Low fees, advanced options analysis and trading tools, and a deep well of educational resources earn OptionsXpress — owned by Charles Schwab — high marks among platforms for options trading and recognition for its customer support for futures traders. Perks like volume trading discounts will certainly appeal to frequent traders; less so to casual investors who won’t qualify for the lowest rates.
- Commissions: $4.95 per trade
- Account minimum: $0
- Promotion: 50 commission-free trades with transfer of $5,000 or more
OptionsXpress is best for:
- Options traders.
- Frequent traders.
- Penny stock traders.
- No account minimum.
- Futures traders.
OptionsXpress at a glance
|Stock trading costs||$4.95|
|Options trades||$4.95 base + $0.65 per contract|
|Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)||
|Trading platform||Two platforms offered with no trade minimums or fees.|
|Mobile app||Above-average capabilities.|
|Mutual funds||$9.95 per trade; no transaction-fee-free mutual funds.|
|Commission-free ETFs||Customers get access to more than 200 Schwab commission-free ETFs.|
|Research and data||Free|
|Tradable securities||• Stocks
• Mutual funds
|Promotion||Customers who open a new account and transfer at least $5,000 from another brokerage earn 50 commission-free trades.|
Where OptionsXpress shines
Options trading education: OptionsXpress has a wealth of free educational offerings. Investors can attend free seminars at local Charles Schwab branches. They also have access to frequent webinars, newsletters and on-demand educational videos. In addition, customers can practice trading with a $25,000 virtual trading account, which offers access to OptionsXpress trading platforms and tools to test strategies without risk.
Account minimum: It’s rare to find a $0 account minimum for a regular brokerage account. And though the $0 minimum also applies to individual retirement accounts, OptionsXpress does require a $200 minimum equity balance to maintain the IRA.
Broker-assisted trades: It’s even more rare to find a broker that offers broker-assisted trades for free. Most traders prefer to trade online, but if you’re the type to use a broker for a phone trade, this is certainly a point in favor of OptionsXpress.
Tools: All of the OptionsXpress platforms and tools are free to customers. The company offers both web-based trading tools and a desktop platform, Xtend. Xtend offers much of what you’d expect from an options-centric platform, including customization, real-time quotes and the ability to view options chains. But it’s not a standout.
The real stars of the OptionsXpress trading tools lineup are the company’s unique web-based tools, including Walk Limit, which automatically updates your order in an attempt to get the best price. This removes the need for you to continually monitor and modify limit orders.
Other notable features: The company’s Idea Hub searches the market for trade ideas and lets you analyze potential strategies based on specific categories, like volatility, earnings and covered calls. You can search through ideas, view probability and profit and loss charts, and quickly execute a trade when you find a strategy you want to pursue. Trade Patterns, another idea-generation tool, gives insight into market patterns by showing popular trades and the current top option trades. And the Trade and Probability Calculator helps users evaluate strategies by running detailed analyses based on options expiration date, total investment and volatility.
Finally, the company’s mobile platforms are advanced, with an all-in-one trade ticket, real-time quotes, options and futures chains access, and news.
Commission-free ETFs: Customers have access to Schwab’s wide network of exchange traded funds, which can be traded for free. As noted in NerdWallet’s Charles Schwab review, that ETF selection is strong — in fact, NerdWallet picked Schwab as the best online broker for beginners who want to trade these funds.
Where OptionsXpress falls short
Trade commissions for active options investors: In March 2017 OptionsXpress changed its commission pricing structure and did away with volume discounts for high-volume and frequent options investors. The firm now charges a standard $4.95 base rate plus 65 cents per contract (the same as parent company Charles Schwab). Stock traders, on the other hand, benefitted from the pricing update. Instead of $8.95 per stock or ETF trade, the commission is now a much more reasonable $4.95 per trade. Its now more aligned with many discount brokers, including options-focused competitor OptionsHouse.
No-transaction-fee mutual funds: Charles Schwab hasn’t extended its extensive no-transaction-fee mutual fund network to OptionsXpress customers, which is unfortunate. However, the fee to trade mutual funds here is a reasonable $9.95 (plus any load fee, if applicable).
The bottom line
OptionsXpress expertly caters to its target audience — options, futures and stock traders — with advanced tools, reasonable commissions and resources for investors both at its website and at Charles Schwab’s branches.
Updated March 22, 2017.