrade via:

  • telephone
  • email
  • chatbot (intelligent FAQ)

Firstrade's telephone support gave relevant and helpful answers, but the speed was average.

On email, we got mostly relevancy answers, but it took a couple of days to answer.

Firstrade has a chatbot (or intelligent FAQ), but it can answer only to the basic questions, like what account types and fees Firstrade has.

We missed 24/7 availability.

Firstrade review - Customer Service

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Firstrade review
Education 4 stars

Firstrade offers good quality educational articles, a useful glossary, a bunch of platform videos and useful webinars. However, a demo account is missing.
Pros
  • Trading platform tutorial videos
  • Educational videos
Cons
  • No demo account

At Firstrade you can learn in the following ways:

  • Platform tutorial videos
  • General educational videos
  • Webinars
  • Quality educational articles

We liked the platform tutorial videos. There are a lot of them and 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. However, you can not download the materials or catch a live webinar.

Besides videos, you can listen to podcasts and read downloadable Ebooks. Most of these features are accessible from your account under the Education menu.

Firstrade review - Education

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Firstrade review
Safety

Firstrade is regulated by top-tier regulators, like the SEC or the FINRA. You are also protected by a high investor protection amount, $500,000 which includes $250,000 for cash. On the negative side, negative balance protection is not provided and Firstrade does not have a banking background.
Pros
  • Regulated by top tier financial authority
  • High level of investor protection
Cons
  • No negative balance 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).

Firstrade is based in the USA and was founded in 1985. Is Firstrade safe? To be certain, it is best to check two things: how you are protected if something goes wrong and what the background of the broker is.

How you are protected

This is important for you because the investor protection amount and the regulator differ from entity to entity. With Firstrade this is not an issue though as all customers are covered by Firstrade Securities, Inc. and 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. 

On the other hand, Firstrade does not provide negative balance protection.

Background

Firstrade was established in 1985 under the name of First Flushing Securities. The longer the track record of a broker, the more proof we have that it has successfully survived previous financial crises.

Being in operation for a long time and regulated by top-tier regulators are all great signs for Firstrade's safety.

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Firstrade review
Bottom line

Firstrade is one of the biggest discount US stockbrokers regulated by top-tier regulators.

Firstrade offers free stock, ETF, mutual fund, and options trading. It doesn't charge inactivity and account fees. There are a lot of quality research and educational tools.

It has some drawbacks though. Firstrade doesn't provide credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for transferring money. The product portfolio covers only the US market. The customer service could be faster and non-stop available. 

As there are low fees and no inactivity fee is charged, feel free to try Firstrade.

Firstrade main features and highlights

🗺️ 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
💳 Deposit with credit card Not available
👛 Depositing with electronic wallet Not available
💱 Number of base currencies supported 1
🎮 Demo account provided No
🛍️ Products offered Stock, ETF, Fund, Bond, Options

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Firstrade logo

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.

Recommended for beginners and investors looking for zero commission and focusing on US market.

Compare to other brokers

Overall 5 stars

Pros
  • Free stock, ETF, fund, and options trading
  • Solid research tools
  • Quality educational tools
Cons
  • No credit/debit cards and electronic wallets for money transfer
  • Only US market covered
  • Slow customer service and no 24/7

Fees 5 stars

Pros
  • Low non-trading fees
  • No withdrawal fee
  • Free stock, ETF, fund, and options
Cons
  • High financing rate
  • Average bond fees

Account opening 4 stars

Pros
  • Fully digital account opening
  • No minimum account balance
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • 1-3 business days account opening

Deposit and withdrawal 2 stars

Pros
  • No deposit fee
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • Credit/Debit card deposit and withdrawal not available
  • Only one account base currency
  • High outgoing wire transfer fee

Web trading platform 4 stars

Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Clear fee report
  • Good search function
Cons
  • No two-step (safe) login
  • Limited customizability (for charts, workspace)

Mobile trading platform 3 stars

Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Good search function
  • Good variety of order types
Cons
  • No two-step (safe) login
  • No price alerts
  • Mutual funds and bonds are not covered

Markets and products 2 stars

The available asset classes to trade:

  • Stock
  • ETF
  • Fund
  • Bond
  • Options

Research 5 stars

Pros
  • Analyst recommendations for stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Data on asset fundamentals
  • Good set of analytical tools
Cons
None

Customer service 3 stars

Pros
  • Phone support
  • Relevant answers
  • Available in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese
Cons
  • Slow support
  • No 24/7 support

Education 4 stars

Pros
  • Trading platform tutorial videos
  • Educational videos
Cons
  • No demo account

Safety

Pros
  • Regulated by top tier financial authority
  • High level of investor protection
Cons
  • No negative balance protection
  • Does not hold a banking license
  • Not listed on stock exchange

AUTHOR OF THIS REVIEW

Gergely Korpos
Gergely Korpos
Co-founder, CPO
Gergely's aim is to bring more clarity into personal investing. He has 10 years of experience in financial markets with GE Money, KPMG and MOL. He concluded thousands of trades as a commodity trader and financial portfolio manager

METHODOLOGY

Everything you find on Brokerchooser is based on reliable data and unbiased information. We combine our 10+ years finance experience with readers feedback. Read more about our methodology

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