The bottom line:
Pros & Cons
Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
$0 contract fee on options trades.
All mutual funds are commission-free.
Chinese language options.
No 24/7 customer support.
Low interest rate on uninvested cash.
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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. Inactivity in rare circumstances.
Interest rate on uninvested cash
Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds
More than 5,800.
• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.
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.
Options trades: 5 out of 5 stars
Somewhat rare among brokers, Firstrade doesn’t charge any per-contract fees for options trades.
Account fees: 4 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 annual account fees.
Firstrade does have a $100 fee if your account is unused for long enough that it is considered abandoned, but the company says it makes an effort to reach customers before they reach that point.
Interest rate on uninvested cash: 1 out of 5 stars
You'll get an interest rate of 0.45% if you leave uninvested cash in your Firstrade account.
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. Rare 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: 3 out of 5 stars
Firstrade customers have access to stocks, mutual funds, ETFs and options. It also offers a handful of choices when it comes to bonds, including corporate bonds, Treasurys, municipal bonds, agency bonds, strips and bond ETFs.
This investment selection is suitable for most investors; however, you won’t find forex or futures here. And in 2023, the company decided to get out of the crypto business, eliminating its digital asset trading capabilities.
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.
We found signing up with Firstrade to be relatively painless. It might take you a little longer to transfer money into your investment account if you use a small bank that does not easily connect to Firstrade, though several brokers have this issue.
Unlike some competitors, Firstrade doesn't offer clients access to IPOs. The platform does offer over-the-counter securities with no commission, however.
When you're considering the costs of Firstrade, keep in mind that the company does accept payment for order flow. That means that market makers may reward Firstrade for routing your trades to them. Payment for order flow can incentivize brokers to seek those rebates rather than focusing on the absolute best price for the customer. That said, there are many discount brokers beyond Firstrade that use this business model.
Firstrade says its execution quality is 95.92%.
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 out of 5 stars
Clients have access to free research from Morningstar. 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 OptionsPlay, a free analytics tool, as well as educational seminars to help newbies learn the ropes.
Customer support: 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 Firstrade 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. 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.