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9 Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Kevin VoigtMay 21, 2020

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

If you’re an active trader looking to try your hand at beating the market, you probably have a good idea of what you want in a brokerage: low costs, premium research, innovative strategy tools and a comprehensive trading platform. Below, we’ve selected the best online brokers in a variety of categories so you can choose one based on your personal priorities.

One note before you begin: Pattern day traders — as defined by the SEC — must have at least $25,000 in equity in their accounts and be approved for margin trading, regardless of whether their broker’s account minimum is lower.

» New to this world? Learn the basics with our guide to how day trading works.

Summary of Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

BrokerNerdWallet Rating CommissionsPromotionAccount MinimumLearn More
Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

on Interactive Brokers's website

$0.01

per share

Exclusive!

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

$0

on Interactive Brokers's website

TradeStation

TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

$0

per trade

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

$0

on TradeStation's website

E*TRADE

E*TRADE

on E*TRADE's website

$0

per trade

Up to $600

when you open an account

$0

on E*TRADE's website

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade

$0

per trade

None

no promotion at this time

$0

Read review
Firstrade

Firstrade

$0

per trade

Up to $200

in Transfer Fee Rebates

$0

Read review
Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

on Interactive Brokers's website

Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

Interactive Brokers IBKR Pro

Fees

$0.01

per share

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Exclusive!

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

on Interactive Brokers's website


Promotion

Exclusive!

0.25% reduction on margin loans. Tiers apply

Why we like it

Interactive Brokers attracts active traders with per-share pricing, an advanced trading platform, a large selection of tradable securities — including foreign stocks — and ridiculously low margin rates.

Pros

  • Per-share pricing.

  • Volume discounts.

  • Large investment selection.

  • Extensive tools for active traders.

  • Powerful trading platform.

  • NerdWallet users who sign up get a 0.25 percentage point discount on margin rates.

Cons

  • Complex pricing on some investments.

  • Inactivity fees.

  • Website is difficult to navigate.

Read Full Review
TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

TradeStation

TradeStation

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

on TradeStation's website


Promotion

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Why we like it

TradeStation is a strong choice for active stock, options and futures investors who rely on the broker’s high-octane trading platform, reams of research and sophisticated analytical tools. Trades of up to 10,000 shares are commission-free.

Pros

  • High-quality trading platforms.

  • Comprehensive research.

  • Commission-free stock, ETF and options trades.

  • Advanced tools.

  • Active trader community.

Cons

  • Free trading on advanced platform requires TS Select.

  • No transaction-fee-free mutual funds.

  • Plans and pricing can be confusing.

Read Full Review
E*TRADE

on E*TRADE's website

E*TRADE

E*TRADE

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $600

when you open an account

on E*TRADE's website


Promotion

Up to $600

when you open an account

Why we like it

E*TRADE has long been one of the most popular online brokers. The company's $0 commissions and strong trading platforms appeal to active traders, while beginner investors benefit from a large library of educational resources.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use tools.

  • Large investment selection.

  • Excellent customer support.

  • Access to extensive research.

  • Advanced mobile app.

  • Commission-free stock, options and ETF trades.

Cons

  • Website can be difficult to navigate.

Read Full Review

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

Last updated on May 22, 2020

Methodology

NerdWallet’s ratings for brokers and robo-advisors are weighted averages of several categories, including investment selection, customer support, account fees, account minimum, trading costs and more. Our survey of brokers and robo-advisors includes the largest U.S. providers by assets under management, plus notable and/or emerging players in the industry. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include advisory fees, branch access, user-facing technology, customer service and mobile features. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Frequently asked questions

We’d recommend starting with our guide for how to day trade — it covers a lot of the day trading basics you need to know. But then, practice makes perfect — or as close to it as you can get, as you’ll quickly learn there is no perfect in day trading, and even the pros lose money sometimes.

The best way to practice: With a stock market simulator or paper-trading account. Many brokers offer these virtual trading platforms, and they essentially allow you to play the stock market with Monopoly money. Not only do you get to familiarize yourself with trading platforms and how they work, but you also get to test various trading strategies without losing real money. The link above has a list of brokers that offer these play platforms.

In short: You could lose money, potentially lots of it. Day trading is exactly what it sounds like: Buying and selling — trading — a stock, or many stocks, inside of a day. It’s all about making predictions and timing the market, with the goal of making a small profit on each trade. In an ideal world, those small profits add up to a big return.

But research has shown that only 1% of day traders consistently earn money; many, many lose it. It’s essentially a full-time job, because you need to constantly be watching — and timing — the market, waiting for your next move. It isn’t for beginner, or casual, investors.

If you’re interested in day trading, our recommendation is to allocate a small portion of your overall portfolio to the strategy – no more than 5% or 10%, tops. That way, if you lose money — as you are likely to do, at least at first — those losses are at least capped. The rest of your portfolio should be invested in long-term, diversified investments like low-cost index funds.

Day trading is risky, but it isn’t illegal. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission imposes specific regulations on pattern day traders.

The SEC defines day trading as buying and selling or short-selling and buying the same security — often a stock — on the same day. A pattern day trader, according to the SEC, is a trader who day-trades four or more times within five business days and whose day trades represent more than 6% of their total trading activity during that five-day period

If you fall into that category, you’re required to maintain at least $25,000 in equity in your account. That equity can be in cash or securities.

Note that once a broker has identified you as a pattern day trader due to the above activity, your account will likely be considered a pattern day trading account going forward, even if you don’t continue to meet the definition. If you decide to stop day trading, you’ll want to contact your brokerage and ask that they remove the minimum equity requirement from your account.

This is a loaded question. The SEC requires that you maintain a minimum of $25,000 in equity to engage in pattern day trading, but that equity can be in cash and eligible securities. That’s the minimum amount you need to maintain in your account; on top of that, you also need the money you’ll use to day trade.

But just as important is setting a limit for how much money you dedicate to day trading. Our recommendation is that those dipping into this kind of active trading should risk only a small portion of their account balance — 5% to 10% of your investable assets, at most.

Margin is essentially a loan from your broker. When you open a brokerage account, you’ll be asked if you want a cash account or a margin account.

A margin account allows you to place trades on borrowed money. Often called leverage, trading on margin can magnify your gains — and, in the worst-case scenario, your losses. To read more about margin, how to use it and the risks involved, read our guide to margin trading.

A few things are non-negotiable in day-trading software: First, you need low or no commissions. You might’ve gathered by now that day traders place a lot of trades. Pay close attention to a broker or day trading platform’s fees and commissions. Many brokers will offer no commissions or volume pricing.

Then research and strategy tools are key. Day traders use data to make decisions: You want not only the latest market data, but you also need a platform that lets you quickly create charts, identify price trends and analyze potential trade opportunities.

Finally, prioritize speed. Time is literally money with day trading, so you want a broker and online trading system that is reliable and offers the fastest order execution. Many platforms will publish information about their execution speeds and how they route orders.

Another feature we’d recommend is a broker or trading platform that offers paper, or virtual, trading, so you can practice with simulated trades before the real thing.

If we knew, we’d be very rich. This is the bit of information that every day trader is after.

That said, we can give you some general guidance. There are a few things that make a stock at least a good candidate for a day trader to consider. Generally, those are stocks that are highly liquid, with large trade volume; relatively volatile, so you can buy low and sell high; and known to you (an understanding of the stock’s price history, and how it reacts to various events — earnings reports, economic shifts — is key). Here’s some detailed guidance on how to research stocks.

You can use your online broker or trading software’s stock screener to look for stocks that seem ripe for day trading.