If you’ve never tried your hand at day trading, it’s probably nothing like what you imagine. The typical day trader isn’t tucked away in a back office chugging black coffee and sweating bullets while losing and making fortunes based on gut feelings and hot insider tips.
Meanwhile, reality looks a lot more like someone who thrives on intensive research and loves running numbers. When it comes to finding the top platforms for day trading stocks, those numbers include:
- Commission rates
- Margin rates
- Execution times
- Premium research access
- Trade hotkeys
- Streaming TV capabilities
An excellent day trading platform will make a day trader feel like they are in the marketplace when it comes to speed and execution of a trade, while still having 360-degree access to analysis tools. For many day traders, having exceptional speed and access to data are worth higher fees for commissions and margins.
Different day traders have different strategies for execution and different characteristics they crave in their online platforms. This blog will break down the best platforms for day traders based on a host of various parameters.
Best Overall Day Trading Platform
Interactive Brokers graduates at the top of its class thanks to intuitive that might scare away some newcomers to the game. Interactive Brokers allows you to program in many hotkeys to make immediate decisions a snap and offers the lowest margin rates and commission rates in the nation. How can it do this? It’s not a platform that provides a lot concerning research, so it can cut costs across the board since it’s not paying for the data-driven work; expecting serious day traders to get their news elsewhere. However, many of those third parties have relationships with Interactive Brokers and the site ties directly to them. StockTwits and Morningstar are a pair of services that power the dashboards of plenty of Interactive’s customers. Be forewarned; the minimum deposit is $10,000, one of the largest in the industry for day trading.
Best for Futures Day Trading
TradeStation leads the pack, offering more than 80 products on the futures market. It has two pricing schedules: one for single-tier and one for multi-tier plans with a minimum account balance of $5,000. For single-tier accounts, contracts cost $1.50, but on the multi-tier plans, the more you generate, the lower the cost. The breakdown follows:
- <301 contracts: $1.20/per
- 301-1,000 contracts: $1/per
- 1,001-10,000 contracts: $0.65/per
- 10,001-20,000 contracts: $0.45/per
- 20,001+ contracts: $0.25/per
Unlike Interactive Brokers, TradeStation has huge stockpiles of historical data to allow you to play around with different trends. It also has add-ons from third-party vendors for other related services. It offers multi-screen support if you’re the kind of person who needs more than one monitor to track everything that you’re doing.
Best for Quick Execution
Han Solo would have loved this choice. Lightspeed Trading prides itself on virtually no delays and first-rate customer support. Its dashboard even looks a little like the control panels of a starship, with advanced scanners and filters, the ability to integrate charts with studies, and a completely customizable panel of controls and views. How does it make trades so fast? Customizable technology, stability, and ultra-low latency. The hotkeys are so customizable that you can use them to create multiple orders (buy on one, sell on another) from the same stock at the same time. Lightspeed also offers a free version for you to try in exchange for your email address.
Best for Customer Service
If you’re new to day trading, there’s no shame in asking for help as often as you need to; heck, this is your money we’re talking about! Ameritrade tops the charts when it comes to customer service, featuring 24-hour phone support; 24-hour email support; and in-person support at more than 100 local offices across the nation. Ameritrade has service across the board including:
- Mutual Funds
- Forex trading
Ameritrade offers free research on most of these classes of items and is a significant first step for getting into day training.
Lowest fees for day traders
It’s perfectly fine to be cognizant of how much every trade is costing you, and that’s where Ally Invest steps in. Formerly known as TradeKing, it has some of the lowest commissions on stocks and ETFs and can go as low as $3.95/trade. Although it comes across like a platform solely for beginners, there is a self-directed trading option that is customizable for advanced traders. It has features like streaming charts and company snapshots. Ally’s margin rates under $10,000 are close to a full percentage point below those of eTrade and Ameritrade. Its dashboard is set up for merely than some of its contemporaries, which is useful for newcomers who tend to get overwhelmed by too many blinking lights and numeral tallies. Ally Invest has one of the handier mobile trading apps with bird’s eye looks at your portfolios-at-a-glance and the ability to trade while ‘on-the-go.’
Best of the Rest Day Trader Platforms
These platforms might not be at the top of the charts, but they offer excellent opportunities for newcomers and veterans to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and without breaking the bank.
- eTrade: eTrade upped its value to day traders when it acquired OptionsHouse. eTrade might not have a catchy name like Lightspeed, but it values your time. It guarantees execution times of 2 seconds or less on S&P 500 stock trades. It concludes a standard ETF trade within 0.09 seconds.
- Fidelity: Known far more for its long-term and mutual investment programs, Fidelity competes in the day trader market thanks to its Active Trader Pro platform. Fidelity believes its branding is worth its higher commissions.
- OptionsXpress: OptionsXpress is the Swiss Army knife of the day trading platforms, letting you trade stocks, options, futures, and foreign exchange all under one roof. For traders who are still unsure of how to cultivate their strategies, it has an impressive tool that helps shape said plans based on each trader’s acceptance of personal risk. The device generates competitive commissions based on each trader’s answers.
- Charles Schwab: Like Fidelity, a lot of its selling power is name recognition. The name brand includes exceptional customer service, a pair of full-fledged trading platforms, and the bonus of multiple ETFs that come sans commissions as well as numerous mutual funds without transaction fees. Its research department is one of the oldest and most powerful in the industry, and its mobile app is nicely tuned as well. On the downside, it has one of the highest account minimums in the industry, which is a very high floor for most beginning day traders, and the rest of its trade commissions trend toward the higher end as well.
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