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OPINIONS

Introducing Firstrade: The Best Broker for US Stocks

Zero Commissions Fee Trades, Free Morningstar Premium Analysis, Sleek UI on mobile and tablet, fuss free sign up?! 👀

Lin Yun Heng

Lin Yun Heng

31 Jan 2021

Level 12·Crypto Analyst at Delphi Digital

I have been getting a lot of inquiries from readers lately about the brokerage platform I use to purchase US stocks, and I thought it would be great to address this topic here for easier future reference and not having to repeat over and over for friends or readers with similar questions.

The most common question asked is this: How do I purchase US stocks and how do I track my portfolio?

US Stocks Purchase

For purchasing of US stocks, I have used different platforms before when I first started, such as TD Ameritrade, Saxo, Tiger Brokers and now Firstrade.

So why Firstrade?

I first discovered Firstrade when I wanted a brokerage that can invest in US equities and a foreigner-friendly platform with easy to understand interface and a long brokerage history. (40 years)

Another reason why I was unsatisfied with the local brokers such as Saxo or Tiger Brokers is that they still charge commission fees per trade. This broker is also not widely known in Singapore since popular finance blogs like Seedly, Dr Wealth, Financial Horse etc have not covered this broker before (probably due to lack of marketing by the broker). This is really a hidden gem when it comes to investing in the US market which I regret not finding earlier.

Without diving too much into details, , let me illustrate the Pros and Cons of Firstrade and what enticed me to use it for long term investing.

Pros

-New Investors looking for simple user interface

-Free access to Morningstar Premium reports and other news in both English and Chinese

-Chinese users looking for research tools in Chinese

-Simple platform easy enough for even complete novices

-Secure mobile app with enhanced security and trading features

-Lightning Fast Trade Speed and Execution of Order. (I think it’s less than 0.5 second.)

-40 years brokerage history in the US and member of FINRA/SIPC (US Regulators)

Cons

-Does not have sophisticated technical charting tools for in- depth technical analysis (can be solved by using TradingView)

-No access to other markets other than the US

Best For:

Cost-Conscious Investors (like me) wanting $0 commission fee trading

1. Firstrade Brokerage Fees

There’s nothing better than free trades — and Firstrade specializes in offering some of the lowest rates of any broker online. You’ll pay $0 in commission when you buy or sell stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. Firstrade is also one of the only brokers to offer $0 commissions on options trades as well. The only close competitor I can think of is TD Ameritrade, and this is the closest platform to Robinhood that a Singaporean investor have access to.

Stocks and ETFs $0 commissions

Bonds $0 on most US Govt Bonds

Mutual Funds Access to 11,000 Mutual Funds, All Commission Free

Options $0 commissions

Account Minimums $0

Firstrade Fees Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My personal experience so far: I have tried buying just 1 share of US stock and yes, it does not incur any fees no matter how many shares I buy. This gives me the flexibility of buying and selling shares and not incurring additional fees other than the stock itself. This saves me a lot of monies in the long run as many know that fees can eat into returns easily if you are not careful. Oh yes, and the trade execution is almost instant. The moment you click Buy/Sell for a Market Order, it executes almost immediately. (compare this to SG brokers, you will appreciate how fast a trade execution is)

2. Firstrade Usability

One area where Firstrade shines in my opinion is its organised and simple desktop trading platform, which is beginner-oriented and easy to master. When you log into your Firstrade account, you’ll see a summary of your current holdings, how your available balances currently perform and a quick summary of the market at large.

From your desktop platform, you can search for stocks, ETFs and mutual funds by symbol, place orders and track prices. Though charting tools are pretty basic, casual traders and beginners will love the fact that the platform is not clustered with clunky tools and screeners which I won’t use, something I personally do not like on other platforms such as OCBC Securities which is too confusing in my opinion. You can also view tax documents, research, education tools and more straight from your home page.

Offering a one-stop-shop for everything an investor could need, Firstrade’s desktop trading platform is easy to navigate, intuitive and easy to use.

Upon opening the account, I was able to navigate through the platform with ease and able to create a watchlist of stocks almost immediately. During market hours, the stocks prices are shown in real time which allows for proper execution of a trade on the desktop platform.

Firstrade Usability Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It is intuitive and easy to use. It is much easier to navigate when you compare to commonly heard brokers like TD Ameritrade, POEMS, Saxo, IBKR or FSMone. Tiger Brokers also has a pretty intuitive platform but their fees are not zero dollars like Firstrade and glitches out pretty often which means it is still unstable and not optimal. So in this aspect, Firstrade is still the best option out there.

3. Firstrade Research & Education

Firstrade also offers a wide range of education and research tools you can use to inform and improve your investing. One of the most prominent and huge pull factor is the fact that Firstrade offers investors who use their platform with permanent, free Morningstar reports for US stocks. (Yes, finally you can see the fair value estimates)

Actual Page from my Firstrade account

Morningstar Reports

For those who don’t know about Morningstar, it is basically a well-known stock and market analysis firm that produces asset reports detailing company characteristics, including changes in financial direction, market capitalisation, dividend yield and more. Morningstar reports are easy to read and understand — even for very new investors/traders and those still in the early stages of learning how to evaluate a stock or fund.

Firstrade offers Premium Morningstar reports free of charge to all investors who have an active brokerage account. Market reports for major stocks are updated daily and are available in English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.

When I first found out about this feature, I was hooked. I have been viewing free Morningstar reports for the longest time and contemplated paying for the full version just to see the entire report and fair value estimates. Well, now I don’t have to do that anymore, I can read any reports all I want on Firstrade.

Firstrade Mobile App

Firstrade’s mobile app mirrors the platform’s simple layout and intuitive design. Even new investors will quickly master Firstrade’s layout and make trades with ease.

Personally, I only discovered about the mobile app a few weeks after I used the desktop platform for investing. Little did I realise that the mobile app is so sleek and easy to use. I have since switched to the mobile app for all my trades wherever I am.

I can view the stock prices while on commute and even execute a trade if the price is right. Below are some of the key features of the mobile app:

Intuitive Order Placement

Placing orders on Firstrade’s app is fun and easy. Just search for the stock or fund you want to buy, enter the number of shares you’d like, select your order type and place your order. You can view a complete list of pending orders from your app home screen and you can quickly edit or cancel orders by swiping on your pending orders.

Simple Account Funding

Firstrade makes it easy to connect and transfer between your bank account and your brokerage account. Firstrade’s app offers native connectivity with over 2,000 banks, including HBIC, Santander, Bank of America, Chase and more. From my own experience, I remit my SGD to USD using Standard Chartered Bank/DBS/POSB ($0 remittance fees!) and it usually takes around just 1 business day for the wire transfer to show on Firstrade.

*For foreign investors like us, we need to select International Transfers and then select Wire Transfer. Copy and paste all the information on Firstrade platform and remit it using Standard Chartered Bank Singapore/DBS/POSB. I don’t know about other banks, but Stan Chart/DBS/POSB has zero remittance fees when I do wire transfers to Firstrade and the forex spread are pretty competitive.

Landscape mode: Want to view a longer price change history of a certain stock or fund? Flip your phone to landscape mode to view a longer candlestick chart with ease.

Firstrade’s mobile app also offers enhanced security features, including 2-factor authentication, facial recognition technology and thumbprint scanning to ensure that you’re the only one who can access your account — even if your phone is lost or stolen.

Firstrade’s mobile app is available as a free download for both iOS and Android platforms.

Firstrade Mobile App Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Seriously try it and you will know what I'm talking about)

Overall really impressed with the app. It is pretty modern and very responsive compared to local broker apps such as OCBC Securities or DBS Vickers. Tiger Brokers is a close competitor when it comes to UI/UX but overall experience still goes to Firstrade. (Trade execution was blazing fast and zero fees incurred which I am still amazed about.)

Firstrade vs. The Competition

Although it is not as well known as competitors like Robinhood or Interactive Brokers, Firstrade is a powerful and affordable brokerage platform especially for Singaporean investors who are still plagued by commission fee trades due to the lack of competition and commission fee wars like what we saw in the US . The broker’s desktop trading platform is easy enough for even total beginners to use. Both new and veteran investors will appreciate Firstrade’s unbeatable $0 commissions, as well as its free access to research and Morningstar reports.

The corresponding mobile and tablet app is also equally as comprehensive, with an intuitive and streamlined interface which I have grown to love and depend upon.

The only real competitor when it comes to zero fees is TD Ameritrade. But one con of TD Ameritrade is the sign up process is extremely troublesome with many forms to fill and too many jargons which can confuse beginners. Also, the thinkorswim platform is pretty clunky and I prefer userbility over technicalities. When it comes to trading fees and usability, nothing really comes close to Firstrade right now, at least for Singaporeans.

I am not sure why not many investors in Singapore uses Firstrade but maybe it is due to the lack of marketing and presence in Singapore. They are a reputable broker in the US and have been in the industry for more than 40 years now. It is truly a hidden gem in the investing world and something I feel most Singaporeans are missing out on if you are keen on investing.

Firstrade Overall Rating vs Other SG/Overseas Brokers for Singaporeans:

Rating: 5 out of 5.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Unless Robinhood comes to Singapore, I don’t think I will be ever be switching my brokerage platform when it comes to investing in US equities. There is simply nothing in the market that comes as close or as good as Firstrade. Zero commissions fee is really a blessing when it comes to investing and the Morningstar Premium reports and trade execution speed are truly the icing on the cake here.

Sign-Up Process

Sign Up is really simple too: Just click on International Account (For Singaporeans), upload your passport for identification,NRIC (Foreign Tax Number), fill up the information, Sign and done! Your application + W8-BEN form will automatically be submitted. (Approval is super fast too!)

Wire transfer Information to fill up is here

So there you have it! Firstrade is the only US stock broker I use now and I am an extremely happy customer of the platform. I highly recommend this broker for US stocks investing/trading.

Point to note: Firstrade being a broker transacting US equities, all equities will be subjected to the typical 30% dividend withholding tax for foreigners. (This is true for *all brokering firms dealing with US-based equities.)

Also, do note that withdrawals out of Firstrade will be subjected to a 35USD withdrawal fee and if you want to do margin trades, it will not be $0 commissions. (Cash Account, not Margin Account!)

Overall Broker Recommendation:

10/10

If you are not using Firstrade to invest into US equities, you are short changing yourself!

Interested in signing up Firstrade platform? Click here** **to sign up!

Open your account here

Customer Support Contact can be found below. If you have any questions, you can reach out to Firstrade and they will reply really quickly. So far they were able to get back to me in a few hours and around 1-2 business days for email.

Stocks and Portfolio Monitoring

Other than Firstrade, I am also using Stockscafe for a deeper analysis of my stock portfolio. Stockscafe is built locally in Singapore by a Singaporean investor, so it will be intuitive for a retail investor to navigate since it is built by a fellow retail investor.

Stockscafe shows you your performance in relative to the index, your portfolio’s beta, projected dividend yields, and a tonne of other useful features I cannot live without such as Risk Manager, Stock Screener and Price Alerts.

You can also view my portfolio as well as many others so you can compare your own performance with other investors as well. If you are interested in signing up, you can use my referral link to sign up and access premium features for 1 extra month for new users. (3 months)

If you liked this post and wish to read up more about investments, you can read up more at my blog here.

You can join my Telegram Group here too!

Comments

6 more comments

Is it secure and safe?

Lin Yun Heng

Lin Yun Heng

20 Sep 2021

Level 12·Crypto Analyst at Delphi Digital

FINRA and SIPC licensed, and been around longer than any of the brokers in Singapore, I would say it is. Used it for 2 years+ without any issues

What are your thoughts?

Reply

ABOUT ME

Lin Yun Heng

Lin Yun Heng

31 Jan 2021

Level 12·Crypto Analyst at Delphi Digital

NUS BBA |Crypto Educator

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