• Discount trades
• Simple site
• No minimums or account maintenance fees
• Lack of research and education tools
• Fewer advanced trading tools and features
Firstrade may not be a household name like some of its competitors but the online broker does offer a simple way to invest and build a portfolio. But with a less extensive research and education collection, and lack of high-powered trading tools, is Firstrade the one for you?
Firstrade offers a range of investment products for traders wanting to build a rounded portfolio. The broker has operated since 1985 and today provides an easy to use trading platform, mobile app, customer service and research. Trade stocks, options, ETFs, bonds and mutual funds with Firstrade. What does this online broker have to tempt investors? Is it worth putting Firstrade on your watch list? We looked at the features and tools to decide whether Firstrade is worth a second glance.
Firstrade tools are clean and simple, but you are unlikely to be amazed by what’s on offer. Like many online brokers that are just outside the realm of the main players, Firstrade’s offering is more limited and less feature-packed. However, you will find some decent tools to help you put together your portfolio and trade online with ease. Use the streaming quotes feature, X-Stream, to get charts and news. Filter the huge amount of investment products on offer using your own filtering criteria and customize a watch list of up to 20 different positions, plus build a list of possible portfolio additions. The screener, which works for both stocks and ETFs, is integrated with an Order Entry Bar so you can buy quickly when you need to. Additional tools include market calendars with lists of major economic events, and news and reports in the research section.
Commissions & fees
Firstrade is another flat-rate, keep-things-simple trader with no hidden fees. Firstrade stocks are $6.95 per trade and options come in at $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract. There is no minimum required in order to trade and keep trading. These fees are on a par with other discount traders and are significantly less than some of the bigger players. Firstrade charges less than its competitors for mutual funds but has fewer commission-free ETFs – 10 in total.
Firstrade is mobile through the m.firstrade.com site or the Firstrade iPhone app and you can trade using the same tools, features and commission rates as appear on the website. You can also use the remote access stock alert feature to get stock alerts delivered direct to your mobile or your email inbox. Unfortunately there is no iPad or Android app yet, something which would round-out the mobile feature.
There is no separate desktop application for using Firstrade – the website is the way you access the tools and features. This results in a rather limited offering with less of the depth provided by other trading sites. Also, as customization is difficult with a browser program the amount you can change and personalize is much less. Virtual trading is not available with the Firstrade system.
There is the option of extended hours trading between the hours of 8am and 9.25am and 4.05pm through 5.25pm, Eastern Time.
Ease of Use
While Firstrade may not enjoy the depth of features and tools displayed in other trading sites, it does score points when it comes to ease of use. The website browser system is well-designed and easy to manage, with all the features clearly labeled and set out in a logical way. The support and research pages are also well-structured and you will be able to easily find what you are looking for in terms of educational resources and information. Check your daily balance quickly through the balance page provided on the site, and import the relevant gain and loss info into your tax or finance software. All your accounts are linked which makes it easy to review your financial situation from one convenient location, and it is simple to look back through your account history to see how you have progressed over time. All in all, while the system lacks extensive customization options it is straightforward and stress-free to use.
Firstrade offers a decent amount of educational and research materials relating to stocks that you can browse through to find out which companies to focus on. Firstrade offers fewer third-party reports than other companies, with a focus on Morningstar Stock Reports, commentary and analysis. Research and purchase are linked so you don’t have to go back and forth between screens to check out the market and buy. Unfortunately the stockpile of articles and resources like webinars and videos is much lower than with other providers – you really only get investment strategy advice articles, an investment glossary, tax guide and S&P stock reports, which lags behind Firstrade’s competitors.
If you have queries relating to the Firstrade online trading system you can call, access information through a live chat system, or email your questions. The telephone support line is toll free and open all day until 9pm EST in the week and until 2pm EST on the weekend. Live chat is available through the week from 9am to 6pm EST.
Firstrade doesn’t offer the collection of research and educational resources or the advanced trading tools that other brokers do for the same, or lower, price. If you are looking for a no-commitment trading house then Firstrade is good with its low trade fees and no minimum, and the site is easy to access and use.
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