OptionsHouse ReviewOpen an Account
$4.75 flat fee trades; two flexible commission plans for options trading; easy to use platform; variety of useful tools for trading options.
Mutual fund trades can only be placed by phone; stock charting capabilities are very basic; research is limited.
Investors who do not need hand holding and are looking to take advantage of discounted equities and options trades.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2013 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
|3rd||Commissions & Fees|
|N/R||Platforms & Tools|
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
OptionsHouse is a discount online broker backed by Peak6 investments, one of the largest options-trading firms in the U.S. OptionsHouse makes its mark in the discount trading space by providing clients with quality options trading tools and competitive commission rates for options traders.
The OptionsHouse 2.0 platform is the broker's key to client success because it makes trading straightforward. Like most discount brokers, OptionsHouse only utilizes a web-based platform and does not offer a desktop counterpart, typically reserved for the most demanding of traders.
Commissions & Fees
Cheap and no-gimmick trading is a vital part of the OptionsHouse experience, and they deliver with flying colors. All stock trades are $4.75, which is a savings of $1 compared to competitor TradeKing, $3.05 over Scottrade, and $6.04 over full-service brokers such as Etrade or TD Ameritrade. Pre and post hours trades come at no extra cost, and the orders only will be charged differently if they are OTCBB, less than $2 per share, or if the order is more than 50,000 shares in total size.
As far as options trading goes, two commission plans are available. The first is designed for less frequent traders, with single-leg options costing $5 for up to five contracts, with any additional contracts costing $1 each. Active options traders will prefer the second plan, which is $8.50, plus $.15 per contract for single leg orders.
Plans can be changed on a daily basis through the platform, and when trading 50 contracts or more, the only broker I found cheaper than OptionsHouse was ChoiceTrade, a low-quality broker that finished 22nd out of 24 in the 2012 review.
One cautionary note: For those that favor mutual funds over stocks and options, beware. While OptionsHouse supports more than 12,000 mutual funds, all buy and sell orders be phoned in. Even with only a $9.99 fee per mutual fund trade, this is definitely not convenient.
|Equity Trade Fee (per share)||N/A||N/A||N/A||$0.0050|
|Mutual Funds ($)||$9.95||$9.95||$15.00||$14.95|
In my experience, customer service was hit or miss. On the positive side, OptionsHouse consistently delivers with great phone service, offered from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday. On the negative side, live chat and email support are extremely tedious, and overall, ranks as one of the most frustrating processes I've faced in testing online brokers. To receive live-chat support, your full name, the last four digits of your account number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your date of birth are all required. Email is a similarly frustrating experience, whether the question is account specific or just a basic FAQ.
While getting connected to support via live chat or email is a pain, once this hurdle is overcome, the support experience is positive and painless. All in all, OptionsHouse has the potential to be great for customer service, but until they resolve their frustrating and unnecessary protocols, they will remain simply above average.
Out of the primary areas for grading a broker, research is where OptionsHouse fares worst. The broker offers no research whatsoever for mutual funds or ETFs, and lacks any third party reports. For most discount brokers, however, investors should expect lackluster research because they are getting discounted commissions in return.
Pulling up a quote of any stock will bring up a basic page of information, including a stock chart, news, a quick bio about the company, events calendar, and a summary of analyst opinions, among other notes. On the whole, everything is very basic, and the offering lacks free financial research hubs such as Yahoo Finance.
On the positive side, I was impressed by the technical analysis pages provided for each stock. Short-term trends, long-term trends, options statistics, stops, trading signals, and a summary of bullish, bearish, and non-directional events can all be viewed. Clicking the trading strategies sub tab also gives you an overview of close to a dozen strategies, including explanations, which was both educational and useful for considering potential trade ideas.
Platforms & Tools
OptionsHouse uses a completely browser-based platform. The most current version, OptionsHouse 2.0, is a significant improvement over its predecessor and received high marks for ease-of-use. tradeMONSTER and TradeKing LIVE are OptionsHouse 2.0's primary discount broker competitor platforms.
The highlight feature of the platform is the all-in-one order ticket, which is always ready to go via a button in the footer. What makes the order ticket so unique is that placing both stocks and options trades is done via legs. During the first run-through I was slightly confused, but after a few trades, I got the hang of it and quickly became a fan.
The tools offered through OptionsHouse 2.0 are primarily options-focused, which is expected considering the influence of Peak6. Options tools include Spread Investigator, Trade Generator, Risk Viewer, PNL Calculator, Probability Calculator, and Volatility Charts. What's nice is that these tools appeal to all different skill levels.
The Trade Generator, for example, is great because of its simple functionality, the variety of trade possibilities generated with each run (a search for bullish Apple strategies yielded covered calls, credit put spreads, debit call spreads, long calls, and short puts), and the ability to quickly place trades with pre-populated ticket links.
Of the tools offered by OptionsHouse 2.0, I found the streaming charts to be useful but a bit basic and limiting. On one hand, they get the job done because investors can easily stream whichever stocks they'd like in real-time and conduct basic analysis. On the other hand, advanced traders will be unimpressed with the lack of advanced studies available and overall detail, in particular when conducting intraday analysis.
OptionsHouse is one of those brokers that is great for investors who know what they want, and more importantly know how to maximize the best of what is offered while shrugging off the cons.
After thorough testing of OptionsHouse, I feel the broker has a strong foundation in place, is great for options and discount trading, and with time should only become a better all-around broker. This is especially true if it can put some emphasis on fixing some of its pitfalls like accessing customer support via email and live chat.
Compare OptionsHouse to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$4.75||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$8.50||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$5.00||Options Exercise Fee|
|$5.00||Options Assignment Fee|
|$9.95||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$4.75||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|4.00%||$25,000.00 to $49,999.99|
|3.00%||$50,000.00 to $99,999.99|
|3.00%||$100,000.00 to $249,999.99|
|3.00%||$250,000.00 to $499,999.99|
|2.25%||$500,000.00 to $999,999.99|
|$9.95||Bond Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Treasury Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Certificate of Deposit (CD) Trade Fee|
|$0.00||Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone Trade Fee|
|$0.00||IRA Annual Fee|
|$20.00||IRA Closure Fee|
|$0.00||Forced-Margin Sellout Fee|
|$30.00||Returned ACH Fee|
|$30.00||Returned Wire Transfer Fee|
|$75.00||Stock Certificate Processing Fee|
|$30.00||Stock Certificate Delivery Fee|
|$2.50||Paper Statement Fee|
|$0.00||Paper Confirmation Fee|
|$15.00||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$50.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
Commission NotesOptionsHouse is an online broker with fairly straight forward commission offerings.
Stock Trades - OptionsHouse's flat rate stock trade commissions of $4.75 are among the cheapest of any current online broker. If trading stocks under $2.00 that are not options eligible, an additional $.005 per share will be charged. This same $.005 per share rate is also applied to any OTCBB (pink sheet) stocks. The $4.75 rate applies to any sized order up to 50,000 shares. If over 50,000 shares then the order will be split into two or more and an added $4.75 commission will be charged for each 50,000 shares. There are no additional fees if the stock is over $2 or if it is traded during pre (before 9:30 AM EST) or post (after 4:00 PM EST) market hours.
Options Trades - OptionsHouse utilizes two different commission plans for options trades. The first is a plan is designed for less active investors, costing $5 for up to 5 contracts. There is a $1 additional fee per contract for any sized order over 5 contracts. The second plan revolves around a $8.50 base rate with a $.15 per contract charge. Active investors will find this second plan to be very appealing due to its low per contract charge. There is an additional $5.00 fee for each exercise or assignment in a given position. If trading options in SPX, VIX and OEX amongst several others, there is an additional fee of $.35 per contract to offset exchange fees.
Previously, OptionsHouse used to charge a simple $9.95 flat rate for unlimited contracts. This was discontinued to give less active investors a more competitive rate. Lastly, it should be noted that StockBrokers.com publicly displays the $8.50 + $.15 per contract plan throughout the site. This offers better flexibility for visitors utilizing the trade cost calculator.
Other Investment Types - OptionsHouse also offers mutual fund trades for $9.95 per trade. Note though all mutual fund trades must be placed with a trade specialist via phone and cannot be made through the platform. There is no additional fee for this service.
2013 Review Results - OptionsHouse finished #1 for Options Trading and #4 for Active Trading, was rated 4.5 stars for Commissions & Fees as well as Ease of Use. Read the 2013 Broker Review.
2012 Review Results - OptionsHouse was Best in Class for Commissions & Fees, Ease-of-Use, and Options Trading. Read the 2012 Broker Review.
Misc. Account Information
|Apex Clearing||Clearing Firm|
|0||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|0||No. of Retail Locations|
|8299||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|4316||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|0||No. of 3rd Party Research Report Providers|
|4||Max. No. of Legs (Complex Options)|
|No Minimum Deposit|
|No Maintenance Fees|
|Online Trader Community|
|Live Chat Support|
|24/7 Customer Support|
|Long Term Trading|
|Credit Card Accounts|
|Debit Card Accounts|
Trading Platform Features
|Web Browser Platform|
|Windows Desktop Platform|
|Mac Desktop Platform|
Active Trading Features
|Direct routing offered to clients|
|Broker receives payments for order flow|
|Broker internalizes trades|
|Clients receive rebates for adding liquidity|