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Overall

While not the cheapest broker around for trading options, optionsXpress offers a well-rounded trade platform for both trading online and on the go.

Commissions & Fees
Offering of Investments
Platforms & Tools
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By Blain Reinkensmeyer on February 16th, 2016 | Last updated: November 21st, 2016

Dislikes
  • Expensive minimums for options trades
  • Xtend desktop platform weak
  • No one-click login access to Charles Schwab


optionsXpress Review

The content portion of this Review was completed on February 17th, 2015.

optionsXpress is an online broker that leads by example. The broker distinguishes itself from the competition with its variety of unique tools, as well as its ability to continuously innovate and focus on ease of use.

This successful formula has made it a popular spot not only for casual options traders but also for other investors, including regular equities and even futures traders. Because of this broker’s success, it was acquired by Charles Schwab (SCHW) in March 2011.

In 2013, it was revealed that eventually optionsXpress would be fully integrated into Charles Schwab and its doors would be closed thereafter. Charles Schwab is in a several-year process of porting over optionsXpress’s best features and functionality, while letting the company continue to operate as an independent broker and take care of its clients. As of January 2015, no exact timetable had been set as to when this process would be completed.

Commissions & Fees

optionsXpress has its pros and cons as far as commissions go. Getting the negatives out of the way, its options structure is hardly ideal for casual investors. The broker charges $1.50 per contract if there are less than 35 options trades per quarter, with a $14.95 minimum. Otherwise, it is only $1.25 per contract with a $12.95 minimum.

This means that even if you only trade a single option, the commission would be at least $12.95. Comparatively speaking, one contract at TD Ameritrade would cost $10.74, ETRADE $10.74, Scottrade $8.25, and OptionsHouse $5.45. The site and tools are what you pay for in this case. Thus, it all depends on your specific needs as an investor.

Options aside, equity trades are on a $8.95 flat rate, which is also the rate charged by parent company Charles Schwab. Furthermore, 182 commission-free ETFs are made available (via commission rebate) thanks to Charles Schwab. optionsXpress also offers mutual funds, bonds, and futures trading. For a full breakdown of commissions and fees, follow the menu navigation button near the top of this page.

optionsXpressOptionsHousetradeMONSTERTD AmeritradeTradeStation
Stock Trade Fee (flat)$8.95$4.95$4.95$9.99$9.99
Options Base Fee$0.00$4.95$4.95$9.99$0.00
Options Per Contract Fee$1.50$0.50$0.50$0.75$1.00
Mutual Fund Trade Fee$9.95$20.00$15.00$49.99$14.95
Commissions & Fees 0/5 4.5/5 3/5 1/5 3/5

Ease of Use

As far as ease-of-use is concerned, optionsXpress has clients covered. The broker's all-in-one trade ticket is the best available anywhere, the site design is clean, and optionsXpress is the only broker to organize all site tools by experience level and type on one page.

In 2014, the broker launched IRIS, a notifications assistant for all accounts. IRIS is an eye icon that rests in the upper right corner of the client’s website. It displays accounts alerts, trade notifications, and tools updates. Clicking the eye icon will take you to the IRIS Notification Center, where customizations can be made and notifications filtered.

Lastly, optionsXpress offers what they call "Walk Limit" order types for options. To prevent adjusting limit orders as they sit live, optionsXpress will "walk" your order to try to get the most favorable price within the National Best Bid or Offer (NBBO). We awarded the “Walk Limit” order type the Best New Tool in our 2013 Review. Today, the order type continues to thrive, as it is now customizable and available in mobile.

optionsXpress walk limit order

Platforms & Tools

optionsXpress's flagship platform, Xtend, is offered in both desktop form and as individual tools on the website itself. Overall, the desktop version of Xtend is just okay. While it was very visually appealing, we found it to be sluggish speed-wise, and the charting was difficult to use, not to mention much weaker than charting available elsewhere.

Another aspect of the Xtend desktop platform we did not particularly care for was the layout, which forces preset sizes and limited numbers of windows. Tools can be popped out of the platform area, but in the end, it is a poor user experience. If there is one positive highlight, it is the trade ticket functionality, which we found to be a similar experience to the website.

optionsXpress xtend order

Speaking of the website, the tools and functionality here were much smoother. By clicking the "Toolbox" link within the website’s main header, clients are taken to a page that lists all available tools, their skill level, and type. Some tools, such as the Chart Patterns tool, are basic iterations of licensed third-party services, while others, such as Idea Hub, are more innovative and interesting.

Idea Hub is a scanning tool that quickly breaks down potential trade ideas based on current market activity. All trade ideas can then be assessed with profit and loss charts alongside probability charts, then moved to a prefilled trade ticket for order entry. The tool can also be found in all mobile apps.

optionsXpress idea hub

We also enjoyed the options analysis tools available. The Trade and Probability calculator whips up profit and loss charts alongside probability charts for any trades being considered. Similar to Idea Hub, the Strategy Scanner is another useful options tool that generates trade ideas based on market outlook, risk, and symbol.

optionsXpress options trade calculator

Other Notes

Although Charles Schwab owns and operates optionsXpress, the two brokers remain independent. As a Charles Schwab client, you can log in and then utilize the optionsXpress website; however, as an optionsXpress client, you cannot access the Charles Schwab website without a Schwab account.

As far as customer service is concerned, clients do not need to worry. After numerous support tests across phone, email, and live chat, we found optionsXpress above the industry average for overall quality.

Mobile trading with optionsXpress is also a pleasant experience. The broker has apps for iPhone, Android, and iPad, as well as a mobile website. Besides ease of placing orders, charting was a big standout for us, as the broker supports 45 technical indicators/studies.

Closing Thoughts

Investors willing to pay more per options trade will receive ample functionality to justify the cost. optionsXpress is a high-quality offering in nearly every area except its active trader platform Xtend. optionsXpress likes to innovate with its tools and is likely to continue thriving under the Charles Schwab corporate umbrella.

That said, clients should understand that in the next several years, optionsXpress will eventually be shut down. The best of what optionsXpress has to offer is being integrated into the Charles Schwab experience, and the final product will be better for it. Clients migrating to Charles Schwab can rest assured they will be in very good hands.


Blain Reinkensmeyer

Reviewed by Blain Reinkensmeyer Blain heads research at StockBrokers.com and has been involved in the markets since placing his first stock trade back in 2001. He developed StockBrokers.com's annual review format six years ago which is respected by broker executives as the most thorough in the industry. Currently maintaining funded accounts with more than a dozen different US regulated online brokers, he's executed thousands of trades through his career and enjoys sharing his experiences through his personal blog, StockTrader.com.


Ratings Overall

*optionsXpress did not participate in the 2016 Online Broker Review, as a result the following data may not be up to date.

Best in Class

2016

Overall
This broker did not finish Best in Class.

Commissions & Fees

*optionsXpress did not participate in the 2016 Online Broker Review, as a result the following data may not be up to date.

Commission Notes

optionsXpress is an online broker with a more complex commissions structure. While known as one of the more pricey discount brokers, optionsXpress offers lower commissions rates for investors that trade more often on a per quarter basis. There are added fees though depending on the size of the order, amongst other situations. Details below.

Stock Trades - optionsXpress announced a new lower flat commission rate of $8.95 per trade for all clients on 11/29/11. There are no additional fees for broker assisted trades or for trading stocks under $1 per share (including OTCBB).

For commission-free ETFs, optionsXpress offers the same 182 ETFs as its parent company Charles Schwab. Trade fees are reimbursed as a automatically credited commission rebate.

Options Trades - optionsXpress charges $1.50 per contract if under 35 options trades per quarter with a $14.95 minimum. Otherwise it is only $1.25 per contract with a $12.95 minimum. The broker does not charge a options base fee. Thus, based on the $1.50 per contract rate, a 5 contract order would cost $12.95 (the minimum) and a 20 contract purchase would cost $30.00 (20 x $1.50). Exercises and Assignments are an additional $9.95 for currently active options traders (see above for designation), and $14.95 for non-active options traders. To buy-to-close penny options (contracts under $.05), the rate is $4.95 + $.50 per contract.

Other Investments - optionsXpress also offers mutual funds, bonds, and futures trading. Mutual funds cost $9.95 per trade plus any additional loads or fees charged by the fund itself.



Trade Commissions Breakdown

Stock Trade Fee (flat)* $8.95
Stock Trade Fee (per share)* N/A
Options Base Fee* $0.00
Options Per Contract Fee* $1.50
Options Exercise Fee $8.95
Options Assignment Fee $8.95
Mutual Fund Trade Fee $9.95
Broker Assisted Trades Fee $8.95
Minimum Deposit $0.00

Margin Rates

Under $24,999.99 8.25%
$25,000.00 to 49,999.99 8.25%
$50,000.00 to $99,999.99 7.25%
$100,000.00 to $249,999.99 7.00%
$250,000.00 to $499,999.99 6.75%
$500,000.00 to $999,999.99 6.50%
Above $1,000,000.00 6.00%

Miscellaneous Fees

Bond Trade Fee $5.00
Treasury Trade Fee $5.00
IRA Annual Fee $0.00
IRA Closure Fee $50.00
Returned ACH Fee $20.00
Returned Wire Fee $0.00
Stock Certificate Processing Fee $500.00
Stock Certificate Delivery Fee $0.00
Paper Statement Fee $0.00
Paper Confirmation Fee $0.00
Domestic Wire Fee $15.00
International Wire Fee $30.00


Account Features

*optionsXpress did not participate in the 2016 Online Broker Review, as a result the following data may not be up to date.

Offering of Investments

Advisor Services help No
Bonds (Corporate) help Yes
Bonds (Municipal) help Yes
Bonds (US Treasury) help Yes
CDs help Yes
Clearing Firm help Self-clearing
Commission Free ETFs help 214
Direct Market Routing - Stocks help Yes
Direct Market Routing - Options help No
DRIPs help Yes
# of Easy to Borrow Stocks help 3000
Forex Trading help Yes
Futures Trading help Yes
Member FINRA help Yes
Member SIPC help Yes
Mutual Funds help Yes
Mutual Funds (Load) help 4400
Mutual Funds (No Load) help 6000
Mutual Funds (NTF) help 0
Mutual Funds (Total) help 10400
Mutual Funds Phone Trades help Yes
Mutual Funds Web Trades help Yes
No Fee IRAs help Yes
No Inactivity Fees help Yes
No Minimum Deposit help Yes
Options Exercising (Phone) help Yes
Options Exercising (Web) help Yes
Options Trading help Yes
Options Trading (Mini) help Yes
Options Trading (Weekly) help Yes
OTCBB / Pink Sheets help Yes
Stock Trading help Yes

Customer Service

Phone Support help Yes
Email Support help Yes
Live Chat (Current Clients) help Yes
24/7 Support help No

Platforms & Tools

Desktop Platform (Windows) help Yes
Desktop Platform (Mac) help No
Web Platform help Yes
Active Trading Platform help Xtend
Auto Investing help Yes
Charting - Display Corporate Events help No
Charting - Drawing Tools help 13
Charting - Notes help Yes
Heat Mapping help Yes
Ladder Trading help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Stocks help Yes
Level 2 Quotes - Options help Yes
Option Chains - Streaming Real-time help Yes
Option Analysis - P&L Charts help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Email help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Sound help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Text SMS help Yes
Streaming Time & Sales help No
Streaming TV help No
Trade Hot Keys help No
Virtual Trading help Yes
Watch Lists - Streaming Real-time Quotes help Yes

Research

Research - ETFs help Yes
Research - Mutual Funds help Yes
Research - Pink Sheets / OTCBB help Yes
Research - Fixed Income help No
Equity Research - Research Reports help 1
ETF Research - Top 10 Holdings help Yes
ETF Research - Morningstar Style Box help Yes
ETF Research - Research Reports help No
Mutual Fund Research - Research Reports help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Fees Breakdown help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Performance Analysis help Yes
Mutual Fund Research - Top 10 Holdings help Yes
Screener - Stocks help Yes
Screener - ETFs help Yes
Screener - Mutual Funds help Yes
Screener - Options help Yes
Screener - Bonds help Yes

Education

Has Education - Stocks help Yes
Has Education - ETFs help No
Has Education - Options help Yes
Has Education - Mutual Funds help No
Has Education - Fixed Income help No
Has Education - Retirement help No
Investor Dictionary help Yes
Client Webinars help Yes
Live Seminars help Yes
Videos help Yes
Retirement Calculator help No
Community Forums help Yes

Mobile Trading

iPhone App help Yes
iPad App help Yes
Apple Watch App help No
Android App help Yes
Android Tablet App help Yes
Mobile Site help Yes
Quotes (Real-time) help Yes
Quotes (Streaming Real-time) help Yes
Watch List Syncing help Yes
Market Movers (Top Gainers) help Yes
Stock Alerts Delivery - Push Notifications help No
Customizable Homescreen help No
Stream Live TV help No
Trading - Stocks help Yes
Trading - After-Hours help Yes
Trading - Simple Options help Yes
Trading - Complex Options help Yes

Banking

Member FDIC help No
Checking Accounts help No
Savings Accounts help No
Debit Cards help No
Credit Cards help No
Mortgage Loans help No
Mobile Check Deposit help No
ATM Fee Reimbursement help No
No Fee Banking help No
Retail Locations help 0

Active Trading

Receives Payment for Order Flow (Equities) help Yes
Client Liquidity Rebates help No
Financial Information Forum (FIF) Participant help No

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All pricing data was obtained from a published web site as of 2/16/2016 and is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed. The StockBrokers.com staff is constantly working with its online broker representatives to obtain the latest pricing data. If you believe any data listed above is inaccurate, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. For stock trade rates, advertised pricing is for a standard order size of 500 shares of stock priced at $30 per share. For options orders, an options regulatory fee per contract may apply.




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