Best Brokers for Day Trading

Blain Reinkensmeyer

Published by Blain Reinkensmeyer

Monday, February 19th, 2018

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Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Here are the top five platforms for day trading, based on over 90 variables.

Day Trading

It is not surprising that all online brokers highly covet day traders and active traders. These seasoned traders require far less handholding than new investors do, and generate much more revenue for brokers every year. The question, though, is: How many trades (buys or sells) must one make to be considered an “active trader” or a "day trader"?

We spoke to numerous brokerage executives, traders, and industry experts, and found there is really no definitive answer because every broker has a different number based on his/her offerings and business costs. In fact, the term “active trader” has become so loosely applied in the marketing and branding environments that niche brokers such as Lightspeed use the term “hyperactive trader” to distinguish between the two.

An “active trader” is someone who places at least 10 trades or more per month or 120-plus trades per year. Alternatively, a “hyperactive trader” is someone who trades at least 10 times as much – 100-plus trades per month or 1,200-plus trades per year.

Here at, we have no problem setting industry standards, and thus will define both from our perspective. We regard an “active trader” as someone who places at least 10 trades or more per month or 120-plus trades per year. Alternatively, a “hyperactive trader” is someone who trades at least 10 times as much – 100-plus trades per month or 1,200-plus trades per year.

Active trader categories by total trades

Day Trading Platforms

Understanding your classification as a trader is critical when you select a broker for day trading. As an active trader, you are likely comfortable paying $4, $5, $6, or even $7 per trade. You want low-cost trades, but a feature-rich platform or research is important to you too; therefore, you are willing to pay more. However, speak to a hyperactive trader or day trader, and you will find the platform/software design, research, and trade tools don’t matter; cost and execution talks while everything else walks.

Because of this, our ranking in this category considers both types of trader, with the most significant factors being price, speed, and execution, as these are elements both have in common.

Interactive BrokersTradeStationLightspeed TradingTD AmeritradeFidelity
Stock Trade Fee (flat)N/A$5.00$4.50$6.95$4.95
Stock Trade Fee (per share)$0.005$0.01$0.006N/AN/A
Charting - Indicators / Studies12128220411166
Trade Hot Keys Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Streaming TV Yes No No Yes Yes
Active Trading 5 5 5 4.5 4.5

Our No. 1 pick for day trading, Interactive Brokers, wins this category because the broker caters specifically for active and hyperactive traders. You won’t find the broker’s platform built for new investors, and you can mostly forget about research. What you will find, though, are programmable hotkeys and a slew of order types for placing every possible trade imaginable, including algorithmic orders, alongside the lowest margin rates in the industry. Popular among the institutional community, including hedge funds, this broker offers the lowest commissions in the industry.

Interactive Brokers Mosaic

Interactive Brokers, Lightspeed, and TradeStation all offer what are known as “unbundled” rates, which means they pass 100% of all market rebates (or charges) for adding (or taking) liquidity back to their clients. Many market exchanges (examples include Citadel, Bats, and KCG (Virtu)) will pay your broker for routing your order to them. These rebates are usually no more than a tenth of a penny or two per share, but they add up. See: Order Execution Guide.

Interactive Brokers trade ticket

Using a broker such as Lightspeed, routing a 1,000-share buy limit order on the NYSE will currently net you $0.0014 per share. Lightspeed’s base rate is $.0045 per share, so the original $4.50 trade now becomes only $3.10, thanks to a $1.40 rebate from the NYSE. This represents a savings of 31 percent. Note, however, this goes both ways, as routing a straight market order to the NYSE instead would incur a charge of $.0027 per share, thus increasing the cost of the trade.

Order routing aside, our other top brokers for day trading shine for different reasons. TradeStation provides three commission structures with quality executions and an insanely powerful desktop platform rivaled only by TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim, which also reigns supreme for mobile trading. Fidelity was ranked first overall for Order Execution, providing clients industry-leading trader order fills alongside a competitive platform. We recommend reading our full online broker reviews for a complete breakdown of each broker.

TradeStation desktop platform

Day Trading Broker Selection Tips

All in all, finding the right broker for day trading first requires defining “active.” It is also important to ensure you have at least $25,000 to comply with the SEC's Pattern Day Trader rule and margin requirements. Next, ask yourself, “How important are low trading commissions?” and, “How important are tools?” Assume that lower trade costs usually mean less quality in such areas as research, trading tools, mobile trading apps, or ease of use. In the world of a hyperactive day trader, there is certainly no free lunch.

TD Ameritrade thinkorswim platform

Day Trading Brokers Summary

Online Broker Best For Minimum Deposit Commissions Overall Rating
Interactive Brokers Low Rates $10,000 $0.005 per share 5 Stars
TradeStation Platform technology $500 $5.00 5 Stars
Lightspeed Low Rates $10,000 $0.005 per share 5 Stars
TD Ameritrade thinkorswim $0 $6.95 4.5 Stars
Fidelity Active Trader Pro $0 $4.95 4.5 Stars

Related Guides

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1 Interactive Brokers Logo
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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 09/01/18 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The 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.

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading privileges subject to TD Ameritrade review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options. Offer valid for one new Individual, Joint or IRA TD Ameritrade account opened by 9/30/2018 and funded within 60 calendar days of account opening with $3,000 or more. To receive $100 bonus, account must be funded with $25,000-$99,999. To receive $300 bonus, account must be funded with $100,000-$249,999. To receive $600 bonus, account must be funded with $250,000 or more. Offer is not valid on tax-exempt trusts, 401k accounts, Keogh plans, Profit Sharing Plan, or Money Purchase Plan. Offer is not transferable and not valid with internal transfers, accounts managed by TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC, TD Ameritrade Institutional accounts, and current TD Ameritrade accounts or with other offers. Qualified commission-free Internet equity, ETF or options orders will be limited to a maximum of 250 and must execute within 90 calendar days of account funding. No credit will be given for unexecuted trades. Contract, exercise, and assignment fees still apply. Limit one offer per client. Account value of the qualifying account must remain equal to, or greater than, the value after the net deposit was made (minus any losses due to trading or market volatility or margin debit balances) for 12 months, or TD Ameritrade may charge the account for the cost of the offer at its sole discretion. TD Ameritrade reserves the right to restrict or revoke this offer at any time. This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business. Please allow 3-5 business days for any cash deposits to post to account. Taxes related to TD Ameritrade offers are your responsibility. Retail values totaling $600 or more during the calendar year will be included in your consolidated Form 1099. Please consult a legal or tax advisor for the most recent changes to the U.S. tax code and for rollover eligibility rules. (Offer Code 264) TD Ameritrade Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. TD Ameritrade is a trademark jointly owned by TD Ameritrade IP Company, Inc. and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. © 2017 TD Ameritrade.

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