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. And Firstrade integrated 38 cryptocurrencies into their platform and counting.
Pros & Cons
Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
$0 contract fee on options trades.
All mutual funds are commission-free.
Chinese language options.
Large selection of cryptocurrencies.
No 24/7 customer support.
Compare to Similar Brokers
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Where Firstrade shines
Trading platform: Firstrade has three trading platforms, including a desktop platform, Options Wizard and Firstrade Navigator, plus a highly rated mobile app for iOS and Android.
Options trading: Firstrade is among the few brokers we review that doesn’t charge a per-contract fee for options trades.
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.
Firstrade is best for:
Mutual fund investors.
Native Chinese speakers.
Firstrade at a glance
Stock trading costs
$0 per contract.
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)
$0 inactivity/account fees; $75 full outgoing transfer fee; $55 partial transfer.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
More than 12,400 commission-free mutual funds.
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options. • Crypto.
Three trading platforms: Desktop platform, Firstrade Navigator, Options Wizard.
Available for iOS and Android. Access to core account functions including tracking, quotes and trading.
Research and data
Research and reports from five third-party sources; good selection of trading tools.
Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website).
Online chat, email and phone support Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.
More details about Firstrade's ratings
Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars
Beginning investors will appreciate Firstrade’s $0 account minimum, though requiring a minimum investment is now relatively rare among the brokers we review.
Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars
Firstrade was a pioneer in commission-free trading for stocks, options and ETFs before $0 trades were 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).
Options trades: 5 out of 5 stars
Rare among brokers, Firstrade doesn’t charge any per-contract fees for options trades.
Account fees: 2 out of 5 stars
Firstrade has a $75 full outgoing transfer fee, which is fairly standard. However, it also charges a $55 partial transfer fee, a fee that isn’t as common among the other brokers we review. Still, the brokerage has no inactivity or annual account fees.
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 5 out of 5 stars
Most brokers have a selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, but then charge from $5 to $49.99 for buying or selling 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.
Tradable securities: 4 out of 5 stars
Firstrade customers have access to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies. This investment selection is suitable for most investors; however, you won’t find forex or futures here.
Crypto offering: Firstrade is a relatively new entrant among the brokers that sell cryptocurrency to clients. It has a decent selection compared with its peers, offering about 40 cryptocurrencies with no fees other than a 1 percent spread on either side of a transaction. However, Firstrade fares worse when compared to pure-play crypto exchanges on our roundup of the best crypto platforms.
Firstrade lacks some of the capabilities that you’d likely get from a top-tier crypto provider. The company doesn’t have any crypto-to-crypto trading pairs, for instance. And Firstrade lacks the ability to send cryptocurrency to customers’ privately-controlled wallets — a must-have feature for many dedicated crypto users.
Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars
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.
The 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.
Mobile app: 5 out of 5 stars
The Firstrade mobile app is highly rated by users and 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.
Research and data: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Clients have access to free research from Morningstar, Benzinga, Zacks and Briefing.com. Firstrade’s Market Heatmap gives a broad overview of the market trends, with bullish- and bearish-performing sectors visible at a glance. For options investors, Firstrade offers Options Play, a free analytics tool, as well as educational seminars to help newbies learn the ropes.
Customer support options: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Firstrade customer support is available through email and phone, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.
Other features you should know
Open to international investors. Beyond the U.S., Firstrade also accepts clients from nearly 30 countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Israel and Mexico. A U.S. Social Security number or tax ID number are not required.
Chinese-language options. Native Chinese speakers will appreciate that Firstrade’s platforms are available in traditional and simplified Chinese.
Is Firstrade right for you?
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.
How do we review brokers?
NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs. We adhere to strict guidelines for editorial integrity.
We collect data directly from providers through detailed questionnaires, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. The questionnaire answers, combined with demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars).
For more details about the categories considered when rating brokers and our process, read our full methodology.