Founded in 1985, Firstrade was a pioneer in online brokerage and has been highly rated ever since launching their site in 1997. Pledging to “offer the most for the least,” the firm simultaneously provides customers relatively low fees and a wide selection of financial products. At $6.95 per trade, their flat commission rate is competitive, though a bit higher than some discount brokers. For this, investors can trade in stocks, bonds and options, as well as ETFs – ten of which are commission-free – and over 11,000 mutual funds. This selection beats many of Firstrade’s lower-priced competitors, although not the slightly-more-expensive E*Trade, which boasts almost ten times the number of commission-free ETFs.
Firstrade’s website receives high marks from customers and is frequently described as clean and user-friendly. Each client’s dashboard is customizable and features streaming quotes. Should the website prove less intuitive for some, however, the brokerage’s customer service receives mixed reviews from members. Many complain of receiving misinformation from representatives or long waits to receive withdrawn funds. The firm does outpace its competition, though, by offering phone assistance in Mandarin and Cantonese, in addition to English. While many of its competitors won’t shell out for the licensing to make themselves available to investors outside of the United States, let alone offer them easy-to-understand customer service, Firstrade caters to its international clients.
Firstrade recently launched a revamped research section on its website, including reports from Morningstar – the site previously lacked third-party research – and an enhanced news section. The site also expanded the data available in its stock screener, among other tools. For $19.95 per month, users can access Level II quotes and advanced charting options through the site’s X-Stream Level II service. However, former subscribers suggest that the content is still less impressive than what some competitors offer.
International customers should make Firstrade among their top choices for a brokerage. Some domestic investors may prefer a firm with lower commissions or better research tools, but others will find Firstrade’s selection of products and trading platform just right for the price point.