PROS / This online stock broker has the lowest stock trading and options contract fees of any service we reviewed.
CONS / OptionsHouse does not offer broker support as part of its services.
VERDICT / With the lowest fees and a solid and intuitive platform, OptionsHouse is the best choice for online stock trading.
OptionsHouse is a leader in online stock trading. It offers trades with some of the lowest fees of any service in the industry. In 2016 OptionsHouse was purchased by E-TRADE but will continue to operate as an independent platform. Its platform is customizable to allow you to focus on which aspects are most important to you. With the broad range of investments available, low brokerage fees and an application with real-time quotes and a plentiful toolbox, OptionsHouse wins our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for online stock brokers.
Platform & Tools
The OptionsHouse trading platform has an intuitive design and is fully customizable. Our reviewers found it to be one of the best-designed platforms of the online brokerages we reviewed. To make a trade, you can look up a quote and then click on Ask or Bid to buy or sell, or you can open an order ticket or access a trade menu from a number of screen locations. The options trading platform has just four primary screens, so you can navigate via tabs across the top for account activity details, options, stocks and tools. Each view can dominate the screen, or you can minimize the views and then call them up whenever you need from a quick-launch area. To the right of the cockpit are subcategories to provide news, charts, company information, a watch list and a hot list.
Other useful tools include a risk viewer that analyzes the positions you hold and estimates the associated risk. There is also a call spread investigator. A call spread is a type of option position where you buy and short sell a call on the same stock and both calls have different strike prices and/or expiration dates. The investigator identifies the call spreads with the best theoretical returns. A probability calculator forecasts the likelihood of any given stock to reach a price target. A profit and loss calculator lets you analyze options strategies for theoretical scenarios.
OptionsHouse includes 15 preset options strategies, including advanced strategies such as straddles, condors and iron butterflies. You can use the provided charting tools to analyze the performance of a particular stock. The platform has 35 different technical indicators that can help you develop your trading strategies.
You can also buy stocks online through the mobile app. Of the brokerages we reviewed, OptionsHouse has one of the best mobile apps, both in terms of usability and the features it includes. You can place trades, monitor stocks and set alerts through the app. Through the app you can also add funds to your account, though you'll need to connect it to a bank through the online platform.
Fees & Commissions
OptionsHouse's fees and rates make it stand out among the other online stock brokers we reviewed. There is no minimum balance to open an account, and there are no account maintenance fees. Be aware that some account types require you keep a minimum balance, such as a $2,000 balance for margin accounts to maintain margin treatment. Without that minimum, they are treated as cash accounts. For cash accounts, OptionsHouse recommends you keep a $1,000 minimum balance, but this is not required.
Stock trades are a flat $4.95 per trade, significantly lower than the $6.60 average for online trading. Options have a base fee of $4.95 plus an additional $0.50 per-contract fee. This works out to $9.95 for 10 options contracts, which is much cheaper than with many other services that charge over $15 and some close to $20. If you need help with a trade, there is a fee of $25, which replaces the $4.95 commission fee.
The margin rate for margin balance levels – money that the broker lends you so you can extend your reach – starts at 8.00% interest up to $25,000. The interest rates drop the more you borrow, dropping to 3.50% for borrowing over $1 million.
Education & Resources
While the interface is very intuitive, if you aren't sure about a feature or tool, you can click on the Quick Assist icon and then hover over parts of the screen to view a pop-up description. For more detailed guides about the site, a Quick Start feature picks up where the Quick Assist ends.
One aspect of OptionsHouse where it is lacking is in the quality of the educational resources about investing that it offers. You can learn the basics of investing and stock trading through articles, blog and webinars, but there are no investing courses.
Until you are comfortable with the trading platform, you can practice with a demo account that starts out with $5,000 of play money. Simulated trading is a useful way to test strategies and fine-tune trading techniques before you put your own money on the line.
OptionsHouse is an online stock broker that delivers value-priced trades, useful analytical tools and research, and a well-designed trading platform. The fees and the commission structure are simple, and this online trading broker provides a number of different investment vehicles. The OptionsHouse culture supports ongoing improvements in products, trading tools and customer service, making it one of the best online brokerage companies.