Compare Robinhood versus Firstrade: IRA, commissions, investing fees, trading tools, account differences, pros and cons. Which online broker is better in 2019?

Overview of Firstrade and Robinhood

If you’re looking for an ultra-low-cost brokerage firm, then you have to check out Firstrade and Robinhood. These two companies lead the pack among free brokers, but they somehow manage to offer several good services. We’re going to compare these two in vital categories and then make some recommendations for you.

Broker Cost

Broker Fees Stock/ETF
Commission
Mutual Fund
Commission
Options
Commission
Maintenance
Fee
Annual IRA
Fee
Firstrade $0 $0 $0 + $0 per contract $0 $0
Robinhood $0 na $0 $0 $0

Services

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

Promotions

Firstrade: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

Robinhood: Open account and get one free $3-$6 value stock.


Range of Investments

Robinhood started its business with stocks, ETF’s, and closed-end funds only. It has in recent years rolled out trading in options and some cryptocurrencies. There is a small number of penny stocks available as well. The broker does not offer trading in bonds or mutual funds.

Firstrade offers fixed-income products, mutual funds, options, stocks, ETF’s, and closed-end funds. We found a larger selection of over-the-counter securities at Firstrade compared to Robinhood.

Although it doesn’t provide trading in digital currencies, Firstrade’s bonds and mutual funds combined with a larger selection of penny stocks give it the victory in this category.

Trading Technology

Robinhood traders can buy and sell investments on the broker’s browser-based desktop trading system. A simple login is all that’s required. The platform offers information on the day’s top movers, recent market news (courtesy of sites like Reuters, CNBC, and Seeking Alpha), and a watchlist with multiple sortable choices. Besides charting and order entry, there’s not much else on the platform.


Robin Hood vs First Trade


Speaking of order entry, there are market, limit, and stop orders, but no trailing orders. Duration options include good-for-the-day and GTC. An order can be tagged as an extended-hours trade.

As for charting, Robinhood has recently added technical indicators to its software. Currently, there are only five indicators, but hopefully more will be launched. Line and candlestick are the only two graph formats, and five years is the maximum timeframe.

The first major difference Firstrade offers in this category is a trade bar that sits at the bottom of the browsing window. It can be minimized to reduce clutter within the window. In this mode, quotes can be obtained by entering a ticker symbol. Bid and ask prices along with volume are shown, and small icons on the minimized bar generate a large chart, news articles, and security information.

Expanding the trade bar creates an order ticket for stocks, exchange-traded funds, and options. Chains can be accessed straight from the trade bar, and some multi-leg strategies are available. Order types on the trade bar include trailing and stop. Besides order submission, a second layout on the trade bar allows for brief security research.


Firstrade vs Robinhood


Firstrade’s website can be used to place trades for mutual funds and bonds. The software is user-friendly, and we had no problems with our practice trades.

Charting on Firstrade’s site is more sophisticated than what we found on Robinhood’s site. Firstrade uses Morningstar’s software. There are several drawing tools, lots of technical indicators, comparisons, company events, and more. We were able to find price history beyond 40 years. One thing we didn’t like about the program was the inability to expand a graph full-screen, something that is possible on Robinhood’s platform.

Overall, Firstrade is the winner here.

Mobile Apps

Robinhood’s mobile app has a similar interface as its website. Functions are also largely the same: recent news, top movers, and a default watchlist. Charting, however, isn’t as impressive. There are no technical studies, and a graph cannot be rotated horizontally. There are two display choices.


Robin Hood Chart


As for trading, the software again is the same as the broker’s website: market, limit, and stop orders are available, but not trailing. Despite the limitations, we did find the order system easy to use.

Another feature we liked on Robinhood’s mobile app was the ability to sign up for a push notification of a stock that moves significantly in price within one market day.

Moving to Firstrade, charting improves substantially. There are no less than six display styles (including Heiken Ashi and OHLC bars) and fourteen technical studies (including True Strength Index and Klinger Oscillator). Although a graph cannot be rotated horizontally, we liked the amount of customization on Firstrade’s app, something that Robinhood fails to deliver.


Firstrade mobile app


Trading on Firstrade’s app offers a little more than Robinhood provides. For example, Firstrade customers can use trailing orders (both in dollar and percent terms). It’s also possible to specify only the pre-market or after-hours session. Robinhood’s software doesn’t have this ability.

We pick Firstrade once again.

DRIP Service

Robinhood doesn’t offer any type of Dividend Reinvestment Program, but Firstrade does. There is no charge for Firstrade’s service, and an entire account can be enrolled or just certain securities. The broker does impose a $4 floor to enroll a stock, and it must be marginable.

Financial Education and Research

Robinhood does not provide an equity screener, either on its website or on its mobile app. That’s the first failure among several in this category. There are no articles or videos on general investment topics, and stock reports don’t exist. During our investigation, we did find earnings information and analyst ratings.

Firstrade goes further than Robinhood in this category by providing an Education Center on its website with information (in both article and video format) on a wide range of trading topics. Furthermore, its stock profile pages, which pull data from Morningstar, provide much more extensive research. And we liked the fact that Firstrade’s security screeners incorporate many search criteria.

Robinhood loses again.

Our Recommendations

Beginners will be better off at Firstrade due to the broker’s larger selection of educational resources.

For reasons already mentioned, bond and mutual fund traders should go with Firstrade; while cryptocurrency traders should pick Robinhood.

For IRA’s, we have no choice but to suggest Firstrade because Robinhood doesn’t offer any.

Traders who need the best customer service should open an account with Firstrade. Robinhood has a history of underperforming in this area.

For option traders, we’re going to recommend Firstrade because Robinhood doesn’t offer chains or multi-leg strategies.

Promotions

Firstrade: $0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

Robinhood: Open account and get one free $3-$6 value stock.


Firstrade vs Robinhood Summary

Firstrade outperformed Robinhood in virtually all areas. While both brokers manage to deliver zero-commission trading, Firstrade succeeds in providing the better value.


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