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Best Futures Brokers Trading

Understanding futures trading is complicated. That much, most people can agree with, right?

Quick look – Our Favorite Futures Brokers

Here’s an interesting history lesson. Futures trading history is as simple as understanding the concept of farmers planting crops every spring, and then, every fall, farmers harvesting grain and locking in prices early in the season, rather than later. In fact, farmers were originally the ones who taught Wall Street how to trade futures. (No lie!)

Recommeded Broker - For Futures

TradeStation Technologies has all of the necessary tools to trade futures successfully. This Chicago based company has an innovative platform allowing you to trade with confidence. Sign up is free and only takes minutes.

In choosing a broker, serious futures traders have the unenviable task of carefully balancing a conglomeration of requirements: low commissions, intuitive platforms, excellent customer service, up-to-date research options, not to mention charting and screening tools that must rock their world.

In a world where futures trading is already a high-risk endeavor, it’s even more of a risk if a platform is clunky, a trading app can’t keep up, or customer support has no idea what a Fibonacci indicator is. Everything must tick along as smoothly as a Rolex Cellini tracks the seconds in a day.

Here are Benzinga’s suggestions for the best brokers for futures trading.

Best for excellent customer service

 

Fanatical Brokerage Services for Traders

Traders may want to check out Stage 5 for more than just a few reasons, and a quick Google search can show you why. Stage 5 Trading offers competitive commissions and no software fees or minimum transaction fees, in addition to flexible intraday margins.

S5 Trader and S5 Trade Analyzer (which are free) features Smart Strategy Orders, order entry and charting, chart trading, high quality data feed, risk monitoring, real-time and historical performance metrics. Stage 5 Trading also offers CQG, CTS T4, X-Trader, MultiCharts, Sierra Chart, MotiveWave, BookMap and other popular platforms which all offer speed, data stability and consistency, as well as high-end auto execution service. S5 Chat provides a structured community for traders and to add to Stage 5 Trading’s accolades, they also have a good mobile trading option.

Stage 5 Trading’s specialized client services for individual traders are where they really offer up the goods. They’re extremely focused on customers and their needs and offer excellent customer service as well as client only webinars and other educational components.

One strike against Stage 5 Trading is that their actual commissions are not listed on the website; traders must call in order to receive a quote.

 

Best for tech traders

Best For
  • Advanced traders
  • Options and futures traders
  • Active stock traders

TradeStation deserves traders’ attention for several reasons. First of all, TradeStation offers two pricing schedules. In a single-tier account, contracts are $1.50 each. In the multi-tiered plan, commissions are lower (especially for high-volume traders) and follows this pattern:

    • Less than 300 contracts: $1.20 fee
    • 301-1,000 contracts: $1.00
    • 1,001-10,000 contracts: $0.65
    • 10,001-20,000 contracts: $0.45
    • 20,000 contracts: $0.25

TradeStation’s day trade margin is 25% on select contracts and none on most contracts. The account minimum isn’t bad, at $5,000.

TradeStation offers over 80 futures products and offers a comprehensive desktop platform where stocks, options and futures can be traded together. TradeStation offers advanced order types and paper trading features on the desktop as well as a mobile app which offers charting and advanced order types, as well as paper trading features. Software fees (which can be pricey) can be waived with an account of $100,000 in assets or trade 50 option contracts or 5,000 equity shares, or make 10 round-turn futures trades.

One strike against TradeStation is the limited educational components on TradeStation’s website.

Best for professional traders (not beginners!)

Best For
  • Day traders
  • Penny stock traders
  • Forex traders

Interactive Brokers for futures trading offers outstanding, competitive fees: Cost is $0.85 for futures and futures options trading, overall, Interactive Brokers offers the lowest margin rates in the industry, between 1.91% to 1.41% (lowest percentage is for clients with $1 million with Interactive Brokers).

They offer a fully configurable trading platform for knowledgeable traders with more than 50 order types.

As for tech offerings, Interactive Brokers features programmable hot keys and customizable order types; watch lists can have up to 338 columns and are truly customizable. All devices, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Android smartphone and tablets are supported.

Interactive Brokers made our list for best brokerage for online stock trading.

One strike against Interactive Brokers is that to open an account, the minimum deposit is a cumbersome $10,000.

Best mobile platform

Commissions

$6.95

Best For
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors who want portfolio-building advice.

TD Ameritrade requires a low account minimum at $1,500 but it’s $2.25 per contract, per side (plus exchange and regulatory fees). TD Ameritrade’s day trade margin is 25% with a $15,000 minimum with virtual trading capabilities and over 60 futures products.

With Thinkorswim, there’s no question that entering and executing orders are fast, with many advanced features. The ThinkBack feature permits users to backtest strategies and TD Ameritrade’s free platform (Thinkorswim), research and data are all excellent.

The ThinkBack feature permits users to backtest strategies and TD Ameritrade’s free platform (Thinkorswim), research and data are all excellent.

With its 24/7 phone support and free seminars and online education, the technical and mobile options make TD Ameritrade worth checking into.

TD Ameritrade made our list for best brokerage for online stock trading, and for beginners.

One strike against TD Ameritrade is that its high commissions are not ideal for traders searching for a bargain.

Best for active futures traders

Image result for lightspeed trading logoLightspeed Trading offers volume discounts for frequent traders, low pay-per share commissions, direct access to ECNs and exchanges, and traders are also allowed a free practice account.

It’s a reasonable $0.25-$0.60 per contract with no base charge at Lightspeed trading and a monthly software fee of $100 for Lightspeed Trader, $130 for Sterling, $275 for RealTick Pro and $0 for WebTrader.

One strike against Lightspeed Trading is that it’s really only for traders who trade on daily basis and have at least $10,000 for the minimum opening balance.

Best for beginning futures traders

 

Image result for ninjatrader logo

NinjaTrader won the 2016 True Edge Futures Broker of the Year Gold Award and has the only platform powerful enough to run the Diversified Trading System. In addition, NinjaTrader offers extensive data feed options, flexible interface and free demonstration options.  

The minimum opening balance is $1,000 and commissions range from $0.53 to $0.95. Futures traders can get the lowest NinjaTrader commissions by acquiring a platform lifetime license. In addition, the margin requirement is $500 per contract.

One strike against NinjaTrader is that it’s $50 fees for margin calls, and NinjaTrader’s platform isn’t immediately intuitive.

Best for education

Best For
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors seeking commission-free etfs

Charles Schwab’s name seems to be synonymous with the word “education,” and that’s no surprise once you land on Schwab’s web page. After all, “Investment Advice” is a bold, clickable heading directly on the home page.

If you’re a futures trader, Schwab Trading Insights will help you, and there’s a plethora of opportunities to learn more on Schwab’s active trader futures section.

The investment research opportunities through Schwab are also excellent. Customers have access to free stock reports from S&P Capital IQ, Thomson Reuters, Credit Suisse, and more. You can also access Schwab’s Equity Ratings, which cover approximately 3,000 U.S. stocks and grade them on an A, B, C, D, and F scale.

Read Benzinga’s Charles Schwab review.

One strike against Charles Schwab is that the firm’s margin rates are notably high.

 

Best for most futures options

Best For
  • Mobile traders
  • Traders looking for research and data
  • Investors looking for retirement planning guidance

E-Trade offers over 200 futures products, and that’s why we’ve put it in the category of myriad options available to investors.

In addition, if you’d like to trade futures with E-Trade, it will cost you $1.50 per contract. E-Trade is no stranger to pro-level tools and top-notch platforms.

You’ll feel right at home with research capabilities, too: E-Trade Futures Research Center is powered by the CME Group—one of the world’s largest futures exchanges.

Whether you’re into metals, currencies or more, E-Trade can offer a multitude of options for you.

Check out Benzinga’s full E-Trade review.

One strike against E-Trade is that you’ll need at least $10,000 for the minimum opening balance, a hefty amount compared to other investment companies.

What matters most?

Ultimately, depending on the trader, the broker characteristic that matters to one trader may matter more or less to another. For example, each trader’s preference on a platform can vary widely; not every trader will agree on what he or she would like to see on a broker’s platform. (Remember, not every painter prefers the same paintbrush, and the same goes for individual traders. Some don’t need all the bells and whistles.)

Perhaps one thing that raises the most red flags are those pesky commissions and margin fees. It might be reckless to choose a broker just because it’s the cheapest, but, boy, is it easy to overpay, and obviously, it’s important to figure out on the front end exactly how much money will eke out during each trade.

And finally, customer service, also highly individualistic (again, some traders don’t care whether they receive good customer service), could make or break an experience with that particular broker.

Compare futures brokers

Broker Best For Commissions Account Minimum Choose your platform
TradeStation
  • Advanced traders
  • Options and futures traders
  • Active stock traders
Flat-fee pricing: $5 per trade, 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 $5,000 for individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
Get started securely through TradeStation's website
1 Minute Review

Founded in 1982 and headquartered in Plantation, Florida, Trade Station is apt for sophisticated traders. The firm offers free premium tools and real time data, charging no fees for software. ‘Amazing infrastructure’ and ‘innovative technology’ are the firm’s two selling points, which promise exceptional speed and reliability - a sine-qua-non for active and advanced traders. The firm also offers customized trading solutions for both international and domestic institutions.

Pros
  • Advanced trading platform
  • Vast amount of historical data that allows back-testing of trading ideas
  • Availability of many third-party add-ons
Cons
  • Less active traders are disadvantaged
  • No commission-free ETFs
Current Promotion

Open an account and save 20% on commissions.

Interactive Brokers
  • Day traders
  • Penny stock traders
  • Forex traders
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available $10,000 $5,000 for IRAs, $3,000 for clients 25 or younger
Get started securely through Interactive Brokers's website
1 Minute Review

If you’ve got $10,000 and you consider yourself a sure-footed professional trader, Interactive Brokers might a major possibility for you, particularly if you’re adept at navigating tricky trading platforms (can you say 124 option indicators?) or have done more than just dipped your toe a “coupla times” into the complex world of international markets.

Pros
  • Interactive Brokers offers the lowest margin rates in the industry
  • Low pay-per-share commissions on stock trades (up to 1,000 shares) and on options trades (up to 20 contracts)
  • Vast order types options for professional traders
Cons
  • It’s a hefty $10,000 minimum to open an account
  • Account fee charges (including annual, transfer, closing and inactivity fees) and complex trading platform, which can be difficult for beginners
Current Promotion

Lower minimum activity requirements ($3/month) and opening account minimum requirement ($3,000) for clients 25 and younger.

TD Ameritrade
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors who want portfolio-building advice.
$6.95 $0
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade's website
1 Minute Review

This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.

Pros
  • Superior technology
  • No account minimum balance
  • Excellent customer support
  • Premier data and news partnerships
Cons
  • Slightly higher commissions
  • Can be for more advanced users
Current Promotion

Trade commission–free for 90 days & get up to $2500

eTrade
  • Mobile traders
  • Traders looking for research and data
  • Investors looking for retirement planning guidance
$6.95 for fewer than 30 trades/quarter. $0
Get started securely through eTrade's website
1 Minute Review

E-Trade is best known for its user-friendly browser, desktop and mobile trading platforms and its extensive research and educational information. E-Trade may not have the lowest commissions compared to discount online brokers, but customers certainly get their money’s worth from E-Trade’s comprehensive offerings.

Pros
  • Extensive resources
  • Full banking services
  • Easy-to-use platforms
Cons
  • Limited access to ETrade Pro
  • Higher commissions than discount brokers
Current Promotion

60 days of commission-free trades with deposit of $10,000 or more

Charles Schwab
  • Beginner investors
  • Advanced traders
  • Investors seeking commission-free etfs
$4.95 $1,000 waived if you set up an automatic monthly transfer of $100 through direct deposit
Get started securely through Charles Schwab's website
1 Minute Review

Charles Schwab is known for high quality competitive trading platforms, a large selection of commission-free exchange traded funds and no-transaction-fee mutual funds. Consistently winning awards with J.D Power, Fortune, and Inventors Business Daily, Charles Schwab is praised for its heritage of innovation, modern wealth management capabilities and customer service.

Pros
  • $4.95 standard trade commissions
  • Powerful research tools
  • Low cost index funds (no minimums)
  • Excellent customer service
Cons
  • $1,000 minimum balance
  • No Forex
Current Promotion

$100 referral award for first-time clients