Top 6 Best Brokers for Options Trading? (2019 Review)
When it comes to choosing an online broker, there are countless choices. But are some of them better for options trading than others?
In a word: yes.
For starters, you need to pay attention to commission costs. If you pick a broker that charges a high fee for trades, any gains you make will take a big hit.
Of course, you also want a broker that offers quality in terms of service. Specifically, you’re looking for:
- Solid order execution
- Support for multi-leg orders
- Customer service
Fortunately, there are plenty of great brokers deliver in terms of affordability and service. Here are some of the best.
Many active options traders view Interactive Brokers as their “go to” platform when it comes to trading options.
Why? For several reasons.
First, the commissions are cheap. You only pay $0.70 per contract. As you’ll see, that’s extremely competitive.
It’s a price that won’t put a dent in your returns.
Interactive Brokers also has no account minimum. So if you want to get started trading options without a whole lot of cash, it’s a good choice.
There’s a caveat with that, though. You’ll pay $10 per month as long as your account value is less than $100,000.
Additionally, IB also offers decent service for the money.
That wasn’t always the case. In the past, Interactive Brokers earned its reputation as a “cheap” trading platform.
Now, the company has put together a solid online brokerage that delivers in terms of affordability and service.
For example, the website offers a Traders Academy so you can learn how to trade options successfully. IB also includes a Probability Lab so you can practice trading before you start putting some real money into your strategies.
One warning: although customer service has improved over the years, it still has room to grow.
Still, you do get what you pay for. Interactive Brokers is widely viewed as “the best” for options traders.
But there are other choices.
Lightspeed Trading offers even lower commissions than Interactive Brokers. The most you’ll pay is $0.60 per contract, but that can down to as low as $0.20 per contract if you’re a very active trader.
So why isn’t Lightspeed Trading the #1 choice? For starters, it requires a minimum account balance of $10,000. That’s a lot for novice traders who don’t have a whole lot of cash to throw around.
There’s also a minimum $100 per month charge.
Still, the platform has a lot to offer.
The order execution software will often generate price improvements that will make your winning trades more profitable and your losing trades less costly.
The platform also relies on scanners to identify market imbalances and mispriced options. They might draw your attention to some great trading opportunities.
Finally, Lightspeed Trading offers analytical tools that you won’t find on other platforms. Use them to gain an advantage over other traders.
TD Ameritrade is one of the most popular trading platforms in the world. But is it a great choice for options?
Yes and no.
Yes because the service is superior. No because that service is costly.
Let’s go over the good news first.
TD Ameritrade offers plenty of educational opportunities that you can use to fine-tune your skill as an options trader.
It’s also got a simulated trading platform so you can test your strategies without using any real money.
Additionally, TD Ameritrade includes tools for finding options strategies, hours of video webcast every trading day, and streaming data.
You’ll also get above-average customer service when you call for support.
But you’ll pay for all those goodies. The amount you spend could take a huge chunk out of your trading profits.
Commissions for options will cost you $6.95 per leg plus $0.65 per contract. That means if you’re trading a butterfly or a condor, expect to pay at least $30 in commissions.
The margin rates are also very high.
Another mark against TD Ameritrade that has nothing to do with cost: many people find its practice trading platform user-hostile. Prepare for a learning curve.
ETrade is one of the most widely recognized trading platforms in the world. It’s also a great place for options traders since the company acquired the OptionsHouse trading platform.
Once again, though, all that additional service comes with a hefty price tag.
First, you’ll pay $6.95 per leg on options orders plus $0.75 per contract. That’s even more expensive than TD Ameritrade.
You’ll also pay high margin rates.
But ETrade has plenty going for it as well.
If you’re looking for research, ETrade is arguably second to none. The website includes many tools and educational resources to help you spot the perfect trade.
For example, if you’d like to set up an iron condor, you can define the width of your spread and the platform will only stream relevant quotes.
ETrade also gives you the ability to stress-test your positions on different risk ranges.
Charles Schwab acquired optionsXpress back in 2011. As a result, it’s got a suite of tools that will attract active options traders.
It’s a bit pricey, though. Just not as pricey as TD Ameritrade or ETrade.
You’ll pay $4.95 per leg plus $0.65 per contract with Charles Schwab. But you do get quality service for the money.
For starters, the All-in-One Trade Ticket enables you build a spread from a drop-down menu.
The Idea Hub lets you browse through different options contracts sorted by market activity or profit potential. If you find an idea that you like, you can bring it up on an order window with just a single click.
The Trading Education section includes lessons in options trading that you’ll find invaluable if you’re a novice trader. If you’re experienced, you’ll appreciate the more complex educational materials.
There are some downsides, though.
First, Charles Schwab is a collection of multiple trading platforms. You might not find all the options tools you want in a single place.
Also, the portfolio analysis tool isn’t user-friendly. It could take some time to get used to it.
There’s been quite a bit of buzz about tastyworks recently. That’s because the commission structure is very low.
You’ll pay just $1 per leg to open a position. You won’t pay anything to close a position.
Also, tastyworks was built exclusively for options traders. Other platforms cater to people who invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds in addition to people who trade options.
Additionally, tastyworks launched in January of 2017. That’s both good and bad.
It’s good because the platform isn’t hampered down with legacy systems. It’s bad because the platform is relatively new.
That means the software developers behind tastytrade may not have learned from some of the mistakes made by the people who developed the older platforms.
Also, the tastytrade user interface changes regularly. You might get frustrated when you notice that a feature you frequently use has moved.
With rock-bottom commissions, though, it’s possible that one day tastyworks will become the most popular platform for trading options.