Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 19, 2021

If you compare Interactive Brokers and TradeStation side by side, you’ll note several distinct similarities. But if you dig in, you’ll find some nuanced differences, especially between tradable assets, platform interface and educational offerings.

Overview: TradeStation vs. Interactive Brokers

Who’s Interactive Brokers for?

If you’ve been on the lookout for a convenient forex trading partner, Interactive Brokers could be a match for you, particularly if you don’t care for facilitated interfaces and want to stick to a sophisticated trading style.

Its rich set of advanced trading tools and comprehensive charting makes Interactive Brokers most suitable for advanced traders.

Read Benzinga's full Interactive Brokers Review

Who’s TradeStation for?

TradeStation is also suitable for beginner and advanced traders: stock, options and futures traders, that is. (TradeStation doesn’t offer forex trading.) The broker caters to active traders. In fact, TradeStation may not be your best fit if you lack an intense trading style.

Read Benzinga's full TradeStation Review

Interactive Brokers vs. Tradestation: Platform and Tools

What Interactive Brokers Offers

You can trade on all types of devices with Interactive Brokers. It offers web-based, desktop, and mobile trading platforms.

Interactive Brokers across all devices. Source: Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers across all devices. Source: Interactive Brokers

  • Interactive Brokers' desktop platform is Trader Workstation (TWS), which is most suitable for professional traders who are comfortable using the platform’s advanced multitasking features.
  • The web-based platform of Interactive Brokers, WebTrader, is more simple. Less-experienced traders can easily adapt to its basic technical elements like flexible charts and screeners.
  • The mobile trading platform of Interactive Brokers is intentionally a bit more basic because mobile devices do not have big screens to check out a dozen resources all at once.

What TradeStation Offers

TradeStation’s trading platforms include web browsers, desktop and mobile devices for trading no matter where you’re located.

TradeStation on each device. Source: TradeStation
TradeStation on each device. Source: TradeStation

The flexible, customizable desktop platform of TradeStation is the most comprehensive in terms of the resources it offers. The platform includes some high-quality features, which means it might look a bit complicated to beginners, but if you have the necessary trading proficiency, it shouldn't be a challenge. The desktop platform offers fast order execution and cutting-edge trading tools, advanced charting tools, high-quality market research, tools for managing your orders and strategy automation features.

If the desktop platform doesn’t float your boat, the web-based platform simply requires an internet connection for fast order execution. TradeStation’s web platform streams market data in real time to keep you up to date every minute.

TradeStation’s mobile app platform is basic but functional. It connects to your account and lets you monitor and manage your trades in real time. You can do the basic functions of a platform to place, modify or close orders.

Bottom Line

Interactive Brokers’ platform is so comprehensive that the average trader might find it too comprehensive. TradeStation, on the other hand, offers an advanced platform but it’s structured in a more user-friendly way.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Research Offerings

What Interactive Brokers Offers

Interactive Brokers’ research offerings may not be as robust compared to other brokers, yet it includes some helpful basic insights, including news releases from Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters.

At the same time, Interactive Brokers supplies high-quality analysis from Morningstar and Zacks Investment Research. You can also integrate a third party provider like Benzinga to your platform, but some sources require a paid subscription.

What TradeStation Offers

One of the reasons TradeStation is a research powerhouse TradeStation is because of its huge database of historical data.

TradeStation's educational resources. Source: TradeStation
TradeStation's educational resources. Source: TradeStation

Other research features include analysis and market insights which come from professional analysts and traders. Less-experienced traders can benefit from a comprehensive education suite, and if you have trouble assimilating with the TradeStation platform, TradeStation will supply you with resources about how to utilize your trading resources.

Bottom Line

Neither firm offers wow-factor market research, yet can supply you with the most important data concerning the markets. Interactive Brokers includes research from powerful sources but TradeStation seems to offer more research diversification.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Commission and Fees

Interactive Brokers’ Fees

Stocks, ETFs, Warrants

  • Fixed Commission - $0.005 / share (minimum $1)
TieredPer-share commission
Shares volume / monthStocks, Warrants, ETFs, ETPsOrder minOrder max
300,000 or less$ .0035$ .351% * trade
300,001 to 3,000,000$ .002$ .351% * trade
3,000,001 to 20,000,000$ .0015$ .351% * trade
20,000,001 to 100,000,000$ .001$ .351% * trade
More than 100,000,000$ .0005$ .351% * trade


Monthly volumeContract commissionOrder min
10,000 or less
A premium of less than $0.05 $ .25$1
A premium equal to or more than $0.05 $ .5$1
A premium of less than $ .1$ .7$1
10,001 to 50,000
A premium of less than $0.05 $ .25$1
A premium equal to or more than $0.05 $ .5$1
50,001 to 100,000
All premiums$ .25$1
Equal to or more than 100,001
All premiums$ .15$1

FOP and Futures

  • Fixed comission - From $0.15 / contract
Contracts amountTiered commission / contract
Smaller or equal to 1,000$0.85
1,001 to 10,000$0.65
10,001 to 20,000$0.45
Higher than 20,000$0.25


Monthly volumeCommission (* Trade Value)Order min
Smaller or equal to $1,000,000,0000.2 basis point$2
$1,000,000,001 to 2,000,000,0000.15 basis point$1.50
$2,000,000,0001 to 5,000,000,0000.1 basis point$1.25
Higher than $5,000,000,0000.08 basis point$1

Mutual funds

Type of feeCost
Commission-free ETFs$0
Transaction fee of Interactive BrokersLesser of 3% * trade value / $14.95 per transaction

Margin rates

100,000 or lower3.9% (benchmark rate + 1.5%)
100,000.01 to 1,000,0003.4% (benchmark rate + 1%)
1,000,000.01 to 3,000,0002.9% (benchmark rate + 0.5%)
3,000,000.01 to 200,000,0002.7% (benchmarke rate + 0.3%)
200,000,000.01 and higher2.7% (benchmark rate + 0.3%)*

*A 1% surcharge might occur based on the spread if financing is not pre-arranged.

TradeStation's Fees

TradeStation offers flexible pricing solutions:

Per trade Per contract (small volume)Per contract  (high volume)
Stocks$5 per trade$0.01 per shareAs low as $0.002 per share
ETFs$5 per trade$0.01 per shareAs low as $0.002 per share
Options$5 + $0.50$1 per contractN/A


  • $1.5 per contract per side
  • Tiered plan
Per contract, per side$0.25$0.45$0.65$1$1.20
Monthly contractsMore than 20,00010,001 to 20,0001,001 to 10,000301 to


Less than 300

Mutual funds

  • $14.95 per trade


  • $14.95 per trade

Margin rates

$2,000,000 and more3.5%
$500,000 to $1,999,9995.50%
$50,000 to $499,9998.75%
$49,999 and less9.5%

Bottom Line

Both companies offer flexible price plans. However, TradeStation is ultra-advantageous for traders who actively trade large amounts. You can go as low as $0.002 per share, only 20% of a penny.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Security

What Interactive Brokers Offers

Interactive Brokers is a U.S. broker and follows the domestic law for financial regulation. Undoubtedly, the United States’ regulations are among the strongest in the world.

One of the main signs of reliability is that Interactive Brokers is publicly traded on a stock exchange. Interactive Brokers is also a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The SIPC guarantees up to $250,000 of your funds if a broker goes bankrupt. Interactive Brokers also has an additional insurance program in which clients can protect funds up to $2.5 million.

What TradeStation Offers

TradeStation is also U.S. broker, which indicates overall higher security. The company was listed on Nasdaq until 2011 until it was acquired by the Japanese Monex Group, which is listed on the Japanese stock market. TradeStation is also a member of FINRA and SIPC.

Its fund protection in case of bankruptcy goes up to $500,000. TradeStation offers extra insurance to its clients that comes from Lloyd’s of London and covers up to $24.5 million and an aggregate firm limit of $300 million.

Bottom Line

Clients’ security is both companies’ main priority. Although insurance amounts under SIPC and extra insurance differ, there are alternatives, and any trader can take advantage.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Customer Support

What Interactive Brokers Offers

Interactive Brokers has different customer support channels for its clients and potential clients. You can reach Interactive Brokers via live chat and email every business day, and that includes 24/7 email support.

What TradeStation Offers

TradeStation's customer support also comes through live chat, email, and phone. TradeStation customer support is available during business hours with small exceptions of certain important structures such as the technical department, which is also available on Sunday.

Bottom Line

Interactive Brokers' support is available only during business days via chat and phone, but during weekends, you’re covered via email support. TradeStation doesn't have a department available 24/7 or 24/5, and most of its departments are only open during business hours.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Tradable Asset Classes

What Interactive Brokers Offers

Interactive Brokers offers a wide variety of tradable assets, and include pretty much all the financial assets a trader needs to cover the different portfolio classes. You can trade forex, metals, stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, futures, options and bonds.

What TradeStation Offers

TradeStation also has a wide set of tradable assets. The securities available for trading include stocks, options, futures, ETFs, mutual funds and bonds. TradeStation doesn't offer commission-free ETFs.

Bottom Line

Interactive Brokers offers more tradable financial assets. Interactive Brokers beats TradeStation in three fields:

  • Forex
  • Metals
  • Commission-free ETFs

Note that the forex market is the largest worldwide market, which means that TradeStation is unsuitable for nearly half the traders around the world.

Interactive Brokers vs. TradeStation: Ease of Use

What Interactive Brokers Offers

Interactive Brokers is not an easy trading solution. Decent training in trading is not enough to utilize its TWS platform in a healthy way. Also, its platform visualizes better on multiple screens; a 13-inch monitor laptop is not the best way to approach TWS.

Although Interactive Brokers offers a lighter trading solution which you can access via a web browser, it is relatively basic compared to TWS. Beginners can function with WebTrader, but for how long? At some point, you’ll need to move to a more advanced platform and the gap between WebTrader and TWS is huge. 

What TradeStation Offers

TradeStation is also an advanced trading solution served in a more friendly way. Its tools comprehension and platform fit the needs of intermediate traders and maybe even some beginners. If you feel that its desktop platform is complicated, you can always try the web-based platform.

The learning curve between TradeStation’s web and desktop platforms is not that big. The desktop platform is a natural transition you’ll have to undertake at some point. 

Bottom Line
Both Interactive Brokers and TradeStation are trading solutions with advanced, cutting-edge trading software. TradeStation is definitely an easier trading solution, but ask yourself if it’s enough for your needs. It might be fine if you are not a hardcore pro trader whose trading sessions happen on five 20-inch monitors.

Final Thoughts

Interactive Brokers and Trade Station are two of the best online brokerages, but for a quick decision, go through these points one-by-one:

  • You want to trade forex: Interactive Brokers operates as a forex broker, while TradeStation doesn’t.
  • You want to trade commission-free ETFs: Interactive Brokers offers these and TradeStation doesn’t.
  • You’re an active trader: TradeStation has relatively better fees for active traders than Interactive Brokers.
  • You’re not an active trader: TradeStation is not a great choice.
  • You’re a very experienced trading professional: Interactive Brokers will be a better fit than TradeStation.
  • You’re a complete newbie: Interactive Brokers is not a good choice.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which traders prefer TradeStation?


Advanced and professional traders in stock, futures and options favor TradeStation.


What platforms does Interactive Brokers offer?


Interactive Brokers offers mobile, desktop and web platforms.