You never want to overstate the case on anything, but TradeStation may well be the gold standard in online investment brokerage platforms. The platform takes features and applications formerly available only to brokers and puts them in the hands of everyday investors, often at ridiculously low cost.
TradeStation is best known as a professional electronic trading platform for financial market traders, and for its analysis software and electronic trading platform.
|Stock Trades||$4.99 – $9.99|
|Options Trades||$4.99 – $9.99 + $0.20 – $0.70/contract|
|Accounts Available||Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, Corporate, General Partnership, Trust, LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Individual and Joint|
|Mobile App||Yes — Apple iOS and Google Android|
|Customer Service||Phone and Email|
|Promotions||Save Up To $1,500 on Trade Comissions|
Who is TradeStation?
The platform provides the ability to have both traditional broker accounts as well as individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and allows for trading of stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, foreign securities, options, futures and forex trades.
Based in Plantation, Florida, the company began operations in 1982, making it one of the better-established platforms available. It has been owned by Monex Group of Japan since 2011.
Before we get into specific TradeStation features, let’s first review what is typically the greatest source of interest to traders and investors alike — fees.
TradeStation Fees and Account Minimums
The minimum amount to open an account is $5,000, but the fee structure can go as high or low as your circumstances will allow.
Account fee. TradeStation charges a monthly fee of $99.95 to use the service. There are three exceptions to the fee:
1) High trading activity in the previous month:
- Trading 5,000 equity shares
- Ten round-turn futures or futures option contracts, OR 50 round-turn single stock
- Equity & Index Options 50 contracts
2) A Forex account only entitles you to a free version of RadarScreen; limited to Forex symbols will be available and no account service fee is charged regardless of trading activity.
3) Accounts having a balance of $100,000 on the last day of the previous calendar month.
Stocks and ETF Pricing. TradeStation has two fee structures for trading individual stocks and ETFs:
You pay 1 cent per share, up to 500 shares, then .6 cents per share thereafter. On a trade of 1,000 shares you’d pay $8, based on 1 cent per share for the first 500 shares, or $5, plus the next 500 shares at .6 cents, or $3.
- $4.99 per trade, based on 200 or more trades per month
- $5.99 per trade, based on 100 to 199 trades per month
- $6.99 per trade, based on 30 to 99 trades per month
- $7.99 per trade, based on 10 to 29 trades per month
- $9.99 per trade, based on one to nine trades per month
Options Pricing. Just as is the case with stocks and ETFs, TradeStation offers two pricing structures for options.
You pay $1 per contract — no base or ticket charge, minimum one contract (market or limit).
- $4.99 per trade + $0.20 per contract, based on 200 or more trades per month
- $5.99 per trade + $0.30 per contract, based on 100 to 199 trades per month
- $6.99 per trade + $0.40 per contract, based on 30 to 99 trades per month
- $7.99 per trade + $0.50 per contract, based on 10 to 29 trades per month
- $9.99 per trade + $0.70 per contract, based on one to nine trades per month
(Index Options incur an additional fee of 35 centers per contract.)
Futures Commissions and Fees. Once again, two pricing structures…
Unbundled Futures: Unbundled stock and ETF pricing coordinates with TradeStation’s commissions and flat fee offerings mentioned above. Standard exchange, regulatory, and overnight fees may apply.
“Trade More, Save More”:
- 0.01 – up to 100,000 shares per month (minimum $1.00 commission per trade)
- 0.007 – 100,000 to 1 million shares per month (minimum $0.70 commission per trade)
- 0.005 – 1 to 3 million shares per month (minimum $0.50 commission per trade)
- 0.003 – 3 to 5 million shares per month (minimum $0.50 commission per trade)
- 0.002 – 5 million plus shares per month (minimum $0.50 commission per trade)
TradeStation’s new TradingApp™ Store is jam-packed with useful apps that amplify the power of your investing. You can choose from custom trading apps to use within TradeStation’s own mobile or online software.
It’s built by traders for traders, so there’s no doubt you’ll find the right app to make placing orders and trades easier (and more convenient) than ever.
What Sets TradeStation Apart
What TradeStation does, it does extremely well. In fact, the platform offers the level of trading technology typically available only to brokers and professional investors. The highlights:
Low Trading Fees. As indicated above, you can trade stocks and ETFs for as little as $4.99 per trade, if you make 200 or more trades per month. This is a godsend to high volume traders.
“RadarScreen” Feature. This is a real-time search and tracking function that is part of the TradeStation platform. It allows you to identify new investment opportunities quickly, and you can customize it to follow and chart investments and market trends. This provides you with the ability to take advantage of trading opportunities ahead of the market masses.
TradeStation University and TradeStation Labs. Whether a novice or a seasoned investment veteran, everyone can stand to learn more about investing. TradeStation provides excellent resources to do just that. TradeStation University provides free video tutorials, e-books and articles that will help you learn about different investment products, as well as how to best use the TradeStation platform. TradeStation Labs will help you to apply what you learn about investment analysis and investment strategy.
“Trade Free for 90 Days.” This is defined as “no account service fee or RadarScreen fee for the first 90 days.” In order to qualify, you need to open an equities and/or futures brokerage account by June 30, 2014, with a minimum initial investment of $5,000.
A Solid Trader Community. The platform offers substantial trader community forums, participating in hundreds of topics on issues ranging from investment strategies to how to make better use of the TradeStation platform.
“Hot Lists.” This feature is included in the TradeStation platform, and it enables you to act on unusual activity. There are more than 100 Hot Lists that will enable you to instantly see which symbols may break above the 52-week high, which symbols may gap up at open, which symbols are showing unusual activity, and many more.
The TradeStation Simulator. This feature allows you to test risk-free before you trade, and to do it in real time. This can be especially important if you have never done real time trading before; the simulator will give you a chance to learn how effective real time trading can be. It can also enable you to investigate new strategies and markets, all without risking your own money.
“EasyLanguage” Feature. If you want to step outside the box and create your own custom analysis tools and trading strategies, you can do it with TradeStation’s EasyLanguage feature. EasyLanguage is a TradeStation-specific trading programming language that you can use to create or modify indicators and trading strategies in the TradeStation platform. With this feature, if you aren’t happy with certain applications, you can either modify them, or create entirely new ones.
In our Barron’s survey of online brokers, TradeStation ranks as one of the top platforms in the following categories:
- Best For Frequent Traders (#2 in the category)
- Best For Options Traders (#5 in the category)
- Best For International Traders (#2 in the category)
One of the best features of TradeStation is that the platform is constantly expanding to offer new apps and to improve on existing ones. What ever they have that isn’t quite right will be soon enough.
What You Might Not Like About TradeStation
Though TradeStation packs a lot of benefits in one platform, it’s not without its downsides. Here are a few:
Cost. TradeStation’s best pricing is for high volume traders — no surprise there, as most brokers follow the same pattern. The $99.95 per month fee is steep, particularly on smaller accounts.
Complication. There are simple brokerage platforms available, but this isn’t one of them. You need a matrix — several actually — just to figure out the pricing! A casual investor could easily be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of platform features and apps. It could take several weeks before you become fluid in the use of just the major applications.
Target Market. TradeStation targets high activity traders or those with large portfolios ($100,000+). If you’re a small investor, or low volume trader, there are better brokers to use.
The Mobile App is Sub-par. The app is available for both the iPhone and Android phones, but it has limitations. If your phone is Windows based you may not be able to access your account. The app also lacks alert and watch list features. The iPad mobile app is much more intuitive and allows for easier trading capabilities.
All negatives aside however, TradeStation is an excellent platform for serious and active traders.