Etrade versus Firstrade - compare IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account differences, pros and cons. Which brokerage firm is better?

Overview

Although E*Trade is better known than Firstrade, the latter broker delivers a lot of services that rival the former. Can the underdog overtake E*Trade? Here’s the answer:

Comparison Table

Etrade Review Firstrade Review
Rating Etrade brokerage firm rating Firstrade rating
Stocks $0 $0
Options (per contract) $0.65 $0
Mutual Funds $19.99 $0
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $0
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
Full Account Transfer $75 $75
Partial Account Transfer $25 $55
Account Closing Fee $0 $50 for IRA
Trading Experience & Technology brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Mobile brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Research Amenities brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Portfolio & Analysis Reports brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Customer Service and Education brokerage ratings brokerage ratings
Open an account No commissions on stocks and ETFs. Get transfer fee rebate.

Tradable Assets

Firstrade offers stocks, ETFs, closed-end funds, mutual funds, bonds, and option contracts. Stocks include both penny and OTC securities.

At E*Trade, investors get the same selection of investment vehicles that Firstrade customers get plus futures contracts. This last category includes bitcoin futures. Although E*Trade used to offer trading in forex, it no longer does.

E*Trade wins the first category.

Funds

For ETFs and closed-end funds, E*Trade’s website has a hub with several tools. There is a comparison feature where multiple funds can be displayed side-by-side in important categories.

A “Prebuilt Portfolios” tool lets users select an ETF portfolio from three models created by the broker’s investment advisors. There is no charge for this service, although E*Trade does require $2,500 to begin. E*Trade also offers All-Star Funds, which is a list of specific ETFs with buy recommendations.

For mutual funds, E*Trade has another list of All-Star Funds. Once again, it’s free of charge.

There is also a user-friendly mutual fund screener that can search using a lot of variables. We found 8,741 funds that were open to new investors. Of these, 4,408 had zero load and zero transaction fee.

Firstrade’s mutual fund screener returned 8,340 securities, a number close to its rival. All of these have no transaction fee, but over 5,000 of them do have a load of some type.

Firstrade’s website has some old Morningstar reports on ETFs in pdf format. By old, we mean more than 6 months old. Although we do like its screener, the broker-dealer doesn’t offer the same level of ETF resources that E*Trade provides.

We’ll take E*Trade in this category.

Stock Research

For stock analysis, E*Trade offers stock profiles with quite a bit of information. For example, there are third-party equity reports from analysts like Argus, Thomson Reuters, SmartConsensus, and MarketEdge. Argus offers option reports for some stocks. All of these reports are free for E*Trade clients.

E*Trade also provides price targets on many stocks. These targets are compiled from multiple analysts and are valid over the next 12 months.

A stock’s profile shows basic trade data, insider trading activity, earnings history, and news articles. A stock search engine is able to scan the markets based on several criteria. And a stock hub displays lots of trading suggestions based on fundamental and technical criteria.

Over at Firstrade, stock profiles are built using Morningstar data (and Morningstar’s software). Profiles include Morningstar commentary if it’s available.

Firstrade’s stock screener incorporates many search variables plus a few pre-defined screens.

E*Trade is the winner here.

Software

E*Trade clients get to buy and sell securities using the brokerage firm’s website. The trading ticket has a calculator to convert a whole-amount to number of shares. There are several order types and duration choices.


Etrade vs Firstrade


Traders who aren’t satisfied with the website can upgrade to a browser platform free of charge. It comes with advanced charting, multi-leg option strategies, and an order ticket with an integrated P&L diagram. Very nice.

If this platform isn’t enough for you, E*Trade offers a desktop platform. Called E*Trade Pro, it does carry a $1,000 account balance requirement. It offers a few extras not available on the website or browser platform, including direct-access routing and Level II quotes.

Firstrade customers get a website with a trade bar at the bottom (E*Trade’s website doesn’t have a trade bar). The tool can submit orders for stocks, ETFs, closed-end funds, and option contracts. It can even do a little research.


Firstrade vs Etrade


Charting on Firstrade’s site is simply copied from Morningstar’s site. There are highlights such as technical indicators and several graph styles. But a chart cannot be detached or displayed full-screen.

Another victory for E*Trade.

Mobile Apps

Firstrade investors get to use (one) mobile app. It is compatible with Android and Apple devices. Highlights include horizontal charting and an advanced order ticket with several duration options and order types. Although mutual funds can’t be traded on the platform, options can.


Firstrade or Etrade


E*Trade offers two mobile apps. One is modeled on the browser platform, while the other is the older, standard app. Combined, these platforms offer mutual fund trading, option chains, Level II quotes, and live streaming of the Bloomberg Business Channel.


Etrade or Firstrade


The standard app also provides mobile check deposit and bill pay, neither of which will be found on Firstrade’s app. Perhaps the best feature is the ability to access the free pdf stock reports already mentioned.

Firstrade loses again.

Other Services

Dividend Reinvestment Program: Both firms in this contest offer a free DRIP service.

Portfolio Management: E*Trade offers managed accounts, in both robo and human varieties. Firstrade offers only self-directed accounts at this time.

IRAs: Although both brokers offer Individual Retirement Accounts, only E*Trade offers the Complete IRA, designed for retirees over the age of 59½. The broker does have a few $25 IRA fees that Firstrade doesn’t have.

Automatic mutual fund investing: E*Trade and Firstrade offer periodic mutual fund investing at no charge.

On the whole, E*Trade seems to have a slight edge in the final category.

Our Recommendations

Stock and ETF Trading: E*Trade clearly has better security research tools and trading software to meet the demands of active traders.

Beginners: E*Trade has better learning materials than Firstrade. Plus, it has 24/7 customer support, which newbies may need. We also think E*Trade’s human chat service (also up 24/7) would be a good resource for new traders who need some help.

Mutual Fund Traders: E*Trade is our pick.

Long-Term Investors and Retirement Savers: Only E*Trade offers a solo 401(k) plan and investment advice (for a small fee). We also like E*Trade’s fund picks. Small Accounts: Either broker will do.

Firstrade vs Etrade Verdict

Firstrade lost every category. If it hopes to compete against the industry’s titans, it will have to go back to the drawing board.


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