Editorial Review

TradeStation Review 2020: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

TradeStation is a top pick for active traders due to a high-powered trading platform, $0 trade commissions and a wide range of tradable securities, including cryptocurrencies.

Kevin VoigtJune 26, 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.

Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: TradeStation is the gold standard for advanced, active traders, but its new offering of $0 trades is an attempt to appeal to casual investors.

TradeStation

on TradeStation's website

on TradeStation's website

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Pros & Cons

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.

Compare to Similar Brokers

TradeStation
Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite
You Invest by J.P.Morgan
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $2,500

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Promotion

None

No promotion available at this time

Promotion

Up to $725

when you open and fund a You Invest Trade account with qualifying new money

Full Review

TradeStation is a top-notch choice for serious investors seeking a truly professional-level trading experience. In fact, at one time TradeStation catered solely to professional brokers and money managers. Now, regular investors have access to the firm’s high-octane tools, especially after the company recently cut trading costs to $0 and lowered the minimum investment to $0 for its new TS GO offering.

Less attractive to new investors will be the broker's upgraded TS Select plan, which requires a $2,000 initial investment but gives access to the broker's full suite of tools, and free trades from the powerful TradeStation 10 Desktop platform.

TradeStation is best for:

  • Advanced and active traders.

  • Stock, options and futures traders.

  • Cryptocurrency trading.

Where TradeStation shines

Commission-free trades: With the introduction of its TS GO and TS Select plans, TradeStation users now have commission-free trades on stocks, options and exchange-traded funds on TradeStation’s web and mobile-based platforms. One catch: TS GO users may download and use TradeStation’s marquee TradeStation 10 Desktop platform, but any trades from that platform costs $10 per trade.

TS Select customers have full access to tools and commission-free trades, plus slightly reduced costs for options and futures contracts. TS Select requires a $2,000 minimum balance, and charges slightly higher fees for options and futures contracts.

Worth noting: Free trades for TS GO and TS Select are limited to 10,000 shares per trade; higher volume traders can choose from two additional pricing plans. Here's a complete overview of TradeStation's pricing:

  • TS GO: Free trades when using TradeStation's mobile or web-based trading platforms. Options trades are $0.50 per contract.

  • TS Select: TradeStation's standard account, which includes full access and free trades through TradeStation's desktop platform and requires a $2,000 minimum account balance. Options trades for TS Select accounts are $0.60 per contract.

  • Per-share and unbundled pricing: High-volume traders can opt for per-share/per-contract commissions or unbundled pricing:

Commission per share

Number of shares executed per month

Minimum commission per trade

$0.01

Up to 100,000

$1.00

$0.007

100,000 to 1 million

$0.70

$0.005

1 million to 3 million

$0.50

$0.003

3 million to 5 million

$0.50

$0.002

More than 5 million

$0.50

Platform and trading tools: TradeStation is best known for its impressive desktop platform, available to TS Select clients. It offers direct-market access, automatic trade execution and tools for customers to design, test, monitor and automate their custom trading strategies for stocks, options and futures. Users can customize their desktop, using a broad palette of colors to better highlight the most relevant data. Investors can test-drive new strategies in real time before putting actual money on the line with the TradeStation Simulator. (Other brokers also smartly offer virtual stock trading simulators for existing and potential customers to learn the ropes.) Options investors will appreciate free access to the OptionStation Pro platform. With its preview mode, mobile-app users can create custom watch lists, and view charts and trends without opening an account.

Traders who are not brokerage clients can subscribe to use TradeStation tools: Non-professional traders pay $99 per month, while professional traders are charged $199 per month.

Research: For access to advanced, comprehensive research, TradeStation earns high marks. More than 270 indicators are included with the TradeStation 10 platform (and many more can be downloaded or created). Investors can back-test strategies using historical market data that includes more than 90 years of daily data and decades of intraday data. Notifications alert users to upcoming earnings announcements or important market moves based on their positions.

Education and community: Educational resources at TradeStation are plentiful, with free video tutorials, articles and e-books available at TradeStation University and daily pre-market briefings and trader interviews at TradeStation Labs. TradeStation Today features real-time news, relevant tutorials and a “workspaces” section that shows how experts organize and use the platform’s array of tools. For a helping hand or a second opinion, there’s the TradeStation Trader Wiki (for tips and how-tos from other users) and discussion forums where customers can mingle with a community of similarly committed investors and bat around trading strategies and investment ideas.

Cryptocurrency trading: TradeStation Crypto was launched in November 2019 and allows users to trade Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and Ripple (XRP). TradeStation charges 1% per trade for accounts with balances of $100,000 or less, but through March 2020 the brokerage is offering crypto trades for a discounted 0.5% commission.

Where TradeStation falls short

Mutual funds: TradeStation offers a lot of funds (more than 2,000), but none of them are no-transaction-fee funds, and fund research is also thin. However, the $14.95 mutual fund commission is in line with other mainstream brokers.

Add-on fees: Access to many of TradeStation's features requires an additional financial outlay or subscription for those who do not meet certain account or trading minimums.

Inactivity fee: TradeStation charges an annual inactivity fee of $50 for accounts that don't maintain an average end-of-month equity balance of $2,000 or execute at least five trades during the 12-month period following the anniversary of when the account was first funded.

Potential commission confusion: TradeStation offers a wide variety of pricing plans as noted above, but it can be difficult to navigate the company's pricing and understand what you'll pay.

Is TradeStation right for you?

With its three-plus decades of serving brokers, hedge funds and institutional investors — clients who are sticklers for accuracy, fast trade execution and the ability to customize charting tools to the nth degree — TradeStation has become the gold standard among hardcore traders. Active traders will appreciate the platform’s recent reboot and the fact that they have the same trading firepower at their fingertips as the pros.

Dayana Yochim contributed to this review.

on TradeStation's website