PROS / The price per contract for trading contracts decreases as the number of contracts increases.
CONS / The broker-assisted fee is the highest of any service we reviewed.
VERDICT / While some of its fees are higher than average, for high-volume options traders, TradeStation is one of the best values of the services we reviewed.
With the TradeStation desktop platform, you can completely customize your view to include the windows and gadgets that matter to you. You can view a streaming ticker, get real-time quotes, create watchlists, view analytic charts and trade options for some of the lowest prices of all online options trading services we reviewed.
The price for trading options varies because the more you trade, the lower the fees. If you order fewer than 10 trades per month, the base rate is $9.99 with a $0.70 per-contract fee. At this rate, TradeStation still has some of the lowest fees, which drop incrementally as you trade more in a single month. If you order 100 trades, the base rate is $5.99 and the per-contract fee drops to $0.30 for a total of $35.99 for 100 contracts, which is the lowest cost on our lineup. Order 200 trades or more and the fees reach the lowest pricing tier of $4.99 plus $0.20 per contract.
While the cost for trades is lower than other services, some of its other figures are less impressive. The broker-assisted fee is $50.00, which is the highest of services we reviewed. To exercise or assign a contract, the fee is $14.95, which is about the median we saw for this fee. Margin accounts are stricter than other services, requiring a minimum balance of $5,000. The next highest requirement of those we reviewed is half that, $2,500, while some do not set a minimum at all. The interest rates are typical, though, with a rate of 8.50 percent for balances less than $25,000 and dropping to 6.25 percent for balances over 10 million dollars.
The customizable desktop trading platform gives you access to a number of gadgets that become their own windows within the program, so you can choose what information you're viewing. You can open the trade manager to view your orders, use the option-station analysis to create an option chain (with bid, ask and strike prices for both calls and puts) and analyze charts to give you a view of the market. These are useful tools to help you keep track of and decide when you should buy or sell options.
When creating an option chain, you can choose from nearly 30 preprogrammed strategies, including covered call, diagonal, straddle, strangle, butterfly and condor. You can create multi-leg trades and specify the expiration date, strike price range and options type. The probability calculator can further help you choose stocks, taking into consideration elements such as volatility.
TradeStation for mobile devices is available on the iPhone, iPad and Android phones. With the apps, you can get real-time quotes, utilize analytic charts, search for symbols, analyze stocks, place orders and track your positions. Because you do not log in to the website for trades, you can't take advantage of mobile trading except through the app itself.
The website provides excellent resources for increasing your knowledge on investment trading, with a lab that provides market analysis and tips on trading and a university that teaches you about trading tools and strategies. Standard help is available via telephone, email and live chat. When we contacted live chat, the representative was friendly and knowledgeable, answering all of our questions quickly and with authority.
TradeStation is an online broker with a solid options trading system with many useful tool and educational resources. While some of its fees are higher than other services' fees, it is among the best value in options brokers for high-volume options traders who know what they are doing but still appreciate a service that offers strategies and support when needed.