2. Broker for Beginner

Firstrade Review Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Pros & Cons


  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • $0 contract fee on options trades.
  • All mutual funds are commission-free.
  • Chinese language options.


  • No 24/7 customer support.

Compare to Similar Brokers

NerdWallet rating NerdWallet rating NerdWallet rating 
FEES$0per tradeFEES$0per tradeFEES$0per trade
PROMOTIONUp to $600cash credit with qualifying depositPROMOTIONNoneno promotion available at this timePROMOTIONNoneno promotion available at this time

Full Review

Firstrade appeals to experienced investors with $0 trading costs and no per-contract fees for options trades, while beginning investors will appreciate its $0 account minimum to begin investing. Investors looking for long-term investments enjoy commission-free trades for all mutual funds.

With three trading platforms and a recently redesigned mobile app, Firstrade offers a strong brokerage experience whether you are a day trader or a retirement investor looking to open an IRA.

Firstrade is best for:

  • Beginning investors.
  • Mutual fund investors.
  • Options traders.
  • Free commissions.
  • Native Chinese speakers.

Firstrade at a glance

Account minimum$0
Stock trading costs$0
Options trades$0 per contract
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)$0 inactivity/account fees; $75 full outgoing transfer fee
Commission-free ETFsAll ETFs are commission-free.
No-transaction-fee mutual fundsAll mutual funds are commission-free.
Tradable securities• Stocks. • Bonds. • Mutual funds. • ETFs. • Options.
Trading platformThree trading platforms: Desktop platform, Firstrade Navigator, Options Wizard
Mobile appAvailable for iOS and Android. Access to core account functions including tracking, quotes and trading.
Research and dataFree
Customer support options (includes website transparency)Online chat, email and phone support Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.
PromotionsTransfer fee rebate of up to $200; $25 wire transfer rebate

Where Firstrade shines

Commission-free trades: Firstrade was a pioneer in commission-free trading for stocks, options and ETFs before a broker price war at the end of 2019 made $0 trades the industry standard. Prior to that, Firstrade was also the only commission-free broker to offer retirement accounts (unlike the original free-trade brokerage, Robinhood, which offers only taxable brokerage accounts). Rare among brokers, Firstrade doesn’t charge any per-contract fees for options trades — only Robinhood has a similar deal.

Free trades on all mutual funds: Most brokers have a selection of no-transaction-fee mutual funds, but then charge anywhere from $5 to $49.99 for buying or selling shares of funds not on that list. Not Firstrade. Uniquely among brokers we review, Firstrade doesn’t charge a trading fee on any of the thousands of mutual funds it has on offer.

Trading platform: Firstrade has three trading platforms, including a desktop platform, Options Wizard and Firstrade Navigator.

Firstrade Navigator allows you to view your positions and balances and trade in your accounts all on one screen, with drop-and-drag customization of market-related information, charts and tracking.

A redesigned advanced screener helps narrow down your investment choices by categories like high-yielding quality stocks, large-cap growth stocks, “bargain basement” small-cap funds and dozens of other criteria. Options Wizard allows sophisticated analysis of potential losses and gains from options trading and more than 40 complex options strategies.

Research and education: Clients have access to free research from Morningstar, Benzinga, Zacks and Firstrade’s new Market Heatmap gives a broad overview of the market trends, with bullish- and bearish-performing sectors visible at a glance. For options investors, Firstrade holds biweekly educational seminars to help newbies learn the ropes.

Mobile app: Firstrade launched its redesigned mobile app in July, which now includes intuitive swipe actions, a consolidated portfolio dashboard and upgraded research with advanced charting capabilities. The app instantly syncs with desktop platforms, and users can trade, transfer funds among accounts, view order history and create a watchlist to follow trading opportunities. The app is available on both Android and iOS.

Open to some international investors: Beyond the U.S., Firstrade also accepts clients from Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and Mexico. (International investors must provide a foreign tax ID number and passport information to open an account.)

Chinese-language options: Native Chinese speakers will appreciate that Firstrade’s platforms are available in traditional and simplified Chinese.

Referral program: Firstrade is offering new and existing customers a free stock for themselves and a friend they refer to the brokerage. One out of every 100 has a chance to receive a free stock in Apple, Facebook or Microsoft, the company says.

Where Firstrade falls short

Investment choice: Professional investors may be disappointed that Firstrade offers no forex, futures or futures options trading to complement its rock-bottom pricing on option trades. But retirement investors have more than enough options to build and manage their portfolio with Firstrade.

The bottom line

Firstrade is an innovator in commission-free investing, which is one of the reasons it’s considered one of the best discount brokers we’ve reviewed. Beyond $0 commissions on trading stocks, ETFs and options, Firstrade also doesn’t charge trading commissions on any mutual fund, nor does it charge a per-contract fee on options trades. Native Chinese speakers will be drawn to Firstrade’s platform, which is available in both traditional and simplified Chinese.

2. Broker for Beginner

Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite

Why we like itInteractive Brokers’ IBKR Lite is a strong option for frequent traders: The broker offers international trade capabilities, no stock-trading commission and a quality trading platform.


  • Large investment selection.
  • Strong research and tools.
  • Over 4,300 no-transaction-fee mutual funds.
  • NerdWallet users who sign up for IBKR Pro get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.


  • Website is difficult to navigate.
  • Inactivity fees on IBKR Pro
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SoFi Active Investing

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  • Commission-free stock and ETF trades.
  • Cryptocurrency trading.
  • Fractional shares available.
  • No account minimum.
  • Free financial counseling.


  • Small selection of tradable securities.
  • Limited track record.
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TD Ameritrade

Why we like itTD Ameritrade meets the needs of both active traders and beginner investors with quality trading platforms, $0 commissions on online stock, options and ETF trades and a large selection of mutual funds.


  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.
  • Large investment selection.


  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
2. Broker for Beginner


Why we like itE*TRADE has long been one of the most popular online brokers. The company’s $0 commissions and strong trading platforms appeal to active traders, while beginner investors benefit from a large library of educational resources.


  • Easy-to-use tools.
  • Large investment selection.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Access to extensive research.
  • Advanced mobile app.
  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.


  • Website can be difficult to navigate.
2. Broker for Beginner

Merrill Edge

Why we like itMerrill Edge offers high-quality customer service, robust research and low fees. Customers of parent company Bank of America will love the seamless, thoughtful integration, with a single login to access both accounts.


  • Robust third-party research.
  • Integrated with Bank of America.


  • Advanced traders may find fewer securities on offer.
2. Broker for Beginner


Why we like itFidelity may be known for its retirement accounts, but active traders shouldn’t overlook the brokerage’s $0 trade commissions, wide investment selection, large scope of research and strong trading platform. It’s a well-rounded broker suitable for nearly all investors.


  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.
  • Large selection of research providers.
  • Strong customer service.
  • Expense-ratio-free index funds.


  • Relatively high broker-assisted trade fee.