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TradeStation Review – Pros, Cons, and How This Brokerage Compares


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At a glance

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Our rating

4/5
  • What It Is: TradeStation is a brokerage with desktop, web-based, and mobile trading solutions jam-packed with tools and educational materials designed to turn even a beginner into a day trading pro.
  • Who It’s For: The platform is designed for the most active traders, offering all the technical analysis and charting tools needed to be successful.
  • Advantages: Traders love the fact that the company offers commission-free trades, in-depth education, access to a bustling community of traders, and all the tools you’ll need to be successful.
  • Disadvantages: Many of the add-ons offered come with high fees, the company also charges an inactivity fee, and it requires a minimum account balance of $2,000 for free access to its desktop platform.


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Are you looking for a trading platform that’s packed with innovative technology designed to give you a leg up in the market? Do you want to be part of a bustling community of traders? 

Founded in 1982, TradeStation is a brokerage with a long history of providing quality services to the most active of traders. As technological innovation allowed everyday investors to trade online, the company quickly evolved with the times, becoming one of the world’s premier online brokers. 

Today, TradeStation offers desktop, web-based, and mobile trading solutions jam-packed with in-depth tools and educational materials designed to turn even the beginner into a day trading pro. 

While there are several factors that set the platform apart from its competitors, one of the major draws to the service is the availability of a long list of add-ons developed by outside developers. These add-ons give traders access to unique technical indicators, screening tools, automated trading strategies, and more. 

Key Features

TradeStation grew through the ranks to become one of the world’s best online trading platforms for several good reasons. Some of the most compelling features you’ll enjoy when using the platform include:

Commission-Free Stock and ETF Trades

Many traditional brokers still charge commissions with each trade made. However, TradeStation has joined the crowd of brokers that offer commission-free stock trading as well as commission-free exchange-trade fund (ETF) trades. Of course, traders will still have to pay regulatory fees associated with each trade, but these fees amount to a fraction of a penny per share. 

There is one caveat to the commission-free services. Only trades on the company’s mobile app, (available on iOS and Android devices) and its web app (available via the Internet) are free. 

However, if you plan on using the company’s desktop platform, which is packed with the company’s state-of-the-art trading technology, you may be charged commissions on your trades depending on the account type you have. 

The platform offers two account types, TS Go, and TS Select. TS Go members pay a commission on trades when using the desktop features, while TS Select members pay no commissions, regardless of the platform they choose to use. 

To qualify for a TS Select membership, you’ll need to maintain a minimum account balance of $2,000. Should your account balance fall below this minimum, your account will revert back to being a TS Go account and commissions will be charged when taking advantage of the desktop software. 

Competitive Pricing on Mutual Funds, Options, and Futures

Outside of equities and ETFs, the pricing structure offered by TradeStation is competitive to say the least. Mutual fund trades come with a $14.95 commission, which is in line with industry averages. 

Options trading fees come in at a rate ranging from $0.50 to $0.60 per contract, depending on your membership level. Moreover, futures contracts come with a fee of $0.85 or $1.50 per contract, depending on your membership level. 

Interestingly enough, TS Go members pay the lower price on options and futures contracts, which is important to keep in mind if you plan on making these types of trades rather than trading equities and ETFs. 

No matter what type of asset you plan to trade on the platform, you can rest assured that the cost of making those trades won’t cut too deeply into your profits. 

Advanced Trading Platform and Trading Tools

As a platform designed for the traders that are highly active, many consider the platform itself and trading tools within it to be second-to-none. Regardless of which version of the platform you choose to use, you’ll have access to all the real-time market data, charting capabilities, and functionality that professional traders expect when working with an online brokerage. 

Not only will you have access to the indicators needed to perform quality technical analysis, you’ll be able to take advantage of backtesting capabilities to test your trading strategy before employing it. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the TradeStation mobile platform is just as intuitive as its web-based application, offering up a mobile trading experience that’s hard to compete with.  

Finally, aside from all the technical indicators, charting tools, and market data available, members are able to create watch lists, giving them the ability to keep a watchful eye on opportunities they’re not quite ready to pounce on yet. 

Desktop Platform

While the TradeStation mobile and web-based platforms are well worth diving into, if you want to experience the full functionality available, you’ve got to give TradeStation’s desktop platform a try. 

With its desktop services, you’ll have access to everything mentioned above plus direct-market access, automatic trade execution, and the ability to design, test, monitor, and automate your trading strategies regardless of whether you’re trading stocks, options, or futures. 

EasyLanguage

While all the features listed here set TradeStation apart from its competition, EasyLanguage puts the platform on a completely different planet. EasyLanguage is a proprietary programming language that can be used to create unique trading indicators as well as trading algorithms. 

For example, the Advanced MA add-on helps you spot moving average crossovers quickly and easily, giving you the ability to capitalize on the high momentum movement that’s likely to follow. That’s just one example of countless add-ons that give users access to custom functions and indicators.

Don’t worry, even if you don’t want to learn the language to program these tools yourself, the fact that it exists adds unmatched benefits to your trading experience. 

As a result of the introduction of this proprietary language, several third-party developers have created add-ons — which can be purchased for an additional fee — that you won’t find elsewhere online. Although some of the add-ons can be quite costly, the vast majority of them are under $100 per month, and some of them are under $100 for lifetime access, making it well worth diving into the options and seeing which will fit in best with your trading strategy.

OptionStation Pro

If you’re interested in trading options, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better trading experience than that offered by TradeStation’s OptionStation Pro. TradeStation has been at the forefront of computerized options analysis for a couple of decades at this point, and all the tools it offers are available through its options trading platform. 

With the platform, you’ll be able to quickly analyze the options market, build options chains, analyze your strategy with risk graphs, and quickly place your trades based on the data outlined in the platform. 

As any options trader knows, time is of the essence when making your trades, and having such powerful analytic tools at your disposal and the ability to quickly place trades based on this analysis gives you the upper hand in the market. 

Active Trading Community

Whether you’re into stock trading, options trading, or trading any other asset, having a community to fall back on is a major plus. That’s exactly what TradeStation provides. 

Nearly 1 million people use TradeStation’s services, many of whom can be found actively participating in the community forums offered through the platform. This community is an invaluable resource, especially for the beginner trader who’s just learning the ropes. 

After all, if you’re learning how to play basketball, wouldn’t it be great to have access to the likes of Lebron James to chat with and learn tips and tricks? Well, there are plenty of professional traders who enjoy sharing their knowledge with up-and-comers, many of whom are active members of the TradeStation community. 

Even if you’re a pro, it’s great to have other experts to bounce ideas off of. The bustling TradeStation community has something to offer for everyone, regardless of your level of experience in the market. 

Educational Materials

The foundation of successful trading activities is and will always be education. After all, in order to be a successful trader, you’ll need to know what makes the market tick — and how to exploit those ticks for profits. 

TradeStation knows that in order to maintain its position of leadership in the trading industry, its platforms’ users must be successful. The company gives you all of the educational materials needed to make sure that success isn’t out of reach. 

Members of the service receive free access to trading tutorials and webinars that are designed to provide valuable information whether you’re a beginner or a full-time professional trader. 

Cryptocurrency Availability

Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, and futures are all popular assets. However, in recent years, the rise of cryptocurrency has become hard to ignore. Digital currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum have captured the attention of retail investors, leading to growth that even stocks with the most momentum have a hard time mirroring. 

Unfortunately, however, few online stockbrokers provide access to cryptocurrency. 

That’s not the case with TradeStation. The company launched TradeStation Crypto in May 2019 to address the community of traders interested in trying their hand in the digital currency world. 

Through the company’s Crypto platform, you’ll be able to trade the most popular cryptocurrencies on the market. At the same time, you’ll have access to the highly technical tools also found on the company’s traditional platform, giving those interested in actively trading crypto an upper hand in the market. 

RadarScreen

Finally, most online brokers offer access to some kind of stock screener, but most of those screeners are highly limited. That’s not the case with TradeStation’s RadarScreen. The screener doesn’t just look for price and volume, it also incorporates historical data, giving you the ability to quickly find potentially profitable opportunities based on the indicators you care about. 

Moreover, every bit of the screener can be customized. It even gives you the ability to take advantage of hundreds of built-in and highly customizable proprietary EasyLanguage indicators. 

Comparing the time it takes to find the exact types of opportunities you’re looking for with competing stock screeners to the time it takes using RadarScreen is like comparing the speed of a jogger to that of a space shuttle. There’s simply no contest. 


Advantages

TradeStation is used by nearly 1 million traders, making it one of the most popular platforms online today. No company grows to be so successful without offering significant advantages over its competitors. Some of the most compelling advantages associated with the platform include:

1. Pricing

The pricing plans offered by TradeStation are hard to ignore. As long as your account remains active, you won’t pay a membership fee to use their services. Moreover, on a trade-by-trade basis, there are few competitors that can compete with its pricing, whether you’re trading stocks and ETFs, options and futures, or cryptocurrencies. 

2. Trading Tools

TradeStation has minted its position as one of the most technologically advanced platforms online today. Not only will you have access to all the technical indicators and charting capabilities you would expect, you’ll be introduced to several tools made possible by the company’s proprietary EasyLanguage. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a platform that comes with a toolkit designed to make you successful, you’re looking for TradeStation. 

3. Cryptocurrency Access

When using the platform, you’ll have access to a wide range of asset classes. However, TradeStation goes far beyond most online brokers by offering access to cryptocurrency, a highly popular asset class that has experienced substantial growth across the board over the past few years. 

4. Quality Customer Support

With any broker, it’s important to have technical support. After all, you’re working with a service to help manage and grow your money. You’ll want to make sure that when you have a question about your money or your account, someone is ready, willing, and able to answer it. That’s exactly what you’ll get with TradeStation. 


Disadvantages

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about TradeStation, but no platform can be everything to everybody. There are a few gripes some traders have with the company’s services, including:

1. Inactivity Fees

The platform was designed for the most active of traders. TradeStation charges a $50 inactivity fee to users who make fewer than five trades per year and maintain a balance of under $2,000. If you’re a buy-and-hold investor with a small account balance, that will pose a problem. 

2. Add On Fees

There’s no rhyme or reason to the pricing structure associated with custom add-ons. Essentially, the providers that develop these add-ons charge the prices they feel comfortable with. As a result, some of the best add-ons come with some of the highest fees. 

3. Minimum Deposit

While there is no minimum deposit or account balance if you plan on using the mobile app or web-based app, if you want free access to the desktop platform, you’ll have to be a TS Select member, which requires you to maintain a $2,000 balance or more in your account. 


Final Word

All told, TradeStation is a great platform for anyone who is or wants to be an active member of the trading community. The robust platform comes with all the tools and features you’ll need to be successful and then some. 

Not only does the company offer all of the indicators and tools you’ll need to be successful, it offers a highly active community and educational materials that even professionals will find beneficial. 

Then again, if you’re a set-it-and-forget-it type of investor that’s starting out with a relatively small balance, you’ll want to look elsewhere to avoid the $50 annual fee. 

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The Verdict

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Our rating

4/5

Designed for the active day trader, TradeStation is a great option for those that need access to advanced tools. However, buy-and-hold investors or beginners with less than $2,000 to invest may be better served elsewhere.

TradeStation offers state of the art technology for the active trader, commission-free trading, and an active community of traders to take part in. Unfortunately inactivity fees and high-cost add-ons may turn some traders away.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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