Best platforms for frequent traders

The following brokerage firms offer high execution speed, professional trading platforms and the lowest per-share commission plans to high-frequency and high-volume traders. Highly recognized online trading brokers provide the widest spectrum of instruments, including access to international markets and powerful trading tools.

TradeStation

4-star brokerage firm rating

Per-share plan

  • $0.01 per share ($1 minimum per trade). With an even lower commission rate of $0.006 after the first 500 shares per trade.

Flat pricing plan

  • Stocks & ETFs: $4.99 per trade
  • Options: $4.99 + $0.20 (200+ contracts)
  • Mutual Funds: $14.95

Minimum to open: $5,000 for non-daytraders; $25,000 for daytraders; $5,500 for IRA accounts.

Rated high among the best Barron's brokers for frequent traders, TradeStation offers two pricing plans with the cheapest per-contract option for pattern day traders.

The broker offers a fast and highly customizable direct-access trading platform. The platform is one of the best in the industry for active traders. Day traders get access to numerous powerful scanning & search tools, analysis tools, tools for fast order executions and even advanced real-time risk management tools. TradeStation even waives a platform fee if certain trading volume conditions are met. Just consider what Barron's said in its survey this year: "When it comes to trading tools, the sky is the limit at TradeStation."

TradeStation requires the lowest initial deposit among the leading direct-access trading platforms. The brokerage is definitely worth considering.

TradeStation Advantages

  • Great commissions for frequent traders
  • Excellent education amenities
  • Powerful trading platform and research tools
  • A diverse array of investments
  • Trader community
  • Virtual trading

Start trading with TradeStation and save 20% on commissions up to $1,500.

Open TradeStation Account

Interactive Brokers

4-star brokerage firm rating

Per-share Plan

  • <= 300,000 Shares - $0.0035 ($0.35 minimum, 0.5% maximum per order)
  • 300,001 - 3,000,000 Shares - $0.002 ($0.35 minimum, 0.5% maximum per order)
  • 3,000,001 - 20,000,000 Shares - $0.0015 ($0.35 minimum, 0.5% maximum per order)
  • 20,000,001 - 100,000,000 Shares - $0.001 ($0.35 minimum, 0.5% maximum per order)
  • > 100,000,000 Shares - $0.0005 ($0.35 minimum, 0.5% maximum per order)

Flat pricing plan

  • Stocks & ETFs: 0.005 per share ($1 minimum)
  • Options: $0.70 per contract if premium => $0.10 ($1 minimum)
  • Futures: $0.85 per contract

Minimum to open: $10,000 for non-IRA account, $5,000 for IRA account, $3,000 for anyone age 25 or younger.

Interactive Brokers offers the lowest rates per-share plan. A per-trade plan is also available. The broker was the cheapest online broker for occasional and frequent traders by Barron's estimate. In addition, the company was tops as an online broker for frequent traders, finishing with four and a half stars. Also, the brokerage got the second place in the overall annual ranking of Barron's best online brokers.

Unlike other brokerage firms for day traders, IB offers six commission-free international ETFs.

Powerful trading platforms, a broad selection of investments and the widest access to international markets are other advantages of Interactive Brokers.

Interactive Brokers Advantages

  • Competitive commissions for active traders
  • Excellent education amenities
  • Advanced trading platform
  • Access to international markets
  • A wide selection of investments
  • Free institutional research
  • Simulated trading
  • Rated high by Barron's for frequent traders

Open an account with Interactive Brokers

Open IB Account

Lightspeed Trading

3-star brokerage firm rating

Per-share Plan

  • <= 249,999 Shares - $0.0045 ($1 minimum)
  • > 250,000 Shares - $0.0035
  • > 1,000,000 Shares - $0.0025
  • > 3,000,000 Shares - $0.0020
  • > 6,000,000 Shares - $0.0015
  • > 15,000,000 Shares - $0.0010

Flat pricing plan

  • Stocks & ETFs: $4.50 per trade or $0.0045 per share ($1 minimum)
  • Options: $0.60 per contract
  • Futures: $0.60 per contract

Minimum to open: $25,000 for all account types.

Active and sophisticated traders will find Lightspeed trading pricing and multiple trading platforms a great fit. Fast execution speed is the major advantage of the web-based trading platform Lightspeed Trader. However, the platform has little to offer in terms of research. TradeStation is the better choice for those who are looking for powerful research tools.

The brokerage was included in the best four Barron's brokers for frequent traders, allowing Interactive Brokers and TradeStation to take the first and the second positions, and leaving behind the somewhat pricey TD Ameritrade's powerful thinkorswim platform.

Among all brokers for active traders, Lightspeed trading requires the highest initial deposit to open an account.

Lightspeed Trading Advantages

  • Competitive trading commissions
  • Sophisticated platform for active and experienced traders

Lightspeed Trading - Online Stock, Options and Futures Trading

Open Lightspeed Account

When speaking about frequent trading, it often refers to day trading. You will be considered a pattern day trader if you trade (buy and sell a security or sell short then buy a security on the same day) four or more times in five business days and your day-trading activities are greater than six percent of your total trading activity for that same five-day period. A pattern day trading is regulated by FINRA.

A balance of $25,000 must be maintained to be considered as a pattern day trader. More about day-trading margin requirements here.

Best online brokerage firms for active traders

When looking for a brokerage firm for day trading, a commission structure and a robust trading platform are two major factors that active and experienced traders pay attention to. Advanced direct-access trading platform with the fast speed of execution is essential for an active trader.

Many retail brokerages offer flat-fee commissions, and only a few companies designed both for frequent and swing traders offer a flat-rate per-trade plan and a per-share plan. Commissions are extremely an important factor, especially when it comes to day trading. Daily commissions of an active high- volume trader can easily exceed hundreds and even thousands of dollars, which can dramatically cut the daily profit and even exceed it. That is why brokers offer significantly lower commissions to high-volume traders.

Depending on a broker, a per-share commission plan usually offers tiered fees, depending on a monthly trading volume or number of trades. Cheaper commissions come with higher frequency trades or higher trading volume each month.