TradeStation® review 2021

James Royal is a reporter covering investing and wealth management. Before joining Bankrate, he worked as a writer for NerdWallet and a stock analyst for The Motley Fool. He holds a doctorate in literature from the University of Florida.

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TradeStation Logo

Best For

  • Active trading
  • Futures trading
  • Low-cost trading

TradeStation is definitely a broker that’s geared more toward active or advanced traders — those who can really take advantage of the broker’s pricing, its focus on futures trading, useful technical tools and a strong trading platform. At the same time, the broker doesn’t provide as many features that would appeal to newer investors, such as research, education and no-transaction-fee mutual funds, though it does offer cryptocurrency trading with quite favorable pricing. Still, more-advanced investors may find what they need with TradeStation.

TradeStation at a glance

Star Rating

3.5
  • Affordability: 3 of 5
  • Usability: 4.5 of 5
  • Tools & Research: 3 of 5
  • Mobile: 3 of 5
  • Scalability: 4 of 5
  • Minimum Balance:
    $0
  • Cost per stock trade:
    $0
  • Cost per options trade:
    $0.50-$0.60 per contract, depending on account type
  • Promotion:
    None
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    All
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    None
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds and cryptocurrency
  • Customer service:
    Phone M-F 8 a.m.-8 p.m., technical support available 24 hours from Sunday 3.30 p.m. to Friday 8 p.m.; email and chat
  • Account fees:
    $35 IRA annual account fee and $50 termination fee; $125 outgoing transfer fee; $50 inactvity fee
  • Mobile app:
    TradeStation offers the TradeStation Mobile app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Top features you'll love

OptionsStation Pro

This well-regarded tool allows you to evaluate your options positions or potential strategies. OptionsStation Pro provides a graphic visualization of a strategy’s profit and loss, and you’ll be able to set up options trades quickly and efficiently, even multi-leg options. The tool is incorporated into TradeStation’s desktop trading platform for ease of use. This tool is available only on the broker's TS SELECT platform.

Portfolio Maestro

This backtesting tool provides portfolio-level reporting on your performance, analyzing the risk of your holdings and can optimize the portfolio for almost any combination of holdings. Portfolio Maestro helps you reduce your downside and avoid overexposure to risks across the portfolio. It’s also integrated into the broker’s high-powered desktop trading platform. This feature is available only on the broker's TS SELECT platform.

Pros: Where TradeStation stands out

Trading commissions

TradeStation offers two major pricing plans, allowing customers to select the plan that fits them best.

TS SELECT: The broker charges $0 commissions for stock and ETF trades, putting it right in line with other major rivals such as Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, though it doesn’t offer all their benefits (see more below). With this plan, you'll pay $0.60 per contract for options trading and receive access to all the broker's trading tools, such as OptionsStation Pro and Portfolio Maestro. 

This plan requires an account minimum of $2,000.

TS GO: The broker charges $0 commissions for stock and ETF trades, competitive with major brokers. With this plan, options trades cost $0.50 per contract, though you won't have full access to all the broker's features and tools, such as those listed above or others, including other backtesting tools. If you do use the broker’s desktop platform here, you’ll incur trading surcharges.

This plan does not require any account minimum.

With either plan, TradeStation is offering competitive commissions on stock and ETF trades as well as undiscounted options commissions that are among the best in the industry from a full-service broker. For options, the industry standard is $0.65 per contract. So TradeStation beats that regardless of which pricing plan you choose. 

Trading platforms

TradeStation offers a pair of platforms — one desktop and the other web-based — that bring the power of the broker to the forefront.

The desktop platform is the flagship and offers a fully customizable experience that should appeal to professional traders. Traders can use the broker’s own built-in charting indicators or create their own. The platform features more than 10 charting types with dozens and dozens of technical indicators, and you can create your own too. Plus, decades of historical data allow you to backtest any strategy you develop. The capabilities go on and on. If you want these features, you’ll probably want to go with the broker’s TS SELECT pricing plan. 

The web-based platform offers the core functionality of the desktop platform but will be easier for less-experienced investors to navigate. This platform also provides streaming real-time quotes and offers one-click trade execution, both offered in the flagship app. This platform is available on both the TS SELECT and TS GO pricing plans. 

In addition, the broker offers a mobile trading app called TradeStation Mobile that allows you to analyze charts with technical indicators, including many from the desktop platform. You can also monitor a watchlist of securities with streaming quotes as well as place trades, among other functions. You’ll also be able to see detailed options pricing with up-to-the-second data and set up trade alerts based on technical factors that you’re watching. 

Tradable securities

TradeStation delivers the range of securities that you’d expect from a broker geared toward advanced traders. In addition to the usual offerings of stocks, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds, investors can swap futures contracts and futures options, too. The only major category missing is forex, a rarely offered asset class, and TradeStation also offers cryptocurrency trading (more below).

Cryptocurrency trading

Unlike many brokers, TradeStation offers direct cryptocurrency trading, allowing traders to buy and sell Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple and others. Pricing on crypto trades is typically better than what you’d find on other sites, with commissions starting at 1 percent of trade value and declining to 0.25 percent for those with more than $1 million in assets with the broker.

TradeStation also allows you to earn interest on your holdings, and you’ll be able to trade your assets or withdraw them at any time without penalty. 

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
TradeStation logo
$0 4.5 of 5

Cons: Where TradeStation could improve

Mutual funds and fees

The broker offers funds from more than 50 fund families, including some of the largest and most popular such as Vanguard, Blackrock and Fidelity. However, its list of available funds is decidedly thin, with just 2,000 offerings, in comparison to more than 10,000 at some other brokers. That said, TradeStation does include many of the top fund companies, so you’ll still likely find what you’re looking for.

And unlike other brokers, which offer literally thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee, at TradeStation it’ll cost you $14.95 to buy and sell a fund. Many large brokers, including Fidelity and Vanguard themselves, have thousands of funds without a transaction fee. So TradeStation is not well-suited to mutual fund investors.

Account minimum

The TS SELECT and GO accounts each have their own minimum balances, and TradeStation clients can get into a GO account without any minimum deposit. If you want to open a SELECT account, you'll have to fund a $2,000 minimum deposit, the highest among brokers that we cover.

Most major online brokers have moved away from minimum opening or account balances, so it’s too bad that TradeStation maintains them for one of its account types. Of course, you can choose the GO account and get started with no minimum but won't enjoy some of the broker's features, such as its trading tools. 

Account fees

TradeStation can hit you with a number of costly account fees:

  • The broker charges a $50 inactivity fee per year if you don't trade at least five times in the prior 12 months or maintain an average end-of-month equity balance of $2,000. While this fee is not especially tough to avoid, other major brokers have eliminated inactivity fees entirely.
  • The broker levies a $35 fee annually for any IRA accounts.
  • The fee for terminating an IRA is $50.
  • An outgoing account transfer costs $125, the highest of all the brokers surveyed by Bankrate.

While they may not encounter these fees all that often as customers, investors will likely find them pesky when they do. And virtually no other broker has an inactivity fee or an annual IRA fee. 

Research and education

TradeStation provides very limited research offerings and reports, all while leaving investment selection largely up to the investor. That may be fine if you’re an advanced or professional investor and have already developed resources to fill this need. You’ll know what you want, but newer investors will likely need more guidance. That said, you’ll have access to a number of screeners that may help whittle down the field of interesting securities for you.

And if you’re a new investor and looking for investing education, TradeStation’s limited abilities here may not suffice. A number of other brokers make it much easier for newer investors to get up to speed and learn what to do. 

Bottom line

TradeStation offers more for active traders or those who intend to grow into active traders than it does for beginning investors. 

  • The trading platforms, lower futures commissions, and trading tools are geared toward active and professional traders. 
  • The higher account fees, lack of no-transaction-fee mutual funds and education may not appeal to individuals just starting to invest. 
  • Without a substantial research offering, newer investors may find themselves wanting some direction, though this factor won’t likely deter advanced investors.

Investors looking for similar trading commissions but lower account fees can have a look at Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, both of which are known for being investor-friendly. Those on the hunt for more research could have a look at Merrill Edge and TD Ameritrade, while those needing quality trade execution could check out Interactive Brokers.   

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