Best Futures Brokers Overview
Commodities and futures are oftentimes overlooked financial products in the investment community. As such, there is always growth potential that other traders may miss. OptionsHouse, Interactive Brokers, and TradeStation all offer futures trading services. Let's take a look at what each broker offers, and see if one can be selected as the best value.
Futures Trading Commissions
||<= 300 Contracts
||301 - 1000 Contracts
||1001 - 10,000 Contracts
||10,001 - 20,000 Contracts
OptionsHouse recently added futures to its lineup of tradable financial products. In line with its tradition of low prices, new futures accounts pay only $2 per
contract, which is low by industry standards. OH clients can trade futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Intercontinental Exchange, and the CBOE
Futures Exchange. OptionsHouse pays for live futures quotes from CME, while clients must pay for quotes from the other two exchanges.
A futures account can be opened at OptionsHouse with no deposit. The account comes with no fees. Futures traders are required to also have an OptionsHouse margin
equity account. Only the minimum needed to maintain a futures position will be held in the futures account. The broker moves all other assets to the securities
account. Traders who need assistance can contact the broker's dedicated futures trading desk at 1-866-795-0160. It is open during futures market hours.
A desktop platform is available free of charge to all futures clients. It is the same software the broker provides for securities trading. In fact, users can
toggle back and forth between futures and equities accounts. There is one notable difference, however. The futures platform produces a price ladder on the
right-hand side of the screen. It displays working orders, current positions, cost basis, current loss or gain, real-time prices, and depth of market. Orders
can also be modified or canceled here.
OptionsHouse has received several awards recently. In 2016, the financial publication Barron's ranked the broker 4.6 out of 5 stars for usability, 5 out of 5
for mobile trading, and 4.7 for portfolio analysis and reports.
Read OptionsHouse review.
Open Optionshouse Account
Futures traders at TradeStation pay $1.20 per contract, and discounts are available for large clients. After reaching 300 contracts in a month, trades cost only
$1.00 per contract. Trading more than 1,000 contracts reduces the commission to 65¢, and all contracts above 20,000 only cost 25¢.
Many different exchanges are available at TradeStation. Contracts can be traded on all U.S. exchanges plus several foreign exchanges, including the Winnipeg
Commodity Exchange, the EUREX, and the Helsinki Exchanges. In total, there are over 50 exchanges available. The price of real-time data is passed from the exchange
to the client. Some of these data packages can cost as little as $1 per month or as much as $100. Dow Jones news service is available and costs $98 monthly for
both professional and non-professional subscribers.
Unlike OptionsHouse, a futures account at TradeStation has a rather steep minimum activity fee of $99.95 per month. Like OptionsHouse, TradeStation has a dedicated
futures desk. It can be reached 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. Placing a trade over the phone with a representative is $20.
Futures contracts can be bought and sold on TradeStation's award-winning platform. The broker has received Best Trading System for Futures for 12 years in a row
from Technical Analysis of Stocks and Commodities. The publication has also awarded TradeStation Best Professional Platform 14 years in a row. Investors Business
Daily ranked the broker in the top five for research tools and trade reliability. In 2016, it won Best for Frequent Traders from Barron's.
Read TradeStation review.
Open Tradestation Account
Traders at Interactive Brokers can access many futures exchanges. These include several in the U.S., including NYSE Liffe and the NASDAQ Futures Exchange.
Internationally, many others are available, such as Norway's EDXNO, the Borsa Italiana, and the Stockholm Derivatives Exchange. All of these exchanges can be
accessed with the company's advanced desktop software Trader Workstation. All market data fees from the exchanges are passed onto the user.
Clients can choose one of two different pricing schedules: fixed or tiered. Under the fixed plan, all futures contracts are 85¢. Under the tiered plan, the
first 1,000 contracts in a month are 85¢, the next 9,000 are charged 65¢, the next 10,000 cost 40¢, and all contracts over 20,000 in a month cost just 25¢.
The broker does require at least $10 per month in commissions. This fee can be waived by maintaining an account balance of $100,000 or more.
Interactive Brokers has received many awards over the years. In 2016, Barron's ranked it as the second best overall broker. In the same year, the firm won
Best Broker-Dealer for Futures from WSL Institutional Awards.
Read Interactive Brokers review.
Open IB Account
Professional traders will be better off with either Interactive Brokers or TradeStation, although TradeStation seems rather expensive for all but the most
active traders. OptionsHouse is the best value of the three for infrequent and non-professional traders.
Updated on 9/19/2016.