TradeStation vs NinjaTrader

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Contributor, Benzinga
February 19, 2020

TradeStation and NinjaTrader both rank in our top 5 futures brokers for 2020. But there’s a catch; NinjaTrader deals exclusively with futures while TradeStation is a multipurpose brokerage that offers an array of asset classes.  You will find a nearly overwhelming supply of data feeds, research tools, customizable technical indicators and real-time market analysis on both platforms. Although these brokerages are best suited for the expert trader, they are gradually making efforts to assist rookie investors.

Both platforms are easy to sign up but if you still need more information to guide your decision, here is our NinjaTrader vs. TradeStation comparison.


Futures Trading on TradeStation

Although it offers multiple asset classes, TradeStation is a registered futures commission merchant. Besides its commission-free pricing on futures, TradeStation allows you to trade more than 150 futures products and competitive market prices. The company offers a trading and analysis platform where active and institutional traders can diversify their investment portfolios.

The platform boasts electronic order execution and enables you to design, monitor, test, optimize and automate TradeStation’s custom futures trading strategies. The company also offers lightning-fast order execution capabilities for you to trade futures with one click. Its 24-hour global market analysis gives future traders direct access to all U.S. futures exchanges. Besides, the availability of futures market data allows you to back-test trading strategies with years of custom, continuous contract data.

TradeStation allows you to automate any of its futures trading strategies with its EasyLanguage tool. Futures pricing is also relatively low, with contracts as low as $0.25 per side per contract.

Trading futures on TradeStation allows you to diversify your investment portfolio, harness the power of leverage and trade global markets around the clock. You can enjoy the leverage, flexibility, liquidity and low rates associated with trading futures.

Futures Trading on NinjaTrader

NinjaTrader allows you to trade futures for less. The company keeps all your futures trading costs low through low margins and deep discount commissions. At only $0.09 per micro contract, you can trade futures on NinjaTrader. The company also offers $50 margins for the most liquid and popular markets, which is quite low compared to other brokerages.

Futures trading on NinjaTrader is incredibly seamless, thanks to a plethora of tools and services available to support your trade. The company provides unlimited simulated futures trading, extensive historical data, unfiltered professional futures market data and a free 24-hour emergency trade desk. There are also 100+ indicators included on its platform as well as access to hundreds of third-party trading applications.

NinjaTrader offers auto-trade algorithmic trading strategies across multiple future markets to eliminate emotional trading and save you time. Its advanced trade management feature gives you access to predefined trade exits and entries for great consistency with your trades. Traders enjoy free access to vast market analysis, advanced charting and trade simulation with NinjaTrader.

TradeStation Fees and Commissions for Futures

TradeStation allows you to trade more than 100 futures products for $1.50 per contract per side. In its pricing disclosures, the company says that a $50 annual fee applies to all single-tier accounts ($1.50 per contract per side) that do not maintain an end-of-month equity balance of $2,000 or execute a minimum of 5 trades in the preceding 12 months. Futures accounts on TradeStation’s single-tier plan won’t incur an overnight fee.

TradeStation also has a tiered future commission plan for active individual, professional and institutional traders. A $99.95 monthly account service fee is applied to all accounts that don’t maintain an end-of-month equity balance of $100,000 or trade 10 round-turn futures options contracts or futures in the month before. A $0.10 overnight fee is also applied per net open futures for accounts that are on this pricing plan.

TradeStation charges $0 commission on futures trading.

Here’s a table showing tiered plans for futures:

Monthly ContractsPer Contract per Side

NinjaTrader Fees and Commissions for Futures

The NinjaTrader brokerage allows you to trade futures at incredibly discounted rates with low margins and commissions. A futures trading account requires a minimum opening balance of $400 with commissions going as low as $0.09 per futures contract if you have a lifetime license. The day trading margins are $500 for NS (NASDAQ), YM (E-Mini Dow) and ES (E-Mini S&P 500) contracts, and $1,000 for CL (Crude Oil) and GC (Gold) contracts, which is relatively low compared to other brokerages.

Although this brokerage doesn’t charge for its services, its trading platform can be used on a fee-paying or lease basis. For options and futures, you will pay a $1.19 commission per contract. If you use the lease platform, you will be charged $0.83 whereas a lifetime license will cost you $0.53 per contract. 

Fees for futures trading sessions could vary from $0.50 to $4.82 depending on your exchange as well as the leverage applied. Buying or leasing a Lifetime license gives you access to a host of premium features including its advanced trading management strategic order handling.

As with platform fees, NinjaTrader’s advanced trading platform and live data are both available for free when using a demo account. To enjoy live trading, you can choose its free platform that contains the basic elements or go for a paid license level that offers lower commissions and more advanced features.

TradeStation Research Offerings for Futures

Built for expert futures options traders, TradeStation is a resource-rich platform that has many research offerings. Its advanced infrastructure helps you research and back-test futures trading strategies, thanks to the vast historical data it stores. In its knowledge center, the brokerage has a Getting Started section that can help beginners master futures trading.

You can also access educational content on various investment topics. The company also has a valuable market insight section that provides great insight into the futures market, an analysis of various sectors, updates on events, premarket commentary and podcasts on various market actions.

NinjaTrader Research Offerings for Futures

Besides its market depth and advanced charting tools, NinjaTrader boasts a powerful backtesting engine that allows you to test and verify multiple futures trading strategies using its available historical data. A plethora of useful educational resources is available if you’re a beginner who isn’t familiar with the platform and wants to hone your skills.

The platform, its indicators and a host of other features can be customized to the simplest level for easy comprehension by professional or active traders. Since NinjaTrader is primarily a futures brokerage, news, financial statements and economic data may be unavailable. But, nothing else beats its daily training webinars, helpful guides, hundreds of on-demand tutoring videos and an informative YouTube channel. Most of its research offerings are oriented toward investors who are focused on active futures.

TradeStation vs NinjaTrader for Futures Trading Bottomline

Although NinjaTrader and TradeStation are top brokerages for futures trading, TradeStation tends to be more multipurpose, offering several other asset classes to invest in. In addition, TradeStation feature-packed platform and advanced trading tools make it a great choice for active and institutional traders. You will also have access to more than 150 futures products, a comprehensive desktop trading platform, advanced charting and paper trading features.

NinjaTrader offers various free tools, low commissions and unlimited use of its free platform, making it a great option for new traders. The brokerage’s greatest talking points are the ability to let traders simulate in a live market environment, a flexible interface, extensive data feed options and free demonstration options. It also offers a 2-week free trial when you sign up.