OptionsHouse is ideal for active stock traders and option investors who want to save money on trading costs without giving up on high-quality tools and service. Its low-cost commissions ($4.95 per trade for stocks and options), $0 account minimum and professional-grade research and platform earn it NerdWallet’s five-star rating.
- Low commissions
- Options trading capabilities
- Virtual trading platform
- Limited commission-free ETFs
- No NTF mutual funds
- No forex
Commissions, fees and minimums
OptionsHouse charges a flat $4.95 fee for stock and exchange-traded fund trades, which is in line with other deep discount competitors and about half the cost of trades at more mainstream discount brokers. Options trades also have a base fee of $4.95, but cost just 50 cents per contract — 15 cents lower than at TradeKing and significantly lower than what most other competitors charge.
The broker also scores points for requiring no minimum balance to open an account, but users must maintain a $1,000 minimum funding level to access real-time quotes. Unlike many brokerages that cater to active traders, OptionsHouse doesn’t charge maintenance fees to customers who fail to make a certain number of trades per month or year.
Research and data
OptionsHouse’s platforms are brimming with sophisticated tools investors can use to tinker with data. (See more in the platform section below.) Beyond what’s built into the platform, the company’s research pickings are slim — but they are free. Fundamental Report Cards are the main offering for stock investors. These OptionsHouse-generated briefs provide basic information about individual stocks and a relative rating based on peers in the same sector and industry.
On the education front, OptionsHouse offers articles, blog posts and video tutorials on stocks, futures and options that cover the how-to basics as well as advanced trading strategies. The ongoing schedule of live webinars is also robust. But finding these resources on the firm’s website can be a bit tricky. In September 2016 the company became part of E-Trade (and changed its official name to OptionsHouse by E-Trade). However, the marriage has yet to be fully consummated, and OptionsHouse customers must still toggle between old and new pages and access E-Trade’s educational content.
OptionsHouse offers phone support and live chat from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET weekdays as well as email support.
Don’t be misled by OptionsHouse’s name. Although the company started as a broker for experienced, self-directed investors who were active in options, its offerings today include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and futures. Still, it’s clear that options trading is the heart, soul and continued focus for the firm.
The broker offers only five commission-free ETFs — disappointing, but not unusual for a discount brokerage. Active ETF investors who want to keep commission costs down should consider OptionsXpress or TD Ameritrade. (See our picks for best brokers for ETF investors.) Similarly, OptionsHouse offers no transaction-fee-free mutual funds and forex trading isn’t on the menu.
OptionsHouse’s trading capabilities got a dramatic boost when the company merged with TradeMonster in 2015 and fully integrated that company’s highly regarded web-based trading platform. The platform is designed for fast and easy trade execution with the minimal number of clicks. For example, from the trade ticket users can quickly make changes without having to create an entirely new order.
TradeLAB gives investors a profit/loss/break-even snapshot on a single screen as well as the probability of any profit, based on the current stock price and the current implied volatility. Within tradeLAB, investors can play out “what-if” scenarios for every angle they can come up with. The platform also has significant automation capabilities, including trigger alerts that allow users to pre-populate orders. The platform pushes an alert to the investor when an event is triggered, and investors can then submit saved orders directly from the web or via the OptionsHouse mobile app.
Another standout tool is strategySEEK, which helps investors scan live market data for options strategies based on specific criteria. The tool turns up a list of matches, allowing the user to quickly create an order, using the above features to analyze the trade within the ticket.
Lastly, paperTRADE, OptionsHouse’s virtual trading platform, is a nice perk for new and new-to-the-platform investors who want to try out trades before putting money behind them. Once customers open a real account — which, remember, has no minimum funding requirement — they can set up a paperTRADE account that mirrors all of the live trading platform’s bells and whistles. Through paperTRADE, investors can practice trading virtual currency in a live market environment — a feature that makes OptionsHouse stand out among its peers.
On-the-go investors will appreciate that OptionsHouse’s trade platform is browser-based. Any customizations the user makes are saved in his or her profile and available no matter what device is used to access the account.
We like that OptionHouse’s commission-free trade promotion isn’t limited only to customers who start with high-dollar accounts. With a $5,000 deposit investors are eligible for $1,000 in commission-free trades. A few caveats: Those trades must be executed within 60 days of funding the account and do not apply to futures or futures options transactions. Options traders should note that contract, exercise and assignment fees still apply.
How OptionsHouse stacks up
OptionsHouse offers some of the lowest commissions and fees, making it one of the most affordable choices among discount brokers. Its advanced tools and fast trade executions, along with a full-service platform, make it well-suited for options traders.
Although OptionsHouse is not the right fit for mutual fund and ETF investors, it’s hard to beat when it comes to serving options traders and active stock investors at every experience level. Rock bottom commissions (just $4.95 a trade for stocks plus 50 cents per contract for options), $0 account minimum, lack of hidden fees, speedy trade execution and free pro-level investing tools and trading platform are why OptionsHouse continues to show up on our best-of lists.