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Best Futures Trading Platforms in 2023

May 24, 2023

The StockBrokers.com best online brokers 2023 review, our 13th annual, took three months to complete and produced over 40,000 words of research. Here's how we tested. Our editorial content is independent and unbiased; here's how we make money.

A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a particular security or commodity at a future date. Futures markets were originally established to help farmers and other commodity producers hedge (offset or reduce) risk in the future. This is where the "futures" in futures markets comes from.

For our 2023 Annual Review, we tested 17 different online brokerages, six of which are futures trading brokers. To find the best futures trading platforms, we compared pricing (e.g., contract charges and margin rates), investment choices (e.g. options on futures and ability to trade micros and smalls), and the platforms themselves, including trading tools, research, usability, and available order types.

Best Futures Trading Platforms 2023

2023 StockBrokers.com annual review badge

Here are the five best futures trading platforms for 2023.

Interactive Brokers
4.5/5 Stars 4.5 Overall

Best for professional futures trading

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

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 highly customizable tools
  • Allows trading in foreign markets
  • Apps are convenient for individual investors
Cons
  • Restrictive about trading permissions
  • Main platforms might feel cold
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New clients, special margin rates.

tastytrade
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Best for casual futures traders

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.50 info

Tastyworks’ 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 2023. 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
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Big bonus. Better Broker.

TD Ameritrade
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best desktop futures trading platform

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim is home to an impressive array of trading tools. Highlights for futures trading include paper trading with virtual money, price alerts, plotting economic (FRED) data, charting social sentiment, candlestick pattern recognition, real-time scanning and ladder trading. Read full review

Pros
  • Has a platform for any type of investor
  • Wealth of research
  • Excellent and thorough educational content
Cons
  • Other brokers have friendlier design and writing
  • No fractional shares or crypto
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Trade Stocks & ETFs Commission Free

TradeStation
4/5 Stars 4.0 Overall

Great platforms and low commissions

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.60

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
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Trade Stocks, Options, Futures, & Crypto.

E*TRADE
5/5 Stars 5.0 Overall

Best web-based futures trading platform

Minimum Deposit$0.00
Stock Trades$0.00
Options (Per Contract)$0.65

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
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$0 Commissions* for ETF, stocks & more

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

Feature TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers tastytrade logotastytrade TradeStation logoTradeStation
Desktop Trading Platform Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Web Trading Platform Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paper Trading Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Trade Journal Yes No Yes No No
Watch Lists - Total Fields 514 95 640 33 335
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Futures trading platforms trading fees comparison

Feature TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade E*TRADE logoE*TRADE Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers tastytrade logotastytrade TradeStation logoTradeStation
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 Varies $0.00 $14.95 N/A $14.95
Options (Base Fee) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Options (Per Contract) $0.65 $0.65 $0.65 $0.50 info $0.60
Futures (Per Contract) $2.25 $1.50 $0.85 $1.25 $1.50
Broker Assisted Trade Fee $25 $25 $30 $0 $0
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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.

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If you prefer trading on the go, see our picks for best mobile apps for stock trading.

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?

While there are hundreds of futures trading brokers regulated with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, the vast majority aren’t set up for retail investors. For our 2023 Review, we found six futures brokers that support everyday investors: Interactive Brokers, TD Ameritrade, tastytrade, TradeStation, E*TRADE, and Charles Schwab.

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.

info More details

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.

Company Overall Commissions & Fees Research Platforms & Tools Mobile Trading Apps Investment Options Education Ease Of Use Visit Site
Fidelity logoFidelity 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
TD Ameritrade logoTD Ameritrade 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
E*TRADE logoE*TRADE 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
Merrill Edge logoMerrill Edge 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
Charles Schwab logoCharles Schwab 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
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Interactive Brokers logoInteractive Brokers 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars Visit Site
Firstrade logoFirstrade 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars Visit Site
Webull logoWebull 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars Visit Site
Ally Invest logoAlly Invest 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars
Robinhood logoRobinhood 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars Visit Site
J.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing logoJ.P. Morgan Self-Directed Investing 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars
tastytrade logotastytrade 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 2/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars Visit Site
TradeStation logoTradeStation 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars Visit Site
Tradier logoTradier 4/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 4/5 Stars 2/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars
eToro logoeToro 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 4/5 Stars Visit Site
Vanguard logoVanguard 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 2/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars 5/5 Stars
Sofi Invest logoSofi Invest 3.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 2/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 3/5 Stars 2.5/5 Stars 4.5/5 Stars 3.5/5 Stars Visit Site
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Methodology

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, 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
Blain Reinkensmeyer

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
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.


tastytrade, Inc. (“tastytrade”) has entered into a Marketing Agreement with Marketing Agent (“Marketing Agent”) whereby tastytrade pays compensation to Marketing Agent to recommend tastytrade’s brokerage services. The existence of this Marketing Agreement should not be deemed as an endorsement or recommendation of Marketing Agent by tastytrade and/or any of its affiliated companies. Neither tastytrade nor any of its affiliated companies is responsible for the privacy practices of Marketing Agent or this website. tastytrade does not warrant the accuracy or content of the products or services offered by Marketing Agent or this website. Marketing Agent is independent and is not an affiliate of tastytrade. tastytrade was previously known as tastyworks, Inc.
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1 Fidelity Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal. 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.
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