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 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 mutual 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:
    $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.

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 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.

Where TradeStation rocks

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 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 a $2,000 account minimum.

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 backtesting tools. 

This plan requires a $0 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.   

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 also offers cryptocurrency trading, allowing traders to buy and sell bitcoin, litecoin, ethereum and others. The only major category missing is forex, a rarely offered asset class.

There is a $0 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
$0 3 of 5
Ally Invest® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$0 4 of 5
E*Trade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$0 4 of 5
WellsTrade® Review 2019 logo Read Our Review
$0 3 of 5

Where TradeStation could improve

No-transaction-fee mutual funds: 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:

  • The broker charges a $50 inactivity fee per year if you don't trade 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: 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:

  • The trading platforms and tools appeal more to active and professional traders.
  • However, the lack of no-transaction-fee mutual funds may have newer or individual investors feeling left out.
  • The lack of research and education may be fine for experienced investors, but not rookies. 

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 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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