Public vs Firstrade vs TradeStation

Compare TradeStation versus Firstrade versus Public - which is better in 2021? IRA/Roth accounts, online investing fees, stock broker mutual fund rates, and differences comparison.

Overview of Firstrade, TradeStation and Public

Firstrade, Public, and TradeStation are three very different brokerage firms. So which one should you choose? Here’s some guidance:

Cost Comparison

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Mutual Fund
Annual IRA
Firstrade $0 $0 $0 per contract $0 $0
Tradestation $0 $14.95 $0.50 per contract $0 $0
Public $0 na na $0 $0

Services Comparison

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


Firstrade: Get 2 FREE stocks and $0 commission in ALL trades!

TradeStation: Get $0 stock/ETF commissions.

Public: Get FREE stock and $0 commission stocks/ETFs/partial shares.

Securities Offered

At TradeStation, investors can buy and sell these financial instruments:

  • Fixed-income assets
  • Cryptocurrencies (Litecoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, XRP, and Ethereum)
  • Futures contracts
  • Equities (including OTC, foreign, and penny stocks)
  • Option contracts (options on futures, too)
  • Exchange-traded, closed-end, and mutual funds

Firstrade clients have the same list minus cryptocurrencies, futures, and foreign stocks.

Public customers have access to everything Firstrade offers minus mutual funds, OTC stocks, options, and bonds.

Winner: TradeStation

PC Software

Public has no computer trading platform at all; so it’s out of this category straight off the bat. Charts

Firstrade has a user-friendly website with a powerful trade bar at the bottom of the screen. It can submit orders for stocks, ETFs, closed-end funds, and options. Bonds and mutual funds can be traded on simple web pages. Account management features are available in a customer service section elsewhere on the site.


TradeStation customers can choose between a browser platform and a desktop program. Both offer good charting and advanced order tickets. A $2,000 deposit is required to use the desktop system with the broker’s $0 commission schedule. In return, traders get many professional-level tools.


And finally, TradeStation’s website can be used for a variety of account management functions, like downloading statements and reviewing gain/loss information.

Winner: TradeStation

Mobile Apps

All three brokerage firms in this contest have mobile apps. Public’s by far is the most simple. The order ticket is very basic, and the platform is missing decent charts.

Public Investing

Firstrade succeeds in offering good charting with a horizontal mode. Features include:

Firstrade App

  • 7 graph styles, including Heikin Ashi
  • Roughly 100 technical studies
  • Up to 5 years of price history
  • Logarithmic graphs

Firstrade also has an order ticket with several trade types.

On TradeStation’s app, we found a simulated trading mode, the only broker in this competition to offer it. TradeStation is also the only app in this survey to have a trading matrix. This feature shows prices in a column with bid and ask sizes.

TradeStation Review: Mobile App

TradeStation’s charting program has fewer technical studies than Firstrade’s, but TradeStation’s software has more price history. Apple, for example, goes back to 1981.

Winner: TradeStation

Investment Education

At Public, investors get a few articles at These materials cover basic topics like:

  • Stock market myths, debunked
  • Earnings Call and Earnings Release
  • How to invest in consumer staples companies

Security profiles at Public have very little data on them.

Firstrade does a much better job. Its asset profiles have tons of information (courtesy of Morningstar). Even better, there are free Morningstar trade recommendations for some stocks with price targets.

Firstrade also has effective screeners for stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds.

TradeStation has screeners for stocks, ETFs, and options. Moreover, the broker-dealer offers many educational materials (in the form of videos and articles) in a website hub entitled University. Examples include:

  • Netflix’s Covid Surge Fades and Banks Struggle: Earnings This Week
  • 3 Reasons Why Stocks May Be on the Verge of a Breakout
  • Key Options Strategies to Know as Earnings Season Begins Next Week

Winner: Tie between Firstrade and TradeStation

Day and Swing Trading

Level 2 quotes. TradeStation is the only broker in this survey to provide Level 2 data.

Shorting: Same story for short locating services.

Routing fees and rebates. Ditto.

Margin. At TradeStation, investors pay between 3.50% and 9.50% for margin loans, depending on the amount borrowed. Firstrade charges anywhere from 8.75% to 4.50%. Public customers can’t trade on margin.

Extended hours. TradeStation and Firstrade offer trading from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm. Public doesn’t have pre-market or after-hours trading.

Winner: TradeStation

Other Services

Dividend reinvestment program: Public and Firstrade have DRIP services. Neither firm charges anything.

IRAs: Firstrade and TradeStation offer IRAs. TradeStation’s retirement accounts come with fees (annual and termination). Firstrade charges no fees for its IRAs.

Fractional-share trading: Only Public offers fractional-share trading (as of now).

Options trading: TradeStation customers can use OptionStation Pro. This is a powerful trading program with Greek values and profit-loss diagrams. Firstrade offers OptionsPlay, which we think is on a lower level.

Winner: Draw


Firstrade: Get 2 FREE stocks and $0 commission in ALL trades!

TradeStation: Get $0 stock/ETF commissions.

Public: Get FREE stock and $0 commission stocks/ETFs/partial shares.

Our Recommendations

Stock and ETF trading: With TradeStation’s fantastic software platforms, it’s a no-brainer.

Beginners: Public.

Long-term investors and retirement savers: Firstrade’s no-fee IRAs combined with a large selection of target-date mutual funds makes it the easy choice.

Small accounts: Public or Firstrade.


Public was the overall worst performer, although we do like its fractional-share service. TradeStation continues to be the go-to broker for experienced traders; while Firstrade’s IRAs and mutual funds are very attractive.

New Account Promotions

Firstrade: Get 2 FREE stocks and $0 commission in ALL trades!

Open Firstrade Account

TradeStation: Get $0 stock/ETF commissions.

Open Tradestation Account

Public: Get FREE stock and $0 commission stocks/ETFs/partial shares.

Open Public Account