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 FirsTrade Broker Review

FirsTrade is an online discount broker that’s been in business since 1985. They offer a full line of investment products from stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds and fixed income products. They have focused their efforts on providing excellent customer service while also having the tools and commission rates to add value for their clients. Their platform, or lack of one, is just a java based tool that features live streaming quotes and a watch list feature. I’ll go over it more below but it was very underwhelming. Their educational section was average with videos on how to place orders, option basics and some information on margin loans. Most of it is for traders who are just starting out and don’t really know anything.

One thing worth noting is they have a Premier Services deal for clients who have a certain amount of cash with them. There is a Blue, Gold and Platinum account. To obtain Blue Account status you must have a minimum of $2,000 in your account and with it you will receive real-time streaming market data and quotes for free, Gainskeeper for only $5 per year (Free at other brokers) and free e-documents. With the Gold Account you need to have at least $50,000 in your account and you will get everything mentioned before plus you get a dedicated personal representative to help you with any trading or account needs plus you receive a discount on other account related items like copies of personal check and duplicate tax statements for only $5. The Platinum Account is for clients with over $100,000 in their account and they get everything in the other accounts but they also get account related items for free. Basically these premier member accounts are incentives to hold more money with FirstTrade so you can gain access to some better benefits. This all sounds great, but in the fine print below it says you have to meet commission requirements as well. It’s $100 in commissions per month for the blue account, $500 per month for the gold account and $1,000 per month for the platinum account. So you have to have a certain amount of capital and you have to trade a lot to maintain access. For more information you can click the link here.

 

Commission & Fees

FirsTrade has a standard commission rate that is middle of the pack with equities starting off at $6.95 per trade no matter how many shares you trade. Their options are priced with a $6.95 base rate plus $0.75 per contract. This is a little on the higher side compared to other discount brokers. For instance, TradeKing charges $4.95 plus $0.65 cents per contract. If you trade 10 contracts you are going to pay $11.45 at TradeKing but if you take that same trade with FirstTrade you’re going to pay $14.45. That’s a $3 difference and I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but when you add three dollars here and there over the course of a year it can turn into some serious dough. So just something to keep in mind when shopping for a broker. However, they do have a decent broker assisted fee of only $19.95  where as most other brokers are charging $30 plus a trade when you call them in. They also do not have any account minimums so you can open an account and check out their services without any capital contribution.

 

Trading Platform & Tools

This is where things go downhill for FirstTrade. They only have a web-based trading platform and a very outdated “X-Stream” trading tool that has live streaming market data and quotes. It does have some useful features and tools but lacks the overall speed and power needed by active traders. The quotes and market data are all real-time on the web-based platform but they are static meaning you have to click refresh to get the most up to date quote which can be time consuming and cost active traders money looking to get in and out of positions quickly. The X-Stream’s charting capabilities are lacking big time with next to no ability to customize and there are very few indicators to choose from. For me, this takes away from the whole experience of trading so in order for me to even consider this broker they would need to update their trading platform to something more powerful with more customization features and power. In the meantime, I think it’s best to stay away from FirstTrade if you are an active trader looking for a new home as their “platform” could cost you money.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, FirsTrade is a great company with competitive commissions but what they are lacking in is their trading platform. You can have the cheapest commissions in the industry but if you have to stare at lagging charts and slow data it makes it tough for a trader to make money. The market is already hard enough to make consistent profits in so no need to make it even harder on yourself. Their customer services was average with longer waiting times on the phones than most other brokers. In my opinion, for you what you pay in commissions here, there are better brokers out there with more powerful tools and trading software.

 

As always, if you have any questions or comments regarding FirsTrade, please leave us a message below!