Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It may not have not been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners or the Investment company.
Updated on Thursday, March 11, 2021
TradeStation offers a robust suite of online trading tools and brokerage services for serious investors. Its award-winning, feature-rich platforms and services provide seasoned investors with everything they need to research, test and complete trades among a wide variety of asset classes.
TradeStation may be too much for beginning investors and not a great choice for infrequent ones, as there are fees if minimums aren’t met with its primary platform, TS Select. For serious, frequent traders, however, TradeStation might be hard to beat.
|Minimum deposit||$2,000 for TS Select; $0 for TS Go|
|Sign-up bonus||$100 bonus (paid in monthly $20 increments) when you deposit $500 or more and maintain a balance of at least $500 for five months|
- What TradeStation offers and who it’s for
- TradeStation fees and costs
- TradeStation investing tools and research
- TradeStation user experience
- TradeStation investor education
- TradeStation security
- Alternatives to TradeStation to consider
What TradeStation offers and who it’s for
TradeStation is an award-winning, highly-regarded leader in the online trading and brokerage services space. It offers three platforms — desktop, web and mobile — along with a wide range of tools and support to help investors research, test, learn and trade online. TradeStation is best for experienced, frequent traders, as there are fees if account minimums — both balance and trading frequency — aren’t met. In addition, its pricing options, as well as the amount and sophistication of its tools, may be overwhelming for beginning traders.
Investors looking for a wide variety of investments can find many at TradeStation. It offers both traditional assets and nontraditional ones like crypto trading, which many of its competitors don’t. It doesn’t, however, offer other alternative assets, such as foreign exchanges (forex).
- Large variety of trading options: TradeStation allows investors to choose everything from stocks and ETFs to crypto and IPOs.
- Commission-free stock and ETF trading: There’s no charge for up to 10,000 shares per trade.
- Robust trading platforms: TradeStation offers three platforms with some of the most expansive and impressive trading and analysis tools in the industry.
- Limited free educational resources: While TradeStation provides some free educational resources for users, more robust resources are offered through its affiliate company, YouCanTrade, and require a hefty monthly fee starting at $149 and going up to $199 for access to all channels.
- Learning curve for tools: TradeStation’s tools are designed for experienced investors. Beginning investors may find these features and tools too complicated to use and too time-consuming to learn.
- Confusing pricing structure: TradeStation’s costs and fees can be difficult to understand. Its many plan options and fee structures may make it hard for inexperienced users to know exactly how much they’ll be paying for what they get.
TradeStation fees and costs
|Option trading fees||$0.60 per contract for TS Select; $0.50 per contract for TS Go|
|Stock & ETF trading fees||$0 up to 10,000 shares per trade|
|Futures||$1.50 per contract, per side for TS Select; $0.85 per contract, per side for TS Go|
|Futures micro e-mini||$0.50 per contract, per side|
|Futures options||$1.50 per contract, per side.|
|Inactivity fee||$50/year if minimum account activity is not met (free if it is)|
|Transfer fee||Outgoing account transfer, $125 for equities; $25 for external transfers on futures accounts|
|Overnight check delivery||$25|
|T-bills||$50, equities; $10 futures|
|Mutual funds||$14.95 per trade|
Like many of its competitors, TradeStation now offers commission-free trading of stocks and ETFs up to 10,000 shares. Beyond that, however, there are a number of fees that can add up depending on a user’s trading habits.
TradeStation offers two pricing plans — TS Select, its primary plan, and TS Go. With TS Select, an account inactivity fee of $50 is charged if the average end-of-month equity balance dips below $2,000, or if at least five trades aren’t made within a year. While TS Go doesn’t require a minimum balance, traders are charged a $10 fee for each equities and options trade they make on the Desktop platform, and a $1.40 surcharge per contract for futures trades. For both plans, there are also other per-contract fees for options, futures and other assets.
Beyond TS Select and TS Go, customers can also choose per-share and unbundled pricing, which may be beneficial for frequent traders.
TradeStation investing tools and research
TradeStation offers a wide variety of investing tools and research options, particularly on its desktop platform. Some of the highlights include:
Up to 1,000 symbols are monitored continuously in real time, so users can keep a close eye on what’s happening to stocks they want to follow.
This provides traders with an easy way to create their own indicators and strategies.
This lets users see how their intended trades would do based on historical market data before they actually make them.
Dubbed the “Swiss Army Knife” of trading tools, Matrix provides an in-depth look at the market along with order-entry and order-tracking systems.
There are more than a dozen trading apps built into the desktop platform, with add-on products available through the TradingApp® Store.
Good for visual-minded investors, this application lets people view opinions and markets, as well as their strategy.
Simulated Trading Mode
This lets investors practice their skills and test theories without losing a dime.
TradeStation user experience
TradeStation offers three different platforms — desktop, web and mobile. Desktop is the most robust offering, with tools and resources galore, allowing users to chart, make trades and hone and test their investment strategies. It features RadarScreen, EasyLanguage, Strategy Back-Testing, Matrix, Trading Apps and TradingAppStore access, OptionStation Pro and Simulated Trading Mode.
Its web platform allows users to log in from any computer with internet access, even if the desktop software hasn’t been installed. Users can still monitor the market, place trades and access news and market data — however, they don’t have access to many of the desktop tools. The following tools are not included with the web platform: RadarScreen, OptionStation Pro, Portfolio Maestro, TradeStation Scanner, Easy Language and Strategy Back-Testing, as well as the full Matrix and the ability to use TradingApp Store products.
The TradeStation mobile app also offers most of the same capabilities as the web platform, but from the convenience of your mobile device. Users can trade, monitor and sync to their online accounts with a few taps of their screen. However, like the web platform, users of the mobile app also don’t have access to tools including RadarScreen, OptionStation Pro, Portfolio Maestro, TradeStation Scanner, Easy Language and Strategy Back-Testing and the full Matrix. Products from the TradingApp Store are also unavailable. The TradeStation app is available for both iOS and Android, and rates well on their respective app stores — out of five stars, it ranks 3.9 on Google Play and an especially high 4.6 in the Apple app store.
TradeStation customer support is offered via live chat Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET., and client services and technical support are offered via telephone during the same hours. The trade desk is reachable via telephone, with the hours depending on the commodity being traded:
- Stocks and options: Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET, and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.
- Futures: Available 24 hours from 5 p.m. Sunday through 6 p.m. Friday ET.
- Crypto: 24/7, except the second weekend of each month from 6 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday.
TradeStation investor education
TradeStation offers a variety of free educational resources through its MarketInsights page, which provides coverage and analysis of various sectors and events — and it’s free to anyone. Another service provided at no charge is Market Basics, which breaks down various types of investments and offers advice about each of them for new traders.
An additional variety of free resources, including articles and video courses, are also available to help users understand and take advantage of various features on their platforms, while support forums let traders connect with one another to share knowledge. Some market data is offered at no cost, while other sources require a monthly fee.
More in-depth educational tools are offered through TradeStation’s affiliate company, YouCanTrade. This site provides a variety of fee-based, interactive channels with access to trading coaches, insight from other investors and more. It offers four primary options, each running $149 per month. Access to all channels is available for $199 per month with its All Access Pass.
While TradeStation’s educational offers are vast, they may come up a bit short when it comes to its competitors. For example, there are no live events, and there’s a hefty $199 monthly fee to pay for much of what they have to offer. Some knowledge-hungry investors may find TradeStation lacking.
- Protected by the Securities Investor Protections Corporation (SIPC): TradeStation equity accounts are SIPC-insured up to $500,000, including $250,000 cash. It also provides additional insurance through Lloyd’s of London — up to $24.5 million ($900,000 cash maximum) per account — with a $300,000 million aggregate firm limit.
- Account protections: TradeStation uses various technologies to ensure accounts are safe, including the use of monitoring by anti-fraud and anti-money-laundering specialists, encryption and advanced firewalls.
- Log-in security: TradeStation offers basic log-in security features such as strong password and online login verification, as well as session timeouts, limits on login attempts and extended verification security certificates that users can look for before entering login credentials or other information.
Alternatives to TradeStation to consider
TradeStation is a clear leader in the online trading space, offering sophisticated technology, brokerage services and education. It consistently wins awards for its tools, but they’re not for everyone.
Its platform was designed for professional investors, and while they offer some tools and materials aimed at beginners, TradeStation could be overwhelming both in terms of the complexity of its offerings and its various pricing options. Casual, beginning investors may find other platforms less intimidating and easier to navigate.
|Average Cost Per Trade||Minimum Deposit||Best for...|
|TradeStation||$2,000 for TS Select; no minimum for TS Go||Active, experienced investors|
|Thinkorswim||No minimum||Those who are TD Ameritrade customers (or intend to become customers)|
|No minimum||Both experienced, active traders and beginning investors|
TradeStation vs. Thinkorswim
Thinkorswim is a trading service TD Ameritrade offers to its customers, while TradeStation is available to anyone. Both offer web, desktop and mobile platforms, though Thinkorswim’s investment options are more limited. And while TradeStation allows investors to choose cryptocurrencies or IPOs, Thinkorswim doesn’t.
Thinkorswim does offer plenty of tools and resources, but it may be less overwhelming to beginning investors than TradeStation. Thinkorswim shines a bit brighter than TradeStation when it comes to free investor education, offering live and on-demand videos, access to real-time financial information, free courses, webcasts and in-person events.
Additionally, Thinkorswim requires no minimum balance, while TradeStation requires $2,000 for its most robust offering, the TS Select plan.
TradeStation vs. Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers may be another better, less-intimidating choice for less-experienced investors. In addition to its services for professional and active investors (IBKR Pro), Interactive Brokers offers IBKR Light, a service designed specifically for beginners. While TradeStation offers some resources aimed at beginning investors, it still may be too overwhelming for many.
Both TradeStation and Interactive Brokers offer a variety of investment options, though different ones. Only TradeStation offers crypto, but Interactive Brokers offers forex, which TradeStation doesn’t.