PROS / OptionsHouse gives you a virtual account for practicing or trying out new strategies before committing real money.
CONS / OptionsHouse does not have brokers available to assist you.
VERDICT / OptionsHouse is an excellent service for online stock trading for beginners because of its easy platform and educational resources. It has low rates and a virtual trading center as well, making it an excellent tool for those who learn by doing.
Editor’s Note: OptionsHouse has been acquired by E*TRADE. OptionsHouse will continue to be operated as a separate brokerage, with no change to the platform, pricing or accounts. Any future changes that arise due to this acquisition will be reflected in the next update to our stock trading sites. OptionsHouse has updated its mobile app, we will review it when we next update our site.
OptionsHouse is a leading discount broker created with the goal of making the stock market accessible for nonprofessional investors. With an easy-to-use trading platform, plenty of training resources and low trading fees, OptionsHouse is one of the best online stock trading services for beginners and receives our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
Education & Resources
As someone who is just starting out as a beginner, you may have a steep learning curve with both the stock market and the trading platforms. The best online stock brokers for beginners include user training tools and educational resources about the stock market. Our reviewers evaluated each brokerage on the quality of these tools and resources. OptionsHouse offers some of the best user training of the services we reviewed.
A first-time user of OptionsHouse can find tutorials and training videos. The training is broken down in Beginner and Advanced areas, so if you have some experience with trading platforms, you can skip ahead. The training tools cover all aspects of the platform rather than only highlighting certain features. The knowledgebase includes visual examples that breakdown important areas, such as options chains and position management, showing you how to best maximize each tool.
Learning about stocks as a beginner can be difficult, so OptionsHouse includes some resources to teach you about the market. Our reviewers found that it did not offer courses about investing, but OptionsHouse does offer webinars and blogs that are kept up to date and accessible through an archive.
One tool that makes OptionsHouse one of the best online stock brokers for beginners is the virtual account you get when you sign up. A virtual account allows you to test out the platform and practice trading strategies without putting any money on the line.
Platform & Tools
The OptionsHouse trading platform is beautifully designed, fully customizable and rich with useful features. 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 watchlist and a hot list.
As a browser-based platform, you don't need to install it and there's no setup time. You can quickly fund your OptionsHouse account using your bank's routing number. You can directly import your tax information into TurboTax.
Other useful tools include a risk viewer that analyzes the positions you hold and estimates the associated risk. There is 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 or expiration dates. The Call Spread 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 option strategies for theoretical scenarios.
If you're often away from your computer and wish to trade from mobile devices, you can do so with the mobile-optimized website, or you can download apps on your iPhone, iPad, Android devices or Kindle Fire. From your mobile device, you can trade stocks, options and spreads; view streaming data and quotes; and keep track of your trades and positions.
Fees & Commissions
OptionsHouse's fees and rates make it stand out among its competitors. 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 average $7 trade among the other services on our online brokerage comparison. 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 – many 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 that you can extend your reach – starts at 6.5 percent interest up to $25,000. The interest rates drop the larger the balance you borrow, dropping to 2 percent for borrowing over $1,000,000.
OptionsHouse is an online stock trading broker that delivers value-priced trades, useful analytical tools and research, and a well-designed software-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.