How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim Platform

5 min read

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 instead of stocks. As a result, you’ll be prepared to trade Futures on this specific broker.

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

To access Futures Trader, select the “Trade” tab and the “Futures Trader” tab below.

On your first login, you’ll see six different equity indexes and futures in the top two rows of panes. From left to right, these are 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

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

TOS Grid Tool

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 buttons that we can use to help us with trading.

TOS Buttons

Tracking and Placing Trades

These options allow us to track and place trades and keep up with the most recent news regarding the asset chosen within the pane. 

At the top of the slightly greyed list 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. 

The 6th position, also greyed, is the “Dashboard” button.  This selection can allow us to place a trade quickly, 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. 


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 will click the “symbol action” and “Gadgets” again. But then choose “Chart.” some users can also choose the chart from the “Trade/Dashboard” list. This will open up a price chart in the third pane.

How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

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 to monitor and trade the /NQ Nasdaq future

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

We ensure this is all correct; a “Sell” will be in red, and a “Buy” will be in green. Our full symbol is /NQH21, the “NQ” is our Nasdaq future, the “H” is for March, and the “21” is for 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 Picture

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 ensure this is all correct and is a trade you are comfortable with; otherwise, 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.

Placing a Futures Trade in ThinkorSwim

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

TOS Closing Order
The order will be working and your fingers are crossed:
ThinkorSwim Working Order

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

Final Thoughts: How to Trade Futures on ThinkorSwim

As you can see, using the Thinkorswim “Futures Trader” tool to trade futures on ThinkorSwim is 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 you are trading with just a few clicks. Remember that you only want to make trades you are comfortable with and can afford to lose. As always, good luck with your trades!!!!

Frequently Asked Questions

ThinkorSwim does offer futures trading. You can trade /ES, /NQ, and /MES, to name a couple. 

Log into your TD Ameritrade account. Find your profile under Client Services. Look for Elections and Routing. From there click to enable Futures.

Yes, you can trade futures on the ThinkorSwim mobile app. 

The account minimum to trade futures in TOS is $1,500. 

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