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LAST UPDATED: June 27th, 2019
Founded in 1985, Firstrade is a discount brokerage firm that offers investors online stock trading, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, and options trading. Trading fees are competitive in nature so the company can put up a fight against other brokers. The online brokerage firm's key feature is its extended trading hours. This means investors can make trades outside traditional market hours, allowing them to factor in news and reports to place a trade before and after the market opens. The brokerage firm caters to a variety of investors from novices to active traders. It combines an innovative trading technology with an intuitive interface to help investors take control of their investments and build their portfolios.

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The Good

  • Straightforward pricing
  • Research tool
  • Online presence
There are a number of features and services associated with the Firstrade platform that many clients will find to be financially beneficial. Those that are considering using Firstrade can expect the following from the service:

Straightforward Pricing

Firstrade's flat rate fees keep things simple for investors and are also competitively priced. Stock prices and ETFs are $6.95 each while options are $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract. These prices are comparable to competitors' like ETRADE, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade who all charge $0.75 per contract, in addition to their minimum options fees. While the $6.95 flat fee is applicable to ETFs, Firstrade offers 10 commission-free ETFs, which is another perk in the brokerage firms' corner. When it comes to mutual funds, Firstrade rises well above its competitors as the firm charges far less than what investors would find elsewhere.

Research Tool

Another one of the brokerage firm's positive aspects is the research it provides to help its investors make informed decisions. Ever since it began using Morningstar in 2013-the revered investment research provider-the brokerage firm has been able to offer its investors quality data on investing. This information includes extensive research on stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs, not to mention unique variables to consider when trading.

Online Presence

Firstrade's website is also hailed as one of the major advantages of using the brokerage firm. The site is intuitive in nature and easy to use as it boasts a clean, functional design. Investors using the site tend to enjoy the real-time quotes that appear on the quote bar, and the navigation menu, which is clearly categorized and sub-divided. The dashboard is also customizable, offering clients the ability to see what they'd like to whenever they log in. They can also view multiple accounts at a time and analyze charts related to their accounts' performances.

Educational Resources

In addition to the aforementioned points, Firstrade also accommodates beginners and investors on the go through educational resources and its mobile app. The education center on the site provides a glossary of investing terms, tax guides, investment strategy guides, and many more tools to help educate novice investors. The Firstrade app, available on iPhones and Androids, offers investors on the go, the ability to make trades, monitor their newsfeeds, and view their account dashboards, all on their smartphones. In a competitive, 21st century arena, these features help the brokerage firm put up a respectable fight against the competition.
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The Bad

  • Missing features
  • Mobile and user troubles
While Firstrade offers a pricing structure that's competitive in nature, some critics argue that the brokerage firm fails to impress in other areas. The same critics claim that the prices that investors pay to use the brokerage firm don't justify the services garnered, especially when compared to competitors' prices and services. For instance, some users criticize the firm's lack of a desktop-based platform, which is a critical component for professional traders. Active traders generally require a desktop platform to accommodate their high volume trades and their need for intricate charts, both of which cannot be met with Firstrade's online trading tool. Other limitations include:

Missing Features

The brokerage firm's website is largely devoid of features that can be found on other brokerage firms' sites. For instance, its charting features cannot be customized to incorporate more technical indicators. The site also lacks helpful investing tools like options analysis, sound notifications, and virtual trading features that Firstrade's competitors offer their investors. To quell the dissatisfaction felt among active traders, Firstrade began offering an advanced tool to satisfy these investors' charting needs. However, this tool comes at a price, $19.95 per month to be exact. Unfortunately for the brokerage firm, critics claim that the advanced tool is not worth the extra cost.

Mobile and User Troubles

While Firstrade's app is easy to use and accommodates traders on the go, it severely lacks core features that are found on other trading mobile applications. For example, the ability to set up alerts and create watch lists are prime tools investors look for in trading apps, but Firstrade's app doesn't offer these key features. Firstrade's app is also only available on iPhones and Android smartphones, so other smartphone carriers cannot access the app. Additionally, the app isn't available on iPads or other tablets, which poses as another major disadvantage for using the brokerage firm. Even though the brokerage firm provides educational resources, they're largely devoid of helpful webinars and online courses. The information that's found on the firm's site is categorized by the type of trade be it stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, etc. It's the kind of information investors can easily find elsewhere but might choose not to, to avoid opening up another window.
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The Bottom Line

Firstrade offers investors a range of investment options and an easy to use, functional website and mobile app. The company has mastered simplicity and offers its traders the fundamental basic tools that all regular investors generally require. The brokerage firm's pricing structure is also pretty competitive compared to other online stockbrokers. Another element that gives the firm its competitive edge is its extended trading hours, which allows investors to place trades before the market opens or after it closes. This feature clearly distinguishes the firm from the competition. While all of these benefits can be garnered through Firstrade, many users argue that the pricing paid per trade simply isn't worth these benefits, especially when compared to what other brokers can offer at similar or reduced prices. Furthermore, the brokerage firm lacks major investing features like a desktop platform, advanced trading tools, and a comprehensive app, the absence of which presents some of the major drawbacks of using the firm.
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