When choosing an online broker, day traders place a premium on speed, reliability, and low costs. Features that appeal to long-term or infrequent investors—such as access to fundamental analysis—are generally unnecessary for day traders. Instead, day traders focus on advanced charting and technical data to exploit intraday price fluctuations. We prioritized these features in our ranking when looking at how a day trading platform can help you stay on top of the market moves.

Note: Our top list focuses on online brokers and does not consider proprietary trading shops.

Best Brokers for Day Trading:

Interactive Brokers: Best Broker for Day Trading

4.6
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
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Why We Chose It

Selecting brokers in the day trading category is a challenge because our top two competitors, TradeStation and Interactive Brokers, are both incredibly robust. However, Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is our overall winner due to its international market reach, asset depth, and feature-rich Trader Workstation (TWS). Interactive Brokers also has the best margin rates in the industry, and that will be a key factor for day traders using leverage to amplify returns on their positions. What's more, IBKR added direct cryptocurrency trading in September 2021. So, although you need to use an application program interface (API) to get some advanced algorithmic trading features and backtesting that TradeStation has in-platform, Interactive Brokers simply offers far more opportunities to create positions across assets and borders at every hour of the day.

Pros
  • Wide range of markets and assets

  • TWS has customizations and tools that will satisfy even the most sophisticated traders

  • Best margin rates for traders

Cons
  • Some nominal fees persist

  • TWS can take some time to learn

  • Some advanced algo trading will require an API (although same is true of many other competitors)

Interactive Brokers: Best for Advanced Day Traders

4.6
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
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Why We Chose It

Interactive Brokers (IBKR) remains our top pick for advanced day traders, continuing another multi-year run. In this category, we assume advanced day traders are willing to bring third-party solutions to make up for the gaps in backtesting and automation in exchange for the wider access that IBKR provides in terms of international exchanges, an extensive selection of stocks on the easy-to-borrow list, and incredibly low margin rates. Advanced cryptocurrency day traders are now able to engage in direct coin trading as of September 2021, and everyone else will find that Interactive Brokers has all the assets, reach, and tools they need, along with attractive margin rates.

Pros
  • Superior order execution

  • Contingent orders for every conceivable situation

  • Low margin interest rates

  • Cryptocurrency joins a long list of tradable assets

Cons
  • IBKR's SmartRouter not available to IBKR Lite clients

  • TWS can take some time to learn

  • No backtesting of custom trading algorithms or automated trading

Interactive Brokers: Best Charting Platform for Day Traders

4.6
  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
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Why We Chose It

When it comes to charting, Interactive Brokers and TradeStation are incredibly robust and customizable. Interactive Brokers wins our best charting platform for day traders primarily because more assets are contained within those charts. Rather than having to move between platforms, day traders can chart (and trade) futures, debt instruments, options, stocks, and more. So while other brokers like TD Ameritrade and TradeStation have robust charting, Interactive Brokers is made more functional by the wider selection of assets you can run through it.

Pros
  • Flexible tools and high level of platform customization

  • Trade directly from chart and create views to fit any specification

  • Chart and trade assets from markets across the world in one platform

Cons
  • Traders will likely need IBKR PRO rather than LITE for access to backtesting

  • TWS is complex, so it can take some time to fully adjust and customize

Webull: Best Low-Cost Day Trading Platform

3.6
  • Account Minimum: None
  • Fees: $0 commission to trade stocks, listed options, and ETFs
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Why We Chose It

Webull is essentially a no-cost broker, not a low-cost broker. In addition to commission-free stocks and ETF trading, Webull offers free trading on U.S.-listed options. There are no account minimums and the margin rates are competitive. Day traders may be disappointed with the limited range of assets, but fixed income is likely the only one that will be missed in a multi-asset trading setup. For some traders, this asset limitation may be offset by the inclusion of cryptocurrency trading. Moreover, Webull’s trading platform is actually quite robust considering it all comes for free.

Pros
  • Easy account setup and options approval, and no fees or minimums

  • Free real-time streaming quotes

  • Access to extended hours and pre-market trading

  • Competitive margin rates

Cons
  • Potential lag on execution due to payment for order flow (PFOF)

  • No access to fixed income, mutual funds, foreign exchange, or futures markets

  • Trading platform is intuitive, but not as customizable as some competitors' platforms

Final Verdict

Interactive Brokers and TradeStation have been battling for the top spot in our day trading categories for a number of years, but it was Interactive Brokers' inclusion of cryptocurrency this year that played a key role in it edging TradeStation out for best overall. Most day traders already know both these platforms, and choosing between them may come down to how many in-platform features you need and how much margin you use. The interesting addition to this battle is WeBull. It loses the apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to day trading tools on the platform, but it is still a very solid day trading platform considering it comes to you in a no-cost format. It is nice to see that the major players continue to evolve while leaving some space for ambitious new entrants.

What Is Day Trading?

Day trading is the buying and selling (or selling and buying) of the same security during the same trading session to take small, frequent profits. Some day traders are discretionary traders, meaning they decide when to open and close trades based on current market conditions and intuition. Others are system traders who follow a predetermined set of rules to place trades. System traders often automate their strategies, allowing their computers to scan for, enter, manage, and close trades.

How Does Day Trading Work?

Unlike long-term investors who typically try to buy low and sell high, many day traders are just as likely to sell short. This means they sell high and buy low to profit from falling prices. While buy-and-hold investors tend to ride out market volatility by holding positions for the long term, day traders attempt to profit from it on a daily basis, going into and out of positions to exploit small price fluctuations. Because day traders rely on intraday price fluctuations and fast order execution, their chosen instruments typically trade under high volume (with good liquidity) and with substantial volatility.

What Are the Risks of Day Trading?

Day trading can be lucrative, but as with any type of investing, there are risks. One of the most significant risks for retail day traders is that they are competing against a stacked field of professionals who have the resources (e.g., speed, trading capital, technology, and software) to succeed. Without a level playing field, it can be difficult for retail traders to profit on a regular basis.

Another notable risk is that day traders often use leverage to enter positions, which means they can lose more than they risk on any given trade. This can be especially devastating with short trades—where the trader sells "high" in the hopes of buying to cover "low" at a profit—which have virtually unlimited risk since prices can continue to climb indefinitely. One more significant risk is being undercapitalized. Traders who don't have enough trading capital can burn through their accounts quickly, putting an early end to their day trading careers. What's more, traders who fund their accounts with anything but risk capital stand to lose more than their trading accounts.

How Do I Start Day Trading?

If you decide that day trading is right for you, start by opening an account with a broker that offers paper trading (aka simulated, or "sim" trading) so that you can practice trading before risking real money. Interactive Brokers, TradeStation, and Webull all offer simulated trading environments to help you hone your skills and try out new ideas. Be sure to practice your order-entry skills to minimize the risk of making costly errors when placing trades—for example, hitting the buy button when you meant to sell. Also, take the time to learn the platform's features so you can take full advantage of them when real trading starts.

While you're practicing and learning how to use the platform, you can develop and fine-tune your trading plan. Before risking real money, you should have a written trading plan that you can review before every trading session. Be sure to evaluate your trades at the end of every session so you can keep track of what's working, and what's not. Keep in mind that markets change over time. A day trading plan that works today may not be as profitable next year or even next month, so you have to continually evaluate and adapt your plan.

When you begin trading with real money, start small. Once you have more experience (and a proven track record), you can trade larger positions.

How Day Traders Use Their Online Brokers

Day traders may place their trades manually, often from a chart, or set up an automated system that generates orders on their behalf. Fundamental data is not a concern, but the ability to monitor price quotes, price volatility, liquidity, trading volume, and breaking news, is key to successful day trading. 

Day traders often prefer brokers who charge per share (rather than per trade). Traders also need real-time margin and buying power updates. Each broker ranked here affords their day-trading customers the ability to enter orders quickly by customizing the size of trades and turning off the trade confirmation screen. We sought brokers that allow traders to place multiple orders simultaneously, designate which trading venue will handle the order, and customize trading defaults.

What to Consider When Choosing a Day Trading Platform

A key consideration for day traders is trading platform quality, which can impact things such as execution speed and price quotes. Day traders, especially those who trade using their own algorithms, need flawless data feeds or they risk entering orders based on errors in the data. In an environment where high-frequency traders place transactions in milliseconds, human traders must possess the best tools. Most brokers offer speedy trade executions, but slippage remains a concern. Traders should test for themselves how long a platform takes to execute a trade.

Commissions, margin rates, and other expenses are also top concerns for day traders. Even if a day trader can consistently beat the market, the profit from those positions must exceed the cost of commissions. For a high-volume trader, commission costs can easily run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars per day. Traders can check these rates by contacting the broker or checking the broker's website, but most offer special rates for highly active day traders.

It is also important for day traders to consider factors such as customer service and the broker’s financial stability. Customer service is vital during times of crisis. A crisis could be a computer crash or other failure when you need to reach support to place a trade. The best brokers offer dedicated account representatives for highly active day traders to assist in this regard. 

The financial strength of the firm is also important since small brokerages can and do go out of business, but the main player in whether or not you can recover your assets is the clearing firm. Take a look at FINRA's BrokerCheck page before signing on with a small firm to make sure they have not had claims filed against them for misdeeds or financial instability.

Methodology

Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. Our reviews are the result of months of evaluating all aspects of an online broker’s platform, including the user experience, the quality of trade executions, the products available on its platforms, costs and fees, security, the mobile experience and customer service. We established a rating scale based on our criteria, collecting thousands of data points that we weighed into our star-scoring system.

When choosing an online broker, day traders place a premium on speed, reliability, and low cost. Features designed to appeal to long-term infrequent traders are unnecessary for day traders, who generally start a trading day with no positions in its portfolios, make a lot of transactions, and end the day with having closed all of those trades. The ability to monitor price volatility, liquidity, trading volume, and breaking news is key to successful day trading. Traders need real-time margin and buying power updates. Each broker ranked here affords its day-trading customers the ability to enter orders quickly by customizing the size of trades and turning off the trade confirmation screen. We sought brokers who allow traders to place multiple orders simultaneously, designate which trading venue will handle the order, and customize trading defaults.

Read our full methodology.