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Lightspeed Trading Review 2018

March 7, 2018
Brokers, Investing
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Lightspeed Trading aims to fill the needs of a very specific kind of investor: a very active, high-volume trader who wants cheap and fast trades. The ideal client? A professional trader.

That’s not to say amateurs can’t use Lightspeed — but to derive the most value it helps if you make more than 250 stock trades or purchase 500-plus options contracts a month. Those who aren’t quite in that league may be better served by more mainstream brokers like TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim, Interactive Brokers or TradeStation. All of those offer sophisticated trading tools plus much more education and research for the non-professional stock trader.

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quick Facts

  • Commissions: $4.50 fixed rate; volume discounts available
  • Account minimum: $10,000 (Web/Mobile Trader platform); $25,000 (Lightspeed Trader platform)
  • Promotion: 50% rebate of first 3 months of commissions, up to $10,000 (for new Lightspeed Trader customers only)
Get started on Lightspeed Trading's secure site

Lightspeed Trading is best for:

  • Advanced traders
  • Day traders
  • Options traders
  • Futures traders

Lightspeed Trading at a glance


Account minimumLightspeed Web/Mobile Trader: $10,000 ($2,000 for IRAs)

Lightspeed Trader and RealTick: $25,000 ($10,000 for IRAs)
Stock trading costsLightspeed Trader: $4.50/trade or $0.0045 per share ($1 minimum)

Volume discount as low as $2.50 per trade or $0.0010 per share

Lightspeed Web/Mobile: $4.50 per trade
Options tradesLightspeed Trader: $0 base + $0.60 per contract ($1 minimum)

Volume discount as low as $0.20 per contract

Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader: $0.60 per contract ($4.50 minimum)
Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)$25 monthly minimum commission fee for accounts under $15,000

IRA opening fee $20; IRA annual fee $35 (first year waived); IRA closing fee $95
Mutual fundsNone
Commission-free ETFsNone
Tradeable securities• Stocks
• ETFs
• Options
• Futures
Trading platformLightspeed Trader (desktop) for active traders, hedge funds and institutions

Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader for occasional day traders
Mobile appMobile app offers many of the same features as Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader platform
Research and dataReal-time streaming data, historical charting, TipRanks analyst research, screeners
Customer support optionsPhone and email support weekdays 7 a.m.-8 p.m. ET; no branches
Promotion New Lightspeed Trader, Sterling or RealTick accounts: 50% rebate of stock and options commissions for the first three months (up to $10,000)

Where Lightspeed Trading shines

Low commissions: Lightspeed’s standard commission for stocks and ETFs is $4.50 per trade, making it one of the lowest-priced brokers out there. Options transaction fees are similarly cheap: no base charge (minimum $1 per order) and just $0.60 per contract for those trading fewer than 500 contracts a month. That’s even less than Interactive Brokers’ $0.70 per-contract charge.

Lightspeed’s volume discounts are what will really turn heads among heavy traders. The tiered per-trade and per-share commission rates can yield big savings — if you qualify. The price drops to $4 a trade for investors who make between 250 and 750 trades a month and drops to a low $2.50 if you make more than 10,000 trades a month. Per-share discounts start at $0.0045 per share ($1 minimum trade commission) if you trade fewer than 249,999 shares per month and decline from there.

There are also discounts for options traders: Prices range from $0.50 per contract (requires between 500 and 2,000 contracts a month) to as little as $0.20 for high rollers trading more than 100,000 contracts per month.

Futures trading: Lightspeed is one of a handful of brokers NerdWallet rates that offer futures trading. Lightspeed’s going rate is $0.25 to $0.60 per contract based on trading volume.

Trading platforms: Lightspeed has multiple trading platforms, with several that cater almost exclusively to hedge funds and institutions. Two — Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader and the desktop-based Lightspeed Trader — are best suited for non-professional individual investors.

Non-pro stock and options traders pay no monthly market or data fees on Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader. The platform comes with real-time Level 1 streaming data for stocks and options, historical charts, watch lists, and TipRanks analyst research.

For more active traders, the desktop-based Lightspeed Trader platform allows for expedited order entry and execution. This platform offers direct-market access. Orders are sent straight to one of 100 routed destinations, skipping the typical pit stop at an intermediary brokerage firm. This speeds up order fulfillment by seconds (even nanoseconds), which matters to day traders. Note that customers using these platforms will pay routing fees (e.g., $0.0013 to $0.0031 for NYSE orders) on top of the trading commission. Also included are real-time streaming Level 2 data (more robust than Level 1), TipRanks and Lightscan stock screening.

Where Lightspeed Trading falls short

Minimum investment requirement: As we’ve been saying, Lightspeed’s target audience is professionals or, if not a professional, at least a very serious and active day trader. The broker’s minimum investment requirements reflect that. At $10,000, Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader has the lowest initial and ongoing account minimum requirement among the company’s offerings. That’s the same as its closest competitor, Interactive Brokers, but much higher than TradeStation’s $500 for a stock-trading account and $2,000 for options trading. Retirement accounts require a $2,000 minimum at Lightspeed.

The minimums are higher — $25,000 for a regular brokerage and $10,000 for a retirement account — for the more robust Lightspeed Trader platform, as well as the other services aimed at institutional investors: RealTick Pro (which includes futures trading), Lightspeed Sterling and Livevol X (options).

Account fees: Fees really hurt Lightspeed in our scoring rubric. Customers with less than $15,000 are charged a $25 monthly minimum commission fee, minus any actual commissions they paid during the previous month. Investors who want to upgrade to Lightspeed Trader from Lightspeed Web/Mobile will be subject to a $100 monthly access fee. That fee is fully waived for customers who spend $100 in commissions per month and partially waived based on amounts spent below that.

There are also fees on retirement accounts: A $20 IRA opening fee, $95 closing fee and $35 annual fee (although the annual fee is waived for the first year).

Investment selection: While Lightspeed gets recognized as one of the few brokers we review that offers futures trading, there is a gaping hole in its offerings for average investors: It has no commission-free ETFs and offers zero no-transaction-fee mutual funds. That’s not surprising for a trader-focused broker, but it is a gap worth considering if these are on your list of must-haves.

Is Lightspeed Trading right for you?

Lightspeed Trading is designed primarily for institutions, hedge fund managers and extremely active, high-volume day traders. Things that hurt the broker in NerdWallet’s rating system — high trading requirements, lack of no-transaction-fee ETFs, no portfolio-building guidance and few educational tools — don’t matter much to Lightspeed’s target clientele. But they are significant shortcomings for everyday investors shopping for a broker.

If you’re still interested, Lightspeed welcomes potential customers to request a demo account. Otherwise, active non-professional traders should check out TradeStation and Interactive Brokers; both offer inexpensive commissions and professional-grade trading tools that are better suited for amateurs.

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