Options trading is a sophisticated investment strategy that has a higher level of risk than traditional stock trading, mutual fund investments or savings accounts. In the past, many investors have hired a stockbroker or financial manager to help them watch the markets and find the best investments for their financial goals. Now the internet has given investors the flexibility to contact their brokerage firm directly and independently oversee their own portfolios. When news breaks, or the financial markets shift, online options trading allows you to react immediately, making changes without waiting to get ahold of your financial manager.
The best options broker for your financial needs depends on the type of trader you are. There are online brokers for conservative investors and others for the bigger risk takers. We found some of the best options trading platforms and cheapest options broker firms to be OptionsHouse, TradeKing and TD Ameritrade. We also have several articles on online options trading to give even more insight and direction.
One benefit of using an online options trading platform is the large savings on commissions, since you won't have to pay individual broker commissions, which typically cost well over $100 per order. However, each stock options trading broker we reviewed charges for each contract, with several giving discounts for higher numbers of contracts.
Fees & Commissions
When you open a margin account with an online brokerage firm, most require you to have a minimum amount of money to open the account and then maintain that balance throughout your investment time. The industry standard is about $2,000, with some services requiring more. The best online options trading brokers set the minimum at $1,000.
Pricing for commissions, trade fees and margin rates all vary by service. With several to choose from, though, you are sure to find an options trading service that falls within your budget and level of risk.
Trading Platforms & Research
It is important to have many tools available on your trading dashboards if you will be trading stock options online rather than through a financial manager. Calculators, scanners, reports and charts all help you analyze possible trade and options, the risk involved and the potential payoffs.
Several options services allow you to customize your dashboard so you can view split screens and have all the important information you need to make good investment decisions. The best online trading platform has a virtual dashboard so you can make mock trades and see the viability of each stock option. Educational articles and other opportunities to learn more about investments are also important if you are investing solo.
While online trading software lets you have complete control over your own investments, it's helpful to have good customer service options just in case you need a second opinion or have difficulties with your account. Support ranges from traditional telephone and email options to live chat and tutorials. Some services offer support 24/7, though most limit live support to normal business hours.
Whether you are an experienced options trader or just learning the ropes, choosing a good online options platform is important. Taking into consideration fees and trading platforms options, as well as using our side-by-side comparisons of the best online options trading services, will help you make the right choice.
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