TradeStation® Review 2019

About our Review Process

Bankrate recently reviewed 11 of the most popular online brokerage sites, signing up for trial accounts and putting each site through its paces. If you end up signing up for an account, Bankrate may receive compensation.

 Logo

Bottom line in a sentence

If you're not worried about funds and simply want a cheap and flexible platform for stocks and options, TradeStation has you covered with a low cost structure and great tools.

TradeStation at a glance

Star Rating

4
  • Affordablity: 4 of 5
  • Usability: 3 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 5 of 5
  • Mobile: 4 of 5
  • Scalability: 5 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $500
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $5.00
  • Cost per options trade:
    $5.00 plus $0.50 per contract
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    None
  • Customer service:
    Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 24-hour email support
  • Inactivity fee:
    The standard Flat-Fee pricing plan incurs a $50 inactivity fee if a minimum balance of $2,000 is not maintained OR five trades are not placed in a year.
  • Mobile app:
    The “TradeStation Mobile” app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Annual fees:
    There are no platform fees charged on the standard Flat-Fee pricing plan. However, on the Per-Share and Unbundled pricing plans, there is a monthly “Account Service Fee” of $99.95 per month.
  • How long to withdraw:
    Withdrawing from your account must be completed through an international bank transfer, which can take 1-3 business days.
  • SIPC insured:
    Yes, the SIPC provides protection of up to $500,000 for each securities account brokerage customer, subject to a limitation of $250,000 for cash balances.
  • Best for:
    Active investors who want a professional-grade experience

What TradeStation is

The online broker space has seen plenty of consolidation over the years, most notably from larger legacy players snapping up the more trendy upstarts that cater to active traders. But while TradeStation was acquired by Tokyo-based financial powerhouse Monex in 2011 for a little over $400 million, it has remained very much faithful to its beginnings as a niche product with a laser focus on active traders.

This makes it really stand out vs. the one-stop-shops for all things investing. For rookie investors, this may honestly make TradeStation a non-starter. But for anyone with a serious interest in investing and a desire to roll up their sleeve and do serious hands-on research, TS offers both a flexible and appealing platform as well as a competitive cost structure that only gets better the more you use it.

That makes it perfect for active traders looking for a professional-grade experience, both on desktop and on mobile.

What TradeStation costs

TradeStation's standard pricing for stock trades is $5.00, with options trades $5.00 plus $0.50 per contract. When it comes to standard pricing, that's near the bottom of the brokerage space right now.

Beyond that standard structure, TS also offered the option to select per-share pricing instead if you're placing larger orders. This starts at $0.01 per share, improving to $0.006 after the first 500 shares – which can really add up even with the $1 minimum order threshold.

And if you're a heavy hitter, "unbundled" pricing can cut your cost as low as $0.002 per share with a minimum of just $0.50 per individual trade. That requires 5 million total shares to be traded each month, of course, but for the most active traders it's a great way to cut costs and focus solely on the profitability of your investments.

Admittedly, these flexible commissions can be as off-putting to novices as they are attractive to veterans. It's intimidating enough to figure out how to get in control of your finances without having to worry about monitoring how many trades you're making and what you actual cost basis will be.

What TradeStation offers

Of course, novices clearly aren't the core audience of TradeStation, as the features clearly show.

At first glance, the TS interface seems clean almost to the point that you fear something may be missing. But just a few minutes of interacting with the menus and options shows that this online broker is committed to cutting down clutter and simply focusing on speed and usefulness, without the bells and whistles of other providers.

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
tradestation logo
$5 3 of 5
wellstrade logo Read Our Review
$5.95 3 of 5
charles-schwab logo Read Our Review
$4.95 5 of 5
td-ameritrade logo Read Our Review
$6.95 5 of 5

Here are some features that illustrate this:

  • Flexible and Personal: Want to download the full suite of TradeStation software to your desktop, and customize the windows as you see fit, or would you prefer to use an in-browser web version? Do you want to trade with real money in a live account, or simply simulate trades? Want to set your time to local markets, or stay in Eastern Time with Wall Street? Do you like seven monitors running at a time, or do you want to take your charts and alerts with you on the go? Are your trades in lots of 100 or 1,000? TradeStation is committed to giving investors choices to all of these questions, so they can customize their experience, allowing for a more productive platform.
    "A simple but valuable feature for serious traders is the ability to customize order entry, both in lot size and the form of order, across asset classes. If you're a pro, you can also turn off the pesky confirmation notices that other brokerage platforms insist on serving so you can double-check your trade but cost valuable seconds of market action."
  • Short-Term Visibility: For serious traders, every second counts. That's why the best-in-class charting tools of TradeStation also have the option for timeframes that include the last 60 minutes of action, the last 5 minutes of action even the last 1 minute of action to make real-time decisions. This may seem like overkill if you're a buy-and-hold type, but is a huge positive for day traders.
  • Fast and Intuitive Options Trading: Want the options chain for an underlying symbol? Just click on the chain icon. Want to place a multi-leg trade like a "straddle" or a "strangle?" Then just click the strategy you want under the "spread" drop-down. For someone looking to trade options easily and quickly, TradeStation is way ahead of the competition.
  • Best-In-Class Charts: More than 100 indicators are included on TradeStation's charting platform, intensive technical analysis. And for those who maybe are only comfortable with the basics and looking to become experts, you can back-test strategies using decades of market data to show you exactly what might happen when certain conditions are met. Equally compelling is that these charts are also portable via the TradeStation app, so you can do intense analysis on a smartphone on the go as well.
    "While it's a cliché that most traders like to have a dozen screens with charts displayed all over the place, TradeStation makes sure that a robust suite of tools and charting are available in a mobile interface as well."

What TradeStation lacks

There is a lot for active traders to love about TradeStation if you're trading big lots of stocks or if you're actively engaging in multi-leg options strategies.

However, it's safe to say that the typical investor is left out. For all the charting power, there isn't a lot i n the way of simple whitepapers about business fundamentals or the newsfeeds that many investors equate with research. In other words, if you're someone who thinks in terms of months or years, typically looking for companies seeing better of revenue growth this year vs. last year, you aren't going to find what you're looking for.

There are no commission-free ETFs or mutual funds, either, which makes the cost structure less attractive for those looking mainly at a portfolio of diversified fund investments.

Sure, TradeStation University is a free resource that looks to educate investors. But these topics gloss over the true basics and jump right to topics like futures, IPOs and cryptocurrencies. There are also in-depth live events and webinars, but again these are typically on sophisticated ideas, short-term trade ideas or simply education on how to use the software and platform better.

In other words, TradeStation has no interest in getting novice investors turned into experts. It wants to showcase the best of its tools to veterans, and ensure those investors stay as active and as loyal as possible.

That's good for the elite day traders out there, to be sure, but a bad experience for everyone else.

It's also worth noting that it's difficult to truly know what you're getting into ahead of time. Many other platforms allow you access to the full suite of tools after you simply register account and before you transfer funds over, but TradeStation doesn't allow you to see a single chart or even use its simulated trading environment until your $500 minimum is deposited. That's a bit out of step with the norm, and worth remembering if you're just a tire-kicker.

TradeStation is best for...

TradeStation has the word "trade" in the name for a reason. Many folks who are buy and hold investors will be turned off, but active and self-directed investors who embrace the moniker of day trader will be right at home with this powerful and flexible platform.

The best part is that if you're starting with TS because you're serious about stocks and options, it will grow with you over time. That can be either through discounted commissions as the volume of your trades increases, or in other asset classes such as futures and forex.

Heck, there's even an TradingApp Store where the trading community on this broker create their own custom strategies and screens and share them with each other!

This is clearly not an environment for the inexperienced. But for veteran traders, the flexibility is a dream come true – and the low cost structure is the icing on the cake.