Contributor, Benzinga
Updated: August 2, 2022

If you want to start trading futures or switch brokers, visit NinjaTrader.

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!)

In choosing a broker, serious futures traders must balance low commissions, intuitive platforms, excellent customer service and up-to-date research options. Traders also need charting and screening tools to guide decision-making.

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.

Start with our guide to find an online futures brokers platform to make your trading experience seamless.

Best Futures Brokers

1. NinjaTrader

2021-Fintech-Awards-Winner-Badge-4
  • NinjaTrader
    More Details
    Best For
    Advanced Futures Trading
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through NinjaTrader's website
    More Details

NinjaTrader has an amazing trading platform for those just beginning their trading careers as well as for advanced traders. Its extensive collection of technical analysis tools is perfect for beginners utilizing a demo account, and it even offers a 2-week free trial when you register.

If you want to use NinjaTraders software, you can get it for free when you fund a brokerage account or you can lease the software. You will get access to charts, simulated trading, and market analysis, the essentials for futures trading, even if you get the software for free.

2. Tickmill

  • Tickmill
    Best For
    Low Deposit Requirement
    Overall Rating
    securely through Tickmill's website

Tickmill is a unique trading platform that allows you to invest in oil and indices futures and a host of other assets like forex, precious metals, etc. When you come to Tickmill to invest in futures, register for a Pro or Classic account with a minimum deposit of 100 USD/GBP/EUR. You must verify your identity and fund the account, and that gives you access to MT4 or MT5, allowing you to access all the futures you prefer to use in your portfolio.

Plus, Tickmill gives you a $30 bonus just for signing up. You can also earn cash rebates on your trading, or you can sign up to earn prizes in the Tickmill IB contest as you fill your portfolio with futures and other assets.

3. Tradovate

2021-Fintech-Awards-Listmaker-Badge-4
  • Tradovate
    More Details
    Best For
    High-volume Traders
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Tradovate's website
    More Details

Are you an active futures trader? Look no further than Tradovate. Tradovate offers a Netflix-like approach to commission-free trading and cloud-based solutions. You’ll get an integrated experience you can carry seamlessly across any device whenever you want it. 

Tradovate is the very 1st online futures and options brokerage to combine next-generation technology with flat rate membership pricing. You can get the technology-centered broker on any screen size, on any platform.

4. Discount Trading

  • Trading DIscount
    More Details
    Best For
    High Volume Traders
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Trading DIscount's website
    More Details

Futures traders looking for volume discounts have plenty of options, but few make trading as simple and affordable as Discount Trading. For starters, Discount Trading doesn’t just offer affordable commissions - they have some of the cheapest trading fees of any futures broker currently on the market!

If you make only a single futures trade each month, your commission will be a mere 49 cents per side. However, if you’re an active trader flipping more than 50,000 contracts per month, your commission will be just 19 cents.

5. Optimus Futures

  • Optimus Futures
    More Details
    Best For
    Trading Micro Futures
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Optimus Futures's website
    More Details

Optimus Futures is a discount futures broker geared towards both beginner and experienced traders alike.

With low account minimums, fast account approvals and easy funding and withdrawals, Optimus Futures is an ideal solution for anyone interested in trading CME Group’s micro futures with free platforms and low margins. Optimus customers also get access to dedicated staff to address your trading needs at every step, from initial account application and platform set-up to providing on-going education and resources to help you learn more about the futures markets via guides, videos, podcasts, and articles.

6. Generic Trade

  • Generic Trade
    More Details
    Best For
    Early Investors
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Generic Trade's website
    More Details

Generic Trade has some of the lowest commission fees of any futures traders at a maximum of $0.59 per trade. Generic Trade prides themselves on transparency and keeps their prices lower than other futures brokers by eliminating the need for salespeople and brokers.

The firm believes modern traders already have such a wealth of information at their disposal they mainly need a firm to execute their trades at the lowest cost. It also doesn't have minimum account balances and volume requirements, making it assessable to most traders.

7. Tradestation

2021-Fintech-Awards-Listmaker-Badge-4
  • TradeStation – Online Broker – ONL-TRA-INVE-2737
    More Details
    Best For
    Futures Trading
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through TradeStation – Online Broker – ONL-TRA-INVE-2737's website
    More Details

TradeStation offers 2 distinct account types: its basic TS GO account aimed at new trades and its more in-depth TS Select account aimed at more advanced traders looking for a comprehensive set of tools and research options.

There’s no minimum account balance required to open a TS GO account. TS Select accounts require a $2,000 minimum deposit.

8. Interactive Brokers

  • IBKR Futures
    More Details
    Best For
    Trading Futures 24/7
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through IBKR Futures's website
    More Details

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% (the lowest percentage is for clients with $1 million with Interactive Brokers). It offers a fully-configurable trading platform for knowledgeable traders with more than 50 order types.

IBKR Futures Pricing:

  • IBKR Lite: $0.85 per contract
  • IBKR Pro: $0.85 per contract; tiered volume discount available

9. TD Ameritrade

  • TD Ameritrade
    More Details
    Best For
    Options Trading
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through TD Ameritrade's website
    More Details

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.

10. Charles Schwab

  • Charles Schwab
    More Details
    Best For
    Fund Investing
    Overall Rating
    Read Review
    securely through Charles Schwab's website
    More Details

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.

What Matters Most?

Ultimately, depending on the trader, the futures 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. It’s important to figure out on the front end exactly how much money will eke out during each trade.

And finally, customer service can make or break an experience with that particular broker. Determine your personal priorities, and use our guide to find the best futures brokers platform for you.

Want to learn more? Check out Benzinga’s guides on how to trade futureshow to buy oil futures and how to start online gold trading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q
Can you trade futures in a cash account?
A

Futures trading requires the use of margin, so you typically can’t trade futures in a cash account. If you invest using options, then cash accounts don’t make options trading impossible. There are only a limited number of options-related strategies you can use with a cash account.

Q
Can you day trade futures?
A

A: You must have a sufficient amount of capital to start day trading futures. You must also come to terms with the fact you may lose that capital. Some futures brokers require a $10,000 minimum deposit to start day trading futures.

Day traders often buy large numbers of shares and wait for a small move before they sell. And there is a lot of risk in day trading.

It may be best to practice with a demo account. A futures demo account allows you to make trades and track how they would pan out without the risk of losing (or gaining) any real money.