- Customer Service
- Commission Fees
- Trading Platforms
- Research Tools
Firstrade is a deep discount broker that was established way back in 1985. So, naturally, it has a long history of serving their customers. They are famous for their great customer service in Chinese and their conveniently designed website. When it comes to important features such as research and trading tools, Firstrade charges less than other leading companies in the industry. Having so many years of experience and constant good reputation has certainly led Firstrade to become one of the leading brokers of today.
Firstrade Commissions and Fees
Firstrade wants to keep it straightforward. Their offer is $2.95 per flat-free stock trade. Options trades are $2.95 and $.50 a contract. Stocks that are less than $1 require higher fees. When it comes to equities, trades are $2.95 and $4.88 each.
As it was mentioned previously, Firstrade charges less than its competing companies. They also have 12 ETFs with no commission. On the other hand, this is not a great amount being that some other discount brokers offer more than a 100.
Firstrade uses Morningstar as its main provider. Morningstar is an acclaimed research provider in the industry. Morningstar is well-known for using valuable data and unique variables. This enables customers to get detailed stock research, ETFs, and mutual funds. In 2015, they also added a Video Commentary Section, which provides customers with a market analysis.
Although all of this is helpful, There’s still more to improve. Firstrade offers only one third-party stock research report and one ETF report. There’s no report of the mutual funds. This is a plus, as most competitors don’t have that at all.
Firstrade does offer reasonably strong screeners for stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. There are also Morningstar filters like ‘star rating’ and ‘stylebox’. Nevertheless, this seems to be evidently outdated, and the number of filters is small. There should also no bonds screening, and the selection of predefined screens could be better.
Tools and Features
In 2016, Firstrade finally launched Navigator, which uses HTML 5 code. Before that, they were offering only a Java-based X-Stream watchlist feature, which was very outdated and limited. Luckily, Navigator is much more flexible and modern. These improvements are so extreme and apparent, that there’s no need for comparison at all.
While this sounds impressive, Navigator is available only for Firstrade Premier users. This means that you need to have at least a $10,000 balance. On the other hand, even without the Premier, you can still access the real-time quotes watchlist stream on their website.
The Firstrade platform has three pie charts that summarize the most important parts a customer’s account. That is order summary, positions summary, gainers versus losers and a high-level portfolio allocation breakdown, etc.
Navigator is quite easy to use. The color scheme is appropriate, although it would be better if this could be customizable, being that some prefer the traditional red and green colors more. The watchlist, though, can be expanded to the center and enlarged for a better view.
Then again, since it is quite new, there are weaknesses with the Navigator, too. On the website, it says that there are 57 optional columns, but there’s only 13 on the platform. Same goes for charts – the website offers five drawing tools, but there are none on the platform.
There are 58 optional indicators for charts, which isn’t half bad. However, you can’t enlarge them past the center column. Being able to pop charts into new, separate windows is very crucial if you want to have a technically clean analysis.
Lastly, you can’t use the website and Navigator at the same time. You can be logged in at only one at a time. This can be aggravating since you constantly have to swap profiles if you want to both do research and monitor your profile.
Besides Navigator, Firstrade also introduced OptionsPlay in 2016. It’s a tool that’s not easy to find but is quite good. Ideas are scanned and presented on the left, there’s a chart that summarizes the technical analysis in the center and there are three unique ideas with their summaries and ratings on the right. This is quite a handy tool for traders of all kinds. OptionsPlay and Navigator are both $2.95 per trade, which is a great deal.
Firstrade also offers an app that’s available for iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones. Much like their other platforms, the app is fairly easy to use. Some of the best features that this app has are fingerprint login, real-time streaming quotes, options chains, charting, etc. But the app lacks depth. The price is acceptable, though – it’s $2.95 per trade.
Final Thoughts on Firstrade
The biggest advantage of Firstrade is definitely their convenient design that makes their platforms easy to use. Also, as mentioned earlier, their Chinese-speaking 24/7 customer support. Besides that, there’s also many educational materials: weekly blog, trading contests, and even reality shows.
In the end, Firstrade stands out as a well-organized website with a user-friendly interface and quality research. So if you are a Chinese-speaking investor that seeks a low-cost and easy-to-use variant, Firstrade is definitely for you.