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Best Futures Trading Platforms of April 2024

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT

Written by Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Steven Hatzakis

March 21, 2024

We’ve been testing broker trading platforms here at StockBrokers.com for close to 15 years. One thing we know for certain is that when you’re trading risky and complicated assets like futures and options on futures, the last thing you want is the wrong platform for your needs. Or, worse, the wrong platform that also charges too much.

I tested five online brokers that offer futures trading. To find the best futures trading platforms, I compared pricing, investment options, and features and tools available. Whenever possible, I executed actual trades in live accounts with my own money to test workflows and the responsiveness of the platforms. Otherwise, I used demo accounts and paper trading. Here are the brokers that were lock limit up in my testing.

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Best Futures Trading Platforms

Here are the five best futures trading platforms for 2024.

  • tastytrade
    - Best for casual futures traders
  • Interactive Brokers
    - Best for professional futures trading
  • TradeStation
    - Great platforms and low commissions
  • E*TRADE
    - Best trading platform for beginners
  • Charles Schwab - Best for futures market research
tastytrade
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Best for casual futures traders

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.50 info
Futures (Per Contract)$1.25

Tastytrade’s platform is ideal for frequent options and futures traders, offering efficient workflow, useful risk management tools, killer design, and solid online content. The broker also took our top spot for options trading in 2024. Read full review

Pros
  • Excellent layout
  • Clear expertise with active trading
  • Great stock options pricing
Cons
  • Maverick approach makes initial learning curve a bit steep
  • Few choices for long-term investing
Visit Site

Open and fund & earn up to $4,000*

Interactive Brokers
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best for professional futures trading

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65
Futures (Per Contract)$0.85

The Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation platform offers a slew of trading tools and every order type under the sun including a wide variety of micro and small-sized futures contracts. Interactive Brokers is not beginner-friendly but does offer industry-leading margin rates. Read full review

Pros
  • Astounding array of customizable tools
  • Allows trading in foreign markets
  • Convenient apps for individual investors
Cons
  • Restrictive trading permissions
  • Main platforms might feel cold
Visit Site

New clients, special margin rates.

TradeStation
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Great platforms and low commissions

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.60
Futures (Per Contract)$1.50

As a trading technology leader, TradeStation shines, supporting traders through its web-based trading platform as well as its desktop platform. TradeStation offers two pricing plans for futures trading, giving traders flexibility based on trade frequency and platform access. Read full review

Pros
  • Web trading platform is well thought-out
  • TradeStation Crypto is powerful and intuitive
Cons
  • User experience can be frustrating
  • No third-party fundamental research
Visit Site

Trade Stocks, Options, Futures, & Crypto.

E*TRADE
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best trading platform for beginners

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65
Futures (Per Contract)$1.50

E*TRADE’s Power E*TRADE Mobile app stands out for futures trading, delivering speed, ease of use, and the tools needed for traders to succeed. While competitor TD Ameritrade offers better education for futures trading, Power E*TRADE is an easier platform for beginners. Read full review

Pros
  • Watch lists are the best in the business
  • Smooth mobile navigation
  • High-quality high-net-worth Morgan Stanley proprietary research
Cons
  • Cryptocurrencies not currently available
  • Margin rates are high compared to other brokers
Visit Site

Open and fund & get up to $1,000.

Charles Schwab
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best for futures market research

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65
Futures (Per Contract)$2.25

With the addition of TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platforms and the enhancement of several features, Schwab is now a vigorous competitor with thought-provoking research and commentary and a client experience to fit any preference. Read full review

Pros
  • TD Ameritrade’s excellent thinkorswim trading platforms now available
  • Trading-friendly app and browser enhancements
  • Exceptional high net worth services
Cons
  • No cryptocurrency trading
  • Mutual fund fees are complex

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Winners Summary

Best for casual futures traders - Tastytrade

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Options (Per Contract) Offers Visit Site
tastytrade logotastytrade $0.00 $0.00 $0.50 info Open and fund & earn up to $4,000* Visit Site

Tastytrade is my personal favorite for futures trading. It’s a delightful platform with a great default layout and powerful tools. You can zap in and out of positions almost instantaneously. The futures pricing is attractive and the options commissions are even better. It’s best for chart traders rather than event-driven traders; the charts package is terrific, but the news and commentary is sparse.

  • Futures: $1.25 per contract.
  • Micro: $0.85 per contract.
  • Small: $.25 per contract.
  • Futures options: $2.50 to open, $0 to close.
  • Micro futures options: $1.50 to open, $0 to close.
  • Smalls futures options: $0.50 to open, $0 to close.

Tastytrade platforms and tools gallery

Tastytrade mobile gallery

Best for professional futures trading - Interactive Brokers

Company Minimum Deposit Stock Trades Options (Per Contract) Offers Visit Site
Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers $0.00 $0.00 $0.65 New clients, special margin rates. Visit Site

IBKR’s futures commissions are super low. The commission for trading an E-micro contract or an option on a micro is only a quarter, and Trader Workstation is almost infinitely tweakable, loaded with tools, data, research, and news. It also recently added a vastly better chart package. Unfortunately, I find setting up a layout on Trader Workstation that works for me to be needlessly frustrating. Happily, IBKR seems to understand that many traders want a simpler workspace, so it’s in the process of rolling out a new and aptly named IBKR Desktop app.

Interactive Brokers has a restrictive compliance department, so it might be difficult to get approved for futures trading. I used a demo account to review futures trading at IBKR because, apparently, having a CFA and a CMT along with teaching investing at a business school isn’t enough for IBKR, and I have had no difficulties being approved for futures at the other brokers I test.

  • Futures and options: $0.85 per contract.
  • E-Micro and options: $0.25 per contract.
  • Small (all contracts): $.08 per contract (no tiered pricing).
  • Crypto: varies.

Interactive Brokers platforms and tools gallery

Interactive Brokers mobile gallery

Best futures trading platforms comparison

Feature tastytrade logotastytrade Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers TradeStation logoTradeStation E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab
Desktop Trading Platform info Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Web Trading Platform info Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paper Trading info No Yes Yes Yes No
Trade Journal info No Yes No No Yes
Watch Lists - Total Fields info 33 659 341 43 580
Visit Site Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site

Futures trading platforms trading fees comparison

Feature tastytrade logotastytrade Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers TradeStation logoTradeStation E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab
Minimum Deposit $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Stock Trades $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 N/A info $14.95 $14.95 $0.00 Varies
Options (Base Fee) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.50 info $0.65 $0.60 $0.65 $0.65
Futures (Per Contract) $1.25 $0.85 $1.50 $1.50 $2.25
Broker Assisted Trade Fee $0 $30 $25 $25 $25
Visit Site Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site
Visit Site

FAQs

What is futures trading?

A futures contract is an agreement to either 1) buy or sell a particular security or commodity at a future date, or 2) settle the difference between a future contract level (the strike price) and the future market price in cash. Futures markets were originally established to help farmers and other commodity traders manage business risks.

The agency that oversees futures trading in the United States is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which delegates many powers and duties to the industry’s self-regulating body, the National Futures Association.

What are the hours for futures trading?

Futures trading happens 24/7 around the world, but trading hours vary by market and traders should be aware of any upcoming holidays. Equity index and other futures traded on the CME are typically available between 6 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday (the “open”) and 5 p.m. Friday (the “close”). Traders should bookmark the CME Group’s online trading calendar.

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 on futures contracts available. Each broker has its own unique pricing. Commission aside, some brokers also charge monthly platform fees and market data fees, so it’s important to consider all costs before selecting a futures trading platform. Exchanges also levy fees on trades, but they are uniform across brokers.

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.

Can trading futures be profitable?

Futures trading may or may not be profitable, but it certainly can be exciting. Both the excitement and the potential profit (and loss) are tied to the tremendous leverage in futures contracts. For example, an initial intraday margin of approximately $2,000 could get around the same profit/loss potential of $35,000 in a Nasdaq 100 ETF (margin requirements vary over time and by broker).

How can I trade futures?

Trading futures requires a funded online broker account with margin and futures trading approval. Once your account is approved, opened, and funded, research and determine which contract you want to trade, fill out the order ticket, then place your trade.

info Pro tips

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.

Unlike a margin loan to buy stock, futures margin is a deposit against potential losses rather than a loan. It’s more like collateral on a loan than a down payment.

The initial margin depends on the instrument being traded, but can be as low as 3% of the contract. Exchanges and your broker can change margin requirements at any time.

How is margin calculated for futures trading?

The margin requirement is typically a percentage of the value of the underlying asset that each contract controls. The exchanges determine the minimum margin percentages and brokers are allowed to go above the exchange minimums, so you should check your broker’s requirements, which could change unexpectedly.

Should the price of your futures contract move enough against you, you could be on the hook for variation margin, where you must post additional collateral or risk having your trade closed early.

Is futures trading risky?

Futures trading is very risky, because it uses leverage to magnify the impact of small movements of an underlying asset or index. For example, one Mini S&P 500 contract is equal to $50 times the value of the S&P 500. A one-point decline in the S&P 500 would lead to a $50 decline in the contract.

What is the best platform for trading futures?

Interactive Brokers and tastytrade offer attractive pricing and powerful desktop platforms. Interactive Brokers is more geared toward professional investors and has much more news and research, while tastytrade is quick and convenient for individual traders.

Novice traders willing to pay a bit more will find Power E*TRADE’s web platform a great place to get started.

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, bonds, and, in some U.S. states, crypto. Futures and forex are not available. Read our full review of Fidelity.

Our Research

Why you should trust us

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT, the lead writer for StockBrokers.com, has over 30 years of investing experience and actively trades stocks, ETFs, options, futures, and options on futures. He's held roles as a portfolio manager, financial consultant, investment strategist and journalist. He holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) designations and served on the board of directors of the CMT Association.

Blain Reinkensmeyer, head of research at StockBrokers.com, has been investing and trading for over 25 years. After having placed over 2,000 trades in his late teens and early 20s, he became one of the first in digital media to review online brokerages. Blain created the original scoring rubric for StockBrokers.com and oversees all testing and rating methodologies.

For this guide:

  • Whenever possible, we used our own brokerage accounts for testing. For several brokers, we used a test account that was provided to us.
  • We collected multiple data points concerning futures trading for each broker.
  • We tested each online broker's futures trading capabilities, including placing live trades.
  • We took over 100 platform screenshots.

How we tested

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. All research, writing and data collection at StockBrokers.com is done by humans, for humans. Read our generative AI policy here.

StockBrokers.com uses a variety of computing devices to evaluate trading platforms. Our reviews were conducted using the following devices: iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, MacBook Pro M1 with 8 GB RAM running the current MacOS, and a Dell Vostro 5402 laptop i5 with 8 GB RAM running Windows 11 Pro. In testing platforms and apps, our reviewers place actual trades for a variety of instruments.

As part of our data check process, we sent a data profile link to each broker summarizing the data we had on file and the data they provided us last year, with a field for entering any data that had since changed. For the brokers that filled out these profiles, we audited the information for any discrepancies between our data and the broker’s data to ensure accuracy.

As part of our review process, all brokers had the opportunity to provide updates and key milestones in a live meeting that took place in the fall. Meetings with broker teams also took place throughout the year as new products rolled out. Insights gathered from these calls helped steer our testing efforts to ensure every feature and tool was assessed.

Trading platforms tested

We tested 17 online trading platforms for this guide:

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About the Editorial Team

Sam Levine, CFA, CMT
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.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

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
Steven Hatzakis

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.