Best Futures Brokers in 2020

Everything you need to know to choose the right platform for you.
Kane Pepi
Author: Kane Pepi
Last Updated: February 16, 2020

Are you looking for the best futures brokers of 2020 and beyond? If so, you’ve come to the right place. As the futures arena is now a multi-trillion dollar industry, there are countless brokers that now allow you to buy and sell contracts at the click of a button. In fact, you can even trade futures contracts on the move via your mobile phone.

However, knowing which futures broker to go with can be challenging. While some trading platforms excel in the fees department, others are better suited for those that seek super-fast withdrawals. Similarly, some futures brokers will favour those of you that seek an extensive number of asset classes to trade.

Nevertheless, by reading our comprehensive Best Futures Brokers 2020 Guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to choose the right platform for you. On top of listing the best three brokers of 2020, we’ll also break down the key factors that you need to look out for prior to opening an account.

Note: Futures contracts are highly sophisticated financial instruments that should not be taken lightly. As such, you should only buy and sell futures if you know what you are doing, and crucially, you have a firm grasp of the underlying risks.

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    What Criteria are Used to Rank the Best Futures Brokers?

    ❓How many financial instruments does the broker list?

    ❓How much does the broker charge in trading fees and commissions?

    ❓What deposit and withdrawal methods does the broker support?

    ❓How long does it take to get your account verified?

    ❓What trading features and charting tools does the broker offer?

    Top 3 Futures Brokers Online

    While there are literally thousands of futures brokers currently operating in the online space, we have narrowed our top picks down to just three. The brokers that we have gone for mirror the criteria we have outlined above.

    1. NinjaTrader – Best Futures Broker for Experienced Traders

    If you’re an experienced trader that has a full grasp of the ins and outs of futures contracts, then we would suggest checking NinjaTrader out.

    First and foremost, the platform lists more than 200 futures contracts that can be traded at the click of a button. This mainly centres on highly traded commodities such as gold, silver, and oil.

    You can also buy and sell futures contracts on well-known stock market indices such as the Nasdaq, Dow Jones, and S&P 500. One of the stand-out selling points of NinjaTrader is that it only charges $0.53 per futures contract, which is super-low. On the flip-side, you will need to have a minimum account balance of $1,000 to get started with the broker.

    If you’ve got a slightly higher appetite for risk, NinjaTrader also facilitates margin trading. You’ll have access to $1,000 in margin if trading Crude Oil or Gold futures. Finally, NinjaTrader is especially useful for experienced traders due to its extensive offering of technical indicators.

    Key Points:

    💳 Offers more than 200+ futures contracts

    💳 Charges just $0.53 per futures contract

    💳 Regulated by the National Futures Association and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

    💳 Margin trading facilitated

    💳 Heaps of advanced technical indicators

    2. e-Trade – Best for Research and Analysis

    If you’re a seasoned investor, then you’ll know first-hand that futures prices are mainly dominated by fundamental analysis. For example, futures prices on the S&P 500 are likely to increase in response to the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates.

    With that being said, e-Trade is an excellent option if you’re looking for an all-in-one trading platform that offers heaps of research tools. All account holders will have access to a fully-fledged news market feed, as well as live market commentary.

    e-Trade is also home to a good number of expert analysts that publish regular material on their viewpoints. e-Trade is also a good option if you have a tendency to buy and sell contracts on the move. Its mobile app has been fully optimized to allow seamless trading around the clock.

    In terms of the fundamentals, e-Trade charges just $1.50 per futures contract, which you’ll pay at both ends of the transaction. The broker does not implement any short-selling restrictions, and you can trade contracts on a 24/6 basis. Finally, e-Trade requires all traders to have a minimum account balance of $500.

    Key Points:

    💳 Charges just $1.50 per futures contract

    💳 Fully-fledged research and analysis department 

    💳 Heavily regulated

    💳 U.S. friendly

    💳 Minimum account balance of $500

    3. TD Ameritrade – Best for Diversified Futures Trading

    TD Ameritrade is one of the most popular brokers in the US, with a track record of just over 45 years in the industry. The platform offers a comprehensive futures department, with more than 70 contracts supported.

    You will be able to buy and sell contracts on a range of asset classes. This includes metals, currencies, stock market indices, and grains. If you are an approved investor, you will also be able to trade Bitcoin futures contracts. Futures orders can be executed on a 24/6 basis, and you can trade on the main desktop site or via your mobile phone.

    One of the main drawbacks to using an established futures broker like TD Ameritrade is that fees are somewhat expensive. You will need to pay $2.25 per future contract, which is charged on top of exchange and regulatory fees. However, traders are still drawn to the broker because of its strong regulatory and reputational standing.

    Moreover, the trading platform offered by the broker is industry leading. It comes with a plethora of advanced order types and charting tools, and you can fully customize your trading screen with ease.

    Key Points:

    💳 45 years in the retail and institutional trading space

    💳 70+ futures contracts listed

    💳 Approved investors can buy and sell Bitcoin futures 

    💳 Charges $2.25 per futures contract

    💳 Heavily regulated

    What to Consider When Choosing a Futures Broker?

    If you like the sound of one of the three futures brokers that we have recommended, it is crucial that you still perform your own due diligence. This is because each broker will come with its own pros and cons, so you need to ensure that the platform is right for your individual needs. This should include the platform’s regulatory standing, supported payment methods, number of futures contracts listed, and trading fees.

    To help you along the way we have listed the main metrics that you need to look out for prior to choosing a new futures broker.

    • Is the Futures Broker Regulated?

    Your first port of call should be to assess the platform’s regulatory standing. If you are based in US, then you need to ensure that the futures broker is regulated by both the National Futures Association and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). If it isn’t, then the platform might be operating without the required legal remit.

    If you’re actively trading at a European-based broker, then key regulators include the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and CySEC in Cyprus.

    • Platform Fees and Charges

    Futures brokers are in the business of making money, so you will need to pay a fee to buy and sell contracts online. In the vast majority of cases, you will pay a fixed fee for each futures contract that you buy or sell. For example, if you purchase 10 futures contracts in Crude Oil, and the broker charges $1.50 per contract, then you will pay $15 in fees (10 contracts x $1.50).

    Some futures brokers will instead charge you a percentage fee. This is calculated against the total size of your order. For example, if you purchase $10,000 worth of contracts on the S&P 500, and the broker charges 1% in fees, you would pay $100. You also need to look out for the fees associated with margin trading, as this is hugely popular in the futures space.

    • Types of Futures Contracts Listed

    As a multi-trillion dollar industry, it will come as no surprise to learn that futures can now be traded on just about anything. This covers currencies, grains, energies, stock market indices, cryptocurrencies, and interest rates. However, not all futures brokers have an extensive list of contracts for sale, so you need to explore the trading arena prior to signing up.

    It is also important to explore what maturity dates each contract comes with, as this can vary depending on the asset class.

    • Deposits and Withdrawals

    Have you considered how you intend to fund your new futures broker account? Most platforms now facilitate debit and credit card payments, which is by far the easiest way to deposit funds. Although debit/credit card payments are typically funded instantly, limits are often much smaller in comparison to a bank transfer. As such, if you’re looking to deposit larger amounts, you might need to wait a few days before your account is credited.

    When it comes to withdrawals, you need to assess what the minimum cash-out amount is, and how long it takes for the funds to arrive. In most cases, you will need to make a withdrawal to your personal bank account.

    • Customer Support

    As futures contracts are a highly sophisticated financial instrument, you need to ensure that you have top-notch support available as and when you need it. The best futures brokers in the market will offer a number of different support channels. This should include a fully-fledged telephone support line, as well as live chat. Crucially, you’ll want to choose a broker that offers customer support on a  24/7 basis.

    • Margin Trading

    The vast majority of futures contracts are purchased on margin. For those unaware, margin trading allows you to invest more than you have in your account. Although this allows you to amplify your gains, margin trading is fraught with risk. Essentially, if your futures trade goes against you, and you don’t have the required margin in your account, your trade could be liquidated. This means you will lose your entire stake, so tread with caution!

    • Research and Analysis

    You should only engage in futures trading if you have a firm grasp of the underlying risks. With that being said, if you are a beginner and you’re prepared to start with small stakes, you’ll want to choose a futures broker that offers an extensive educational department.

    We also prefer brokers that offer ongoing news and analysis on key futures markets. Some platforms have dedicated commentators on a specific niche like Crude Oil or GBP/USD, which is super-useful. For those of you that like to focus on the technicals, stick with brokers that offer heaps of charting tools.

    What Assets Can I Buy and Sell Futures Contracts?

    Futures contracts allow you to speculate on the future price of virtually any asset class. If there is a traditional market for the asset in question, then you can be all-but-certain that futures contracts can be purchase. Moreover, unlike traditional assets like stocks and shares, futures contracts allow you to profit when the price of an asset goes down.

    With that being said, below we’ve listed the most common asset classes that best futures brokers typically list.

    • Stock Market Indices

    One of the most popular markets for futures traders is that of stock market indices. For those unaware, indices allow you to invest in the wider stock markets. For example, the S&P 500 allows you to invest in the 500 largest US companies listed on the Nasdaq and NYE. Similarly, the FTSE 100 covers the 100 largest companies traded on the London Stock Exchange. By trading futures on indices, you can speculate on the future price of the wider economy at the click of a button.

    • Energies

    The energies market covers the conventional oil and gas space. This allows you to easily invest in the future price of oil and gas without needing to own or store the underlying asset. There are a number of energies futures markets traded in the space, and prices are based on the location of the oil fields in question. For example, while Brent Crude Oil is based on oil fields in the North Sea, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is based on US reserves.

    • Currencies

    When investors buy and sell currencies, this is known as ‘Forex’ trading. However, you can also buy and sell futures contracts on popular forex pairs. For example, you can speculate on the future price of GBP/USD. Currencies in particular are heavily affected by real-world affairs, so you need to be kept abread on any key developments that could impact your trade. This could include an increase or decrease of central bank interest rates, or the release of GDP figures.

    • Metals

    Metals trading is also hugely popular in the futures space. This includes the likes of gold, silver, and platinum. Once again, futures contracts make it super-easy to speculate on metals without needing to worry about storage. Instead, you merely need to assess whether you believe the price of the asset will go up or down before the contract matures.

    Note: The maturity on a futures contract is the date in which it expires. If you don’t sell the contract before the maturity date is activated, it will automatically close.
    • Bitcoin

    Bitcoin futures became a thing in late 2017, with both the CME and CBOE launching markets for institutional investors. Although trading volumes are still minute in comparison to the more traditional asset classes, demand is on the rise. Most importantly, a number of brokers now support Bitcoin futures for retail clients. This gives you direct access to the weird and wonderful world of Bitcoin without needing to actually own or store the asset. Just remember that Bitcoin is still highly volatile, so tread with caution – especially if trading on margin!

    Learn more about cryptocurrency trading here.

    Summary – Choosing a Trading Platform

    If you have read our guide on futures brokers from start to finish, you should now have a good idea of what you need to look for when choosing a new platform. This should start at the very offset by assessing the regulatory and reputational standing of the broker, as well as the type of payment methods supported. We have also covered the importance of choosing a futures broker that offers low trading fees, and a highly extensive number of asset classes.

    While we have also listed our top three futures brokers of 2020 and beyond, it is important that you still perform your own research on the platform in question. This will ensure that the broker meets your individual trading requirements, as no two brokers are the same. Ultimately, as futures contracts are highly complex financial instruments, just make sure that you have a firm grasp of how the space works prior to risking your own money.

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    What is a futures contract?

    A futures contract allows you to speculate on the future price of an asset without needing to own or store it. You need to decide whether you believe the price will go up or down before the futures contract matures.

    What does it mean when a futures contract matures?

    Futures contracts will always come with an expiry date. Known as the 'maturity', this is the date in which your futures contracts will automatically be closed. In most cases, futures contracts have a maturity date of 3 months, although they can be both shorter or longer.

    What is margin trading?

    Margin trading allows you to purchase futures contracts with more money than you have in your trading account. Although they give you the opportunity to amplify your gains, they can also amplify your losses. As such, tread with caution.

    What can you trade futures on?

    If an asset can be bought and sold in the traditional sense, then it's likely that a futures market exists. This covers everything from stock market indices, currencies, metals, energies, cryptocurrencies, and interest rates.

    How are fees charged on a futures contract?

    Most futures brokers will charge you a flat fee for each contract that you purchase. For example, if the broker charges $1 per contract, and you buy 25 contracts, you'll pay $25 in fees.

    How do I withdraw funds from a futures broker?

    As per anti-money laundering regulations, you will likely need to withdraw your funds back to the payment method you used to make a deposit.

    Are futures and options the same thing?

    Futures and options are not the same thing. They are two different types of financial instruments, so it's crucial you understand how each one works before risking your own money.

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    All trading carries risk. Views expressed are those of the writers only. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The opinions expressed in this Site do not constitute investment advice and independent financial advice should be sought where appropriate. This website is free for you to use but we may receive commission from the companies we feature on this site.
    Kane Pepi

    Kane holds academic qualifications in the finance and financial investigation fields. With a passion for all-things finance, he currently writes for a number of online publications.

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