Firstrade Review

Firstrade lacks some of the trading tools, technology, and resources that are standard among the top brokers, but they have mastered simplicity with a clean website and trading platform that will cover the basics for standard investors.

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The Good

Clean and logical navigation

Overall, Firstrade does a very solid job of organizing the information in your account. It’s a breeze to navigate. Everything is clear and makes sense, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. However, one aspect that’s missing is the ability to search the website while logged into your account. This would come in handy when you can’t find what you’re looking for, but you shouldn’t have much of a problem with that if you use Firstrade.

Track several stocks at once with X-Stream

Firstrade has a proprietary Java-based software called X-Stream Watchlist that allows you to track up to 20 stocks at one time. You simply add a stock to the X-Stream to get a quote and then you can access everything you need to know about the stock, including charts, live news, historical research, and more. Even better, you can make trades using X-Stream. While the idea of X-Stream is great, it seems like the technology isn’t all there yet. The program takes some time to load and it requires an additional small window to be open separate from the X-Stream window. X-Stream Portfolio is also available, which carries over the same concept to your portfolio information.

Very functional mobile application

What Firstrade may lack in overall features they make up for with a simple, easy-to-use mobile app. You can quickly navigate the iPhone app by jumping around within the Menu screen. Making a trade is just one thumb tap away on the Trade screen. If the app was available for more devices and had more features, it would hold its own against some of the other brokers.

Lower trading costs and fees than the major brokers

Priced at $6.95, making a stock or options trade is more than a dollar cheaper per trade than any of the major brokers. This cost puts them right between the major brokers and the discount brokers in terms of price.

The Bad

Lacking in educational resources

If you’re looking to learn and develop as a trader or investor, Firstrade will not be the best choice for you. Their education is segmented by product guides (stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and fixed income) and contain encyclopedia-like information. They also don’t offer any courses or webinars. Mostly the basics are covered, which you could get anywhere else online. The only reason you would use their educational resources is to avoid opening another browser window.

No access to forex, futures or international markets

Firstrade doesn’t offer access to these three markets, which is a negative for traders who are looking to dabble in a variety of products. You are able to trade all of the other investment products using Firstrade, including a good number of easy-to-borrow stocks that can be short sold.

Absence of smart-order routing technology

To get the best price execution for your trades, your broker must offer smart-order routing technology. Firstrade doesn’t offer it, which immediately sets them behind the industry leaders when it comes to trading tools and technology. You might pay a cheaper flat fee to make a stock or options trade with Firstrade, but there is the possibility that you could lose that value by getting poorer prices during the actual execution of your trade.

Weak offering of mobile features and availability

The iPhone app may be very easy to navigate, but it lacks a few core features found in other mobile applications, including the ability to create watch lists and alerts. The other downfall about Firstrade’s mobile capabilities is that they only offer an app for Apple and Android devices. That means you’re out of luck if you own a BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or other mobile device.

The Details

Trading Costs and Fees

  • Broker Assisted Trades: $19.95
  • Futures Contract Fee: Not offered
  • Maintenance Fees: $0
  • Margin Rates: 4.5-7.75%
  • Minimum Account Balance Fee: $0
  • Mutual Funds Fee - Load: $0
  • Mutual Funds Fee - No-Load: $9.95
  • Options Contract Price: $0.75
  • Options Flat Fee: $6.95
  • Stock Flat Fee: $6.95

Other Fees

  • ACH/EFT Withdrawal: $35
  • Bounced Check: $35
  • Check Withdrawal: $30
  • Domestic Wire Withdrawal: $30
  • Forced Margin Sellout: $25
  • Full Account Transfer: $50 (ACATS Eligible)
  • IRA Annual Fee: $0
  • Partial Account Transfer: $10/item
  • Stop Payment on Check: $25
  • Telephone Orders: $16.95

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