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Best Options Trading Brokers and Platforms

Brokers, Investing

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 overall for options trading

Our top pick covers all the option trader needs — access to high-quality research, analytical tools, a user-friendly platform — at reasonable prices.

Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab earn high marks for options investors for their user-friendly trading platforms, competitive commissions, deep bench of research and tools and their overall experience. They offer customers the total package when it comes to options trading, putting these brokers in our top overall slot.

Fidelity offers a trade commission of $4.95 base plus a 65 cents per contract, an attractive price, and you won’t sacrifice other features to get it. The broker makes it easy for beginners to get started trading, with deep research and tools on its site as well as an easy-to-use trading platform. In fact, Fidelity also earned honors for being one of our top brokers for research and tools.

Like Fidelity, 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. Schwab does well all around, and that’s why the broker also earned honors for its research and tools as well as its user-friendly platform.

See our full reviews of Charles Schwab and Fidelity for details on what they offer. For those simply looking for an overall great experience, you won’t likely be disappointed by either of these top players.


 

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 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. See our full review on eOption for more.

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 strategy lab) is considered one of the best and most sophisticated around. But watch other fees to ensure that the lower commissions pay off.

At Interactive Brokers, once customers open a real account, they can set up a paper trading account that offers them hands-on practice using IB’s Trader Workstation platform and tools.


 

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.

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 market/options heat map, screening and tradefinder tools, and streaming news. Get details in our TD Ameritrade review.

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 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 begins 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 low account minimum

If you’re looking to get started, these picks get you in the game with $0 account minimum. 

Ally Invest and TD Ameritrade top our list here. 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.

Unlike TradeStation, Ally Invest 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.

TDAmeritrade is another high-powered broker without the high-powered account minimum. Every client gets access to TD’s two trade platforms, thinkorswim and Trade Architect. The former caters to professionals and active investors with useful tools and trade analysis, while the latter works well for investors just starting out with options with a stripped-down interface. If you’re looking to get started, TD Ameritrade even offers a paperMoney virtual trading account to test out the thinkorswim platform.


 

Best brokers for user-friendly platforms

If you’re just getting started trading options, check out our top picks for user-friendly platforms.

Ally Invest and Charles Schwab really do make it easy for those just starting out with options.  Ally Invest’s browser-based platform is intuitive and easy to customize. And Charles Schwab has multiple platforms customers can use to start learning the ropes, then graduate to more sophisticated tools and trades if desired.

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.

See our complete review of Ally Invest and Charles Schwab for more.


Best options trading brokers: summary

Broker
Best
for
Highlights
Commiss-
ions
Promotion
Account minimum
Start investing
Ally Invest
Ally
Low minimum + user-friendly platform
User-friendly platform and free tools
$4.95 /trade + $0.65 /contract
$100 cash bonus or up to $500 in free trades with qualifying deposit
$0
TD Ameritrade
Low minimum + trading platform
Top research; two powerful trade platforms
$6.95 + $0.75/contract
$100-$600 cash bonus, depending on account size
$0
Interactive Brokers
Interactive Brokers
Low cost
Low commissions; superior trading tools
$0/trade + $0.70/contract
Special terms for clients 25 and younger
$10,000
EOption
Low cost
Good for active traders seeking low costs
$3/trade + $0.15/contract
None
$500
TradeStation
TradeStation
Trading platform
Advanced research and tools, speedy execution
$5/trade + $0.50 /contract
None
$500
Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab
Overall+ Research + User-friendly platform
Extensive lineup of investor education options
$4.95/trade + $0.65/contract
$100 referral award for first-time clients
$1,000
Fidelity
Fidelity Investments
Overall + research
Deep research library and customer education opportunities
$4.95/trade + $0.65/contract
300 commission-free trades with deposit of $50,000+
$2,500