How to trade futures on ibkr: A Comprehensive Guide

by Jennifer

Futures trading has become an essential component of the global financial market, attracting a diverse range of investors, from individual traders to institutional players. Interactive Brokers (IBKR) is a prominent online brokerage platform that offers traders access to a wide array of financial instruments, including futures contracts.

Understanding the Basics of Futures

Before we dive into the specifics of trading futures on IBKR, let’s start with the fundamentals. Futures are standardized financial contracts that obligate the buyer to purchase, and the seller to sell, a specific quantity of an underlying asset at a predetermined price and delivery date. Futures contracts are widely used for hedging, speculating, and portfolio diversification. Common underlying assets for futures include commodities (such as oil and gold), stock market indices, interest rates, and currencies.


Setting Up Your Interactive Brokers Account

To begin trading futures on Interactive Brokers, you need to establish an account with the brokerage. This process involves standard account registration steps, including providing your personal information, verifying your identity, and agreeing to the terms and conditions. Ensure that you choose an appropriate account type, such as an individual or corporate account, based on your trading needs and objectives.


Once your account is approved, you can fund it with the necessary capital to execute trades. Interactive Brokers offers various account funding options, including bank transfers, credit/debit cards, and more. It’s crucial to deposit an amount that aligns with your trading strategy and risk tolerance.

Navigating the IBKR Platform

Interactive Brokers provides a powerful and versatile trading platform called Trader Workstation (TWS). The TWS platform offers numerous features designed to assist futures traders in making informed decisions and executing orders efficiently.

Market Data: Access to real-time market data is vital for futures trading. IBKR provides market data subscriptions that cover a wide range of futures markets, ensuring you have access to accurate and up-to-date pricing information.

Order Types: TWS offers various order types, including market orders, limit orders, stop orders, and more. Understanding how to use these order types is essential for managing your futures trades effectively.

Charting and Analysis: The TWS platform includes comprehensive charting and technical analysis tools to help you analyze price trends and patterns, identify potential entry and exit points, and manage risk.

Research and News: Access to research reports, news updates, and economic calendars within the platform can provide valuable insights into market conditions and events that may impact futures prices.

Risk Management and Margin Requirements

Futures trading involves a level of risk that should not be underestimated. To protect your capital and manage risk, it’s essential to understand margin requirements and risk management strategies.

Initial Margin: The initial margin is the amount of capital required to open a futures position. It serves as a safety net to cover potential losses.

Maintenance Margin: Maintenance margin is the minimum account balance you must maintain to keep your futures position open. Falling below this level can result in a margin call or forced liquidation of your position.

Stop-Loss Orders: Utilizing stop-loss orders is a fundamental risk management technique. These orders allow you to set a predefined price at which your position will be automatically closed to limit potential losses.

Position Sizing: Determining the appropriate size for your futures positions is crucial. Avoid over-leveraging your account, which can lead to substantial losses. Calculate your position size based on your risk tolerance and the distance between your entry and stop-loss levels.

Futures Contracts and Asset Classes

Interactive Brokers provides access to an extensive range of futures contracts across various asset classes. These include:

Commodities: You can trade futures on a variety of commodities, including crude oil, natural gas, gold, silver, agricultural products, and more.

Equity Index Futures: These futures contracts are linked to stock market indices like the S&P 500, Nasdaq 100, and Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Interest Rate Futures: These are based on interest rates or government bond yields, such as Eurodollar futures and Treasury futures.

Currency Futures: You can speculate on the price movements of major currency pairs, like EUR/USD and GBP/USD.

Options on Futures: In addition to trading futures contracts, Interactive Brokers allows you to trade options on futures, providing further flexibility in your trading strategy.

It’s crucial to choose the futures contracts that align with your trading goals, market knowledge, and risk tolerance.

Conducting Research and Analysis

In futures trading, informed decisions are key to success. To make these informed decisions, it’s essential to conduct thorough research and analysis. Here are some strategies:

Fundamental Analysis: Understand the factors that drive the prices of the underlying assets, such as supply and demand dynamics, geopolitical events, and economic indicators.

Technical Analysis: Use charts and technical indicators to identify price trends, support and resistance levels, and potential entry and exit points.

Market Sentiment: Pay attention to market sentiment and news that could impact futures prices.

Backtesting: Evaluate the historical performance of your trading strategy using historical data to determine its effectiveness.

Futures Trading Strategies

A wide range of trading strategies can be employed in futures markets, depending on your risk tolerance, time horizon, and market conditions. Some common strategies include:

Day Trading: Buying and selling futures contracts within the same trading day to profit from short-term price movements.

Swing Trading: Holding positions for several days or weeks to capture intermediate price swings.

Trend Following: Identifying and trading in the direction of established price trends.

Hedging: Using futures contracts to protect an existing portfolio from adverse price movements.

Arbitrage: Exploiting price discrepancies between related futures contracts or between the futures and spot markets.

Options Strategies: Combining futures and options to create more complex trading strategies.

Selecting the right strategy depends on your trading goals and the level of risk you are comfortable with.

Placing Orders and Executing Trades

Interactive Brokers offers various methods for placing orders, depending on your preferences and trading style:

Manual Trading: You can manually enter orders through the TWS platform. This method provides greater control and flexibility over your trades.

Algorithmic Trading: For more advanced traders, Interactive Brokers offers algorithmic trading solutions, allowing for automated and programmatic trading.

Mobile Trading: The IBKR mobile app provides a convenient option for trading futures on the go, giving you access to your account and the markets from your smartphone.

To execute a trade, simply choose the contract you wish to trade, set your order parameters (including quantity, order type, and price), and confirm the order.

Monitoring and Managing Your Positions

After placing your trades, it’s crucial to monitor your positions and manage them effectively. Use the TWS platform to track your open positions, monitor market conditions, and stay updated with relevant news and events.

Stop-Loss and Take-Profit Orders: Use these orders to automatically manage and exit your positions at predetermined price levels, allowing you to lock in profits and limit losses.

Trailing Stops: These orders allow you to set a trailing stop that adjusts as the market moves in your favor, locking in profits while allowing for further potential gains.

Rolling Over Contracts: When trading futures, contracts have expiration dates. Before expiration, you may need to roll over your position to a new contract to avoid physical delivery or cash settlement.

Reviewing and Analyzing Performance

Regularly assess your performance as a futures trader. Review your trades, identify strengths and weaknesses, and make necessary adjustments to your strategy. Keep a trading journal to document your decisions, reasoning, and outcomes, enabling you to learn from your experiences and refine your approach.


Trading futures on Interactive Brokers can be a rewarding endeavor, provided you approach it with the necessary knowledge, discipline, and strategies. By understanding the basics of futures, navigating the IBKR platform, and employing sound risk management, research, and trading techniques, you can participate in this dynamic market with confidence. Keep in mind that futures trading requires ongoing education and practice, so continuously work to enhance your skills and adapt to evolving market conditions.

You May Also Like


Bnher is a comprehensive futures portal. The main columns include futures market, futures exchanges, futures varieties, futures basic knowledge and other columns.

[Contact us: [email protected]]

© 2023 Copyright – Futures Market, Investment, Trading & News