Firstrade Singapore Review
Investment Personal Finance Reviews

Review: Firstrade Brokerage, free stock trading app in Singapore!

In a nutshell

Firstrade is a really amazing product for Singaporeans looking to invest in the US markets. It’s low cost and commission free stock trading feature make it almost unbeatable in the current Singapore brokerage landscape. If you’re just looking for a simple way to invest in US stocks, this is probably as close to Robinhood as it gets.

I would also like to give special mentions to its mobile application which is the most aesthetically pleasing application I’ve ever seen in a brokerage available to Singaporeans.

Overall Ratings: ★★★★☆

Introduction

Firstrade probably will not come to many Singaporean’s minds when we think of brokerages. It is not widely known mainly due to the lack of promotion in the local scene. With the introduction of commission-free trading by Robinhood in the US, many more US brokerages have started to introduce commission-free trading as well.

That feature, however, has not come to Singapore yet. These US commission-free brokerages do not offer their services to non-US-residents. Many other brokerages that do are still charging between $1 USD to as much as $25USD of commission rates per trade. I find that ridiculously exorbitant. Ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a free stock trading app that is available in Singapore.

Therefore when I heard about Firstrade from a friend of mine, I got really excited and curious to find out for myself what it is all about.

Their commission free stock trading feature is definitely everywhere throughout the website.
Their Source: firstrade.com

Landing on their page, you immediately get hit by their banner of $0 commission for Options trading and stocks trading, which they are obviously touting as the biggest draw for using their platform. To make sure that I’m eligible for the platform, I immediately when to check out the types of accounts that are available.

Firstrade offers many different types of accounts, but they are mainly targeted at US residents such as the IRA and Individual accounts. What caught my eye was the International account that was being offered. I immediately navigated to the details and found that Singapore was indeed one of the eligible countries for this account.

Being the Singaporean that I am, I felt doubtful and think that there must be a catch to it for them to be offering free-commission trades. In this post, I’ll be dissecting my experience with this very unique brokerage offering that may potentially disrupt the Singapore brokerage scene.

Fees & Pricing

It's free stock trading feature is also available in Singapore!
Source: firstrade.com

Their banner for $0 trades exists also on the international account’s page. This is a good sign.

Their prices really show free stock tradings for Singapore citizens! This is pretty insane.
Source: firstrade.com

Looking through their pricing chart, it seems that most trades on the platform would indeed yield $0 commission fees. These $0 commission fees are specifically for online platform trades. If you require brokerage assistance to make your trades, you’ll be charged US$19.95 per trade, which in my opinion is a pretty fair price to pay as well.

Firstrade also does not charge any inactive fee or account fees which is good news for long term investors like us.

If you require margin trading needs, their fees seem pretty transparent as well. At a 4.5% (lowest) interest rate for margin, there are probably cheaper options available from other brokerages.

Ratings: ★★★★★

Products Available

Firstrade offers the various basic products that any decent brokerage should offer, such as Stocks, ETF, Options and Mutual Funds. What’s notably missing in the brokerage platform is Forex and Futures trading. For basic investment needs, Firstrade should do the job just fine.

In terms of markets available, Firstrade only allows for trading in the US markets. This is hugely limiting as a Singaporean trader as you’ll not be able to trade in familiar markets such as SGX and HKEX.

Ratings: ★★☆☆☆

Platform

This section can be broken down into 2, the desktop platform and the mobile platform.

Desktop

For the desktop version of this brokerage, it was pretty decent. The UI was fairly clean and modern (unlike some banks in SG.. ahem world’s best digital bank). You get a good view of the markets together, together with your watchlist and portfolio.

In terms of research, it is surprisingly feature packed. The information available here is definitely more than what Yahoo finance offers. The presentation of information is also very well done. I am very impressed given that this a discount online broker.

Source: firstrade.com

Making orders through the platform is also very straightforward and easy. You have the usual order types such as Limit, Market, Stop Limits and Trailing Stops.

Ratings: ★★★★☆

Mobile App

This, I would argue, is one of the biggest selling point of this broker. Its mobile app is simply beautiful and modern. I shall let the following screenshots do the talking.

For executing your trades, this mobile application will excel at it while giving you a wonderful experience. However, this is unlikely somewhere where you’ll do your research for companies to buy. The company’s information page is very basic and will not provide you with any information about the company.

Therefore, I think the best workflow for this broker would be to use the desktop application to do your research and create a watchlist. While you’re on the go, use the application to only execute trades on the buying price points that you’ve set for yourself.

Ratings: ★★★★☆

Funding options

There are 4 main ways you can fund your Firstrade account.
1. ACH Bank transfer
2. Brokerage ACAT transfer
3. Wire transfer
4. Check

If you’re looking to deposit cash into your account, you’re technically left with 3 options as option 2 is stocks transfer. Let’s talk about each method specifically.

ACH bank transfer is definitely the most convenient way available, provided you have a US bank account. You can simply connect your bank account on the page itself using Plaid and after connection, Firstrade will automatically pull the funds from your bank account when you request for it. You can even set up recurring transfers. The whole setting up process took less than 3 minutes. However, your funds will not be available for trading nor withdrawal for 4 business days.

As for checks, that’s also not feasible for Singapore investors as they only accept checks that are US dollar denominated and paid through a US bank.

That leaves us with the last option which is wire transfer. You’ll be given bank details of Firstrade to transfer your funds into. If you’re depositing from a Singapore bank account, it is very easy to do so. The only downside to this is that you’ll be charged with the bank’s FX spread. For large FX exchange, this might be a consideration for some.

I’ve tried to do a wire transfer from DBS remit to my Firstrade account and it got processed within an hour! The funds were immediately able to be used for trading which was a pleasant surprise. I would highly recommend anyone using Firstrade to use the wire transfer method of funding.

If you’re thinking of doing a fund transfer from Singapore, do check out my step-by-step guide here that teaches you how to do so!

Email notification an hour later to say that the deposit went through.

If you’re thinking of using money transfer services such as Revolut or Transferwise to reduce the FX spread issue, you’re out of luck. Such services are explicitly excluded.

The good thing about using wire transfers is that many banks in Singapore don’t charge any fees for outbound foreign wire transfers. Also, your funds are immediately available for trading once the broker recognise the transfer.

The options are however not as ideal as some of the brokerages available in Singapore where you can use PayNow and your funds will be available almost instantly for trading. The delay in available funds might result in lost investment opportunities especially in volatile periods.

Also, do take note that withdrawals from the brokerage to a foreign bank account will cost you US$50. This is quite a substantial amount if you’re doing small trades, but shouldn’t be much of a problem if you intend to have a large portfolio or hold for a long time.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Customer Service

Quite a wide variety of customer service options are available. However if you're from Singapore, these options might not be the most convenient for you.
Source: firstrade.com

It is very impressive that they have a live chat option available for their customers. This feature is proven to be very valuable in my experience with other brokerages, though I’ve not personally used it with Firstrade.

A downside to their service is that their telephone services only work during US office hours. This might not be very ideal for us living on the other side of the world. Also, as this is a US broker, there are no local offices in Singapore. This might prove to be a problem if you have very complicated queries or issues that might need a more face to face interaction.

I’ll give more updates on this as I use the brokerage more extensively.

Ratings: ★★☆(given the options available)

Safety

As someone who will not risk losing all his stocks just to save a couple of bucks on commissions, this is likely one of the most important factors that I consider when choosing a brokerage.

Firstrade is a member of SIPC, so your securities and cash is insured up to $500,000 in case anything happens to the brokerage. Also, with Firstrade’s long history (it actually started in the 1980s!), there seem to be relatively low risk of folding anytime soon.

In addition to SIPC’s insurance, Firstrade has purchased additional insurance to cover up to $150 million for its customers. This doesn’t seem much considering how many users this pool of money would have to be shared with but just thought it would be worth a mention.

However, as a Singaporean, it will definitely give me much higher sense of security if this brokerage is regulated by MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore). Therefore, I will definitely be cautious of putting in too large a sum of money into this brokerage for my long term investments.

Ratings: ★★

Conclusion

I am very impressed with what Firstrade is offering for its customers, considering that its a discount brokerage. It is also the only commission-free broker that I know of that serves Singapore customers. Going forward, I’m definitely looking forward to more players in the market offering this feature and this will only serve to benefit us, the consumers.

As of the point of writing, Firstrade will be my brokerage of choice for investing in the US markets due to its low cost and features that I require. Its mobile app was definitely a standout that made me really enjoyed the trading experience.

Overall Rating: ★★★

I hope that this review will be helpful to anyone looking to invest in a foreign market! If you have any comments or alternative opinions, please feel free to share it with me.


Recently, E-Toro has also started offering commission free stock trading in Singapore. Another brokerage Tiger Brokers has also caught my attention. Even though it’s not entirely commission-free, it’s very low cost at only $1.99 USD per trade. Rest assured I’ll do a comprehensive review of both of these up and coming brokerages in Singapore.

This is definitely the start of a low-cost battle of brokerages in Singapore and I’m very excited for what’s to come!

If you’re interested in other brokerage reviews that I’ve done, check out my recent review of FSMOne here.

If you have just signed up for a brokerage account and am looking for something to invest in, check out my review on the ARKK ETF and why I think it might be the best ETF to invest in now.


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26 thoughts on “Review: Firstrade Brokerage, free stock trading app in Singapore!

  1. I have a question: as of today (Sept 2020), is Firstrade still the only zero-commission broker (for US stocks) available in Singapore? Thank you!

      1. Thanks for your helpful response! I happened to have signed up for TD Ameritrade exactly a month ago (14 August), but my application has not been processed and customer service is unresponsive (I don’t seem to be alone in this situation, looking at the Google Maps reviews). So I’m thinking about signing up for Firstrade.

        Last question: Do you deposit SGD into Firstrade, after which you convert SGD to USD within Firstrade? Or are there better ways to go about depositing funds? I haven’t tried Firstrade yet and I was wondering how it works. Thanks!

        1. I think the best way now is to use DBS remit to wire transfer over to Firstrade. The rates for DBS remit isn’t that bad as before.
          However, you have to take note that to withdraw from Firstrade to an overseas account, you’ll have to pay a US$50 fee which is substantial for small amounts but shouldn’t be a huge concern if your portfolio is huge.

          1. Thanks for the heads-up about the US$50 withdrawal fee, this is really helpful! 🙂 In that case, I might look into eToro, which seems to have a lower withdrawal fee, although I’m not sure what other positive or negative aspects it might have

      1. Hi Sam,
        Yup! Earlier this year, TD Ameritrade also started offering zero commissions. This is a really exciting change in the brokerage landscape in Singapore.
        I have not personally used TD yet but I’m thinking of trying it in the near future.

  2. Hi thanks for the informative post! I wanted to ask whether there are any fees payable for funding the brokerage account. I understand that DBS Remit is free for outgoing payment, but does Firstrade charge any fees for receiving such payment? Also, having not used DBS Remit before, is it possible to deposit USD into my DBS MCA and then transfer USD to Firstrade using DBS Remit?

    1. Hi Hao Ran, glad that this post could be of help to you!
      Nope, both DBS Remit and Firstrade does not charge any fees. So what you send is what you get.
      To your question of depositing to MCA, yes, that works too.

      However, do keep in mind the US$50 withdrawal fee to a foreign account should you wish to switch broker later on.

  3. Hi, I chanced upon your website and this review is excellent! It made me want to open a Firstrade account for my US stocks. Are there any benefits for both or either of us if you share your referral link here? Thank you!

    1. Hi Hidayat, glad this review helped you! Nope, unfortunately Firstrade does not have a referral program for international accounts currently.
      However, feel free to continue signing up for it! It’s really quite a good platform for purchasing US stocks and it’s the one I’m using currently.

      1. Thanks! Lastly, when withdrawing from firstrade, there is a 50$ fee. But what about receiving on DBS side? Do I need to open MCA account to receive USD (and this amount would be quite high since long term investment), and is there a cost?

  4. Hi,

    I wanted to set up my dbs as the withdrawal account for firstrade. Do you have any idea what to fill up for:
    – Bank swift code
    – Recipient Bank city
    – Recipient Bank state or Province
    – Recipient Bank Branch Postal Code

  5. Hi,
    I just recently heard about First trade so thanks for your review . I heard that first trade allows you to withdraw funds via a card also anywhere in the world .Is this correct ?
    Also how is the technical analysis tools on the platform.

    1. Hi Linus,
      Yup, Firstrade does offer a debit card that can be used worldwide. However, you’ll need to have $25,000 AUM under them to be eligible for it.
      In terms of technical analysis, the platform does not really have any tools for you to do so as this is just a very basic discounted broker.

  6. Hello! I would like to do a wire transfer, but I noticed the instructions had:

    – Bank Name: BMO Harris Bank
    – Bank Address: 111 W Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603 (Alternative Zip Code: 60690)
    – Swift Code: HATRUS44

    and

    – Account Name: Apex Clearing Corporation
    – Apex Clearing Address: One Dallas Center 350 N. St Paul, Suite 1300, Dallas, TX 75201
    – Account Number: 1617711

    Which one should I wire to? Thank you!

    1. Hi Charles,
      These are 1 bank transfer information. BMO Harris Bank is the US bank name that Firstrade has an account under. And Apex Clearing Corporation is their account name under that bank.
      When you enter the information in your local bank, be sure to fill in all this information.

  7. Hi! Thanks for the insightful review, I was wondering, which would you recommend for a beginner to invest in US ETFs , Tiger brokers or Firsttrade (since you have reviewed both)? Planning to DCA <$1000 monthly.

    1. I will say if you’re ok with the hassle of moving money in/out of firstrade, then that’ll be a good option since you’re saving on the slight transaction cost. Otherwise, Tiger Brokers might be a better choice as it’s way easier to move money and it’s transaction fees are not that high anyway.

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