TradeStation Futures Trading Account Review: Margin Requirements, Leverage, Platform Pricing for 2019.

Overview of Futures at TradeStation

TradeStation is widely known for its low commissions and advanced trading technology. Let’s take a look at the resources TradeStation's futures traders have and why the company is named the Best Futures Broker in 2019.

Best Futures Broker Commissions

TradeStation offers two pricing schedules for futures trading. In a single-tier account, contracts are $1.50 each. This commission is applied to both purchases and sales. Futures accounts on the single-tier pricing schedule have no software fees.

Besides the single-tier pricing schedule, TradeStation also offers a multi-tiered plan where commissions are significantly lower, especially for high-volume traders.

Broker <= 300 Contracts 301 - 1000 Contracts 1001 - 10,000 Contracts 10,001 - 20,000 Contracts 20,000+ Contracts
Interactive Brokers $0.85 $0.85 $0.65 $0.40 $0.25
TradeStation $1.20 $1.00 $0.65 $0.45 $0.25
TastyWorks $1.25 $1.25 $1.25 $1.25 $1.25
Etrade $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50

In a multi-tiered account, the broker’s software isn’t free. The desktop platform costs $99.95 per month, RadarScreen (a real-time market monitoring tool) is $59.95 every month, and Portfolio Maestro (a portfolio-level strategy back-testing tool) is also $59.95 monthly. Despite the steep prices, all of these fees can be avoided. Accounts that have $100,000 in assets, or trade 50 option contracts or 5,000 equity shares, or make 10 round-turn futures trades have all of them waived.

With either commission format, regulatory and exchange fees are passed onto the trader. There is a one penny surcharge from the National Futures Association applied to each contract.

Other fees will apply, depending on the exchange a contract is traded on. For example, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange charges $2.03 per side for commodities. Interest rate futures traded on Eurex Exchange cost €0.20 per side, per contract.

Exchanges usually offer discounts to traders who have memberships. Some of these memberships can be in the thousands of dollars per year.

Margin rates for futures trading varies by contract at TradeStation. The broker requires $4,620 of initial margin to trade the E-mini S&P 500, for example. The contract has a maintenance margin of $4,200, and a day trading rate of $1,155 (25% of $4,620).

London Cocoa Futures has an initial margin of £940, which is also the maintenance margin. There is no day trading rate for this contract.

Futures accounts at TradeStation have a different pricing schedule that securities accounts have. For example, T-Bills in a futures account cost $10, while securities accounts pay $50. Many fees are the same, however.

There is an annual $50 fee for a multi-tiered account. It can be avoided by placing five or more trades in a 12-month period, or simply maintaining a $2,000 account balance. The single-tiered schedule charges a very steep $99.95 monthly fee, although it can be waived by meeting one of the criteria that is mentioned above for avoiding software fees in the multi-tiered account.

TradeStation provides options on futures as well. They have to be traded separately with a discrete login on the Futures+ platform. To open this type of account, you must contact the broker directly.

Trading Tools

TradeStation offers a sophisticated desktop platform where stocks, options, and futures can all be traded together. A handy trade bar sits at the top of the screen. On the left-hand side of it, four choices are shown: equities, options, futures, and forex. As already mentioned, TradeStation no longer offers trading in currencies, so the forex option doesn’t work. Clicking on futures produces appropriate trading fields for contracts.

Best Futures Broker

Advanced order types are available, including limits, brackets, OCO’s, fades, and breakouts. A contract’s price history can also be shown on a chart, and technical studies and drawings can be added by right-clicking on the chart.

The broker’s mobile app can also be used to trade futures contracts. Charting is available along with advanced order types, like fill or kill and stop limit orders.

Both the mobile app and desktop platform have paper trading features. Beginners who need to practice trading futures will benefit from these practice environments, which cost nothing extra.

Best Futures Broker Mobile App

Research & Education

The TradeStation website has limited information on futures education. There are several videos that cover trading tactics, but these are geared mostly to equity traders. A few videos cover futures topics. There is a helpful FAQ that answers some questions that futures customers may have. The broker also has a futures trading desk that is available 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, while the futures markets are open.

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TradeStation Futures Trading Summary

TradeStation's futures trading service delivers powerful technology unmatched by its rivals. The broker’s pricing schedule for derivative trading is also very competitive, especially for active futures traders.

TradeStation Futures Trading reviewed by Rating: 4