While futures trading first began in the 1800s, regulated trading in the United States didn't take place until 1974 when Congress passed the Commodity Futures Trading Act, which added federal oversight and established the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The original Commodity Futures Trading Act was later amended by the Futures Trading Act of 1982 and thereafter by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000.
Primarily used a way to trade commodities on paper, futures trading has expanded over the years to include a variety of different assets, including most recently Bitcoin.
Wikipedia defines a futures contract as, "a standardized forward contract, a legal agreement to buy or sell something at a predetermined price at a specified time in the future, between parties not known to each other."
While futures trading is overwhelmingly conducted by institutional investors such as hedge funds, it is also traded by retail investors. Here, we breakdown the best online brokers for futures trading.
Best Brokers for Futures Trading
Here are the top five online brokerages for futures trading in 2020.
- Interactive Brokers - Lowest commissions
- TradeStation - Great platforms, competitive rates
- TD Ameritrade - Best desktop platform
- E*TRADE - Best browser platform
- Charles Schwab - Balanced offering
Lowest commissions - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: New clients that open an account today receive a special margin rate.
As our top pick for professionals in 2020, the Interactive Brokers Trader Workstation (TWS) platform offers programmable hotkeys and a slew of order types for placing every possible trade imaginable, including algorithmic orders. Popular among the institutional community, including hedge funds, Interactive Brokers isn't beginner-friendly but does offer the lowest margin rates in the industry. Just beware, Interactive Brokers requires a $100,000 minimum deposit for margin accounts. Read full review
Great platform, competitive rates - Open Account
Promo Offer: Commission-Free Trades on Stocks, ETFs & Options Trades
As a trading technology leader, TradeStation shines, supporting traders through its web-based platform as well as its desktop platform, which we rated No. 1 for Platform Technology. Both are excellent. Tools in the TradeStation arsenal include Radar Screen (real-time streaming watch lists with 329 customizable columns), Scanner (custom screening), Matrix (ladder trading), and Walk-Forward Optimizer (advanced strategy testing), among others. Using TradeStation's proprietary coding language, EasyLanguage, traders can even code their own apps for the platform and make them available in TradeStation's own TradingApp Store. Read full review
Best desktop platform - Open Account
Exclusive Offer: Get up to $600 and trade commission-free with TD Ameritrade.
TD Ameritrade thinkorswim is our #1 desktop platform for 2020 and is home to an impressive array of tools. Highlights include virtual trading with fake money, performing advanced earnings analysis, plotting economic (FRED) data, charting social sentiment, backtesting, and even replaying historical markets tick-by-tick. TD Ameritrade also enables traders to create and conduct real-time stock scans, share charts and workspace layouts, and perform advanced options analysis. Read full review
Best browser platform - Open Account
Promo Offer: Get $100 when you deposit just $5,000 into a new E*TRADE account!
Built as a web-based platform, Power E*TRADE innovates and delivers speed, ease of use, and the tools needed for traders to succeed. Once again, in our 2020 Review, Power E*TRADE won our award, "Best Web-Based Platform." Read full review
Balanced offering - Open Account
Current Offer: $0 online stock, ETF, and options commissions at Schwab.
Alongside the Charles Schwab website, Schwab offers customers access to two primary platforms: StreetSmart Edge (desktop-based; active traders), and StreetSmart Central (web-based; futures trading). While each platform has its highlights and lowlights, all in all, Schwab will satisfy most traders. Read full review
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- Compare Online Brokers
For the StockBrokers.com tenth annual best online brokers review published in January 2020, a total of 3,540 data points were collected over six 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 provided 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.
Still aren't sure which online broker to choose? Email us a question! Whether you are a beginner investor learning the ropes or a professional trader, we are here to help. Email us your online broker specific question and we will respond within one business day.