Firstrade Commission-Free ETF Program Review – Includes Vanguard, iShares Core, Schwab Index ETFs

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Online brokerage Firstrade just announced a new Commisssion-Free ETF program that includes 700+ ETFs from 40 fund families. This is a bold move as it includes both a lot of ETFs (quantity) but also the best ETFs (quality) from providers like Vanguard, iShares, WisdomTree, SPDR State Trust, and Schwab.

Firstrade already cut their standard trade commission to $2.95 per trade in 2017. The program is designed for long-term investors and the ETFs must be held for at least 30 days (if less than 30 days, the commission is the standard $2.95). Leveraged ETFs are not included. There is no need for any special enrollment for this ETF program.

Low-cost, broadly-diversified ETFS across major asset classes. Here is a partial list of ETFs that I noticed:

Vanguard (52 ETFs total)

  • Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)
  • Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS)
  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)
  • Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF (VBR)
  • Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA)
  • Vanguard FTSE All-Wld ex-US ETF (VEU)
  • Vanguard Global ex-US Real Est ETF (VNQI)
  • Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
  • Vanguard Short-Term Infl-Prot Secs ETF (VTIP)
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (BNDX)

Notably absent: Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)

iShares (173 ETFs total)

  • iShares Core S&P Total US Stock Mkt ETF (ITOT)
  • iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV)
  • iShares Core MSCI Total Intl Stk ETF (IXUS)
  • iShares Core US REIT ETF (USRT)
  • iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEFA)
  • iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG)
  • iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (DGRO)
  • iShares Core US Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG)
  • iShares Core International Aggt Bd ETF (IAGG)
  • iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR)

Schwab (20 ETFs total)

  • Schwab US Broad Market ETF (SCHB)
  • Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD)
  • Schwab Emerging Markets Equity ETF (SCHE)
  • Schwab International Equity ETF (SCHF)
  • Schwab US REIT ETF (SCHH)
  • Schwab US TIPS ETF (SCHP)
  • Schwab US Aggregate Bond ETF (SCHZ)

With this move, they take the title of “Largest Commission-Free ETF Program” from TD Ameritrade. Here’s their comparison chart.

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My take. Overall, competition is good and I always like to see lower prices for long-term ETF investors. Additional considerations:

  • Sustainable? This list is very similar to what TD Ameritrade used to offer commission-free, at least in terms of offering the most popular ETFs. However, TD Ameritrade eventually went for quantity over quality, dropping most of their widely-held ETFs and replacing them with niche ETFs and index ETFs from SPDR. One can only assume this is a loss-leader offering for Firstrade. Will it last?
  • Truly simple portfolios can just stick to the source. If you really want to construct a simple portfolio, you can open an account at Vanguard, Fidelity (iShares), and Schwab and buy ETFs (limited to their family) with no commission. The benefit is that in-house discounts are much more likely to stay free.
  • Tax-loss harvesting. A potential benefit of using a brokerage account is if you do tax-loss harvesting with ETFs. For example, you could sell iShares Core S&P Total US Stock Mkt ETF (ITOT) and buy Schwab US Broad Market ETF (SCHB), all commission-free and in the same account. With the big list above, ETF pairing for almost every asset class are available.

Bottom line. Firstrade has a new Commisssion-Free ETF program that tries to offer both quantity (700+ ETFs from 40 fund families) and quality (top-rated and popular ETFs from Vanguard, iShares, and others). This sure looks nice, but how will they make money? We recently saw TD Ameritrade cut back on their Commisssion-Free ETF program, but hopefully Firstrade can sustain this one.


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Firstrade Commission-Free ETF Program Review – Includes Vanguard, iShares Core, Schwab Index ETFs from My Money Blog.


© MyMoneyBlog.com, 2018.


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