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 VoigtJun 2, 2021

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. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks or securities.

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

$0

Promotion

Up to $5,000

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
SoFi Active Investing
TD Ameritrade
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Promotion

Up to $5,000

cash credit with a qualifying deposit

Promotion

$5 to $1,000

in free stock for users who sign up via mobile app

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Get more smart money moves — straight to your inbox

Become a NerdWallet member, and we’ll send you tailored articles we think you’ll love.

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 cut trading costs to $0 and lowered the minimum investment to $0 for its 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.

TradeStation at a glance

TradeStation
NerdWallet rating 

on TradeStation's website

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.

Commission-free ETFs

All ETFs are commission-free.

Tradable securities

• Stocks.

• Bonds.

• Mutual funds.

• Exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

• Options.

• Futures.

• Cryptocurrencies.

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 website transparency)

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

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. 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

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 a competitive 0.3% per trade for accounts with balances of $100,000 or less, and even less for higher volume crypto traders.

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

How do we review brokers? Here’s our methodology.

NerdWallet’s comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks the largest U.S. brokers by assets under management, along with emerging industry players, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.