Lightspeed Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Lightspeed caters to professional or extremely active traders, and it shows in the broker's high balance requirement and monthly commission minimums.
Chris DavisOct 6, 2021

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Our Take

2.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Lightspeed offers low-cost options and futures trades and professional trading platforms and tools. But the company's minimum monthly commission and high balance requirements aren't a good fit for anyone who isn't an active trader.

Lightspeed

Lightspeed

Fees

$4.50

per trade

Account Minimum

$10,000

Promotion

50% rebate

on first 3 months of commissions, up to $10,000 (for new Lightspeed Trader customers only)

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Advanced trading platforms.
  • Low options trading costs.
  • Futures trading.

Cons

  • High commissions.
  • High minimum investment requirement.
  • Excessive account fees.

Compare to Similar Brokers

TD Ameritrade
Interactive Brokers IBKR Lite
Zacks Trade
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0

per trade

Fees

$0.01

per share

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Account Minimum

$2,500

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

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Full Review

Where Lightspeed shines

Advanced trading platforms: Lightspeed offers advanced trading platforms with high-speed execution.

Low options trading costs: Lightspeed’s advanced options trading products don’t come with a higher price tag.

Futures trading: Lightspeed is among the few brokers NerdWallet reviews that offer futures trading.

Where Lightspeed falls short

High commissions: Most large brokerages have cut out trade commissions entirely, but you’ll still pay a per-share commission at Lightspeed.

High minimum investment requirement: At $10,000, this minimum puts Lightspeed out of reach for many.

Excessive account fees: There are a lot of fees to sift through that could eat into your returns.

Not beginner friendly: Lightspeed’s value lies in fast order entry and execution that benefits day traders and advanced traders, not beginners. If order entry and execution speed aren't relevant to you, you may be better served by more mainstream brokers.


Lightspeed is best for:

  • Advanced traders.

  • Day traders.

  • Options traders.

  • Futures traders.

Lightspeed at a glance

Account minimum

$10,000 for Web Trader platform ($2,000 for IRAs).

Stock trading costs

Lightspeed Trader: $4.50/trade or $0.0045 per share ($1 minimum).

Options trades

Lightspeed Trader: No base commission; $0.60 per contract ($1 minimum).

Account fees (annual, transfer, closing, inactivity)

$25 minimum monthly commission fee for accounts under $15,000.

$20 IRA opening fee; $35 IRA annual fee (first year waived); $95 IRA closing fee.

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds

Not rated.

Tradable securities

• Stocks. • ETFs. • Options. • Futures.

Crypto offering

No cryptocurrencies, but OTC crypto-based products are available.

Trading platform

Lightspeed Trader (desktop) for active traders, hedge funds and institutions. $130 monthly platform fee (reduced by commissions generated).

Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader for occasional day traders. $0 platform fee; market/data feeds free for nonprofessional traders.

Futures trading on Eze EMS platform.

Mobile app

Available for iOS and Android; features basic functionality of the Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader platform and after-hours trading.

Research and data

Data and analytics from six providers, including TipRanks, Lightscan, and Social Market Analytics all available free to clients.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Phone and email support 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Eastern. Urgent trade desk: 4 a.m. - 8 p.m. Eastern.

More details about Lightspeed's ratings

Account minimum: 1 out of 5 stars

As we’ve been saying, Lightspeed’s target audience is professionals or, if not a professional, at least a seriously active or high-volume trader. Still, the broker’s minimum investment requirements are higher than some competitors, including Interactive Brokers and TradeStation.

At $10,000, Lightspeed Web/Mobile Trader has the lowest initial and ongoing account minimum requirement among the company’s offerings. (Retirement accounts on this platform require a $2,000 minimum.)

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 super-serious investors: Eze EMS (formerly RealTick), Sterling Trader and LivevolX.

Stock trading costs: 2 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed’s commissions used to be a high point; they're now a low. As more and more brokers have moved to $0 commissions for stocks, options and ETFs, Lightspeed no longer stands out here for anything but options trades.

The company's standard commission for stocks and ETFs is $4.50 per trade, though there are ways to pay less. Lightspeed’s volume discounts help a bit: The price drops to $4 a trade for investors who make between 250 and 750 trades a month and a low of $2.50 if you make more than 10,000 trades a month. Per-share prices start at $0.0045 per share ($1 minimum trade commission) if you trade fewer than 249,999 shares per month and decline from there. However, this per-share pricing option isn't available on Lightspeed Web and Mobile, which also has a minimum commission of $4.50 on any options trades.

Options trades: 4 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed charges no base commission for options trades, and the contract fee is just $0.60 per contract for those trading fewer than 500 contracts a month. There's a $1 minimum, but even so, the cost is competitive.

It gets even more so for active traders who benefit from the broker's volume discounts: The per-contract fee drops to as little as $0.20 for those trading more than 100,000 contracts per month.

Account fees: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Fees really hurt Lightspeed in our scoring rubric. Customers with account balances of less than $15,000 are charged a $25 monthly minimum commission fee, minus any actual commissions they paid during the previous month. There are also fees on retirement accounts: a $20 IRA opening fee, $95 closing fee and $35 annual fee (waived for the first year).

Number of no-transaction-fee mutual funds: Not rated

Lightspeed doesn’t offer any mutual funds, but considering the broker is best for active traders and mutual funds are typically a buy-and-hold investment, this probably isn’t a huge concern for Lightspeed’s target audience.

Tradable securities: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed is one of a handful of brokers NerdWallet rates that offers futures trading. Lightspeed's going rate is $1.29 per side, and it has multiple platforms to serve futures traders. Eze EMS is a desktop platform for active futures, stock and options traders. There’s a monthly platform fee of $325, while the desktop platform CQG has $35 monthly fee, and focuses solely on futures trading.

However, overall, Lightspeed’s investment selection is poor. 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: In addition to not offering mutual funds, the broker also has no commission-free ETFs. 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.

Crypto offering: 2 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed doesn't offer any cryptocurrencies directly, but traders do have access to crypto-based products, such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trust or Bitcoin futures.

Trading platform: 5 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed aims to fill the needs of a very specific kind of investor: a very active, high-volume trader. The ideal client? A professional trader.

To account for that, 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 nonprofessional 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. You'll pay a $130 monthly platform fee for access, but the fee is reduced by any commissions generated.

Lightspeed Trader 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., $0.0031 to $0.0036 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.

For those interested in test-driving the Lightspeed Trader platform, we recommend opening a free demo/paper trading account.

Mobile app: 1 out of 5 stars

Users tend to rate Lightspeed’s mobile app poorly. However, the mobile app is just one of Lightspeed’s many platforms.

Research and data: 3 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed offers data and research from six providers, including TipRanks, Lightscan and Social Market Analytics. While these are strong sources of data, the selection isn’t as wide as with some other brokers.

Customer support options: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Lightspeed’s customer support is somewhat limited compared to the always-on approach many other brokers have taken recently. Currently, their phone and email customer support hours are 8am to 5pm EST, with urgent trade desk support from 4am to 8pm EST.

Is Lightspeed right for you?

Lightspeed 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 nonprofessional traders should check out TradeStation and Interactive Brokers; both offer $0 commissions and professional-grade trading tools that are a better fit for amateurs.

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