2019: Firstrade no fee no load index, target retirement, U.S. stocks mutual funds investing.


Overview of Firstrade’s Free Mutual Fund Trading

Firstrade has recently become a zero-commission broker. This means that buying and selling whatever securities it offers (other than fixed-income products) is free of charge. Every mutual fund on its platform comes with no transaction fee, and many of them have no load, too. Is this the perfect broker for mutual fund investors? Let’s find out.


Mutual Fund Education at Firstrade

Before you dive in and invest your life savings into something, you probably should have a basic idea of what in the world you’re actually doing. Inside our Firstrade test account, we found an education center with just one article and no videos on mutual funds. By comparison, we found several videos on mutual fund basics at TD Ameritrade and several articles at Fidelity.


Firstrade’s Mutual Fund Screener

The mutual fund screener on Firstrade’s website can be found by clicking on ‘Research & Tools’ in the top row of choices and then selecting ‘Screeners’ in the lower row that appears. Be sure to click on ‘Mutual Funds Screener’ and not stocks or ETF’s.


Firstrade Free Mutual Funds


The screener offers many search criteria. For example, it’s possible to specify load status, manager tenure, Morningstar rating, total assets, fund family, and initial purchase (dollars or shares). We found 3,412 funds that carry no load. In total, there are 8,340 funds available for purchase. As we already mentioned, everyone of these has no transaction fee.

Results from a screen are divided into several tabs. Underneath each tab is a selection of sortable characteristics. For example, under the Performance tab, it’s possible to sort by YTD return, 3-year return, most recent price, or ticker symbol.

One feature on Firstrade’s screener that we really like is the ability to save a screen. This makes future searching quicker if you want to look for the same kind of funds with the same criteria.


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Profile Pages

In the search results, clicking on a ticker symbol will generate a fund’s profile page. A profile page can also be obtained by entering a fund’s ticker in the search field in the upper-right of the monitor and clicking on Go.

Firstrade is the only broker we know of that simply pulls information from Morningstar and displays it as the fund’s profile. Even the font, images, and graphs are taken directly from Morningstar.


Firstrade Free Mutual Funds


Although not very original, there is a lot of information presented. A style box is shown for bond finds (interest-rate sensitivity is displayed horizontally and credit quality is shown vertically). Growth of $10,000 is presented along with the fund’s category average and an index.

Because information is taken directly from Morningstar, there are risk and return ratings for both past and predicted performance. Stars represent Morningstar’s assessment of a fund’s past performance, while medals (gold, silver, bronze) are the analyst’s predictions about future performance.

At the top of a fund’s profile, there is a link to add a fund to a watchlist. A fund’s prospectus can also be downloaded. Next to these links are orange buy and sell buttons.


Fund Examples

One example of a no-load fund we found using Firstrade’s screener is BACSX, the BlackRock All-Cap Energy & Resources Fund. The minimum investment is $5,000, and its expense ratio is a little high (1.38%). It is a small fund with only $68 million in assets.

Although its title says “all-cap,” Morningstar’s style box reveals that BACSX invests mostly in large-cap and giant-cap companies. The top holdings are ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP. The fund pays dividends once per year (in December).

As for performance, the fund’s worst year was in 2008 with a -53.14% return, while 2009 saw a 66% jump. It has underperformed the S&P 500 on a long-term basis.

A second fund we found (this one with a load) is the AllianzGI International Small-Cap Fund. The ticker symbol is AOPAX, and the class of shares is A. This means the load is on the front-end. It is 5.5%. The minimum investment is just $1,000. Larger amounts can produce a smaller load.

Some of the more popular regions of the fund include Europe, the UK, Japan, and Australasia. We didn’t recognize many of the fund’s small-cap holdings (Aozora Bank, Rengo Co, and Homeserve PLC). The fund has only 2 stars from Morningstar.


Placing a Trade

When you’re ready to purchase a mutual fund on Firstrade’s platform, you should go to the fund’s profile page and click on the orange buy button at the top of the screen. Although the broker does have a trade bar at the bottom of the website, it can’t be used to trade mutual funds.

Clicking on the buy button will generate a new web page with an order ticket. You can select buy or sell, the dollar amount of the trade, and how you want cash distributions handled. Other important information such as redemption fee and load status is also displayed here.

One feature on the order entry form we found really helpful is a fund list. This is a drop-down menu that displays closely-related funds. For example, with the AllianzGI small-cap fund, we found a small-cap value fund from the same family.


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