Trading futures online is slightly more complicated than trading stocks.  To begin with, the concept of buying and selling futures is a little bit different.  In stock trading you are buying and selling stock or equity in a company.  In the futures market, we are buying and selling contracts for a certain type of good.  So if you wanted to buy a futures oil contract because you think the price of oil will rise in the future, you would first find what exchange that contract is being traded on, what the symbol and current month for that contract looks like, and lastly buy or sell that contract through your broker.  Some of the largest futures exchanges for the United States are:

  1. CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE) (owned by Chicago Board Options Exchange)
  2. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME)
  3. Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)
  4. Chicago Climate Exchange
  5. ELX Futures (Electronic Liquidity Exchange)

In Europe the top futures exchanges are:

  1. Blue Next
  2. Eurex
  3. European Climate Exchange
  4. OMX

Another key difference between trading futures and stocks is the expiration of a futures contract.  When you buy a stock, you can hold onto it for as long as the company stays public (look how long Disney stock has been out).  For futures contracts, they expire after a certain amount of time.  Therefore, futures traders must either plan on trading in the short term (under 3 months) or be prepared to sell their holdings and re-invest them into a new contract (roll over).   The futures market is very fast and is not for the faint of heart.  There is a considerable amount of risk (and potential profit) to be made trading futures.

Suggested next reading:  Advantages and Disadvantages of Futures Trading