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Updated on Thursday, April 4, 2019
TradeStation is a full-featured trading platform that is ideal for serious investors. Since it was designed for financial professionals, its desktop, web and mobile apps put almost endless data at your fingertips. You’ll have access to hundreds of indicators and studies to spot trends as well as advanced charting features and years of historical data. And once you identify the perfect trade, TradeStation’s unique commission structure means you can pay either per trade or per share.
TradeStation is a great choice if you want to actively manage your money, but if you’re looking for a simple account to trade exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and Mutual funds, TradeStation is not the best choice because of its lack of fee-free options. While the educational features TradeStation provides through TradeStation University are nice — even for beginning investors — this broker is geared toward frequent traders who are data-hungry and want a fully customizable platform to take their research to the next level.
Who should consider TradeStation?
If you’re looking for an online broker that provides one of the most robust trading platforms in the business, TradeStation should be at the top of your list.
TradeStation’s platform shines because of its high level of customization and the many versatile tools available for different kinds of investors. These tools include RadarScreen, which allows you to scan and rank ticker symbols in real time by applying technical and fundamental indicators, as well as a powerful Matrix tool that makes it easy to place automatic orders in response to discrepancies in bond yield curves. Traders can even design their own trade strategy tools using TradeStation’s Easy Language programming language.
However, the feature-rich platform does have a bit of a learning curve and may be overwhelming to some novice investors.
Traders looking for per-share pricing — which many competitors don’t offer — will find this option at TradeStation, and active traders will appreciate unbundled pricing, which could bring the per-share price down to as low as $0.002.
If you’re not a frequent trader, however, you’ll pay a fee of $99.95 per month for a per-share or unbundled account unless you maintain an account balance of $100,000. To avoid this, you’ll need to trade at least 5,000 shares, 50 options contracts, or 10 round-turn futures or futures options contracts.
TradeStation fees and features
|Stock trading fees|
|Amount minimum to open account|
|Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)|
|Mobile app||iOS, Android|
|Customer support||Phone, Chat, Email|
Strengths of TradeStation
- Full-featured trading platform: TradeStation’s research tools and charting features are unmatched by other online brokerages, and traders can even backtest trading strategies with TradeStation’s Portfolio Maestro tool. Plus, TradeStation’s platform actually provides automatic execution of trades based on the strategies you select.
- Low-cost stock trading: TradeStation’s $5 commissions for equity trades are on par with many competitor offerings, including Schwab’s $4.95 commission fee, and are slightly below TD Ameritrade’s $6.95 commission fee. Plus, traders have the option of choosing per-share or unbundled pricing instead of paying a flat fee per trade.
- Tons of educational options: TradeStation University helps beginning investors learn how to navigate the trading platform and learn the basics of researching investments. A library of videos makes the information easy to absorb, and the Knowledge Center is well-organized with sections devoted to Futures / commodities,Cryptocurrency, Options, Stocks and ETFs.
Drawbacks of TradeStation
- Higher-cost fund trading: Hands-off investors may be turned off by the $14.95 commission fee for Mutual funds — which is higher than many competitor offerings, including Schwab’s $0 commissions on thousands of funds — and by the absence of commission-free ETFs, especially when competitors such as Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade offer hundreds each.
- Learning curve for tools: TradeStation’s web, mobile and online tools are designed for experienced investors. Beginners may find the features and tools too complicated to use and may not want to invest the time to customize the platform.
- Inactivity fees: There’s an inactivity fee if you don’t maintain a $2,000 minimum balance in a standard account or a $100,000 minimum balance in a per-share or unbundled account. You’ll need to meet activity requirements by executing a certain number of trades to avoid these fees.
Is TradeStation safe?
TradeStation should be viewed as a safe choice for investors. With a FINRA BrokerCheck page that shows TradeStation is in compliance with regulations and a long track-record as a trading platform for financial professionals, TradeStation has demonstrated that it can be trusted.
It’s also an SIPC member, which means cash in your brokerage account is insured in the event TradeStation faces financial trouble. However, any money you invest is at risk because no investments is 100% safe and losses may occur. Researching your investment choices carefully helps you minimize the risk you inherently face when you put your money into the market.
If you plan to trade regularly and desire advanced data and research tools to help you execute smart strategies, TradeStation may be the right broker for you. But if you want to build a simpler portfolio with ETFs and Mutual funds, you can look to a competitor like Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade or E-Trade instead.