5 Best Futures Trading Platforms

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Originally created to help commodity producers hedge the risks associated with production, futures are a useful trading vehicle available to all traders across many asset classes. Futures are highly leveraged, however, with only a small percentage of the total value of positions required to be posted as margin. Because of this, futures trading can lead to large profits and losses relative to the capital required to establish and maintain a position. Therefore, understanding the potential risks is critical. We have analyzed the best futures trading platforms and brokers so you can determine which bests fit your trading needs. 

Best Futures Trading Platforms of 2023

5 Best Futures Trading Platforms
5 Best Futures Trading Platforms

Best for Futures Education : E*TRADE

ETrade logo

 ETrade logo

Key Specs
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Commission: $1.50 per contract, per side (cryptocurrency futures $2.50 per contract per side); exchange, clearing, and NFA fees also apply
Why We Chose It

We chose E*TRADE as the best broker for futures education because the platform offers extensive content and training resources to help educate and prepare investors to trade and invest for themselves, and this includes solid content specific to futures trading.

Pros & Cons 
  • Support for multiple U.S. asset classes

  • Easy-to-use platforms

  • Excellent educational materials and content

  • Demo account for paper trading

  • CME Group and CFE data free for non-professionals 

  • No access to international exchanges

  • Higher margin rates for IRA accounts


E*TRADE, one of the first online brokers, was established in 1982 and bought by Morgan Stanley in 2020. The company has been a consistent innovator and has continued to keep its platforms up to date with the times. While better known as more of a retail brokerage operation for those self-managing their own accounts, E*TRADE supports futures trading. The company’s robust platform, which supports multiple U.S. asset classes in a consolidated platform, appeals to both new investors and experienced traders.

While professional traders may choose online futures brokers with more bells and whistles, E*TRADE’s platform provides a solid futures trading experience. E*TRADE offers desktop, web, and two mobile platforms that are intuitive–especially considering how much content is available for trading and learning about markets. 

E*TRADE futures trading requires 50% margin for day trades, but 100% for positions held overnight. For positions in individual retirement accounts (IRAs), day trading futures requires 100% of margin, and 200% of margin for positions held overnight. While E*TRADE’s futures commission rates are higher than some of the brokers more focused on futures trading, many customers will be happy to add futures trading functionality to their existing E*TRADE account.

E*TRADE’s futures page provides information on markets available and commissions, as would be expected, but it also offers articles such as “Five reasons why traders use futures,” “How can I diversify my portfolio with futures?,” and “How do I manage risk in my portfolio using futures?,” as well as a link to E*TRADE’s information library. From these articles, novice futures traders can access additional helpful content, such as information about expiration and settlement. 

Read our Full E*TRADE Review.

Best for Professional Futures Traders : Interactive Brokers

Interactive Brokers

 Interactive Brokers

Key Specs
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Commission: Ranges from $0.25 to $2.50 per contract ($5 for crypto futures); IBKR Pro customers pay on a tiered scale based on volume, while IBKR Lite customers pay a fixed rate
  • For standard futures IBKR Lite customers pay $0.85 per contract. $0.25 per mini contract. Cryptocurrency futures $0.10 to $5 per contract. E-mini FX futures are $0.50 per contract. 
  • IBKR Pro customers pay $0.85 to $0.25 per contract (depending on volume). For mini contracts $0.25 to $0.10 per contract. Cryptocurrency futures $0.10 to $5 per contract. E-mini FX futures are $0.50 to $0.05 per contract. IBKR Pro customers also pay an overnight position fee. 
  • The minimum margin for intraday positions is $50.
  • The standard exchange and regulatory fees apply. 
Why We Chose It

In addition to being our top choice for professional futures traders, Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is also our top-rated broker for professional, advanced, and international traders. This is because IBKR offers more markets to trade through a single platform than any other broker. Moreover, IBKR’s trading technology is among the best of all online brokers.

Pros & Cons 
  • The most markets available on a single platform

  • Backtesting of strategies

  • Complex and automated trading strategies

  • Low commissions for high-volume traders

  • Can be intimidating to less experienced traders


Interactive Brokers was founded in 1978, and was the first company to use a hand-held computing device on an exchange floor. Since its inception, the company has strived to deliver its customers the best and most sophisticated trading tools available. Historically, the company has catered to the largest international traders because of their need for a single platform that can handle trades in markets around the world using different trading vehicles. 

While IBKR has also developed tools to appeal to less sophisticated traders, such as introducing IBKR Lite to offer commission-free trading of stocks, the company continues to create advanced features for its professional trading clients. IBKR welcomes customers from around the world, which is something not all brokers do.

Among IBKR’s advanced features is the ability to backtest trading ideas, sophisticated options analysis tools, and a very wide array of order methods that includes one-cancels-other (OCO) and a multitude of conditional orders. In addition to these drop-down order entry tools, IBKR also allows traders to develop their own trading algorithms using a multitude of fundamental and technical indicators. Traders can develop automated entry and trade management instructions for trading all markets, including futures. Further, IBKR also has excellent order execution, including the ability to route equity orders. IBKR’s Adaptive Algo can also be used for futures to find the best execution on a market order. 

When it comes to futures trading, IBKR is built for big traders. This isn’t just in terms of the volume discounts that only start after 1,000 contracts. IBKR also has higher margin requirements than other brokers. This acts as a risk management tool, ensuring you can handle a 1% to 2% swing in the underlying stock price. It is also another clear signal that IBKR is meant for larger professional traders. 

Read Our Full Interactive Brokers Review.

Best Broker for Mobile Futures Traders : TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade

 TD Ameritrade

Key Specs
  • Account Minimum: $1,500 for margin accounts, $25,000 net liquidation value (NLV) for retirement accounts
  • Commission: $2.25 per contract round turn, plus exchange and regulatory fees
Why We Chose It

We chose TD Ameritrade as our best broker for mobile futures trading because of its intuitive yet powerful mobile trading platform. 

Pros & Cons 
  • Strong analytical tools

  • Well-designed platforms

  • Good educational content

  • Higher commissions than many futures brokers

  • Low customer service ratings for futures


TD Ameritrade was founded as a full-service online broker in 1975 and continues to be a leading online broker. TD Ameritrade was taken over by Charles Schwab in 2020, and the acquisition is expected to be completed in late 2023. Although Schwab and TD Ameritrade remain separate platforms, the plan is for TD Ameritrade accounts to become Schwab accounts when the deal is completed. It is also anticipated that TD Ameritrade’s award winning thinkorswim® platform will be incorporated into Schwab’s platform.

TD Ameritrade’s margin rates and commissions for futures trading are higher than other platforms focusing more on futures trading clients. While TD Ameritrade does not offer the lowest commissions for futures trading, it is an easy way for owners of the 11 million customer accounts on the TD Ameritrade platform to gain access to futures trading on a single platform. Mobile thinkorswim is an easy-to-use platform and the company provides excellent educational and instructional content for people to learn how futures can complement portfolios. 

Read Our Full TD Ameritrade Review.

Best for Desktop Futures Trading : TradeStation

TradeStation logo


Key Specs
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Commission: $1.50 per trade per side, plus NFA, exchange, and overnight position fees; for micro futures, the fee is only $0.50 per trade
Why We Chose It

TradeStation is our top choice for desktop futures traders because its robust platform offers excellent tools for charting, order entry, and position management, along with reasonable margin rates. 

Pros & Cons 
  • Fast platform with good execution

  • Support for multiple asset classes

  • Simulated trading

  • Advanced order types and trading automation

  • Free data for non-market professionals

  • Steep learning curve

  • Weak customer service


Founded in Florida in 1982, TradeStation is designed for more advanced traders. The platform offers excellent charting, analytics, and trade management that includes control over order routing and advanced order capabilities.

For futures trading, TradeStation offers pretty competitive commission rates of $1.50 per side. Further, there are lower margin rates for intraday futures traders. Although the platform can take some time to learn, it is reasonably intuitive for traders with experience. Other features of the platform include simulated trading so customers can feel comfortable with the system and futures trading before putting real capital on the line.

In addition to futures, TradeStation supports trading in multiple asset classes, such as stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, options, futures, and options on futures. TradeStation offers free data for non-professionals for all of these markets. We did find that TradeStation’s customer service did not score as high as other futures brokers. Because of the strength of its desktop platform with its robust backtesting and availability of data, however, we have chosen TradeStation as our best desktop platform for futures. 

Read Our Full TradeStation Review.

Best for Dedicated Futures Traders : NinjaTrader

NinjaTrader logo


Key Specs
  • Account Minimum: $0 to open account; $50 is the minimum margin for trading
  • Commission: Option 1 - Free: No monthly fee, with per side commissions of $0.35 for micro futures contracts and $1.29 for standard contracts. Option 2 - Monthly: $99 monthly fee, with per side commissions of $0.25 for micro contracts and $0.99 for standard contracts. Option 3 - Lifetime: $1,499 one-time payment, and per side commissions of $0.09 for micro contracts and $0.59 for standard contracts. For all plans, exchange, clearing, and National Futures Association (NFA) fees also apply.
Why We Chose It

We chose NinjaTrader as the best platform for dedicated futures traders because it offers multiple low-cost pricing options; low margin rates; and access to strong desktop, web, and mobile platforms that support direct trading from customizable charts. 

Pros & Cons 
  • Very low intraday commissions

  • Integrated desktop, web, and mobile platforms

  • Excellent charting

  • 24-hour support during the trading week

  • Simulation allows for no-risk trading practice

  • No options or equity trading (with a caveat)

  • Market data purchase required


NinjaTrader was established in 2003 to service active self-directed futures traders. In March 2023, NinjaTrader introduced new cloud-based, mobile, and web platforms that allow for seamless trading across all its platforms. In January 2023, the company announced a custom-built trading tool to support event-based futures. NinjaTrader platforms are free to use, and there is also simulated trading available without having to fund the account. The platform has excellent, customizable charting and real-time analysis. It also supports trading directly from charts. Further, the platform supports multiple apps and third-party add-ons.

Margin at NinjaTrader is aggressive, providing users with $50 intraday margin on equity index E-mini futures, and just $500 for standard futures contracts. NinjaTrader sets intraday margins at four times its standard rates for new positions established 15 minutes before and five minutes after key economic data releases. The low intraday margin is a significant reason for our decision to name NinjaTrader as our best broker for dedicated futures traders, as other futures brokers require high initial and maintenance margins for all futures positions. NinjaTrader only uses these higher initial and maintenance margins for positions held overnight, which is very appealing for active traders.    

While the platform does not support equity trading or options trading on equities or futures, these markets can be traded through the NinjaTrader platform via other brokers’ APIs, including TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers. Similarly, foreign exchange trading can be accomplished with pass-throughs to FXCM. Live futures trading on NinjaTrader, however, requires a data subscription that, while inexpensive, still represents another cost to the trader. Finally, we like that NinjaTrader offers 24-hour support during the trading week.

Read Our Full NinjaTrader Review.

Final Verdict

While there are many options available for trading futures, the decision on which platform is best depends on your trading style. For those just trading futures, NinjaTrader offers very low commissions (especially for intraday trading), a robust platform with good execution, and the ability to use third-party apps and APIs to connect to other trading platforms. Professional and high-volume traders will choose Interactive Brokers because it has the widest breadth of market coverage and volume discounts.

Investors primarily trading stocks who want the ability to also trade or hedge with futures will want to consider platforms like TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE, as both have excellent all-around platforms and good educational content. Finally, TradeStation will appeal to futures traders with moderate futures trading activity, who also trade other asset classes like stocks, ETFs, and options and want sophisticated order options and the ability to control order routing for equities.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Are Futures Contracts?

    Futures are legal contracts for the purchase or sale of a fixed amount of some good at a fixed time. While initially created for agricultural commodities such as wheat and corn, futures now exist on a wide range of commodities and financial products, such as grains, livestock, currencies, oil, gas, and interest rates. Futures contracts each have specified criteria for the quality and amount of the commodity underlying the contract, such as the delivery requirements, the time and nature of the delivery, and the minimum price increment. There are multiple delivery months available on futures contracts. Not all futures contracts have a physical delivery process, instead settling for cash at maturity; this is typically the case with financial futures, whereas agricultural products typically have physical delivery mechanisms.

    Another important component of futures is leverage, as only a small fraction of the overall value of a contract is required as margin to open a trade. Unlike margin for stocks, which is limited to 50% for overnight positions and involves the customer paying interest to the broker, margin for futures is the posting of funds set by exchanges to ensure that financial obligations on their positions will be honored. Margins on futures, which include initial and maintenance margins, are typically a significantly lower percentage of the overall value of the contract compared to trading equities. Similar to stocks traded on margin, futures positions will be stopped out by the broker or exchange if adequate margin is not maintained. Margin on futures, therefore, provides traders with even greater opportunity and risk, resulting in higher leveraged profits or losses on their positions.

  • How Futures Trading Works

    Futures are used for hedging and for speculating. Initially developed by farmers and food processors, futures allow producers to have greater control over the prices farmers receive or processors pay for their crops. Futures contracts represent obligations to buy or sell a certain amount of a commodity at a certain time for a certain price. Futures contracts, therefore, have fixed criteria regarding contract size, the quality and location of the item to be delivered, and when delivery will occur. 

    In addition to the producers and processors using futures contracts to reduce price risks, there are speculators that generally do not have a direct connection to the commodity being traded. Speculators are trading futures for profit, but not with the intention of taking delivery of the underlying commodity. Speculators help to add liquidity to the futures market. The futures market expands far beyond agricultural products now, with futures for energy, precious metals, and financial products such as currencies, interest rates, and equity indexes. Financial futures are also efficient hedging and speculating tools that can help traders manage risk in their stock and bond portfolios. For example, someone with a stock portfolio that does not want to sell stocks in their portfolio but believes the market may fall can choose to sell futures to hedge their portfolio rather than selling appreciated stock holdings that would subject them to paying capital gains on a long-term holding. 

  • How Do You Start Trading Futures?

    It is relatively easy to trade futures. The process is similar to opening a margin account for trading stocks. First, a customer chooses a broker to open a futures trading account. A futures trading account can be established with an existing broker that supports futures trading, or it can be opened with a different futures broker. The account opening process includes signing a margin agreement, having the account approved by the broker, and depositing money into the account. Some brokerage accounts require there to be several thousand dollars in the overall account before margin can be enabled.

  • How Much Money Do You Need to Trade Futures?

    While there is significantly increased margin leverage in the futures markets compared to U.S. equities, it is best for futures traders to have more cash in their accounts than just the initial margin requirements. Futures traders should plan to have a minimum of $10,000 in their account, but significantly more is strongly advised for those who will hold positions overnight. This is to ensure you are not being stopped out from market volatility. Margin rates are set specific to the individual market being traded and are a function of the overall risk based on contract value and market volatility for the specific futures contract.  

  • What Hours Can I Trade Futures?

    Different futures contracts have different trading hours, but generally, trading hours have expanded over the past several years as electronic trading has grown. Futures on the S&P and U.S. Treasuries, for example, are nearly continuous because these markets are only closed for trading from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET daily during the week; trading starts for the week on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. and finishes on Friday at 5 p.m. Grains, however, have limited trading hours, trading from 8 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. ET daily, also starting the week on Sunday evening and finishing on Friday afternoon.

  • What Is the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)?

    The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is an independent agency that regulates all derivatives contracts in the U.S., including futures, options, and swaps. It was established by Congress in 1974. The CFTC helps ensure that U.S. derivatives markets are efficient, orderly, fair, and free of fraud.  


Due to the disproportionate amount of risk when compared to other trading vehicles, futures trading is a strategy best suited for experienced market participants. We reviewed several of the top online brokers and platforms for trading futures based on execution quality, trading technology, available asset classes, customization, fees, ease of use, education, and mobile trading functionality.

Over the shoulder view of young Asian woman checking financial trading data with mobile app

d3sign / Getty Images

Article Sources
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  2. Interactive Brokers. "Comissions: Futures and Futures Options (FOPs)." 

  3. Interactive Brokers. "US Futures and FOPs Margin Requirements." 

  4. Wealthmanagement.com. "Schwab's TD Ameritrade Integration Won't Be Complete Until 2023." 

  5. TradeStation. "Commission-Free and Innovative Pricing Plans." 

  6. TradeStation. "Futures Margin Rates." 

  7. NinjaTrader. "Pricing Plans That Fit Your Trading."  

  8. NinjaTrader. "Account and Exchange Fees." 

  9. Ninjatrader. "NinjaTrader Introduces New Mobile, Web Apps For Seamless, Multi-Device Trading." 

  10. NinjaTrade. "Margin Policy And Position Management."