TradeStation® Review 2019

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 should sit among the top potential selections for active and professional investors looking for a brokerage that meets their needs. That’s because TradeStation features many of the traits these investors require – low flat-rate and volume-based commissions, useful technical tools, a robust trading platform and an array of tradable securities. However, the broker doesn’t offer features that individual investors are likely to find valuable, such as research and fee-free funds. So investors considering TradeStation must carefully assess what they’re looking for.

TradeStation at a glance

Star Rating

4
  • Affordability: 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*
  • Cost per options trade:
    $5+$0.50 per contract, or $1 per contract flat rate
  • Promotion:
    $4 per trade for funding an account with $2,000
  • Commission-free mutual funds or ETFs:
    None
  • No-transaction-fee mutual funds:
    None
  • Securities tradable:
    Stocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds and cryptocurrency (later in 2019)
  • Customer service:
    Phone M-F 8-8pm, technical support available 24 hours from Sunday 3.30pm to Friday 8pm; email and chat
  • Account fees:
    $35 IRA annual account fee and $50 termination fee; $125 outgoing transfer fee
  • Mobile app:
    TradeStation offers the “TradeStation Mobile

*plus high-volume pricing

 

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.

Portfolio Maestro: This 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.

Where TradeStation rocks

Trading commissions

TradeStation offers three pricing plans, allowing customers to select the plan that fits them best:

Per-trade plan: The broker charges a flat $5 per trade, putting it in competition with other major rivals such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab, though it doesn’t offer all their benefits (see more below).

Per-share plan: This plan starts pricing at a penny per share ($0.01) and drops to $0.006 after the first 500 shares in a single order. There’s a $1 minimum per order.

Unbundled plan: This plan caters to high-volume traders, with per-share pricing starting at $0.01 for fewer than 100,000 shares traded in a month and dropping to $0.002 for more than five million shares traded in a month.

The commission plan you choose applies to stocks, ETFs and options.

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.

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.

In addition, the broker offers a mobile trading app that allows you to analyze charts with technical indicators, including many from their desktop platform. You can also monitor a watchlist of up to 30 securities with streaming quotes as well as place trades, among other functions.

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 stock, bonds, ETFs and mutual funds, investors can swap futures contracts. And TradeStation is planning to roll out cryptocurrency trading in 2019 through a subsidiary called TradeStation Crypto. The only major category missing is forex, a rarely offered asset class.

There is a $500 minimum to open an equities account, while futures accounts have a $5,000 minimum.

 

Quick comparison of Brokerage options:
Brokerage Overall Rating Avg. Cost Per Trade Usability Rating
TradeStation logo
$5* 3 of 5
Ally Invest® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$0 4 of 5
E*Trade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$6.95* 4 of 5
WellsTrade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$5.95* 3 of 5

Where TradeStation could improve

Commission-free ETFs: TradeStation does not offer any commission-free ETFs, which is probably a blow to most fund investors, since these funds are among the lowest-cost in the market. ETFs are popular among new investors due to their simplicity, and it’s clear that TradeStation is not catering to this segment of the market. So buying or selling an ETF will cost you a regular trading commission, and that depends on what pricing plan you’re on.

No-transaction-fee mutual funds: TradeStation doubles up here on its lack of funds for investors looking to transact without a fee. While the broker does offer funds from more than 50 fund families, including some of the largest and most popular such as Vanguard, Blackrock and Fidelity, it’ll cost you $14.95 to buy and sell them. Many large brokers, including Fidelity and Vanguard themselves, have thousands of mutual funds without a transaction fee.  

Account fees: TradeStation can hit you with a number of fees, depending on which trading plan you’re using.

  • For accounts using the $5-per-trade plan, 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.
  • If you’re using TradeStation’s other trading plans, you may also be subject to monthly fees, unless you meet minimum activity.  

But then there are still other fees that don’t exist at other brokers or are cheaper:

  • 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 you may not encounter these fees all that often, investors will likely find them pesky when they do.

Research: 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. But if you’re a new investor and looking for investing guidance, TradeStation’s limited abilities here may not suffice. That said, you’ll have access to a number of screeners that may help whittle down the field of interesting securities for you.

Bottom line

TradeStation makes an excellent choice for the right kind of investor, but may not be a good fit for many:

  • Volume-based commissions and trading platform appeal more to active and professional traders.
  • Also appealing to traders are the highly capable trading platform and technical tools.
  • However, no commission-free ETFs or no-transaction-fee mutual funds may have newer or individual investors feeling left out.

Investors who are looking for similar per-trade pricing and more research should look into Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. Investors who need a wide range of commission-free ETFs or fee-free mutual funds should also consider those two as well TD Ameritrade and E*Trade.

If you’re in the market for an online broker, check out our 2019 brokerage reviews.

 

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