TradeStation traditionally focused on high net-worth, experienced, and active traders—but that has changed in recent years. After removing its minimum funding requirements and platform fees, introducing crypto, launching YouCanTrade, and integrating with TradingView, TradeStation’s client base has been trending younger. As more traders of all levels demand stable, reliable platforms, the company has seen an uptick in new customers who have switched to TradeStation for its award-winning platform and 99.999% uptime.

TradeStation customers can trade and invest from multiple devices and platforms, tapping into the equities, exchange-traded fund (ETF), cryptocurrency, options, futures, mutual fund, bond, and initial public offering (IPO) markets. The robust and fully customizable trading platform makes TradeStation ideal for active, technical traders who want sophisticated charting, testing, order entry, and automation capabilities. Meanwhile, less experienced investors and traders can learn about the financial markets—and how to use the TradeStation platform—via the new YouCanTrade education service and community. We’ll take a deeper look at TradeStation’s extensive offering to help you decide if it is the right choice for your investment needs.

Key Takeaways

  • TradeStation offers an incredibly stable and reliable platform with 99.999% uptime.
  • Tradstation’s platform has exceptional charting, technical analysis, backtesting, order entry, and trade automation technology.
  • The TradingApp Store offers a large selection of third-party add-ons, including technical indicators, strategies, and order placement utilities.
  • There is no account minimum for TS GO ($2,000 for TS SELECT), commission-free stock and ETF trades, and competitive pricing on options, futures, futures options, and cryptocurrency.
  • TradeStation is geared toward active, technical traders. However, new products and offerings make the platform attractive to less experienced traders and casual investors.  

Who TradeStation Is For

TradeStation's robust trading platform, high-quality market data, and fast trade executions make it a strong choice for active traders. Its trading systems have a 99.999% uptime and remain available during spikes in trading volume. While TradeStation has long been considered the gold standard among serious traders, the company has put significant effort into making its offerings more attractive to casual investors as well as novice and intermediate-level traders who want to improve their skills.

Pros
  • Pro-level trading platform with fast, reliable order execution

  • Competitive pricing

  • Intuitive trading interfaces and advanced order types


  • Dynamic symbol sorting and scanning tools

  • Powerful simulated trading environment

  • Robust strategy development and automation

Cons
  • Steep learning curve

  • Sophisticated interface can be intimidating

  • Trading surcharges on TS GO

  • Zero no-transaction-fee mutual funds

  • Potentially long hold times for tech support

Pros Explained

  • TradeStation has a pro-level trading platform with fast, reliable order execution, exceptional charting, technical analysis, order entry, strategy development, and trade automation technology. Tradestation boasts 99.999% uptime, which is an industry leading level of stability. There is also a combination of advanced order routing technology, regular and rigorous reviews of speed, execution quality, and price improvement that delivers quality trade execution. 
  • TradeStation has commission-free stock and ETF trades, and competitive pricing on options, futures, futures options, and crypto. The account minimum is $0 with TS GO accounts and $2,000 minimum on TS SELECT.
  • TradeStation features intuitive trading interfaces and advanced order types. There is one-click and drag-and-drop trading with multiple, easy-to-use interfaces, including Chart Trading, Matrix, Quick Trade, Trade Bar, and keyboard trading. Place conditional orders, trailing stops, and profit targets across all platforms.
  • TradeStation offers dynamic symbol sorting and scanning tools. RadarScreen sorts a list of up to 1,000 pre-defined symbols in real-time based on user-defined criteria. The scanner app scans thousands of symbols (e.g., all stocks) based on 180+ technical and fundamental indicators, as well as custom studies.
  • TradeStation has a powerful simulated trading environment. You can test trading ideas and strategies, hone your trading skills, and execute demo trades with real-time streaming market data—without risking capital.
  • TradeStation enables robust strategy development and automation. You can build, test, optimize, monitor, and fully automate trading strategies using pre-built strategy components or EasyLanguage, TradeStation's proprietary programming language.

Cons Explained

  • TradeStation has a relatively steep learning curve. It takes time and effort to learn how to use all the platform's features and maximize its potential.
  • The TradeStation platform is sophisticated, which can make it seem overwhelming at first, particularly for less-experienced traders. That said, it's easier to navigate and learn than you might think.  
  • There are trading surcharges on TS GO: If you are on the TS GO plan and you place trades on the Desktop platform, an extra $10 fee will apply to each stock and options trade you make. For futures trades, a $1.40 surcharge per contract will apply.
  •  Unlike many brokers, TradeStation does not offer any no-transaction fee mutual funds. This doesn't tend to be an issue, however, because the broker is geared toward active traders, not buy-and-hold investors.
  • TradeStation has some potentially long hold times for tech support. Hold times can be lengthy when calling tech support, which can be frustrating if you have a problem during trading hours.

Usability

TradeStation's account opening process is streamlined and quite quick. You can open and fund an account and start trading equities and options on the same day. The TradeStation website has undergone several updates over the last several years, and it's easy to find details about pricing, products, and platforms, as well as educational offerings.

TradeStation customers can trade on multiple devices and platforms. This includes the flagship TradeStation 10 Desktop platform, a web-based platform with most of the functionality of the desktop version, and a full-featured mobile app for iOS and Android. No matter which platform you use, you can view charts with real-time streaming data and news, add technical indicators, and create custom watchlists. The same instruments are available across all platforms, and there are multiple ways to enter trade orders—with the option to use conditional orders, profit targets, and stop-loss orders.

Trade Experience

While TradeStation can seem daunting at first, the workflow of the platform is intuitive and fully customizable. It's easy to go from research to trade, and you can set up trade defaults, hotkeys, and workspaces to customize your experience (workspaces let you organize and save the various analysis and trading apps you want to use).

TradeStation calls its trading tools apps. These apps are integrated with the platform, so you can just click to launch. There are more than a dozen built-in trading apps, including “Chart Analysis”, “Hot List”, “RadarScreen”, “Matrix”, “Time & Sales”, “TradeManager”, “OptionStation Pro”, and many others. There is also the TradeStation TradingApp Store, where you can choose from hundreds of third-party tools for free or a monthly fee.

A handy platform feature is TradeStation's window linking. This allows you to connect one window with another window (or multiple windows) based on a common symbol or interval. For example, say you link a RadarScreen window, a Chart Analysis window, and the Matrix. You can click on any symbol in RadarScreen, and the Chart Analysis and Matrix windows will automatically update to that symbol. Window linking makes fast work of research and order entry.  

All TradeStation platforms offer real-time streaming data, and you can place, modify, and cancel orders directly from a chart or by using keyboard shortcuts. Alternatively, you can monitor the market and place trades at the price level you want (including one-click limit orders) using the Matrix. Dubbed the "Swiss Army knife of trading tools," the Matrix combines a detailed market depth window, an advanced order-entry tool, and a precise order-tracking system into a single, customizable window.

TradeStation 10 Desktop allows you to stage orders for later entry, and all platforms (including mobile) let you enter multiple orders simultaneously. If you want to trade options, you can open the OptionStation Pro App directly from the main platform. To buy and sell cryptocurrencies, launch the TSCrypto web platform when you log into the TradeStation website—and keep in mind that you'll need a separate crypto account to trade.

Mobile Trade Experience

The TradeStation mobile app is available for iOS and Android. The app supports stocks, options, futures, and crypto trading. A separate, dedicated mobile app supports futures options trading. All apps have real-time streaming data and free news provided by Benzinga.

The first screen you'll see when you log into the mobile app is a quotes list (you can share multiple watchlists across platforms). You can customize the home screen to show hot lists, orders, positions, balances, or alerts, and you can choose a light or dark theme for both the overall app and your charts. It's also possible to enable Face ID to log in.

Click on any symbol in the quotes list to view charts, news, and place trades—either by clicking the chart or tapping the green “TRADE” button at the top of the screen. To trade options, click the options icon at the bottom of the screen. Overall, the app is sleek and intuitive, with enough functionality to buy, sell, and monitor positions on the go.

Range of Offerings

TradeStation offers a decent range of trading products, and you can trade stocks, ETFs, options, futures, and IPOs from the desktop, web, and mobile platforms (you can trade bonds and mutual funds with broker assistance). It's seamless to switch between these asset classes, but you must select the appropriate account from a dropdown menu (i.e., your futures account or equities account) before placing trades. Traders also have access to the Eurex, ICE Europe, and LIFFE international futures exchanges. Missing from the lineup is forex, which TradeStation stopped supporting in 2016.

TradeStation offers two separate web platforms to trade crypto and futures options—TradeStation Crypto and FuturesPlus, respectively. You can launch either platform when you log into your account on the TradeStation website.

Here's a rundown of TradeStation's trading products:

  • Stocks long and short (3,100+ on the easy-to-borrow list for short sales)
  • OTCBB (penny stocks)
  • Futures
  • Futures options (via Futures Plus)
  • Simple and multi-leg options (up to four legs)
  • Cryptocurrency (via TradeStation Crypto): Bitcoin, Ethereum, USD Coin, XRP, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin, plus eight spot markets: BTCUSD, ETHUSD, USDCUSD, XRPUSD, LTCUSD, BCHUSD, ETHBT, and LTCBTC
  • Mutual funds can be traded with broker assistance
  • Bonds (corporate, municipal, Treasury, and CDs) can be traded with broker assistance

Order Types

All TradeStation platforms allow conditional orders (including one-cancels-other and order-sends-order), bracket orders, and trailing stops—and you can enter multiple orders simultaneously. The TradeStation 10 desktop platform offers additional advanced order rules, such as activation rules that allow orders to be sent to the market based on price or time.

You can change the default tax lot relief method assigned to your account for each asset type through the gain/loss tax management feature within the client center before you trade. After you place a trade—but before it's settled—you can adjust the tax method through the gain/loss tax management feature. Other adjustments require that you speak to a live broker.

Trading Technology

The way a broker routes your order determines whether you receive the best price available. TradeStation uses intelligent order routing technology (aka Intelligent), its proprietary order execution technology. It provides automatic routing to the market and automatically chooses the best route for you when you place the order.

According to third-party statistics, TradeStation delivered an average price improvement of $9.00 per filled order in the fourth quarter of 2020, and 96.33% of trades were filled at or better than the quote at order entry.

Backtesting and Automated Trading

TradeStation customers can create, test, and automate trading strategies for any trading idea. This functionality is something that TradeStation is well-known for, and rightly so. Few trading platforms support strategy development and automation, and TradeStation does both exceptionally well.

Non-programmers can select from dozens of technical and fundamental indicators to build their own strategies using pre-built strategy components. Programmers can use TradeStation's proprietary EasyLanguage programming language to develop custom indicators, studies, and strategies that can be used to test and fully automate trading systems. Alternatively, numerous EasyLanguage specialists and add-on developers can, for a fee, help you develop ideas into testable and tradable code.

Any trading idea or strategy can be tested on an easy-to-access database of decades of historical market data. Strategy performance reports provide detailed analysis, including metrics such as maximum drawdown and average trade net profit, as well as equity curves and trade lists, to prove you're on the right track—or not. It's simple to run different scenarios and optimize your variables to find the best parameters. 

The Walk Forward Optimizer provides an easy-to-read pass/fail report to help you decide if a strategy is ready to use in a live market. And, of course, you can always try out an idea in your paper trading account to see how it performs in a live market before risking real cash.

Once you're happy with a strategy, you can enable automated trading and let TradeStation handle the trade entries, exits, and management. Of course, this doesn't give you a pass to leave your trading computer for the day. Things happen (think: internet problems, power outages), so it's always advised to monitor your trades, even when they are fully automated. 

Costs

TradeStation offers two primary pricing plans: TS SELECT and TS GO. Both offer commission-free trading on stocks, ETFs, options, and futures, plus free market data and no monthly platform fees—but there are a few differences between the two plans. Here's a quick rundown:

TradeStation SELECT vs GO
   TS SELECT TS GO
Account Minimums $2,000 $0
Stocks & ETFs $0 commission $0 commission
Stock Options $0 commission + $0.60/contract $0 commission + $0.50/contract
Futures $0 commission + $1.50/contract $0 commission + $0.85/contract
Futures Micro E-mini $0 commission + $0.50/contract $0 commission + $0.50/contract
Futures options $0 commission + $1.50/contract $0 commission + $1.50/contract
TradeStation 10 Desktop Free $10 surcharge for stock/options trades; $1.40 surcharge for futures
Web Trading Free Free
Mobile Apps Free Free
Summary of the differences between the two offerings. (Source: TradeStation Pricing, Trading and Fees.)

Keep in mind that many non-equity trades incur additional exchange fees for clearing and trading. The financial exchanges (e.g., CBOT, CME, NYMEX/COMEX, CFE, etc.) set these fees, which vary by market and your exchange membership level. You can find complete fee details on TradeStation's pricing page, but here's a basic rundown:

  • Equity, ETF, and OTCBB (penny stock) trades are commission-free for the first 10,000 shares per transaction and $0.005 for each additional share over 10,000. Direct-routed equity orders incur an extra $0.005 per share fee.
  • Stocks options are commission-free plus $0.60 per contract on TS SELECT and $0.50 on TS GO.
  • Futures are commission-free plus $1.50 per contract, per side on TS SELECT and $0.85 per contract, per side on TS GO.
  • Futures micro e-minis are commission-free plus $0.50 per contract, per side on both TS SELECT and TS GO.
  • Futures options are commission-free plus $1.50 per contract, per side on both TS SELECT and TS GO.
  • Cryptocurrencies makers trade for free; takers pay between 0.15% and 0.60%, depending on account balance. USDC transactions, deposits, withdrawals, market data, and the TS Crypto platform are free, and there is no minimum funding requirement.
  • Mutual fund commissions are $14.95.
  • Broker-assisted transactions are free with equity and futures accounts. 
  • Fixed income trades (placed with a live broker) are $14.95 plus $5 per bond.
  • Margin interest rates range from 3.5% to 9.50%, depending on balance size. For example, the rate on a $10,000 balance is 9.5% and 8.75% on a $100,000 balance.
  • A $50 per year inactivity fee applies if you don't maintain a $2,000 average end-of-month equity balance or if you place fewer than five trades per year.
  • Transferring an account costs $125. Transferring an IRA adds a $35 custodial fee and a $50 IRA termination fee.
  • Sending a wire is $25 domestic and $35 international. There's no charge to receive a wire or send a paper check.
  • Paper statements and trade confirmations cost $1 per page.

How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You

The business model for most online brokers has changed because of industry pressure to offer commission-free trading. Without these fees, the way a broker makes money from you might be less obvious. And there are some subtle ways they make money for you, too.

  • Interest on cash: Like most brokers, TradeStation generates interest income from the difference between what you are paid on your idle cash and what they earn on your cash balances. TradeStation clients can earn 0.03% (as of Nov. 1, 2020) on cash in money market accounts and up to 5% interest on eligible crypto assets. Interest on cryptocurrency accumulates daily and is paid monthly.
  •  Payment for order flow: Many brokers generate income by accepting payments from market makers for directing equity and options orders to them—a practice called payment for order flow (PFOF). TradeStation receives an average of $0.0018 per share in PFOF on equity trades and $0.53 per contract for options trades. 
  • Price improvement: TradeStation's Intelligent order router seeks out liquidity and price improvement while executing orders in a reasonable amount of time. On average, TradeStation equity orders receive $0.007 per share in price improvement and $6.49 per contract on options orders—a substantial benefit for options traders. 
  • Stock loan programs: These programs generate revenue for brokers when stocks held in customers' accounts are loaned to other traders or hedge funds, usually for short sales. TradeStation's Fully Paid Stock Lending program is available to clients who have an equities account and a total net worth of at least $25,000 or one year of trading experience. The interest rate you earn depends on the demand in the lending market and the security's value.
  • Portfolio margining: Portfolio margining computes real-time margin for stock and options trades based on risk instead of using fixed percentages. TradeStation does not currently offer portfolio margining.

Account and Research Amenities

Because TradeStation caters to active traders, it doesn't provide in-depth fundamental research. Still, TradeStation offers some powerful research tools, especially for the more technically-inclined trader.

Stock and ETF Screeners

TradeStation offers several tools to help traders with market scanning and pattern recognition. Hot lists show traders which symbols are making unusual market moves, such as opening gaps, high volatility, and nearing or breaking 52-week highs (or lows). RadarScreen sorts a list of up to 1,000 pre-defined symbols in real-time based on user-defined criteria. The Scanner App scans thousands of symbols (e.g., all stocks) based on 180+ technical and fundamental indicators, as well as custom studies. RadarScreen and the Scanner App are two of the most powerful stock and ETF screeners offered by any online brokerage today.

Options Screeners

The OptionStation Pro toolset lets you build, evaluate, and track just about any options strategy you can imagine. It provides a visual representation of options chains so you can see your strategy's break-even probability across a series of expiration dates. You can use hot lists to find options opportunities as well.

Mutual Fund Screener

TradeStation has a proprietary scanner that can scan the entire mutual fund universe. While the scanner gets the job done, it's not particularly sophisticated compared to TradeStation's other scanners.

Fixed Income Screener

TradeStation has a basic fixed income screener, but keep in mind that you will have to call a broker to place a trade.

Charting

TradeStation has exceptional charting capabilities. Data streams in real-time on all platforms and the Chart Analysis window is fully customizable. You can easily choose a chart type—bar, candlestick, Kagi, Kase, line, line break, momentum, point & figure, range bar, or Renko chart—and a timeframe or data interval (e.g., minute, tick, or volume). To change the symbol, click anywhere on the chart, type in the symbol, and tap enter. Double-click any chart to maximize the window for a closer look.

TradeStation offers an impressive array of charting tools designed to help you measure and analyze market movement, backtest, and monitor orders and positions. You can add multiple technical indicators and other studies, strategies, drawing tools, and text to any chart. Account orders and positions display on the chart to provide a convenient way to monitor your trades, and you have the option to enable (and customize) audio alerts.

The Chart Trader app is a simple way to place trades, manage positions, and manage orders from a Chart Analysis window. Simple keyboard and mouse click combinations define the order type—for example, hold control and left-click below the ask to set a buy limit order at the selected price. Open orders can be moved to new price levels by dragging and dropping the order line, and you can right-click on an order line to edit quantity and price. If you select an order line and press delete, it will cancel the order.

TradeStation has one of the best charting applications available from any broker, especially because of how well it integrates with TradeStation's order entry, strategy development, and trade automation capabilities.

Tools and Calculators

TradeStation doesn't have the typical calculators (e.g., retirement planners and college cost estimators) that many brokers offer. Instead, you'll find tools designed for active traders, including ticker bars (for hot lists, quotes, and news), a "Time & Sales" window, "Market Depth", "News", and a "Research" window that displays company research and fundamental data.

Trading Idea Generator

TradeStation includes a built-in library of common studies to help with idea creation. You can create your own custom studies to try out new ideas and methods.

News

TradeStation has a customizable news app on all platforms, with real-time news provided by Benzinga. You can symbol link positions and watchlists to stream relevant stories or filter by topic. TradeStation's in-house market commentary, called TradeStation Market Insights, is available on the desktop platform and website and is updated throughout the trading day.

Third-Party Research

There is limited third-party research built into the TradeStation platforms, but you can subscribe to tools and research through the TradingApp Store. Most add-ons incur a monthly fee, but many have a free trial to let you try before you buy.

Charting

TradeStation offers top-end charting capabilities on all of its platforms. TradeStation 10 offers incredible charting capability based on tick data. Automated technical analysis is built into the charting package, displaying technical patterns on the charts as they form. The web charting has been greatly enhanced and includes all streaming real-time data with the ability to add overlays and all kinds of indicators. Web charting capabilities more closely match TradeStation 10, including a new toolbar with access to adjust timeframes, drawing tools, sessions, and styles. Web charting also features background dragging and on-chart controls to zoom in/out, scroll left/right, move to the most recent bar and reset the chart range. You can trade directly from a chart, including previewing a closing bracket order on a chart. The order ticket can be modified by dragging and dropping closing price targets onto the chart. This is one of the best charting applications available from any broker, and it is especially notable for how well it is integrated with TradeStation's order management system.

Cash Management

Customers don't earn interest on cash balances. You can transfer idle cash into a money market fund and earn 0.03%. Eligible cryptocurrency assets earn up to 5% interest.

Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)

Clients cannot specify dividend reinvestment when they buy a dividend-paying stock.

SRI/ESG Research Amenities

TradeStation does not offer socially responsible investing (SRI) tools. 

Portfolio Analysis

Portfolio Maestro is a free feature that runs outside of the TradeStation platform (you can access it with one click via the apps window). It allows you to backtest and analyze the performance of a group of strategies applied to a basket of symbols in a portfolio—and balance the allocation of your portfolio assets. The performance is based on the trades generated by the rules in your strategies, including your money management and ranking criteria. Numerous reporting and analysis features help you optimize your portfolio, and you can view the performance of the overall portfolio and each individual symbol.

Education

TradeStation offers various educational content on its website—including articles, videos, and a glossary—plus courses, quick tips, FAQs, and live events to help you learn to use TradeStation's trading platforms. An active community forum provides a place to ask questions, search for answers, learn tips and tricks, and solve programming bugs.  

TradeStation also offers a sizable collection of trader education presentations and courses through its affiliate, YouCanTrade. Through YouCanTrade, you can ask questions and interact with the coaches, receive trade alerts, join free webinars, take courses, and watch live trading in its trading rooms. These offerings can be invaluable to new and intermediate traders trying to improve their trading prowess.

An extremely valuable tool for traders of all levels is TradeStation's trading simulator, which has all the functionality of TradeStation 10, including real-time streaming data, without the real money and real positions of a live account. The simulated environment lets you practice using different trading approaches, markets, and platform tools, and using it will help you figure out your preferred method of order entry.

Customer Service 

  • Phone support (800-822-0512) 8 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET
  •  Live chat with a human agent Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET
  • Chatbot (TSbot) on the website
  • The Trade Desk is open during market hours (which vary by asset) to place trades and make balance, position, and margin inquiries

Security and Reliability

  • Two-factor authentication is available through the Auth0 Guardian app, Google Authenticator app, and SMS text messaging.
  • Biometric (face or fingerprint) login for mobile devices.
  • In 2019, the firm implemented technology designed to detect attempted fraudulent account openings, and it added enhancements to safeguard against fraudulent cash transfers out of client accounts.
  • TradeStation carries excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance provided by Lloyd's of London with an aggregate limit of $300 million to pay amounts in addition to those returned in a SIPC liquidation. The maximum for any single customer is $24.5 million with a cash limit of $900,000 per account.
  • TradeStation is considered an extremely stable, reliable platform with little downtime. It reported a 99.999% uptime over the last year, operating perfectly even during periods of high volatility. 
  • Through March 2021, there were no significant data breaches at any TradeStation location reported by the Identity Theft Research Center.

Transparency

TradeStation is a member of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), and it's regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It's easy to find detailed information about pricing structures, commissions, service fees, margin rates, market data, and exchange fees by clicking "Pricing" on the main menu from the top of any webpage.

Our Verdict

At one point, TradeStation was the realm of active and institutional traders who were more than willing to pay the steep fees in exchange for the platform's robust functionality. Today, with the elimination of platform fees and the addition of commission-free trading, cryptocurrencies, and YouCanTrade, TradeStation has become more attractive to (and suitable for) a broader range of traders and investors.

That being said, TradeStation remains best suited for active, technical traders who can take advantage of all that TradeStation offers. For this group, the offering is extensive, including top-of-class charting, technical tools, trade execution, strategy development, backtesting, and trade automation. This focus on trading obviously means that TradeStation is not the ideal platform for fundamental investors looking for buy-and-hold positions. 

TradeStation is taking steps to be more friendly to less experienced traders and investors, but there's room for improvement. For instance, tools aimed at the casual crowd—such as the mutual fund and fixed income screeners—are rudimentary compared to the powerful RadarScreen and scanner apps. The challenge for TradeStation will be to serve this growing market of less-savvy traders and investors while maintaining its competitive edge with active and institutional traders.

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Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system. 

Read our full methodology.