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Best Day Trading Platforms for 2021

Blain Reinkensmeyer

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2021 review (11th annual) took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research. Here's how we tested.

A day trade is when you buy shares of a stock then sell the same shares before the market closes. Because day traders place far more trades than the average investor, keeping costs low is just as important as buying and selling (or shorting and covering) for a profit.

Having placed over 2,500 trades, I know first hand that having a reliable day trading platform stocked with the trading tools you need is crucial to success.

For our 2021 Review, we tested and scored 11 different online brokers. To find the best day trading platform, we focused on both web and desktop platforms and assessed each platform across 55 different features. Alongside tools, we also took into consideration the costs of trading, including margin rates and order execution quality.


What is day trading?

Day trading is a strategy in which a trader buys and sells stocks throughout the trading day. The goal is to end each trading session with a net profit after commissions. Day traders primarily trade during the opening 60 minutes (9:30 - 10:30 AM EST) and closing 30 minutes (3:30 - 4:00 PM EST) of each market session, which is when price volatility is highest.


Best Day Trading Platforms 2021

Here's a breakdown of the best online brokers for day trading.

Fidelity logo

Best order execution[promotion_fidelityinvestments]

Of the eleven brokers we tested for 2021, hands down, Fidelity offers the best order execution quality. Fidelity is the only broker to offer $0 trades and not accept payment for order flow (PFOF), resulting in price improvement above and beyond what other brokers can offer. Pricing aside, Fidelity's trading platform, Active Trader Pro (ATP), isn't quite as rich with tools as several competitors, but it gets the job done well. Read full review

TradeStation logo

Best platform technology[promotion_tradestation]

As a trading technology leader, TradeStation shines, offering a powerhouse platform across desktop, web, and mobile. Tools in the TradeStation arsenal include Radar Screen (real-time streaming watch lists with 335 customizable columns), Charting (290 technical indicators), Scanner (custom screening), Matrix (ladder trading), and Walk-Forward Optimizer (advanced strategy testing), among others. Read full review

TD Ameritrade logo

Best desktop platform[promotion_tdameritrade]

TD Ameritrade's desktop trading platform, thinkorswim, is our No. 1 desktop platform for 2021 and is home to an impressive array of tools. Highlights include paper trading, Earnings Analyzer (my personal favorite earnings analysis tool), charts with 489 optional indicators (you can even create your own custom candlestick patterns), backtesting, and even replaying historical markets tick-by-tick. Oh, and thinkorswim for mobile is just as impressive. Read full review

Interactive Brokers logo

Best for professionals[promotion_interactivebrokers]

The Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation (TWS) trading platform offers the largest selection of order types, enabling traders to place every possible trade imaginable, including algorithmic orders. Popular among institutions, including hedge funds, TWS is not beginner-friendly, but for traders who use margin, Interactive Brokers offers the lowest margin rates in the industry. Focused on professionals, Interactive Brokers requires a $110,000 minimum deposit for margin accounts. Read full review

ETRADE logo

Best web-based platform[promotion_etrade]

While E*TRADE lacks a desktop platform, it offers an excellent web-based trading platform, Power E*TRADE. Power E*TRADE (also terrific for mobile) cannot go toe-to-toe with the other trading platforms in total tools and customizability. However, Power E*TRADE provides ease of use and the core trading tools needed for day traders to succeed. Day trading aside, it is our favorite platform for options trading in 2021. Read full review


Day Trading Platforms Comparison

Popular day trading platform tools include ladder trading, level II quotes, trade hot keys, direct market routing, stock alerts, streaming time & sales, customizable watch lists, and backtesting, among many others.

Below you can find a trading platform comparison table of common tools and features. For a full comparison of 150+ features, use our comparison tool.

Feature Fidelity
Open Account
TradeStation
Open Account
TD Ameritrade
Open Account
Interactive Brokers
Open Account
E*TRADE
Open Account
Stock Alerts - Basic Fields Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stock Alerts - Advanced Fields Yes Yes Yes No No
Streaming Time & Sales No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Streaming TV Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Direct Market Routing - Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Direct Market Routing - Options Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ladder Trading No Yes Yes Yes No
Trade Hot Keys Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Options Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trade Ideas - Backtesting Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Short Locator Yes Yes No Yes No
Order Liquidity Rebates No Yes No Yes No



Broker Pricing Comparison

Here's a comparison of pricing across Fidelity, TradeStation, TD Ameritrade, Interactive Brokers, and E*TRADE. For more comparisons, use the online broker comparison tool.

Feature Fidelity
Open Account
TradeStation
Open Account
TD Ameritrade
Open Account
Interactive Brokers
Open Account
E*TRADE
Open Account
Minimum Deposit $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Stock Trade Fee (per trade) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
ETF Trade Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $49.95 $14.95 $49.99 $14.95 $19.99
Options Base Fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options Per Contract Fee $0.65 $0.50 $0.65 $0.65 $0.65
Futures (per contract) N/A $1.50 $2.25 $0.85 $1.50
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $32.95 $50.00 $44.99 $30.00 $25.00



Can you day trade on multiple platforms?

Yes. It is not uncommon for day traders to have multiple brokerage accounts and use several trading platforms simultaneously. Common reasons why traders use multiple platforms include having a backup in case of an outage, running dedicating trading strategies, or accessing specific trading tools not available elsewhere.


What are the risks of day trading?

Because day trading involves actively buying and selling stocks throughout the day using margin (borrowed capital), it is inherently risky. Like poker, losing streaks can cause traders to take undisciplined risks, magnifying losses.


Can you start day trading with $500?

If you do not have at least a $25,000 balance, margin approval, and Pattern Day Trader (PDT) status, you can only place four day trades over a period of five business days before your account becomes restricted.


Is day trading illegal?

In the US, day trading is legal. To day trade, you must have at least a $25,000 minimum account balance and be approved as a Pattern Day Trader (PDT). Once classified as a Pattern Day Trader, you gain access to 4:1 margin intraday and 2:1 margin for holding open positions overnight.


Is day trading worth it?

In today's market, hedge funds running sophisticated algorithms make it very difficult to day trade profitably. Most day traders are also severely undercapitalized and get suckered into paying for expensive chat rooms memberships, educational courses, and newsletter subscriptions on social media. Here's a breakdown of what I learned from day trading.



What is the best platform for day trading?

For the lowest pricing, Fidelity's Active Trader Pro (ATP) is the best day trading platform thanks to $0 trades with no payment for order flow (PFOF). Fidelity aside, TradeStation and TD Ameritrade offer the most trading tools and platform customizations. Finally, for the lowest margin rates and most order types, the Trader Workstation (TWS) trading platform from Interactive Brokers is best.


What is the fastest trading platform?

The fastest trading platforms are TradeStation, TD Ameritrade thinkorswim, and Interactive Brokers Traders Workstation (TWS) because they are desktop-based.

More details: With a desktop trading platform, the base code runs locally on your computer, maximizing speed. That said, web-based trading platforms built with modern code can match desktop platforms in overall speed. Software aside, like esports, the most common bottleneck for any trading platform is the internet connection.


Summary

To recap, here are the best day trading platforms.

Best day trading platforms 2021


Read Next

Explore our other online trading guides:


Methodology

For the StockBrokers.com 11th annual best trading platforms review published in January 2021, a total of 2,816 data points were collected over three months and used to score brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.

Participation is required to be included. Each broker completed an in-depth data profile and offered executive time (live in person or over the web) for an annual update meeting. Our rigorous data validation process yields an error rate of less than .001% each year, providing site visitors quality data they can trust. Learn more about how we test.

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Blain Reinkensmeyer

About the author: As Head of Research at StockBrokers.com, Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 1,000 trades placed during that time. Referenced as a leading expert on the US online brokerage industry, Blain has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, among others.


All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 01/19/2021 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. 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.

1$0.00 commission applies to online U.S. equity trades, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and options (+ $0.65 per contract fee) in a Fidelity retail account only for Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC retail clients. Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee (from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal). There is an Options Regulatory Fee (from $0.03 to $0.05 per contract), which applies to both option buy and sell transactions. The fee is subject to change. Other exclusions and conditions may apply. See Fidelity.com/commissions for details. Employee equity compensation transactions and accounts managed by advisors or intermediaries through Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions® are subject to different commission schedules.

Options trading entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Certain complex options strategies carry additional risk. Before trading options, please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options. Supporting documentation for any claims, if applicable, will be furnished upon request.

TD Ameritrade, Inc. and StockBrokers.com are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. View terms.

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