Compare Charles Schwab versus Firstrade app: IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account differences, pros and cons. Which $0-commission broker app is better in 2022?

Overview of Firstrade and Charles Schwab

Which broker delivers the better trading experience, Firstrade or Schwab? Firstrade has the better commission schedule for options trading; while Schwab is the outperformer in the realms of software and investment advice.

Comparison Table

Firstrade Review Charles Schwab Review
Rating Firstrade rating Charles Schwab rating
Stocks $0 $0
Options (per contract) $0 $0.65
Mutual Funds $0 $49.95
Initial Funding Requirement $0 $1,000
Inactivity Fee $0 $0
IRA Annual Fee $0 $0
Full Account Transfer $75 $50
Partial Account Transfer $55 $25
Account Closing Fee $0 $0
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 2 free stocks & $0 fees on all mutual fund, stock, ETF, & option trades. Open Schwab account and get $0-fee stock trades.


Firstrade Pros and Cons

Strengths of Firstrade are:

- Good platform for options
- No per-contract fees on derivative trades
- Very large list of mutual funds
- Full access to Morningstar’s research

The firm’s downsides are:

- Trading tools are rather basic
- No managed accounts

Schwab Pros and Cons

Schwab customers get the following benefits:

- Excellent desktop software
- Free robo service
- Branch locations

But Schwab has these weaknesses:

- Per-contract option fees
- Small selection of mutual funds

Learning Materials

Schwab clients get many research and educational resources in several locations. The website has three tabs in the top menu that provide a great amount of learning materials. They are Research, Products, and Guidance.

Screeners are available for options, stocks, bonds, and funds. A simple screener is available for futures. Security profiles offer varying amounts of details, depending on the specific asset (stock or option, for example) and where the profile is located.

Stock profiles on Schwab’s website offer lots of details, including ratings from several analysts and information on preferred shares.

For general financial education, Schwab offers many materials on a wide variety of topics. Examples we found include:

- Why it May Pay to Sell, Even at a Loss
- How to Review Trade Performance
- Charting The Markets

The broker’s materials appear in multiple formats, including:

  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Workshops
  • Webcasts
  • In-person events
  • Podcasts
  • Quarterly newsletter

On Firstrade’s website, there is just one learning tab, aptly named Education. Underneath this, investors will find videos and articles (only) on basic trading topics, such as the fundamentals of ETFs and how to use margin.

Equity profiles on Firstrade’s site borrow data from Morningstar and even use the analyst’s software. This does result in a lot of useful data points, including price targets on some stocks.

Winner: Schwab

Tradable Assets

And what products can actually be traded?

Schwab clients can buy and sell these instruments:

  • Equities (including foreign, OTC, and penny stocks)
  • Fixed-income securities
  • Mutual and closed-end funds
  • ETFs
  • Option contracts
  • Futures
  • Options on futures

Schwab also regularly offers access to Initial Public Offerings.

Firstrade offers trading in the following investment vehicles:

  • Stocks (with penny and OTC stocks, but not foreign offerings)
  • Bonds
  • Mutual and closed-end funds
  • ETFs
  • Options

Like Schwab, Firstrade provides access to IPOs, at least on their first day of trading. Unlike Schwab, Firstrade does not offer any foreign securities.

Winner: Schwab

Promotions

Charles Schwab: Open Schwab account and get $0-fee stock trades.

Firstrade: 2 free stocks & $0 fees on all mutual fund, stock, ETF, & option trades.


Websites

Firstrade customers get to use a very user-friendly website; perhaps it’s too user friendly because it doesn’t have a great deal on it. The biggest highlight is a trade bar.


Firstrade vs Schwab


Sitting at the bottom of the screen, the tool provides trading in equities, ETFs, closed-end funds, and options. Mutual funds and bonds must be traded on web pages. The trade bar offers several order types, including trailing.

Charts are created using TradingView’s and Morningstar’s software. Each has its own tab, so you’re free to use whichever format you like. TradingView’s software offers full-screen mode and the larger number of tools; we counted over a hundred technical studies.

Missing on Firstrade’s site is a browser platform, a great feature that Schwab does provide. Called StreetSmart Central, the software delivers an All-In-One trade ticket, which delivers:

  • Multi-leg trades
  • Futures trading
  • Market-on-close orders
  • Several duration choices, including fill or kill

Charting on StreetSmart Central is itself quite impressive, delivering:

  • 12 chart styles, including histogram and line break
  • Tick price action
  • Ability to save a chart

Although StreetSmart Central is Schwab’s great asset in this category, the website itself is quite impressive. It has a quote bar at the bottom (it doesn’t have any trading capability), and the site’s order form has a calculator that can convert a $ amount into a share amount.

Winner: Schwab

Desktop Software

Although Schwab’s website tools are plenty for most trading purposes, the broker-dealer offers even more with its desktop platform StreetSmart Edge. The software comes with:


Schwab vs Firstrade


  • Full-screen charting with customization
  • Direct-access routing (just 2 venues: NSDQ and ARCA)
  • Bracket and conditional orders
  • Free Level 2 quotes
  • Demo mode for extra practice
  • Live streaming of CNBC
  • Access to technical analysis from Recognia

Firstrade has no desktop platform.

Winner: Schwab

Mobile Apps

If you live a mobile lifestyle, you can skip all of the above platforms and use a mobile app at either Firstrade or Schwab. Both of them have Touch ID for quick login.


Schwab or Firstrade


Schwab’s app comes with free bill pay, mobile check deposit, and an ACH transfer tool. The platform’s order ticket offers:

- 5 duration choices
- 4 order types
- DRIP toggle switch

Schwab’s mobile app can be used to trade options and mutual funds. The broker also has a second app (StreetSmart mobile) that offers some research tools not found on the regular mobile app.

Firstrade only has one mobile app, but we did find it easy to use. The order ticket incorporates:


Firstrade or Schwab


6 order types
5 duration choices

Although Firstrade’s app can be used to trade options, there is no mutual fund capability. This weakness is compounded by the lack of a mobile check deposit feature.

Winner: Schwab

Miscellaneous Services

Dividend reinvestment program: Both brokers have a DRIP.

IRAs: Both brokerage houses do offer Individual Retirement Accounts.

Automatic mutual fund investing: Available at both firms.

Winner: Draw

Promotions

Charles Schwab: Open Schwab account and get $0-fee stock trades.

Firstrade: 2 free stocks & $0 fees on all mutual fund, stock, ETF, & option trades.


Recommendation

Mutual funds: Schwab offers 5,876 mutual funds, while Firstrade has more than 15,000. We pick Firstrade.

Stock/ETF trading: StreetSmart Edge is the top platform in this survey. Definitely go with Schwab.

Beginners: Schwab has 24/7 customer support and human chat. Plus, its learning materials are more thorough, and we think On Investing, its quarterly newsletter, would be a good read for newbies.

Small accounts: Neither firm has any ongoing account minimums or fees for self-directed accounts.

Long-term investors and retirement savers: Schwab for its excellent retirement planning resources (via licensed investment advisors) and wide variety of account types (including trusts, charitable accounts, 529 plans, annuities, and self-employed 401k plans). Firstrade has a much longer list of free mutual funds including mutual funds for a specific retirement year (such as 2050 Target Retirement Funds). It's your pick.

Firstrade vs Charles Schwab Summary

Schwab is the clear winner of this evaluation, but mutual fund investors and options traders should stick with Firstrade.

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