Firstrade vs Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab vs Firstrade


Firstrade against Charles Schwab - which is better in 2017? Compare IRA/Roth accounts, online investing fees, stock broker mutual fund rates, and differences.



Firstrade vs. Charles Schwab Rivalry


Schwab is a giant broker in terms of client assets. Firstrade is a much smaller brokerage firm, and it does not advertise as heavily as the former broker. Nevertheless, Firstrade has some competitive services. Let’s check out the two firms and see which one is the better - Charles Schwab or Firstrade.

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Firstrade $2.95 $9.95 $2.95 + $0.50 per contract $0 $0
Charles Schwab $4.95 $76 ($0 to sell) $4.95 + $0.65 per contract $0 $0


Broker Review Cost Investment Products Trading Tools Customer Service Research Overall Rating
Firstrade
Charles Schwab


Technology


Schwab has a user-friendly website that hosts a lot of great features. A trade bar is available inside the browser. However, trades cannot be entered on it. Orders must be submitted through a web page order form. The trade bar does provide vital information, such as bid-ask spreads. A graph can be displayed from the trade bar.

StreetSmart Edge is Schwab’s advanced desktop trading software. Despite its sophistication, it is free for all customers. Market depth, which is similar to Level II quotes, is available at no cost. There are other useful features, including advanced charting with graphs that can be displayed full screen.

The Firstrade site has a user-friendly site as well, but it doesn’t have the same amount of information on it. The broker also has a trading bar, and it’s more sophisticated than Schwab’s. For example, trades can be placed on it (including option trades), and detailed security information is available on it, too.


Firstrade vs Schwab


What Firstrade lacks is a desktop platform. It doesn’t even have a basic browser-based platform. So it’s trading ticket and web pages are the only methods Firstrade customers have to submit orders. Charting on the Firstrade site offers many graph styles and technical indicators. Charting on StreetSmart Edge is more sophisticated, however.

Overall, looks like Schwab is the better choice here.


Mobile Apps


The Firstrade mobile app can be used on any device running Android or the Apple operating system. Trades for options, exchange-traded funds (not mutual funds), and stocks can be submitted on the mobile system. The broker’s app fails to provide any stock or option research tools. There is also no funds transfer or mobile check deposit feature.

Besides Apple and Android, Schwab traders can use Kindle Fire. The broker also has a platform for Apple Watch. Unlike Firstrade, Schwab offers live video news from CNBC at no cost. The Schwab app also has mobile check deposit, funds transfer, and bill pay.

Once again, Schwab wins the category.


Customer Support


Schwab clients have access to the broker’s customer service department 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Besides phone service, there is also a very helpful on-line chat function. Agents are available who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The broker has a phone number for clients who are on vacation outside the U.S. There is a large nationwide network of Schwab locations, and the broker also has a few overseas offices.

Firstrade offers customer support during the week from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time. The broker’s website has a chat function during these times. Firstrade does not offer weekend customer service, nor does it have any branch locations, other than its headquarters in Flushing, New York. The broker does offer Chinese language support, both on its website and over the phone.

Schwab wins again.


Trading in Funds


The mutual fund search tool on the Schwab website shows more than 5,000 products available for purchase. More than 3,000 of them are available with neither load nor transaction fee. If a fund isn’t on this NTF list, Schwab charges $76 for buying it, although selling costs nothing. If a fund is on the NTF list, there is a short-term redemption fee of $49.95 for selling in under 90 days. In addition to its mutual funds, Schwab also provides over 200 ETF’s commission-free.

Firstrade offers more mutual funds than Schwab, roughly 8,400 in total. More than 3,000 have zero load. Unfortunately, the broker’s screener does not have the ability to look explicitly for NTF status. Funds with loads at Firstrade have no transaction fee. No-load funds cost $9.95 to buy, sell, or exchange. There is a short-term redemption fee of $19.95 for selling any fund in less than 3 months after purchase. There is another $19.95 fee at Firstrade for fund redemptions under $500, unless the fund’s balance is under $500.

There are twelve exchange-traded funds at Firstrade that are commission-free. The brokerage house requires a minimum purchase amount of ten shares for these ETF’s. They must also be held at least one month; otherwise, a short-term trade fee of $2.95 is charged.

The victory here is awarded to Firstrade for having much lower commissions.


Schwab versus Firstrade


Commissions and Account Minimums


Brokerage accounts at both firms come with no regular fees. There are no maintenance, low-balance, annual, or inactivity fees at either broker. While Firstrade requires no minimum deposit to open an investment account, Schwab does require $1,000. This can be avoided, however, by opening a Schwab checking account with the securities account.

Schwab recently lowered its equity commission to $4.95. Firstrade followed by lowering its commission to $2.95. Option contracts at Schwab cost an extra 65¢, while Firstrade charges 50¢.

Firstrade wins its second category.


Promotions


Firstrade: Up to $300 Cash Rewards + 500 Free Trades.

Charles Schwab: Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.



Research & Educational Resources


Schwab offers a plethora of learning materials on its website. Free stock reports are available from several third parties, including Credit Suisse, CFRA, Thomason Reuters, and Ned Davis. Schwab also provides its own analysis. Beyond stocks, there is a great deal of information on financial topics in general, such as taxation and estate planning. The Schwab website hosts both articles and videos.

The Firstrade site has far fewer materials devoted to security education. Only Morningstar reports are available, and the number of articles on financial education is very small.

Firstrade loses the final contest.


Firstrade vs Charles Schwab - Results


Schwab (read review) won four categories, and Firstrade (read review) was victorious twice. Despite the result of this survey, Firstrade is a good broker for investors who want an ultra-low-cost firm.


Updated on 11/6/2017.




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