Contributor, Benzinga
Updated: October 13, 2022

If you want to start trading futures or switch brokers, visit NinjaTrader.

Futures trading history is as simple as understanding the concept of farmers planting crops every spring, and then, every fall, farmers harvesting grain and locking in prices early in the season, rather than later. In fact, farmers were originally the ones who taught Wall Street how to trade futures. (No lie!)

In choosing a broker, serious futures traders must balance low commissions, intuitive platforms, excellent customer service and up-to-date research options. Traders also need charting and screening tools to guide decision-making.

In a world where futures trading is already a high-risk endeavor, it’s even more of a risk if a platform is clunky, a trading app can’t keep up, or customer support has no idea what a Fibonacci indicator is. Everything must tick along as smoothly as a Rolex Cellini tracks the seconds in a day.

Start with our guide to find an online futures brokers platform to make your trading experience seamless.

1. NinjaTrader

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NinjaTrader has an amazing trading platform for those just beginning their trading careers as well as for advanced traders. Its extensive collection of technical analysis tools is perfect for beginners utilizing a demo account, and it even offers a 2-week free trial when you register.

If you want to use NinjaTraders software, you can get it for free when you fund a brokerage account or you can lease the software. You will get access to charts, simulated trading, and market analysis, the essentials for futures trading, even if you get the software for free.

2. Tickmill

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Tickmill is a unique trading platform that allows you to invest in oil and indices futures and a host of other assets like forex, precious metals, etc. When you’re ready to invest, you can open a retail or corporate account with a minimum deposit of 1000 GBP/EUR/USD.

Tickmill users also gain access to leading exchanges, including CME, CBOT, NYMEX, COMEX, EUREX, ICE Futures Europe and the Small Exchange. Plus, you get fast execution, affordable commissions, industry-best trading platform options and customized solutions for high-volume investors.

3. Tradovate

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Are you an active futures trader? Look no further than Tradovate. Tradovate offers a Netflix-like approach to commission-free trading and cloud-based solutions. You’ll get an integrated experience you can carry seamlessly across any device whenever you want it. 

Tradovate is the very 1st online futures and options brokerage to combine next-generation technology with flat rate membership pricing. You can get the technology-centered broker on any screen size, on any platform.

4. Discount Trading

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Futures traders looking for volume discounts have plenty of options, but few make trading as simple and affordable as Discount Trading. For starters, Discount Trading doesn’t just offer affordable commissions - they have some of the cheapest trading fees of any futures broker currently on the market!

If you make only a single futures trade each month, your commission will be a mere 49 cents per side. However, if you’re an active trader flipping more than 50,000 contracts per month, your commission will be just 19 cents.

5. Optimus Futures

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Optimus Futures is a discount futures broker geared towards both beginner and experienced traders alike.

With low account minimums, fast account approvals and easy funding and withdrawals, Optimus Futures is an ideal solution for anyone interested in trading CME Group’s micro futures with free platforms and low margins. Optimus customers also get access to dedicated staff to address your trading needs at every step, from initial account application and platform set-up to providing on-going education and resources to help you learn more about the futures markets via guides, videos, podcasts, and articles.

6. Generic Trade

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Generic Trade has some of the lowest commission fees of any futures traders at a maximum of $0.59 per trade. Generic Trade prides themselves on transparency and keeps their prices lower than other futures brokers by eliminating the need for salespeople and brokers.

The firm believes modern traders already have such a wealth of information at their disposal they mainly need a firm to execute their trades at the lowest cost. It also doesn't have minimum account balances and volume requirements, making it assessable to most traders.

7. Tradestation

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TradeStation offers 2 distinct account types: its basic TS GO account aimed at new trades and its more in-depth TS Select account aimed at more advanced traders looking for a comprehensive set of tools and research options.

There’s no minimum account balance required to open a TS GO account. TS Select accounts require a $2,000 minimum deposit.

8. Interactive Brokers

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Interactive Brokers offers low commissions for futures traders from USD 0.25 to 0.85 per contract, with the ability to trade commodity futures and futures options globally on 30+ market centers. Furthermore, they offer industry low margin rates from 4.58% or less, powerful futures trading tools including their ComboTrader, SpreadTrader, and Index Arbitrage Meter, and educational material for novice futures traders.

9. TD Ameritrade

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TD Ameritrade requires a low account minimum at $1,500 but it’s $2.25 per contract, per side (plus exchange and regulatory fees). TD Ameritrade's day trade margin is 25% with a $15,000 minimum with virtual trading capabilities and over 60 futures products. With Thinkorswim, there’s no question that entering and executing orders are fast, with many advanced features.

What Matters Most?

Ultimately, depending on the trader, the futures broker characteristic that matters to one trader may matter more or less to another. For example, each trader’s preference on a platform can vary widely. Not every trader will agree on what he or she would like to see on a broker’s platform. (Remember, not every painter prefers the same paintbrush, and the same goes for individual traders. Some don’t need all the bells and whistles.) 

Perhaps one thing that raises the most red flags are those pesky commissions and margin fees. It might be reckless to choose a broker just because it’s the cheapest, but, boy, is it easy to overpay. It’s important to figure out on the front end exactly how much money will eke out during each trade.

And finally, customer service can make or break an experience with that particular broker. Determine your personal priorities, and use our guide to find the best futures brokers platform for you.

Want to learn more? Check out Benzinga’s guides on how to trade futureshow to buy oil futures and how to start online gold trading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Can you trade futures in a cash account?

A

Futures trading requires the use of margin, so you typically can’t trade futures in a cash account. If you invest using options, then cash accounts don’t make options trading impossible. There are only a limited number of options-related strategies you can use with a cash account.

Q

Can you day trade futures?

A

A: You must have a sufficient amount of capital to start day trading futures. You must also come to terms with the fact you may lose that capital. Some futures brokers require a $10,000 minimum deposit to start day trading futures.

Day traders often buy large numbers of shares and wait for a small move before they sell. And there is a lot of risk in day trading.

It may be best to practice with a demo account. A futures demo account allows you to make trades and track how they would pan out without the risk of losing (or gaining) any real money.