Best Online Trading Platforms for Day Trading

Brokers, Investing

NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions. The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent.

We spent over 300 hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. And to help you find the one that’s best for you, we’ve highlighted their pros, cons and current offers.

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.

NerdWallet’s top online trading platforms for day trading

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$6.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
$100-$600 in cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

TD Ameritrade makes up for higher-than-average trading commissions with better-than-average service, research and trading tools that will make everyone from beginner investors to active traders happy.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Large investment selection.
  • Free research.
  • High-quality trading platforms.
  • No account minimum.
  • Good customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commission.
  • Costly broker-assisted trades.
  • High short-term ETF trading fee.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$5
per trade
Account minimum
$5K
Promotion
20%savings on commissions

The bottom line

TradeStation is the gold standard among active stock, options and futures investors who rely on the broker’s high-octane trading platform, reams of research and sophisticated analytical tools. The firm offers three commission plans — flat-fee, per share/per contract and unbundled pricing plan (the latter two which will be attractive to active traders). The higher account minimum and lack of commission-free ETFs and mutual funds can be a turnoff to some investors.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • High-quality trading platforms
  • Comprehensive research
  • Low commissions
  • Advanced tools
  • Active trader community

Cons

  • No commission-free ETFs
  • Minimum balance requirement for active trading platform
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$0.005
per share
Account minimum
$10K
Promotion
None available

The bottom line

Interactive Brokers is a strong option for advanced, frequent traders: The broker offers international trade capabilities, low commissions and a quality trading platform. New traders might be turned off by inactivity fees, high balance requirements and a lack of educational resources.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low commissions
  • Quality trading platform
  • Advanced tools
  • Low margin rates
  • Wide investment selection

Cons

  • Inactivity fees
  • High minimum balance requirement
  • Complex pricing
  • Minimal educational resources
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$1K
Promotion
$100cash bonus with a qualifying deposit

The bottom line

Charles Schwab has earned its strong reputation: The broker offers high-quality customer service, two robust trading platforms and a wide selection of commission-free ETFs and no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • No inactivity fees.
  • Two platforms with no minimum or fees.
  • Above-average mobile app.
  • Extensive research.
  • Strong customer support.

Cons

  • Higher trade commissions.
  • Higher account minimum.
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$4.95
per trade
Account minimum
$0
Promotion
50commission-free trades

The bottom line

OptionsXpress expertly caters to its target audience — options, futures and stock traders — with advanced tools, reasonable commissions and resources for investors both at its website and at Charles Schwab’s branches.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Low account minimum
  • Advanced trading tools
  • Strong educational resources

Cons

  • No volume trading discounts
Read full review

NerdWallet rating
Fees
$3
per trade
Account minimum
$500
Promotion
Noneno promotion available at this time

The bottom line

EOption’s provides an efficient, no-frills platform for active investors who prioritize low costs over a fancy platform. The savings can be significant for advanced stock and options traders who have other sources for the research and data they need.

Show pros & cons

Pros

  • Deep discount commissions
  • Low margin rates
  • Can serve international investors

Cons

  • Very basic trading platform
  • Limited data and research
Read full review


Best platforms for day trading: summary

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing

Interactive Brokers

Overall
+
Low margin rates
Discounts for frequent traders; max margin rate is benchmark +1.5%
$0.005
per share;
min. $1, max. 0.5% of trade value
Lower min. activity and balance limits for clients ≤25
$10,000
($5,000 for IRAs)

TD Ameritrade

Overall
+
Trading Platform
Top research; two powerful trade platforms; educational content
$6.95
per trade
$100 to $600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab
Trading Platform
Extensive research; two trading platforms
$4.95
per trade
$100 referral award for first-time clients
$1,000

OptionsXpress

OptionsXpress
Options trading
Large selection; discounts for high-volume traders
$4.95
base + $0.65 per contract
50 commission-free trades with deposit of $5,000 or more
$0

TradeStation

TradeStation
Options trading
Advanced research and tools, speedy execution
$5 base + $0.50/contract; volume discounts available
20% off trade commissions
$5,000

EOption

Low margin rates
Maximum margin rate of 5.25%
$3.00
per trade
None
$500

Learn more about day trading before diving in

What is day trading?

Day trading is buying and selling stocks within a short time frame, often inside a day. The goal is to capitalize on stocks with rapid and frequent price fluctuations. Day traders often buy a stock they expect to rise in price, or short-sell a stock they expect to fall.

Day trading isn’t for the faint of heart — it magnifies all the inherent risks of investing — and should be used as a secondary strategy, after you’ve invested for long-term goals like retirement. To learn more, read our primer on day trading.

How much money do you need to day trade?

The SEC requires that pattern day traders maintain at least $25,000 in equity in their accounts. Under the SEC rules, you’re a pattern day trader if you day-trade four or more times within five business days and the day trades represent more than 6% of your total trading activity in that same five-day period. Day trading, defined by the SEC, is buying and selling or short-selling and buying the same security on the same day.

In our view, that means you should have an awful lot of money to engage in day trading, because that $25,000 should represent just a small piece of your overall investment portfolio — the bulk of which should be invested for the long term.

What’s the safest way to day trade?

Our guide to how to day trade gets into advice for minimizing risk, but as a quick synopsis: Rule No. 1 is only put up money you wouldn’t mind parting with. In other words, treat day trading like gambling, not long-term investing.

Beyond that, be sure to do your research before you jump in, and establish an exit plan. It’s easy to make rash decisions when your positions start going bad, so setting rational strategies in advance can help curtail emotional reactions.

How do you learn how to day trade?

Practice. Many brokers offer virtual trading accounts that essentially let you test the waters with Monopoly money. It’s a great way to get started without the risk.

We’ve put together a list of virtual trading platforms, along with more information about how these work. We highly recommend testing out your trades on a virtual platform before putting your money on the line.

What securities are best suited for day trading?

Most day traders trade stocks, though you can day trade bonds, currencies or commodities, too. Generally, you want to look for securities that are:

  • Highly liquid, with large trade volume.
  • Relatively volatile. You want frequent price changes, which allows you to make a profit quickly.
  • Known to you. An understanding of the stock’s price history, and how it reacts to various events — earnings reports, economic shifts — is key. Many day traders trade only a few specific stocks, developing expertise in those companies and narrowing their focus.
  • Newsworthy. Coverage of a stock will trigger people to buy or sell it. As a day trader, you’ll want to follow the news to find trade ideas.

» Don’t think day trading is for you? Here are other suggestions for how to invest.

Updated Sept. 22, 2017.

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