If you’re a novice investor with some extra money that you’d like to put to work in the market, you have dozens of low-cost robo-advisors and beginner-friendly online brokerages to choose from.
TradeStation is not one of those. It’s a powerful digital trading platform built for serious, experienced traders looking to get even better at what they do. And hopefully make some money in the process.
TradeStation is one of the better online brokerages in its class, but it’s not perfect for everyone. Make sure you understand what it can and can’t do before you get started.
What Is TradeStation?
TradeStation is an online brokerage and trading platform with no trading commissions. You can use it to trade stocks, ETFs, stock options, futures contracts, and some cryptocurrencies.
TradeStation has traditional desktop and mobile trading platforms. It also has specially designed cryptocurrency and futures trading platforms. Its simulated trading interface allows you to test and refine trading strategies in any (or all) asset types without using real money.
TradeStation is designed for experienced traders with higher levels of knowledge and expertise than the typical retail investor. However, it has a considerable library of educational resources and guides to help users increase trading knowledge and hone their strategies.
What Sets TradeStation Apart?
TradeStation stands out from other online trading platforms for several reasons:
- Excellent new account bonus. TradeStation has one of the best brokerage account promotions around. It’s worth up to $3,500 with a qualifying new money deposit or asset transfer.
- No trading commissions. TradeStation has no trading commissions for any of the products in its lineup. Some have per-contract fees, including options and futures, but these are competitive with other brokerages.
- Simulated trading interface. TradeStation’s simulated trading system makes it easy to test out trading strategies without putting real money on the line.
- Dedicated platform for futures traders. TradeStation has a sophisticated platform designed specifically for futures traders. Many brokerages that cater to less experienced investors don’t have standalone futures platforms.
Key Features of TradeStation
TradeStation is a comprehensive digital brokerage with a broad lineup of available asset types to trade, several distinct trading platforms, and some additional features for users. Before you create an account, take some time to familiarize yourself with its capabilities.
Account Opening Bonus
You may qualify for a cash bonus when you transfer new money or securities into your TradeStation account from another brokerage or bank. The bonus amount depends on how much you deposit:
- $150 Bonus: Deposit at least $5,000.
- $300 Bonus: Deposit at least $25,00.
- $500 Bonus: Deposit at least $100,000.
- $1,000 Bonus: Deposit at least $250,000.
- $2,000 Bonus: Deposit at least $500,000.
- $3,500 Bonus: Deposit at least $1,000,000.
You have 45 days from your account opening date to make the qualifying deposit or deposits. Once the money is in your account, you need to maintain at least that balance for 270 days to earn the bonus.
TradeStation offers three types of taxable accounts:
- Individual (held in your name only)
- Joint (held with another adult, such as a spouse)
- Custodial (established on behalf of a minor and managed for their benefit)
TradeStation also offers tax-advantaged individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
Products Available to Trade
TradeStation offers several different asset types to trade:
- Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
- Stock options (options to buy or sell specific stocks at a future date)
- Futures contracts (based on commodities like wheat and copper)
- Futures options (options to buy or sell futures contracts at a future date)
- Cryptocurrencies (limited to Bitcoin, USDC, and Ethereum)
Commissions & Fees
TradeStation charges no trading commissions on stocks, ETFs, options, or futures. Cryptocurrency trades typically come with commission-like fees that TradeStation can’t fully control, but TradeStation doesn’t charge a fee on top of that.
TradeStation does charge per-contract fees for stock options, futures options, and futures contracts. These range from $0.50 to $1.50 per contract, depending on the asset type and the number of contracts involved.
Trading Platforms & Tools
TradeStation’s main web-based trading interface supports stock, ETF, stock options, and futures contracts trading. The mobile platform is a mobile-friendly carbon copy of the web-based platform.
These platforms’ capabilities include:
- Advanced charting tools with dozens of technical filters
- One-click order entry and tracking
- Advanced options analysis
- Streaming market data for stocks, ETFs, options, and futures
- Historical market data dating back decades
- At-a-glance position, balance, and order monitoring
- Customizable watchlists
- Breaking news alerts
TradeStation has two specialized trading platforms designed for serious futures traders and crypto traders:
- FuturesPlus, which enables options trading and has additional advanced capabilities for futures and futures options analysis
- TSCrypto, an crypto-trading portal that supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, and USDC transactions
And TradeStation has a simulated trading platform that mimics the real interface but doesn’t require real money to buy and sell assets. It’s ideal for traders who want to practice or refine trading strategies without putting skin in the game.
Education & Research
TradeStation has a comprehensive suite of educational resources covering entry-level to advanced trading topics. Much of the content focuses on the TradeStation interface itself. TradeStation Master Class, a collection of advanced modules, is indispensable for users looking to get the most out of their experience.
TradeStation also has basic research resources for traders developing and honing trading strategies:
- Hot Lists filtered by variables like trading volume and open interest in options contracts
- Analyst recommendations and disclosed trades, which may show where the “smart money” is placing its bets
- Market news and analysis beyond breaking news headlines
Pros & Cons
These are TradeStation’s most important advantages and disadvantages for traders.
- No trading commissions
- Competitive contract pricing for options and futures
- Potentially massive account opening bonus
- Access to less common account types
- Not ideal for beginners
- Designed for active rather than hands-off investors
- No transaction-fee-free mutual funds
TradeStation is a low-cost brokerage with advanced tools for serious traders and a broad range of available assets.
- No trading commissions. TradeStation charges no trading commissions on stocks, ETFs, options, or futures contracts. This is a positive change from the past, when it had a more complicated pricing structure and higher commissions.
- Competitive contract pricing. TradeStation charges competitive per-contract fees for options and futures. These range from $0.50 to $1.50 per contract, in line with what comparable brokerages charge.
- Powerful trading and analysis tools. TradeStation is built for serious traders and has a lineup of technical and fundamental analysis tools to match. Its trading interface is designed for rapid execution, another selling point for seasoned market participants.
- Access to less common asset types. TradeStation stands out for offering direct access to cryptocurrencies and futures. Because these assets are riskier and not suitable for novices, many brokerages don’t bother with them.
- Potentially massive account opening bonus. TradeStation’s account opening bonus is worth up to $3,500 with a qualifying deposit. Even if you can’t bring $1 million in new money to the table, you can earn $150 for depositing just $5,000.
- Simulated trading reduces risk around new strategies. TradeStations sophisticated trading simulator helps you iron out the kinks in your trading plan before it’s time to put up actual money.
TradeStation appeals to a relatively small group of traders and often isn’t the best option for others.
- Not appropriate for beginners. TradeStation is designed for intermediate to advanced traders with considerable experience in the market. Though it has some educational resources for less experienced users, it’s not a beginner-friendly platform and could be overwhelming for less experienced traders.
- Not ideal for hands-off investors. If you’re a hands-off investor looking to create a stable, long-term portfolio, there are better options than TradeStation. Look to a low-cost robo-advisor instead.
- No transaction-fee-free mutual funds. With more than 2,000 commission-free ETFs in its library, TradeStation has plenty of low-cost funds to choose from. However, for investors interested in mutual funds specifically, it falls short.
How TradeStation Stacks Up
TradeStation competes with several other well-known online brokerages for seasoned traders’ attention. Before you open an account, see how it compares to another popular one: Interactive Brokers.
|$0 to $0.0035 per share, depending on plan
|$0.50 per contract
|Up to $0.65 per contract
|$0.50 to $1.50 per contract
|Up to $0.85 per contract
TradeStation is the better choice for stock and stock options traders, while Interactive Brokers noses ahead on futures contract pricing. Interactive Brokers is also a better fit for traders who want to purchase bonds directly, as TradeStation users can only purchase bond ETFs.
TradeStation has very low trading costs, a comprehensive lineup of asset types, and a suite of advanced research and analysis tools. Its web and mobile trading platforms are responsive, powerful, and built with execution in mind.
TradeStation is also not designed for trading novices or hands-off investors. If you’re looking to open your first brokerage account and start to wrap your head around the market, TradeStation isn’t the best option for you. Stick with a robo-advisor or beginner-friendly DIY brokerage.
On the other hand, if this isn’t your first rodeo, TradeStation could be the right online trading platform for you.