Direct access brokers

Direct Market Access Brokers (2022)


List of the best direct access discount brokerage firms. Read reviews, compare stock and options fees, and see ratings and rankings for direct market routing trading platforms.



Interactive Brokers Direct Access Broker


Among its many professional-level trading services, Interactive Brokers provides direct-access routing. This great feature is available only on the company’s desktop software Trader Workstation and not on its mobile app or website (read review) .

The great thing about Trader Workstation is that it can be used either by IBKR Lite or Pro customers. Although the software is not the most user-friendly, there is a simulated trading mode, so getting in some extra practice is quite easy.


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In the upper-left corner is where you’ll find the trade ticket. It’s there by default, although you can place it in a different location if desired. The trade ticket has several tools on it, one of which is a routing option.

To use this feature in a trade, click on the Advanced tab and then select the Destination field. Here, you’ll get a drop-down menu with lots of market makers. Choose the one you want for your order and submit the trade. IBKR Lite customers pay no commissions.


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ZacksTrade Direct Access Broker


A second broker that offers direct access to market venues is Zacks Trade. In fact, the company uses the same desktop platform that Interactive Brokers customers use, so all of the instructions mentioned above apply. As with IB, direct-access routing is only available at Zacks Trade through the desktop program. Zacks does charge commissions on all trades, an important difference from Interactive Brokers.

During our research, we counted more than 20 destinations on Trader Workstation. This is a very large number by industry standards. Examples include AMEX, CBOE, and EDGX. There is also a SMART option. This one will automatically choose the venue that has the best price currently.


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One of the great services of both Zacks and Interactive Brokers is trading in foreign assets. Trading a foreign stock or other security on Trader Workstation will change the Destination field. Multiple market venues may or may not be available.

For example, during our investigation we found four market venues for Nestle, a Swiss stock, but none for Yamana Gold Corp, a Canadian company.


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TD Ameritrade Thinkorswim Direct Access Broker


TD Ameritrade customers don’t use Trader Workstation. Instead, they use thinkorswim, a very high-level platform in its own right. Once again, direct-access routing is available and can be found on the platform’s order ticket. You do have to be in live mode and not simulated mode to get the feature (toggle on Live Trading instead of Paper Money at the login window).

Unlike Trader Workstation, thinkorswim does not prominently display its order ticket by default. Instead, it is hidden at the bottom of the screen. There’s a little up arrow that remains visible, and clicking on it will bring up the ticket. You can also click on a bid or ask price of a security or select trade from a drop-down menu on a chart.


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With the order ticket pulled up, you’ll see a variety of choices. First, you want to be sure you’re on the correct side of the trade (buy or sell). A buy order will display as green, while red represents sell.

The direct-access menu is on the far-right side of the ticket under the Exchange tab. During our test drive of the platform, we found just two destinations: ARCA and NASDAQ. Like Trader Workstation, there is an auto-detect option. This one is called BEST. There are no commissions on thinkorswim and no fees for directly routing orders.


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TradeStation Direct Access Broker


The fourth and final brokerage firm we’ll look at here that offers direct-access routing is Trade Station. Unlike the other broker-dealers, TradeStation offers direct access to market makers on both its desktop program and browser platform.

On the browser platform, the trade ticket sits at the top of the screen. It’s easy to enter a ticker symbol and fill in the other details. Under the Route tab is where the list of market makers sits. There are many of them. Choose the one you want, and you’re off to the races.


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On the desktop platform, there are four tabs on the left side of the trade ticket (for equities, options, futures, and forex). Be sure to select the correct one and then enter the trade details, such as order type. Once again, the Route tab is where you’ll choose the market venue. TradeStation’s automated route option is called Intelligent.

Both the browser system and desktop program provide the ability to demo trade if you want to practice using the routing option with no risk. Trades on the browser system have no commissions, while a TS SELECT subscription is necessary to qualify for commission-free trading on the desktop program.


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About the Author
Chad Morris is a financial writer with more than 20 years experience as both an English teacher and an avid trader. When he isn’t writing expert content for Brokerage-Review.com, Chad can usually be found managing his portfolio or building a new home computer.
Updated on 1/19/2022.