Active trading is a form of investing that allows investors to arbitrage values. By taking advantage of market mispricing, traders tilt statistical expectations in their favor.
Unfortunately, most active traders treat trading like a video game. Numbers flash on a screen while traders take unnecessary risks that expose themselves to losses.
In this day and age, it takes more than flashy software to be a successful active investor. It takes access to data, an investing strategy that gives you a slight edge, and a willingness to follow your own rules when your heart screams, “NO!” TradeStation can help you with the first two. As for following the rules, you’re on your own.
Here’s what you need to know about TradeStation before you consider opening an account.
- Online trading platform that focuses on active traders
- Leverages technology to help traders make better decisions
- Not the best option for long-term, buy-and-hold investors
Min Investment Amount
Up to 10,000 shares: $0
Above 10,000 shares: $0.005 per share above 10,000
Stocks, Penny Stocks, Options, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Bonds, Futures, and More
Taxable, IRA (Roth and Tradition), Trusts, Custodial
Up To $3,500
What Is TradeStation?
TradeStation is a self-clearing broker/dealer and futures commission merchant (FCM) that offers one of the advanced suite of tools for active traders on the market today. The company has been serving traders for nearly 40 years and often wins awards for its platform technologies.
TradeStation allows traders to participate in a wide variety of asset markets. It also offers completely commission-free trading up to 10,000 shares per order and low per-share pricing after that. In November 2021, TradeStation announced that it plans to go public sometime in the first half of 2022 via the Quantum Fintech Acquisition Corporation (QFTA) SPAC.
What Does It Offer?
TradeStation offers several different types of accounts. In addition to taxable accounts, traders can open Traditional, Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE IRAS as well as a variety of entity accounts.
Its products and services are so expansive that it would be impossible to provide an in-depth review of each within the scope of this review. However, here's a brief overview of what TradeStation offers to its users.
With TradeStation, on the other hand, you can trade just about any type of stock market asset that you think of, including:
- Mutual Funds
- Micro Futures
- Future Options
- Penny Stocks
You can also trade a few cryptocurrencies on the TSCrypto Platform. However, it should be noted that one thing that you can't currently do with TradeStation is trade fractional shares of stocks.
TradeStation has X different trading platforms. Here's what they offer:
TradeStation Desktop: This is the company's premier equities trading platform. It's only available for Windows. Here are some of its notable features:
- Matrix: The Matrix is TradeStation's proprietary order entry and tracking system. It's precise and encourages speed trading through single click or drag-and-drop entries and exits.
- RadarScreen®: Allows real-time monitoring of up to 1,000 symbols in real-time using 180 customizable indicators.
- Back-Testing: Test your trading strategy against decades of historical data.
- EasyLanguage: This is TradeStation’s programming language that allows traders allows to build their own customer trading strategies and indicators.
- OptionStation® Pro: Allows traders to visual options chains strategies and quickly identify break-even points across expiration dates.
Desktop users can also download and install TradeStation apps from the App Store to add more indicators, charts, and strategies.
TradeStation Web: Offers the core of TradeStation's platform (including the Matrix) on any Mac or Windows computer with internet access. However, there's no way to modify the platform by adding apps.
TradeStation Mobile: Again, the core of TradeStation is baked into the company's mobile apps (which are available on iOS and Android) including the Matri and Hot Lists.
Futures Plus: Combines institutional-grade futures trading with free market data and no platform fees.
TSCrypto: Provides excellent order routing by accessing cross-market liquidity. However, it currently only supports four cryptos (BCH, BTC, ETH, LTC) and one stablecoin (USDC).
Tools & Resources
Here are some of the many technologies that you can benefit from as a TradeStation user:
Fast and reliable order routing: TradeStation says that it's order routing technology has yielded an average price improvement of $9.00 per order filled. It also says that the average trade on its platforms executes in 0.092 seconds.
TradeStation API: Allows those with coding experience to create web, mobile, or stand-alone trading applications that can be used with TradeStation accounts. TradeStation says that its API integrates with #, C++, Python, PHP, Ruby, or any other language that can access the Internet.
TradeStation App Store: There are hundreds of apps available on the TradeStation App Store that can be downloaded and added directly to the company's Desktop platform.
Paper trading: Traders can practice and test out new strategies by opening a TradeStation simulated trading account which comes with unlimited paper trading dollars.
Technical analysis: TradeStation has over 40 years of historical data (and up to 90 years for equities). You can backtest all sorts of strategies on the data. The access to data makes it easy to study technical trends.
Forum discussions: TradeStation has one of the most active forums in the trading world. Some of the discussions are helpful and constructive. Others quickly devolve into pissing contests. If you join the forums remember, it’s better to make money than to be right.
Right now, TradeStartion is offering up to $3,500 when you transfer funds into your TradeStation account.
The amount you receive is based on how much you transfer in.
Are There Any Fees?
For equities trading, TradeStation has two account tiers: TS Select and TS Go. Both offer commission-free trading of stocks and ETF orders of up to 10,000 shares. After that, you'll pay $0.005 per share above 10,000. It should be noted that mutual fund trades will always cost you $14.95 as TradeStation doesn't have any no-transaction-fee funds.
TS Go offers lower per-contract pricing on options and futures. However, TS Go's commission-free trading only applies to mobile and web orders. You'll be charged a $10 fee (per trade) if you use TradeStation Desktop while on the TS Go plan. Here's a closer look at how TS Go and TS Select compare:
TradeStation Equities Pricing
Stock/ETF Trade Costs
Option Trade Costs
Futures Trade Costs
$10 per trade
TradeStation's crypto trading pricing is competitive. Deposits and withdrawals are free. For trades, it uses a maker/taker fee structure that's similar to other trader-friendly crypto exchanges. Trade fees range from 0.05% to 0.30% depending on your account balance as shown in the table below.
TradeStation Crypto Pricing
Up to $100k
$100k to $1 Million
Above $1 Million
You could also pay a number of account fees, including a $35 annual fee if you hold your IRA at TradeStation and a $125 ACAT fee for outgoing account transfers.
How Does TradeStation Compare?
TradeStation offers more tradable assets and trading tools than most of its competitors. But the company doesn't support fractional share trading, offer any no-transaction-fee (NTF) mutual funds, and doesn't have any robo-advisor portfolio options.
If you're a day or swing trader, TradeStation could be exactly what you're looking for. But if you're more of a long-term investor who's looking to invest in mutual funds or managed portfolios, you'll want to choose a different broker. Here's a quick look at how TradeStation compares:
$0 up to 10,000 shares; $0.005 per share for all shares above 10,000
How Do I Open An Account?
You can open a TradeStation account online in minutes. You'll start the process by visiting their website here and clicking the big blue "Open Account" button.
TradeStation's application includes six steps. To quickly complete the sign-up process quickly, be prepared to provide information related to your personal identity, employment, financials, and trading experience.
Is It Safe And Secure?
Yes, TradeStation's U.S. accounts are protected by SIPC insurance up to $500,000 (250,000 for cash). And it protects its customer's private data by using 256-bit data encryption (TLS/SSL), advanced firewalls, and providing alerts whenever significant changes are made to accounts.
How Do I Contact TradeStation?
In addition to its resource-rich learning center, TradeStation offers phone and live chat support. For general requests, you can call 800-822-0512 (toll-free) or 954-652-7900 (direct) between Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET.
Futures and crypto trading support is available 24/7 at the same numbers as above. You can also schedule a time for TradeStation to call you.
Currently, TradeStation's customer reviews on Trustpilot are a bit discouraging. The majority are negative, leading to an average score of 1.5/5 from 115 reviews. The company does seem to be promptly responding to complaints, though, as it's rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Is It Worth It?
Making money as a trader isn’t an easy option. Most active investors fail to beat their benchmark, and most fail because they don’t follow their own rules.
TradeStation makes it possible for everyday investors with just a few thousand bucks to find, test and implement new investing strategies. Yes, there is a learning curve. Yes, you have to learn a new programming language. But at the end of the day, you need those types of advantages if you’re going to make money as a trader.
If you’re committed to active trading, consider TradeStation as your first choice broker. They offer low fees and excellent software. Plus, they offer tons of educational seminars and resources that will hopefully help you learn the trading game. They can’t guarantee your success, but they can push you in the right (rules-based) direction.
Let's answer a few of the most common questions that people ask about TradeStation:
Does TradeStation work on Mac?
TradeStation doesn't currently have a dedicated Mac app. However, Mac users can use the TradeStation web-based platform or use a Windows emulator to run TradeStation on their computers.
Is TradeStation a direct access broker?
Yes, unlike traditional full-service brokerages, TradeStation provides direct market access which is a big advantage for speed traders.
Can you use TradeStation internationally?
Yes, TradeStation has partnered with Interactive Brokers to offers its trading technology worldwide through the "TradeStation Global" platform.
Does TradeStation have hotkeys?
Yes, traders can assign hotkey to a variety of common tasks on the platform such as Buy, Sell, Cancel Order, and more.
Mutual Fund Commissions
No-Transaction-Fee (NTF) Mutual Funds
0.05% to 0.30%
Additional Fee For Customers On The TS Go Plan Who Use TradeStation Desktop To Execute a Trade
$10 per trade
Basic Account Fee
3.50% to 9.50% (as of January 2022)
Customer Service Number
Customer Service Hours
Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (ET)
Mobile App Availability
iOS and Android
Up to $3,500
Commissions & Fees
Ease Of Use
Tools & Resources
TradeStation is a direct access broker that includes a suite of smart technologies that are designed to benefit active traders. Learn more in this TradeStation review.
- Commission-free trading up to 10,000 shares
- Extensive asset list, including crypto
- Many advanced trading tools are built-in and hundreds more can be added through the TradeStation App Store
- Offers free practice accounts
- High-quality order routing
- Some features require strong technical knowledge
- Doesn’t support fractional share trading
- No fee-free mutual funds available
- Commission of $0.005 per share for all shares in excess of 10,000 per order
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: Clint Proctor Reviewed by: Claire Tak