How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

Do you know how to trade Futures on ThinkorSwim? We’ll look at buying and selling contracts with examples. You’ll see what screens to look for when trading dedicated Futures as opposed to stocks. As a result, you’ll be prepared to trade Futures on this specific broker.

How to How To Trade Futures On ThinkorSwim

The Thinkorswim App from TD Ameritrade for trading is one of the best in the business and used by many different traders.  TD has its own professional-level futures trading platform within Thinkorswim called of all things “Futures Trader.” 

To access Futures Trader, you’ll start by selecting the “Trade” tab then the “Futures Trader” tab below it.

How to Trade Futures in ThinkorSwim

On your first login, you’ll see six different equity indexes and futures in the top two rows of panes.  These are from left to right the E-mini S&P, the E-mini Nasdaq, and the mini Dow Jones Industrial.  The next row has the Russell, Nymex crude, and gold futures

You can change these as you wish by clicking on the drop down for the “symbol table” and pick the desired asset/index. And you can change the number of panes that you are viewing so that you only see what you want to follow.  You do this with the grid tool in the upper right-hand corner of the Trader. 

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

We’ll we will switch from 3×4 to 3×1, choose three panes and make them the /NQ /ES and /YM. On the right of each pane, we see there are buttons that we can use to help us with trading.

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

Tracking and Placing Trades

These options will allow us to both track and place trades as well as keep up with the most recent news in regards to the asset that is chosen within the pane. 

At the top of the list slightly greyed is the “Trade” button, this allows us to both place trades and helps us keep track of our open trades.  When we place a trade order, it will appear in that area. 

In the 6th position, also greyed, is the “Dashboard” button.  This selection can allow us to quickly place a trade, and it shows us both the tick value of the asset as well as the initial margin requirement for the particular futures contract of the pane. 

Live News to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

Let’s move over to the next two panes and change each of them also to “/NQ” (Nasdaq same as the first pane) but in the second pane we are going to follow the live news on the Nasdaq, so we click on the “symbol action” in the upper right of the pane (the three dot dashes) then “gadgets”.

And finally “live news” the other choice for some is clicking the “live news” button at the bottom of the pane’s righthand hand list with “trade” and “dashboard”.  In the third pane we are going to click the “symbol action” and “Gadgets” again. But then choose “Chart” some users can choose the chart from the “Trade/Dashboard” list as well.  This’ll open up a price chart in the third pane.

This chart is the same as you would have, including the functions and feathers as in the regular “Charts” tab.

Now we have the dashboard set to monitor and trade the /NQ Nasdaq future. 

Since we have had consistent up in our example chart, let’s short the NQ.  From our first pane dashboard, we will select “Sell” and the Order entry tools will pop up at the bottom of the display with the trade details already filled in. 

We make sure this is all correct, a “Sell” will be in red and “Buy” in green. Our full symbol is /NQH21 the “NQ” is our Nasdaq future, the “H” is for March, and the “21” is the year 2021.  Assuming we are happy with everything we will hit “Confirm and Send”.

The “Order Confirmation Dialog” window will pop up over the screen:

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

Last Chance to Confirm

This is our last chance to confirm the info when we trade futures on ThinkorSwim.  We are paying a $2.25 commission and a $1.19 exchange fee with a $3.44 total cost.  The buying power is the initial margin of the trade ($17,600).  You want to make sure this is all correct and is a trade that you are comfortable with; if not, you may be making a huge mistake.  Once confirmed, we click “Send,” to complete the order and our position is open. 

Looking at the trade button in our dashboard’s first pane we can see that the position is open.


When we want to close our position, we will click the position at the bottom of our window and create a closing order.

The order will be working and your fingers are crossed:

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

We have closed our position made $165($153.12 after fees) and can look for a new one.  Not a bad 15 minutes of our time, wish they were all that easy. 

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim Summary

As you can see, using the Thinkorswim “Futures Trader” tool to trade futures on ThinkorSwim is really easy.  All of the info you need to make a decision is there.  You can edit the dashboard and panes to fit your needs and follow the asset that you are trading with just a few clicks. Remember that you only want to make trades that you are comfortable with and can afford to lose. As always, good luck with your trades!!!!

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