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.

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 tradeable 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 the Schwab website 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. In addition to being an accredited investor, to apply for futures trading approval, your account must have:

  • Margin approval (to check: Log in > Services > Account Settings > Margin borrowing is marked Yes).
  • Options Level 2 or greater approved.
  • An account minimum of US$1,500 (required for margin accounts.)

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 877-656-8748 (from within the U.S.) or +1-415-667-8400 (from outside the U.S.).


Go to the Schwab website 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 (non-U.S. resident)
  • Entity-Trust, Corporation, Partnership, LLC

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 Understanding Futures page to learn more about futures contracts. 

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 US$50 times the S&P 500 Index, every 0.25 move in /ES equals US$12.50.

Visit the Understanding Futures page for more information. 

Fees for futures and futures options are US$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.

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