TradeStation Review

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Figuring out the best investments to help you reach your financial goals can be daunting. Fortunately, online stock brokerages like TradeStation can simplify the process.

Active traders and casual investors alike can benefit from the advanced research tools and commission-free trading that the platform offers. 

Our TradeStation review can help you figure out if the brokerage and its features are right for you.

4.2
Overall Rating

Summary

Active traders can access interactive charts, a desktop platform and $0 commission on stocks, options and futures. However, the platform is hard to navigate for new and casual investors that prefer passive passive strategies or investing small amounts of money.

  • Investment options

    5

  • Fees

    4

  • Charting tools

    5

  • Research tools

    3

  • Ease of use

    4

Pros

  • Powerful charting tools
  • Many investment options
  • No trading commissions

Cons

  • Active traders only
  • No fractional investing
  • Potential inactivity fee

What is TradeStation?

TradeStation is one of the oldest online stock brokerages. Active investors can manage their portfolio and research investments using the web, mobile and desktop trading platform. 

This brokerage can make it easy for short-term traders to research price charts and perform short-term trades. 

The TradeStation investment options include:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Futures
  • Futures Options
  • Crypto
  • Mutual Funds
  • Bonds
  • IPO Trading Platform

New and experienced traders can join the platform and enjoy free stock and ETF trades. However, you must maintain a minimum $2,000 balance to waive the trading commissions when using the desktop platform.

Taxable and retirement accounts are available.

Who is TradeStation For?

Since most investing apps no longer charge trading fees, the right brokerage for you could be the one with the most investment options and in-depth research tools. 

Active traders will benefit the most from TradeStation’s research tools and investment options. There is even a trading simulator to test new strategies. 

The platform is also excellent for short-term traders who use stock charts and technical data to research investments.

Consider this platform if you pursue these trading strategies:

  • Daytrading
  • Swing trading
  • Momentum investing

Additionally, instead of using a stock screener, you may be able to apply similar studies and indicators with the platform’s free charting tools. 

TradeStation might not be for you if you want:

  • Third-party research reports
  • In-depth fundamental analysis
  • The ability to purchase fractional shares of stocks or ETFs

Since TradeStation doesn’t offer those features, beginning and long-term investors are not the best fit for TradeStation and should consider another online brokerage.

TradeStation Features

Most of the TradeStation features focus on providing interactive charts, options chains and advanced order types that complex trading strategies require. 

Desktop Trading

The desktop platform is free to download on Windows computers. However, you will need to use the web or mobile editions if you have a Mac computer unless you install a parallel Windows operating system first.

This platform provides the greatest number of research features and is the best option for the most active traders. 

Some of the desktop features include:

  • One-click order entry: Quickly enter advanced orders with a single click
  • RadarScreen: Rank and monitor up to 1,000 symbols
  • Programmable indicators: Customize indicators and trading strategies
  • Backtesting: Backtest stocks and futures using historical data
  • OptionStation Pro: Use visual option chains to calculate probabilities
  • TradingApps: Install apps with additional research tools
  • Trading simulator: Practice trading strategies with test money

You must have a $2,000 minimum trading account balance to waive a $10 fee for each equity and options trade you initiate using the desktop platform. The web and mobile platforms don’t charge a similar fee.

Web Platform

The web platform has easy-to-use charting tools to research stocks and options with many of the same features as the desktop version. 

You might prefer this platform to avoid downloading software or if you have an Apple computer that doesn’t support the Windows-designed desktop program.

Some of the web platform features include:

  • Real-time streaming data
  • One-click orders
  • Interactive charts
  • Options chains
  • Predefined lists (Dow 30, sector ETFs and futures)
  • Stock market news
  • Simulated trading
  • Customizable layout

When you first log into your account, you will see the latest market data and charts. You can drag and expand windows as you switch between researching and placing trades.

Since the web platform is cloud-based, your online activity syncs with the mobile app. This means that if you need to pause your activity, you can log into another device and resume where you left off.

You have the option of using your active or simulated account. 

Mobile Platform

There is also a free TradeStation mobile app for Android and iOS devices. You can retrieve real-time price quotes and use interactive charts.

The app allows you to find the information you need when you are not near a computer. 

However, the web or desktop version is better for extensive research as you can easily access the features.

Additionally, you can make simulated trades using this app.

The Matrix

Each platform makes it easy to place trades with the one-click Matrix order ticket. This feature lets you create a limit order by clicking your desired trade price.

It’s also possible to submit orders at the current market price if your trading strategy is more flexible.

This feature even shows the latest trading volume so you can see what other investors are doing at a specific share price.

FuturesPlus

You will need to use the FuturesPlus web or mobile platform to trade futures. 

Like the standard equity trading platform, the layout and research tools are similar.

Some of the FuturePlus features include: 

  • Viewing options prices by expiry
  • Customizable trading strategies and screens
  • Greek options analysis tools
  • Implied volatility

The real-time data is free for several exchanges, but you can expect a competitive price for futures contracts. 

You will see quotes from the leading commodity exchanges, including the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

In addition to the research tools, you can trade micro futures with one-tenth of the investment minimum. 

Some of the mico e-mini futures products include:

  • S&P 500
  • Nasdaq 100
  • Russell 2000
  • Treasury yields
  • Crude oil
  • Bitcoin

Another benefit of the micro futures is not having to take delivery of physical commodities. Instead, you simply trade with fiat currency.

Simulated Trading

Active trading requires more skill than long-term investing strategies that may involve holding index funds to give you years to recover from short-term losses.

All three TradeStation platforms offer a free stock market simulator to test trading strategies. 

The simulator applies to these investment options:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Futures

Investors of any experience level can benefit from this feature.

For example, novice investors wanting to start trading using technical analysis can make unlimited paper trades to see how often they make profitable transactions.

Experienced investors wanting to add more indicators to their research routine or dabble in options trading can also benefit from the simulator.

TradeStation Learn

Traders can watch short videos and attend online webinars to learn trading basics for the various investment options. 

These videos are available in the “Learn” section of TradeStation. In addition, you can access additional content on YouCanLearn, which is the brokerage’s educational partner.

This resource is free and can supplement the simulated trading feature.

You can even hire a trading coach through the platform. 

TSCrypto

TSCrypto is an online brokerage that connects with various cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase and Gemini. 

Instead of being its own exchange, TSCrypto helps you find the best prices on partner exchanges. The buy and sell prices can vary widely by exchange due to the current supply and demand of the user base.

Your investment options currently include:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Ether (ETH)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • USD Coin (USDC)

It’s possible to earn interest on the crypto holdings you keep in this account. 

The platform currently uses BitGo to provide wallet storage. However, you may need to invest in offline storage for additional security.

When you’re ready to buy crypto, TradeStation pulls cash from your stock brokerage account. Unfortunately, you currently cannot keep a separate balance in your crypto account.

While this service can make it easier to trade supported cryptocurrencies, this service isn’t available in every state. You may need to join a waitlist for your state.

Does TradeStation Charge Fees?

It’s free to join TradeStation and trade stocks or ETFs. However, various fees can apply to other investment products and premium data packages.

TS Select vs. TS Go 

You must choose from two membership plans when creating an account, and your trading fees depend on which one you choose.

The two membership plans are:

  • TS Select
  • TS Go

Neither plan charges a trade commission, but you will pay a small fee for each option or future contract.

Investment OptionTS SelectTS Go
Stocks and ETFs$0$0
Stock Options$0 + $0.60 per contract$0 plus $0.50 per contract
Futures$0 + $1.50 per contract$0 + $0.85 per contract
Micro Futures$0 + $0.50 per contract$0 + $0.50 per contract
Futures Options$0 + $1.50 per contract$0 + $1.50 per contract

Additional exchange clearing fees may apply depending on which security you trade.

The TS Select plan requires a minimum $2,000 deposit. Consider this plan if you use the desktop edition because you will get free stock and options trades.

TS Go doesn’t require a minimum deposit, but you pay $10 per equity and options trade on the desktop platform. There are no fees for web and mobile trades.

Regardless of which plan you choose, maintaining a minimum $2,000 monthly account balance waives the annual inactivity fee.

Margin Rates

If you plan on having a margin account, your margin rate depends on your current buying power.

Margin Account BalanceMargin Interest Rate
$50,000 or less9.50%
$50,000 to $499,9998.75%
$500,000 to $1,999,9995.50%
$2,000,000 and above3.50%

Service Fees

You might pay some miscellaneous fees if you have an IRA, an inactive account or use incidental services.

Some of the incidental fees include:

  • IRA annual account fee: $35
  • IRA termination fee: $50
  • Inactivity fee: $50 per year 
  • Options exercise/assignment: $14.95
  • Broker assisted transaction: $0

There are other fees for paper statements and less common transaction types.

You will need to complete one of these actions to avoid the account inactivity fee:

  • Maintain a minimum $2,000 monthly balance
  • Complete at least five trades before your next account funding anniversary

Real-Time Data

Some exchanges provide free real-time data. However, you may need to pay for real-time streams for advanced data quotes and less common markets.

With TradeStation, you pay a monthly fee for add-on data packages.

Here are some of the price quotes for select exchanges:

  • Nasdaq Level 1: Free
  • Nasdaq Level 2: $11
  • NYSE: Free
  • Options Price Reporting Authority (OPRA): Free
  • OTC Markets Level 1: $6
  • Foreign Exchange (Forex): Free

Your data fees also depend on whether you’re a professional or non-professional investor. The listed prices are for non-professionals.

FAQs

Here are some popular questions about TradeStation to help you determine if it’s right for you.

Is TradeStation Safe?

Your brokerage account has up to $500,000 in SIPC insurance if TradeStation goes out of business. However, this coverage doesn’t reimburse normal market losses.

It’s important to note that any investment carries some level of risk. Evaluate your risk tolerance before putting your money on the line. 

What customer service options does TradeStation offer?

Live chat support and phone support are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday. 

You can also get help by email or by viewing the online FAQs. 

Is TradeStation worth it?

TradeStation is worth using for short-term traders who mostly use technical charts for their investment research. Unfortunately, the platform offers minimal market news and analyst reports.

This platform isn’t the best option for casual investors who only need basic charting tools and have a long-term investment strategy.

You should also avoid this platform if you don’t meet the minimum standards to waive the annual account inactivity fee.

Summary

TradeStation is one of the best platforms for active traders who frequently use stock charts and regularly place trades.

Few brokerages offer similar technical analysis tools for stocks, options and futures.

However, if you prefer index funds, third-party research reports and fractional investing, another online brokerage could be a better fit.