TradeStation Review 2021: 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 VoigtOct 12, 2021

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Our Take

4.0

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

$500

Promotion

$50 - $5,000

cash credit with a minimum deposit of $5,000

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
Merrill Edge
SoFi Active Investing
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$500

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

$50 - $5,000

cash credit with a minimum deposit of $5,000

Promotion

Up to $600

when you invest in a new Merrill Edge® Self-Directed account.

Promotion

$5 to $1,000

in free stock for users who sign up via mobile app

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Full Review

Where TradeStation shines

Professional trading experience: 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 cut trading costs to $0 and lowered the minimum investment to $0 for its TS GO offering.

Advanced options: More attractive to experienced investors will be the broker's 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.

Where TradeStation falls short

Mutual funds: TradeStation offers more than 2,000 funds, but lacks no-transaction-fee funds.

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. TradeStation also charges an annual inactivity fee of $50 for accounts that don't maintain certain balance or trade minimums.

TradeStation is best for:

  • Advanced and active traders.

  • Stock, options and futures traders.

  • Cryptocurrency trading.

TradeStation at a glance

Account minimum

  • TS GO: $0.

  • TS Select: $2,000.

Stock trading costs

TS GO and TS Select: $0 per trade (up to 10,000 shares). Per-share pricing: $0.006-$0.01 per share ($1 minimum per trade) based on trading volume. Unbundled pricing: $0.002-$0.01 per share ($0.50-$1 minimum) based on trading volume.

Options trades

TS GO: No base commission; $0.50 per contract. TS Select: No base commission; $0.60 per contract. Per-contract pricing: $1 per option contract (one contract minimum).

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

• $35 IRA annual account fee; $50 IRA account termination fee.

• $125 outgoing account transfer fee; $50 inactivity fee.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

No no-transaction-fee mutual funds; fund commissions are $14.95.

Tradable securities

• Stocks.

• Bonds.

• Mutual funds.

• Exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

• Options.

• Futures.

• Cryptocurrencies.

Crypto offering

TradeStation Crypto offers eight cryptocurrencies for trade and five crypto-to-crypto trading pairs.

Trading platform

Extensive desktop platform; similar capabilities available on web trading platform. TS GO clients have limited access to online tools.

Mobile app

Offers core features of desktop platform. Available on iOS and Android.

Research and data

Comprehensive lineup of free educational resources, research and tools. Many premium tools only available for TS Select clients.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website).

Phone, email, live chat available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.

More details about TradeStation's ratings

Account minimum: 5 out of 5 stars

TradeStation's account minimum is $0 for TS Go. TS Select requires a $2,000 minimum balance.

Stock trading costs: 5 out of 5 stars

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 cost $10 per trade.

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.

  • Per-share and unbundled pricing: High-volume traders can opt for per-share/per-contract commissions or unbundled pricing. For traders who frequently trade in small blocks, TradeStation offers $0.01 per share for the first 500 shares, and $0.006 for every share after per trade. There is a $1 minimum charge per trade.

For higher volume traders, TradeStation offers this unbundled pricing plan:

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

Options trades: 5 out of 5 stars

Options trades are commission-free, but they still carry a contract charge, which is $0.50 per contract. For TS Select, costs rise to $0.60 per contract. Per-contract pricing is $1 per option contract (one contract minimum).

Account fees: 2 out of 5 stars

TradeStation charges $125 for outgoing account transfers; for IRAs, TradeStation charges a  $35 annual account fee and a $50 IRA account termination fee. TradeStation also 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.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: 1 out of 5 stars

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

Tradable securities available: 4 out of 5 stars

TradeStation allows users to trade stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, options and futures, as well as some select cryptocurrencies. Forex traders, however, need to look elsewhere.

Crypto offering: 5 out of 5 stars

Through its affiliate, TradeStation Crypto, users can sell and trade eight cryptocurrencies and five crypto-to-crypto trading pairs. Users also have the option to use personal crypto wallets to take their crypto off the platform, giving it a relatively high rating on our roundup of the best crypto exchanges and platforms, which compares TradeStation against pure-play crypto brokers such as Gemini and Coinbase.

Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars

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.

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.

Mobile app: 5 out of 5 stars

TradeStation has mobile apps available for iOS and Android, both highly rated by users.

Research and data: 5 out of 5 stars

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.

TradeStation has a wide assortment of free data and analytical tools, such as TriggerCharts EcoTrak, which provides data on underlying health of the economic environment when considering trades, or TAS Market Map, which shows timeframe charts for stock, ETFs, commodity futures and other indicators.

The TradeStation app store has dozens of other analytic tools available for monthly subscription prices ranging from $1 to $299 per month.

Customer support and educational tools: 3.5 out of 5 stars

TradeStation’s customer support is available by phone, email and live chat Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.

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.

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.

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on TradeStation's website

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