Firstrade Securities was founded in 1985 in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York, to serve the needs of the local community, especially ethnic Chinese immigrants. In 30-plus years, Firstrade has become an online discount broker with a range of tools and resources, including some unique features. True to its roots, the website is available for trading in traditional and simplified Chinese as well as in English. Firstrade offers low fees: $2.95 per stock trade, $0.50 per options contract, and up to 500 commission-free trades for new accounts with a $2,000 initial deposit. There are no minimum balance fees, and you can get $100 in free trades when you open even a small new account. Among other standout features are after-hours trading, both simple and complex options orders, thousands of available mutual funds, and access to a range of fixed-income products, including U.S. Treasuries and corporate and municipal bonds.
Firstrade customers have direct access not only to the universe of U.S.-listed stocks, ETFs (including a dozen commission-free ETFs), and mutual funds, but also to fixed-income markets, including Treasuries, corporates, municipal bonds, and certificates of deposit (CDs). In addition, you can access equity options, including both simple and complex strategies. To help you devise an options strategy, Firstrade has teamed up with OptionsPlay. You can experiment with different combinations and see how they score based on the OptionsPlay tools' internal metrics. In addition to simple market, limit, and stop-loss stock orders, you can also enter conditional orders - one cancels the other (OCO) or one triggers the other (OTO). After-hours trades are still $2.95 per trade, but only limit orders are allowed.
Firstrade customers and their assets are safeguarded to industry standards. In addition to operating under FINRA regulations, the brokerage uses a clearing firm (Apex Clearing Corp.) that provides an extra layer of insurance protection beyond the regulators' minimums. Firstrade is a member of SIPC, so its securities accounts are protected for up to $500,000, including $250,000 for cash claims.
As a member of both FINRA and SIPC, Firstrade is regulated for both equity and fixed-income markets. The broker guarantees best execution efforts, promising that if your qualifying S&P 500 equity market order takes longer than 0.1 second to execute, your trade is commission-free. Firstrade also offers account balance protection through a third-party insurer and secures your account and its privacy, guaranteeing losses up to $37.5 million per customer in the event of improprieties.
Firstrade's Navigator platform was built in-house for more active traders. It features an integrated all-in-one-screen experience with advanced technical charting to help you make timely investment decisions. The platform also provides advanced orders that give you complete control of your positions; complete control extends to conditional orders, detailed trailing stops, and complex options strategies.
Day traders or fans of technical analysis will appreciate the studies and customizable widgets found in the Navigator platform. Geared toward active traders, Navigator also gives new investors a chance to get their hands on powerful trading tools. In addition to the usual stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, Firstrade gives customers direct access to bond and CD markets. Another useful feature is that you can place conditional orders, such as one cancels the other (OCO) or one triggers the other (OTO). True to its roots, Firstrade still provides extensive support for its Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking clients. The brokerage provides a trilingual web experience not only within the platform but also in its banking services and business planning. A unique feature is that all clients have access to Firstrade's one-of-a-kind Security Lending Program, which lets you earn extra income from loans of fully paid shares of stock in your account. Just sign up for the program and let your portfolio do some extra work for you.
Compared with many other online brokers, Firstrade is basic, taking a largely utilitarian approach to investing. At the same time, you're not paying for all the bells and whistles that many of its large competitors provide. The site's research and tools section is thorough, with some useful features not offered by most of its competitors. However, you may have to do a bit of searching on the site to find these resources. In addition to the main site, Firstrade recently built its own all-in-one trading platform for more active traders, based on a single-page layout with modules. That platform, called Navigator, is fully customizable, allowing you to add or remove modules or drag them to other locations on the screen.
Customizable Firstrade Navigator platform is simple, making it easy to move from thinking of a trade to executing it from the Account Dashboard. Both beginners and active traders can benefit from the education section, which offers guides, a podcast, and a position simulator. Chinese Language Platform: For Chinese-speaking investors who want to trade U.S. markets.
Bare-bones site which could use some updating and modernization. Disappointing Research and Analysis: Research reports from companies such as Morningstar and Zacks may lack the distinctiveness or customized news experience available from some other providers.
Available on iOS or Android, the Firstrade mobile app provides the beginner or active trader with access to the markets both day and night. This includes advanced charting features, a portfolio dashboard, and equity ratings for the fundamental investor. The iOS version also features touch ID support for added security.
Firstrade's mobile app has everything an investor needs to trade: Equity Ratings and Fundamental Data, Advanced Charts, Reports & Ratings, and Portfolio Dashboard. Up to Date: Frequently updated with bug fixes and upgrades.
Can be a little difficult to navigate until you've become accustomed to it. Lacks Some Features: Can't access account services or make transfers. Currently lacks a horizontal landscape view mode, available with some competitors' apps.
Customers have several ways to get in touch, including live chat, email, and phone. There is also a call-back service. The customer support team is accessible 10 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Firstrade also caters to the do-it-yourself investor with one of the most comprehensive FAQ sections available.
Customer service is available by phone, live chat, or email Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Chinese-language support is also available by phone or chat. There is no dedicated social media channel for support and no TTY phone line available for customers with hearing impairments.
Firstrade offers a fairly good selection of research tools, including screeners, fundamental analysis, and downloadable analyst reports. These resources are mainly located in the Research & Tools tab, which is broken down by several categories, including asset class, market news, and screeners. Absent from the platform are technical analysis signals (although there are many indicators and studies with the charts), as well as social indicators of market sentiment.
The Research & Tools section of the site offers some helpful resources, including the Morningstar Risk Measures & Style Map and commentary from Zacks. For clients who want the latest market updates, the platform features articles from well-known outlets such as Benzinga, Briefing.com, Marketwired, and PR Newswire.
Compared with many of its competitors, Firstrade's research offerings are minimal. Other brokerages offer a wider array of research reports, and you may have to look elsewhere if you want higher-quality research. In addition, the user experience and design could use some updating. The technical analysis tools are also basic.
The educational content provided by Firstrade includes instructional videos covering investment products, use of the platform, and basic investing strategies. Detailed information on margin loans, retirement accounts, and tax planning are also provided. The education center offers beginners a detailed investment glossary, including a breakdown of key concepts and phraseology.
The education section offers basic information about investing and trading that is well suited to beginners. However, in-depth instruction is lacking, so more advanced investors aren't likely to get much out of this part of the site. The section on retirement planning is richer but lacks some basic tools, such as a retirement savings calculator.
A Firstrade Cash Management Account lets you consolidate your banking and brokerage services in one place via an integrated system for trading, investing, and spending your money - all within one account. Firstrade does not charge fees for incoming transfers and, as of September 2017, if you wire $25,000 or more, it will rebate the wire fees.
Firstrade customers get free check writing and debit card privileges as long as they maintain a minimum account balance of $25,000. However, several other online brokerages offer similar services with a lower minimum balance requirement. Plus, Firstrade doesn't offer some other common banking services, such as savings accounts, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit.