Founded way back in 1985, Firstrade is a regulated US broker offering commission-free investing across a wide range of asset classes. At Firstrade you can invest in ETFs, Stocks, Mutual Funds, Options, Fixed Products and more.
But is Firstrade reliable? There are so many features at this online broker and beginners have plenty of educational tools to learn to trade. Our experts have conducted a thorough Firstrade review and have all the details on the cost of trading more than 2,000 ETFs with zero commissions.
For our Firstrade review, we made sure to check how many offers were available to US residents. We noted 4 promotions straight away. Firstly, there is a free stocks promotion available to US residents that open an account for the first time. Upon account opening, a new trader will get 1 free stock and then a 2nd subsequent stock upon first deposit of $100 or more. The free stocks are chosen at random using an algorithm, but new traders have a 1 in 100 chance of receiving a stock from the likes of Apple and Advanced Micro Devices.
Traders can also receive up to $200 in transfer rebates if they switch to Firstrade from another broker – check out our Interactive Brokers review for another broker. Another bonus currently available to US residents is a $25 rebate when you wire funds from your bank account. Finally, like many online brokers such as seen in our WeBull review, Firstrade is offering a referral bonus that nets traders free stocks.
We spent a lot of time on trading platforms during our Firstrade review. The Web platform is incredibly simple to navigate, and you can place an order from almost any section of the website or mobile app. We found it very easy to customize the platforms to our liking and it was just a matter of clicking and dragging modules to and from locations. We liked the customization far better than anything we saw in our M1-Finance review.
Charting tools are easy to access and the MultiCharts functionality is very intuitive. However, during our Firstrade review we certainly weren’t impressed by the lack of integration of charts with the order entry windows. During our Firstrade review, we felt that experienced traders may wish to choose the WebTrader over the mobile app simply because the order options were a little limited.
When it comes to accounts, Firstrade may have the most of any broker we’ve tested. Even more than in our JP Morgan You Invest review. Our Firstrade review found the following accounts:
- Regular Investing Account
- Business Accounts
- Education Savings Account
- Custodial Account
- Firstrade Cash Management Account
- International Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
All these accounts are only available to US residents, excluding the International Accounts. We thoroughly studied the accounts during our Firstrade Review and noted a lot of account management tools. All the accounts can be uniquely customized with columns positioned wherever you please. You look up your account history in a myriad of ways and you can even download your Firstrade account details to a personal finance software of your choosing.
Our Firstrade review in the US found a web trading platform and a mobile trading platform. The web platform gets big points for intuitiveness and a seriously simple design that really benefits beginner traders. However, we didn’t see any two-factor authorisation and a rather limited customizability. The platforms are designed by Firstrade and there are no third-party apps to use like MetaTrader 5. Interestingly, there are 3 languages available – English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Customization is a weak point – other than changing the order of tabs, you can’t customize much else. The search function is great, however, and you can search by both asset name and ticker. Order types are simple too. No matter the account you hold you have 5 order types:
- Stop Limit
- Trailing Stop
- Advanced traders can even leverage order time options such as:
- Good Til 90
- Pre and After Market
- Day + EXT
The mobile trading app is available for both Android and iOS devices. Just as intuitive as the Web Platform, not much is different here. Unfortunately, we noted that we couldn’t trade Mutual Funds or Bonds on the mobile app. The app has a darker theme than the web platform which works well, and price alerts are available too. Unfortunately, the mobile version also has no two-factor authorization although the app can be set to open for your biometrics on supported devices.
During our Firstrade review, we all agreed that the payment process at this broker was intuitive but were rather disappointed by the lack of common payment methods like debit/credit card – like what you would find in our Coinbase review. If you prefer to keep things digital, Firstrade offers electronic bank transfers through an ACH Electronic Funds transfer. You can also deposit via a wire transfer from a local or international bank – remembering that Firstrade only operates in US dollars, so an international account may suffer from foreign currency conversion fees. Finally, Firstrade also accepts cheques and that extends to making cheque deposits for any IRA contributions too.
However, there are no deposit fees at Firstrade. During our Firstrade review, we tested the ACH method and our funds reached our account in 2 business days. When it comes to making a withdrawal, is Firstrade reliable? It certainly is. Firstrade withdrawals using ACH are fee free. However, a US wire transfer will cost you $30 per transfer. Our ACH withdrawal also took 2 business days – not a bad withdrawal time considering some of the slower times seen in this industry.
Fees – Is Firstrade affordable?
The first thing that caught our attention during our Firstrade review was the complete lack of any commissions. Stock, Options, Mutual funds, all feature zero commissions. There are no trading commission fees on ETF trades too. During our Firstrade review, we noted no contract fees or exercise and assignment fees for options trading.
Instead, this broker makes its money from the margin rates and spreads. Traders can also lend their shares in exchange for cheaper daily income thereby lowering fees. Firstrade margin rates are extremely low also – our Firstrade review noted the lowest margin rate of 4.50% and a credit interest rate of 0.01%. The highest margin rates are on trades under $10,000 with an effective margin rate of 8.75%.
Customer support is incredibly important when trading online. You want to entrust your funds with a broker that will provide help when you need it most. We noted 2 main channels of support during our Firstrade review in the US. Firstly, unlike many brokers and exchanges such as Coinbase, Firstrade actually has phone support. You can call a US toll-free number between 08:00 – 18:00 ET between Monday and Friday.
The 2nd port of call at TradersBest is to send an email. You can do this by using a handy web form from the Firstrade website. It’s a simple drop-down box web form and you can’t attach any files – however, once you have received assistance, you’ll be free to send attachments. A lack of live chat and no 24/7 support is a big negative though.
The email support wasn’t outstanding either. During our Firstrade review, the responses we received from our email queries were quick but not entirely relevant. Phone support wasn’t particularly helpful either. We were on hold for a long time and often struggled to connect to an agent. We scoured other Firstrade reviews and confirmed this is often the case. Many queries can be answered in the Firstrade help centre, where you can find responses to a wide range of questions.
Regulation is a vital component of investing at an online broker. It is a sign of a reputable broker that has maintained legal business practices, high levels of security, and safe trading practices too. In the US, Firstrade is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Regulation with these agencies has a number of benefits such as being able to look up extensive information about the company and their business practices. In essence, how they operate is held to a standard and they are accountable.
Firstrade is also a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). The SIPC is an insurance organisation funded by members and was created as a form of protection that can repay customers’ funds if a broker becomes insolvent. Firstrade customers in the US are protected up to $500,000. Beyond that, Firstrade have arranged further coverage, via their clearing firm Apex Clearing Corporation, that protects securities and cash up to an aggregate of $150 million and is subject to single customer sublimit of $37.5 million for securities and $900,000 for cash.
Firstrade has also been trading since 1985 and such a long track record goes a long way to proving reliability, transparency, and legitimacy. Our Firstrade review confirmed a reputable history also.
Like many US brokers these days, Firstrade provides a means to trade using your Individual Retirement Account (IRA). During our Firstrade review, we noted 3 IRA accounts available to US residents. Traders can access a Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or a Rollover IRA account. This offers a great way for individuals to trade with tax benefits.
Need to access more funds in the short-term for an important trade? Our Firstrade review noted Margin Loans. No, this isn’t a Firstrade scam – Firstrade offers flexible short-term loans for financing security purchases.
During our Firstrade review, we also found the Firstrade Navigator platform. It is available on all accounts and is a fully customizable trading platform with advanced charting capabilities and real-time market data streaming. During our Firstrade review we felt that beginners may be totally overwhelmed by the platform, but experienced traders will feel right at home.
As one of the largest discount brokers in the US, Firstrade is top tier regulated and confirmed in our Firstrade review to be safe. This broker offers zero commission trading of thousands of US stocks, more than 2,000 ETFs and mutual and options trading too. There are no account management fees and the educational tools will be of a great benefit to novice traders. Traders can even earn free stocks from a rewarding referral bonus.
However, there aren’t many payment methods supported and a lack of credit/debit cards is a disappointment. You can only trade in US stocks and that is limiting when you consider the scale of the global markets. We also found a lack of 24/7 support during our Firstrade review but 24/5 is passable. Despite some drawbacks found during our Firstrade review, low fees and great US market stocks make this a great introductory broker.