Best Options Trading Platforms | 2014 Top 10 Options Brokers

Best Options Trading Platforms | 2014 Top 10 Options Brokers
Active Options Trader Reviewing Options Trades (Source: Bigstock)

Below is 2014’s annual list of the 10 best options trading platforms, followed by a side-by-side comparison table, and then a brief overview of the top five options brokers.

MarketConsensus News started out with a larger list of over 42 online trading platforms. After applying various criteria (fees, commissions, research tools, advanced trading platform, ease of use, etc.), we narrowed the list down to the ten best options brokers presented below.

List of Top 10 Best Options Trading Brokers

  • OptionsHouse
  • TradeKing
  • TD Ameritrade
  • E-Trade
  • optionsXpress
  • Interactive Brokers
  • TradeMonster
  • TradeStation
  • Fidelity
  • Choicetrade
  • ScottTrade

2014 Brokerage Ranking and Comparison Articles

Below are the links to all of MarketConsensus’ 2014 brokerage ranking and comparison reviews. Let us know if you have questions or input.

What do Options Investors Generally Consider? (Key Selection Criteria)

When reviewing the various brokers to find the best options platform that best meets their needs, active and highly experienced options traders normally consider four key variables:

  1. Fees and Commissions
  2. Research Tools and Trading Platform
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Customer Service

Fees and Commissions

This is a top priority for most options investors. Fees can add up quickly when you are trading options.

Common fees include options excise, assignment and trade fees. Additional fees also include broker assisted fees, and margin rates.

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Specific contract costs vary between brokers both in form and amount, and are discussed in detail at the end of this article.

Research Tools and Trading Platform

If you have been trading options for a while then you probably have your own research methodologies, but for the relatively new trader a platform that includes a variety of research tools can be very useful.

The top rated brokers offer educational content and helpful tools. Streaming charts, risk evaluation, calculators, PnL reports and probability generators are all tools that are included in most platforms.

Ease of Use

How easy a platform is to use was another big consideration in our selection of the best options platforms. In addition to an easy to use account interface, the ability to efficiently conduct mobile trading was another top criteria.

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Customer Service

You want to choose a broker with a friendly and constantly accessible customer service structure. This selection criteria was rated based on the availability of telephone, email and internet chat services, the existence of branch offices, and the broker's reputation for friendly customer service.

Comparison Ranking of the 5 Best Options Trading Brokers

Online  Broker

TradeKing

OptionsHouse

TD Ameritrade

E*Trade

optionsXpress

Overall Rank

1 (Tie)

1 (Tie)

2

3

4

Cost per Contract

$4.95 + 0.65 / contract

$1 per contract or $8.50 + .15 / contract

$9.99 + 0.75 / contract

$7.99 + 0.75 / contract

$12.95 + $1.25/ contract

Margin Rate 50k Bal.

6.75%

3.00%

7.50%

7.44%

7.25%

Margin Rate $1m Bal.

4.00%

1.50%

6.25%

3.89%

6.00%

Options Excise

$9.95

$5.00

$19.99

$7.99

$9.95

Options Assignment

$4.95

$5.00

$19.99

$7.99

$5.00

Trade Fee

$4.95

$4.75

$9.99

$7.99

$8.95

Broker Assisted Order

$0.00

$0.00

$44.99

$45.00

$0.00

Customer Service

Telephone, email and instant chat all available. No branch offices.

Telephone, email and instant chat all available. No branch offices.

Telephone, email and 120 branches offices. No instant online chat, but an excellent reputation and tradition for first class service.

Telephone and email available. No instant chat.

Telephone, email and instant chat all available. No branch offices.

Research tools and Trading Platform

Powerful full suite of popular research tools, not including a customizable dashboard.

Powerful full suite of popular research tools, including a customizable dashboard. Currently you will also receive a free 12 month digital subscription to The Wall Street Journal.

Powerful full suite of popular research tools, including a customizable dashboard. Educational content is top class.

Full suite of popular research tools, not including a customizable dashboard.

Full suite of popular research tools, including a customizable dashboard.

 

OptionsHouse would have been the only firm earning the #1 ranking. However, it charges $1 per options contract, whereas TradeKing charges $0.65 per contract.

If you do a lot of contract trading, then TradeKing would make a better selection, as your cost is greatly reduced. On the other hand, if you use a lot of leverage / margin and you do not trade as much, then OptionsHouse is a far better bet due to the lower margin cost.

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As such, TradeKing splits the #1 best options trading platform ranking with OptionsHouse.

Interactive Brokers did not make it to the top five list as it requires a $10,000 account minimum.

Which One Really is the Best Options Broker for You?

The best discount online options brokerage for you will depend on what type of trader you are and your level of experience.

If you are new to options trading, then you might look at TD Ameritrade for the excellent educational resources and customer service that it provides.

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If you are a highly experienced trader and have your own methods and trading approach, then you might go for OptionsHouse or TradeKing purely for their low fees.

If you want to manage your stock portfolio and options in the same place, you might consider E*Trade.

If you are a high volume trader, then contract cost might be your determining factor.

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Top 5 Online Options Brokers - Brief Overview

TradeKing

A popular and highly awarded option, TradeKing is one of the two standout choices for those looking for low fees and commissions. There is a significant amount of quality educational material on the site, and at a cost of only $0.65 per contract TradeKing is a standout options trading contender.

See Also:

OptionsHouse

OptionsHouse clearly has the lowest fees and commissions of the brokers presented in this article. With standout margin rates, it is an excellent choice for traders with a big balance.

With only slightly higher contract rates than TradeKing, at $5 for the first 5 contracts or less and then $1 per option after that, OptionsHouse remains another clear standout.

Your decision between TradeKing and OptionsHouse will probably be dictated by the volume of contracts you expect to be trading and how big a balance you have.

TD Ameritrade

TD Ameritrade makes third on this list for their excellent educational content, trading and research tools, customer service and stellar reputation. It is one of the oldest and most popular online options trading platforms and is a great choice for people who are willing to pay higher fees and contract rates ($2.25 per contract), in exchange for education and service.

E*Trade

They do options at E*Trade, but they also do stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, bonds & fixed income, international investing and futures. With high quality research tools and competitive rates, E*Trade is a great choice for someone who has a range of investments and wants to keep them all in one place. Options contract fee is $0.75 per contract with a $9.99 base, which is excellent.

Don’t Miss:

optionsXpress

With low fees and commissions and options contracts going at $1.25, (with a $12.95 minimum), optionsXpress is a competitively priced choice.

Available on all mobile platforms and also online, optionsXpress is an affordable online broker that won't let you down.

Conclusion

Thankfully, there are many discount online options trading brokers out there competing for your business.

Your final choice will depend on your circumstances, experience and knowledge - but if you make the choice with the information presented above at the forefront of your mind, you will be well on your way to setting yourself up to do business with a broker that suits your needs to an optimal level.

Consider all nominees well and be sure to call a couple of brokers to test their customer service before you make your final decision.

Best of luck!

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