Other brokers tested
In addition to our top five trading platforms for futures in 2023, we reviewed 12 others: Ally Invest, Charles Schwab, eToro, Fidelity, Firstrade, J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing, Merrill Edge, SoFi Invest , Tradier, Robinhood, Vanguard and Webull. To dive deeper, read our reviews.
Best futures trading platforms comparison
Futures trading platforms trading fees comparison
Which broker is best for trading futures?
Your individual style will determine the best broker for futures trading, which is why we offer five options, each with different strengths. We compared each platform's ease of use, trading tools and pricing. Interactive Brokers offers the lowest pricing, but its platform is built for professionals and not easy to master. Tastytrade also has below-average pricing and offers a sleek interface and efficient workflow for rapid-fire trading. If you are looking to monitor markets and news along with futures prices, TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform is the way to go, at the cost of higher pricing.
What is futures trading?
Trading futures contracts is a way to speculate on the future price of a security or commodity. A futures contract enables an investor to buy or sell an asset at a preset time and price.
Producers use futures to lock in foreseeable costs and sales prices. For an example, let's dig into the operations at Old MacDonald's dairy farm. His cows eat a mixture of hay, which MacDonald grows on his own, and corn, which he has to buy. When corn prices are low, Old MacDonald makes more money, because it costs him less to feed the cows that produce the milk he sells. But when corn prices are high, the profit margins on MacDonald Farm’s milk shrink.
However, using futures contracts, Farmer Mac can lock in the price of corn from his suppliers before the corn growing season even starts. This lets him offset, or hedge, the risk of a difficult growing season that would cause corn prices — and his bovine feeding costs — to spike. Further, he can also sell contracts on his farm’s expected milk production to lock in a sales price. Producers that seek to lock in costs and prices are reducing risk by hedging.
In nonbucolic settings, investors can trade futures contracts on everything from market indices (e.g., S&P 500 futures) to commodities (crude oil, natural gas, corn, and wheat), metals (e.g., gold and silver), currencies (including bitcoin), treasuries, and more. Although futures are traded mostly by institutional investors, retail investors can also speculate by using a futures trading platform. The regulatory body in the U.S. that oversees futures trading is the National Futures Association (NFA).
How much does it cost to trade futures?
The per-contract cost depends on which instrument you trade. Interactive Brokers charges as little as $0.08 per Small Exchange futures contract. There are also E-Mini and E-Micro contracts and there are often options available. Each broker has its own unique pricing. Commission aside, some brokers also charge monthly platform fees and market data fees, so it is important to consider all costs before selecting a futures trading platform.
Each online broker requires a different minimum deposit to trade futures contracts. For most online brokerages, the minimum deposit is less than $1,000. Before you can trade futures, you must apply for margin trading and futures trading approval.
Do you need $25K to trade futures?
No, you don’t need $25,000 to trade futures. Unlike day-trading stocks, actively trading futures isn’t covered by Pattern Day Trader rules, which requires stock day traders to maintain a minimum account value of $25,000. Brokers have their own minimum requirements to be approved for trading futures, so you may need to find a broker that is willing to allow you to trade.
What brokers allow futures trading?
Can trading futures be profitable?
Trading futures can be very profitable, thanks to the enormous amount of leverage built into futures contracts. They can also leave your account penniless. Your performance will depend on your investing knowledge, self-discipline and how well you manage costs. We recommend you try paper trading futures in a virtual portfolio before putting your hard-won capital at risk; our top-rated brokers that offer paper trading include TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE and a handful of others.
How can I trade futures?
Trading futures requires a funded online broker account with margin and futures trading approval. Once you’re set up, research and determine which contract you want to trade, fill out the order ticket, then place your trade.
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Remember, each futures contract has different margin requirements. Also, be sure to know whether the contract is cash-settled or physically delivered upon expiration. For contracts with delivery upon expiration, if you hold your position until its contract expiration date, you can become liable for payment of the entire trade value (plus delivery costs).
Do I need a margin account to trade futures?
Yes, a margin account is required to trade futures with an online broker, but the margin requirements differ from stocks. The amounts will vary depending on the instrument being traded, but can be as low as 3% of the contract.
How is margin calculated for futures trading?
First, you must ensure you have enough capital available to meet any margin requirements (i.e., initial and maintenance margin) before your position is open. The margin requirement is typically a percentage of the value of the underlying asset that each contract controls.
Example: If you wanted to speculate on a price increase of the December 2022 Wheat contract (CME Globex: ZWZ3), you would create a buy-to-open order to go long one Chicago SRW Wheat Futures contract. Checking the contract specification shows that one contract controls 5,000 bushels of wheat (136 metric tons), which cost $7.73 per bushel as of Dec. 9, 2022.
The underlying 5,000 bushels multiplied by the price per bushel ($7.73) equals $38,650 for the total trade value. 5% of the trade value or $1,932 is the margin requirement needed to open this position. A sell-to-close order allows you to exit your existing long position.
More details: If the price of wheat changes drastically, there can be variation margin, where you must post additional collateral or else risk having your trade closed early. Overall, trading as a speculator is different than trading as a hedger or producer of the commodity, as hedgers remove risk by transferring it to you as a speculator.
Is futures trading risky?
Yes, futures trading is risky and not suitable for everyone. Not only does it involve the use of leverage (margin) and potentially volatile assets; there is also the possibility of incurring an obligation to make or accept delivery of the underlying asset and being responsible for settling the total trade value. But as long as you close your position before expiration, you avoid the need to physically deliver or cash settle the trade value.
Can you trade futures with Fidelity?
Fidelity does not currently offer futures trading. Investments provided by Fidelity include stocks, fractional shares, OTC stocks, options, mutual funds, and bonds. Futures and forex are not available, and crypto trading, as of December 2022, is gradually being rolled out. Read our full review of Fidelity.
StockBrokers.com 2023 Overall Ranking
Here are the Overall rankings for the 17 online brokers whose offerings we analyze and test, sorted by Overall ranking.
Explore our other online trading guides:
For the StockBrokers.com 13th Annual Review published in January 2023, more than 3,000 data points were collected over three months and used to score 17 top brokers. This makes StockBrokers.com home to the largest independent database on the web covering the online broker industry.
In order to assess the overall trading experience, we test across a wide range of devices and operating systems.
Testing was done on devices for both Apple and Android operating systems. For Apple: iPhone XS with the most current iOS. For Android: Samsung Galaxy S9+, 6.2" 4K Super AMOLED (2960x1440) 64-bit Octa-Core Snapdragon 835 Processor 2.7GHz, 6GB RAM 6.2" with the most current operating system.
For this guide to the best platforms for futures trading, our research team compared pricing, including contract charges and margin rates, and evaluated each broker’s platform features, including its trading tools; quality of market research; app, desktop and web usability; and available order types.
As part of our annual review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones and complete an in-depth data profile, which we hand-checked for accuracy. Brokers also were offered the opportunity to provide executive time 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.
About the Editorial Team
Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Sam Levine has over 30 years of experience in the investing field as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and writer. He also taught investing as an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University. Sam holds the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Chartered Market Technician designations and is pursuing a master's in personal financial planning at the College for Financial Planning. Previously, he was a contributing editor at BetterInvesting Magazine and a contributor to The Penny Hoarder and other media outlets.
Blain Reinkensmeyer has 20 years of trading experience with over 2,500 trades placed during that time. He heads research for all U.S.-based brokerages on StockBrokers.com and is respected by executives as the leading expert covering the online broker industry. Blain’s insights have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the Chicago Tribune, among other media outlets.
Carolyn Kimball is managing editor for Reink Media and the lead editor for the StockBrokers.com Annual Review. Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.
Steven Hatzakis is the Global Director of Research for ForexBrokers.com. Steven previously served as an Editor for Finance Magnates, where he authored over 1,000 published articles about the online finance industry. Steven is an active fintech and crypto industry researcher and advises blockchain companies at the board level. Over the past 20 years, Steven has held numerous positions within the international forex markets, from writing to consulting to serving as a registered commodity futures representative.
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