10 Best Futures Trading Platforms and Brokers of 2023
We may receive a commission if you click on links in this article. Learn more.
Futures brokers are needed to trade futures contracts on the CME. So, having a good futures broker with an intuitive trading platform is highly important. But what are the best futures brokers, and what are the best futures trading platforms?
I’ve reviewed all leading futures brokers and compared their trading platforms and cost structure to provide you with my list of the 10 best futures brokers.
Best Futures Brokers & Platforms – Top 5
- Generic Trade: Cheapest Futures Broker
- Interactive Brokers: Best Futures Trading Platform for Beginners
- Optimus Futures: Best Advanced Futures Trading Platform
- E*Trade: Best Web Based Futures Trading Platform
- TD Ameritrade: Best Futures Trading App for iPhone
Best Futures Trading Platform & Broker
1. Generic Trade – Cheapest Futures Broker
Generic Trade is the cheapest futures broker that combines low cost with a powerful futures trading platform. Generic Trade is based in Illinois, USA and offers a flat fee commission of $0.59 per side for futures contracts and options on futures. The support is available 24 hours a day by phone and chat through the Generic Trader Professional platform.
There is no account minimum required to open an account. In addition, they don’t charge any maintenance or inactivity fees and offer free access to the Generic Trader Online platform. That makes Generic Trade an excellent choice for beginners.
Speed and reliability are crucial factors for trading infrastructure. Generic Trade offers a port-to-port latency to fewer than 500 nanoseconds using a co-location service in a CME Group owned datacenter in Illinois.
2. Interactive Brokers – Best Futures Trading Platform for Beginners
Interactive Brokers is the best futures trading platform for beginners. Traders and investors can trade nearly every investment product with IB for a low discounted price, including trading futures globally on over 30 market centers.
Commissions per futures contract start at $0.85, and sophisticated traders can take advantage of powerful futures trading tools, including ComboTrader, SpreadTrader and Index Arbitrage Meter.
Users can also trade Micro Futures contracts from the CME Group across several asset classes and use IBKR EventTrader to trade their opinion on yes-or-no questions in key futures markets.
Commission rates for regular futures and futures options range from $0.25 to $0.85 per futures contract, where $0.85 is relevant for most private investors with a trading volume of less than 1,000 contracts per month. The price tag of $0.25 starts at monthly trading volumes above 20,000 futures contracts.
E-micro futures and futures options, such as MES, M2K, MNQ, VOLQ, 2YY and MYM, can be traded for $0.25 per contract when trading less than 1,000 contracts per month and down to $0.10 per contract trading more than 20,000 contracts per month.
In addition, it is possible to trade CME Cryptocurrency Futures, E-mini FX Futures, E-Micro FX Futures, Small Exchange Futures and more with Interactive Brokers.
3. Optimus Futures – Best Advanced Futures Trading Platform
Optimus Futures offers the best advanced futures trading platform and is specialized in providing the best possible service to its traders. The inhouse futures trading platform Optimus Flow is innovative and free for all clients.
Optimus Futures’ customer service is available by phone, email, and live chat 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Their customer support knows exactly what to do when problems arise.
Pre-defined automated trading systems can be executed, and the minimum account requirements are only $2,500 and $500 for Micro Trading. Traders can individually choose between various futures clearing merchants, data feeds, and trading platforms to ensure fast executions and the best real-time quotes.
The commissions per standard futures contract start at $0.75 for less active investors and up to 20 trades per month, while trading over 500 contracts per month reduces the price to $0.20 per contract.
Please consider reading my Optimus Futures review for insights into the futures broker offering and trading technology.
4. E*Trade – Best Web Based Futures Trading Platform
E*Trade has been a consistent innovator in the brokerage business since 1982 before Morgan Stanley acquired it for $13 billion in 2020. With the acquisition, everything stayed the same for U.S.-clients, while some international investors lost their margin account features due to the conversion of their accounts to cash accounts.
E*Trade from Morgan Stanley offers its innovative trading platform Power E*Trade to all customers as a web-based version. In addition, using E*Trade with separate apps on mobile devices is possible. The investment choices include stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds, CDs and futures.
The regular price per futures contract is $1.50 for futures listed on CME, CFE and ICE US. However, you can negotiate lower rates if you trade on a high volume. Futures trading benefits include nearly around-the-clock trading, the ease of going short, capital efficiencies due to high-leverage trading, and low account minimums, along with unlimited day-trading activities.
5. TD Ameritrade: Best Futures Trading App for iPhone
TD Ameritrade offers the best futures trading app for iPhone in the United States. The app has great ratings on the App Store (4.5/5 with 118tsd ratings) and enables users to trade futurures, options and stocks. Still, opening an account outside the United States is difficult, and countries like Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK and countries of the European Union are excluded.
In 2019 Charles Schwab announced to acquire TD Ameritrade for $26 billion. TD Ameritrade and it’s trading platform Thinkorswim is still a separate brand. The acquisition pushed the value of Charles Schwab to a market capitalization of about 100 billion with an EPS of about $2.
Like Interactive Brokers, TD Ameritrade clients can trade nearly all finance products, including futures contracts. The commission rate per contract is officially at $2.25, but active traders can negotiate a better rate.
6. TradeStation – Best Futures Trading Software for Windows
TradeStation is the best futures trading software for Windows PCs. With TradeStation The costs and margin rates are higher compared to Optimus Futures and NinjaTrader Brokerage, but traders can also trade stocks and options besides futures from one account.
Traders who are looking for a multi-asset solution and installable software for Windows PCs with simulated account features, low minimum account requirements and extensive coding capabilities can find a great solution in TradeStation independently from the high costs involved in futures trading with them.
TradeStation can be an exciting choice for those who only want to trade a few futures contracts per year, for example, to hedge positions or speculate only on major events.
7. NinjaTrader Brokerage – Best Software for Trading Strategy Development
NinjaTrader is the best software for trading strategy development and primarily used by traders who code their own trading strategies with NinjaScript instead of executing pre-defined trading strategies.
Still, NinjaTrader is not the place to get started as a beginner. While coding is possible with the free platform, executing strategies and trading systems requires paying between $99 monthly and $1,499 one-time to access reasonable rates and add-on features such as the order flow functionality.
The lifetime license set’s the commission per side to $0.09 per micro and $0.59 per standard futures contract.
8. AMP Futures – Most Comprehensive Selection of Futures Trading Platforms
AMP Futures is a futures broker specialized in providing access to more than 60 futures trading platforms to clients. They have two group entities – AMP Global USA and AMP Global Europe. As a US-based broker, AMP Global USA is regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and National Futures Association (NFA). The European entity AMP Global Europe is authorized by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission as a Cypriot Investment Firm (CIF).
AMP offers one of the lowest commission rates in the industry, but instead of directly offering a quote on their site, they advertise to match or beat any commission rate from other brokers. That means that a user has more work since it needs negotiation instead of having a clear offer.
It supports 50+ futures trading platforms, including CQG One, CQG Desktop, Trading Technologies Desktop, Jigsaw Trading, TradingView and Bookmap.
See Also: Bookmap Review
9. Tastytrade – Best for Futures Traders who Mainly Trade Options
tastytrade was named the best options trading platform in 2023 by Investopedia but also had reasonable offers for futures traders. Similar to options contracts, every futures contract only costs money with the opening transaction and is priced at $2.50 per contract. Exceptions are micro futures with $0.85 and small futures with $0.25 for every executed buy and sell order.
The tradeable future contracts include CME Futures and futures on the Small Exchange. tastytrade is available as a software installation, a browser version for web-based trading and as a mobile app for trading while you’re on the go. The previously mentioned brokers and platforms are all better when it comes specifically to futures trading. Still, if you want to test the waters of trading futures and already have an account with tatsytrade, or if options trading is your focus, it can still be a viable option.
10. Tradovate – Futures Broker with Potential to Innovate
The modern Tradovate futures trading platform was well-known for its commission-free membership, where traders paid an annual fee of $2,388 to trade futures contracts commission free.
On January 12, 2022, the acquisition of Tradovate by NinjaTrader was announced. As a result, the innovative all-inclusive pricing model got removed, and commission structures are now similar to the NinjaTrader offering.
Futures contracts can be traded for $.20 per nano and event contract, $0.35 per micro contract, and $1.29 per standard futures contract without paying a monthly fee. Those who pre-pay $99 per month reduce the commission per contract to $0.15 (nano/event), $0.25 (micro) and $0.99 (standard).
The best commission rate gets unlocked for a one-time payment of $1,499 to get lifetime commission rates of $0.05 per nano and event contract, $0.09 per micro contract and $0.59 per standard futures contract.
With Tradovate, you can trade metal, interest rate, index, energies and grain futures with all types of contract sizes, use over 40 advanced integrated trading tools and trade from anywhere from any device. Access to a test version of the html based platform is freely available on their website for a quick look & feel check.
The day trading margin starts at $10 for Nano contracts, is $25 for smalls, $50 for micro and $500 for the standard futures. The overnight margin is at about $5,800 per ES contract. Check out the detailed Tradovate review for more information.
The most important factor for active traders will be execution costs. While each exchange has its own trade fee structure, your broker will attach a commission for placing the trade as well.
This will become especially crucial if you are a day trader, as you will be placing several trades per day, and over several months or years, these costs will add up.
Futures Commissions Comparison: ES E-mini S&P 500
|Futures Broker||Total Costs||Commission*||Fees**|
- * Commission per side per standard futures contract
- ** Exchange Fee, FCM & NFA Fee, Order Routing Fee
Let’s break down the fee structure in its parts:
A commission is paid to the firm in exchange for technical support, customer service, education, etc. Many retail brokerages charge about $1 to $1.5 per side and contract. Introducing brokerages like Optimus Futures charge as low as $0,10 per side per contract for highly active traders.
Futures Clearing Merchant Fee
A futures clearing merchant fee has to be paid if the company where you open your account is an introducing broker (IB). An IB needs a clearinghouse for trade executions. Commissions and futures clearing merchant fees should always be added to enable you to compare correctly. A typical price range for FCM fees is $0.10 – $0.25.
Order Routing Fee
The order routing fee is being paid to a futures data feed provider like Continuum, or Rithmic, for routing the trade between the futures exchange and the trading platform. The costs are typically in the $0.10-$0.25 / trade and contract range.
Some may find it surprising, but the exchange fees that have to be paid to the futures exchange like the CME, are the highest fees associated with a trade. The CME, for example, charges $1,18 per side and contract when trading the S&P E-Mini.
National Futures Association Fee
$0.02 per side and contract has to be paid as NFA Assessment Fee. That equals $0.04 per round turn and contract. The current fee is effective since January 1st, 2018 https://www.nfa.futures.org/faqs/members/nfa-assessment-fees.html
As you can see, there are many more costs involved besides regular commissions. Depending on the chosen future contract, there can be other costs attached as well. One miscellaneous fee you should consider when choosing your broker is the one for the data feed.
It is crucial to have unfiltered tick data available to ensure fast executions and good order fills. Inactivity fees should also be considered since some brokerages charge up to $25 when no trades are made or if the trading platform was not used.
Trading Platform Features, Tools and Margin
Costs are important, but other features like the trading platform, the margin requirements, and add-on tools play an important rule as well.
Futures Trading Platforms
You should pay attention to the best futures trading platforms offered by a broker you are looking to do business with. These days, most brokerage firms will provide multiple platforms. There are a lot of choices out there, some of which are better at specific processes. Some are built for speed, some are developed for market analysis, and some have live newsfeeds built into them.
Popular Futures Trading Platforms:
- CQG (CQG Desktop, Q Trader) TT (Web based platform)
- CTS-T4 (low latency execution)
- Optimus Flow (by Optimus Futures)
- R Trader By Rithmic (API in C# and C++)
The best platform for your trading is a highly personal thing. Free trials and demo accounts help you to evaluate what fits your needs the best to manage your positions.
Most futures brokers offer research tools and information from industry insiders that can glean information about agricultural products, energy, or whatever else you are trading. This can lead to valuable insight as to the direction of the market based upon fundamentals.
By knowing fundamental drivers in the marketplace, you can adapt this to your trading strategy and outlook going forward. Having these industry experts do the research for you can greatly benefit your longer-term views on commodities that you are trading.
The lack of discipline is one of the main reasons that day traders fail in their business. Most time, everything is under control as long as the market is moving as projected. But the market is not rational. For that reason, sudden movements to the up- and downside happen every day.
Trading systems can be good protection against wrong decisions based on fear and greed.
Most brokerage firms offer free paper trading accounts these days, which is the ability to place trades in a simulated environment without risking any money.
This allows you to try out your trading strategies and to make your first risk free steps with the trading platform. Most of the time, the broker will allow you to keep a simulated account once you start paying for services and deposit money.
Day Trading Margin
Day trading margin can be drastically different depending on futures broker that are involved with as well. For example, the typical initial margin for the E-mini S&P 500 futures contract is $6,930 through the exchanges.
The CME exchange updates the maintenance margin requirements for the ES often. You should multiply the Maintenance Margin by 1.1 for a full overnight margin. The broker determines day trading margins while the exchanges determine the overnight margin.
Some brokerages will let you trade a contract with as little as $500 initial margin, under the concept that you are only holding the contract for the trading session itself and not overnight. The day session finishes at 5 PM EDT/4 PM CST.
For longer-term trades, there will be an overnight margin as well, so keep that in mind. This varies from brokerage to brokerage, so make sure that you check to see what the costs are going to be and how they line up with your trading strategy.
Worldwide Futures Trading Exchanges
Depending on the markets you wish to trade, some futures brokers will make more sense than others. For example, if you want to trade the Singapore futures exchange overnight, the broker needs to be able to facilitate those orders. What it will boil down to is the number of connections the broker will have to worldwide exchanges.
That’s why it is essential to decide what markets you want to trade before making your final decision regarding the broker. Typically, data feeds such as CQG, or TT will have multiple connection points worldwide that would allow you to connect to CME, Eurex, Euronext, ICE, ICE Europe, Hong Kong Futures exchange, and other liquid exchanges. Optimus Futures has these global Futures exchanges.
Best Futures Trading Platforms: Conclusion
In our test, Generic Trade, Interactive Brokers and Optimus futures stand out vs. the competition. Innovative trading technology, fast data feeds and discount commissions make them an excellent choice for future traders.
The most important decision future traders have to make is to go the retail broker route (Interactive Brokers, E*Trade, TradeStation, etc.) or decide on specialized futures brokers (Generic Trade, Optimus Futures, etc.).
Benefits of using specialized futures brokers:
- Knowledgeable support team (often available 24/7)
- Low commissions
- Low account minimums
- Low margin requirements
- Trading platforms optimized for futures trading
Retail brokers have the main benefit of offering multiple markets to trade from one account while having a significant disadvantage. Their support is hard to reach, and waiting times can cumulate fast to an hour or even more. That might be reasonable for an investor, but a day trader needs help quickly. And that’s also true for users of the best day trading platforms and best options trading platforms.
The History of Futures Trading
Commodity producers were the first investors using futures contracts to hedge their risk associated with the upcoming harvest of the year. This was long before trading futures became exceptionally popular among retail traders to speculate with high leverage on commodities, indices and treasuries.
The demand is so high that the Small Exchange made the market even easier to access with capital-efficient futures products. Especially the non-existing relevance of the pattern day trader rule, which requires stock traders to have a minimum capital of $25,000, makes future trading even more attractive to investors with lower capital. You can open a futures trading account with $500 and trade on immense leverage.
What are the best futures trading platforms?
We consider Generic Trade the cheapest futures broker, Interactive Broker the best futures trading platform for beginners and Optimus Futures the best advanced futures trading platform. Please read the article for all insights into the testing methodology, ratings and results.
What are the most popular future contracts?
The most popular future contracts are the S&P 500 E-Mini (ES), 10-Year T-Note (ZN), 5-Year T-Note (ZF), S&P 500 Micro (ET) and Nasdaq 100 Micro (NM).
You Might Like: