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Overall

TradeStation is a broker designed specifically for the tech-hungry, seasoned trader who trades actively, can meet the monthly minimums, and is serious about his or her craft.

Commissions & Fees
Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
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Best in Class
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Customer Service
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
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By Blain Reinkensmeyer on February 21st, 2017 | Last updated: February 21st, 2017

Dislikes
  • $99.95 monthly fee charged if certain minimums are not met
  • TradeStation desktop platform design is outdated
  • Broker began accepting payment for order flow again in 2015 after shunning the practice in previous years
Special Offer Low Fees and Free Market Data. Trade with TradeStation. Learn More


TradeStation Securities Review

For our 2017 Stock Broker Review we assessed, rated, and ranked sixteen different online brokers over a period of six months. In total, we conducted 349 customer service tests, collected 5,277 data points, and produced over 40,000 words of research. Learn more.

Since becoming a brokerage in 1982, TradeStation has taken pride in being a leader in trader technology, with one of the most robust platforms available to traders anywhere. With more than 30 years of experience under its belt, TradeStation continues that effort in 2017.

Commissions & Fees

While TradeStation does offer support for all trading types, including forex and futures, this review focuses on TradeStation's equities and options offerings. There are three different commission structures to select from for equities and two for options.

TradeStation, like Interactive Brokers, Lightspeed, and others, requires clients to purchase real-time data feeds to enable trading. To receive primary equities data, i.e., S&P 500 indices, NASDAQ, NYSE, and AMEX, the price is $7 per month ($4 + $1 + $1 + $1). Level II quotes run at $11 per month, and so on.

The main fee all new clients should be aware of is the $99.95 Minimum Activity Fee, which can be waived only if certain activity levels are hit (or the account has $100,000).

The main fee all new clients should be aware of is the $99.95 Minimum Activity Fee, which can be waived only if certain activity levels are hit (or the account has $100,000). For equities traders, at least 5,000 shares per month must be traded, and for options traders, 50 contracts are necessary to avoid the fee. At a minimum, I highly recommend trading enough each month to waive this fee.

TradeStationTD AmeritradeOptionsHouseLightspeed TradingInteractive Brokers
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$9.99$9.99$4.95$4.50N/A
Options Base Fee$0.00$9.99$4.95$0.00$0.00
Options Per Contract Fee$1.00$0.75$0.50$0.60$0.70
Broker Assisted Trades Fee$20.00$44.99$25.00$25.00$30.00
Commissions & Fees 3.5/5 2.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5

A full breakdown of TradeStation's commissions and fees structure can be seen via the Commissions Notes further down the page. On the whole, the more frequently you trade, the lower your costs. This is especially true for TradeStation’s optional unbundled pricing structure, which sophisticated traders can use to hand pick their routes and receive market rebates for adding liquidity.

One final note on the topic; in November 2016 TradeStation launched the TradeStation Salutes program, which provides active military personnel 100% free stocks, ETFs, and options trades. There are no minimum fees and free basic real-time data. I dug into the offering, and it’s the real deal. Veterans are also included, receiving the lowest per-trade stock, ETF, and options commission rates offered at TradeStation.

TradeStation Salutes

The program is a great way to give back and I am baffled none of the large full-service brokers offer a similar program. The TradeStation Salutes program is so innovative that we awarded TradeStation #1 for Innovation in our 2017 Review.

Platforms & Tools

TradeStation offers two platforms, a browser-based platform and a desktop platform, which is the company’s flagship product and core focus.

For a quick synopsis on TradeStation Web Trading, the browser-based platform focuses on keeping things simple. It is very easy to use and provides high-level traders a way to manage active positions, open orders, watch lists, stock chart analysis, and placing basic trades. In testing Web Trading, I found the simplicity and flexibility of the different layouts impressive. Web Trading is clean and the chart trading functionality added in 2016 is superior to many flagship platforms.

TradeStation Web Trading

TradeStation, the desktop platform, encompasses everything an active trader could desire, and then some. The tools provided cater to every type of professional investor, including institutional investors such as hedge funds.

TradeStation, the desktop platform, encompasses everything an active trader could desire, and then some. The tools provided cater to every type of professional investor, including institutional investors such as hedge funds. More than 40 years of historical data are available for equities trading when it comes to charting and studies. In terms of functionality, backtesting through Portfolio Maestro and customized scanning of the market for opportunities are just the tip of the iceberg.

TradeStation desktop platform

Charting allows investors to go deep into analysis, customizing indicators with numerous options, something only competitors such as TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platform can match. A staggering 270 indicators/studies are available, and each one can be reworked or adjusted to the trader's specifications. Viewing historical trades and active alerts, simplified chart trading, and plotting strategies are all at your immediate disposal.

TradeStation stock charts

Beyond ease of use, it’s difficult to find flaws with the charting experience; I could only manage to find two. The first is that there is no way to plot basic y-axis markers for corporate events such as dividends, splits, and earnings. Second, there is a lack of automated technical analysis. With TradeStation’s plethora of data and algorithms, I’d love to be able to have channels, support, resistance, and other basic technical patterns automatically identified and drawn for me.

Alongside robust charting, options traders are not forgotten either, thanks to OptionStation Pro, a built-in tool within a platform that was completely overhauled in late 2016 to focus on streamlining workflow.

Alongside robust charting, options traders are not forgotten either, thanks to OptionStation Pro, a built-in tool within a platform that was completely overhauled in late 2016 to focus on streamlining workflow. Scanning in the process of analyzing potential trades is easy, and traders can view traditional 2D as well as 3D profit & loss (P&L) charts, something exclusive to TradeStation (while the 3D views were a nice plus, ultimately, they felt more like eye candy). TradeStation’s options capabilities also include custom grouping for current positions, streaming real-time greeks, and advanced position analysis, to name a few.

TradeStation options 3d

Other tools in the TradeStation arsenal include Radar Screen (real-time streaming watch lists with 318 customizable columns), Scanner (custom screening), Matrix (ladder trading), and Walk-Forward Optimizer (advanced strategy testing), among others.

TradeStation RadarScreen watchlist

Among a variety of updates in 2016 were several unique stand outs. The Intraday Short Locate app was released, providing clients an easy way to request shares of non-easy-to-borrow securities without having to call the trade desk. Also added was the TSAlogos app, a request from large-order clients seeking more sophisticated fills. The number of order algorithms was expanded and reporting was enhanced to include charts plotting all fills over time as well as overall performance. Wild stuff.

Speaking of sophistication, a critical piece of TradeStation's tools offering is EasyLanguage, the company's own proprietary coding language, which allows traders to run wild with indicator and trade-strategy customizations.

Speaking of sophistication, a critical piece of TradeStation's tools offering is EasyLanguage, the company’s own proprietary coding language, which allows traders to run wild with indicator and trade-strategy customizations. Clients can share and sell their work via the TradeStation TradingApp Store (previously the Strategy Network). Some products are free, while others can run for less than $50 per month all the way up to hundreds of dollars per month. Overall, with EasyLanguage, the sky is the limit, which is why it is no surprise that, as of year-end 2016, there were over a thousand different products available.

TradeStation TradingApp Store

The depth of TradeStation’s sophisticated functions makes them a little difficult to learn. My one gripe with the platform is that it hasn’t had a true usability and design overhaul in many years. With hundreds of hours logged in at TradeStation, I still feel far from mastering the platform. That said, for new users, the good news is that educational support is terrific, from the help guides to the endless YouTube videos that have accumulated tens of thousands of views over the years. To expand learning, weekly “1-Many” webinars were launched in 2016 as well as TradeStation Private Onboarding, one-hour private learning sessions for $150.

All in all, TradeStation’s Web Trading platform is great for traders looking to keep things simple, and the desktop platform leads the industry in sophistication. Outdated design aside, it’s not easy to identify flaws; there’s a whole lot to love.

Mobile Trading

For mobile trading, we found TradeStation to be great for active traders, but just ok for casual investors. The app was entirely rebuilt back in 2013 and the quality of the new app immediately showed thereafter. Charting was significantly improved, and the app was much smoother than its previous iteration.

TradeStation mobile stock quote

This growth extended into 2014 as the broker added functionality such as the ability to trade from the chart or use custom time frames with charts.

Then, in 2015, much to our liking, TradeStation added basic stock alerts and push notifications. While advanced alerts based off studies are not yet supported, supporting order notification push alerts is a nice plus. The highlight update of 2015, though, came right before the year end with the launch of complex options trading. Alerts and mobile options spread support were two big features we had on our wish list after the 2015 Review.

Looking at 2016, I left my analysis with a clear request, “we’d love to see TradeStation extend the apps usability to include Touch ID login (fingerprint login) and extend the charting functionality to display after-hours data. Watchlist syncing with the platform would also be welcome.” TradeStation delivered two of my three wishes: Touch ID alongside after-hours charting support.

TradeStation mobile watchlist

Identifying drawbacks, TradeStation still trails industry leaders in mobile due to its lack of broader retail investor functionality. This includes mutual funds trading support, third-party ratings for equities, video content, heatmapping, and a customizable home screen, to name several. I suspect TradeStation will never add some of these features simply because they don’t serve their target clientele.

Limitations aside, though, I can see why TradeStation’s app finished 2016 with top ratings in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Limitations aside, though, I can see why TradeStation’s app finished 2016 with top ratings in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. With all variables considered, TradeStation’s mobile trading offering is clean, effective, and provides the core functionality of what active traders need to succeed.

Other Notes

TradeStation offers little research and is not recommended for this category (like all active trader niche brokers). See: Best Brokers for Research.

In the education department, TradeStation customers will find its offering pretty good. Customers are provided with two or more daily webinars, on average. Webinars are archived for viewing on demand, and a variety of live events are provided throughout the year. That said, topic specification focuses primarily on options and equities. We found little or no education on ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, and retirement, which is not surprising given TradeStation’s core clientele. See: Best Brokers for Education.

Final Thoughts

With more than 30 years of experience under its belt, TradeStation is a leader and innovator with its offering of a full-feature trade platform and powerful trade tools. The TradeStation platform is top notch in our books, and its appeal to active traders and professional investors is rivaled by only a select few.

While not the broker for everyone, especially new investors or those who can’t meet the minimum requirements to avoid a $99.95 monthly Minimum Activity Fee, TradeStation’s respected place in the realm of niche brokers should continue to grow in 2017.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format seven years ago which is respected by broker executives as the most thorough in the industry. Currently maintaining funded accounts with more than a dozen different US regulated online brokers, he's executed thousands of trades through his career and enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

Best in Class

2017
10

Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Customer Service
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2016
10

Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Mobile Trading
  • Order Execution
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2015
12

Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2014
14

Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading
2013
13

Overall
  • Platforms & Tools
  • Active Trading
  • Options Trading

Commissions & Fees

Commission Notes

TradeStation offers three commission plans. For simplicity we utilized the Flat-Fee plan throughout the site. Full commissions schedule including all three plans are broken down below.

Data & Fees - TradeStation clients need to purchase real-time data feeds to enable trading. To receive primary equities data, ie S&P 500 indices, NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX, the price is $7 per month ($4 + $1 + $1 + $1). Level II quotes run $11 per month, and so on.

TradeStation charges an "Account Service Fee" of $99.95 per month unless you reach any of the following trading activity minimums during the preceding month: A. Stocks - Trade 5,000 shares. B. Options - Trade 50 contracts. C. Futures - Trade 10 round-turn futures or futures option contracts or 50 round-turn single stock. D. Other - Have at least $100,000 in account balance on the last day of the previous calender month.

Both TradeStation Webtrading and OptionStation are free for all clients with no monthly service fee charges.

Stock Trades - TradeStation offers two commission plans: Per-Share and Flat-Fee.

  • Per-Share pricing: First 500 shares are $.01 per share, $.006 per share all shares thereafter. There is a $1 minimum per order. For example a 500 share trade would be $5 total and a 1000 share trade would be $8 ((500 x .01) + (500 x .06)).
  • Flat-Fee pricing: Rate determined by number of trades made during the previous month: 1 - 9 trades per month ($9.99 per trade), 10 - 29 trades per month ($7.99 per trade), 30 - 99 trades per month ($6.99 per trade), 100 - 199 trades per month ($5.99 per trade), and 200+ trades per month ($4.99 per trade). Each month's rate is determined by the previous month's total trades. For example, if a client places 15 trades in month one, then their rate will be $7.99 for month two. Lastly, direct routing up to 1,000 shares comes at no additional charge, however is $0.004/share thereafter.
  • Unbundled pricing: Unbundled pricing passes the liquidity charge (or rebate) onto the client. Base rate per share is determined by the number of trades made during the previous month. Rate starts at $.01 per share ($1 minimum) when trading less than 100,000 shares and drops to as low as $.002 ($.50 minimum) when trading 5 million shares or more.

Customers much choose one commission plan per account. All phone orders cost $20 extra per trade. Pink sheet stocks (OTCBB) are also available for trading at a rate of $.01 per share for the first 10,000 shares then $.05 per share thereafter.

Options Trades - TradeStation offers two plans for options trades.

  • Per-Contract pricing: 1.00 per contract with no base fee and no minimums. Exercise & assignments are $14.95. Early exercises or assignments are $1.50 per contract ($5.95 minimum).
  • Flat-Fee pricing: 1 - 9 trades per month ($9.99 + $.70 per contract), 10 - 29 trades per month ($7.99 + $.50 per contract), 30 - 99 trades per month ($6.99 + $.40 per contract), 100 - 199 trades per month ($5.99 + $.30 per contract), and 200+ trades per month ($4.99 + $.20 per contract). Also note, there is an additional charge of $0.35 per contract for index options and an additional $0.50 per contract charge for direct routing.

Mutual Funds - Mutual funds cost $14.95 per trade. Other fees may apply depending on the fund. Note though all mutual fund trades must be placed via phone and cannot be made through the platform.

Other Investments - TradeStation also offers futures, forex, bonds, and t-bills. IRAs are charged a $35 yearly account fee and a $50 fee for termination.





Trade Commissions Breakdown

Stock Trade Fee (flat) $9.99
Stock Trade Fee (per share) $0.01
Options Base Fee $0.00
Options Per Contract Fee $1.00
Options Exercise Fee $14.95
Options Assignment Fee $5.95
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $14.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $20.00
Minimum Deposit $5,000.00

Margin Rates

Margin Rate Under $24,999.99 8.50%
Margin Rate $25,000.00 to $49,999.99 8.25%
Margin Rate $50,000.00 to $99,999.99 7.75%
Margin Rate $100,000.00 to $249,999.99 7.75%
Margin Rate $250,000.00 to $499,999.99 7.25%
Margin Rate $500,000.00 to $999,999.99 7.25%
Margin Rate Above $1,000,000.00 6.75%

Miscellaneous Fees

Bond Trade Fee $14.95
Treasury Trade Fee $50.00
IRA Annual Fee $35.00
IRA Closure Fee $50.00
Returned ACH Fee $25.00
Returned Wire Fee $25.00
Stock Certificate Processing Fee $150.00
Stock Certificate Delivery Fee $15.00
Paper Statement Fee $1.00
Paper Confirmation Fee $1.00
Domestic Wire Fee $25.00
International Wire Fee $35.00

Account Features

Offering of Investments

Advisor Services help No
Bonds (Corporate) help Yes
Bonds (Municipal) help Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) help Yes
CDs help Yes
Clearing Firm help Self-clearing
Commission Free ETFs help 0
Direct Market Routing - Stocks help Yes
Direct Market Routing - Options help Yes
DRIPs help Yes
# of Easy to Borrow Stocks help 2500
Forex Trading help No
Futures Trading help Yes
Member FINRA help Yes
Member SIPC help Yes
Mutual Funds help Yes
Mutual Funds (No Load) help 988
Mutual Funds (Load) help 3866
Mutual Funds (NTF) help 988
Mutual Funds (Total) help 4854
Mutual Funds Phone Trades help Yes
Mutual Funds Web Trades help Yes
No Fee IRAs help No
No Inactivity Fees help No
No Minimum Deposit help No
Options Exercising (Web) help No
Options Exercising (Phone) help Yes
Options Trading help Yes
Complex Options Max Legs help 4
Options Trading (Mini) help Yes
Options Trading (Weekly) help Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets help Yes
Stock Trading help Yes

Customer Service

Phone Support help Yes
Email Support help Yes
Live Chat (Current Clients) help Yes
Live Chat (Prospect Clients) help No
24/7 Support help No

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform (Windows) help Yes
Desktop Platform (Mac) help No
Web Platform help Yes
Active Trading Platform help TradeStation
Charting - Display Corporate Events help No
Charting - View Historical Trades help Yes
Charting - Indicators / Studies help 270
Charting - Drawing Tools help 21
Charting - Trade Off Chart help Yes
Charting - Notes help Yes
Heat Mapping help No
Ladder Trading help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Options help Yes
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time help Yes
Option Chains - Total Columns help 32
Option Chains - Quick Analysis help Yes
Option Analysis - P&L Charts help Yes
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis Basic help Yes
Option Analysis - Probability Analysis Adv help Yes
Option Positions - Contract Rolling help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Email help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Sound help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Text SMS help No
Streaming Time & Sales help Yes
Streaming TV help No
Trade Hot Keys help Yes
Virtual Trading help Yes
Watch Lists - Streaming Real-time Quotes help Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields help 318

Research

Research - ETFs help Yes
Research - Mutual Funds help No
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB help No
Research - Fixed Income help No
Misc - Global Markets Overview help No
Misc - Portfolio Allocation Breakdown help No
Misc - Portfolio Builder help No
Equity Research - Earnings Analysis help No
Equity Research - Insider Analysis help No
Equity Research - Metric Comparisons help No
Equity Research - SEC Filings help No
Equity Research - Social Sentiment help No
Equity Research - Research Reports help 0
ETF Research - Performance Analysis help No
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings help No
ETF Research - Morningstar Style Box help No
ETF Research - 3rd Party Ratings help No
ETF Research - Research Reports help No
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown help No
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings help No
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis help No
Mutual Fund Research - Prospectus help No
Mutual Fund Research - 3rd Party Ratings help No
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports help No
Screener - Stocks help Yes
Screener - ETFs help No
Screener - Mutual Funds help No
Screener - Options help Yes
Screener - Bonds help No

Education

Has Education - Stocks help Yes
Has Education - ETFs help No
Has Education - Options help Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds help No
Has Education - Fixed Income help No
Has Education - Retirement help No
Investor Dictionary help Yes
Client Webinars help Yes
Client Webinars (Archived) help Yes
Live Seminars help Yes
Videos help Yes
Retirement Calculator help No
Progress Tracking help No
Interactive Learning - Quizzes help No

Mobile Trading

iPhone App help Yes
iPad App help Yes
Apple Watch App help No
Android App help Yes
Android Tablet App help No
Mobile Site help Yes
Touch ID help Yes
Account Transfers help No
Quotes (Real-time) help Yes
Quotes (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Real-time) help Yes
Watch List (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List Syncing help No
Market Movers (Top Gainers) help No
Custom Screening / Scanning help No
Charting - Stock Comparisons help No
Charting - Technical Studies help 20
Charting - After Hours help Yes
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields help Yes
Stock Alerts - Advanced Fields help No
Stock Alerts Delivery - Push Notifications help Yes
Customizable Homescreen help No
Streaming TV help No
Trading - Stocks help Yes
Trading - After-Hours help Yes
Trading - Conditional Orders help Yes
Trading - Mutual Funds help No
Trading - Simple Options help Yes
Trading - Complex Options help Yes
Trading - Option Rolling help No

Banking

Member FDIC help No
Checking Accounts help No
Savings Accounts help No
Debit Cards help No
Credit Cards help No
Mortgage Loans help No
Mobile Check Deposit help No
Online Bill Pay help No
Mobile Bill Pay help No
ATM Fee Reimbursement help No
No Fee Banking help No
Retail Locations help 0

Order Execution

Receives Payment for Order Flow (Equities) help Yes
Receives Payment for Order Flow (Options) help Yes
Client Liquidity Rebates help Yes
Financial Information Forum (FIF) Participant help No

Compare TradeStation Securities

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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/20/2017 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.




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