Firstrade

Best Online Brokerage Accounts for International Investors (Non-US, Foreign Citizens)


Best brokerage firm for international non-US clients. Online stock trading broker account accepting residents of foreign countries.



Best International Brokerage Account


If you are a citizen of one of the following countries - Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom (Great Britain) - then click here and continue reading Firstrade international brokerage account review below.

Citizens of all other countries learn about ZacksTrade »


Firstrade Overview


Firstrade is one of the very few U.S. brokerage firms that offer accounts to non-U.S. citizens. They recently lowered their pricing and now provide the lowest commissions on stock and ETF trading - $0 per trade. This makes them the top broker for international investors looking for an American brokerage firm.


Firstrade Commissions, Fees, and Minimum Deposit


Traditionally, we start our Firstrade review with pricing. The broker recently lowered its stock and ETF commission from $4.95 to $0. Options are just 0¢ extra per contract. Mutual funds are also free to buy or sell. Most fixed-income products are charged on a markup/markdown basis. Placing a trade with a live representative adds an extra fee, which varies depending on the product. Real-time quotes, DRIP service, and electronic statements are free.

An investment account can be opened with no deposit. Firstrade does not impose any on-going international brokerage account fees, including annual, maintenance, or low-balance charges.


New Account Opening


New account setup is straightforward and painless. This can be done entirely on the website which guides users through each step of the process. First off, you click on their promotion offer: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates. Once there, click the link to "Open an Account" button at the top and enter full name and email address. From here, you may choose an account type.

Also in the setup process, new users may choose between a margin or a cash-only account and may decide to add options trading as well. Live-chat and a helpline to contact Firstrade is available here as well.


Mutual Funds and ETF's


Once you open a Firstrade international account, it’s time to check out the mutual and exchange-traded funds that are available on the broker’s website. Mutual fund information is simply pulled from Morningstar and redisplayed on the Firstrade site. Fund documents are available, including prospectuses and annual reports. A fund can also be added to a watchlist.

Firstrade’s mutual fund screener can search by a variety of criteria, including YTD return, total assets, and minimum purchase. Although the search tool can look for no-load funds, there is no feature to specify no-transaction-fee funds. The screener returns 8,340 securities, and 3,412 of these have no load.

All US-listed exchange-traded funds are available at Firstrade. The broker’s website can display profile information on ETF’s, and again this data is pulled from Morningstar. The ETF screener on the Firstrade site can search by many different criteria, including regional markets and price/sales ratio. It is also possible to save a screen.

Firstrade offers ALL ETF’s commission-free (!).


Options Trading


Firstrade Securities has some good tools for derivative traders. One is called OptionsPlay, which provides trading ideas for any stock symbol entered. A profit and loss simulator is incorporated into the software. The regular option chain program, which is available only via the trade bar at the bottom of the browsing window, displays regular calls and puts, plus a few strategies.


Customer Service


A Firstrade associate can be reached over the phone anytime from 8 am until 6 pm, EST, Monday through Friday. An online chat function is also available during these hours. The broker-dealer has some agents certain times of the day who speak Cantonese and Mandarin. The broker has an overseas number for clients who are traveling outside the US. The customer service section on the broker’s website has a call back button where clients can request a phone call from the company. There is also a service e-mail address for traders who prefer that method of communication. And of course the broker has a fax number and a snail mail address.

Unfortunately, the brokerage firm does not have a nationwide network of branch locations, which many brokers today do have. Firstrade does hold office hours at its headquarters in Flushing, New York from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm during the week, and there is also a Saturday session that lasts from 10 am until 2 pm.


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Trading Technology


Website

Despite being a low-cost firm, Firstrade has a decent website. Unfortunately, the broker has eliminated its desktop platform, so the website is now the primary method of trading. A useful trade bar sits at the bottom of the Firstrade website, and it can be used for several tasks.


Best online broker for international clients


For example, entering a ticker symbol in the quote field produces vital information, such as most recent trade price, bid-ask spread, and the day’s volume. An order for a stock or ETF can be placed using the ticket. Sell and buy are choices, and order types include limit, market, stop, and trailing. Options can also be bought and sold with the trade bar. Clicking on ‘option chain,’ which appears as an icon on the bar, will produce a pop-up window above the bar.

Clicking on ‘MORE INFO’ on the trade bar produces security information on the ticker symbol that has been entered. This data includes news links, Morningstar information, and a small graph.

The website has several useful tools for Firstrade clients. There is a dashboard that sits under the ‘Home’ tab. It shows the day’s market movers, account balance, indices, and market news. Another tab shows balance and position information, along with a transaction history.

A bond section on the website shows all fixed-income products available to Firstrade customers. A search tool can find bids. New issues are displayed, and there is a bond calculator and a fixed-income guide.

A market research center displays economic sector reports in pdf format courtesy of Morningstar. This section of the website also shows heatmaps, Treasury yields, and videos on investment issues.

There is a stock research section on the Firstrade website. There are pre-defined screens, such as large cap growth stocks and bargain basement small cap stocks. Equity reports are available in pdf format free of charge from Morningstar.

Charting on the website offers several tools, including events, technical studies, and drawing features. A graph unfortunately cannot be displayed full screen, but there are many chart styles, including dot, candlesticks, % growth, 10k growth, and dividend effect. The cursor type can be crosshair or track ball. Extended hours can be added or subtracted from the graph. Some of the available technical studies include Williams %R, Fast Stochastic, and MA Envelope. There is a comparison feature, and data from a chart can be exported to a .csv file.


International brokerage account


Mobile Trading

Firstrade customers can buy and sell securities on a mobile platform that the broker offers free of charge. It is compatible with Apple and Android devices. A watchlist is incorporated, and market indexes are displayed. The app fails to offer mobile check deposit, funds transfer, or video news.

There is charting on the app, but a graph cannot be displayed horizontally. The maximum time scale is 12 months, and the tick frequency can be set to either 1, 5, or 10 minutes. Styles include candlesticks, bars, line, area, or Heiken Ashi. There are a few technical studies, including MACD and Klinger Oscillator. The data points in these studies can be modified.


International brokerage firm


International Brokerage Accounts


Firstrade offers an international brokerage account to investors who aren’t permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. and don’t have a Social Security number or tax ID number. Residents of some countries are not eligible. Authorized countries include Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom. Investors in Chinese-speaking countries could benefit from the broker’s foreign language customer service.


Open Firstrade Account




Open Firstrade Account








All Other Countries Residents


If you are an international investor from one of these countries - Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam - then read ZacksTrade Review and SureTrader international brokerage account review below.


SureTrader - Day-Trading Specialist


SureTrader offers a range of high-end features and tools designed for the seasoned day-trader. That is traders who buy and sell on a same, or intra-day, basis. SureTrader is appealing because it offers preferable regulatory benefits while maintaining competitive prices. However, there are some areas where SureTrader is lacking. Here we will outline the features of SureTrader and make a recommendation on its usefulness.


Suretrader Commissions


SureTrader charges commissions based on the number of trades made on a given account. The monthly rate varies from $1.95 to $50 based on the number of U.S. equities trader per month. There are additional fees for trading non-DTC eligible securities and options trading carries base fees of $4.95 plus a $0.50 charge for each contract. This charge is reduced to $2.00 base and $0.10 less on the option commission when more than 100 contracts are traded.

One great feature of SureTrader is that it does not charge any fee for simply holding an account and they never charge fees for routing money. Additionally, users will not see any maintenance or minimum balance fees. There is, however, a fee for inactivity for those who trade less than 15 times each quarter. This fee is $50 per quarter if this threshold is not met.

The customer service of SureTrader is easily accessible as agents are available by phone to take order submissions. $25 dollars will be charged for each telephone trade and every derivative assignment and exercise. Like all accounts, the FINRA and SEC charges are covered by the trader and should the account fall under 50%, SureTrader will slap on a fee for a margin call.


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Technology


Desktop Platform

The available desktop trading software is phenomenal and highly technical. Once a user logs into their account there is an option to trade in “demo mode”. This is a great way to learn the software without using real money. The range of features covers Level II, call and put options, and tons of charting tools. Users can even see news right from the program, though, no video news features.

The program has an easy to use layout with multiple windows within the main program window. Traders can monitor stock indexes in the market view window and place unlimited market, limit, and stop orders at the same time. Expiration on orders can even be set down to the minute.

While the platform itself is not too customizable, the charting features are quite robust. With a vast array of color palettes, one can orient their graphs and cursors in any way they please. Technical indicators and Fibonacci patterns can be placed on or above the chart and can be adjusted to fit as needed. A big con of the platform is the inability to compare indexes and/or stocks side by side.

Training videos are prevalent through the easily accessible YouTube link in the SureTrader window. Users can train themselves through detailed instructions available online. From beginner to expert, PC or Mac, these videos have it covered.

Another great time saver on the program is the alert icon which is shaped like a bell. Users can set alerts for any sort of stock movement they wish for any given stock. This includes volume thresholds, trade price, Level II alerts, and technical crossovers. Even the sound of the alert can be customized and users can upload their own sounds!


US brokerage account for non-residents


Mobile Platform

The mobile platform is only available for iOS devices and is, therefore, only the mobile site (mobile.suretrader.com) is available on Android, Windows, or other mobile devices. The mobile application is fairly slimmed down with only four technical analysis available. Charting, options chains, Level II, news, order statuses are available via the iOS app.


Best international broker


SureTrader Minimum Deposit and Account Opening


SureTrader makes it easy for low income or beginner traders to use its platform. It offers a very low $500 minimum to open and maintain an account. The account activation itself has no fees and the tiered commission fees are competitive which is accompanied by several charges for low rates of use and inactivity.

To apply, simply visit SureTrader.com and fill out the online application. A PDF download of the application is also available to submit via postal or fax. The application is fairly straightforward and requires information on education, work history, and historical financials.


Customer Service


There are several ways to contact SureTrader customer service. Namely, email, Skype, and VoIP (for U.S., U.K., and Australian citizens). For U.S. and Canadian citizens, telephone and fax numbers are made available. SureTrader has a public address in the Bahamas and will accept overnight deliveries to this location.


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Deposits and Withdrawals


Another major difference between SureTrader and traditional U.S. based brokerage firms is the ability to accept deposits from credit and debit cards. The first deposit is free and following users will incur a 3.5% fee for this service. While deposits from a card are accepted, gains made through trading cannot be withdrawn from SureTrader to a credit or debit card, however, the original deposit amount can be. For example, if a user deposits the $500 minimum into their account and receives net gains of $50, they may only withdraw the original $500 back onto their card, leaving the $50 in their account available to transfer or wire to an active bank account.

To the dismay of its users, SureTrader requires a minimum withdrawal amount of $100 and charges fees for most withdrawal types. $40 will be charged for each ACH, wire transfers, and E-wallet withdrawal.

The transfer time for withdrawals from SureTrader is painstakingly slow. Plan for a solid ten days to receive withdrawn funds, three business days for the initial request and an additional week for the funds to clear.


Investment Products


While many traditional means of trading are available, such as penny stocks, standard stocks, and options, many other securities are not. Mutual funds, futures, bonds, and forex, for example, are absent.


Managed Accounts and Financial Advice


Users of SureTrader are left to their own understanding or day-trading as the program offers zero training and education.


SureTrader Review Summary


SureTrader, with its streamlined operating platform and charting features, can be very appealing to seasoned day-traders. Offering reasonable commissions, low fees, and a $500 minimum balance, the broker makes it easy for users to trade frequently and with little or no cash. While the structure and convenience of most U.S. based brokerage firms tend to outperform SureTrader, the ability to day-trade with less than the SEC required $25k is a huge reason to sign-up.


Open SureTrader Account



Open SureTrader Account



International Broker reviewed by Brokerage-Review.com. Rating: 5