The Best Options Broker. Latest Update October 28, 2016. The best options trading platform isn’t going to be an afterthought tacked on to an existing suite of products: it should be robust and easy to use. Beginners need enough support to learn the ropes and experienced traders are after low fees and powerful tools. We signed up, assessed the fees, took the tools for a spin, and narrowed it down to three top picks. The one that's best for you depends on what you’re after. Tons of online and in-person support, plus a practice platform that lets you try everything out with “paperMoney.” The downside? Higher fees. Rock-bottom pricing, but no research or method support. Unrivaled tools & research with pricing that favors active traders.
There are a lot of brokers that are perfectly capable of trading options — nearly all of the big (read: old-school) names have an options platform integrated into their suite of offerings. But for those looking to really dive in, whether as a beginner just starting out or an active trader looking to level up, the best platform won’t be something that’s just tacked on. How We Found the Best Options Broker. To find the brokers that cater specifically to options, we looked at 36 choices and analyzed their products. We prioritized the most important aspects: Cost matters a lot when it comes to trading options. It’s the very nature: part of the appeal of options is that the returns can be major even if you don’t fork over a lot of cash up front, and many traders use options as a cheaper alternative to going long on a high-priced stock. Fees can add up and even wipe out the profits from any profitable trades. Granted, slightly higher fees may be worth it if a broker can provide other perks (say, excellent resources and education for beginners), but we wanted all our picks to have competitive pricing. We also wanted to avoid minimum balance requirements, or a set number of trades per month. Easy-to-use interfaces are a make-or-break for most platforms. The price of options contracts can swing a lot over the course of a trading day poking around a clunky options chain can literally cost you.
Education and resources are important, especially for investors who are getting their feet wet. Sure you’ve got a handle on multi-leg options trades, but do you know when it’s the right time for a bull call spread? What’s an iron butterfly? Not all traders will need hand-holding, but we wanted to find at least one excellent options broker we could recommend to newcomers. Flexibility can be interpreted a few ways. For us, it meant the robustness of the platform (could we research and purchase stocks and ETFs in addition to options?) its flexibility (could we streamline a multi-leg options trade, or did we have to input them all separately?) and whether or not we could customize it to our liking. It was quick work to eliminate the most expensive platforms, as well as the ones that had absolutely no resources or reports. To test ease of use and flexibility, we signed up for accounts and simulated making trades on all the rest. Three brokers rose to the top, and each brings something unique to the table.
Our Picks for Best Options Broker. TD Ameritrade Higher fees on an ultra-easy platform. Plus, tons of support and education. TD Ameritrade is one of the largest online brokerages in the market today, with over 7 million funded customer accounts and over $700 billion in total client assets, and despite its slightly higher prices, it provides the best platform for a beginner trading any product, options or otherwise. For more novice traders, the platform supports the jump from trading stocks with the funds in an IRA to more sophisticated products like options. It’s robust, plus it has the customer service and educational resources to make the transition. There are webinars and hours of on-demand videos that’ll teach you about options strategies and how to literally execute those strategies on the platform. TD Ameritrade is a full-service broker, and that full service (we’re talking 247 customer service and 100 branches for face-to-face consultations) does come with higher fees. Barron’s agrees, awarding it “best platform for novices” five years running. We can anticipate its service only getting better too. In 2016, TD Ameritrade started the process of acquiring Scottrade, another platform known for it’s in-person customer service offerings. In fact, TD Ameritrade is one of the best platforms for all levels of investors, serving up two discrete products: thinkorswim and Trade Architect.
Thinksorswim is a desktop platform designed for an all-around trading experience: charts with real-time data, news tickers, 300-plus technical studies, alerts and alarms, heat mapping, options screeners, securities scanner, and more, all accessible in a single click. It’s definitely for seasoned investors — newcomers will likely be overwhelmed — but it’s worth bringing up because a virtual playspace called paperMoney allows even total novices to cut their teeth without risking even a single penny. We recommend beginners stick to TD Ameritrade’s web-based platform Trade Architect. It is nowhere near as robust as thinkorswim (and has nowhere near as jazzy a name), but it provides everything a new investor would want and it’s ultra-easy to use. It’s not bogged down with all the bells and whistles and live-streaming CNBC. Tabs at the top are simply categorized under jargon-free headings: account overview, watch lists, alarms, idea generators, and heat maps. Unlike thinkorswim, the platform is customizable. If you want more widgets, like say, additional stock tickers or video, they’re there for the adding. If beginner investors use TD Ameritrade’s education library to learn the ropes, practice using paperMoney in thinkorswim, and then easily execute trades with Trade Architect, the slightly higher fee may suddenly seem worth it. OptionsHouse The lowest fees and no minimum balance requirements. OptionsHouse isn’t the most recognizable name in the industry, and that’s probably because this online broker hasn’t pursued an aggressive marketing campaign like some of the other brokers out there (remember E*Trade’s old Super Bowl ads?
). The company was founded in 2005 and was established to specifically provide options traders who demanded lower fees from the then burgeoning online brokerage industry. Those low fees are still what makes OptionsHouse so popular. There’s a $0 minimum deposit to join and options trade at $4.95 + $0.50contract (stocks trade at a flat $4.95 fee). This is the lowest price in the industry. Only TradeKing comes close — matching that $4.95 options base fee, but charging $5 more than OptionsHouse for the exercise fee. The OptionsHouse platform is striking if a bit chaotic — there are buttons, tabs, and menus all over the place. It’s intuitive and there’s a tutorial to walk you through, but to a beginner it might seem more like sitting in front of the controls of an aircraft than is comfortable. Beginners take note: OptionsHouse does have a virtual platform that’s great for practicing. And, the tradeLAB makes dissecting options spreads simple — the green smiley face is good the red frown is no good. What you won’t get for those low fees is method and research: OptionsHouse has about 30 technical studies TD Ameritrade has 300. It’s important to note that E*Trade purchased OptionsHouse for a whopping $725 million in 2016. It is still unclear how any pricing structures or account features and perks will change after the sale is completed, but an OptionsHouse blog post suggests that E*Trade’s tools and services will become available after the platforms merge.
Best Tools and Research. optionsXpress A one-stop shop within a major firm, with an options-native platform. OptionsXpress was purchased by Charles Schwab back in 2011 to enhance Schwab’s competitive edge in options trading. The result is a one-stop shop with an options-native platform that’s pretty whiz-bang. Everything happens through the desktop platform, Xtend, but all the trading tools are also on the optionsXpress web platform. It’s fully customizable, and it’s easy to find real-time quotes and market data, news and reports, and company background information. The Idea Hub scans the market for volatility, earnings, and income-based strategies and offers new trade ideas. With Walk Limit, you can set a few parameters, and it will scan updated market data and re-create an order you may have made at a higher price in the past. Sign up for the Xpresso newsletter and you’ll get a daily email alerting you to the day’s risks and opportunities. Add to that an impressive library of educational resources, as well as access to all of Charles Schwab’s investment research (and free access to its seminars and meetings at local branches), and a virtual trading platform that helps beginner investors practice all types of trading with $25,000 in fake cash. If you need help from a broker — to calm your first-timer nerves or to walk you through a complex method — they’re ready to help and totally free, too. The standard rates are steep, so we don’t recommend optionsXpress to the casual trader. Make more than 35 trades a quarter and you’ll click into “Active Trader” status and your fees will go down. Trade in volumes and there’s another discount trade contracts under a nickel and there’s another discount.
This is all to say the price structure favors the active. And while optionsXpress has a $0 account minimum and does not charge any annual or inactivity fees, if you leave, there is a $60 full outgoing transfer fee. The Best Options Broker at a Glance. Options are contracts that allow an investor the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset on or before a set date. Here’s an example: Say you are a buyer looking for a specific vintage car and you end up finding one you just have to have. When you find it, however, you know you won’t have any cash to buy it for another six months. You then negotiate with the owner to give you an option to buy the car in six months for a specific amount. If the owner agrees, you pay him a percentage up front for that option. The same scenario applies in the stock market – just for financial assets instead of vintage cars. If you were trading stocks, you’d be actually buying the car. Or, rather, not buying it since you didn’t have the money. Because options are simply options and not promises, if something happened to that vintage car — say it was sitting in the driveway and a tree fell on it — you wouldn’t have to buy it. You’d still be out the price you paid for the options contract, but at least you wouldn’t have lost all that money on a now-worthless pile of steel. And, if in those same six months something happens that makes the car go up in value, well, hey, you’ve already locked in your price. If you’re new, you should prize learning tools.
If you’re experienced, you’ll need to choose between low cost or amazing tools. No matter what, options trading shouldn’t be an afterthought tacked onto your platform. Best for Beginners. TD Ameritrade TD Ameritrade fees might be higher, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Consider your entire investment method. Don’t make your final decision solely based on options trading if it’s not the only kind of trading you’ll be doing. These online brokerage firms all offer a variety of investment opportunities. You may want to take into account their extra perks or the price of their mutual funds, for example. Know your expirations. Options are contracts that expire if they’re not acted on and an expired contract is worthless. Make sure you understand your expirations and set reminders using your broker’s platform, or on your calendar if you’re not trading every day.
We find the best of everything. How? We start with the world. We narrow down our list with expert insight and cut anything that doesn't meet our standards. We hand-test the finalists. Then, we name our top picks. 5 Top Online Stock Brokers. Posted by Blain Reinkensmeyer | Last modified on Nov 28th, 2017 | Published Apr 28th, 2017. Investors should know the best online brokers to trade with. Some online stock brokers are known for their award-winning customer service while others are known for inexpensive stock trades or powerful trading tools. This guide will highlight some of the best brokers available today with tips and advice for choosing a broker.
Here are the online brokers that offer investors the most value for their portfolios. Stock Trades: $6.95 | Option Trades: $6.95 + $0.75 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $0. Current Offer: Trade free for 60 days + Get up to $600. TD Ameritrade was ranked #1 Online Broker 2017 by StockBrokers. com* with its $6.95 stock trades. Its platforms (thinkorswim was #1 desktop platform), tools, mobile apps (#1 for mobile trading), research (top 5 finisher), customer service (#1 for phone support), and education (#1) are all award winning. Full review. Stock Trades: $4.95 | Option Trades: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $2,500. Current Offer: Get up to 500 free trades for 2 years. Fidelity is best known for its value driven customer experience. Regular stock trades are just $4.95 each and Fidelity was rated #1 for order execution quality, which drives down trading costs even further. Beyond cost and ease of use, Fidelity also finished #1 for research tools. It’s Viewpoint articles are top of class and Fidelity is the only broker to offer 12 third-party research reports for individual equities. Full review.
Stock Trades: $6.95 | Option Trades: $6.95 + $0.75 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $500. Current Offer: Trade Free for 60 Days & Get Up to $600. Stock Trades: $6.95 | Option Trades: $6.95 + $0.75 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $0. Current Offer: Invest in a new account and get up to $600. Merrill Edge is the online broker of Bank of America and is available to all investors, regardless if they are a current BofA customer. Like TD Ameritrade and ETRADE, Merrill Edge is well-rounded however, it has a huge advantage over all other brokers thanks to its Preferred Rewards program where customers can earn free trades, credit cards bonus cash back, priority customer service, and more. I have personally been using the program since it launched. It’s awesome. Full review. Stock Trades: $4.95 | Option Trades: $4.95 + $0.65 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $0. Current Offer: Trade as low as $3.95. Plus pick either 90 days free or $200 back. Ally Invest offers investors $4.95 stock trades, quality customer service, and full banking services through Ally. TradeKing was acquired by Ally Financial in 2016 and continues to enhance its offering with tools like Ally Invest LIVE, the broker’s mobile friendly trading platform.
Full review. Stock Trades: $5.00 | Option Trades: $5.00 + $0.50 per contract | Minimum Deposit: $500. Current Offer: All-New Pricing. Now Only $5Trade + No Software Fees. TradeStation offers one of the most advanced trading platforms available in the industry and is built for traders who appreciate deep technical and fundamental analysis. Rates are competitive across the board. New investor beware TradeStation is not built for you. Instead, TradeStation caters to active traders who understand the markets and are seeking highly-customizable tools to hone their craft. Full review. Tips for Choosing a Broker. Having the best stock broker to serve individual needs is very important for any investor. For example, cheap trades most often come at the expense of less research tools and a more simplified trade platform. Consider these 12 key factors to help compare all stock brokers and ultimately find the best broker to suite your needs. What does it cost to buy shares of stock?
Does the fee change based on the type of order or size of order? To keep it simple, look for brokers that offer flat-fee trades, ie charging a flat rate regardless of the type, price of the stock, or size of the order. When picking up the phone or emailing a broker, is a well trained customer service representative ready to assist? How any investor is treated as a client is more important to some than others. But, even for those that don’t rely on customer support that often, to know that they have award winning service there when they need it is comforting. Trading successfully is a lot easier when investors have great tools at their disposal. A top stock broker should offer access to a wide variety of trade tools to help make the most of each and every trade. From real-time streaming quotes to last sale tickers, quality stock scanners, mobile trading apps, and level II quotes to name a few. Strong tools are essential for active investors. Some brokers allow you to open an account with no minimum deposit while others may require several thousand dollars. Also know that some brokers require higher minimums to gain access to premium platforms, functionality, and personalized support.
A good online broker will provide a variety of market research tools. The rule of thumb here is simple: the more you pay per trade, the better the market research (both fundamental and technical) that is provided. A online stock broker should offer access to not only trading stocks, but also a strong selection of no load mutual funds, commission free ETFs, and complex options. Other unique investment offerings to look for could include direct market routing, conditional orders, futures trading, and forex trading. Fees beyond trade commissions include inactivity fees (common with active trading brokers such as Interactive Brokers, Lightspeed, and TradeStation) and IRA fees for having a retirement account. While most brokers do not charge predatory fees, it’s still important to do your due diligence. Just like a bank account, stock brokers also make a portion of their profits off miscellaneous fees. Funding a IRA, Roth IRA, or other retirement account with no annual fees is an extra perk many online brokers offer. There is no reason why you should pay an annual fee to have an retirement account. If managing your own portfolio is not of interest, all full-service brokers offer optional advisory services as well. Furthermore, robo-advisors such as Betterment are growing in popularity. Once again, the experience at larger established brokers is going to be superior to smaller brokers. Larger online brokers offer banking and other financial services.
This goes beyond money market accounts and CDs. Checking accounts, mortgages, debit cards, and credit cards can also be offered. The leader in this space is, hands down, Bank of America Merrill Edge. Because of the web today, all online brokers invest heavily into account security. SSL websites (look for “https” at the beginning any URL) are used by most brokers and some are now even offering two-factor authentication (using your phone to confirm a code before logging in). Just like shopping online and choosing a trustworthy website to purchase from, the best bet is to choose a well-known, established broker for your portfolio. For the active trader, execution speed and fill price are very important. I won’t get too in depth here but I have tested many of these brokers and there can be noticeable differences in trade execution times and quality. For the majority of investors, saving a penny per share on a 100 shares order isn’t the end of the world, but for active traders it is something to look into. To understand Order Execution, read this guide. For investors in the United States this is not a problem but for investors living outside the US, when comparing brokers it is important to make sure they offer service in your country. Here’s a good list of international brokers to start with. Best Stock Brokers Summary. Questions & Help Choosing a Broker.
If you need help deciding which broker to choose or have a broker specific question please feel free to email me and I will be happy to help. To view star ratings, summaries, screenshots, and more for these brokers, see our stock broker comparison tool. Also, if you feel this guide was helpful for you please share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or email it to a friend. This took many dozens of hours to put together so I appreciate your support! * – The StockBrokers. com 2017 Online Broker Review included 16 brokers whom were each assessed within ten primary categories: Commissions & Fees, Customer Service, Platforms & Tools, Research, Ease-of-Use, Offering of Investments, Education, Mobile Trading, Order Execution, and Banking. TD Ameritrade, Inc. and Reink Media Group are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. Terms. Join Over 22,000 Investors. Receive Weekly Market Recaps directly in your email inbox! Log, Store, and Analyze Your Trades. ©2017 Reink Media Group LLC · All Rights Reserved.
Is it possible to trade forex options? Yes. Options are available for trading in almost every type of investment that trades in a market. Most investors are familiar with stock or equity options, however options are available to the retail forex currency trader as well. Currency Option Trading. There are two types of options primarily available to retail forex traders for currency option trading. The first is the traditional call or put option. The call gives the buyer the right to purchase a currency pair at a given exchange rate at some time in the future. The put option gives the buyer the right to sell a currency pair at a given exchange rate at some time in the future. Both the put and call options give investors a right to buy or sell, but there is no obligation.
If the current exchange rate puts the options out of the money, then the options will expire worthless. Alternatively, the other type of option available to retail forex traders for currency option trading is the single payment options trading (SPOT) option. SPOT options have a higher premium cost compared to traditional options, but they are easier to set and execute. A currency trader buys a SPOT option by inputing a desired scenario (ex. "I think EURUSD will have an exchange rate above 1.5205 15 days from now"), and a premium will be quoted. If the buyer purchases this option, then the SPOT will automatically pay out should the scenario occur. Essentially, the option is automatically converted to cash. Options are used by forex currency traders to make a profit or protect against a loss. It is also important to note that there is a wide variety of exotic options that can be used by professional forex traders, but most of these contracts are thinly traded because they are only offered over the counter. Because options contracts implement leverage, traders are able to profit from much smaller moves when using an options contract than in a traditional retail forex trade. When combining traditional positions with a forex option, hedging strategies can be used to minimize the risk of loss. Options strategies such as straddles, strangles and spreads are popular methods for limiting the potential of loss in a currency trade. (To learn more on this topic, see Exotic Options: A Getaway From Ordinary Trading .) Not all retail forex brokers provide the opportunity for option trading within your accounts. Retail forex traders should be sure to research the broker they intend on using to determine whether everything that will be required is available.
For forex traders who intend to trade forex options online, for either profit or risk management, having a broker that allows you to trade options alongside traditional positions is valuable. Alternatively, traders can open a separate account and buy options through a different broker. Because of the risk of loss when writing options, most retail forex brokers do not allow traders to sell options contracts without high levels of capital for protection. Best Online Stock Trading Brokers for 2017. Finding the right broker for you is not as simple as it seems. I’ve had an online stock trading account since I was 13 years old. I’ve used at least a dozen of the best online stock trading platforms in real practice and in testing over the past 4 years. I’ve gained a few “learning experiences” from managing my own account and working as a day trader for a firm in Chicago for several years. Using my knowledge of the platforms and experience as a trader, I worked to uncover the top picks and identify who or what each product is best for. The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks Best Online Brokerage Accounts in 2017. Optionshouse – Best Discount Broker (also Best Options Broker) Scottrade – Best Support and Service E*TRADE – Best Trader Resources TD Ameritrade – Best For Developing Traders. What Matters When You Trade Stocks on Your Own?
Managing your own money can be a stressful endeavor. To minimize this, and to minimize information overload that tends to come from watching the markets 247, there are a few must haves that I look for in an online broker. Clean interface. When I trade, I want to be able to easily find my order entry ticket. I don’t want it buried under a number of drop downs. This interface should have intuitive access to see your balance, available cash, positions with real time PL and all be easily navigated. Quick access to basic charting. A chart tells me where the stock has been recently. I don’t trade minute to minute anymore, so I don’t need complex tools like stochastics or retracement lines. All that’s important is that I have a basic chart on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and intra day time period. I use a chart to see current price relative to those time periods, mainly to avoid purchasing at a bad price. Low fees.
Self explanatory. There are over 50 online brokerages where you can open an account. Beyond the my three rules above, best online brokerage accounts aren’t just for trading stocks. Sure, many of them started as online stock trading accounts, but now they’re full-fledged trading, saving, investing, retirement planning, and banking machines. This industry is more complex than the average person thinks. You shouldn’t just pick any online broker and sign up for an account. The best online broker for one person is often completely different for the next person. Use this resource as a guide to your decision process. Figure out what features are best for you, and make your selection. What Makes a Great Online Broker? I analyzed a number of elements to come to my decision on which brokers are the best.
Later in this post, I provide full details on how I selected the best online brokerages. When you take all the features, resources, trading platforms, and technology into account (while also considering every type of trader), the full-service brokers, like E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade are the best for the largest number of people. For those simply looking to make cheap trades, I would recommend going with Optionshouse. If you’re a very advanced trader, high-volume trader, or a professional who manages money, I recommend going with Interactive Brokers. However, I didn’t include Interactive Brokers on my list because they’re best for a very small group of traders and the platform is very complex. Top Qualities of Standout Online Trading Platforms. Quality trading tools and technology Multiple trading platforms for all levels of traders Excellent mobile trading features Solid navigation that displays the relevant information where you want it Quality educational resources and research for trader development. There’s more to selecting an online broker than price. You have to consider the resources you’re getting for the cost you pay per trade. For example, my colleague, who is also an ex-trader, likes to use a combination of stock and options trade in his longer-term trading. He recently switched over to Fidelity because he really liked the cash management features, but was very disappointed by complex order entry, sub-par options execution and frustrating navigation. He’s currently making the switch to one of the brokers I profile here.
Analysis of the Best Online Brokers. When it comes to getting a deal on a stock or options trade, it’s tough to beat OptionsHouse. Along with the low costs and fees, you’ll also have access to proprietary tools and technology. OptionsHouse isn’t a “full-service” broker like TD Ameritrade, which means you won’t find the same comprehensive financial resources and access to every investment product. OptionsHouse is good at what they do — providing very affordable trading prices, low margin rates, and unique tools for stock and options traders. NOTE: OptionsHouse was acquired by E*Trade at the end of 2016, but no changes are expected to OptionsHouse pricing or trading platforms, according to this statement released by its CEO. Reasons to Sign Up. Reasons to Avoid. OptionsHouse Costs and Fees. Stock Trade: $4.95 for new traders, $3.95 for current traders> 4 Reasons to Sign Up for OptionsHouse. Very Low Costs and Fees.
If you compare OptionsHouse to the other best online stock trading firms, the cost to make a trade with TD Ameritrade and E*TRADE will be about double . Simply put, if you’re looking for the best discount broker, Optionshouse is your choice. The only other broker that’s cheaper is Interactive Brokers, but they require a $10,000 minimum deposit and their software is built for advanced traders. Customizable Web-Based Trading Platform. The OptionsHouse web-based platform is completely customizable, meaning you can remove or add different components, minimize sections, and adjust the entire home screen to your preferences. One cool feature is that you can click on any of the components on your home screen and detach it so it shows up in a separate window. For example, if you have two monitors, or just want their charts opened separately, you can have your trade execution tools in one spot and your charts in another location. Advanced Options Trading Tools. OptionsHouse is one of the three best options brokers (the others are optionsXpress and tradeMONSTER). Not only is OptionsHouse the cheapest for trading options, but they also provide you with an account view that enables you to look at an options calendar, options chains, and all kinds of option spreads. There are several proprietary tools that help you gain insight into your risk or exposure in addition to the quality options trading tools. For options traders and, more specifically, high-frequency traders, OptionsHouse is a solid choice because you can fire off trades with the quick-order entry ticket. If you simply type in a quote, you can instantly add a stock or option leg to a trade. Navigation is simple and everything is laid out to ensure you can move around your account efficiently while making options trades with ease.
2 Reasons to Avoid OptionsHouse. Lacking Access to Several Investment Products. If you’re someone who’s interested in trading a variety of markets or growing your trading knowledge, you probably shouldn’t open an account with OptionsHouse. As the name implies, this online brokerage is best for options traders and people who want to make cheap trades. You won’t be able to trade futures, forex, or international markets. This isn’t a big deal if you’re just looking to trade options or trade stocks for low prices. Not a Full-Service Broker. Unlike TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE, Scottrade, and other major brokers, OptionsHouse is built mostly for trading and not much else. You won’t have access to banking or comprehensive financial services, so expect to have your money split between multiple accounts versus keeping it all in one place. For years, Scottrade has been known as the best online brokerage for customer service. Scottrade doesn’t just let you open an account and ignore you. They thrive on building relationships with their clients, which is pretty rare these days. Scottrade is behind the times with some of their features, but they also don’t charge as much money per trade as the other full-service brokerages. If you’re a new trader or you just like being taken care of regardless of how much money is in your account, I don’t think you can do better than Scottrade.
Another reason to consider Scottrade: They were recently acquired by TD Ameritrade. The deal is expected to close by fall of 2017 and a full conversion to TD Amertrade’s systems by 2018. You’ll be well-served with Scottrade’s amazing service for beginning traders and TD Ameritrade’s breadth of offerings for traders of all levels. Reasons to Sign Up. Reasons to Avoid. Scottrade Costs and Fees. Mutual Funds Fee (Load): $0 to buy, $17 to sell. Minimum Deposit: $2,500 (recently updated), $0 for retirement account. 4 Reasons to Sign Up for Scottrade. Industry-Leading Customer Service. Year after year, Scottrade is on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 best companies to work for. In fact, Scottrade has been on that list for six straight years. So what does that have to do with customer service? When a company treats their employees the right way, those employees treat customers the right way. In a J. D. Power and Associates self-directed investor study, Scottrade also ranked number one for interaction, account information, trading charges and fees, and overall satisfaction.
(This study only included larger, full-service brokers that offer other services beyond trading.) Scottrade has over 500 local branches where you can walk in and talk to someone face-to-face. There’s a live chat feature on their website and you can even reach out to them via social media, where they are very active. Access to Long-Term Investment Vehicles. The only markets you can’t trade with Scottrade are forex and futures markets. So beyond the basics, Scottrade is another full-service broker that offers banking services, retirement planning, savings plans, and more. It’s not strictly about making trades but, if it was, Scottrade’s prices are affordable in comparison to other full-service brokers. Intuitive Web-Based Platform. The web-based platform has a fully customizable home page that enables you to drag, drop, and rearrange the various components of the page to your preferences. At the the bottom of every page, there’s an intuitive “Quick Trade Bar” that enables you to conduct research and make trades quickly. The bar even detaches from its location so you can place a quick trade even if you’re not on your account home page.
This comes in handy if you’re on a third-party website and you read about some news that’s impacting the market — you can quickly get in or out of a position. Affordable for a Full-Service Broker. Compared to TD Ameritrade, Scottrade’s trading commissions and fees are nearly $3 cheaper per trade. That can certainly add up depending on the volume you plan on trading. For investors who want the amenities of a full-service broker, but don’t want to be paying top dollar to execute trades each week, your money can go further with Scottrade. The Reason to Avoid Scottrade. Not Overly Innovative. Scottrade has the foundation in place to rise above the other top online stock brokers, but they fall short when it comes to innovation. There are a few instances where major improvements can be made. The mobile app looks like it was created five years ago.
It’s difficult to navigate, very slow, and hard to trust for mobile trading. The app does include an area where you can research news, statistics, opinions from analysts, and more. The components are there for a solid mobile app, but it just hasn’t come together yet. If you compare Scottrade to the other brokers, they’re also behind the times in terms of technology. It’s rare for Scottrade to develop any kind of technology before the other best online brokerages. They lead the industry with support and service, and then they follow in terms of technology. Low-Frequency Traders Long-Term Investors Research-Based Traders Multiple Market Traders. E*TRADE is right there with TD Ameritrade and Scottrade if you’re looking for the all-around best online brokerage. What’s interesting about this comparison is that E*TRADE excels in several different areas compared to TD Ameritrade and Scottrade, but also has many similar offerings. E*TRADE’s web-based platform is incredibly advanced and a breeze to use, as is their mobile app. However, you have to pay for these features because E*TRADE is just as pricey as TD Ameritrade and requires a $500 deposit to open an account (TD Ameritrade is free). Reasons to Sign Up. Reasons to Avoid.
E*TRADE Costs and Fees. Mutual Funds Fee (Load): Varies by fund. 5 Reasons to Sign Up for E*TRADE. The Best Mobile Trading App. E*TRADE’s mobile app is a level above the others on the market. It’s honestly hard to tell the difference between the app and the standard trading platform you would access on a computer. That’s saying a lot because the web-based platform is also one of the best. You get access to CNBC videos, real-time quotes, live market news, and more. You can also conveniently deposit checks directly into your trading account. Online Trader Community.
One of the standout features E*TRADE offers is a trader community that enables you to chat with other traders. This is beneficial because you can gauge how others are reacting to the market, see the opinions of other traders, and see how actively traded certain stocks are. It’s a cool element that adds a little something extra, and you won’t find it offered elsewhere. Another quick tip: It’s a good idea to follow market sentiment and do the opposite of what other traders are doing, not follow the crowd. If everyone is doing the same thing, the likelihood of a big group of people caught in the same trading position is high. That means when the market turns, everyone is trying to get out of their position and you’re the one taking the other side of the trade so you can capitalize on everyone else’s mistake. Access to Every Investment Product. It’s rare for any of the best online stock trading brokers to provide access to every investment opportunity, but E*TRADE has no limitations. In addition to the standard of stocks and options, you’ll have access to bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, forex, futures, pink sheet stocks, and international markets. E*TRADE is a smart choice for people who want to diversify their investment portfolio and for those who have some market experience. Outstanding Financial Tools. With an E*TRADE account, you’ll have access to a debit card and unlimited free ATM refunds at any bank or ATM across the country. E*TRADE used to offer a credit card, but it was discontinued in late 2013. (If you’re looking for a great credit card, check out my post on the best rewards credit cards.
) E*TRADE offers a variety of savings plans for all walks of life, including college savings plans, IRAs, retirement planning, and small-business tools. Superb Web-Based Platform. E*TRADE has something called E*TRADE 360, which enables you to view everything in your account on one page and take action by making trades. It’s one of the few web-based platforms where you have everything you need on one screen. If you don’t like the default layout, you can drag and drop the various components to arrange the home screen to your liking. Page elements can be added and deleted as you wish. The ease and simplicity of making a trade from the same screen where you’re conducting your research can’t be understated. With some brokers, placing a trade takes two to three clicks just to get to the right area. 2 Reasons to Avoid E*TRADE. I think it’s especially important for new traders to be able to practice trading real markets without investing any money. One major downfall of E*TRADE is that they don’t offer virtual trading on their web platform or on their mobile app. So, you can’t test out E*TRADE’s tools prior to opening an account, and you also can’t test your own strategies with fake money even if you have an account.
Like TD Ameritrade, E*TRADE will cost you a bit more than the other top online brokerages. Also like TD Ameritrade, you get what you pay for. If you don’t trade frequently, the $6.95 fee per stock or options trade might be worth it for all the resources you have access to. Not that all of us have $10,000 lying around, but if you deposit that much into your new E*TRADE account, they’ll let you trade for free for 60 days. I had to be aware that comparing a full-service broker to a discount broker or options broker was going to be difficult. I didn’t want to penalize companies for specializing, but I also needed to reward the full-service firms for offering additional resources. I came up with 10 important categories of features to measure each company. Some of these features included costs and fees, access to investment products, research, education, trading technology, and financial resources. I compared each of the 15 online brokers across these features. Once this comparison was complete, I was left with four of the best online brokers that excelled in specific areas. These four online brokerage firms cover the spectrum for anyone who would sign up for an investment account. I knew I could recommend one of them to a specific group of investors or traders. Here are the final steps I took: I tested out each of the top four brokers (I actually tested several in the top 15) and simulated the trading experience. I analyzed the unmeasurable aspects of each broker that the data could not account for, like usability and functionality, and downloaded all the mobile apps.
I looked for additional features unique to each online broker that I also did not capture in the data. Investment Calculator. To help you determine what to expect from your investment, we’ve created this investment calculator. Simply enter your investment details and our calculator will let you know if your goals are achievable and if it’s not, how far you are from it. A Valuable Lesson at 14. When I was 13, I had about $1,000 worth of stock in a company called Superconductor Technologies, Inc. The company still exists today and trades under the ticker SCON. This was the time of the first technology boom from 1999-2000. By the time I was 14, my $1,000 worth of SCON (I purchased 50 shares at $20share) was sitting at $480share and worth $24,000. The stock eventually went up to nearly double that and then crashed with the rest of the tech market. Being 14 years old and thinking this stock was going to go up forever, I rode the wave up and all the way back down — down to nothing. Check out the chart of SCON below and feel my pain.
You can see that the stock took two major spikes up and crashes back down (I was involved in the first one). Today, the company trades for under $3share. I tell this story because I learned three great lessons about stock trading: Stay disciplined Have a plan Entries AND exits matter. Some people liken online stock trading to gambling (this can be true if you have no clue what you’re doing), but it’s really all about risk and reward. Staying disciplined can keep you from losing money and ensure you lock in your gains. By discipline, I mean picking your prices — where you get in and get out ahead of time — and sticking to them. Always risk less on the downside than you’re willing to make on the upside. The good news about many of the best online brokerage accounts is that you can start by trading virtually before you risk your money. You can practice strategies and track your gains and losses without having to invest a dime using the same software the broker offers for real money. By applying what you learn and maintaining discipline, you have the potential to earn a decent side income if you’re willing to invest the time.
Becoming a Day Trader. I’ve been told several times that “trading is the hardest way to make an easy living.” That’s the truth. The best traders in the world are extremely disciplined and always on top of the latest research and trends in the market. I worked with several of these people and witnessed it firsthand on a daily basis. I spent just under three years trading S&P futures, oil markets, foreign currencies, and other markets as an employee of a day-trading firm. The same principles I learned from making that big $24,000 mistake in my teens carried over to that job. The amount of money I would make on my biggest winning days was significantly more in comparison to the amount I would lose on my worst losing days. I’m telling you all of this because I don’t want you to sign up for one of the online brokers I’m recommending and lose a bunch of your money. If you’re interested in trading, I want you to find a way to build a substantial income on the side and grow your money slowly. I eventually quit trading because it wasn’t my calling. Once I figured out what I wanted to do with my career, enduring the daily stress of watching money come and go just wasn’t worth the massive upside. However, I can say with confidence that trading was the greatest education I’ve ever received. Now, I’m able to leverage my trading experience and knowledge of online trading to thoroughly review each of the best online brokers to help you set up the right account.
The experience was well worth it. Recap: Best Online Brokerages. My recommendation to most of you is to open an account with a full-service broker. There are different scenarios in which you should choose each of these brokers I reviewed. You should sign up with Scottrade if you put a high value on getting help, but you don’t want to pay $9.99 per trade. If you’re a new trader looking to advance up the ranks and absorb knowledge but still want to make trades on one of the best trading platforms around, try TD Ameritrade. If you’re simply looking to make cheap stock and options trades, open an account with Optionshouse. For those of you who want access to every investment product and a great mobile trading platform, go with E*TRADE. I also wrote about the best IRA accounts where I explain the differences between traditional and Roth IRAs so you can see what your best options are. Edited by: Sarah Ban, Michael Gardon, Christine Neilson. Research by: Mike Jelinek, Michael Gardon. Leave a Reply Cancel reply. Just sign up to The Simple Dollar Daily and start saving today.
Best Options Trading Brokers and Platforms. NerdWallet offers financial tools and advice to help people understand their options and make the best possible decisions. The guidance we offer and info we provide are deeply researched, objective and independent. We spent over 300 hours reviewing the top online brokers before selecting the best for our readers. And to help you find the one that’s best for you, we’ve highlighted their pros, cons and current offers. Who is the best options broker today? The answer depends on whom you ask and what they value. For some investors, the best broker for trading options is the one with the cheapest commissions. Others prioritize trading tools, platform design, research, customer service or all of the above. While most of the brokers on our best-of list below would be a good, all-encompassing choice for many investors, we’ve also highlighted the standout candidates in specific areas that matter most to options traders. Unsure what you’re looking for? See how to choose an options broker for more on what can make or break an options trading experience. Summary: Best online stock brokers for options trading. Best for low-cost.
Best options trading platform. Best for research and education. Best overall for options trading. Our top picks cover all the option trader needs — access to high-quality research, analytical tools, a user-friendly platform — at reasonable prices. TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers earn high marks for options investors for their advanced trading platforms, deep bench of research and tools, plus their high-caliber options trading capabilities. TD Ameritrade handily serves option traders no matter where they are on the learning curve. The broker’s thinkorswim platform offers a robust options trading experience for active investors seeking professional-grade tools to identify trading opportunities, analyze potential risks and rewards, test trade strategies and quickly place even the most complex options trades. The broker’s web-based Trade Architect platform is for investors just getting into options or those who don’t require a high-octane platform. Its stripped-down, easy-to-use interface won’t overwhelm newbies. And although Trade Architect isn’t as fully stocked with tools and data as thinkorswim, it’s no slouch, either.
Intermediate investors will find advanced features like a marketoptions heat map, screening and tradefinder tools, and streaming news. Get details in our TD Ameritrade review. For cost-conscious, active options traders looking for low costs and a platform with a lot more meat on its bones, Interactive Brokers may be more your style. Interactive Brokers charges just 70 cents per contract with no base fee ($1 minimum order), plus discounts for larger volumes, if you can manage the $10,000 account minimum. Its Trader Workstation platform (with an options method lab) is considered one of the best and most sophisticated around. But watch other fees to ensure that the lower commissions pay off. Both brokers allow prospective clients to test-drive the goods without putting any real money on the line. TD Ameritrade offers a paperMoney virtual trading account to test out the thinkorswim platform. At Interactive Brokers, once customers open a real account (which has a $10,000 minimum funding requirement), they can set up a paper trading account that offers them hands-on practice using IB’s Trader Workstation platform and tools. Best brokers for low-cost options trading. These brokers offer competitively priced options trading commissions and have eliminated or dramatically capped minimum trading fees. In early 2017 most of the mainstream online brokers slashed commissions to levels once reserved for their deep-discount peers.
That doesn’t mean that they’re the best deal in town for every investor. For active options traders, eOption earns five stars from NerdWallet for its low options trade commissions. The company charges a fixed $3 base plus 15 cents per contract. Another plus: eOption is known for having some of the lowest margin rates available. Although eOption charges a $50 annual inactivity fee on accounts that have placed fewer than two trades in the past 12 months or have less than $10,000 in credit or debit balances, the minimum trade workaround isn’t onerous, even for infrequent traders. Charles Schwab’s trade commission of $4.95 base rate plus 65 cents per contract puts it within spitting distance of deep-discount peers. Schwab recently fully took over the old OptionsXpress and incorporated that broker’s options experience into its own platform, with both web-based and mobile functionality. Commissions aren’t the only costs associated with trading options. Platform, data and other fees can quickly cancel out what you save on commissions. See our full reviews of Charles Schwab and eOption for details on what they offer. For those simply looking for a cheap way to execute options trades, Charles Schwab and eOption get the job done.
Best options trading platforms. These brokers offer some of the most powerful trading platforms available for a reasonable price. Judging a broker’s trading platform by the number of features it offers is like buying a car based solely on what you read in the dealer brochure. While all investors have their must-have features, what’s more important is how the platform feels when it’s in their hands. The trading platforms at Ally Invest and TradeStation offer a wide variety of analytical tools, provide stable and speedy trade execution, and allow investors to customize the tools and design to best suit their needs. Unlike TradeStation, Ally Invest (formerly TradeKing) is technically a deep discount broker as reflected in its commissions (options traders pay a $4.95 base plus 65 cents per contract with only one base charge per spread), $0 account minimum and free access to research and data. Frequent traders (those who place 30 or more trades per quarter or who carry a balance of $100,000 or more) pay a discounted $3.95 base and 50 cents per contract. But don’t be fooled by the lower prices: Customers get a lot of platform power for free. Ally is suitable for newer options investors. The browser-based platform resembles the offerings of its pricier competitors and comes with free options trading tools for screening and advanced charting.
Navigation is easy and streamlined. Customers can create a custom dashboard with movable modules with the data and features they want to use. The setup extends to what users see across all devices, including mobile and tablet. TradeStation is best left to more experienced, tech-savvy investors who want to experience options trading using the same tools as pro traders. The broker provides all the tools needed to design, test-drive, monitor, automate and speedily execute the most complex trades via direct-market access (no pesky middleman to slow down the process). Its OptionsStation Pro platform is fully integrated into TradeStation’s regular trading platform. An added bonus is the broker’s active investor forums, where traders discuss ideas, ask questions and get help. Access to all of TradeStation’s bells and whistles used to come at a steep $99.95 monthly platform fee for those who didn’t meet account balance or trading activity minimums. But in March 2017 TradeStation eliminated the service fee, lowered its trade commissions for stocks and options and tossed in free real-time market data and free access to its market-monitoring and portfolio-level back-testing tools. Educational tools and platform tutorials are plentiful, which is a plus: Because of the sophisticated nature of the platform, it may require some time to become familiar with all that it offers. See more in our TradeStation review. Best research and options trading education.
Both offer extensive research and data for free, as well as live classes and webinars for beginning and advanced options traders. If you’re new to options trading or want to expand your trading strategies, a broker that devotes its resources to research and customer education is a must. Because Schwab and Fidelity each have offices across the country in addition to their online options education libraries, they’re able to offer in-person guidance and free seminars on how to trade options, as well as one-on-one guidance on using the tools each platform offers. Fidelity’s constantly refreshed library draws from more than 20 providers, including Recognia, Ned Davis, S&P Capital IQ and McLean Capital Management. The full suite is available to customers when they sign into the broker’s web-based platform. And you don’t have to stop digging when you’re away from your computer: Fidelity has a strong mobile app that lets customers access the company’s full suite of research through a mobile browser. Charles Schwab’s options trading capabilities and lineup of trading data and research got a big boost as the company integrated its purchase of OptionsXpress. In October Schwab re-launched its online platform under the StreetSmart name, with both web-based and mobile functionality, though for now only former OptionsXpress clients have access to the new platform. In the first quarter of 2018, Schwab will begin rolling out the new platform to all clients. While the platform name is changing, Schwab still provides a fully realized suite of offerings for options traders, including trade assessment tools, customizable screeners, access to Schwab analyst options-market commentary, live online webinars and pre-recorded seminars. Best brokers for beginner options investors.
These brokers provide ideal conditions (educational resources, user-friendly platforms, customer support and low minimums) for investors just learning the options trading ropes. TD Ameritrade — one of our top overall brokers — ranked highest in this category, too. But since there are many types of beginners with many different preferences, instead of highlighting the category champions we’ve focused on brokers that are excellent candidates in three key areas: Low minimum opening balance requirements. Ally Invest, TD Ameritrade, Merrill Edge: If you’re not yet ready to devote a lot of your capital to options trading, you don’t want to tie up much in an account to meet the minimum. Many of the brokers on our list require no money to open an account. However, industry regulations require that traders maintain a $2,000 minimum to trade options. Strong customer support. Scottrade and TD Ameritrade: On-call help is particularly handy when starting out. One way to test a broker’s level of service is to contact the company with any questions you have about its option trading offerings before you even open an account. Scottrade is known for its standout customer service and huge physical presence of 500 branches.
So is TD Ameritrade, with around-the-clock phone and email support and 100 branches where clients can attend seminars and meet with investment associates. At the end of 2017, TD’s acquisition of Scottrade will be complete, increasing each broker’s ability to serve clients. User-friendly platforms. Ally, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade: There’s nothing better than test-driving a broker’s platform before you commit. Check to see if the broker you’re considering offers paper trading (virtual trading on a platform that mimics the real deal) or contact customer service to see if they will set you up with a demo account. As for brokers discussed in this review, Ally Invest’s browser-based platform is intuitive and easy to customize. And both Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade have multiple platforms customers can use to start learning the ropes, then graduate to more sophisticated tools and trades if desired. Best options trading brokers: summary. Updated June 30, 2017. Disclaimer: NerdWallet has entered into referral and advertising arrangements with certain broker-dealers under which we receive compensation (in the form of flat fees per qualifying action) when you click on links to our partner broker-dealers andor submit an application or get approved for a brokerage account.
At times, we may receive incentives (such as an increase in the flat fee) depending on how many users click on links to the broker-dealer and complete a qualifying action.