OptionsXpress ReviewOpen an Account
Variety of tools for options traders; strong mobile trading platform; positive synergies expected from Charles Schwab acquisition.
Expensive minimums for options trades; Xtend desktop platform weak; screeners limited in depth.
Casual options traders and self-directed investors.
|Commissions & Fees|
|Platform & Tools|
|Ease of Use|
2013 Review Star Ratings
N/A - Not Applicable
|N/R||Commissions & Fees|
|8th||Platforms & Tools|
N/R - Not Ranked in Top 10
N/A - Not Applicable
optionsXpress is an online broker that leads by example. The broker separates 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 for not only casual options traders but other investors as well, including regular equities and even futures. Because of its success, the broker was acquired by Charles Schwab (SCHW) in March of 2011.
Being purchased by a big brokerage has not slowed optionsXpress down. In fact, the broker continues to move full steam ahead, operate independently and focus on what it does best.
Commissions & Fees, Ease of Use
optionsXpress has its pros and cons as far as commissions go. Getting the negatives out the way, its options structure is hardly ideal for casual investors. The broker charges $1.50 per contract — if below 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 will be $12.95 at least. Comparatively speaking, one contract at tradeMONSTER would cost $12.50, TD Ameritrade $10.74, ETRADE $10.74, Scottrade $8.25, or OptionsHouse $5. The site, tools and ease-of-use are what you pay for in this case, whereas OptionsHouse provides a route to simply trade. Thus, it all depends on your specific needs as an investor.
Options aside, equity trades are an $8.95 flat rate, which is also the rate charged by parent company Charles Schwab. optionsXpress also offers mutual funds, bonds and futures trading. For a full breakdown of commissions and fees, follow the menu navigation button near the top of this page.
|Mutual Funds ($)||$9.95||$15.00||$9.95||$49.99|
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. However, the broker does lose some points in this area — for example, some tools have two versions in active use, making it confusing and frustrating to constantly search for the latest one.
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). In theory this makes sense and should be convenient, however, seasoned investors may be skeptical in its ability to improve execution price without some hard data from the broker.
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 what can be found 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.
Speaking of the website, the tools and functionality here were much smoother. By clicking the "Toolbox" link within the main header of the website, clients are taken to a page that lists all available tools, their skill level and type. Some tools are basic iterations of licensed third-party services, the Chart Patterns tool for example, while others are more innovative and interesting, like Idea Hub.
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 & loss charts alongside probability charts. Idea Hub is visually very impressive, and while the trade ideas are fairly limited as of this review, since the tool is still fairly new, we have high hopes for the future.
We also enjoyed the options analysis tools available. The Trade and Probability calculator whips up profit & loss charts alongside probability charts for any trades under consideration. Similar to Idea Hub, the Strategy Scanner is another useful options tool that generates trade ideas based on market outlook, risk and symbol.
If there is one suggestion we would make for improvement in 2013, it is to promote and have clients use only the best version of each tool. Some tools have two versions, which we often confused with one another.
Despite optionsXpress being owned and operated by Charles Schwab, the two brokers remain independent. As a Charles Schwab client, you cannot log in and then utilize the OptionsXpress website and vice versa. Completely separate accounts must be opened to utilize both brokers, which is why we review them independently on StockBrokers.com.
As far as customer service is concerned, clients do not need to worry. After nearly a dozen support tests across phone, email and live chat, we found optionsXpress to be very strong. The broker placed seventh overall in our 2013 Online Broker Review.
Mobile trading with optionsXpress is also a pleasant experience. The broker has apps for the 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.
Investors that are willing to pay more per options trade will receive ample functionality to justify the cost. optionsXpress is a high-quality offering across the board, likes to innovate with its tools and should only continue to thrive under the Charles Schwab corporate umbrella.
Compare optionsXpress to Key Competitors
Trade Commissions Breakdown
|$8.95||Flat-Fee Trade Plan*|
|N/A||Per-Share Trade Plan|
|$0.00||Options Base Trade Fee*|
|$0.00||Options Exercise Fee|
|$0.00||Options Assignment Fee|
|$9.95||Mutual Fund Trade Fee|
|$8.95||Broker Assisted Trade Fee|
|8.25%||$25,000.00 to $49,999.99|
|7.25%||$50,000.00 to $99,999.99|
|7.00%||$100,000.00 to $249,999.99|
|6.75%||$250,000.00 to $499,999.99|
|6.50%||$500,000.00 to $999,999.99|
|$5.00||Bond Trade Fee|
|$5.00||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|
|$50.00||IRA Closure Fee|
|$0.00||Forced-Margin Sellout Fee|
|$20.00||Returned ACH Fee|
|$0.00||Returned Wire Transfer Fee|
|$500.00||Stock Certificate Processing Fee|
|$0.00||Stock Certificate Delivery Fee|
|$0.00||Paper Statement Fee|
|$0.00||Paper Confirmation Fee|
|$15.00||Outgoing Domestic Wire Transfer Fee|
|$30.00||Outgoing International Wire Transfer Fee|
Commission NotesoptionsXpress 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 is no additional fee for broker assisted trades.
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.
2013 Review Results - optionsXpress was awarded Best Trade Ticket and Best New Tool (WalkLimit order type), rated 4 stars for Customer Service and Ease of Use, and placed Top 5 for Options Trading. Read the 2013 Broker Review.
2012 Review Results - optionsXpress was #3 overall with 5 stars and received Best in Class for Platforms & Tools, Research, Investor Community, Investor Education, and Options Trading. Read the 2012 Broker Review.
Misc. Account Information
|0||No. of Commission-Free ETFs|
|0||No. of Retail Locations|
|0||No. of Mutual Funds (w/ Load)|
|6000||No. of Mutual Funds (No Load)|
|1||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|