TradeStation and Interactive Brokers both ranked in our top five for 2019. Customers will find a nearly overwhelming supply of tools, data feeds, and customizable portfolio analysis features on both sites. Both have extensive connections to third-party apps, enabling more in-depth technical analysis and automated trading strategies. These brokers are better suited to experienced traders, though they are both making efforts to help new investors.
TradeStation's focus on high-quality market data and trade executions makes them an excellent choice for the active trader. They are also committed to superior customer service. Their systems are stable and remain available during market surges. Technical analysis and statistical modeling of trading strategies are also strengths of TradeStation. You can develop your own automatic trading system using the analysis tools and strategy backtesting. You can also generate income through the fully-paid stock lending program and enhance your trading skills with their extensive educational offerings.
Interactive Brokers ranks highly in our 2019 review due to its wealth of tools for sophisticated international investors. The firm makes a point of connecting to as many electronic exchanges as possible. You can trade equities, options, and futures around the world and around the clock. IB also offers short selling opportunities.
In our 2019 Best Online Brokers Awards, TradeStation received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Penny Stocks, and Best for Day Trading.
Interactive Brokers received awards for Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Low Costs, Best for Options Trading, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Day Trading, and Best for International Trading.
- Account Minimum: $500 ($5,000 for IRA)
- Fees: $5 stocks and ETFs, $0.50/contract and $5/trade options
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: $0.005 per share for the standard platform, $0 for IBKR Lite
TradeStation Today is the first screen you'll see after logging into either the downloadable platform or the web platform. TradeStation Today includes featured videos, links to workspaces, the firm's Twitter feed, and an economic calendar. The desktop platform is a downloadable app, and it is extensively customizable. The web platform has most of the TradeStation tools, and it is a little easier to use. All data streams in real time.
You can place, modify, and cancel trades from charts on TradeStation. However, more advanced users may prefer using keyboard shortcuts. TradeStation’s trade ticket is called Matrix, and it adapts to the asset class you’re trading. Hovering your mouse over a bid or ask price opens a trade ticket. You can then modify the ticket before sending the order. Orders on TradeStation are routed to seek out and capture as much price improvement and hidden size as reasonably possible. TradeStation's price improvement efforts also take into account time and market impact.
Trader Workstation is Interactive Brokers' flagship platform, but you can also log into the web-based Client Portal. Client Portal offers access to portfolio analysis, a forum for clients, the Market Overview tool, and more. Several high-end analytical tools have been added to Client Portal, including scanners, global data, and customizable watchlists. There is streaming data everywhere on all platforms, though you can only have data updating on one device at a time. You can also enter orders from a graph or the matrix display in Trader Workstation.
Interactive Brokers' order execution engine has what could be the smartest order router in the business. It stays on top of changes in market conditions to reroute all or parts of your order. IB's order router seeks to achieve optimal execution, attain price improvement, and maximize any possible rebate. The router can also look for the best place to execute each leg of an option spread.
- Place trades from the trade ticket, a graph, or using keyboard shortcuts
- All data streams in real time
- Orders are routed to capture price improvement without making a big impact on the market
- Trade on any global market that can be accessed electronically
- All data streams in real time, but you can only have one active device at a time
- Orders are routed to maximize rebates and could be split among venues to maximize price improvement
Mobile and Emerging Tech
TradeStation streams real-time prices on the mobile app and supports mobile trading of all options strategies. There are numerous customization settings for the mobile app, including bypassing a trade confirmation for faster order entry. The mobile apps sync with your desktop or web-based platform, so chart customization settings are shared. The firm added 22 new chart studies to the mobile app over the last year, including Ichimoku clouds. A hotlist tool showing major market movers is also included with the mobile app. In the emerging tech department, TradeStation has a chatbot to interact with on Facebook Messenger.
Interactive Brokers also provides streaming real-time data for watchlists and charts on its mobile app. Options trading on IB's mobile app is straightforward. You tap on tiles representing the strikes and expiry dates you want to trade to build a spread. You can compare two potential trades with the Performance Profile tool. There's a persistent Trade button letting you send orders to the market quickly. Interactive Brokers' AI-powered assistant IBot is built into the mobile app. IBot can help you find advanced order types and analytical tools on the app.
- Streaming real-time data for all watchlists and charts
- Technical chart studies, including Ichimoku clouds, enabled on mobile
- Customer service via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger is available
- Streaming real-time data for all watchlists and charts
- All options strategies can be traded on a mobile device, as well as many international equities and derivatives
- The AI-powered assistant IBot helps customers find features easily
News and Research
The options strategy analyzer OptionStation Pro is built into the TradeStation desktop platform. The graphical display gives you a picture of the potential profitability of a strategy. You can adjust the strategy in the trade ticket at the bottom of the screen. RadarScreen is an incredibly flexible stock scanner. It lets you create stock screens based on technical or fundamental criteria.
TradeStation’s historical data set is second to none. They have over 50 years of daily history, 27 years of minute history, and six months of tick by tick history. TradeStation's in-house market commentary, called TradeStation Market Insights, is available on the desktop platform. TradeStation Market Insights is updated five to ten times during the trading day.
Interactive Brokers has built numerous options-specific research tools into Trader Workstation. Probability Lab lets you compare your market outlook to current conditions and suggests strategies you can trade. IB offers its clients free research from nearly 100 providers, including Alexandria Social Sentiment, Market Realist, Zacks, TipRanks, ValuEngine, Dow Jones, and many more. ESG ratings are available from Thomson Reuters. Interactive Brokers also offers discounted subscriptions to premium research. The Risk Navigator lets you stress-test your portfolio by seeing how a specific change in market conditions would affect your holdings.
- OptionStation Pro is a flexible toolset for analyzing and placing options trades
- Screen stocks in real time using RadarScreen
- Historical data available for charting is unmatched in the industry
- Probability Lab helps customers build options strategies
- Free research available from over 100 providers, with discounted subscriptions possible from additional premium research sites
- The Risk Navigator lets you stress-test your portfolio
Education and Security
TradeStation offered more than 300 webinars in 2018, including lessons on placing trades, available asset classes, technical analysis, and options trading. They added to their YouTube channel’s video content and have been offering five-day “Master Class” events in Chicago and Florida. You’ll find live education events streaming on all platforms on topics such as using margin, trading ETFs, initial public offerings, and cryptocurrencies. TradeStation uses 256-bit data encryption (TLS/SSL) and Symantec VIP to protect customer accounts.
Interactive Brokers' Traders Academy offers free online courses on a wide array of topics. Topics range from TWS for Beginners up to in-depth explanations of various trading algorithms. Traders Academy is accessible from all platforms, including mobile. IB holds approximately 250 live webinars a year, and they have an archive with nearly 900 previously recorded webinars. The Traders' Insight blog includes educational content on retirement and tax topics, along with outlooks for U.S., Asia-Pacific, Europe, and various market sectors. The IBKR Quant Blog is there for clients who want to model the financial markets and write their own trading algorithms. Interactive Brokers supplies customers with a secure device for two-factor authentication of their accounts.
- More than 300 webinars offered in 2018, with a similar number planned for 2019
- TradeStation has a YouTube channel with constantly updated video content
- TradeStation supports Symantec VIP for authentication
- Traders Academy offers free online classes on a wide variety of topics
- Blogs on topics from retirement and tax planning to algorithmic trading
- Request a device from IB to use two-factor authentication at login
TradeStation gives customers the choice of several different pricing tables. The best plan for you depends on which assets you trade and how frequently you trade. A standard trade of 500 shares is $5. Per-share pricing is better if you frequently trade small blocks. Per-share pricing starts at $0.01 per share. Options fees are near the average for the brokers we reviewed. Margin rates are slightly above average until you get up into seven figures.
TradeStation's TSgo clients pay no commission for trading U.S.-based equities (including OTCBB/penny stocks), and $0.50/contract for options trades. All other commissions are the same, as are margin rates.
Interactive Brokers is one of the least expensive places to trade online. Clients can choose from a fixed-rate plan or a tiered plan, depending on trading volume. The fixed-rate plan is best for occasional traders who favor market orders. The tiered model minimizes trading costs for frequent traders who factor exchange rebates into their strategies. We used the fixed-rate plan for our calculations, which is $0.005 per share with a minimum of $1 per trade.
There is no per-leg fee for options trades at Interactive Brokers. Per-contract commission fees range from a maximum of $0.70 per contract to $0.15 per contract depending on volume. Margin rates were the lowest in our survey, and you can borrow against your assets for any reason—not just trading. IB also pays 1.7% on idle cash over $10,000.
IBKR Lite clients pay no commission on U.S.-based equities, but they are restricted to the web-based Client Portal and IB's mobile apps. The usual commission schedule applies to all other trades.
Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of six months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on their platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting over 3,000 data points that we weighed into our star scoring system.
In addition, every broker we surveyed was required to fill out a 320-point survey about all aspects of their platform that we used in our testing. Many of the online brokers we evaluated provided us with in-person demonstrations of their platforms at our offices.
Our team of industry experts, led by Theresa W. Carey, conducted our reviews and developed this best-in-industry methodology for ranking online investing platforms for users at all levels. Click here to read our full methodology.