WealthFront versus Firstrade brokerage firm comparison: IRA, fees, commissions, benefits, pros and cons. Which investing service to choose?

Overview of Firstrade and WealthFront

Firstrade and Wealthfront are two brokerage firms that offer very low fees. Differences abound, however. This article will analyze these two companies and try to determine which one is the better option.

Range of Investments

At Firstrade, investors have access to stocks (including those that trade over-the-counter), ETF’s, mutual and closed-end funds, derivatives, and fixed-income assets.

Only exchange-traded funds (and only a select few with low expense ratios) are available at Wealthfront. It’s a robo advisor, so this is what we should expect.

Firstrade is definitely the better choice here.

Trading Technology

Because Wealthfront is a robo-only broker, the company doesn’t devote any significant resources to trading software, at least not on the customer end of things. The Wealthfront website has no trade bar or platform. We did find portfolio analysis tools, and the site is user-friendly.

The first difference we found at Firstrade was a very handy trade bar. It is able to send orders to the major exchanges for ETF’s, closed-end funds, options, and stocks. Mutual funds and bonds need to be traded on web pages; and these order forms are just as easy to use.

Firstrade vs Weathfront

Charting on the Firstrade’s website is borrowed from Morningstar. There are lots of great tools and several decades of price action can be displayed for any security that’s been around that long.

We pick Firstrade here, too.

Mobile Apps

Wealthfront offers a mobile app, but it doesn’t have any notable features. The primary highlights are alerts and an ACH transfer tool.

Things get somewhat better at Firstrade. While we still don’t have mobile check deposit or streaming video news, we did find advanced charting. There are multiple display styles, horizontal viewing, and technical indicators.

Firstrade mobile app

Although there is no trade ticket on Wealthfront’s app, Firstrade has one, and it includes multiple order types, such as trailing. Duration options include extended hours, a big plus.

Another failure for Wealthfront.

Financial Education and Research

With its robo-only approach to money management, Wealthfront doesn’t provide any significant data on individual securities. The broker’s website has no financial education or screeners.

Firstrade customers can learn many topics on the broker’s Education Center. Located on the Firstrade website, this cyberspace learning hub provides quite a bit of information on a wide variety of topics. We found webinars, articles, and videos on issues such as the risks of stocks, how to place a derivative trade, and the impact of inflation on debt securities.

Stock profiles on the Firstrade site are pulled from Morningstar. While this may seem like sidestepping a broker’s responsibility, this method provides tons of information from a trusted source. Free commentary from the analyst is included.

A poor showing from Wealthfront.

Portfolio Management

Wealthfront has a piece of software that is able to trade ETF’s with low expense ratios. This is its sole offering. The charge is a very low 25 basis points per annum. A $500 deposit is required to get started. Surprisingly, the company does not offer any traditionally-managed services at any price.

Despite this one lapse, Wealthfront wins this category because Firstrade offers nothing at all.

Other Services

Firstrade customers can open a Roth, Traditional, Rollover, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA. Wealthfront offers all of these except the SIMPLE account. Dividends in either taxable or nontaxable accounts can be reinvested. At Firstrade, a traditional Dividend Reinvestment Program is available to purchase more shares of whatever security pays the dividend; while Wealthfront uses dividends to buy more shares of underperforming assets.

Automatic investing is free of charge to Firstrade customers who want to make regular purchases of mutual fund shares. It’s simple to sign up online.

At Wealthfront, fractional shares are not available; so dollar-cost averaging is not possible. The brokerage firm does permit weekly deposits of new funds.

Overall, we’ll take Firstrade.


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

WealthFront: none right now.

Our Recommendations

If you’re a new trader, we can propose either company. If you want to do your own trading in the future, go with Firstrade. If you would rather let someone else manage your money, choose Wealthfront.

For stocks and mutual funds, we will pick Firstrade for the simple fact that Wealthfront doesn’t offer these securities.

Although Wealthfront specializes in ETF trading, Firstrade seems like the better option for these products. Wealthfront only provides a small selection of funds.

If you have a long-term focus or plan to open a retirement account, we will recommend Firstrade. With target-date mutual funds and stocks, Firstrade gets the nod here, too.

Firstrade vs WealthFront - Final Thoughts

Wealthfront has the more modern investment style, but that doesn’t stop Firstrade from winning this survey.


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