Frequently asked questions about futures

If you have questions about futures, we have answers.

Futures and futures options trading is provided by Charles Schwab Futures and Forex LLC.

Questions & answers about futures

Clients can learn more about setting up and customizing thinkorswim platforms by watching our tutorial, "How to Set up thinkorswim for Trading Futures."

Through the thinkorswim platforms and mobile app, qualified traders have the ability to trade futures offered by a variety of exchanges: Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), ICE Futures U.S. (ICE US), CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE), and Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGE).

We offer access to over 80 futures contracts and more than 20 futures options contracts.

Here's a list of all tradable markets

Futures markets are open nearly 24 hours a day, six days a week. But keep in mind that each product has its own unique trading hours. See the trading hours here.

Visit and log in to your account. Choose "Trade" and click "Futures." Choose one of your eligible accounts from the drop-down menu and click the "Open a Futures Account" button. 

Yes. To apply for futures trading approval, your account must have:

  • Margin approval (check your margin approval)
  • An account minimum of $1,500 (required for margin accounts.)
  • A minimum net liquidation value (NLV) of $25,000 to trade futures in an IRA. Only SEP, Roth, Traditional, and Rollover IRAs are eligible for futures trading.

Please keep in mind that not all clients will qualify and meeting all requirements doesn't guarantee approval.

If you'd like more information about requirements or to ensure you have the required settings or permissions on your account, contact us at 800-435-9050.

Go to and log in to your account. Choose "Trade" and click "Futures." Under "Getting Started," select an eligible account and look for Futures. If you are already approved, it will say Active.

  • Individual and joint (both U.S. resident and non-U.S. resident)
  • Entity-Trust, Corporation, Partnership, LLC
  • IRA accounts (SEP, Roth, Rollover, Traditional)

Futures are traded exclusively on thinkorswim platforms such as desktop, web, and mobile app (available on iPhone®, iPad®, and Android).

A full list of all futures symbols can be viewed on the Futures tab in thinkorswim platforms or the Futures Markets page.

Let's look at how to read the futures symbol: /ESU24

Slash (/)
This is used to identify that the product is a futures product in the thinkorswim platform.

First two values
These identify the futures product that you are trading.
ES = E-mini S&P 500

Third value
The letter determines the expiration month of the product.
F = January, G = February, H = March, J = April, K = May, M = June, N = July, Q = August, U = September, V = October, X = November,  Z = December

Fourth value
The year of expiration
24 = 2024

You can view initial margin requirements in several different sections on thinkorswim platforms. They can be found under the Futures tab as well as the Trade tab in the Futures Trader section. All you need to do is enter the futures symbol to view it. Margin requirements are subject to change at any time.

A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a financial instrument, such as the E-mini S&P 500 (/ES), or a physical commodity, such as crude oil, for future delivery on a regulated commodity futures exchange.

Visit the Futures Contract Details page to learn more about futures contracts, including how they work, their specifications, and individual contract types.

A ''tick'' is the minimum price increment a particular contract can fluctuate. Tick sizes and values vary from contract to contract. For example, a tick in E-mini S&P 500 (/ES) is 0.25 per point. Since /ES represents $50 times the S&P 500 Index, every 0.25 move in /ES equals $12.50.

Visit the Futures Contract Details page for more information on tick size and other contract specifications.

Fees for futures and futures options are $2.251 per contract, plus exchange and regulatory fees, and you pay the same commission whether you trade online or with the help of a broker.

Note: Exchange fees may vary by exchange and by product. Regulatory fees are assessed by the National Futures Association (NFA) and are subject to change.

Learn more about pricing

Yes, you do need to have a Charles Schwab account to use thinkorswim. Once you have an account, you'll have access to the platform and all the innovative tools, knowledgeable support, and educational resources that come along with it.

First, you need to make sure you have a qualified IRA account type: Traditional, Rollover, Roth, or SEP. Then, make sure that the account meets the following criteria:

  • Minimum net liquidity of $25,000
  • Margin and Options Level 2 approval
  • If you already have these requirements, you will go straight to the futures application. If you do not, you will be prompted to enable one or both requirements prior to applying.

Please keep in mind that not all clients will qualify, and meeting all requirements doesn't guarantee approval.

Please note: IRA accounts are held to 125% of the initial margin requirement.

Have questions about futures? We're here to help.