Editorial Review

Firstrade Review 2020: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

With free commissions on trades — including all mutual funds — and a $0 account minimum, Firstrade is among NerdWallet’s top picks for discount brokers.

Kevin VoigtJanuary 30, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: In addition to free stock and options trading, Firstrade charges no commission for mutual funds, a deal no other broker matches. Options traders will appreciate that the broker charges no contract fee, also a rarity among brokers.

Best Broker for IRA Investing

Firstrade

Firstrade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $200

in Transfer Fee Rebates

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

  • $0 contract fee on options trades.

  • All mutual funds are commission-free.

  • Chinese language options.

Cons

  • No 24/7 customer support.

Compare to Similar Brokers

E*TRADE
TD Ameritrade
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion at this time

Full Review

Firstrade appeals to experienced investors with $0 trading costs and no per-contract fees for options trades, while beginning investors will appreciate its $0 account minimum to begin investing. Investors looking for long-term investments enjoy commission-free trades for all mutual funds.

With three trading platforms and a recently redesigned mobile app, Firstrade offers a strong brokerage experience whether you are a day trader or a retirement investor looking to open an IRA.

Firstrade is best for:

  • Beginning investors.

  • Mutual fund investors.

  • Options traders.

  • Free commissions.

  • Native Chinese speakers.

Firstrade at a glance

Account minimum

$0

Stock trading costs

$0

Options trades

$0 per contract

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

$0 inactivity/account fees; $75 full outgoing transfer fee

Commission-free ETFs

All ETFs are commission-free.

No-transaction-fee mutual funds

All mutual funds are commission-free.

Tradable securities

• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.

Trading platform

Three trading platforms: Desktop platform, Firstrade Navigator, Options Wizard

Mobile app

Available for iOS and Android. Access to core account functions including tracking, quotes and trading.

Research and data

Free

Customer support options (includes website transparency)

Online chat, email and phone support Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Promotions

Transfer fee rebate of up to $200; $25 wire transfer rebate

Where Firstrade shines

Commission-free trades: Firstrade was a pioneer in commission-free trading for stocks, options and ETFs before a broker price war at the end of 2019 made $0 trades the industry standard. Prior to that, Firstrade was also the only commission-free broker to offer retirement accounts (unlike the original free-trade brokerage, Robinhood, which offers only taxable brokerage accounts). Rare among brokers, Firstrade doesn’t charge any per-contract fees for options trades — only Robinhood has a similar deal.

Free trades on all mutual funds: Most brokers have a selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, but then charge anywhere from $5 to $49.99 for buying or selling shares of funds not on that list. Not Firstrade. Uniquely among brokers we review, Firstrade doesn't charge a trading fee on any of the thousands of mutual funds it has on offer.

Trading platform: Firstrade has three trading platforms, including a desktop platform, Options Wizard and Firstrade Navigator.

Firstrade Navigator allows you to view your positions and balances and trade in your accounts all on one screen, with drop-and-drag customization of market-related information, charts and tracking.

A redesigned advanced screener helps narrow down your investment choices by categories like high-yielding quality stocks, large-cap growth stocks, “bargain basement” small-cap funds and dozens of other criteria. Options Wizard allows sophisticated analysis of potential losses and gains from options trading and more than 40 complex options strategies.

Research and education: Clients have access to free research from Morningstar, Benzinga, Zacks and Briefing.com. Firstrade’s new Market Heatmap gives a broad overview of the market trends, with bullish- and bearish-performing sectors visible at a glance. For options investors, Firstrade holds biweekly educational seminars to help newbies learn the ropes.

Mobile app: Firstrade launched its redesigned mobile app in July, which now includes intuitive swipe actions, a consolidated portfolio dashboard and upgraded research with advanced charting capabilities. The app instantly syncs with desktop platforms, and users can trade, transfer funds among accounts, view order history and create a watchlist to follow trading opportunities. The app is available on both Android and iOS.

Open to some international investors: Beyond the U.S., Firstrade also accepts clients from Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and Mexico. (International investors must provide a foreign tax ID number and passport information to open an account.)

Chinese-language options: Native Chinese speakers will appreciate that Firstrade’s platforms are available in traditional and simplified Chinese.

Referral program: Firstrade is offering new and existing customers a free stock for themselves and a friend they refer to the brokerage. One out of every 100 has a chance to receive a free stock in Apple, Facebook or Microsoft, the company says.

Where Firstrade falls short

Investment choice: Professional investors may be disappointed that Firstrade offers no forex, futures or futures options trading to complement its rock-bottom pricing on option trades. But retirement investors have more than enough options to build and manage their portfolio with Firstrade.

The bottom line

Firstrade is an innovator in commission-free investing, which is one of the reasons it’s considered one of the best discount brokers we’ve reviewed. Beyond $0 commissions on trading stocks, ETFs and options, Firstrade also doesn’t charge trading commissions on any mutual fund, nor does it charge a per-contract fee on options trades. Native Chinese speakers will be drawn to Firstrade’s platform, which is available in both traditional and simplified Chinese.